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Nov 4

Posted by NT Wrong on November 4, 2008

publicenemyfearofablackplanetCause I’m Black and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check

In the end, Obama may just be a little less right-wing than McCain. When people say ‘He’s not the Messiah’ they are correct to this extent. But what is the Messianic but some small, apparently insignificant shift of perspective that, nonetheless, constitutes an event after which nothing is the same again? The problem with the protest ‘He’s not the Messiah’ is not that the protestor is not hopeful enough, but that his level of hope is measured against an unrealistic vision of what we are capable of attaining.

“There is a well-known parable about the kingdom of the Messiah that Walter Benjamin (who heard it from Gershom Scholem) recounted one evening to Ernst Bloch, who in turn transcribed it in Spuren: “A rabbi, a real cabalist, once said that in order to establish the kingdom of peace it is not necessary to destroy everything nor to begin a completely new world. It is sufficient to displace this cup or this bush or this stone just a little, and thus everything. But this displacement is so difficult to achieve and its measure is so difficult to find that, with regard to the world, humans are incapable of it and it is necessary that the messiah come.” Benjamin’s version of the story goes like this: “The Hassidim tell a story about the world to come that says everything there will be just as it is here. Just as our room is now, so it will be in the world to come; where our baby sleeps now, there too it will sleep in the other world. And the clothes we wear in this world, those too we will wear there. Everything will be as it is now, just a little different.””
– Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community (1993): 53.

Posted in Justice, Music, Politics, Violence | Comments Off on Nov 4

Gospel Music Greats – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Posted by NT Wrong on October 27, 2008

Sister Rosetta Tharpe plays ‘Up Above My Head (I hear music in the air)’ on her Gibson Les Paul SG custom with the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church Choir on TV Gospel Time, sometime in the 1960s.

Posted in Music | Comments Off on Gospel Music Greats – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Book of Job at the Movies – Adam’s Apples

Posted by NT Wrong on October 25, 2008

I recently watched Adam’s Apples (Danish: Adams Aebler) on DVD.

It annoyed and provoked me — and mainly because of its overly tidy and artificially well resolved ending. In fact, I found the tidy resolution even more annoying and provocative than if the ending had been unresolved. But I strongly suspect, without being entirely sure, that this was its intended effect.

The film begins with a neo-Nazi skinhead arriving at the rural church of Pastor Ivan, in order to complete his community service. Pastor Ivan also looks after Saudi Arabian service-station robber Kazim, obese alcoholic sexually deviant former tennis pro Bro, and Steen, a woman pregnant with a deformed child. Pastor Ivan’s methods are highly unconventional. The neo-Nazi skinhead, whose name is Adam, is asked what he would like to do during his stay. Sarcastically, he replies that he would like to bake an apple pie. Unexpectedly for him, this becomes his assigned task and central to the overall plot of the film.

It gradually unfolds that, despite his insanely cheerful and positive demeanor, and almost pathological tendency to only see the good in life, Ivan is afflicted with a great number of tragic and awful maladies and afflictions — including personal illness, the death or incapacity of his most loved ones, being a victim of sexual abuse in his childhood, and even plagues of Hitchcock-like if not biblical proportions. Ivan also receives brutal and violent physical and mental abuse at the hands of (and boots of) Adam, which compounds the problems he is apparently suppressing.

The film proceeds in a deadpan absurdist style which contrasts with Ivan’s apparent insanity and the other characters’ volitility and violence. Yet at the same time, the film poses some very dark and disturbing questions: is it the Devil who is afflicting Ivan or is it God himself? is faith merely wilful blindness and near-psychosis? can people really change? and, most pressingly, is suffering and pain an inevitability which is unable to be overcome in life?

These questions remain uncertain and unanswered for most of the length of the film, before receiving a fairly glib and tidy resolution at the end of the film. This was annoying to me at first reflection, and from a survey of the film’s various reviews, it has been viewed as a weakness of the film. That is, having painted a twisted and desperate picture of life’s vicissitudes, in the end the film glosses over these realistic complexities of life for an easy (and quite unrealistic) resolution.

