Posted by: Dan | August 5, 2017

July Reviews

Discussed in this post: 6 Books (The Drowned and the Saved; After Nature; The Great Leveler; Salvation by Allegiance AloneThe Remains of the Day; The Last Western); 4 Movies (Boy; Raw; Nostalghia; It’s Only The End of The World); 2 Documentaries (Nobody Speak; The Stairs).

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He listens more than he speaks and hears more than you say.

He knows that strength has limits and that the pain of the world is infinite and so, although he carries more than most, he does not carry more than he can bear. The ones he carries he carries well.

He knows that beauty, kindness, and love are infinite, too. And that a beer at the end of the day can help us remember this.

His eyes do a lot of his talking – “You’re safe here” and “I honour your presence with me” and “I’m not going to touch your body with my hands or with my gaze” (a rare statement to find in the eyes of a man) – things that don’t so much add to a conversation as make it possible in the first place. He makes it easy to speak in a way that feels honest.

He is gentle like a grizzly nursing her cubs. I’m pretty sure he is our mom’s favourite (and, when I was younger, I had to get used to the fact that whenever I introduced him to my friends, they were going to like him more than they liked me).

He is my brother and my friend and I love him devotedly, ferociously, playfully, stupidly. He was always cooler than I, but never stopped finding ways to invite me to share life together with him. Shortly after my parents kicked me out, he invited me down to Windsor to spend the weekend visiting with him and his friends. They were all in University and I was still in high school. This made me feel special at a time when I generally felt like a piece of shit. Later, when he invited me to work at the camp where he worked, I felt the same way. When my heart was a raging ocean, he helped me find safe passage through the storm.

And when his heart was a raging ocean he turned to the cliffs and carved himself a bay. His wife worked alongside of him and together they made a home for themselves. Their daughters are growing up beside those still waters. And although they are still young, their legs are taller than mountains and, one day, they will walk across the sea and storms that cause mighty ships to founder will only come up to their knees.

Posted by: Dan | July 11, 2017

Ruby Is Six Years Old Today


Last week, Ruby brought home a bottle full of worms she had collected in the playground. She talks to them and says that they can hear her, she says she understands them, too, because she can speak their language. I ask her what they say and I remember, when I was a very little boy, how the stray dogs came and lay down at my feet, and so when she tells me what they say, I believe her.

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Posted by: Dan | July 7, 2017

June Reviews

Discussed in this post: 3 Books (A Special Hell; Taking Sides; This is Not a Program); 6 Movies (The Lobster; Alps; Attenberg; Miss Violence; Hunt For the Wilderpeople; Personal Shopper); and 2 Documentaries (Incident at Restigouche; They Call Us Monsters).

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Posted by: Dan | June 28, 2017

On Kindness

I was in collecting a detailed account history of my once joint bank account when the banker told me her daughter had died.  She had been staying in the psych ward but they let her out on a day pass and she killed herself.  We were approaching the anniversary date.  I haven’t really gotten over it, she said, and she spoke in a perplexed way, like a mother might, trying to understand how to “get over” the suicide of her daughter, her baby who was dead and gone and no longer there and who, in the midst of some kind of illness and darkness and sorrow, chose that.

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[What follows are a series of theses co-authored by Alex Hundert and I for a workshop that we co-facilitated at the Cahoots Festival on June 10, 2017.]

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Posted by: Dan | May 27, 2017

May Reviews

Discussed in this post: 4 Books (From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation; The Sunjata Story; Medicine Walk; and The Assault); 4 Movies (Winter Sleep; The CelebrationI, Daniel Blake; and Krisha); and 2 Documentaries (Sunless; and Daughter of the Lake).

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Posted by: Dan | May 22, 2017

In Which I Encounter An Old Acquaintance

(Last weekend, while doing some late night walking to clear my head, I encountered the same old man I met one night on an overpass in Sarnia.  We fell into conversation and didn’t take long to pick things up somewhere around where we left them five years ago.  I’ve tried to record some of what he said here.)

God, he said with a blink and a nod, is always playing catch up with the devil.  All these people talking about the miracle of god taking on flesh, of god becoming one of us, of god being with us, two thousand years ago in the hill country of Galilee, they forget a lot.  They forget that, thousands of years before Galilee, the devil walked into a garden and crawled out on his belly.  Not the belly of an angel or a demon or a spirit or a god, but a belly with flesh and meat and blood—a belly that rose and fell like the tides, like the stars, like civilizations.  And where were the people?  They were hiding because they could not bear to be in the presence of a god who came to them like a god.  God came in all god’s glory and the people hid.  The devil came in flesh and blood – as one creature among others – and the people spoke and ate with him.  It was the devil who taught god that you had to take on flesh if you want people to listen to you, if you want people to believe in you, if you want people to love you, instead of fear you.  This is why people who dream of becoming gods become monstrous—lightning bolts on their collars and “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles.  Don’t aspire to godliness.  Become demonic.  God still has a lot of learning to do.  And when god does catch up, he usually gets it wrong anyway.  The devil came to us with the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil – that’s some good eating there – but god comes fumbling around a few thousand years later trying to get in on the show and asks us to mouth his body and suck his blood.  Fuck off, man.  God is like a child abuser who expects his grown up children to toast him at his birthday party every year.  Merry Christmas and all that shit.

