Learning to Read

posted by Mike Ciul on December 13th, 2007

I just discovered this article by Janine Schwab in PeaceWork Magazine. It’s about living in a foreign country, poetry and activism. It includes the author’s own translation of a poem by Viennese refugee Erich Fried.

from a poem
awaits salvation
should rather
to read poems

from a single poem
expects no salvation
should rather
to read poems.

posted by Mike Ciul in Books, Creative Resistance | on December 13th, 2007 | Permanent Link to “Learning to Read” | No Comments »

David Griffith and Wayne Kostenbaum podcast

posted by Mike on September 26th, 2007

David Griffith, author of A Good War Is Hard to Find, points to a recent podcast interview with him and Wayne Kostenbaum. He doesn’t point to the mp3, so I’ve linked to it here [mp3]. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed and listen to more of the “Onword” podcast.

Another recent review of Good War at Not a Walking Encyclopedia.

The Wealth of Networks podcast

posted by Mike on May 23rd, 2007

Here’s a recording of myself reading Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks.

To listen, see the Internet Archive page, or download a zip of the mp3s (559MB).

For a taste, listen to Chapter 12 (the conclusion), which is the best reading of the bunch.

[Download Chapter 12 mp3 (17MB)]

I read most of this book under less-than-ideal circumstances, as documented below:

  • Chapter 1: valium
  • Part 1 intro: fasting, tired
  • Chapter 2: just woke up
  • Chapter 3: too much coffee
  • Chapter 4: caffeine withdrawal
  • Part 2 intro: fasting
  • Chapter 5: too much coffee, very tired
  • Chapter 6 : woke up in the middle of the night
  • Chapter 7: a few drinks
  • Chapter 8: hungry, skipped lunch
  • Chapter 9: too much melatonin
  • Chapter 10: trazodone
  • Part 3 intro: lots of coffee plus valium
  • Chapter 11: tea
  • Chapter 12: happy to be in the home stretch

I really gotta re-record Chapter 1 one of these days.

Thanks to Nick Nassar, Avera Morrison, and Doug Higgs for equipment solidarity.

Response: part 2 of 3

posted by David Griffith on May 4th, 2007

A Good War Is Hard to FindSorry it’s taken so long to come up with part 2 of my response. Many forces have conspired against me to ensure that I didn’t finish, among them the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech.

To pick up on point I made in part 1, it takes putting ourselves in the picture (in much the same way that as Christians we must remind ourselves that we are complicit in Jesus’ suffering and death) in order for the violence in the Abu Ghraib photos to strike us as worth our regard (which, for those of who have suggested that I either naively or willfully snubbed postmodernity in my book, is exactly the problem I’m trying to warn against, considering we live in an image-based culture—call it postmodern, if you like—wherein the tendency is for images to serve only as references to other images, not to any actual event).

But to suggest, as Mike Ciul does, that I am on a quest for shame illustrates, to me, the truly troubling (postmodern?) predicament we find ourselves in. This is where I actually think using the term Postmodern is useful, as a pejorative, an ignominious label. It now seems fitting to evoke the set of larger social/cultural/economic/political circumstances that have brought us to this moment, because it surely takes a combination of powerful systemic forces ordering our lives and perceptions to bring us to the point where we distrust our conscience.
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New work from Mike True and Dan Berrigan

posted by Mike on April 14th, 2007

Last night I got to listen to some of Father Daniel Berrigan’s new poetry CD, The Trouble with Our State. Listening to the readings helped me make sense of the poems (there was one line about Graham Greene that made no sense until I heard it), and the booklet is packed with beautiful artwork from the likes of Brian Kavanagh and Tom Lewis. The release party is April 27 at the Sixth Street Community Center (East Village, NYC).

The Trouble with Our State

People PowerAlso, I am told that the new book from Mike True (or, as I like to call him, Emeritus Professor Michael D. True, Ph.D. and Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa)) is out. It’s called People Power: Fifty Peacemakers and Their Communities. If I get my hands on a copy I’ll review it on Pie and Coffee.

