Friday, December 19, 2008

Links and Recommendations, Sufjan Edition

I have spent the last few days reveling in being home for the first time in nine months. I hope to not totally neglect the blog over the next couple of weeks, but forgive me if posts are sparse. In that spirit, as I catch up on my online reading this lazy Friday afternoon, I thought I'd share it with you.
  • Over at Experimental Theology, Richard Beck has written a provocative post exploring the relationship between "Christianity" and "religion." Already a wonderful conversation has arisen in the comments; I highly recommend checking out his (and others') thoughts.
  • Tis the season for Year-End Best-Of Lists! Mine will be delayed into January, but here are a few worth perusing: Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums; Slant Magazine's Year In Film and Year in Music; Paste Magazine's Best Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books, and Games of 2008; an Aint It Cool round-up of all of the end-of-year movies lists; and Time Magazine's Top 10 Everything of 2008.
  • Only four weeks until the beginning of the end of the best show on television! And has a 10-part series of webisodes to gear up for the final, glorious bow of the masterpiece that is Battlestar Galactica.
  • Lots of (angry!) questions about Obama picking Rick Warren as convocator: Mike Madden, The XX Factor (a female group blog), and the ever-cheerful Christopher Hitchens.
  • This year Don Golden (with Rob Bell) co-wrote and released Jesus Wants to Save Christians, a book I've heard a great deal about recently but have yet to read. Golden recently posted a challenging article over at Sojourners on empire, America, God, and giving. Good stuff.
  • Bill Simmons comes in three flavors: appetizer, full course meal, and dessert. The former are his magazine articles; the latter his goofier articles (like Vegas trips). However, during the NFL season, every Friday we get a full course meal, and I save it as the very last thing I read every Friday afternoon, because it is always so good. Here is today's.
  • This kind of analysis (of Chris Paul's sneaky-smart bending-of-the-rules jumpball strategy against Manu Ginobili in Wednesday night's game) is exactly what makes Henry Abbott's Truehoop blog the king of the crop. (Yes, I just wrote "king of the crop." Did I mean "cream of the crop" or "king of the hill"? Who knows. I'm leaving it.)
  • Behold! The ultimate guide to good blogging.
  • Neal Pollack carves out the newfound semi-sport of fantasizing about NBA trades: "In other words, basketball-land has become a real-life Marvel Comics 'What If' book."
  • Christopher Beam follows Bush's "Magical History Tour" of burnishing his legacy.
  • Jimmy McCarty (linker to this blog and fellow CoC-er!) has a wonderful post up about what it means to be truly "unbiblical" in connection to the new "Poverty and Justice Bible" (about which my wife, not prone to flurries of enthusiasm over matters theological, is truly excited).
  • Two articles which I hope to address in the coming weeks, and which left me equally horrified yet for different reasons: Thomas Sowell's "Freedom and the Left" and Mike Adams's "Sea of Faces." In contrast, conservative Jewish columnist Dennis Prager's recent article, "Minorities Should Express Shame, Not Only Pride," is, even if you disagree with his thesis, a thought-provoking and conversation-starting work. It certainly was for my wife and me on our drive from Atlanta to Austin.
  • One random day a couple months ago I decided to search for some of my favorite theologians and authors on iTunes just to see what would come up. The answer is: a lot! I'm not sure how to link to podcasts, but here are some names (every one of whose podcasts are worth downloading) to search: N.T. Wright, Rowan Williams, Richard Hays, Stanley Hauerwas, Wendell Berry (!), Mike Cope, and Randy Harris.
  • Austin, Atlanta, meet your mirror: Creative Loafing and Austin 360.
  • A few recommendations before the big one below: throughout the holidays I will be listening to Fleet Foxes and She & Him, and my three Netflix rentals right now are Chop Shop, Man on Wire, and The Visitor. (And, in addition to Sufjan, one bonus classic version of a Christmas song: Derek Webb's "Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming.")
And now, without further ado, introducing Mr. Sufjan Stevens.

Two years ago Stevens released a 5-disc, 42-song collection called Songs for Christmas. He recorded the music between 2001 and 2006 as fun gifts for friends and family, but gathered it together for commercial release in 2006.

I can't speak highly enough about the music or the artist himself. I'll save the latter for another day, but just know that in a season full of commercialism, materialism, sappiness, sentimentality, and cheapness, this collection is a treasure. A mixture of classic hymns, Christmas carols, and new music, it is a daily staple in our home beginning in November (and never truly leaving the mix year round!). I highly recommend it.

And, for your special listening pleasure, I will share with you a wonderful secret. Because the music totals about two hours worth and is spread out over five discs, I created a mix of the songs for a single disc that has remained our favorite version of it. Enjoy!

1. Jingle Bells
2. Joy To The World!
3. I Saw Three Ships
4. Silent Night
5. O Holy Night
6. O Come O Come Emmanuel
7. Only At Christmas Time
8. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
9. The First Noel
10. Amazing Grace
11. Put The Lights On The Tree
12. Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming
13. Angels We Have Heard On High
14. Come On! Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance!
15. Away In A Manger
16. The Little Drummer Boy
17. That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!
18. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!
19. Holy, Holy, Holy
20. We Three Kings
21. It's Christmas Time!
22. The Friendly Beasts
23. Once In David's Royal City
24. Get Behind Me, Santa!
25. What Child Is This Anyway?

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