But the film would be merely annoying and unsatisfying if it weren’t for its subtle intertextuality with the Book of Job. I say ‘subtle’ — but there is the fact that every time the bells are rung at the small county church, the walls shake, Adam’s framed picture of Adolf Hitler falls from the wall, and the bible which Ivan gave to Adam falls off the dresser onto the floor, opening each time at the Book of Job. And then there’s the plot of the film…

But what is perhaps subtle about the intertextual reference is the glib ending. With the Book of Job in mind, the unsatisfyingly resolved ending is not only untrue to life, but it mimics the Book of Job’s own glib and unsatisfying ending. As in Job, this doesn’t allow us to say ‘ah — everything’s alright in the end’. To the contrary, the very glibness causes us to continue to grapple with the questions which have never been properly addressed throughout the story. Like Hitchcock’s Birds, which it references, everything is resolved yet nothing is resolved. The unusual consequence of this intertextual reading — with Job, and with Hitchcock — is that it causes me to focus on the questions rather than on the answers. It is as though the answers are too easily delivered, and therefore must be distrusted.

I admit I first saw this as an unintended consequence. The disjuncture between the unresolvable suffering of life and its unrealistic resolution still caused me to question the unrealistic resolution, but I now wonder whether this effect is intended. In its easy yet unrealistic explanation of life, the film manages to create a deeper and more realistic sense of nihilism than if it had merely delivered an unresolved plot. And even if the director hadn’t intended such an interpretation, reading the film with the Book of Job as intertext makes it something darker than a straightforward narrative of redemption.

But the parallel to the plot ‘resolution’ in the Book of Job is too close to be coincidental. Watching Adam’s Apple as an intertext with the Book of Job makes me conclude that this ‘unintended consequence’ is quite intended. That is, the very unrealistic resolution of the film, with its own Joban theophany and reversal of fortunes, makes it likely that the film’s neat and tidy resolution is an ironic questioning of the unresolved suffering of ‘real’ life. The lack of realism at the end of Adam’s Apples, rather than the mystery and complexity of its middle, is the most potent means by which it conveys the mystery and complexity of evil.

Posted in Films, Writings | Comments Off on Book of Job at the Movies – Adam’s Apples

Christmas Comes Early – From Margaret Barker

Posted by NT Wrong on October 23, 2008

Available from today, October 23, 2008, is Margaret Barker‘s latest book, Christmas: The Original Story. Margaret Barker is former President of the Society for Old Testament Study and author of a number of books on Enochic Judaism and the Jewish Temple.

“I’ll be interested to see how the public reacts to it, because, the Christmas story is something that’s got a lot of emotional capital tied up in it. I think if I were to write a radical book about Obadiah, no one would worry as much. But when you’re doing a Christmas story people [say], ‘oh hands off, that’s ours, don’t touch it’. But I hope I have set it in its real historical and cultural sense, so that people can glimpse maybe what the authors were really writing…”
— Margaret Barker

Margaret Barker discusses her new book in a taped conversation over lunch with William Hamblin. You can even watch Margaret Barker eating!

It is entirely coincidental that the date of release coincides with the date the world was created, as cleverly determined by Bishop Ussher.

Posted in Books, Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Christian literature, Early Jewish literature, Jesus & Christ | 2 Comments »

New Movie Epic: Ba’al: The Storm God

Posted by NT Wrong on October 17, 2008

“A terminally ill archaeologist attempts to cure his cancer by retrieving the ancient amulets of the storm god Ba’al.”

Ba’al: The Storm God is a SciFi Channel special, not a general release. Of course, you just can’t control Ba’al, and so Ba’al ends up unleashing “the ultimate storm on earth.”

I see the tagline is “There’ll be Hell to Pay”. Surely “There’ll be ‘El to Pay” would’ve been more appropriate.

Posted in Films | 1 Comment »

Great Gospel Music – ‘The Hand of the Almighty’

Posted by NT Wrong on October 10, 2008

There’s nothing I like more than traditional Country-Gospel singing with male harmony. One of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters is Country-Gospel Great, John R. Butler.

His breakthrough song, “The Hand of the Almighty” has been played on radio stations throughout the country and has become an underground hit among progressive clergy, divinity students and church janitors.

    The Hand of the Almighty (Have a listen here)

    Oh, sinner, do not stray
    From the straight and narrow way
    For the Lord is surely watching what you do
    If you approach the Devil’s den
    Turn ’round don’t enter in
    Lest the hand of the almighty fall on you.

    He’ll fuck you up (he’ll fuck you up)
    Yes, God will fuck you up
    If you dare to disobey his stern command.
    He’ll fuck you up (he’ll fuck you up)
    Don’t you know he’ll fuck you up
    So you better do some prayin’ while you can.

