Mar 4, 2015

Reading: Mr. Spock RIP, Agent Carter, Power Rangers Go Dark, Synth-Pop Primer, Celebrating Husker Football, and More

Also, celebrating ‘M*A*S*H,’ the nerdiness of ‘Parks and Recreation,’ the mix tape’s legacy, and more.
Mr. Spock

Last week, Leonard Nimoy — best known as Star Trek’s iconic half-Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock — died at the age of 83, and the tributes have been rolling in from his Star Trek family, others in Hollywood, Barack Obama, and even a fellow space traveler. I have always been a Spock fan, ever since I was a kid, but I hadn’t realized that Nimoy was quite the renaissance man. In addition to acting, he was a director, poet, and photographer. The New York Times has posted a nicely detailed obituary highlighting the man’s many talents and accomplishments.

This clip from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan has been shared quite a bit, and it seems rather fitting. I won’t deny getting a bit choked up when I watch it. The moment Shatner’s voice breaks gets me every time.

Christ and Pop Culture’s Geoffrey Reiter argues that Christians could learn much from the coolly rational Spock. “[I]n fact Spock’s dedication to a life of controlled emotion is admirable — is, in a sense, quite Christian. This was the slow revelation I had as I watched Star Trek and read more deeply into church history: just how much early Christians resembled Vulcans.” And Steven Greydanus reminds us why Star Trek and Spock matter. “Star Trek affirmed the equality and dignity of all people, extending this to nonhuman peoples of every hue and description the makeup department could supply (even when these aliens didn’t share this enlightened perspective). Fear of the unknown or alien was rejected in favor of curiosity and openness to all.”

Agent Carter

Reiter has also posted an excellent analysis of Agent Carter, arguably my favorite TV show of the last few months. “[W]hatever Agent Carter may not be, I am inclined to appreciate it for what it is. Of course, Carter holds her own in the paternalistic S.S.R. world, but she does so with wry humor and dignity in addition to the requisite butt-kicking; and, refreshingly, the series largely avoids the temptation to put her in the position of using her sexuality manipulatively. Rather, she tends to rely on her intelligence and resourcefulness (we even learn she has done codebreaking at Bletchley Park).” Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on whether Agent Carter has been renewed, but I hope it is. I like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but Peggy Carter is just aces.

Filmmaker Joseph Kahn released a dark, mature, and very violent fan film for the Power Rangers — yes, those Power Rangers — that quickly went viral. (Who doesn’t love a good deconstruction?) But just as quickly, the video was pulled due to copyright issues, raising once again the debate over copyright and fair use in the age of the Internet. In the end, everything worked out and Kahn was able to re-post his video — it’s well-made and entertaining but definitely not work-safe — but the debate has certainly not been resolved.

M*A*S*H

Last month, Netflix began streaming the first five seasons of M*A*S*H, so I wrote this piece celebrating the series’ faith, humanity, and humor. “I’ve since come to appreciate M*A*S*H for other, deeper reasons. M*A*S*H wasn’t just a great comedy; it was also a thoughtful and touching exploration of the human condition, and as an added bonus, features an extraordinary depiction of publicly living out one’s faith in a fallen world.”

Parks and Recreation ended its seven-season run last week and went out on a high note. There’s a lot to celebrate about the series — including the fact that it featured an excellent nerd role model in the character of Ben Wyatt. “He has no persecution complex; at the end of the day, he’s a handsome white-collar professional who just happens to love Batman, and neither he nor the show pretends otherwise. Ben Wyatt just likes what he likes, and feels only a tiny bit of shame about it.”

Human League

The A.V. Club brings this nice primer for ’80s synth-pop, and reveals the genre had more substance than it’s given credit for. “[D]espite the unbeatable ear candy, it’s tough to reconcile that synth-pop was simply subsumed by other electronic genres. Synth-pop always had a more cerebral edge despite its synthetic foundation. The genre’s major players were restless and curious, and interested in critical examinations of society, politics and the status quo.”

Speaking of music primers, Pitchfork tells you everything you ever wanted to know about italo disco. “There will always be something a bit off about Italo but that might be what makes it so pliant, so resilient. It’s failures become its strengths. Its sexiness is like a mannequin posed for a hug, its futurism like a cyborg soaked in seawater, trying to pass as human.”

Cassette

Don MacKinnon considers the legacy of the humble mixtape. “[I]n the ways we created and consumed mixtapes, we can find the earliest glimmers of the social media experiences of today. Looking back and thinking about why we loved them — considering what was beautiful about building them and receiving them — shows us what’s been lost as we’ve evolved and devolved into the feed-based formats of our current social world.”

Despite being a Nebraskan, I am often ambivalent about Husker football. However, precisely because I am a Nebraska, I can’t deny that it still has a pull on me. And Jake Meador does a good job of explaining why. In short, Husker football is about way more than just football. “Most people don’t care to understand the beauty of a farmer waking up every day at 5am to milk the cows, tend to the pigs, and begin working in the fields while most urbanites are still in bed. But most people do understand the discipline and work of a player spending hour after hour in the weight room followed by time on the field with his teammates and then careful film study later in the day. Absent the more direct approval of the specific work most of our state does, we’ve learned to live with approval of the qualities that we value in ourselves—even if they’re being appreciated on a football field rather than a farm.”


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