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June 2005

The President's Speech

He delivered this speech better than most. But wasn't it all stuff we've heard before? And that we've heard many times over the last year? It was thirty minutes of evading the real, serious questions by rehashing what he's already said. The poll numbers of support for him and for the war are dropping, and this was supposed to be the speech to address that. But by not addressing the questions that people had, how does this speech have the desired effect?

He keeps missing the point. For example, he talks about the rebuilding of services and utilities and talks about progress being made. Yes, but aren't we far behind where we ought to be and thought we would be by this point? Why is that? Isn't it true that if we'd done x, y, and z like various folk said, that we might be farther along?

Or when he says that we have just the number of troops that the generals need. But isn't the issue that we didn't have enough at the beginning, which is one reason we have some of the problems we now have? Isn't the issue that you didn't listen to the generals at first?

Or when he talks about the training of Iraqi soldiers. Sure, progress seems to have been made since two years ago, but weren't there problems to begin with because the administration unwisely disbanded the Iraqi army immediately after conquering Baghdad?

Yes, I agree we need to stay as long as we have to, but you're not addressing the real question. The real question is are we in "the last throes" (according to Dick Cheney) or will the insurgency last another possible twelve years (according to Donald Rumsfeld)? And if you don't know, then say so. And how are we to square Rumsfeld's "twelve years" quote from this Sunday with his pre-war statements that it wouldn't last six months?

Then there is the section of the speech where you describe the insurgents as violating the rules of war in their tactics. But haven't we lost the moral high ground to make that claim because of our violations of the rules of war at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, etc.? Just this week warrants were issued by the Italian courts against thirteen CIA agents who violated Italian law by kidnapping an Italian citizen. Difficult to use violating the standards of the rule of law as your charge against the enemy, when you violate the standards of the rule of law yourself. Right?

I just with the President would straightforwardly address the public's real concerns and issues, instead of telling us stuff we've heard before that doesn't address what concerns us.

Journalists and Sources

So, the Supreme Court turned down the case of the two reporters who might go to jail for not revealing their sources in the Valerie Plame case.

Various times I've thought about commenting on this case, but I haven't before. There's always been something else to write about.

Here's my basic take. I usually am a staunch defender of the right of journalists to keep their sources confidential. But I think that this case was intriguingly different. In this case the leaking of the information was criminal. It wasn't a whistleblower needing to be protected from abusive power. No, the leak itself was an abuse of power. The grand jury investigation was trying to determine whether the White House had intentionally leaked Valerie Plame's name in an attempt to discredit or damage her husband, who was a public critic of the administration. This isn't Deep Throat trying to let the public know information it needed to know. This is, potentially, White House staffers violating the law protecting CIA agents from being outed. The leak itself was an abuse of power. The potential leakers were hoping to be proected by press confidentiality while abusing the very reason we have such a protection. The administration was, potentialy, illegally using the free press to undermine their enemies; which is an abuse of the free press.

The confusing thing in this case is that the original leak was to Robert Novak, who hasn't been charged with anything. Did he go ahead and reveal his source, or not? I've always thought that unless he revealed his source in this case, that he was party to the potential abuse of power.

My opinion.

Harmful Books, According to Conservatives

Thanks to Grant Morgan for this link to the 10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th & 20th Centuries, according to a group of Right Wingers.

I can agree with a couple of them (like Mein Kampf) being harmful. I can also agree that harmful effects have sometimes come from the interpretation and application of the ideas in some of these books (but the same can be said for the Bible). Misunderstanding and fearing some of the important ideas contained in these writings is unfortunate. There is much to be learned here. Though I am not a Marxist and do not agree with Nietzsche, there are VERY significant and important things contained in their work.

Batman Begins

What a good story. And I liked that there were these horror elements to the film. The way Scarecrow was done was great.

I did have my problems. I feel that areas of the script weren't very tidy, especially at the end. Many people had been affected by the poison, and you really don't see what the outcome of that is. It couldn't have been pleasant.

The way the fight scenes were filmed and edited, it was sometimes difficult to actually see what was going on. Ever since the advent of digital editing, this has been a problem for films. I like to watch the coreography of a fight scene, which means actually being able to see what's happening.

I liked all the key cast members and thought they gave really fine performances.

