Reading: Jim Gaffigan, Submarine Life, Metalhead Kids, Reimagining Final Fantasy VII, 50 Years of Dune & more

Also: Living a life of sacrifice, crazy VHS cover art, Bloom County’ returns, porn gets even sadder in virtual reality, J.R.R. Tolkien discusses marriage, and Flash must die.
Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan(Alan GastelumCC BY-SA 1.0)

Christ and Pop Culture’s Wade Bearden considers how Jim Gaffigan’s Catholic faith is fundamental to his comedy. “Gaffigan seems to realize that he does have a voice in the realm of religious conversation — as evidenced from The Jim Gaffigan Show — but his more organic approach to the intersection between his personal life and comedy creates a natural, rather than explicit, response to religious conversation and the culture wars. He’s a comedian who’s also a Christian, rather than a Christian who happens to be a comedian.”

Also on Christ and Pop Culture, Amanda Wortham has written a beautiful reflection on aging, pregnancy, and living a life of sacrifice. “Our cultural obsession with bodily perfection betrays itself most candidly in these magazine headlines. The path of preserving physical impeccability may be tempting, but it reveals a kind of insecurity, a resistance to growth and change that extends well beyond maternal physicality and into every aspect of our lives. We want, it seems, to accumulate life experiences without aging, without damage, without evidence. We want our bodies to operate invisibly, to be emblems of near perfection rather than vessels of service.”

USS North Dakota(U.S. NavyPublic Domain)

Forget those Hollywood submarine movies. A former submariner reveals, in great detail, what it’s like to serve on a Navy submarine. “Sleep is one of the most precious things you get onboard. I remember once being up for 36 hours, catching a 45 minute nap, and being awake another 36 hours. I followed that by sleeping for 22 hours. So when any opportunity to sleep arises you take it as you never know when you’ll get back to the rack again.”

It may not be very accurate from a submariner’s point of view but The Hunt for Red October is nevertheless one of those eminently watchable movies that I’m almost always in the mood for. The movie turned 25 years old earlier this year, and according to Danny Bowes, it’s “a marvel of pop filmmaking… The quarter century since its release has not diminished its delights in the slightest, and it remains one of the most compulsively re-watchable movies of its, or any other, era.”


When I was a kid, heavy metal was the devil’s music, and those who listened to it — they were the ones with shredded jeans, mullets, and jean jackets emblazoned with all kinds of creepy-looking patches — were destined to be mindless dropouts. Or maybe not. As it turns out, metalheads in the ’80s turned out pretty well. “[R]esearchers find that former metal fans were significantly happier in their youth, and better adjusted currently’ compared to their peers who preferred other musical genres, and to a parallel group of current college students.”

Speaking of crazy ’80s stuff, Wired takes a look at VHS Video Cover Art, a collection of classic cover art. I remember wandering the aisles of our grocery store’s video rental section while my parents checked out, and being fascinated by the lurid images for movies like Ninja III: The Domination and C.H.U.D. I had no real desire to see the movies in question, and in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t because nothing would’ve lived up to the strange promise of their artwork.

Final Fantasy VII Remake
Final Fantasy VII Remake

In case you were living under a rock, it was recently announced that Final Fantasy VII — arguably one of the most famous video games of all time — would be remade. And while that certainly conjures up a lot of nostalgia, I find myself agreeing with Matt Peckham and hoping that the new FF7 is as much a reimagining as a remake. “As I was watching the trailer… the thought occurred to me: What if the remake went boldly off-road somehow, story-wise, instead of giving us a prettier regurgitation of an experience so pored over and ingrained in gaming’s collective unconscious that it still routinely places first on annual most-wanted remake lists?”

io9 has collected 142 behind-the-scenes pictures from the making of Blade Runner, which reveal the incredible attention to detail in the film’s miniatures and models. This level of detail is a huge part of the film’s believability and sense of atmosphere.

The Illustrated Dune(John Schoenherr)

Arguably the greatest sci-fi novel of all time, Frank Herbert’s Dune turned 50 this year. What sort of legacy has it left? “Dune is the paradigmatic fantasy of the Age of Aquarius. Its concerns — environmental stress, human potential, altered states of consciousness and the developing countries’ revolution against imperialism — are blended together into an era-defining vision of personal and cosmic transformation.”

After 25 years, Berkeley Breathed has revived Bloom County. “When Bloom County went idle in 1989, it was one of several clever and inventive comic strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, that were beloved by fans and yet were also comparatively short-lived. Today, devoted fans are treating its return as a small miracle.” Indeed. I loved Bloom County in high school, and I still get a chuckle whenever I thumb through the pages of Bloom County Babylon. I can’t wait to see how Breathed skewers our current crazy age.

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift(Nan PalmeroCC BY 2.0)

It’s really no surprise that as virtual reality becomes increasingly advanced and ubiquitous, people would start using VR for porn. But that doesn’t make it any less disturbing. “It’s not difficult to imagine a future where a cohort of the male population — especially those who have trouble connecting with members of their preferred sex — sits at home many nights with the Oculus Rift strapped to their heads, living out their sexual fantasies in VR, having their psychology further shaped and distorted by the persistent absence of connection with real life people.”

It’s interesting to contrast the sad reality described in the above article with J.R.R. Tolkien’s thoughts on marriage: “The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called “self-realization” (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.”

Adobe Flash
Flash needs to go away

First, Facebook’s security chief calls for Adobe to announce the end of Flash, and now, Firefox has begun blocking all versions of Flash due to security concerns. “The fallout of the Hacking Team leak is hitting Adobe hard. The leak revealed two unpatched vulnerabilities in the company’s ubiquitous (and ubiquitously disliked) Flash Player. Because it took Adobe a while to patch these, Mozilla decided to block all versions of Flash for Firefox users.” Flash’s moment is over. Time to put it out of our misery. is a cool project that reveals which Earth songs our future alien overlords have been listening to for the last century or so. “Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there — and the older the music you’ll hear.”

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