London 6/12

While in London I spent a mind-blowing day at the British Museum. Most of the aforementioned mind-blowing occurred while encountering artifacts like this one: an ancient Assyrian relief sculpture depicting Israelite captives playing their harps nearby a grove of trees. (Click to enlarge.)

Viewing this image both awed me and broke my heart. I remembered Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our harps.

For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (NRSV)

When I first viewed this piece of art last week, I was impressed by how the faith expressed in the Hebrew scriptures was grounded in concrete, earthy experiences - many of which were tragic. Here is a portrayal of Israelite musicians: conquered, captive and marginalized as 'the other'. I could only gaze in sadness and wonder as the real, lived experience behind this artifact (and the psalm) leapt forward, demanding my attention. Today, as I think back to my afternoon in the museum, I wonder about the real, lived experiences of the 'captives' in Western societies. I chose to emigrate to Holland; many immigrants leave their homeland against their will. In what ways are they required to sing their songs in order to 'entertain' the powerful majority? In what ways do we use others to satiate our own 'need' for mirth? By refusing to take seriously those who are different, how do we impoverish our own souls?


London 5/12

While in London I was enthralled by Kathy's stories about her experiences in Israel/Palestine with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation from 20 November to 1 December 2006. (Krista participated in a similar delegation in January of this year.) Check out photos of Kathy's amazing journey here.
London 4/12

Hold your own movie night, just like my London friends.
Use these questions as a guide.
Read more about Vic's perspective on film here.


London 3/12
Top: Janelle and me.
Bottom: Heather, me, Kathy, Vic.


London 2/12

My week in London was filled with good things, some of which were movies. The friends I was visiting (named Vic, Kathy and Janelle -- photo forthcoming) are enthusiastic about films, to put it mildly. Every Saturday, they host a movie night; we watched Half Nelson. Vic's brother Walter references it briefly here, in the inaugural post of the blog authored by both Vic and Walter. A couple of days later, several of us watched Short Cuts, my first Robert Altman film besides Gosford Park. Short Cuts is based on the writing of Raymond Carver, whose short story Cathedral is one of my favorite short stories of all time (although Short Cuts did not draw upon Cathedral). The next day Vic and I went to the cinema to see Inland Empire, which Vic reviews here. Additionally, the lot of us watched several episodes of Northern Exposure on DVD.

My one-sentence reactions to these various cinematographic experiences?

1. I recommend Half Nelson, which I found to be ultimately hopeful and quite funny in places. However, the hope is framed by a postmodern bleakness which some in our group didn't find believable.
2. I highly recommend Short Cuts, which I found equal parts energizing and sobering, and which is a stirring interpretation of Raymond Carver's work.
3. I side with Vic on Inland Empire: I don't regret seeing it, but I wouldn't necessarily see it again (at least not for a very long time). I wouldn't recommend seeing it unless you are in the mood for a (mostly) inaccessible work of art (for art it is!) which (largely) substitutes images and impressions for plot and character. It does have some good quotes, like what Nikki said about the men she had been seeing:

Some men change. Well, they don't change - they reveal. They reveal themselves over time, you know?

4. Northern Exposure is great TV. If you can get your hands on the DVD, watch it.


London 1/12

Tonight I returned from a week's vacation in London. It was fabulous. I have resolved to post 12 times about it, starting now. My deadline is 12 days from now. 12 posts, 12 days. Let's see if I can do it.

The first of the twelve: a photo essay, which I like to call Self-Portrait on Millenium Bridge X4 (aka The Thames and I). Bonus points for non-London readers who can identify Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe and Blackfriars Bridge in the backgrounds.

Related pieces include:

Self-Portrait in Miniature, with River and Bridge

Self-Portrait at Gabriel's Wharf, Amongst Woodland Creatures

Self-Portrait, Airborn, Passing Big Ben


Welcome New Bloggers
Two friends of mine have started blogging.
Why don't you visit Brent -- whose blog is nothing if not eclectic -- and Vic and his brother Walter -- who blog about movies? Tell them Jackie sent you.