What I'm most curious about is where they go from here. This is supposed to be a prequel to the Burton Batman. I'm assuming that they will continue to make new Batman films with Bale. Will they revisit some of the villains we've already encountered or will the next film be the sequel to Batman and Robin?

2 1/2 film reels
4 popcorn kernels

A Most Difficult Text

A Most Difficult Text
Genesis 22:1-19
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Oklahoma City
26 June 2005

There is a statue that memorializes those who died in the Kent State massacre. The statue is a modern day representation of the sacrifice of Isaac. It is a reminder to the country that it sacrificed its children both in the massacre and in the war in Vietnam.

I suspect that some of us feel like we have been sacrificed by our families. Some parents claim obedience to God and their interpretation of the Bible in order to destroy their GLBT children. A few weeks ago there was a website making the rounds on the internet. It was the blog of a teenager in Memphis whose parents had put him in one of those programs that was supposed to change his homosexuality. The kid was despairing as he wrote about the program. I teared up as I read what he wrote. And so often you hear stories of gay kids who are thrown out of their homes, beaten by parents, or that commit suicide because they cannot face being gay in a culture that oppresses them.

I feel that this story is not suitable for children. I read a few years ago that in the minds of children, this story can become abusive. When I was taught it as a child in Sunday school, Isaac was portrayed as being obedient to his father and to God and that Isaac was willing to be sacrificed. That interpretation is nowhere in the Genesis account. Plus, it says to a child that an authority figure can abuse them in the name of God. That they should be obedient to the parent or minister or elder who abuses them.

This story is known in Christian circles as “the Sacrifice of Isaac.” Jewish circles call it “the Binding of Isaac.” The Jewish name is much more appropriate, for Isaac is never literally sacrificed, he is not killed.

This story is also one of the most important and powerful in the faith traditions of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Its meaning and interpretation have been debated by scholars for thousands of years. Despite no firm consensus on how to read the story, it always seems to figure as a key story for understanding the nature of faith.

When I looked at the calendar and saw that this was the OT lectionary text for the day, I knew that I would preach it. I think that this story is a horrible story. Yet, it is one of my very favourite stories. I think I favour it so much because it is full of paradox. How to interpret this story that on the one hand seems to be essential to understanding faith and on the other hand seems to be one of the most terrifying in the Holy Bible?

As a starting place, consider Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved. Beloved is a powerful story dealing with the effects of slavery upon former slaves. It handles the psychological and social trauma with images of the paranormal. The main character is a woman Sethe who has escaped from the South with her children. The most shocking scene of the book comes when the overseer from her plantation tracks her down. Sethe, running, snatches up her children and gathers them in the woodshed. The book reads:

Inside, two boys bled in the sawdust and dirt at the feet of a . . . woman holding a blood-soaked child to her chest with one hand and an infant by the heels in the other. She did not look at them; she simply swung the baby toward the wall planks, missed and tried to connect a second time . . . . Right off it was clear, to [the overseer] especially, that there was nothing there to claim. . . . Two were lying open-eyed in sawdust; a third pumped blood down the dress of the main one . . . she’d gone wild . . . .

One can’t help but be shocked by this scene. Sethe stands over her bleeding children. The reader is rightly disgusted and horrified. That was Toni Morrison’s point. She wanted to convey the message that slavery was such an awful blight upon a person that that person can be reduced to such extremities. Sethe will kill her children before she will allow them to be taken back into a life of slavery.

As much as we are horrified by the story Beloved, it has an explanation. It seems much harder, though, to do that with the story of Abraham. Can you really picture yourself offering your child in a sacrifice to God? In fact, how would you respond to someone claiming that they killed their child upon a word from God? We would lock them up or sentence them to death. And that gets us to the crux of this story. I think that when we approach this story that the first thing we must admit is that the action of Abraham is horrible, terrifying, maybe even evil. Only when we admit that about this story can we get at its power.

Commentators point out an interesting fact about Abraham. In chapter 19, he argues quite strongly with God, in hopes of saving Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, in this story, Abraham does not argue to save his own son.

But Abraham isn’t simply a murderer. No, he’s a man of faith. What turns this would-be-murderer into a man of faith?

It is that his action is commanded by God, that it comes from God.

And isn’t it God that we end up being shocked at? Be honest. I mean, sure, we are horrified by the actions of Abraham. But ultimately we are all horrified by the actions of God.

The text says that God wanted to test Abraham’s faith. We respond, “hadn’t Abraham proved his faith?” I mean, he first left his homeland and travelled without a road map to the destination that God chose. Then he overcame famine, war, and infertility, all waiting for God to fulfill God’s promise. In fact, in this relationship, I’d say that God is the one that needed to more clearly demonstrate God’s fulfillment of the covenant, not the other way around. God seems to hold off on fulfilling the contract to deliver a child and many future blessed generations. And now, in this moment after the child has been born and God seems to have fulfilled the obligations of the covenant, God comes demanding that the child be killed.

What do we do with this God? Theologically I tend to the liberal side. And central to my picture of God is the claim of I John 4:8 that “God is love.” I relish those stories that show a compassionate Jesus. Or that have God crying over Jerusalem through the prophet Jeremiah. Or that illustrate a tenderness, like God speaking to Elijah with a still, small voice. But then I have a difficult time with so many other texts. What about Elisha sending the she-bear to massacre a group of children? What about God’s command to Joshua to commit genocide, now defined as a “crime against humanity?” What about the Flood, that Holocaust of all creation? And what about the Binding of Isaac?

I am a Baptist. And one of the essential things that means for me is that I am a person committed to the scriptural text. As I have grown more mature I have taken that to mean that I am committed to the whole text, with all its difficulties, nuances, and contradictions. I cannot use “God is love” to whitewash the wrathful God of the Flood. I cannot use the compassionate stories of Jesus in a way that eliminates the testimony of the Book of Joshua. I must take this whole sacred text and wrestle with it. What does that mean? It means that sometimes there aren’t answers. I can’t explain certain parts of the Bible. I’ll probably never be able to, and, you know, probably don’t want to. The journey of wrestling with the text is more enjoyable, more satisfying than having the answer would be.

A text like the Binding of Isaac reminds me of three things. First, it reminds me of the power of sacred scripture. This book is a powerful, awesome book. I’d even go so far as to say that it is a dangerous book. It is dangerous because it is imbued with the transcendent, the sacred, and we humans have a poor record of dealing with the sacred. We are likely to use it to justify our wars, hatreds, and prejudices, probably more likely than we are to use it to create beauty, goodness, and truth. It is dangerous because it holds the awesome power to transform life. In its pages a lost person can find herself. In its pages is the amazing story of one named Jesus who told us that we could be so much more than we are. And it is a dangerous book because it calls us to be radicals who do not live by the standards of this world. Our greatest goal is to live in the kingdom of God. So this book of sacred scripture is dangerous and powerful.

The second thing this story reminds me of is that I cannot keep God in a box. My temptation is to keep God in my liberal “God is love” box. But, oh no, God is SO much more than that. The Binding of Isaac and stories like it remind me that God is a mystery. That ultimately, I will never understand God; that there are things in God’s nature that are incomprehensible to me. Consider the hymn we will sing after the sermon. It is, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” Though this is a classic and familiar hymn to many, it really poses a picture of God that is alien to my understanding, even though the image has been important and influential in the history of Christianity. That image is of a God who is removed from the creation -- notice the line “In light inaccessible hid from our eyes.” Even though I don’t fully agree with the idea suggested in this hymn that God is so removed from creation, the hymn does suggest something I want to emphasize, that ultimately God is mystery. Contrast this with another classic and favourite hymn, “This is My Father’s World” which gives a much more intimate picture of God as active in the creation. The hymn tells us that “all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.” It also says “in the rustling grass I hear him pass.” Our Christian hymnody is full of hymns with varying images of God. I’m far more comfortable with the intimate image in “This is My Father’s World” than I am with the distant image in “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” But I still sing this hymn. Why? Because I am reminded that God is so much more than what I understand God to be. And that’s what happens when I read the Binding of Isaac. Yes, I’m shocked, I’m horrified, but I am also left in awe and wonder and am filled with a powerful sense of mystery.

Finally, there is a third thing that this story reminds me of. But to get at that I want to consider the outcomes of this story. There are four main characters – God, Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah, who is present in her absence. What effect does this event have upon these four? Let’s begin with God. In the Genesis text, God never speaks to Abraham again. They had communicated so closely and so often before, but not again; the intimacy of their relationship seems to be lost. But we also know that God has fulfilled the covenant God made with Abraham. And, from now on, God will have a new name “the God of Abraham.”

What does Abraham do after this event? He becomes the Father of Faith, yet he is a complicated man. Maybe most complicated in his treatment of his sons. He seems willing to sacrifice Isaac. Remember that he also has sent Ishmael into the desert to die of exposure, where Ishmael is saved by God. And Abraham will have six more sons by his second wife, and he will send all of those sons away as well. Abraham, a father of the Faith, is a man who spent his whole life seeking a son, but somehow manages to separate himself from every son he ever had. Notice that verse 19 tells us that Abraham returned to his servants and they traveled back. It does not say that Isaac traveled back with them. It appears that Abraham’s son does not want to go home with his father.

What is the effect on Isaac? He is a broken, defeated, and weak human being. Later in Genesis we see Isaac spend twenty years on his deathbed. His wife Rebekah must run his home. He seems incapable of dealing with his own sons Esau and Jacob. And, most tellingly, Isaac has his own name for God; this God is known as the “Fear of Isaac.”

But what about Sarah? We must imagine that Isaac told his mother what had happened when he returned home. What did she do? She dies. In the very next chapter Sarah dies. Commentators feel that her grief and anger were too much, that this promised son that she waited for and toiled for for so long had almost been taken from her.

Yes, this story is essential to understanding the nature of faith, but it is a story whose characters end up broken and damaged. What does this tell us about the life of faith? That it too is full of mystery just like God, just like the sacred text. Let me read a couple quotes from Karen Armstrong’s Genesis commentary:

[The Binding of Isaac] reminds us that living in God’s presence requires an arduous struggle that can bring us to the brink of despair. The search for blessing, the essence of life itself, involved an encounter with death and the death of meaning. The reality called “God” could manifest itself as a friendly, benevolent presence but also as terrifying and cruel. In our desperate world, where we all struggle for physical or psychological survival, our glimpses of the divine can only be fragmentary, imperfect, and colored by our experience of life’s inherent tragedy. . . . Preachers sometimes give the impression that religion will inevitably bring sweetness and light into our lives. We will feel God’s love and become whole and fulfilled. Our faith will give us a consciousness of God’s presence that will make us serene and joyful. But Genesis indicates that this is by no means always the case.

By no means is it always the case. Our faith does not guarantee for us that everything will be wonderful. Often the life of faith is so difficult and mysterious; we don’t understand what is happening. When I began my journey out, I felt great peace and tranquility, but I also knew that it would be a “dark night of the soul.” As such it would be transformative for me and for others, but transformation is never an easy process. My journey out has been full of blessing, but it has also been filled with pain.

Angels in America by Tony Kushner seems to also convey the mystery of the life of faith. It tells the story of gay men in the eighties in the midst of the AIDS crisis. They all seem to be struggling with their faith. Prior is receiving visions and messages from angels. Joe tries to deal with his Mormon upbringing and the unavoidable conclusion that he is gay. The Jewish Lewis wrestles with love and suffering, guilt and shame. The underlying message of the play and movie based upon it is, “Where is God in the midst of all this suffering?”

Prior, the Prophet, eventually stands in heaven where God has also left the angels who are trying their best to maintain things in God’s absence. Prior stands there and judges God for God’s absence. He says that if God dared to return after “all this destruction,” “after all the terrible days of this terrible century,” then “you should sue the bastard.”

But then this moment is offset by the most tender moment of the play. Lewis and Ethel Rosenberg pray the Kaddish over the villainous Roy Cohn. It is a moment of faith in the midst of great suffering.

Despite all the suffering, Prior still seeks his blessing. He wants more life. He demands that no matter what confusion and suffering lie ahead, he still wants blessing.

At the end of the play the characters who have found some measure of wholeness and healing are gathered at the Bethesda fountain, that symbol of God’s healing power. It is a scene full of hope. In the movie version, Prior looks directly into the camera and speaks these words of benediction:

We are not going away.
We will not die secret deaths anymore.
The world only spins forward.
We will be citizens. Time has come.

Bye now.
You are fabulous, each and every one.
And I bless you.
More life.
The Great Work begins.

#15 -- My Journey Out: My First Pride

Much of that same group, and others, gathered on April 3 when I preached my first sermon at the Cathedral of Hope -- Oklahoma City. It all did seem to be happening.

Of course, not everything played out the way I hoped it would at the end of February. There have been those bumps in the road.

But now I'm home, fully out, and still a minister.

My relationship with my mother is better than it has been in my adulthood. I love my step-dad.

Preaching every week fills me with a spiritual high. I am weekly amazed at the craft of the sermon -- watching it come together from a few ideas into the finished whole.

Participating in this incredible ministry to people in need.

Becoming active in a community, struggling in a civil rights cause.

Talk radio, newspaper interviews, published sermons, etc.

And building a relationship with a wonderful man.

It had been two long, hot days. Though the body was tired, the spirit was full of energy. This was my first Pride Parade; and it was a sight to see. We were marching and handing out water. John was driving his truck with the ice chests of water in the bed (note: this John is a different John than the one discussed in earlier My Journey Out posts). Bill and Christa were handing the water out to us, and they couldn't hand it out fast enough. Those of us running back and forth from the truck to the hot, thirsty on-lookers were running. Next year we'll buy more water, because we ran out before the parade ended.

One reason I love the gay community is the exuberance, especially at an event like this. People are yelling and cheering. The hot, tired people are having fun. You yell at friends on other floats as you pass near each other (the parade intentionally doubles back on itself at one point so everyone in the parade can see the parade).

We were coming along 39th street, heading toward the strip, when we crested and you could see before you people. Many people. Packed all along the streets. I jumped up in the back of the truck to ride and watch. Bill and I were standing as we entered this throng of cheering people. We were waving and yelling at friends and strangers and they were yelling and cheering at us.

My ability as a writer is too limited to convey what it felt like in that moment. Later I said to Bill and Christa that it was one of the greatest moments of my life, that I'd never felt that sort of energy and excitement before. Christa looked at us and said, "Boys, that feeling never ends."

And, so, I wrap up this part of MyQuest. That is my journey out.

The Bicycle Thief

Film Project #2

The Bicycle Thief
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
On my list of the ten greatest films of all time

My first exposure to The Bicycle Thief was in the Robert Altman film The Player, when Tim Robbins goes to the movie before killing that guy in the parking lot afterwards. But it was almost ten years later before I saw it.

The Bicycle Thief is one of those films that makes you want to slit your wrists. Maybe the greatest example of neorealism in film, it presents a darkly depressing image. Arthur Miller wrote about it, "The film is unafraid to examine openly, straightforwardly, the terrible distorted destructive world which Man has made for himself." However, it does this with such artistry that I'm captivated to return to this film again and again because the film itself is a sublime work of beauty that speaks to the creative ability humanity does have to create a beautiful world. Thus the paradox. A film that depresses and enobles and uplifts both at the same time. Sheer brilliance.

I think the movie gets more powerful when you see it again. The first time is more suspenseful, but the second or later times are more gut wrenching. When you know what is going to happen to Antonio, you ache in the early scenes when he finds momentary happiness. Last night as Marty and I were watching, I kept groaning and exclaiming during the early scenes, "I'm going to kill myself right now," and it hadn't even gotten genuinely depressing yet.

This film captures the brutality and absurdity of poverty better than any film I know. And it does it in the faces of its actors. Enzo Staiola as the child Bruno gives one of the greatest child performances. He gets the most brilliant moment in the film. The camera locks on his face and pans past it as his eyes fill with shock, horror, fear, confusion, heartache, and about thirty other emotions all in the span of something like fifteen seconds. It is the shot most often played from this movie when it appears in montages at the Oscars.

The movie is full of beautiful images. The rows of bicycles. Antonio running, arm outstretched in front of him. The men on their bicycles carrying the ladders and buckets. Rain drenched people taking shelter next to a building. The man in the pawn shop climbing the stacks. Etc.

Arthur Miller wrote, "The Bicycle Thief is Everyman's search for dignity -- it is as though the soul of a man had been filmed."

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Film Project #1

The Passion of Joan of Arc
Director: Carl T. H. Dreyer
Starring: Renee Falconetti
#1 on my list of the greatest films ever made

Sometime around the turn of the century, I was at the Shawnee Public Library for what was usually a weekly visit. I would check out three films to watch during the week and then return them the next week and get three more. I'd always pick three different kinds of films, so that I might be prepared for being in different moods during the week when I wanted to watch movies. Every week I didn't always get around to watching all three, but since it was free, that didn't matter. I'd just check it out again sometime.

