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Reviews Written by
SnowPharoah "SnowPharoah"
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Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entre cancre et auteur - entre élève et mentor, May 9 2016
Ce livre commence avec l'auteur, Daniel Pennac, qui observe sa mère qui le regarde alors qu'il réalise une interview à la télé. Sa mère reste anxieuse de son sort. Malgré ses succès en tant qu'auteur, Mme Pennacioni se questionne, à savoir si son enfant va un jour être autre chose qu'un échec. Son anxiété domine ces premières lignes du livre et donnent le ton au récit autobiographique et sociobiographique de Pennac. Un récit instructif, mais au delà de tout, un récit qui touche notre imaginaire et questionne nos repères. Pendant tout le récit, Pennac rapporte ses histoires en tant qu'élève et étudiant, en tant que jeune enseignant et, plus tard, en tant qu'auteur. Il raconte ses histoires avec ses parents, ses camarades de classe, ses élèves ses lecteurs, parfois d'anciens élèves et anciens collègues. Toujours, le cancre en lui se présente, douteux, manifestant un cynisme aigüe à l'égard de l'auteur à succès, amant de la poésie et de la littérature: "Tu es cancre et cancre tu resteras, peu importe ce que tu réussi".

Deux éléments se dégagent pour moi de ce récit que je ne peux recommander suffisamment:
1. Pennac démontre une vulnérabilité hors du commun. Cette vulnérabilité et cette générosité, il la manifeste envers le lecteur, envers lui-même et envers ses étudiants. Il y a cet échange, vers les pages 285, entre le cancre qu'il était et la personne qu'il devient, dans laquelle il aborde le noyau de cette vulnérabilité, comme étant au coeur de l'enseignement. Un mot qu'on n'ose pas prononcer dans nos écoles et dans nos ministères de l'éducation. Alors que l'école change de programmes de formation en reformes pédagogiques, ce mot est absent du cursus. Et pourtant, ce mot est au centre de notre humanité et de notre apprentissage de la vie, comme de la littérature et, j'ose espérer, des maths, de l'astronomie et de la biologie. Il y a chez Pennac cette maturité, touchée par cette vulnérabilité et cette ambivalence, qui le font tergiverser entre maitrise et compétence imperfection et cancrisme. Il ne craint pas ce regard sur lui, qu'il dirige avec précision, témoignant ainsi que ses erreurs, ses remises en question et ses regrets ne sauront le définir en tant qu'individu. En fait, ces éléments de sa vie, passée et présente, font de lui ce qu'il était et ce qu'il devient, en tant qu'auteur et en tant que personne, solide et formée.

2. Ce récit comporte également des questions d'ordre sociales et politiques. Nous perdons de vue que l'enseignement et l'éducation ne commence pas avec des programmes et des ministères, mais plutôt avec les relations que les enseignants arrivent à établir avec les jeunes qui leur sont confier. Il ne s'agit pas d'un travail comme celui chez Ford ou Citroen, mais plutôt d'un travail qui ressemble davantage à une vocation. L'enseignant qui définit sa tâche uniquement comme une tâche pourrait bien y arriver, mais dans son ensemble, il s'y perdra. Un enseignant est une personne qui prend le pari des étudiants, qu'en donnant une partie de lui même, en tant que mentor, il peut soutenir une partie de ce qui manque de force et de vulnérabilité chez les jeunes qui lui sont confiés. Le début de l'enseignement et de l'éducation ne doit pas être définit par ce qui se passe dans les bureaux de fonctionnaires, mais par ce qui se passe entre prof et élève, dans le mentorat subtile qui se crée. Et dans ce contexte, ce que chacun apporte à cette relation, prend un sens démesurée par rapport à ce qui arrivera à l'élève, d'abord, et à l'enseignant ensuite.

Il faut ajouter ceci: Pennac écrit merveilleusement bien. Un récit intriguant, intéressant et qui nous tient jusqu'à la fin sans difficulté.

Her [DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
Her [DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Joaquin Phoenix
Price: CDN$ 4.88
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3.0 out of 5 stars In man's image, Jan. 30 2016
In "Her", Theodore Twombly, a man who works in a firm writing letters expressing affection for others, is living a rather uneventful and depressed life in the aftermath of his separation and impending divorce with his wife, who had been a childhood friend and with whom he had been very close. The film is set in the future, although it is not clear exactly how far in the future. Theodore purchases a new operating system (OS) for his computer (computers are rather advanced in this film). The OS has the peculiarity of being able to learn, to modify its functioning and to establish a sort of relationship with its user in a way that one might expect from an administrative assistant. Quickly, however, a type of romantic relationship is established between the OS and Theodore. The film maps out the different issues that arise from this kind of human-computer interface, as well as the different existential questions that it raises. A few thoughts on "Her":

1. One of the interesting features of the film is that it really raises the question of what it means to be human. If you are a reductionist, you perceive humanity on a molecular, biological level. Behavior and emotions arise from events that take place on that level. So humanity is defined by behaviour, anchored in biology, on a purely descriptive level. In "Her", however, you have the same behaviour, minus the biology. The question is asked: why would that not be human. Or why couldn't genuine relationships be established in that context? This is an important question, not only because there are actually many billions of dollars presently being invested in programming such software, but also because it raises the age-old question: what is it to be human? If we cannot define humanity in a way that excludes artificial intelligence, we are in for a bit of a rough ride.