    Long ago a man named Lot
    Had a wife he thought was hot
    But she could not stop her black and sinful ways.
    You know it was her own damn fault
    When God turned that bitch to salt.
    That’s the way he used to work back in those days:

    He fucked ’em up (he fucked ’em up)
    He really fucked ’em up
    When the people went and turned their backs on him
    He can fuck you up (he’ll fuck you up)
    No shit he’ll fuck you up
    Just like he fucked the people up back then.

    I used to have a friend named Ray
    Who walked that evil way
    He cursed and drank and broke his neighbor’s fence
    You know Ray was full aware
    That some sheep were over there
    And he knew them in the Biblical sense.

    God fucked him up (he fucked him up)
    He went and fucked Ray up
    Went and paid him back for all his wicked sins.
    He fucked him up (he fucked him up)
    Fucked that boy completely up
    Now he’s married to a Presbyterian

Yee-haaarrrr, now that’s preaching the true Gospel message of The Damnation of The Many. You can purchase this high quality Country-Gospel music here.

Posted in Humour, Music | 3 Comments »

America: Those You’ve Robbed Will Plunder You – Jeff Simmonds – ‘So You Say’ – An Anti-Prosperity-Gospel Prophecy for the Financial Meltdown

Posted by NT Wrong on October 10, 2008

    So, you say God loves you
    That’s why you live in prosperity
    God blesses you and wants you wealthy
    Somehow I don’t think that’s true
    Neither should you

    You’re only rich because someone else is poor
    Someone has to pay for your luxury
    It’s not God’s blessing, it’s inequity
    That makes your cup overflow
    And the Third World die

    You built your house with slavery
    You maintain your household with inequality
    One day you’ll fall and I won’t cry for you
    Those you’ve robbed will plunder you
    They’ll plunder you

Posted in Capitalism, Justice, Music | 2 Comments »

Dreams of Ascent and Resurrection: New Book from Frances Flannery et al

Posted by NT Wrong on October 3, 2008

The SBL October 2008 Newsletter announces the publication of Experientia, Volume 1: Inquiry into Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Christianity, edited by Frances Flannery, Colleen Shantz, Rodney A. Werline. Frances Flannery (aka Flannery-Dailey) is author of the masterful guide to ancient Jewish vision reports, Dreamers, Scribes, and Priests: Jewish Dreams in the Hellenistic and Roman Eras (2004) and founding editor of GOLEM: Journal of Religion and Monsters. The new book looks a useful resource, especially in light of recent discussions on this blog of visionary experiences of Jesus’ resurrection.

Publisher’s blurb:

This collection investigates the phenomenon of religious experience in early Judaism and early Christianity. The essays consider such diverse phenomena as scribal inspiration, possession, illness, ascent, theurgy, and spiritual transformation wrought by reading, and recognize that the texts are reflective of the lived experiences of ancient religious peoples, which they understood to be encounters with the divine. Contributors use a variety of methodologies, including medical anthropology, neurobiology, and ritual and performance studies, to move the investigation beyond traditional historical and literary methodologies and conclusions to illuminate the importance of experience in constructions of ancient religion.

Posted in Apocalyptic, Books, Early Christian literature, Early Jewish literature, Gospels, Jesus & Christ, Judeo-Christian Practices | Comments Off on Dreams of Ascent and Resurrection: New Book from Frances Flannery et al

Bono and U2 on Revolution and The Terror, Liberation Theology, The Bible and Marxism

Posted by NT Wrong on October 2, 2008

    And in leather, lace and chains we stake our claim.
    Revolution once again
    No I won’t, I won’t wear it on my sleeve.
    I can see through this expression and you know I don’t believe…
    And we love to wear a badge, a uniform
    And we love to fly a flag
    But I won’t let others live in hell
    As we divide against each other
    And we fight amongst ourselves
    – U2, Like A Song

From a conversation between Bono and Michka Assayas:

Bono: “When I visited Nicaragua, I was shocked to see how much the people’s religion had inspired their revolt. Here was revolution rooted in something other than materialism. There was a spiritual coefficient. The reason the Nicaraguan revolution had to be put down was because it had caught fire. That was terrifying for the Americas. It could have spread all through Mexico, and up north. There was one church I remember going to, where they had these murals all around the walls of the church, of scenes from the Holy Scriptures, like “The Children of Israel escaping from Pharaoh.” But Pharaoh would have Ronald Reagan’s head on him! [laughs]… I remember just being amazed at how the populace were being taught revolution through Bible stories. All over they were being taught that Jesus preached the Gospels for the poor, which he did. But Jesus did not take up arms… I saw it as a disappointing outcome of the reading of the Scriptures. But I was inspired by the application of the Scriptures into people’s real life… remember saying to the minister [of culture, Ernesto Cardenal]: “But there’s nothing glorious about people losing their lives, and bloodletting.” You may be able to argue for it, facing no other escape route, but it’s never glorious. In Irish folklore, even Yeats talked about “the rose that is made red by the blood of the martyrs, that’s dripped to the ground.” I hate all that stuff.”