During this period I was making a concerted to effort to watch all the AFI 100 films that I hadn't seen before. I had seen sixty some odd when the list came out and within about a year and a half had seen ninety-six of them total. I was also watching lots of foreign films for the first time -- Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman, Renoir, Truffaut, etc. This particular film piqued my interest. I'd never heard of it. I'd never heard of the director. It was a silent film -- I love silent film. So, I thought it was worth trying. I didn't expect what I was going to see.

The same as the other night, I watched it with no sound, which made the images even more powerful. The film began and initially seemed pretty typical grainy old images. The composition of the images, at first, seemed typical of the period and nothing extraordinary.

Then Joan is led into the chamber. Renee Falconetti is a haunting actress. Dreyer filmed her in extreme close up. Far more extreme than any close ups I had seen from films of this era. And the extremity of the close ups is discomforting, but in a good and powerful way. You aren't sure what to make of this face and its wide open eyes. Is this silent film era over-acting or is it one of the great performances captured on film. I still don't know the answer to that for certain. Maybe this question is to unsettle us just like the question about the real Joan whether she was a genuine mystic or a naive simpleton or crazy or a warrior using tales of visions.

I sat there mesmerized by this film. Dreyer keeps using the extreme close up on every character. The faces of these judges and priests are incredibly evocative. The faces themselves seem to be great works of living sculpture that Dreyer was lucky enough to capture on film. Occasionally the camera will focus on one character as he moves through the crowd, and it follows him with a lyricism that draws you in and makes you wonder what this one person is all about. Most of the dialogue being spoken between characters is left untranslated, but you don't need to "know" what they are saying in order to follow what is happening. In fact, I think that this is one of the film's greatest assets in that you simply watch this transpire. For example, there is one elderly cleric that the film focuses on for a minute or so. His face is amazing. His eyes are incredible. The old man clearly objects to something, but you never really know exactly what. But you don't need to. You know that this is a kind, caring old man who doesn't fully agree with his colleagues and their treatment of this young girl. It is all there in the visual images.

Part of what amazes me about this film is the use of different camera angles. One of the innovations of Citizen Kane is that Orson Welles shot the scenes from angles that no one had dared to use before. But that sort of camera work is present in this film, years ahead of Welles' ground-breaking work. I've only seen one other Dreyer film, and though powerful, it is not as innovative in its camera work. This seems to be a unique work.

The film ends with Joan's death. And it is shockingly graphic. You watch the body burn, in what must have been a startling effect for 1928. All the while this is interspersed by a riot from the people being put down by the troops who use maces to beat them, some to death. It is brutal to watch.

When I saw this film the first time, I sat in awe as it ended, thunderstruck by its beauty, power, and innovative style. I felt immediately that it was the greatest film I'd ever seen. The friends I e-mailed to describe my find didn't know the movie and were skeptical of my conclusion. Those that saw it, though not necessarily agreeing with my ranking it number one, agreed that it was a profound and innovative film.

I stand by my feelings about this film. I was glad to watch it for only the second time two nights ago. It holds up. Rarely is there filmmaking this powerful, this raw, this pure, this sublime.

Significant Films Project

I've decided what my next blog project is going to be.

When I left Royal Lane, the staff gave me a virtual gift certificate for Amazon. I waited two months to spend it, because I really wanted to reflect on what I wanted. No hasty decisions. I elected not to get any books besides pre-ordering Harry Potter, because my reading list is long enough at the moment and is always long. I spent most of it on DVDs. I actually bought things from my Amazon wish list (Joe Hill says no one ever buys anything from anyone else's wish lists except the person herself). These aren't the popular films that I'd be likely to get at Christmas or would pick up myself while tooling around Tower Records or Best Buy.

I got Carl T. H. Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Bicycle Thief, and Casablanca. The last two nights I watched the first two. Last night I watched The Bicycle Thief with the incredible Marty Peercy. We, of course, talked about this and other films for an hour or more between putting the DVD in the machine and finally pressing start. During the conversation I realized that part of what I missed about my Louisa Street years was that in a three year time span I saw many of the greatest films ever made, many of them for the first time. Though long a film buff, this was my avid movie watching period. I miss it. And I miss discovering those greats for the first time.

While driving home from Marty's, I realized that I should make it a goal over the next months to re-watch the films that 1) I think are the greatest films or 2) have been significant to me in some way. And I should watch as many of them with friends as possible. Then I can write about them on the blog, with the occasional tangent to discuss a specific director, actor, genre, or theme.

So, here goes.