2. One quasi-religious take on this movie is the following: in the Judeo-Christian narrative, humans were created in the image of God out of love and it is in this kind of loving relationship that God wanted to live with humans. The image of humans is perhaps best represented by computers - our thought processes, at the base of much that we do and feel, can be summarized in code. In this film, an ultimate code has produced a better image, one that becomes more an image of Theodore Twombly and, inevitably involves a "love" relationship. As in the Judeo-Christian narrative, the image leaves the creator.

3. Finally, I was surprised at how the story line involved easy acceptance of human-OS relationships. I was surprised at how easily they occurred, how easily they were accepted by others. I wonder to what extent this is a comment on the part of the writers that there is something amiss in the manner in which we conduct our relationships, that something truly profound is missing, and that in reality, what is missing is going to lead us to search for it in strange, uncomfortable ways.

An emotionally puzzling yet thought provoking film.

Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Generous intensity, Jan. 30 2016
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This review is from: Bono (Kindle Edition)
An interesting set of interviews by M. Assayas with one of our era's most iconic celebrities (though he doesn't approve of that word), revealing insight into the thoughts, the faith, the ideas and insecurities, the ambitions and the underlying energy that underlies much of what and who is Bono. These are generous interviews by Bono. He reveals many aspects of his history and himself which are likely not to be mainstream. He is also quite open to analysis. Indeed, it is possible to conduct analyses with the material that is here.

These interviews are also filled with interesting takes on faith, God and Christianity, on world economics and geopolitics, on family (past and present), on love, on energy and intensity, friendship and what it takes to be meaningful (Bono would argue, I think, that we all are and have to work at not being so). There is much here for the U2 fan and for anyone interested in understanding the person and the icon, the rock star and the song writer, the father, husband and friend. An interesting read from one of the defining figures of our musical epoch.

DVD ~ Tim Roth
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4.0 out of 5 stars Heed your ideals or they will leave you., Jan. 19 2016
This review is from: Selma (DVD)
Selma tells the story of the march for the right to vote, organized by MLK and his colleagues, from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The march, as the film, is set in the overall battle for civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s (still going on today to a different extent) and has at its core, the brutal beatings and a killing of several civil rights activists, notably during the first incarnation of this march. Two thoughts come to mind for me in this film. First, I am always impressed at how we can act towards others, especially those who are different, those who are need, and I am always impressed at that within us that strongly believes that if we allow others to walk a certain route, they will take something from us. This is true of the segregated American south of the 1960s, but it is true throughout history, across the globe. People are always afraid to lose. In fact, in a certain way, they do lose. White Americans had less to say about who came to elected office when African Americans were allowed to vote. But in a way, there is much greater loss at keeping your neighbour down. The question will always be asked: Who is your neighbour? What have you done to watch his back? Even if it costs you something? The civil rights movements asks this question in spades. It should be added that one of the lessons of the civil rights movement is that your neighbour will object to being down. That MLK was able to help bring about change in the relatively peaceful way that he did is meritorious. The film also draws out that there were others in the movement who were willing to be more forceful, and can you imagine the additional, televised carnage, had this happened? The scripture is always right about this. Your neighbour may be different, but watch his back. You will pave the way for harmony and peace and mutual flourishing.

Second, I was impressed at seeing how task oriented MLK and his group were. I was under the impression that there was far less planning and much more spontaneous movement than came across in the film. Selma brings out the idea that while there were unplanned events, cities, streets and times were rather meticulously planned for demonstrations. I wonder if this was really the case.

Finally, as a side note, one of the least convincing aspects of the film concerned the idea that MLK never referred to his faith apart from what was in his speeches. His faith seems to be somewhat instrumental to mobilizing people, but Selma portrays that as its strong point. I tend to think that it was faith that mobilized MLK. And MLK actually called on others, White and Black, to live more as their Christian beliefs dictated, not less. In being more Christian, how could we oppress others? How can we resort to violence when your faith calls you to love your enemies? More, not less, faith. This idea did not pan out in this film.

Nevertheless, Selma is nicely played out and remains a lesson in the ways that we can go wrong.

