Favorite Stuff











Websites

Religion Dispatches -- Great site for analysis of religions and religious people in the contemporary world. I publish here from time to time too.

Sacred Matters -- An e-magazine devoted to the analysis of religion in the world of popular culture.

Religion & Politics -- An online news journal that covers the intesection of religion and politics.

New York Times -- Where I get my news.

Duke Basketball Report -- The best website (among many) devoted to the best college hoops team in the history of the universe.

Toronto Star sports section -- Where I go for news about the Toronto Maple Leafs (I only wish I could add the superlatives that I did for Duke...)

Dead Wrestler of the Week -- From the smartest pro wrestling journalist out there.

Grantland -- Sports analysis thoughtfully done.

Chowhound -- Foodie site for restaurant recommendations in almost any town.

Eater -- A site that is quickly displacing Chowhound in my foodie heart.

Food52 -- Favorite place for a good recipe.


Television

(from recent years, arranged from newest to oldest)


Fargo -- I like the TV version better than the movie version (and I really like the movie version!)


True Detective (season one, at least) -- Complex, enthralling take on the detective drama genre. Matthew McConaughey isn't just tolerable (which would normally be a feat unto itself) -- he's actually really good!


Rectify -- Fantastic, slow-moving, character-driven drama about a convicted murderer whose sentence is overturned.


Game of Thrones -- Royal intrigue, barbarism, and dragons. After a series of snoozers, HBO is finally back!


Top Chef -- Officially supplanted Chopped as my favorite cooking show.


Mad Men -- Set in idyllic, Leave It To Beaver 1960s, but Leave It To Beaver this show is not.


Project Runway -- And I ain’t afraid to admit it.


The Daily Show and The Colbert Report -- *sigh*


Breaking Bad -- A high school chemistry teacher starts cooking primo crystal meth. So sad this show's over!


Treme -- Expansive story of post-Katrina New Orleans. And music. Lots of amazing music.


The Wire -- A hard hitting show about urban neglect.  My favorite TV show ever.


Deadwood -- Based on real people in a real gold rush town in South Dakota. Some of the most coarse and poetic dialogue you’ll hear on TV.

Battlestar Galactica (the remake -- though I remember liking the original when I was a kid). A sci-fi show that was one of the most politically and socially relevant dramas on TV.


Novels

(that I’ve read in the last ten years or so)


Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See -- Winner of a bazillion literary awards, including the Pulizer, it's a beautifully written WWII page-turner (at least for me) that explores the issue of moral "sight" through the metaphor of actual sight.  

Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch. An engrossing story of a recently orphaned 13-year-old boy who makes his way through the world with the one possession that connects him to his beloved mother. (Don't believe the smattering of negative reviews that followed the avalanche of glowing ones.)  

Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue -- A georgeosly written story about gentrification, community, race-relations and the jazz-like complexities of urban living in a particular place (Berkeley, CA) at the turn of 21st century. My favorite Chabon novel -- and that's saying something, since I've loved them all!

Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son -- 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner, written by friend of a friend. Brilliant love story set in North Korea.

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake and Maddaddam -- First and third books in her dystopian trilogy, a tale that seems frighteningly possible. Big Business, Big Science gone amuck. I thought the second in the trilogy, The Year of the Flood, was just okay.

Ann Patchett, State of Wonder -- Big Science gone amuck, again. But this time the subjects are family, love, and human connection.

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead -- A beautiful and sad story about loss, forgiveness, and grace.

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones -- A gorgeous and wrenching story of life in the predominantly black Mississippi bayou in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. Won the National Book Award in 2011.

Julain Barnes, The Sense of an Ending. Short novel that deservedly won the Booker in 2011. It's narrated retrospectively by a character trying to figure out the pieces of what proved to be a seminal period of his life. The ending will blow your mind and make you want to re-read the whole thing immediately.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road. Bleak and chilling. And so beautifully written.

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas -- Any of his novels will do, actually. He’s my favorite author right now. This one’s a collection of stories that are nestled together like Russian dolls.

Geraldine Brooks, March. Like David Mitchell, any of her novels will do. Brooks is a master at making particular historical moments come to life by telling the stories of (fictional) people who lived through them -- in this case Amos Alcott, an abolitionist chaplain during the Civil War.

Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow -- I read this one a while back, but I'm putting it on this list because AMC's turning it into a TV show. Can't wait! The sci-fi novel, itself, is one of the more theologically challenging reads I’ve had in a good long while.

Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker -- I also read this one years and years ago, but it remains an all-time favorite -- so it makes the list. It's also the most off-the-wall novel I’ve read. It’s set in post-apocalyptic England and written in a sort of phonetic English-like language. I had to read the first 20-odd pages out loud in order to understand them. Well worth the effort.  


Movies


You know, I haven't really seen too many movies over the last several years. Not sure why. Maybe because I'm too busy binge watching quality TV on Netflix? Here are some films from the last 15 or so years that I've really liked. Maybe you can suggest something newer that I might like.

To Live -- Zhang Yimou’s classic about cultural changes in China over the last half of the 20th century.

No Country for Old Men -- My favorite Coen brothers film ... and I love me some Coen brothers!

Superbad -- Many, many, many laugh out loud moments.

The Station Agent -- A beautiful and understated story about human connection.

The Squid and the Whale -- A dramedy about a family falling apart.

Little Miss Sunshine -- Haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like this one.

Children of Men -- Dystopian sci-fi tale that features one of the more beautiful and chilling religious scenes I can think of.

