It’s a bit weird as a blogger, in a blog post, to admit this: but I haven’t read many blog posts this year. My engagement with blog posts has declined over the years, especially since the shut down of Google Reader. I read blog posts now as they are linked to through Facebook mostly and sometimes through Twitter. If you are a blogger and don’t have a Facebook and a Twitter account, I haven’t read you in years, probably.
1. The whole fauxciology of ‘generation x, y, z’ typology is silly. But I still like the idea of the Xennial.
2. A lowlight in book reading for me this year was Desiring the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith. I just don’t see what others see in him. This harsh critique captures some of my discomfort, even if it is probably not nuanced enough for many of Smith’s fans.
1. The New Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden.
I didn’t really know much about the history of the Crusades at all before I had to prepare a sermon-lecture on it for the University of Tasmania’s University Fellowship of Christians. This book, by a leading American mediaevalist from the University of St Louis, is an easy and extremely engaging read. He helpfully dispels simplistic myths and modern, politically motivated historiography about the Crusades and tells the story in an engrossing way. Some criticise him for being too generous to the crusaders, but as a balancing voice he is welcome.
2. Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique and Jacques Derrida: Host of Deconstruction both by Christopher Watkin.
I am currently reading both of these books, having done a superb Open Learning course taught by Christopher Watkin and am really enjoying them. Chris is a clear and generous thinker and he does a great job of listening carefully to other philosophies before presenting the biblical worldview alongside them, and allowing them to interact. I expect these will quickly become classics for those looking for introductions to a Christian approach to philosophy.
Podcasts are the new blog, for me at least. It’s so great to be able to engage with all sorts of interesting people and ideas while exercising, doing housework or on a commute.
1. Season 4 of The Startup Podcast focusses entirely on the rise and fall of American Apparel founder Dov Charney. It is disturbing and enthralling to listen to this amazing but abusive and possibly sociopathic man talk about his actions.
Like Christians, rollerbladers are also asking: how can we build a grassroots movement that survives and thrives in the future?
2. This year I started a Rollerblading Podcast. I try to let my Christian faith come through in the podcast whenever it is relevant, not in a forced way, but just to be unapologetic about being a Christian and showing how even my approach to my hobbies is influenced by my faith. Interestingly, the once-massively-popular-and-now-underground subculture of rollerblading has many parallels to Christianity in the West. Like Christians, rollerbladers are also asking: how can we build a grassroots movement that survives and thrives in the future?
1. Mindhunter (Netflix)
This show explores the rise of the modern conception of the Serial Killer and the modern methods of psychological investigating. A strangely dispassionate approach that doesn’t fixate on graphic portrayals of violence (the opening credits are the most visually shocking stuff in the average episode) or exciting chase scenes or forensic evidence. We are instead disturbed by these appalling and intense interviews with convicted serial killers in prison. How do we understand crime and stop crime, without becoming morally compromised ourselves? Am keen to see how this developson Season 2.
2. Riverdale (on Netflix)
The OC meets Twin Peaks: a painfully hip and self-aware gothic soap opera, where all the characters are based on Archie comics, and cool retro book, films and music references are peppered throughout. The most recent season included an episode ‘The Water in the Woods’ which had a quite sophisticated exploration of gay ‘cruising’ culture. It’s interesting that now the more ‘fringe’ elements of gay culture are being portrayed more regularly in mainstream television and film.
Both of these films were released in 2016 but I watched them on iTunes in 2017.
Paterson is a slow, meandering film about the poetry of everyday life, directed by the uber-cool Jim Jarmusch with Adam ‘Kylo Ren’ Driver as the title character: a smalltown (the town is also called Paterson) bus driver and hobby poet. This lovely film could be seen as a meditation on the ‘enjoy life’ passages of Ecclesiastes: ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time’.
2. Under The Shadow
Under the Shadow is a simple and gripping Iranian ghost story. Set in 1980s Tehran, it explores standard ghost story themes like motherhood as well as the peculiar Iranian concerns about gender and political repression.
As always, viewer discretion is advised.