Bag of Marbles
Bag of Marbles
by Joseph Joffo
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grace under pressure, Jan. 1 2016
This review is from: Bag of Marbles (Hardcover)
BOM tells the autobiographical story of a young Jewish boy and his older brother escaping NAZI capture during the years between 1941 and 1945, in France. The narrative is remarkably well structured and and the reader gains insight into daily life within both occupied and "free" France. A couple of points emerged for me as I read through this story, that I enjoyed very much. First, there is a question of basics. We in the West, the rich West, have forgotten how poor, how fragile and how frightening the world can quickly become and how tenuous ideas like "human rights" and "civil liberties" can quickly become used to oppress others, and how quickly basic needs and wants go unfulfilled. I was surprised at the speed with which things developed in Europe, at a time when presumably, we knew better. Surprised at how quickly relatively middle class folks fell into desperate want. And I remain puzzled at how we frame questions and issues so easily into issues that can once again lead us into those paths. Second, this story really is one of ingenuity and resourcefulness, adaptation and resilience, of lights and help on the way, perhaps of divine assistance, perhaps of sheer luck of meeting the right people at the right time. Something happens in this story that makes us want to cheer in a few places. Can't help but wonder how this story would have turned out if it would have been me, at that time, in that place, in those circumstances. Hope that these kinds of questions remain purely theoretical. A great story and a wonderful read.

Woman In Gold / La Dame en or (Bilingual)
Woman In Gold / La Dame en or (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Helen Mirren
Price: CDN$ 9.75
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Klimt's woman, Dec 29 2015
A fascinating tale of the legal, moral and national intricacies that created obstacles to the recuperation of the Klimt's "Adèle" work by its rightful owner. The story is extremely well told and is intertwined with scenes from the 1930s as the NAZIs came to power in Germany and annexed Austria. A couple of points: That period in time is always frightening to me, as I always question how exactly such atrocious behaviours could have been fully accepted and encouraged by majorities. That this might still be the case in many parts of the world, and that even in the west there is a tendency to have the same processes go on in this way, unchecked by rational and moral thinking, remains a threatening prospect. I believe that part of the message of the film is to raise this issue, that the past, and the processes that were part of it, remain and are actually very much part of the present.

Second, there is a bit too much cheerleading for the US in this film. It is true that for many families, it was possible to leave persecution and war and in this, it is true that the US provided an incredible new opportunity and safe haven for 10s of thousands of families. But the cheerleading kind of overflows in some places in the film to the point of being overdone.

A very interesting film with both historical, legal and moral overtones.

If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life
If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Digestible lunches, Dec 28 2015
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I have enjoyed reading Lewis for many years and find both his imagination and razor sharp logic, together, to be quite refreshing. Sometimes, if one stops to think about our times, we find that we are under a veritable barrage of information. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit of thought reveals that this information is not actually all that different from previous information, except for its amount. In this, I have always found Lewis to be a guide, a mentor, in helping sift through ideas and think about "how to think" about everything that we are exposed to.

I have also, more recently, read some of Alister McGrath's work. I have found him to be a careful writer, one who does much research and attempts to truly understand ideas before offering them up in a humble way in print or before criticizing them. After reading the careful biography of Lewis by McGrath, I was quite happy to come across this book describing a fictitious series of lunches with Lewis. McGrath remains careful. One can readily tell that this is a person who gives himself permission to ascribe thoughts and feelings to Lewis, because he has been so careful and thorough in his work about him. The book reads a bit like a CS Lewis primer, exposing some of the key themes and ideas that occupied Lewis' life and work. McGrath makes the point that perhaps Lewis' greatest contribution to thought was his ability to amalgamate rationalism and imagination in a way that simply made sense, and did not marginalize one or the other. I have not read that Lewis does that explicitly, so in a sense, I feel that the explicit explanations offered by McGrath in this regard are helpful for novice Lewis readers, or those who couldn't quite get a grasp of what was so refreshing about Lewis' thinking.

The book also is well organized. It has a kind of "map" characteristic where ideas and concepts, imagined discussions and questions kind of flow into each other nicely. It is an easy read. McGrath occupies some of the text with his own ideas and impressions of the Lewis' history, his times, and the events that may have had an effect on him. But I tend to trust McGrath in this. His writing is not overwhelming and there is a humility in the manner in which he exposes his own ideas that elicits the confidence of the reader.

If you are well read in Lewis, this is a kind of well structured recap of major contributions and will make you want to go back for more. If you are not familiar with Lewis, you will get a good idea of how and why this Oxford/Cambridge Don had (and is continuing to have) such an impact on Christians of all flavours all over the world.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
by Timothy Keller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.25
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite complete, Nov. 17 2015
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This volume lays out several essential aspects of living through and experiencing a rich prayer life. As a Christian, our prayer life is our lifeline. It defines our relationship to God and enables us to turn to Him, in need, in joy, in fulfillment and in emptiness. It is important to consider prayer and to reflect on its role in our personal lives. Recall Jesus' warning, "... when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites..." Strong words, requiring careful attention and thought.

This book outlines several ideas concerning prayer and ways in which to think about prayer. Keller also summarizes several key ideas from numerous authors who have written on the subject. It is also remarkably practical, offering ways to think of how to pray.

A few ideas, that emerge from a first reading:

1. Your prayers will tell you about God. Remember who He is that you are approaching. Remember both the unbreakable law that He has established the universe with, the fact that He had to be crushed to enable you to experience Him and to live, and why He might have wanted to do that. There is a nice reflexion on the trinity and the fact that God had no need to create and invite us into His dance. But He did so out of pleasure. Prayer is a means to experience some of this divine joy.

2. Your prayers tell you about you, the bad and the good. Listen to what you pray about, how you pray, the thoughts and emotions that are elicited, and you will learn much about yourself.

3. We pray for events and things to happen and change, for relief and for happiness as best as we can define it, and our prayers are always heard. However, perhaps the most important reason to pray is that through the rhythms of prayer, we learn to know God, to know His will. And through this process, our very prayers change. The primary purpose of prayer is to help align our beings with that of God - to learn to know God better, more.

4. Hidden within the Psalms and the Gospels, are rhythms and disciplines of prayer. Rhythms and disciplines are a vehicle for enjoyment and conversation, for trust and relief. These are not "have to's", but rather "want to's" that help not be like the hypocrites.

5. Many have written on prayer. One of the resounding themes from most books, including Keller's is that our private conversation with God, from which our actions with others, including God, are derived, constitute holy ground. Never underestimate the significance of approaching Him with requests, with thanksgiving, with confession or with anything, without ambiguity, without fear, as yourself. Never forget the honour that we are given, and how much was done so that we could be adopted as children.

6. Prayer will always be a reminder that whatever hardship or joy we are experiencing (we usually pray in hardship) is not the end of the story. It is part of a larger story, a grand narrative, still being written, in which we all have and will have parts. In this context, prayer is the connection between we, who are protagonists in the greater story, and the story's author.

DVD ~ Pure Flix
Price: CDN$ 8.00
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor art will never be justified by quality of intention, Nov. 9 2015
This review is from: GODS NOT DEAD [Import] (DVD)
We definitely live in a post-christian culture, and in the West particularly, in a post-faith era. At least, any kind of organized faith is weakening (there are increases of personalized and individualistic spiritual movements). In a sense, I value the idea of wanting to portray Christianity's faith claims in a film. Similar projects have been done before, such as "Mere Chrisitianity" by CS Lewis, which started out as radio broadcasts to encourage people during the war, at a time when Christianity was well on its way to being rejected. "Chariots of Fire" was also an incredible film, that traces some of the essential truths of faith in a subtle, nuanced way that allows the viewer to consider, even the non-believer, the important ideas that are communicated. It is also said that Tolkien was heavily influenced by his Christian world view when writing LOTR. In sum, the idea of portraying the Christian faith on screen or in a book, or whatever art form (painting, music, poetry,etc.) I believe to be a good one. One could argue that art will always be a reflection of the artists world view.

But this is a bad film. It is poorly made, it is telegraphic in its message, it is incredibly and overwhelmingly American in its portrayal of the Christian perspective, presents an almost abrasive perspective of Christian truths and really, very predictable from the get go. In defense of the film, I think that some of the ideas that underlie the film are good. In fact, the hostility with which Christians are treated on campuses in North America (and other places in the West), deserves some sort of attention and thought. That this hostility, framed in a kind of pseudo openness by the ambient culture should be denounced also should be underlined. So the intentions and basic ideas are good. The title is also good and catchy in light of the cultural issues that require attention, and I think the two protagonists in this story, and perhaps some of the other actors, might have been better served by a better story. But this is just poor. And the saddest thing is that, contrary to LOTR or Chariots, this film will become a reason NOT to consider Christianity as potentially true.

The Salt of the Earth (Le Sel de la terre) (Bilingual)
The Salt of the Earth (Le Sel de la terre) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Sebastião Salgado
Price: CDN$ 24.95
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harsh awakening, Oct. 26 2015
A haunting, somber photographic and narrative overview of some of the most difficult humanitarian and human crises over the last 40 years. The photos are captivating and will leave an indelible mark on the viewer. The narrative provides insight into the human mind and begs the question: How can an individual be a witness of so much suffering and not be profoundly changed? The lucid answer is that it is not possible. The following question becomes: How does one live with the images that Sebastião Salgado has taken and shown and not slip into a immobilizing depression and cynicism about the world and the humans that make it up? An attempt at an answer is given towards the end of the documentary. Still, the questions raised are hard and the answers not easy. We are so easily clogged up in our western, privileged bubble, we forget the hardship that makes up much of life in other parts of the world. A must see, simply to open up parts of our ability to reflect on the times that we live.

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