Monday, December 11, 2017

“Ink” by James Graham

In 1968, Australian Rupert Murdoch bought The News of the World newspaper in the U.K., and followed that up in 1969 with the purchase of The Sun. In 1981, he acquired The Times and the Sunday Times. His media holdings in the United States now include Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and many others.

British journalism (and eventually American journalism) would never be the same. Murdoch embraced new technology, moved operations from Fleet Street, raised the ire of the unions, threw himself (and his newspapers) fully behind Margaret Thatcher and later Tony Blair. The content of the newspapers he acquired changed as well. While the Murdoch newspapers didn’t turn tabloid journalism into an art form, they soon were treading where many newspapers had feared to tread. The journalism establishment was initially outraged; within a few short years, it would be forced to follow Murdoch’s lead.

In the play Ink, British playwright James Graham focuses on the pivotal acquisition of The Sun in 1969, not so much on how it happened but more on the assembling of a staff, the first Murdoch edition of Nov. 17, 1969, and how with a year The Sun was catching up to its bigger competitors. And the play is less about Murdoch and more about Larry Lamb (1929-2000), the editor Murdoch lured to The Sun and who in many ways “out-Murdoched” Murdoch.

This isn’t a play with a build toward a fever-pitch climax. Instead, Ink is a narrative, almost like a snapshot of what happened at The Sun in the early Murdoch years, and the determination that Murdoch and the editors had to overtake The Mirror, then the most widely read newspaper in Britain.  

James Graham
Graham, born in 1982, has written more than 20 plays, and recently had both Ink and Labour of Love being staged at the same time in London. He has gained a reputation for being one of the best of Britain’s playwrights writing about politics. He’s also written for television and worked as an actor.

Today, we’re watching enormous upheavals going on in the media world, brought by technology, the internet, social media, dramatically changing economics, and politics. Some of the seeds of these upheavals can be found in what Rupert Murdoch did in 1969. Ink provides a way to help understand what happened.


Top photograph: The first edition of the Sun under Rupert Murdoch, Nov. 17, 1969.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

We watched him pray

After Luke 11:1-4

A prayer, in a certain place:
we watched him pray,
his lips moving in silence,
eyes closed, head bowed;
a prayer designed to be
heard by only one. But
we couldn’t see or understand
what the words were,
so we asked how
and he told us how:
to acknowledge whom
to praise and lift up
to focus on him and his
not us and ours
to ask daily
to forgive daily
to avoid what leads us away
to avoid what leaves us astray
to deliver us
to praise, always
to praise daily
to praise, pray, always

He poured into us
for us to pour into others.

Photograph by Joshua Earle via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Good Reads

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. When we were in London, both the Royal Academy of Arts and the British Library had exhibitions related to the revolution, and both of which put something of a chic gloss on what happened (it wasn’t all about art). Communism is something rather chic as well on many American college campuses, like Harvard. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote an entire series of novels on what led to it and what happened. And he lived the reality of the aftermath. A student at Harvard, whose father fled communism, wrote an article for the Crimson on the reality of that revolution and what it wrought. And the Crimson published it.

It’s the Advent season, and people are writing about it. The five articles linked below are only a few examples of the good things available to read.

I didn’t know the story of the song “Finlandia,” but Terez Rose at The Imaginative Conservative tells it. And it includes a video of a flash mob singing it (I recognized the music as the same for a hymn we sing at church).

And the photos: Tim Good takes a walk in the woods, Tom Darin Liskey takes a walk in Oxford, and the Gentle Author at Spitalfields Life finds the winter light (we’ve walked some of those streets – I recognized them.)

And there’s L.L. Barkat on encouraging a love for poetry, some London “scraps” from the 1880s, a plea for magnanimity, some beautiful original music called “Passing Shadows,” and more.


A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Middle Ages – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative.


Why the Prosperity Gospel is So Harmful – Dr. Andrew Spencer at The Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.

The Worst Time for Advent is the Perfect Time for Advent – Aaron Earls at the Wardrobe Door.

We Need More People with the Humility of Joseph – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Advent – The Act of Waiting – Robert Rife at All Nine.

Home for Christmas – Jay Cookingham at Soulfari.

Dealing with Sexual Abuse as the Church – Jared Olivetti at Gentle Reformation.


Sibelius, “Finlandia,” and the Cry of Freedom – Terez Rose at The Imaginative Conservative.

Art and Photography

In the Woods – Tim Good.

Dreams and Spires – Tom Darin Liskey via Facebook.

Winter Light in Spitalfields – Spitalfields Life.


The Illusionist by Michael Shewmaker – Brian Brodeur at How a Poem Happens.

November Sunset Walk – Chris Yokel.

Encouraging a Love of Poetry – L.L. Barkat at Edutopia.

British Stuff

My Cries of London Scraps – The Gentle Author at Spitalfields Life.

Life and Culture

Magnanimity: The Balm for Our Brutalized Public Discourse – Stephen Klugewics at The Imaginative Conservative.

Opinion Polls and the ‘Evangelical’ Illusion – Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition.

100 Years. !00 Million Lives. Think Twice – Laura Nicolae at Harvard Crimson.


A Historian’s 5 Tips on Writing – Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition.

Passing Shadows – Music by Chase Emery Davis

Painting: Young Man Reading, oil on canvas by Octavian Smigelschi (1866-1912).