East Is East -- A hilariously real take on the blending of British and Pakistani cultures.


Sports Teams

(in descending order of commitment)


Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball

Toronto Maple Leafs -- actually, the Leafs and Blue Devils are tied at #1, but since I live in the Carolinas I’m listing the college hoops team first.

All Wofford athletics teams -- though I would be seriously torn if Wofford’s men’s basketball team played Duke’s in the NCAA tourney. I think I’d have to root for the Terriers: Coach Young is a friend and colleague, and so many of his players have been such delightful students in my classes (I'm looking at you, Noah Dahlman, Cameron Rundles, Jamar Diggs, Brad Loesing, Matt Steelman, Taylor Wagener, and so on and so forth)! In 2015 Wofford travelled to Cameron to play Duke on New Year's Eve day. I went to the game, wearing a Wofford sweat shirt overtop of a Duke t-shirt.

Cleveland Browns -- Josh Gordon and Johnny Manziel might be poster children for all that's wrong with the world of big-time professional sports in America...but at least we don't have a racial slur for a team name!

U.S. Men's Soccer Team -- World Cup, 2014 was fun! And Canada hasn't qualified for the World Cup since forever...

U.S. and Canada's respective Women's Soccer Teams -- I pulled for both during the 2015 World Cup. Both are actually tied with the U.S. Men's Soccer Team for my heart's affection.

Toronto Blue Jays -- This is mostly for my cousin Joy, who is the biggest Blue Jays fan in the universe. I was a huge fan of the Jays when they played in the quirky, and totally-not-designed-for-baseball, Exhibition Stadium. I lost interest in the Jays when they moved to the soul-less Skydome (now Rodgers Centre) and then traded for Rickey Henderson and signed Jose Canseco -- and thus became both soul-less and juiced. During the summer of 2015, however, it's kind of fun rooting for them again! The top of the order reminds me a little of WAMCO from the early '90s!

Toronto Argonauts -- I’m only including them so I don’t get my Canadian status revoked because I listed the Browns.


Musicians/Groups

The Roots -- Still my favorite after all these years. Going strong since 1993.

Outkast (before Andre3000 started singing) and Goodie Mob (before Cee-Lo left) -- Southern rap, back when it was good.

Lauren Hill -- The real star of the Fugees. Only put out one solo album...but what an album!!!

Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi -- Everything Danger Mouse touches turns to gold, it seems. I've had this particular coIlab ("Rome") on constant rotation ever since it was released in 2011 -- and I’m still loving it.

El Pus -- My boys from Atlanta. Saw them in concert dozens of times and brought them to Wofford in 2006. They signed with a big label and put out one big label CD...but then the group fell apart.

The Black Keys, Jack White, TV On The Radio -- Three groups/artists that never fail to deliver.

Lake Street Dive; Alabama Shakes; Alt-J; Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside; St. Paul & The Broken Bones; Lianne la Havas: Up & coming artists & groups that I'm loving right now.


Radio

NPR, in general -- Other radio stations exist? Favorite shows: Morning Edition; All Things Considered; Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me; This American Life.

Various Podcasts (in addition to Wait, Wait and This American Life, which I listen to as podcasts): Radio Lab, Serial, Start Up, Reply All.

Professional Wrestling Promotions

You didn't think I'd skip this important category, did you? I've always said that you never really know the moral content of a person's character until you discover his or her preferred wrestling promotions.

WWF -- Yes, F as in "Federation"...not E as in "Entertainment." World Wrestling FEDERATION. Back in the glory days of Vince McMahon's organization. Before WWE but after WWWF: so, 1979-1999. When The Iron Sheik, my favorite all time wrestler, was heavyweight champion for like 5 minutes. When George "The Animal" Steele would be distracted by the siren call of the turnbuckle stuffing. When "Canada's Greatest Athlete" Iron Mike Sharpe could be heard grunting his way around the ring. When Nikolai Volkoff delivered a stirring rendition of "Cara Mia." WWF! (I grew up in Toronto, which was a WWF territory at the time, so I never got to know the NWA or AWA wrestlers very well. I'm sure I'd have included JCP, GCW, CWF, WCCW, UWF, and others had I grown up in those territories.)

WCW -- Only because of how gloriously goofy it became toward the end. Hulk Hogan is cast into the netherworld ("There is no Hulkamaniacs here!")? A wrestling Yeti ("Here comes the Ye-TAAAAAY!!!")? Robocop saves Sting? The KISS Demon? Yes, please!

APW (American Pro Wrestling) -- Chief Jay Eagle's promotion, running weekly shows from the American Coliseum (originally in Spartanburg, SC, now just down the road in Boiling Springs). Eagle is a good friend who's teamed up with me and my fellow Wofford professor, Matt Cathey, to help us with our professional wrestling interim course, which we first offered in 2008 and then again in 2013. Without Eagle and APW wrestlers like Erik Anton, Nick Fury, Dusty Money, Ben Wright, TK Stark, Jett Black, Boomer Payne, and Ken Magnum, there would be no January Smackdown at Wofford, no AWFA (the Wofford pro wrestling organization), and worst of all, no Mr. Canada.

PWX (Premiere Wrestling Xprience) -- The fantastically entertaining indie promotion based out of Charlotte, NC. This is pro wrestling for the post-ironic, post-hipster, wrestling aficionado. Great wrestling characters, amazing skill, and the best ref in the history of pro wrestling, Mitch!

AWFA (American Wrestling Federation of America) -- The Wofford promotion created in 2008. Where Mr. Canada wrestles.