Best of 2015

The editors at www.andrewforrest.org (best blog on the internet™) have been working long hours and our fingers to the bone to get our 1st annual best-of list together.  Yes, we didn’t make it by 12/31, but it’s not too late to look back at 2015, right?

 

Best Book I Read in 2015

 

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The Amazon description calls Kristin Lavransdatter “the turbulent historical masterpiece of Norway’s literary master.” I agree that it’s a masterpiece (though certainly an overlooked one): Sigrid Undset’s 1100 page historical novel is a book that will stay with me for years to come.  It’s about the life of the title character in 14th century medieval Norway, and I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it.  Highly recommended.

Best Movie(s) I Saw in 2015

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Here’s what I wrote in April about the brutal war thriller ’71:

Walking down the stairs of the theater afterwards, I realized that I’d been keeping my entire body rigid and tense throughout the movie–it’s that kind of film.  It’s really well done: terrifying, honest, brutal, and resists the urge to clean-up everything at it’s end.  Highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart.”

Thinking back on it 9 months later, I stand by that assessment.  ’71 is one of the best movies of the year.

Meanwhile, on the complete other end of the movie spectrum….

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[telegraph.co.uk]

On the complete other end of the spectrum, the British claymation film Shaun the Sheep: the Movie is also one of my favorite movies of the year.  It’s wordless, really funny, and touching and sweet as well.  Recommended.

Best Reason Not to Visit Seattle

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Yes, I do know the difference between San Francisco and Seattle….

Kathryn Shultz wrote a long article in The New Yorker‘s July 20 issue called “The Really Big One,” about how the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a massive earthquake.  One of the memorable quotations from the piece comes from the region’s FEMA director when he says (and subsequently stands by his remarks): “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”  Her follow-up piece 8 days later addressing some FAQ’s won’t make you feel any better.

I’ll stay in Texas, thank you.

Best App

"All packed...." (The kind of pic we shared on Togethera in 2015.)

“All packed….” (The kind of pic we shared on Togethera in 2015.)

My wife and I made a decision to never share pictures of our son on social media.  However, our extended family is far-flung and lives on 3 different continents, and sharing pictures is an important way to feel closer.  Enter Togethera, a photo sharing app that allows you to create closed groups.  We’ve been using it since the summer and love it.

Best Sermon

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That’s like asking me to choose which one of my kids is the best.  The answer is obvious: I like them all, except the ugly ones.

Best Everyday Carry Accessories

I never leave the house without the following in my pants pockets:

Best State Fair

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Too easy: The State Fair of Texas, fool!  (September 30 will be here before you know it….)

Finally: Best Hanukkah Song

I know, I know: with so many to choose from, how do you narrow it down to just one?  But, this year’s winner (which, being held hostage by our house’s resident kindergartner, we played on repeat in our household 1,000 times in the month of December) is Jewish reggae rapper Matisyahu’s 2012 single “Happy Hanukkah.” The video ain’t my favorite, but I defy you not to be happy with the audio turned way up.

My favorite part is the “Lion of Juuuuudah” part of the refrain.

Auld Lang Syne

2015 was a great year; here’s to an ever better 2016.

 

 

 

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Some New Music for You to Check Out

How could you not take to a guy like this?  Meet David Crowder, in his own words:

I was born half Baptist (the East Texas, King James carrying, pipe organ, hymnal singing, Southern, type Baptist) and half Pentecostal (the Holy Ghost, jumpin’ and shoutin’, hand-waving, prophecying, Southern, type Pentecostal). Later, I was born again.”

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Crowder Math

I’ve been a fan of David Crowder’s music for over a decade; nobody sounds like him.  Here’s my summary of his unique style:

Texas gospel rockabilly
+
Electronic dance beats
+
simple, piercing lyrics


= David Crowder

Hee Haw, Aqua Net, and Olivia Newton John

David on his musical influences:

The son of an insurance salesman and a social worker, fructifying in the piney woods of Texarkana, I was as muddled as the name of my town. We drove a light blue Ford Thunderbird; not the old, classic kind, but a brand new one that had a sticker on it. The one with the electric windows and mirrors and the headlamp covers that flipped open when you turned on the headlights and an in-dash eight-track player. My dad and mom both used Aqua Net hair spray. He parted it on the right side and always carried a comb. She got permanents and had curlers that heated up every Saturday night while we all watched The Lawrence Welk Show and Hee-Haw. The eight-tracks in rotation were Elvis, Willie Nelson, Olivia Newton John, and Bill Gaither. Everything I’ve ever done musically can be traced back to there — that Ford Thunderbird, those sounds, the view out of those windows, and my brother punching me in the arm on the way to Sunday morning Church. That is all metaphor and all true.”

After 6 albums, the David Crowder* Band broke up in 2012.  But, David has kept making music under the name “Crowder” and released his first solo album, Neon Steeple, in May 2014.

Neon Steeple

Like previous David Crowder albums, Neon Steeple has a story to tell from start to finish.  Although there are a few standout songs that work well on their own, the best way to listen to the album is in one sitting, beginning to end.

Here’s David describing his work on the album:

Neon Steeple is a collection of songs and sounds looking forward to the past and counting the present as sacred. It is a longing for belonging, a search for home. It is a collection of choruses that believe that this is not all there is. There is more, there must be. It is the sound of the Appalachians and Ibiza. Folk music and EDM. The music of the People. Folktronica. Digital and Analog. The Ones and Zeros and the Handshake. The Banjo and the 808.”

Four Year-Old Dance Party, etc.

Neon Steeple is a beautiful album that tells a beautiful story in an unsentimental and creative way.  It’s also a lot of fun.

The song “My Beloved” is a favorite of a four year-old in my household.  (The video is embedded above, but the album track is a much better version.)  It’s a clap-your-hands-stomp-your-feet happy hoedown.

One of my favorite tracks is “Come As You Are” (embedded below) that is an invitation to the weak, weary, broken-down to lay down their burdens and shame.

Another standout track is the southern throw-down “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains).”  It’s an aggressive, growling song.

But to pick out those three tracks is to give the impression that the rest aren’t worth hearing, an impression I don’t want to give.

“I Am” is another favorite of mine; I love the ambiguity in the central hook:

“I am holding onto you;
In the middle of the storm,
I am holding on…I am.”

Who’s holding whom?  That’s the question, isn’t it?

Another great track is the duet with Emmylou Harris (“My Sweet Lord”): just achingly beautiful.

“Blind is the fool, I see that now;
I broke the rules, and let ya down.
I walked alone; now I have run dry:
I need my sweet Lord to help tonight.”

The entire album is really strong: I recommend it.

“Making Dead People Alive”

As much as I appreciate David Crowder the musician, I think I appreciate David Crowder the writer and theologian even more:

Neon Steeple is both a critique and a hope. The meta-narrative of scripture is about innocence lost, it is about displacement, about things not being right and a search for belonging and home and forgiveness and reconciliation, the tension of death and life, what it means to be alive. The story is not about making bad people good, it is about making dead people alive. The story sold is rarely that.

What if we started believing?”

 

What if indeed?