Film, book and music favorites of Dr. Robert M. Price

Robert M. Price is an influential American scholar of Christianity, known best to a wider audience for his intelligent debating style. Many of his debates with various other scholars are still available on YouTube. He also hosts a great podcast called The Bible Geek.

Dr. Price is one of the best-known proponents of the “Christ myth theory”, the theory that there never was an actual, physical person named Jesus of Nazareth.

In addition to his seemingly endless knowledge on the Bible, he is a scholar of the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Dr. Price’s books include:

  • Incredible Shrinking Son of Man
  • Bart Ehrman Interpreted
  • Deconstructing Jesus
  • Blaming Jesus for Jehovah

…among others. Buy his books here.


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My three favorite movies? Hard to rate them, but here are a few:

Excalibur (1981), Star Wars (1977), The Avengers (2012). But there’s also Ghost Story (1981), The Dead Zone (1983), Fanny and Alexander (1982), Omen 3: The Final Conflict (1981).

Top 3 books:

Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Warrior, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and Others, and D.F. Strauss’ The Life of Jesus Critically Examined.

Top 3 albums:

Crosby Stills and Nash, CSN; Jesus Christ Superstar; With the Beatles.

Favorite place to read: the bed.

Film, book and music favorites of Dr. Matti Kamppinen

Our excursions into the favorite entertainments of fascinating people continue with the movie, book and music favorites of Dr. Matti Kamppinen, Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of Turku. He also holds positions at the University of Helsinki and the University of Kuopio, and is an internationally recognized expert in his fields of study.

He was one of my favorite lecturers during my university days, a widely read and inspiring speaker with a penchant for interdisciplinary ways of approaching scientific questions. One lecture from him would provide endless, fascinating references to everything from Ancient Greek literature to the latest findings in natural sciences.

His books include:

  • A Historical Introduction to Phenomenology
  • Consciousness in Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Intentional Systems Theory as a Conceptual Framework for Religious Studies

…among others. Buy them here.


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Top films:

Some like it hot (directed by Billy Wilder, 1959). Absolutely hilarious, even after having seen it quite many times.

Life of Brian (directed by Terry Jones, 1979). “So funny, it was banned in Norway” as it was truthfully advertised in Sweden. In addition, a solid introduction to any religion.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (directed by Woody Allen, 2010). This particular WA film depicts beautifully the flow of time in human lifespan.

Top books:

The Mind’s I – Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul (1981) by Douglas Hofstadter& Daniel Dennett is insightful, literally.

Introduction to Value Theory by Nicholas Rescher (1969) provides much-needed structures for our sloppy discussions about values.

The Moral Landscape – How Science Can Determine Human Values (2010) by Sam Harris goes a step further and intends to bridge the fact/value divide. Excellent antidote for overdoses of postmodernism.

Top albums:

Duke by Genesis, Division Bell by Pink Floyd, and Going for the One by Yes.

 

Book review: American Kingpin, by Nick Bilton. Portfolio 2017.

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The Deep Web is a kind of “secret” part of the Internet only reachable by a special browser called Tor. The place is basically a digital reflection of the human id: illegal pornography, weird sexual fantasies (often including rape or other crimes), sick videos – it’s all right there.

A few years ago, a new site popped up there, seemingly out of nowhere: The Silk Road, a website that facilitated the buying and selling of drugs, guns, stolen software, stolen electronics, and the like. It became a hit overnight and, considering the nature of the goods changing hands through the site, a fresh nightmare for governments and law enforcement agencies. The anonymous nature of the Deep Web and the Tor browser made finding the creator of the site that much more difficult.

Despite the challenging premise, the creator of the site was ultimately captured. He turned out to be a brilliant young do-it-yourself libertarian named Ross Ulbricht, a physics whiz kid and self-taught computer genius who believed the government should not be able to regulate what people put in their bodies. He was running the multi-million dollar drug empire from a Samsung 700z laptop, borrowing wi-fi from local coffee shops in Austin, Texas and San Francisco, California.

This book tells the story of the creation of the website, and the efforts of the various law enforcement agents (from the DEA, Homeland Security and FBI, among others) to find the person behind the “Amazon of Drugs”.

Bilton is a master storyteller, and he knows the tech and start-up worlds well, having written about both before.

The portrait he paints of the young Ulbricht is vivid and alive, the story of a young man who believes he is making a difference in the world by challenging the government on its drug laws head-on. Whatever you might think of Ross Ulbricht, he had the guts to follow through on what he believed: instead of arguing on Twitter or lecturing his friends about the hypocracy of the “War on Drugs”, he built something of his own, and left a lasting impression on the world, for better or for worse.

American Kingpin also succeeds in balancing the stories of the agents on Ulbricht’s trail with the rest of the narrative. Determined, inventive, and loyal to the very government the Silk Road challenged, they worked around the clock to dig up “Dread Pirate Roberts” (Ulbricht’s user name on the Silk Road) from the murky waters of the Deep Web. In presenting these agents as human beings too, Bilton evokes the theme of loyalty vs. rebellion towards authority, an age-old question that gets a fresh treatment between the pages of this book.

An enjoyable read that tells an unforgettable true crime story, while at the same time sophisticating the reader with regard to Internet security, digital crime, and the battle between libertarian political philosophy versus governmental institutions.

Grade: 4.5/5