Introduction: “A Magnificent Work”

On November 6, 1944, the Most Reverend P. Carrington, Archbishop of Québec and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Canada, wrote to the Secretary of Indian Affairs to express his dismay that the federal government was considering altering the dynamics of the Mohawk Institute – a residential school for Indigenous children located on the Six Nations reserve outside of Brantford, Ontario.    For a century, the school Principals had been Anglican clergymen nominated by the New England Company (NEC) or the Anglican Diocese of Huron but the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) was seeking to change that.[1]  Archbishop Carrington writes:

I am informed that the Department is considering the idea of radically changing the whole character of the School by putting it under a Layman as a Principal…

I was very much shocked when I heard of this proposal to bring to an end a religious and educational tradition which has been established for so long, and I am sure that Anglicans generally throughout Canada would hear of this decision with regret and amazement.[2]

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Posted by: Dan | March 4, 2017

February Reviews

Briefly discussed in this post: 5 books (one on apocalyptic stuff, another Sebald, dipped my toes into Lovecraft, failed to empathize with Didion, but smiled through Tiqqun); 2 movies (artsy French thing and indie thriller thing) and 6 documentaries (mixed bag of nuts here… with emphasis on the word nuts…).

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Posted by: Dan | February 4, 2017

January Reviews

Kinda, sorta, but not really reviewed in this post: 8 Books (the last two in Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, two by Krasznahorkai, one by DFW, a tract by The Invisible Committee and a tome by Badiou, and, last by not least, a really beautiful one about trees); 4 Movies (they all ended up being kinda scary); and 8 Documentaries (which are all over the map).

This month, I’m going for waaaay shorter reviews.

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Posted by: Dan | January 27, 2017

To be Open without being Annihilated

I watched a documentary last week that included some clips from Geraldo Rivera’s career-making 1972 short, “The Last Great Mistake,” about the way mentally handicapped kids lived in an institution on Staten Island called Willowbrook. I did not expect these clips. I was not prepared for them. They were amongst the most devastating and heartbreaking things I have ever seen. Something broke inside of me when I saw them and it hasn’t knit itself back together again. This happens to me sometimes. Sometimes I become so overwhelmed by the violence of our world, as that violence ends up being encapsulated in this or that event — Indigenous children frozen in the snow trying to find their way home, Nazis using dogs to chase down little kids outside the camps, a baby scalded with coffee and left to die three days later in his crib, and now these kids naked and wailing and flailing and covered in feces in darkened rooms where the curtains were never opened, some clustered around a couch, some curled up in fetal positions on the bathroom floor, some isolated in dark corners, naked and sitting bent over hugging themselves because they are sad and they are scared and they are alone and there is no one else to hug them – that I feel like something snaps and disappears.  Something inside breaks and goes away for awhile.  And I also want to disappear, go away, stop.  Which is not to say that I want to die but that I don’t want to know anything anymore, I don’t want to say anything anymore, I don’t want to do anything anymore.  I want to lay down and stop talking and not get up for a very, very long time.

I want to cry and not be comforted until these things never happened.

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Posted by: Dan | December 30, 2016

2016 Reviews in Review

Well, another year come and gone.  This year I read 65 books, watched 23 movies, and watched 41 documentaries.  Good to know that I’m doing something with my life.

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Posted by: Dan | December 29, 2016

December Reviews

Reviewed in this post: 9 books (Conflict is Not Abuse; Solidarity and Difference; Paul and the Stoics; Personal patronage under the early Empire; Seiobo There Below; Giovanni’s Room; The Story of a New Name; teaching my mother how to give birth; and The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni), 3 movies (The Battleship Potemkin; Andrei Rublev; and On the Silver Globe), and 5 documentaries (Author; Little Hope was Arson; An Open Secret; Rape in the Fields; and Rape on the Night Shift).

Books

1. Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah Schulman.

08 Covers.indd

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Posted by: Dan | December 17, 2016

What We Sought in the Wilderness

The Heavens have innumerable plans for us, but after we are born there is just a single one. ~ from Seiobo There Below by Lázló Krasznahorkai

Be sure to find me, I want you to find me, and we’ll play all over, we’ll play all over, we’ll play all over again. ~ from Georgia Lee by Tom Waits.

