Doctor Who, Bad Movies, Scientists & Religion, Sci-Fi & Sex, Blockbuster’s Passing & More

Doctor Who, intentionally bad movies, scientists and religion, pop music’s Ibiza-fication, humanity’s fate, sci-fi and strange sex, politics and the Church, Christians and suffering, music’s increasing narcissism, and the passing of Blockbuster Video.
The 11th Doctor

He might be seen as a pacifist, but Doctor Whos recent seasons have explored the good Doctor’s ​“boldly violent new side” (contains potential spoilers):

When the series was revived in 2005, viewers again saw countless companions and allies sacrifice themselves for the Doctor and his good fight each week. While the deaths may have been noble in spirit, it was still staggering to witness; it seemed that the only way to do something worthwhile on Doctor Who (unless you were a series regular) was to Keep Calm and Get Shot By Daleks.
The decision to actually bring this to the Doctor’s attention in season four, to see him react to it, was a wonderfully affecting move on the part of Russell T. Davies. The impact of that blow from Davros landed harder because the Doctor had managed to avoid contemplation of those lost lives until that moment — he had allowed himself to believe that just because he had never fired the weapon, because he had never asked any of those people to lie down across the train tracks, he somehow wasn’t culpable in their fatal trend.

Related: It’s killing me that I can’t watch the new season right now, that I’ll likely have to wait for the DVDs.

Twitch’s Todd Brown addresses the aesthetic of intentionally bad movies:

I have watched scores of these films. They are almost universally unwatchable to all but those who made them. They’re not funny. They’re not clever. They’re just plain bad movies and I want people to stop making them. Stop explaining away your shitty technique with ​“Hey, it’s supposed to be that way!” Because all you’re doing with that argument is proving you don’t understand the original movement at all.
Because, you see, no movie that was intentionally created to be bad has ever gone on to find an audience. Movies made to be bad are just plain shitty and nobody likes watching that. No serious, professional filmmaker ever set out to make a bad movie. Not one. They all set out to make the best movies they could under the circumstances they were presented with. It’s the struggle to be good that gives them their vitality and their continuing drawing power. When they’re funny it’s not because they wanted to be bad — it’s because they tried to be good and missed so badly. Even Ed Wood believed he was making art.

The reality is more nuanced than you might think when it comes to scientists and what they think about religion:

In one such book, Science and Theology (1998), [John] Polkinghorne proposes a taxonomy (based on the work of scholar Ian G. Barbour) of the various ways science and religion can relate. The most familiar is the stance of conflict, in which science and religion are irreconcilably opposed, each challenging the other’s legitimacy. Sometimes, however, science and religion can be considered independent, two distinct realms of inquiry. Sometimes they are considered to be in dialogue (or are consonant), overlapping but not necessarily conflicting, especially as regards the deepest of mysteries, such as creation and consciousness. And sometimes the two are integrated (or one assimilates the other), and they are unified into a common quest for understanding the universe and our place in it.
This taxonomy is worth keeping in mind while considering two recent books, each of which takes up the subject from the perspective of scientists. The first is a nuanced portrait of the religious beliefs of scientists working in the United States today; the second is a collection of writings from scientific luminaries, both historical and contemporary, laying out their thoughts on religion. Taken together, these books proffer an answer to the following question: Just what do scientists — including the most influential scientists — actually believe concerning religion?

Or… maybe not.

Simon Reynolds on modern pop music’s growing debt to the music of Ibiza:

The other day we were driving in the car, listening to one of Los Angeles’s top 40 stations, and I turned to my wife and asked: ​“How come everything on the radio sounds like a peak-hour tune from Ibiza?“
All these smash hits have the Auto-Tuned big-chorus bolted on top. But underneath, there are riffs and vamps, pulses and pounding beats, glistening synthetic textures and an overall banging boshing feel; it’s like these tracks have been beamed straight from Gatecrasher or Love Parade circa 1999.

Sci-fi inspires us with visions of new worlds, beings, and technologies, but according to Kyle Munkittrick, sci-fi also makes us more open to strange forms of sexuality:

The point is that sci-fi lets us see those variables of attraction and sexuality in action. Even better, sci-fi video games let us experience those variables for ourselves. In the case of my FemShep (pictured, right), I ended up romantic with Liara in ME1 and with Thane in ME2. To say I was attracted to a reptilian male alien assassin is bizarre, I admit. But that’s what makes sci-fi so wonderful. By playing Mass Effect as FemShep, I was able to understand and empathize with a form of sexual attraction I would never personally have.
And that understanding is what science fiction is telling us about the future of sexuality. All of the variables and spectrums and complexities and similarities and differences can be distilled down to one simple equation: consenting persons love one another for different reasons and in different ways. It also puts our own concepts of ​“different” into perspective. If you’re ok with a human loving a robot, why wouldn’t you be ok with a human loving another human? Sci-fi teaches us that the type of persons involved is irrelevant, so long as they are capable of consent and willingly enter into the relationship.

