Weekend Reads: The Faith of Star Wars, Tenet, Chadwick Boseman, Gastrodiplomacy

Recommended weekend reading material for September 5, 2020.

Every week, I compile a list of interesting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable articles. I hope they provide you with some good weekend reading material.

Following The Rise of Skywalker, I felt burned out on Star Wars, and certainly on Star Wars thinkpieces. But I thoroughly enjoyed Hannah Long’s piece on the role that faith plays in a galaxy far, far away.

[H]ere’s the thing people don’t get about Star Wars: it’s not about the space battles and laser swords. Nor is it about politics — in fact, the more political it is, the more boring it grows. Star Wars is about faith. (No wonder people get so mad about it online.) That explains the way we treat it and the way it’s written. It’s only by recognizing and embracing the religious nature of the story — and of its almost religious status in pop culture — that storytellers can capture the elusive “real” Star Wars.

Among other things, Long’s piece really makes me want to revisit The Clone Wars. Via Frosted Echoes.


Alissa Wilkinson uncovers a link between Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and an ancient palindrome. (Contains potential spoilers for Tenet.)

I am but a film critic, so I won’t pretend to understand or fully explain the entire history of the Sator square here. But once I realized its link to Tenet, I was able to understand and even respect the movie a bit more. So here’s a brief history of the Sator square, and why I think it’s significant to the film.

I’m bookmarking this for later, when I finally see Tenet and am left confused by it.


Last week, Chadwick Boseman, the star of Marvel’s Black Panther, died after a years-long battle with cancer. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler released an emotional tribute to Boseman:

Chad deeply valued his privacy, and I wasn’t privy to the details of his illness. After his family released their statement, I realized that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him. Because he was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering. He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year. That was who he was.


J.J. Harder argues that a great way to encourage diplomacy and understanding between countries is by sharing cuisine.

I have served as press attaché (Syria), human rights officer (South Africa), visa adjudicator (Peru) and conflict diamonds expert (D.C.). But my favorite gigs have been in the cultural section, where I engaged in what’s called gastrodiplomacy: creating and strengthening relationships with people, governments and organizations abroad through food, agriculture and the culinary arts.


Our country has become increasingly polarized, our politics increasingly divisive. So what happens when a Democrat and a Republican take a 20,000 mile road trip together?

We were forced to go through this thought process of: “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe I’m with him. I can’t believe he said that.” Then you start to think, “well, maybe I shouldn’t have said that one thing. And maybe he had a point about that one thing.” You start to go through a full-circle process. And that first fight ended with “I love you, man. I’m still angry and we haven’t resolved this. But I’m committed to this project and friendship.”


From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s a miracle that the avocado is still around.

The avocado is a fruit of a different time. The plant hit its evolutionary prime during the beginning of the Cenozoic era when megafauna, including mammoths, horses, gomphotheres and giant ground sloths (some of them weighing more than a UPS truck) roamed across North America, from Oregon to the panhandle of Florida.

Here’s a fun bit of trivia: the avocado gets its name from ahuacatl, the Aztec word for “testicle.” It’s also been considered an aphrodisiac by some, including King Louis XIV. Think about that the next time you’re whipping up some homemade guac.


Larry Flynt, the infamous publisher of Hustler, reflects on his personal connection to the Falwell family in light of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s disgrace.

Ironically, Falwell Sr. and I actually became friends later. We enjoyed many cordial visits, participated in debates across the country, and even exchanged Christmas cards. I have to concede that his friendship with me proves that, for the most part, he was practicing an essential tenet of his faith, forgiveness, and was a sincere Christian.

Which is more than can be said for many of his fellow televangelists — the sorry parade of charlatans like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Paula White, and all the other prime-time Elmer Gantrys — including the son, Jerry Falwell Jr. They’re obsessed above all with sexual behavior, ignoring and subverting the core message of Christianity — humility and compassion for the downtrodden — while embracing “prosperity gospel,” which is to say the gospel of greed above all other values.


From the Blog

“Reaction” videos — in which someone watches something (presumably for the first time) and gives their honest reactions — are an interesting genre on YouTube. But they can be surprisingly enjoyable.

On the one hand, it can seem like the height of hubris to post a video of yourself reacting to something else — like, say, a song or movie trailer — and expect anyone else to care about your reaction.

On the other hand, it can be really enjoyable to watch someone else exhibit true surprise and delight while experiencing something for the first time — especially if it’s something you yourself enjoy. (Also, I run a blog where I hope people enjoy what I have to say about musicmoviesanimé, etc., so who am I to judge?)

Also, the latest subscriber playlist and podcast are now available. I had a lot of fun making these, as I got to feature a bunch of Christian artists that might be on the obscure side for many people. But I think they do a good job of showing that Christian music is far more diverse and interesting than you might realize. (In fact, I had so much fun that I think I might do another playlist or two on the same topic, since there are so many great Christian artists that deserve more attention.)


This post is available to everyone (so feel free to share it). However, paying subscribers also get access to exclusives including playlists, sneak previews, and podcasts. If you’d like to receive those exclusives — and support my writing on Opus — then become a paid subscriber today for just $5/month or $50/year.