Some Stuff That’s Nifty (5/4/14)

I nearly had to climb in a dumpster this past week to save a football.  Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.  Still, I’m ready to declare DumpsterGate 2014 the best work-related story of the year.

Faith

The Pope's Audience Hall Looks Like A Final Fantasy Boss Fight

La Resurrezione by Pericle Fazzini. The sculpture stands behind the chair of the Pope in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. (Image credit: Kotaku)

1. Richard Beck commemorates Yom HaShoah this week with a post from 2008 about a visit he made to the Buchenwald labor camp.

2. Also from Richard Beck: “This is why, in my estimation, many progressive Christians, despite their focus on social justice, still struggle with being kind, gentle, forgiving and loving human beings. If you aren’t attending to the affections in your pursuit of social justice you’re prone to becoming harsh, angry and judgmental. Or just burnt out. Joy rather than righteous indignation has to be what carries you forward.”

3. Matthew Vines is getting a lot of press lately since he published his new book God and the Gay Christian.  I’ve not read it, but from what I hear, it’s a good book for people who still feel the tension between holding a high view of Scripture (that you just can’t ignore when the Bible condemns something) and being gay affirming.  Vines identifies as a traditional evangelical, and he argues his case from that position.  His original lecture, which I watched a few years ago, was very helpful for me to begin exploring my own thoughts on gay people and the Church.  I’m very hopeful that his book gets traction in the evangelical community and it does some good there.

4. Candida Moss offers a brief review of a new book on the history of the tradition of Peter being the first Pope of the Catholic Church.  Early Church history is not something that I study extensively, but glimpses like this one always seem to pique my interest.

5. Zach Hoag on some pitfalls that come with the American, post-evangelical appeal to grace.  Hoag makes a good point about being wary of grace leaving us in a position to enable others to continue doing harmful things.  It’s a difficult line to walk.

6. At Theoblogy, a guest post from Rabbi Joseph Edelheit condemning a recent video that was produced by Jews for Jesus that depicts Jesus as a victim of the Holocaust.  Edelheit’s writing is pretty raw, and some of the comments criticize his harshness, but in this case I think it’s important to remember that this is a case of a Christian group co-opting the Holocaust for the sake of prosletyzing to Jews.  That’s bad evangelism.

7. This critique of the attitude behind the recent movie God’s Not Dead gets at something I’ve been saying for a while, although it’s done in a way that’s much more snappy and readable.  God, by definition, is a supernatural being, and experiences of him in the physical world are unprovable.  It’s vacuous to argue for or against his existence, even though so many things in popular culture seem bound on that exact course.

8. Al Mohler’s also been getting some attention for writing an op-ed where he argues that supporting the death penalty is a morally justifiable position for a Christian to take.  Here are Zack Hunt and Jason Micheli explaining why that’s absurd.

9. For blog host Patheos’s fifth anniversary, they’ve asked their various bloggers to compile lists of their top five posts.  Fred Clark just published his collection yesterday, and he links to some really good stuff.  Better yet, he asks for feedback from his commenters, who form a very lively community, and they have tons of recommendations as well.  I’ve been a fan of Fred’s for a little over a year now, I think, and this is a great collection of his work.

Feminism

1. Bill O’Reilly’s not clueless.  I think he is a total cad though.  Here’s his latest bit of dog whistling to get his audience all frothed up over a celebrity they probably don’t really care about because she happens to perform songs that contain positive messages about sex.  Take note of how, in O’Reilly’s estimation, this is a problem that uniquely affects the Black community, regardless of what statistics about teen pregnancy say.

2. A follow up from Slate about the story from last week regarding the kidnapped girls in Niger.  This article gives a pretty good overview of what the terrorist group who kidnapped the girls, Boko Haram, wants to do, and why we should care about this stuff.  Also, as a side note, remember that some of the girls escaped from their captors.  None have been rescued.