There’s a growing group of individuals who are attempting to predict the fate of humanity millions of years into the future, and the emerging picture isn’t necessarily rosy:

For Rees, then, and many other thinkers about the future, a central preoccupation is making sure that humans survive to see it. Only 0.01 percent of all species that have ever existed continue to do so. We happen to be one of them, for now. When Rees looked at the myriad ways in which the present is more perilous than the past in his 2003 book ​“Our Final Hour,” he set the odds of human extinction in the next century at 50 percent.
Bostrom, the Oxford philosopher, puts the odds at about 25 percent, and says that many of the greatest risks for human survival are ones that could play themselves out within the scope of current human lifetimes. ​“The next hundred years or so might be critical for humanity,” Bostrom says, listing as possible threats the usual apocalyptic litany of nuclear annihilation, man-made or natural viruses and bacteria, or other technological threats, such as microscopic machines, or nanobots, that run amok and kill us all.

The entire article is fascinating, but I found the portion regarding the potential of a moral death for humanity, rather than a physical one, to be especially interesting… and disturbing.

Do Franklin Graham and Tim Keller depict two different approaches for the Church when it comes to politics?

The subject of the interview is not just the decision of the interviewer. It also reflects the shaping and the agenda of the subject. One large irony is that here you have a Reformed minister cautioning about political speech in the church while speaking from a tradition that has valued Christian involvement in politics. In contrast, you have the evangelist’s son from a tradition of fundamentalism that early in the 20th century saw politics as suspect engaging in a very overtly political ​“crusade” (the word the piece used).

Over on Parchment & Pen, Michael Patton on pain, meaninglessness, and Charles Darwin:

The thing that must unite us as Christians is that there is no such thing as ​“meaningless.” That word does not need to be in our vocabulary. It is a word reserved for the atheist, the deist, and the pantheist, but not the Christian. I am not saying we don’t look it in the face from time to time (God knows I do), I am just saying that we cannot allow ourselves to camp there. That campground is off-limits for Christians. There are so many things out there that have webbed feet on dry land. There are so many sciatic nerves which cause us to cry ​“why?” There are so many mothers who are unable to walk or talk. There are so many children who die untimely deaths. There are so many times when a move seems meaningless. But our faith is not dependent on finding immediate understanding and fulfillment for our pain. Sometimes we do punt to the eschaton knowing that there is meaning behind it, even if we don’t know what that meaning is today.

Psychologists have analyzed three decades’ worth of hit songs and have discovered that music has become increasingly narcissistic and hostile:

The new study of song lyrics certainly won’t end the debate, but it does offer another way to gauge self-absorption: the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The researchers find that hit songs in the 1980s were more likely to emphasize happy togetherness, like the racial harmony sought by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder in ​“Ebony and Ivory” and the group exuberance promoted by Kool & the Gang: ​“Let’s all celebrate and have a good time.” Diana Ross and Lionel Richie sang of ​“two hearts that beat as one,” and John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” emphasized the preciousness of ​“our life together.“
Today’s songs, according to the researchers’ linguistic analysis, are more likely be about one very special person: the singer. ​“I’m bringing sexy back,” Justin Timberlake proclaimed in 2006. The year before, Beyoncé exulted in how hot she looked while dancing — ​“It’s blazin’, you watch me in amazement.” And Fergie, who boasted about her ​“humps” while singing with the Black Eyed Peas, subsequently released a solo album in which she told her lover that she needed quality time alone: ​“It’s personal, myself and I.”

Bradford Winters laments the passing of Blockbuster Video, and what it represents for our society at large:

Back when storefronts were the only model conceivable, I maintained a healthy distaste for Blockbuster’s gambit to put its small, independent competitors out of business. But these days, when the notion of driving somewhere to rent a movie strikes an entire generation as being as antiquated as riding in a horse-and-buggy to the general store, the blue-and-yellow stronghold at Lincoln and Ocean Park is a pleasantly nostalgic sight.
Stubborn as I am, I actually walked there recently to renew my membership and rent a movie. Walking anywhere in L.A. is one thing; but doing so to rent a movie the old-fashioned way is something to write home about.

I say, the sooner Blockbuster realizes that it’s dead, the better.

Elsewhere: A collection of interesting links and articles that I’ve come across in the last week or so. Follow me on Twitter for more of the same.