1. Ryker

I was going to write about the death of Ryker and the trial (now mistrial) of his parents, when I learned that one of the jurors – a woman – had suicided.  It’s that time of year.  And she had spent the last few weeks being exposed to pictures of an 18-month old (some reports say 20-month old) baby boy who died because he was burned – scalding with instant coffee is the probable cause – and the jury was shown images of these burns, clustered as they were, on Ryker’s lower back, side (sometimes “torso” is used), buttocks, genitals, and thighs (almost all the way to his knees).  It is the very incarnation of David Foster Wallace’s “Incarnations of Burned Children.”  Only here the child is real, the child was alive, and now he is not.  They say he was left in his crib for three days before he died.  He was never taken to receive medical care.  In the local news, the burns that killed him are described as “red, blistering burns.”  They are also often described as “angry” as in “red, angry burns” or “red, angry injuries.”  The pain they caused was probably excruciating.  A mistrial resulted because the mother was declared unfit to participate due to a recent surgery for appendicitis as well as some other complications.  I spent half the day explaining to people that, no, this doesn’t mean the charges have been withdrawn, and, no, this doesn’t mean she has escaped whatever our justice system might have in store for her, it just means that everything is delayed and will have to start all over again next summer.

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Posted by: Dan | December 16, 2016

An Ode to Winters Past and Present

The houses in this neighbourhood are bought and sold not rented

To single parents who made the mistake

—Of wanting to help more than they wanted to make money

——Never realizing that only fools see that as an either/or

—Or who simply made the mistake

——Of getting married

 

The homeowners in this neighbourhood don’t walk, they all drive cars

—But a lot of hybrids because they care about the environment

And the most dangerous time to be about on foot

—Is when they’re picking their kids up from school

—Or dropping them off

—Because everyone is in a hurry

——To get to work and pay their mortgages and car payments

 

The sidewalks in this neighbourhood are rarely plowed

And although homeowners are responsible for clearing the 20 feet of sidewalk in front of their houses

—They mostly don’t

And so I slip and slide

—Flail and pirouette

—Laugh like a maniac when I make a particularly good recovery

—And curse like a father (“dangit!” or “Yowza!” or “Freaking heck!”) when my elbow

——Or knee

——Or Ass

———Hits the ground

As I carry the kids to school

Then wend my way to work

—Because even though I have pneumonia

—And the kids are old enough to walk

——I won’t make em when it’s especially cold

———(Memories of my own childhood prevent me)

———(So I put em in snowsuits and wrap em in blankets and carry one in each arm, with my hands locked across my stomach)

—And rent is due on Monday

Many years ago, when I was first being introduced to readings of the Jesus stories that took things like politics, economics, power, and oppression seriously, one of the key books people in the know talked about was Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther.  I read it around the same time that I read Binding the Strong Man (Ched Myers) and Liberating Paul (Neil Elliott).  These books, taken together, really reoriented my understanding of the early Jesus movement, although I did not read them alone — I read them while also immersing myself in liberation theology (and social theory) and while seeking to move into relationships of mutually liberating solidarity with people experiencing oppression, violence, and colonization in my own context.  Still, I was (and am) very grateful for the ways in which these texts helped me to orient myself and better understand ancient texts that were very important to me at that time.

In recent years, I’ve been fortunate to become friends with Wes.  Mostly online, but I was able to visit with him in Seattle when Jess and I were out there in October.  He had seen my interview with Neil Elliott and invited me to engage in a conversation with him around his two books, Come Out, My People! God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond (2010) and Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced what Jesus Rejected 2nd-5th Centuries (2016).  I was more than happy to do so!  Wes was a gracious and always encouraging dialogue partner.  I very much appreciate his writings, his eclectic sources of inspiration, and his willingness to chat about all of these things with me.  Thanks, Wes!  All the best to you and Sue and those with whom you live and move and have your being — may the death squads never prowl on your streets and may you always find ways to choose love no matter how violent the world becomes.

This is our conversation:

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Posted by: Dan | December 2, 2016

November Reviews

So, I’m rather busy at the moment and I accidentally read too many books and watched too many movies in November.  These reviews-that-aren’t-really-reviews will be even shorter and less adequate than usual.

Discussed in this post: 8 Books (Secret Path; Citizen; Imperial Ideology and the Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire; Picturing Paul in Empire; Empire Baptized; My Brilliant Friend; The Painted Bird; Hyperbole and a Half); 5 Movies (I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House; February; When Animals Dream; Hour of the Wolf; Inglourious Basterds); 5 Documentaries (The Mask You Live In; Miss Representation; The Witness; 13TH; Sour Grapes).

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