3. I want to be a traitor to the mens.  Thanks Scalzi!

Fiction

1. So Disney owns Star Wars now.  They will be releasing new Star Wars movies in the near future.  I feel positively disposed towards this fact, because I know that Disney is in the business of making money and producing entertainment that has broad demographic appeal.  Whatever Episode VII ends up being, I doubt it will match the craptitude(tm) of the Prequel Trilogy.  Of course, this also means that the Expanded Universe post-Return of the Jedi is getting pretty much completely annulled.  I actually read a lot of books in the EU when I was a kid, and I enjoyed them.  All the stuff that Phil Owen discusses in this article more or less went over my head at the time (and I didn’t stick around long enough to read any of the books that take place more than ten years after the Battle of Endor).  I suppose for more dedicated fans of the EU it’s a bittersweet thing to see it decanonized for the forthcoming movies, but I prefer to think of it as simply an alternate continuity.  The new Star Wars movies will probably be original stories, but I’m guessing there’s going to be a generous share of adaptations from all that source material.

2. In a similar vein, here’s the announced cast list for Episode VII.  And here’s a series of articles dealing with the fallout that comes from having only one new female character in a franchise that has no reason to be bound by contemporary gender politics (see that article about what the Expanded Universe did to see what I’m talking about).  Maybe I should rethink my placid confidence that the new Stars Wars movies will be okay.

3. Bob Hoskins passed away this week.  To commemorate his talent as an actor, here’s a video of raw footage from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? showing Hoskins acting against blue screen running parallel to the finished scene.

Fun

1. I’m a fan of Parks and Recreation.  It’s like a much happier version of The Office, but without all the jerks.  Folks who follow the show probably know that season 6 ended with a three year time skip into the future.  That’s always a risky thing for a show that’s been so grounded in current pop culture to do.  On the other hand, we’re seeing Parks and Recreation move into a speculative mode where the show will be doing a little bit of very immediate futurism.  Since the show’s already comfortable with suspending reality for the sake of comedy, I think this will work out fine.

2. Forced perspective chalk drawings are always fun.  So is the classic time wasting game Snake (I know I spent my share of Algebra classes playing snake on my calculator instead of paying attention).  Here’s something that combines the two, although the comments on this article indicate that this is an old thing from the internet.  Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen it, and it might be for you too, so enjoy it!

3. Maybe I’m just desensitized to hyperbole on the internet, but Buzzfeed style headlines have never really bothered me much.  However, if they bother you then there’s a plugin to help with that.  Of course, fogeys like myself prefer to just add snark the old-fashioned way–with our minds.

4. Have some very well done Batman cosplay.

5. Conservation of ninjutsu indeed.

6. Okay, so maybe the problem with Star Wars movies being so male-centric has to do with the fact that they’re all actually bees.

Gaming

1. I don’t play dating sims, but I thought this was a very thoughtful article about how a genre that’s so mechanically different from the types of games that are popular among Western audiences could offer some new insights into how to advance the medium beyond experiences that focus on competition and violence.

2. Also, here’s an article about why The Wolf Among Us, the episodic adventure game from TellTale Games that’s based on Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series, is basically a stealth dating sim.

Science

1. The universe is a big place.  Enjoy some pictures of it.

2. I want to live in an algae tent someday.

Superheroes

1. A visual history of Spider-Man’s costumes over the decades.  There’s been a surprising amount of variation (especially in recent years) for a character who’s look is pretty iconic.

Miscellaneous

1. Here’s an essay from 2010 discussing the ideological make up of the Tea Party movement.  It’s an interesting analysis that I think does a pretty good job of pinpointing the weird mishmash of conservative and libertarian values that inform the movement’s members.  Also, the importance of karma as an ideal to aspire towards strikes me as pretty insightful.  It’d be nice if folks considered that karma’s also not a terribly Christian ideal (I’m pretty confident it’s a universal value among Christians that people should always get better than what they deserve; we call that grace).

2. I’ve been getting inundated with banner ads for the past few weeks advertising John Oliver’s new comedy news show, Last Week Tonight, that premiered on HBO last Sunday.  HBO, in their infinite magnanimity, put the first episode on Youtube for free.  I enjoyed it.  I’m not going to buy an HBO subscription to watch it regularly, but where it’s freely available, I’ll tune in.  The segment on the national election in India was very informative, and the bit about ridiculous food advertising was quite good too.  Also, Oliver’s response to the Pop Tarts commercial was excellent and spot on.  Eating sugary foods for breakfast doesn’t help my students rise and shine; it just encourages them to punch each other relentlessly before 8:30 in the morning.

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