Category: video & audio

Rockin’ the Coffin

How does creativity help us cope? What role does the imagination play in allaying our age-old fears of loss and separation?  Filmmaker Cailleah Scott-Grimes leans into these questions in the short doc she’s made in collaboration with her father. Rockin’ the Coffin, a contrarian’s guide to the good death, was made possible by the CBC’s Creative Relief…

Cápsula del Tiempo (Time Capsule)

Earlier I wrote a post about coffins: Before the pandemic arrived, I had begun building a coffin with my friend Ted not because I’m dying but because, as my daughter put it, Dad’s not afraid of dying. Truthfully, Dad is a bit afraid, but he displays his fear by defying death. Dad is self-inoculating, staving…

Astrobiologist Breaks Down Apocalypse Scenes from Movies

It’s no longer necessary to watch post-apocalyptic movies since we are living in the middle of the apocalypse now. The apocalypse: all fiction, all faith. But it’s happening right now. Here astrobiologist David Grinspoon breaks down apocalyptic scenes from movies, including ‘I Am Legend,’ ‘Interstellar,’ ‘WALL-E,’ ‘The Day After,’ ‘Ad Astra,’ ‘Waterworld,’ ’12 Monkeys,’ ‘The…

Playing for Change

Maybe you know about Playing for Change. “PFC is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. The idea for this project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. Creating Songs Around the World inspired us to unite many of…

Making It Up As We…Go

This video was first published in 2011, before Cailleah Scott-Grimes went to Japan for the first time. Here it is re-published with questions by Fabiana Fondevila, an Argentine journalist, and responses by Cailleah. Fabiana (by email): Tue, 10 May 2011. Hello Cailleah, Its nice to meet you. I am a journalist from Argentina and I’ve…

Are you watching ____ on Netflix?

Almost every week my two brothers and I exchange the query: Are you watching _______ on Netflix? Are you watching Messiah? Are you watching The First Temptation of Christ? As kids we watched The Ten Commandments, but after Mel Gibson bled on the silver screen, we avoided Jesus movies like the plague. There were a…

What Color is Ecology?

I’m interviewing my daughter. She’s seven, her top front teeth have been snatched by a fairy, and this is a Big Questions video, a tradition our family has carried on for twenty-five years. I ask what kind of person she is, prompting her with a few options. I tease her by asking if she is…

Reimagining guns

Partnering with Irian Fast-Sittler, a blacksmith, to transform a shotgun into a rosebush, Ron Grimes makes a case for reimagining weapons by using popular images to show that the current wave of gun violence is both a religious and imaginative crisis. For a shorter version, focused on the blacksmithing-artistic process, see “MaidenForge.”

Questioning “MaidenForge”

“MaidenForge” is now public. We presented both the sculpture and film in a nearby Mennonite Church. These are prompt, questions we might ask or that people might ask us. What is “Gun Shy?” If you described it to a friend, you’d call it a _________.What do you see? …if you stand back at a distance?…


An interpretation of Bryn’s soundtrack for “MaidenForge” by Cailleah Scott-Grimes: It’s worth comparing “MaidenForge” to “Thak Sword Forging,” both made in Floradale’s blacksmith shop. Then try an experiment. Don’t watch the video. Just listen to the two musical scores. Then put into words your feelings about each piece of music. An interpretation of Bryn’s soundtrack


When I first published The Craft of Ritual Studies, my son, as a joke, counted the number of questions in the book. I was a curious kid who became an academic, so I’ve made a virtue out of what many consider a vice, asking way too many questions. Now that question-asking has become a “thing,” I…

Questioning Artists

I often interview artists about their stories, practices, and values. Here’s a question-set use. What’s your story as an artist? What drew you to your art? What are the big turns in the story?Who are your primary artistic relationships, influences, compatriots, or mentors?Where are you in your arts career (emerging, established, mid-career, etc.)? What is…


I’ve written “Disarming Boys,” an essay to be published in 2019. It’s a story about growing up with guns, then giving them up. While doing research on boys, girls, gender, and violence I ran across two videos. View them back to back, and a provocative discussion emerges: In “Interview with a Toddler,” La Guardia Cross,…

Interviews about ritual

Below are some interviews about

  • rites of passage
  • do-it-yourself ritual
  • ritual and science.







When the celebrant dies, you what?

During holidays, you could call the labor “just cooking” or “just cleaning” or even “just fretting.” But if the family gathers, laughs, argues, reconnects, and remembers what it often forgets, maybe you should call the work something else. Whoever engineers, or designs, the event is a celebrant, a ritual-maker. Describe the job this way, to…

You want it darker?