Response: part 1 of 2

posted by David Griffith on April 11th, 2007

A Good War Is Hard to FindShame. To shame someone. To put them to shame. Shame on you. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Say a word often enough and it starts to lose its coherency. It becomes pure noise: a “shhh” sound, followed by an “ay” sound, followed by an “mmm” sound. I like what Mike Ciul says about shame as it corresponds to my book because it gets me back to thinking about its definition in a serious way.

Mike writes:

If shame is the gateway to redemption, then it has a purpose, but it’s not an end in itself. By the end of this book I felt like Griffith had replaced his quest for cool by a quest for shame. He says he used to think it made him more tough or cosmopolitan to be able to watch shocking scenes. Now he says you have to put yourself in the picture and be shamed into repentance. So I’m asking myself, what’s the difference? Am I not cool enough to look at pictures of torture? Or am I not compassionate enough?

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“True Romance” and true compassion

posted by Mike Ciul on April 6th, 2007

A Good War Is Hard to FindWhen I was in college I watched the movie True Romance with some friends. I’d never seen anything so painfully violent, and I told them how it bothered me. Their response was dismissive and they seemed to think I was some kind of prudish weirdo for complaining about violence. The incident really affected me, and within a year I’d become a Tarantino fan and spent a lot of time trying to justify his use of violence in film.

There is, in fact, something special about the violence in Tarantino’s brand of film. You really feel the characters’ pain when they are assaulted and mutilated. That’s something I never saw in an action movie. I watched a lot of Schwarzenegger films with my dad and though the body count was much higher, I never felt the loss as much as in Reservoir Dogs or even Pulp Fiction.

In A Good War Is Hard to Find, David Griffith talks about how the violence is disconnected, even funny in Pulp Fiction. That’s true in some ways, but in a way Tarantino’s violence is more connected than in a lot of other films. When the guy’s head is accidentally blown off in the car, it is kind of funny, but his death is also very real. He’s not some enemy who won’t be bothering you anymore, and he’s not some mystic warrior who becomes one with the Force. He’s really gone, and it’s tragic. When you laugh, you feel ashamed.
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A comment on “Good War”

posted by Mike on April 4th, 2007

A Good War Is Hard to FindI’ve been e-mailing with my little brother Mark about David Griffith’s A Good War Is Hard to Find, and about Christopher Sorrentino’s review of the book in the New York Times.

The New York Times review bugged me, because it didn’t mention Christianity at all, while the last third was on “postmodernity.” I thought that the search for God’s grace in moments of violence was at least as important a theme in this book as Griffith’s critique of our culture. I wondered if those reading the review would think the book was some odd, secular salvo in the culture wars.

Mark straightened me out:

I read the Times review and I’m not entirely sure the Sorrentino guy paints it as a culture wars thing—I see what you mean about his desire to (maybe) justify postmodern cultural artifacts, but I think the key part is the notion that these artifacts come out of postmodernity—there’s a larger social/cultural/economic/political realm there that one might want to take on before one worries about Pulp Fiction. Or so I thought his point was.

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Nation of Lost Souls

posted by Christine Lavallee on April 3rd, 2007

A Good War Is Hard to FindIn An Ethic for Christians, William Stringfellow wrote: “The unique aspect of biblical faith is that immediate, mundane history is beheld, affirmed, and lived as the true story of the redemption of time and Creation. Biblical ethics constitute a sacramental participation in history as it happens, transfiguring the common existence of persons and principalities in this world into the only history of salvation which there is for humanity and all other creatures.”

It strikes me that this idea of redemption lies at the heart of David Griffith’s essays in A Good War Is Hard to Find. As he describes our “common existence” he seems to desire for Christians to act rather than react, to act justly, tenderly, humbly, rather than react violently either through ouright violence or through complicity with violence born of apathy, boredom, or believing in the euphemistic language used to describe it.
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posted by Christine Lavallee in A Good War Is Hard to Find, Books | on April 3rd, 2007 | Permanent Link to “Nation of Lost Souls” | No Comments »

Discussing “A Good War Is Hard to Find”

posted by Mike on April 1st, 2007

goodwar_small.pngThis week we’re publishing some thoughts on David Griffith’s book A Good War Is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America. We’ll be featuring Dave’s response, too.

The first reviews are from Mike Benedetti and Christine Lavallee.

Several of the essays in the book are available on-line, in excerpted or adapted form:

See also: