Friday, 29 April 2011

Maurice Ollivier, "British North America acts and selected statutes 1867-1962" (1960)

Book in progress.

This offering has very little "new" interpretive or summary writing, but essentially compiles some of the key documents related to Canadian administration. I will list the key documents below, for those who might be interested.

Documents of Canadian pre-history:

Surrenders of Quebec (1759) and Montreal (1760)
Royal Proclamation (1763)
Quebec Act (1774)
Act of Union

British North America Acts (14 revisions from 1867 to 1960)
Related Acts of the United Kingdom

Imperial Orders-in-Council admitting new provinces, territories, and the Arctic archipelago to Canada

Acts of Canada relating to provincial matters

- tax-rental and tax-sharing acts
- provincial boundary extensions
- natural resources acts
- marriage and divorce acts

Acts of Canada relating to federal constitutional matters
- protocols regarding the Crown
- Senate and House of Commons Acts
- Bill of Rights (1960)
- War Measures Act (1914, rev. 1952)
- Privileges and Immunities, Visiting forces Act

Documents relating to the Office of the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors

Commentary will follow on completion.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Paul Litt, "Death at Snake Hill: The Secrets of a War of 1812 Cemetery" (1991?)

This book is a "popular" version of a more academically-oriented text:
by Susan Pfeiffer and Ron Williamson

It describes the discovery, investigation, exhumation, and eventual patriation of the remains of 28 American soldiers who died on Canadian soil during the War of 1812, likely in the fall of 1814. The book gives not only an understandable, brief account of the legal and political complexities surrounding an unexpected discovery of an archaeological site (particularly one with remains), but also details the intriguing international politics surrounding the case. Of course, the book also describes the events that led these soldiers to be buried on the Canadian side of the border, and provides compelling descriptions of what could be learned about life, society, and the conduct of the war from forensic analysis of the soldiers' remains.

The book can be purchased from Archaeological Services.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Bart Ehrman, "Forged:...Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are" (2011)

Ehrman is likely one of the best known, if not the currently most popular writer for the general public on Biblical history and textual criticism (I know some will debate this, and I accept that it's a controversial statement).

The full title of Ehrman's latest text is actually, Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. As has been noted by others, the title is somewhat misleading. It is not actually about writers who claim to be writing 'in the name of God', but rather writers who claim to be someone other than who they are, such as 'regular folks' claiming to be Apostles.

Ehrman’s book is not the most compelling of his texts, but nonetheless interesting, as always. The book is written for ‘lay’ readers; those not experts on Biblical history, but will certainly be of interest and informative for those who are interested in how the ancients thought about the act of writing, and of writing history in particular.

For instance, Ehrman explores the ways ancient authors might have used deception in stating or intimating authorship of a text, the reasons they might have forged documents, as well as how forgery was perceived and treated in ancient times.

Of course, the book summarizes some significant assertions regarding the authenticity of goodly portion of the New Testament. Given that its audience is not primarily scholars of Biblical history (Ehrman suggests that a similar book oriented towards scholars may be forthcoming), it progresses in a slow, methodical, straightforward manner that might be frustrating for some readers.

Ehrman explores both canonical and non-canonical texts. As the non-canonical texts are not likely nearly as familiar to ‘lay’ readers as the canonical texts, it is this material in the book that is most interesting, as well as the most controversial, particularly for Christians. Ehrman makes a convincing case for close textual analysis of the New Testament, combined with awareness of the socio-political context of Eastern Mediterranean life during the first ‘Christian’ millennium. Based on this analysis, and his survey of scholarly literature, he summarizes assertions that a number of New Testament books (primarily Pauline) are forgeries. These texts include: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, and Colossians. He also suggests, in line with a number of other scholars, that some of the gospels are forgeries as well, including: 1 & 2 Peter, James, and Acts.

Read closely after Akenson’s Saint Saul, this book is quite revealing in capturing the revolutionary changes that contemporary Biblical scholarship is offering. That much of this scholarship has not reached the common reader is unfortunate, but understandable. Books such as Forged, much more so than the rather involved and complex Saint Saul, might be a strong contribution to advancing wider knowledge of this scholarship.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Jimmy McDonough, "Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film" (2005)

Meyer's films are essential viewing for teenage boys, historians of the 1960s and 1970s, and fans of Boogie Nights. Meyer, for those who his name doesn't immediately conjure particular images, was a surprisingly financially successful director of movies that could perhaps be labelled... erm... mammary-obsessed, joke-infused, soft porn. This is not the type of porn that might make you feel particularly guilty or dirty, but rather the porn of a more... American version of Benny Hill type. It's nudity all seemed kind of... well... innocent compared to the graphic and grindy sex of porn intended purely to make money.

There's something that smacks of art in Meyer's films, in the same way that John Waters' films featuring Divine cross some strange line between art and trash. Additionally, Meyers' films often feature powerful, physically aggressive women, that seem to run counter to all popular understandings of graphic film produced for male consumption.

Unfortunately, McDonough's writing bears a certain resemblance to the late-career mammaries Meyer featured in his movies... over-inflated and self-consciously unnatural. In places it is almost painful to read. While the book provides some interesting back story to the production of Meyers' films, and is unique in that his life has not been examined in easily available book form (Meyers' multi-volume autobiography is priced at something like $400 USD), it is somewhat unsatisfactory in that it feels... superficial in many regards. Particularly disappointing is the last few chapters, when Meyer made the not too graceful transition from moviemaker to Alzheimer's-sufferer. Clearly, his financial, business and personal lives imploded, leaving many loose ends. McDonough, however, either because he was unable to find interviewees to explore these questions, or could not access the documentary record that might answer some of these questions, leaves the tragic denouement more to imagination than fact. Ultimately, this is unsatisfying as a narrative trope.