• The first in a series of brief reflections inspired by Lauren Winner’s Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis focused on her skill as a writer (skill not often found among those of us trained to write academic history).
• Why it’s so hard to do institutional histories when you’re part of the institution — in my case, Bethel University.
• Reclaiming the meaning (and potential educational effects) of travel from the grip of tourism.
• I tacked on some Byrds trivia to Philip Jenkins’ novel argument that that band’s country-rock album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, helped bridge the gap between the counter-culture and evangelicalism.
• Entry H in the Albums A to Z series found me revisiting the best album released by my first favorite band.
• And it felt good to bring back “This Week in History,” if only because it created an excuse to put a Simpsons clip and Millard Fillmore trivia in the same post.
There and Everywhere
• One entry in that post noted the 50th anniversary of the first Rolling Stones gig. And if you just thought to yourself, “The Stones have recorded a lot of great songs in half a century. I sure wish the editors at Oxford University Press would help me sort out which was the best of the best!”, then you’re in luck.
• Another, more compelling contribution from someone connected to Oxford: Alister McGrath on the Resurrection.
• A fascinating article about one of the most religious groups in American society: black women.
• And check out this map, showing the largest religious group in each American county. Roman Catholics (1231) and Southern Baptists (1217) lead in far more counties than any other church (the United Methodists run a distant third, nearly a thousand behind), the latter in (surprise) the South and the former in the Northeast, West Coast, southern Texas and Florida, and lots of other places. Other noticeable clusters: Mormons in Utah and neighboring states, and ELCA Lutherans along the Dakotas-Minnesota border.
• A letter from two scholars, Muslim Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Christian Robert George, urging hotel chains to stop offering pornographic films among their rooms’ on-demand movie options, prompted totally predictable scorn from adult film star Ron Jeremy, somewhat predictable criticism from Andrew Sullivan, this response to Sullivan from George, surprising opposition from XXXchurch founder Craig Gross (“one of the dumbest letters I have ever read”), and praise for its civility from the unpersuaded Conor Friedersdorf.
• Last fall I wrote 1600 words more about a child sex abuse scandal at Penn State than I ever expected to write, so I don’t have to much to say in the wake of the Sandusky verdict and the Freeh report… At least, nothing that hasn’t been said just as well by Jake Simpson and PSU alum Michael Weinreb. And having already suggested months ago that Nittany Lion football might merit the NCAA’s “death penalty,” I think you can guess which side I’m on in this roundtable discussion.
• Bob Smietana (formerly of our denomination’s magazine, The Covenant Companion) is one of my favorite religion writers. Here’s his recent piece on the enduring popularity of church organs. “It’s a tough business,” says one organist, “but not an impossible one.”
• If not for the fact that Notorious starred Ingrid Bergman, The 39 Steps would be my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie of all time. For great insight into this surprisingly contemporary 1935 spy thriller that Hitchcock himself essentially remade as North by Northwest, see Michael Srago’s appreciative essay (with cameo comments by none other than screenwriter-director Robert Towne, who once sought to make his own remake — with a great twist).
• Trying to explain why one of the greatest comedy bits in history is funny seems like a fool’s errand. Thank goodness the fool in this case was Jerry Seinfeld, and the bit was Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?”
• When I’m not publishing this set of Saturday links on my own blog, I’m doing something similar (but focused on history) on our department’s blog. In this morning’s installment of “Weekend Reading,” that meant links related to Thomas Jefferson, codebreaking, wartime presidents, disappearing languages, stained glass, and Hollywood embraces the talkie.