Diocletian on the City of Man Podcast

The City of Man Podcast’s Ancient Aside series returns with its ninth episode. In this episode, regular host Coyle Neal and I cover Diocletian, the first great emperor after the imperial anarchy of the third century; his administrative reforms, including the creation of the Tetrarchy; his changes to the nature of the imperial office itself; his savage, empire-wide persecution of Christians; and our own crippling allergies.

Visit City of Man on Facebook or the Christian Humanist Radio Network’s flagship website, and listen in via iTunes, Stitcher, and other fine podcasting apps. I’ve also embedded the episode in this post for your convenience. Enjoy, and thanks as always for listening!

Office Space on the Sectarian Review

Stephen Root as Milton WADDAMS in  Office Space

Stephen Root as Milton WADDAMS in Office Space

Workplace comedy classic Office Space arrived in (a few) theaters twenty years ago this week. To celebrate, Sectarian Review host Danny Anderson asked me to join him and Jeffrey Carter for a quick discussion of the movie: what’s so great about it, why it flopped, why it’s funny, and why it’s real—so horribly, uncomfortably real—even after twenty years. Along the way we discuss our favorite characters, compare the film to “Dilbert” and “The Office,” examine what it is about Mike Judge’s comedy that works so well, and talk about our own experiences roaming with the herd in cubicle farms. We also try, with only partial success, to resist quoting the entire movie.

You can listen in by downloading the episode or subscribing to the Sectarian Review Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and other such fine podcasting apps, or via the embedded Stitcher player in this post. Thanks as always to Danny for having me on, and thanks to y’all for listening. Enjoy!

Hallmark Xmas Movies on the Sectarian Review

Merry Christmas! Earlier this week, I sat down for a chat with Danny Anderson of the Sectarian Review Podcast, his wife Kim, and fellow guest Chris Pipkin. This week’s topic: the Hallmark Christmas movie phenomenon. We had a real blast talking through our own histories with Hallmark, the rise of the Christmas movie machine, how we pass the time while enduring these movies, what these movies do and do not do well, and, perhaps most importantly, what these movies are trying to say—if they’re trying to say anything. I had a great time recording this and hope y’all enjoy listening.

So drop your snooty big city fiance, head to a small town that’s planning its annual Christmas event, wrap up in a tasteful and modestly priced scarf, bake something, decorate something else, and listen in while you wait for the inevitable third-act snow!

You can find the episode embedded below, or at iTunes, Stitcher, and other fine purveyors of podcasts.

Heresy and Apologetics on City of Man Podcast

Another Ancient Asides episode of City of Man has dropped! In this episode, regular host Coyle Neal and I talk about the early Church’s incubation—including issues of heresy, persecution, and apologetics—under the heel of the Roman Empire between AD 150 and 300. Come for the history, stay for the gratuitous ragging of Dan Brown.

You can find the Christian Humanist Radio Network’s City of Man Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and other fine podcasting hubs, or listen in via the Stitcher player embedded in this post. Thanks for listening! Hope y’all enjoy.

The 39 Steps on the Christian Humanist Podcast

Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) clings to the side of the Forth Bridge to escape detection in Alfred Hitchcock’s  The 39 Steps

Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) clings to the side of the Forth Bridge to escape detection in Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps

I’m honored to be a guest on this week’s Christian Humanist Podcast, in which regular cohost David Grubbs, fellow guest Todd Pedlar, and I discuss The 39 Steps, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 espionage thriller starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

Over the course of the episode we discuss Hitchcock’s early filmography, from the silent era to his first big hits; the film’s source material, a “shocker” by Scots novelist John Buchan; the balance of humor and paranoia in the film; the film’s deft self-awareness; the ways in which Hitchcock paved the way for future espionage thrillers; a pair of amusing underwear salesmen; and much more.

Our discussion is part of the annual Christian Humanist Radio Network Halloween crossover, in which the various shows of the network swap hosts around for a series of themed episodes. While year’s theme is Hitchcock movies, previous years’ crossover themes have included The Twilight Zone—for which I joined The Book of Nature to discuss a few episodes, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”—the Firefly series, and the original Universal horror movie classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.

If you’re interested in catching the other episodes in the series so far, check out Sectarian Review’s episode on Shadow of a Doubt, the Christian Feminist Podcast’s show on The Lady Vanishes, and City of Man’s show on Rear Window. Book of Nature is scheduled to drop an episode on Psycho tomorrow, which should be a must-listen. I’m especially looking forward to resident psychologist Charles Hackney’s perspective on the film.

You can listen in on the embedded Stitcher player above or via iTunes or other fine podcasting apps. The 39 Steps itself is in the public domain; you can view it on YouTube here.

Thanks for listening! I’m blessed and honored to be connected with such an intelligent and fun network of people. Hope y’all enjoy listening as much as I did participating.

The Early Church on City of Man Podcast

Yesterday the latest installment of the City of Man Podcast’s Ancient Asides series, in which I and regular host Coyle Neal discuss Roman political history, posted online. In this episode, Coyle and I discuss the first generations of Christianity as this obscure Eastern movement developed into a large new religion under the heel of Rome. You can listen here via the embedded Stitcher player, or on iTunes or any number of other fine podcasting apps. You can read our brief shownotes and reading recommendations at the Christian Humanist Radio Network homepage, here.

