Sep 30, 2017

Weekend Reads: The Terminator’s Back, Star Trek & Religion, Movie Theatres Suck, Silicon Valley Silliness

Also: Amazon’s new sci-fi titles, The Prisoner, VidAngel, Donald Trump takes on the NFL, Facebook and Russia, and much more.

Terminator
They keep coming back.

Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and James Cameron are making a sixth Terminator film, and it could save the Terminator franchise. “We all have smart phones, we’ve piloted drones, we’ve yelled demands at Alexa, we’ve seen weirdly lifelike robots do amazing things on YouTube. Terminator 6 could really harness the modern paranoia that maybe machines really are becoming self-aware, something the original films tapped into but that didn’t seem entirely worthy of genuine fear at the time.”

In a bid for more original content, Amazon has announced three new sci-fi titles: adaptations of Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (which would be absolutely bonkers), and Larry Niven’s Ringworld (a classic of the genre). We cancelled our Amazon Prime subscription earlier this year, but this makes me reconsider.

Star Trek Logo
Boldly going where no religion exists?

Steven D. Greydanus explores Star Trek’s complicated relationship with religion. “The religious themes in the Spock Trilogy, DS9 and other incarnations of Trek, not to mention B5 and BSG, aren’t extra baggage. They are part of what make these stories resonate so deeply. Religion continues to be part of the human story — a complicated, interesting part that can be both harmful and healing. Good fiction, including good science fiction, should reflect this reality.”

Seeing a movie in the theatre is arguably the worst way to watch a movie. “[W]ere I not literally writing about movies for money, I would never go to theaters anymore. Why would I go watch a muddy picture on a screen showing a dimmed image surrounded by grayish-letterboxed rectangles when I can stay at home in the darkness of my basement and watch a movie in the appropriate brightness on my 60-inch HD plasma a few months after its initial theatrical release?”

The Prisoner
I am not a number! I’m a free man!

NPR considers the legacy of the cult TV show The Prisoner, which turns 50 this year. “The Prisoner may have been the first television show to generate enough passionate devotion for its finale to split its audience into fans and haters.”

Matt Poppe tried the VidAngel video censoring service and had a convicting experience. “[W]hile I found myself laughing at the awkwardness of telling VidAngel to leave in the ‘suggestive dancing,’ it nonetheless forced me to think critically about why I watch the things I do. What does it say about me if I’m presented with the opportunity to remove every objectionable moment from my viewing experience, but I proceed anyway?”

Donald Trump
When will he start acting like a president?

Yes, Donald Trump’s recent criticism of NFL players is racist. “[His comments] target a specific race. They target players of that race because they are protesting against racism. They completely dismiss the substance of their protests against racism. They frame the fruit of the players’ labor as a privilege, not a right. They reflect Trump’s belief that there is no serious problem with policing and racism. And they follow the historical precedent of denying black people ownership of their labor and demanding respect in the face of oppression.”

The relationship between Facebook, the 2016 election, and Russia can be convoluted. Wired tries to make sense of it all. “[T]he details of how the social-networking giant found itself at the center of all of this, and, crucially, what that could mean for President Trump, can easily get lost amid competing headlines around healthcare, hurricanes, and a steadily escalating nuclear standoff with North Korea.”

Meeting
The worst time of the day.
rawpixel.com (Public Domain)

It’s common knowledge that meetings are the worst, so why do office still put with them? “Just off to a meeting? Stop right now. Turn back. You will be stuck in an overheated room, chained to a table for an absurd length of time and stopped from proper work. Worse, we are now told that just sitting there is a killer. It shortens life. You will die.”

A few weeks ago, I encouraged web developers to embrace a block-oriented view of web content management. Now Chris Coyier breaks down how various CMS’s handle content blocks. Evaluated CMS’s include WordPress, Perch, Statamic, and my favorite, Craft.

Keyboard
You’ve got mail!

William Zinsser is far happier living without email. “I don’t have email because I don’t need it in my work and I don’t want to be the captive of its daily clutter. I don’t need group emails from organizations I belong to. I don’t want to be sent jokes, good or bad, or recipes, or family vacation photographs, or solemn articles that the senders think would be my intellectual salvation, or books in progress by writers who want me to edit their work or find them an agent. I’m free! And it feels terrific.”

A recent trend is for Silicon Valley to invent new products that basically already exist. (I believe the technical term is “disruption.”) Consider Lyft Shuttle: “[T]he entire thing more or less duplicated what a city bus already does: travels on a fixed route, picks up and drops off riders at predetermined spots and transports a larger group of people at one time.”

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