The Maltese Falcon and the MacGuffin of the Spirit

As I revel in my return to the Bay Area, I continue to catch up on classics that have to do with San Francisco. Last weekend I rewatched The Maltese Falcon (1941). Truth be told, the film version, based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, could have taken place anywhere. Other than some stock footage of San Francisco, the place names, and "view" of the Oakland Bay Bridge behind Sam Spade's desk, the city doesn’t play much of a role. It's still a classic.The head-scratching plot begins with the c … [Read more...]

San Francisco: The Movie

"I've come to the conclusion that there are really only two types of people in San Francisco…'Jeanettes'…and 'Tonys.' Jeanettes are people who think that the city's theme song is 'San Francisco' as sung by Jeanette MacDonald. Tonys think it’s Tony Bennett singing 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco.' Everyone falls into one camp or another . . . in a manner of speaking." -- Michael Tolliver in Armistead Maupin's Further Tales of the City.For the last two weeks I have felt what the Israelites mu … [Read more...]

God, Guns, & Family: Why ‘Bible-Believing’ Christians Have no Right to Self Defense, Pt. 2

In my last post I proposed that, against the uniquely American theology of God, guns, and family, the Christian teaching of the New Testament doesn’t allow for self-defense at all. I started with arguments against defending property, which is the easier path, since we know Christianity is anti-materialist. But I want to expand on those thoughts to talk about why Christians also have no Biblically-mandated right to defend themselves or their family using lethal force.First, let’s look at the i … [Read more...]

God, Guns, & Family: Why ‘Bible-Believing’ Christians Have No Right to Self-Defense, Pt.1

Again, we find ourselves in national mourning for horrendous loss of life caused by a man with a grudge and too-easy access to military-grade weapons. The loss is unfathomable, but not unexplainable. We continue to live in a gun-sick society. There is still a pervasive American belief that honors excessive gun “rights” at the expense of the health and safety of our people.I have hope for the future, if only because the demographics are in favor of stricter gun laws. The political will of the … [Read more...]

If You See One Film on Video this Year, Make It this One

We have an extremely limited view of young people born with disabilities. We use the word “obstacles” a lot with them: “Look at the brave young disabled person overcoming obstacles.”But we don’t often think of them as just being people. Going through all the same personal trials as everyone else. Growing up. Getting an education. Screwing up and doing stupid things they later regret.And we never ever want to think of them as sexual beings. Having the pangs of first love. Learning how to f … [Read more...]

L.A. Film Fest: “Out of Iraq” Tells a Moving Love Story in Time of War

"And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor, and emulating one another in honor; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world.” – Phaedrus, in Plato’s Symposium.Sometimes it seems like staying together with the one you love means overcoming the world. In other cases, like the love sto … [Read more...]

From the L.A. Film Fest: ‘Political Animals’ — Lesbian Legislators and the Hard Work of Change

“There is no period so remote as the recent past.” – The History BoysIt’s always hard to remember how difficult it is to make things change. Those of us who celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision last year to allow all same-sex couples to marry across the country may find it hard to remember, or to believe depending on one’s age, that gay folks were politically radioactive just a few short years ago.For those who want to learn or remember what the dark days of the late 1990’s were like f … [Read more...]

What Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Says about the Church

Susanna Clarke’s fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell begins in a peculiar place for a story about magic. As it commences in 1806, magic has ceased to be done in England for 300 years. There are magicians, but they meet in societies and discuss magic. They are theoretical magicians, not practical magicians. And in fact the doing of magic has become a bit disrespectable—associated with parlor tricks and fortune-telling done by grimy street performers. Thus, the “Learned Society of York … [Read more...]