I always have a great time talking to Coyle, and this is an interesting and important topic, especially as we press forward in Roman history and the Empire begins to change. Enjoy!

Talking John Birch with Sectarian Review

Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper in  Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Hot on the heels of our discussion of Alex Jones on the Sectarian Review Podcast, I rejoin Danny—and old podcasting compatriot Jay Eldred—for a chat about the John Birch Society. We cover its Cold War origins, its ejection from mainstream conservatism in the early 1960s, the patterns it set for conspiracist political perspectives down to the present, and the real John Birch—a man whose complicated and fascinating story was eventually lost in the mix of partisan politics and paranoid rhetoric. Great talk. Hope y’all enjoy!

Most of What Follows is True

Fisherman drying cod in St. Johns, Newfoundland, c. 1900.

Fisherman drying cod in St. Johns, Newfoundland, c. 1900.

I’ve posted before about the CBC Ideas Podcast, a series I discovered when they devoted two episodes to the Icelandic sagas. I hope they do more of those, but in the meantime I’ve listened to some very good episodes. One of the latest covers a topic near to my heart: historical fiction.

The talk, “Most of What Follows is True,” takes its name from the opening of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a film much loved by author Michael Crummey, the lecturer. Crummey, now a writer and an author of several historical novels, describes catching documentary on TV about the real Butch and Sundance, and his disappointment at the pair’s real-life fate: no Bolivian army, no glorious final moment, guns blazing, but a murder-suicide after being cornered in a miserable hovel. Which raises the question of what most means when you say that “most of what follows is true.”

Crummey, a native of Newfoundland on the Atlantic coast of Canada, considers several novels that purport to be historical but mangle the time and place in which they take place, and presents his own approach to some of his own writing. How much, he asks, does the historical novelist owe the past? How far should the historical novelist go in massaging history to make a compelling story? These are questions I’ve been thinking about for years and, with Griswoldville freshly released and still very much on my mind, I appreciated Crummey’s sensitive and thoughtful discussion, especially as it applied to accurately depicting a specific place and authentically evoking another time. Place and time are, of course, connected, since the past itself is a foreign country.

I’ve embedded Crummey’s talk in the post, above. It’s well worth your while to listen to! And do check him out on Goodreads. I’ll be looking for some of his work. River Thieves sounds particularly interesting.

Talking Alex Jones and Facebook with the Sectarian Review

Last week I got to sit down with my friend Danny Anderson of the Sectarian Review Podcast to talk about a news item that caught the attention of both of us: the apparently coordinated "deplatforming" of InfoWars host and conspiracy nut extraordinaire Alex Jones by Facebook, YouTube, and iTunes. 

Despite our mutual loathing of Jones and the mindset—and harassment—he promotes, neither of us has found an adequate or satisfactory response to this news, and in our conversation we try to work out our thoughts the best we can. We cover a little of Jones's history, his embrace and promotion of a particularly wild-eyed brand of conspiracism, and talk about the events leading to his ejection from those social media platforms as well as some responses to the news. While I come at the topic from my own more Burkean conservative position and Danny approaches it with a more Marxist materialist perspective, we arrive at roughly the same conflicted non-conclusions. 

It was a fun if ultimately troubling conversation and, we think, an important one.

Look up and subscribe to Sectarian Review, and leave Danny a good review on iTunes! I'm grateful, as always, to be a guest there. I've embedded our talk in this post via Stitcher but you can also look it up and listen to it on iTunes—unlike Jones.

Ancient Asides 6 on City of Man


Yesterday morning I recorded another episode of "Ancient Asides," a now eleven-part series on Roman political history, with my friend Coyle Neal of the City of Man Podcast. Yesterday afternoon, episode six of the series, "The Final Background to the New Testament," dropped, and I listened to it on my commute this morning. This episode jumps backward in time a bit to catch our discussion up on the history of the Jews and Judaea since the time of Cyrus, with attention given to Alexander and the Successor Kingdoms, the revolt of the Maccabees, the establishment of Roman hegemony, Judaea's fluid and changing relationship with Rome, and much more. Always a pleasure to sit down and talk Roman history with Coyle.

I've embedded the episode below via Stitcher, but you can listen on iTunes and other podcast apps. Be sure to subscribe to City of Man to get their excellent usual content as well as the semi-regular Ancient Asides episodes on which I'm proud to be a guest. As you can guess, there are several more waiting in the wings. Enjoy! 

Previous Ancient Asides episodes, in case you want to catch up:

Ancient Asides 5: The Roman Crisis—On Roman imperial government through the end of the third century.

Ancient Asides 4: The Roman Emperors—On the successors to Augustus and their relative merits, demerits, and craziness

Ancient Asides 3: The Roman Revolution II—On the death of Julius Caesar and the aftermath for Cicero, Antony, Octavian, and the Republic.

Ancient Asides 2: The Roman Revolution—On the Republic in crisis, from the Punic Wars to the death of Julius Caesar.

Ancient Asides 1: Roman Government—On the birth, early history, and development of the Roman Republic and the culture that undergirded it.