It’s easy, I suppose, to get romantic or religious as you age. It’s harder to get honest about yourself, your failures, and your aspirations. Leonard Cohen is about as straight-forward as you can get. I beg Leonard’s pardon for putting him to work in the service of democracy:

Three places I never went to when I was alive

“Three Places I Never Went” by Paul Antick, who is a founding member of the Terror and the Tour research group and co-editor of Liminalities’ Terror and the Tour special issue. His recent contributions include, “Bhopal to Bridgehampton: schema for a disaster tourism event,” in the Journal of Visual Culture. Antick is Senior Lecturer in Photography…

Mining words

Robert Fullerton, an ex-shipyard welder in Glasgow, says, “Imagine going down into the dirt to find a word that you’re going to elevate up into poetry. That’s mining for me.” Drawing inspiration from the sparks, he imagines them as “wee possibilities or wee ideas,” Fullerton began crafting poems while working at the shipyard. He discovered that his dark, solitary days provided the “perfect…

On spiritual yearning in the west

  Vine Deloria Jr. (March 26, 1933 – November 13, 2005) was a Hunkpapa Lakota scholar, author, historian, and activist. For samples of his writings see Spirit and Reason: The Vine Delolria, Jr. Reader. These two interviews are some of his most thoughtful and critical reflections on spirituality and native people. Follow this link for an article I…

Big questions

When the kids were little, we began tossing them big questions. Where are your dead grandparents? Where do babies come from? What is a good person? What’s bad? If the house were on fire and you had to grab one thing, what would it be? These videoed interviews took various forms: storytelling, metaphysical speculation, flights…

A daughter’s song

Everybody dies, and lots of people immigrate. But few Muslims marry Jews, and Mohawks rarely cross the river to conduct Condolence ceremonies among non-natives. Why? “A Daughter’s Song” doesn’t quite answer the question, but it captures what happens when such events coincide. Three months after the death of Myriam Azoulay, Mohawks, invited by artists affiliated…

The day the clock stopped

Norwegians sometimes refer to July 22, 2011, as their “9/11,” the day their perceptions were changed forever by an act of violence. An assassin exploded a car bomb beneath a government building in Oslo, then ferried to Utoya island, where he hunted down and shot Labour Party youth attending a summer camp. In the end,…

Making it up as we go

In 2012, Cailleah imagined I might die while she was in Japan. She worried that I would never know what she could become, so we improvised a ritual with her in Toronto and I in Waterloo. Then, she made this film. I didn’t croak (although I almost did in 2013). We’re both still going, making…

How shall we commemorate lives unjustly cut short?

When you have the time and freedom to circle the deep, that’s glorious. When you don’t have either the time or the freedom–when you’re draped over the edge by another hand–that’s dreadful. When someone else cuts your life short by lynching, angry questions burn the air. The Equal Justice Initiative is building the National Memorial…

At the crossroads

Turning 25, musician Bryn Scott-Grimes visits Robert Johnson’s grave site. Later, he visits the crossroads where Johnson, the story goes, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical mastery.

How shall we say no?

Susan, Bryn, and I attended the Women’s March, 2016, in Toronto. Cailleah had to work.

There were 60,000 of us who said an across-the-border no to Donald Trump.

Is democracy lost? We hope not.

If so, Leonard Cohen says it’s coming soon.
Doesn’t he?
Is it coming?
or coming back?
or, having left, returning?


How shall we make music of that?

My kids are too old to give assignments, but I hired Bryn as an assistant to carry out two assignments. In the first I asked him to read Irving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and make a short film about everyday ritualization.

How he convinced his mom to be the star of O Mother, Where Art Thou I will never know. She still talks about the video and says how much she enjoyed the process of making it. Since she’s camera-shy (maybe even camera-hostile), that’s quite a feat. Even as I write this, she is ensconced in her writing ritual with a coffee to her left and scone crumbs to the right.


For the second assignment I hired Bryn as a research assistant to help me do video work on Prague’s Velvet Carnival. Since he’s a musician, I asked him to do something with the music of the festival. Instead of writing about it, he composed a song:



Living in the world as if it were home

Tim Lilburn teaches at the University of Victoria and has published ten books of poetry. The Names, his most recent poetry collection, was published in 2017. The Larger Conversation: Contemplation and Place, a collection of essays, was published in 2017. This is an interview by Tim Wilson. To read “Listening with Courtesy,” another interview with Tim,…

The trail begins and ends where?

In my imagination here’s where the trail ends (or, maybe, begins).

Don’t click “play” unless you have a full 2 minutes and 40 seconds (which isn’t a lot of time in view of eternity).

A sacred place hallowed by solemn ritual?

A place of doodling?

Artistic practice?

Ancestor veneration?


How paltry, our imaginations…

Listening with courtesy

An interview with Tim Lilburn by Darryl Whetter, Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne, [S.l.], Jan. 1997, accessed 02 Oct. 2017. ISSN 1718-7850. DW: You write and speak about poetry as a “courteous” way of seeing. How does this notion of courtesy affect your work technically? TL: First of all, I don’t…