Saturday 29 August 2015

Watch the Trailer - Spotlight is out in November

I will review in November. However, my second run-through of the trailer was striking the emotional chord. I will have to find someone to go with!

Don't bother watching this on YouTube. I should qualify that - there are sites with reviewers - seems that reviewing trailers is now a thing - who knew? (Although I should have)

Use the IMDB site. It will give you the cast, writers, etc. I am sure that Liev Schreiber jumped at his role in this movie. Counterpoint to Ray Donovan.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

"Suspension of Belief": Just Because It's Difficult, Doesn't Mean You Shouldn't Try, Post-Modernism Be Damned!

There are things that I often ponder.

1. Why do I bother getting into these discussions with believers? I understand getting into these discussions with other academic biblical scholars, but believers? Where is my head? I suppose that old habits die hard; I miss the academic arguments of my Master's and PhD - there is no one where I am now that has any academic biblical historical critical (or for that matter, broad philosophical) training, much less the old style training in the importance to attempt "epoché" in all that one does:
  1. Epoché (ἐποχή epokhē, "suspension") is an ancient Greek term which, in its philosophical usage, describes the theoretical moment where all judgments about the existence of the external world, and consequently all action in the world, are suspended.
We used this term to describe what we try to do when we anaylse biblical texts. We divest ourselves as much as possible of our ingrained belief systems and view the texts as if we had never seen them before or heard them interpreted. It comes out of the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl, described sometimes as phenomenological reductionism.

Why do people think that everyone else's belief affects their translations, but not their own analyses - even when they don't go to the primary sources? Not that there is one definitive ancient Greek, Aramaic, ancient Hebrew text of the different books of the "Christian" Bible. There is no "original". Even if we could lay our hands on the actual original handwritten text of, for example, the Gospel of John, and the written documents of the historical narrative within it (the basis around which many of us agree that the Gospel of John was built) and where it was written, what would, and would not, this tell us:

  • for me, the biggest would be the ur-text - what a goldmine that would be (just saying)
  • we could follow the changes in the text throughout the western historical tradition more clearly (I can always dream)
  • we would have more definitive answers (maybe) about the mindset of the original author
  • we would have a greater understanding of the community out of which it came
  • we would have greater understanding of the development of the belief system that became Christianity, and it's move away from the Judaisms of the first two centuries
  • however, it would tell us nothing about "truth"
  • it would not explain whether or not Jesus was divine; it would only tell us that a group of people had ventured further down that murky slope of integrating Greek and Roman mindsets with Jewish mindsets, and then started to argue (rather cautiously, I would suggest) that Jesus was divine
What does it matter, actually, whether the translation is "Jesus (the Word) is "a" god or Jesus (the Word) is god? On such things, heresy is always born. (Gospel of John 1:1-18)

Of course, the caveat is that I don't believe that Jesus was in any way shape or form "god". He was an (Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian, Galilean - take your pick) prophet in a long line of prophets (the Isaiah school/tradition?) . That he spoke "truth to power", I have no doubt. That is, after all, what a prophet did. His tradition led him in a certain way, in much the same way as the Buddha's tradition formed the structure of his dissent with the faith. The one was Jewish, the other Hindu - but they were both men.

Then again, if we're "proof-texting" this, one only has to go to the Gospel of Matthew (at least the ur-text one could say). Matthew 1:1-17 makes it clear that there are 42 generations between Abraham and Jesus. including David and Solomon. So, apparently, Jesus was descended from the kingly line of David biologically. This means that Jesus can only be the biological offspring of Joseph, but wait ....... Of course, shortly thereafter (v. 18 ff) we get the Holy Spirit story of Mary's pregnancy. I don't have time (nor the inclination) to go into the wherefores and whys of biblical criticism on the subject. Suffice it to say that there are plenty of commentaries, articles, and books dealing with the issue, if one were so inclined to follow up on this topic

Then there is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis - I'm not going down that rabbit hole right now - probably later - stay tuned.

Why this post?

1. Triggered by a conversation that I had last night.

2. Avoidance of writing the review of Sacred Witness that has been burning a guilt hole in my mind. It deals with all of these issues.