Besides, so far as I can tell, god comes and goes—the devil abides.  Here’s the proof of this: people call the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, the comforter and counselor, but, who is it is that is always there for us when we are frightened and afraid and angry and sad and desiring and longing and hoping and wondering?  It’s always the devil.  When you are most alone and vulnerable and unsure of what to do, it’s the devil who is with you.  And it’s the same when you’re at the highest points, when you are elated, when you feel most alive, when you are standing on the mountaintop—it’s the devil who is at your elbow ready to celebrate with you.  God?  Give it a couple centuries or millennia and god might show up for the funeral or the party, and come busting in with some kind of shitty gift he picked up on the way, and when he gets there he’ll be confused and not understand why there is a desert where the city you lived used to be.

He paused to drink the rest of his beer.  But, look, I said, don’t you think you’re being a bit harsh?  Isn’t all of this a little too jaded?  Aren’t these games we play with god and the devil just the expression of an impotent cynicism?  I’m tired of being cynical.  I want something more innocent.

Innocence, he said.  Let me tell you about innocence.  Innocence is the one thing I can think of that you gain only in the act of losing it – and most of us lost it before we were even born.  I could argue that I lost mine when my father was abused as a child but, really, we could trace this back to the beginning of time.  We all lost our innocence as soon as we – us, all of this – came into being.  The fall didn’t take place in the garden.  That’s just god’s way of blaming the devil.  The fall took place as soon as god said “let there be.”  We can never go back to being innocent.  The dream of innocence is the dream of inexistence, it is a memory we carry with us from the time before time, the time when we were not.  It’s what our bodies, our cells, our genes, remember of the nothingness we used to not be.  You can never go back to being innocent because being is not innocent.  And once you are, you cannot not be.  Even the dead are not innocent.  As Euripedes said, “Never that which is shall die.”  Which is why, of course, our rituals around death are premised upon the need to try and ensure that the dead rest in peace.

What do we know of the dead or death or what comes after?

We are the dead.  We are what comes after.

And death?

Death, he said pulling another beer from his bag, is not the kind of thing about which one can speak cleverly.  Or at all.  But here’s another thing, the devil died before god.  First, the devil was demoted from the Lord of Hell to being the prosecutor in god’s law court or a transient demon without any final resting place.  The Nazis said the devil was gassed in a shower at Auschwitz and the Americans said the devil ate three bullets with his forehead in a compound in Pakistan, but I think he died long before that.  I think the devil died at Golgotha.  God has yet to follow suit.  He’s that kind of bastard.  Even when he dies he fucks it all up and resurrects himself and turns even the suffering of the oppressed into some kind of road to glory and wealth and conquest.  Streets of gold and rivers of blood.  Hallelujah.

But you said before that the devil is always there for us – for better or for worse – and now you say the devil is dead.

Some dead do not rest in peace.

And the difference between this and a god who resurrects himself?

Is the difference between those who wish to ascend to heaven and those who choose to remain in hell.  Heaven is for the selfish.  Hell is for lovers.  And that’s why god can fly away into the clouds after flirting with our suffering, and it’s why the devil, even though he is dead, continues to haunt us.

Posted by: Dan | May 13, 2017

April Reviews

In April I read four Books (Living at the Edges of Capitalism; Vertigo; The Skin; and The Passion According to G. H.) watched three Movies (Black Sunday; Beyond the Black Rainbow; and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) and two Documentaries (Hotel Terminus; and Newtown).  I wanted to write detailed reviews of some of them, especially the first book, but I am up to my ears in other projects at the moment so these are even more inadequate than my already inadequate reviews.  A star system is looking more and more appealing all the time…

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Posted by: Dan | May 12, 2017

It Was the Whining of the Dog

It was the whining of the dog that he heard.  The dog whining, just outside the door.  He could, and he did, picture it with its muzzle thrust down into the floor, between its front paws, and its eyebrows raised in that way dogs raise their eyebrows when they have their chins down but are looking up at you.  Its tail was wagging in that way dogs wag their tails when they are sorry even though they can’t figure out what they did wrong.  Whining, and the thump, thump, thump, of the tail as it hit the wall that separated the bedroom from the upper hallway.  It wasn’t the hands on his body (although hands on bodies are not soundless).  It wasn’t the fingers in his mouth and around his throat (Eric Garner, he remembered, could still speak even when he couldn’t breathe).  It was the whining of the dog.

He wanted to comfort the dog and explain to it that it wasn’t the dog’s fault and he wanted to give it a treat and he wanted to take it with him when he left but he didn’t know leaving and he didn’t know speaking and “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay,” he thought over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, and the whining of the dog.  And “I’m sorry, too,” he thought, and he raised his eyebrows and tried to look up but he couldn’t.

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