Nov 24, 2015

Reading: Justice League, Rdio’s Death, DC Talk, Refugees & Compassion, Killing Baby Hitler & more

Also: Peter Jackson and the “Hobbit” movies, engineers vs. programmers, and the impossibility of interstellar travel.

Justice League Unlimited

James Whitbrook makes the case for why Justice League Unlimited is the best superhero TV show. “There was a whole world of superheroes out there in the Justice League, and the show highlighted that vast legion… It made the show feel like it took place in a huge world, instead of being confined to a handful of heroes and rogues.” I watched the show with my kids earlier this year and found it very enjoyable, with some truly great storylines and character moments.

Music streaming service Rdio recently announced it was shutting down, with its technology and staff being acquired by Pandora. Which is sad, because as much I’ve complained about music streaming, Rdio is a really solid service. But why did Rdio fail? “In interviews with current and former employees, a picture emerges of a company that developed an excellent product but faltered when it came to marketing and distributing it.” Related: A review of Apple Music and Spotify that just drives home how great Rdio is/was.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson

I loved the Lord of the Rings movies but thought that the first Hobbit movie, which was a mess, albeit a slightly enjoyable mess. I’ve had little desire to watch the rest of the Hobbit series, though. And now, Peter Jackson confirms what I’ve always suspected: “Because Guillermo Del Toro had to leave and I jumped in and took over, we didn’t wind the clock back a year and a half… to design the movie, which was different to what he was doing… [A]s a result of it being impossible I just started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all.”

The ongoing “Chrindie ‘95” project takes a look at DC Talk’s seminal Jesus Freak, with comments from Derek Webb, Tyler Huckabee, Mark Heimermann (who produced the album), and more. Huckabee: “It worked on me like I imagine Nevermind worked on my friends, which is far from the first or last time Jesus Freak drew Nirvana comparisons, but I’m grateful for that. Some of us weren’t allowed to listen to Nirvana in 1995, and DC Talk was there to change our lives, too.” (For the record, I was more of a Nu Thang man, myself.)

Syrian Refugees

Speaking of Tyler Huckabee, he’s written a handy form letter for those politicians seeking to keep Syrian refugees out of their states. Excerpt: “We regret to inform you that we will be unable to accept your desperate gamble for safety and freedom at this time. We can imagine your disappointment at this news. But before you start getting all bent out of shape, look at it from our perspective.”

And speaking of the Syrian refugees, Russell D. Moore offers some much-needed wise, sane counsel. “We should debate what it would take to ensure adequate vetting of refugees, but we should not allow ourselves to engage in the kind of rhetoric we’ve heard in recent days—about, for instance, requiring ID cards for Muslim American citizens or considering warrantless searches of their homes or houses of worship.” There’s more good stuff in this BuzzFeed interview.

Programming

The Atlantic recently ruffled some feathers when it argued that computer programmers shouldn’t call themselves engineers. “When it comes to skyscrapers and bridges and power plants and elevators and the like, engineering has been, and will continue to be, managed partly by professional standards, and partly by regulation around the expertise and duties of engineers. But fifty years’ worth of attempts to turn software development into a legitimate engineering practice have failed.”

Wired’s Kathleen Vignos attempts to find some middle-ground in the programmers/engineers kerfuffle. “If we as a community can apply our ability to learn on the fly and our problem-solving skills to finding ways of holding ourselves to a higher degree of purpose and accountability, I have no doubt we will prove software engineers are ‘real’ engineers.”

Baby Hitler

I had to read this article just for the title alone: “Why Christians Shouldn’t Kill Baby Hitler.” “If you find the question to be silly, it’s because it is rather silly. The entire scenario is predicated on a pile of absurdities, such as the metaphysical implications of time travel (e.g., killing Hitler might prevent us from being born). But even silly questions can have a purpose, and this question can help us as Christians better clarify both our moral intuitions and our trust in providence.”

Kim Stanley Robinson discusses the impossibility of traveling to other stars and planets. “The problems that will keep us from going to the stars can be loosely grouped into categories: physical, biological, ecological, sociological, and psychological. One could add economical, but economic problems are trivial compared to the rest, as economics is amenable to adjustment on demand. Reality is not so tractable… [W]e should keep in mind that the idea that if we wreck Earth we will have somewhere else to go, is simply false.” Via io9.

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