3. Avoidance of writing the reviews of Ray Donovan that are also burning a hole - but a different kind of hole, more emotional than anything else. The third season has started. I began my post yesterday morning and it sat there all day. It is call "Disconsolate". I wrote a few things, then it kept rolling around in my head - all the things that should go into the post. I just couldn't get around to writing them down - avoidance, emotional pain. Needless to say, but it was a difficult first two episodes. The next two have been easier. It will be up soon.


Tuesday 30 June 2015

Words to Remember

G'Kar is one of the most wonderful characters in B5 & he didn't even appear in my favourite episode (3.4 Gethsemane)

I can't say favourite character; how can one choose?

Just started watching the full Babylon 5 again last night - my second time this year.

I wish that everyone would watch it.

On another note, for the first time (in more than I wish to admit times), I actually heard Kosh say "Ental Valen" when he meets (the fake) Jeffrey Sinclair in the first episode.

Thursday 14 May 2015

One More With Feeling: Yeah for the Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court: Omar Khadr should be treated as if he were sentenced as a juvenile

'Nuff said!

Update to blog post on May 11th, 2015: Boggles the mind

Omar Khadr should be declared adult offender, Ottawa to tell Supreme Court

Boggles the mind.

The Harper government just won't let it go. 

Boggles the mind, just boggles the mind!

Could we say that the Harper government has a hard-on for Khadr - way too much Viagra in their drinking water?

The Supreme Court of Canada has better things to do with its time. They have already given the government their response on cases against Khadr twice before. Do they really believe that it will be "third time lucky"?

Hope (or desperation) over experience. [So I really should get married a 3rd time? Not that that's relevant to the post, but ...]

I do not usually bring up the issue of wasting taxpayer money (too much of a rightwing rant about entitlements with which I, for the most part, don't agree), but the Harper government has spent $4.7 million on 15 court cases and lost every one.

See Conservatives spent more than $4.7 million fighting 15 losing court cases. They have already spent over a quarter of a million dollars on the previous 2 cases against Khadr and lost. How much are they going to waste this time?

This is bothering more than it would if I were not teaching the end of WW1, the Weimar Republic and the rise of the NSDAP this week and next week. The parallels bother me no end. 

Cumulative radicalization, I say, cumulative radicalization!

Wednesday 13 May 2015

And people wonder why historians and classicists cry themselves to sleep at night!

MY RANT: To echo the sentiments in the article.

Enough already. 

The world is full of triggers.

Learn to deal with them. 

Maybe students just shouldn't go to class until they have had the requisite years of therapy! 

If I had let "triggers" stop me from learning, I wouldn't have a PhD. 

One cannot deal with rape until one understands how embedded (and therefore, accepted) this symbolism is in our culture. 

Avoidance will never get you anywhere.

Most students haven't got a clue where anything comes from and are constantly re-inventing the wheel. 

I have to keep correcting basic mistakes about history, again and again and again.

They seem to think that the documentaries about history and the wikipedia pages that they read and the "history light" that they get tells them everything that they absolutely need to know. They will argue with me in class - until they go and actually get the facts from those boring tomes.

And they don't understand that there is more than one answer or solution to an historical question - and that doesn't make different answers right or wrong - only different interpretations (WELL, THAT IS WHAT WE HISTORIANS DO, ISN'T IT - ARGUE, ARGUE, ARGUE in a civilized manner, of course :-))

The more information, that is, primary source material, that we get, the more we understand about a period of time in history. That doesn't mean that past explanations were stupid or "wrong", they were the best past that people could come up with given the information (& worldview) that they had.

Goes for real life too.

On the other hand, I don't really have to worry about any of my students knowing more than I do - frankly, about anything!

Anybody for Doctor Who's time machine? If only .....................sigh................

Monday 11 May 2015

This is an abomination in a western democracy

"The government's intention was made clear in a response to inquiries from CBC News about statements by federal ministers of a "zero tolerance" approach to groups participating in a loose coalition called Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS), which was begun in 2006 at the request of Palestinian non-governmental organizations."

I could not believe this when I heard it on the news this morning. I was horrified. I am teaching a course on 20th century German history, and this sends chills down my spine. In my course, I am trying to get my students to understand how good people slowly walked into participating in one of the more horrific events in the history of the world.

First, my positions & I do realize that I live with a certain level of discombobulation on the issue:

1. I would never take part in BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction), the boycott of Israel. However, it worked with South Africa and apartheid - but only after supported by western governments. In the final analysis, my position would be "a pox on both their houses".  When I think of what is going on there right now, I weep for all those that are displaced by war and for all the dead. On the other hand, the historian in me selfishly thinks about all the artifacts, and past worlds that are being destroyed. For better and worse, the ancient middle east contains the founding blocks of western and Muslim civilizations.