Michka Assayas: “I think it’s nineteenth-century Europe, actually. As a teenager in France in the seventies, I was marked by that mythology. We had the insurrection of May 1968 and what they called the “leftist movement” thereafter: a fanatical bunch of young people, often the bravest and most ambitious of their generation, who devoted themselves to the idea of revolution. It certainly was glamorous. It went back to the glorious army of the French Revolution, the nineteenth-century insurrections, and then, of course, the Bolsheviks, the Trotskyist uprising, the Maoist Guerrilla, up to the guerrillas in Cuba and Vietnam. It occurred at a sort of junction of Romanticism and Revolution. I realized that the so-called heroic People’s Guerrillas were mostly glorified on an aesthetic and idealistic basis, that their supporters had deliberately turned a blind eye to planned starvation and concentration camps in Russia and China, not to mention the massacres in Kampuchea by Pol Pot. The whole point was anti-Americanism, which made perfect sense in Europe. But those causes were excuses and fantasies. Dismal fantasies, actually.”

Bono: “It’s not that I couldn’t understand where the Provisional Army were coming from, and it’s not that I don’t understand violence myself, personally. I was just trying to figure out: was there ever any reason to take up arms? On the one hand, you had Martin Luther King saying “Never,” Gandhi saying “Never,’ Jesus Christ, both their inspirations in this, saying “Never.” On the other hand, here were the Sandinistas saying “We have to look after the poor, we have to defend the poor.” That position had to be studied from my point of view, even if I didn’t buy it. I wanted to know more about liberation theology and the Sandinistas. I was very moved by them when I was there. They suffered a lot. Their revolution was very costly, and it didn’t turn out their way in the end. Same with the French Revolution. Ironically, it was the French Revolution that inspired America.”

Michka Assayas: “We have all heard that dreadful phrase: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.””

Bono: “I know. In the end, ideas are not worth as much as people. Whenever you meet a philosophy where that is not true, and where ideas are worth more than people, you have to be on your guard. A dangerous idea that almost makes sense is a very compelling thing. In a way, when the devil gets it right, it’s usually not a wrong fighting with a right, it’s usually two half-truths fighting it out. It’ll do the most damage. Marxism-Leninism was an extraordinary idea to lead mankind out of its squalor. It was a dangerous idea that almost made sense. There are many.”

(Michka Assayas and Bono, Bono on Bono: Conversations with Michka Assayas with a Foreword by Bono. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005.)

“And let me tell you somethin’. I’ve had enough of Irish Americans who haven’t been back to their country in twenty or thirty years come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home…and the glory of the revolution…and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution! They don’t talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What’s the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where’s the glory in that? Where’s the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day. Where’s the glory in that? To leave them dying or crippled for life or dead under the rubble of the revolution, that the majority of the people in my country don’t want. No more!”
– Bono, in the middle of Sunday Bloody Sunday, 8 November 1987, after the IRA exploded a bomb at the War Memorial in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, killing thirteen innocent people, including Gordon Wilson’s daughter, Marie, who died holding his hand and telling him she loved him.

Posted in Music, Religion & Society | Comments Off on Bono and U2 on Revolution and The Terror, Liberation Theology, The Bible and Marxism

October – U2

Posted by NT Wrong on October 1, 2008

    And the trees are stripped bare
    Of all they wear
    What do I care

    Kingdoms rise
    And Kingdoms fall
    But you go on…

    …and on…

“‘October’ . . . it’s an image,” Bono told a Dutch television interviewer, Kees Baar, in 1981. “We’ve been through the ’60s, a time when things were in full bloom. We had fridges and cars, we sent people to the Moon and everybody thought how great mankind was. And now, as we go through the ’70s and ’80s, it’s a colder time of the year. It’s after the harvest. The trees are stripped bare. You can see things and we finally realize that maybe we weren’t so smart after all, now that there’s millions of unemployed people, now that we’ve used the technology we’ve been blessed with to build bombs for war machines, to build rockets, whatever. So ‘October’ is an ominous word, but it’s also quite lyrical.”
– Niall Stokes, Into The Heart. London: Carlton, 2001: 31.

Posted in Music | 3 Comments »