2. I am in total disagreement with the church that I grew up in (the United Church of Canada) and its one-sided position on this issue. I wish that they could focus more on forcing a solution rather than blaming one side more than the other. There is plenty of blame to go around, believe me. 

3. I do not support the building of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

4. The situation is so f!@#$ing complicated. All parties need to be held to account, and that includes the west who set up this appalling situation in the first place. I cannot even begin to write about the historical mess that brought us here. I am only teaching one small part of that mess. 

5. Anti-semitism is a construct of Christianity. This is an unpopular position to take, but nevertheless, it is true, and, as such, those societies that are based on the Christian mythologies need to take ownership of the part that they have played in creating this mess. Christian anti-semitism has now morphed into a bizarre form of secular anti-semitism. The Jews are to blame for everything (for god's sake, even the American Indian Movement and some Canadian First Nations peoples jumped on the anti-semitic bandwagon - for example, somewhere on the AIM website is a lecture that smacks of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - if it has not been pulled down, go look for it. As one of  my students said, "The poor Jews, they can't cut a break!")

6. I support the right of Israel to exist. My personal history does not allow me to do otherwise. I do not support the Fundamentalist/evangelical support of Israel - it is, in its own way, blatantly antisemitic. One day I will write about my trip to Israel with a bunch of fundamentalists (don't ask - just to say, that my mother really didn't know what she was getting us into), and (to keep it simple) its up front - "so sad that the Jews don't really belong on this land because they aren't saved, etc., and won't be there at the rapture" crap.

Books to read (with links to Amazon site):
Robert R. Wistrich's A Lethal Obsession
John G. Gager's The Origins of Anti-Semitism
William Nicholls' Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate 
William F. Buckley, Jr.'s In Search of Anti-Semitism


1. Boycotting the state of Israel is an acceptable method of protest. We live in a democracy and we can choose to boycott who/what/where we will. I joined a general boycott of Thailand over its lack of child sexual abuse legislation. At a personal level, I no longer watch Woody Allen films - I can't stomach them. The  same goes for Michael Jackson's music - no matter how good it is, I just can't stomach it. I don't expect anyone else to think the way that I do; I don't believe that those who think differently are "evil".

2. The state of Israel just voted in Netanyahu with enough seats to create a government with the extreme right. So much for a peace settlement. "Dead to me, they are dead to me" was my immediate response. (As I said, discombobulation)

And the point that takes us right back to the beginning of this post:

3. The Harper government is beginning to do to the Muslims, what the Germans did to the Jews. This government is turning the Muslims in Canada into scapegoats, creating a fear scenario that could easily morph into something far more sinister. Just look at their position on Omar Khadr. It is a slippery slope as history tells us. There is, in all humans it seems, an unease about the "other", that is, those who don't look like us, don't think like us, don't believe like us. The NSDAP tapped into that in Germany; and Harper is certainly trying to tap into that in the Canada. Is it "needless to say", that Europe and the United States is falling into that trap as well. It is a thin line that they are all walking.

4. In part, this is a political move on the part of the Harper government to appeal to its fundamentalist Christian right base. (Although I do believe that there are other personal motivations by members at play) The religious justification for this one-sided extreme support of Israel is based in a particular millennial interpretation of  "the end". Some of them believe that all the Jews will convert - thus heralding the end; some of them believe that the final battle between good and evil will be fought on the fields of Megiddo (as my mother said on that trip to Israel - "you don't really believe that" - out loud, on the bus - I had to shush her with the "yes, Mom, they really do").

As Bonhoeffer told us: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  There is also the unattributed adage: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Those who are boycotting Israel are doing something in the face of what they see as evil. That I find their position at times extremely simplistic and problematic is true. But people like to take simple black and white positions - demonizing the other is so easy. Something has to give in the Middle East - the backlash against modernity will not go on forever - the violence and cruelty of the medieval period of western European Christian society can be considered somewhat analogous to what is going on in the "middle east". Of course, that is for next semester's history course. 

So. You know what is left out of the discourse????

 Children Just Saying ........... The discourse of rape culture, of course, in the academic literature, of course. Just struck me as I was r...