Weekend Reads: Jurassic World, Cowboy Bebop, Youth Group Hijinks, Crappy Government Websites & more

Also: Babylon 5, Fight Club, the dark side of missions trips, domestic nuclear attacks, (mis)understanding the Bible, and the impact of world traveling.
Jurassic World - J.A. Bayona

Sure, the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies are awesome because dinosaurs, but K. B. Hoyle finds something else in them. “[W]hen I watch the Jurassic movies, I find in them not just an opportunity to feel awe and wonder, but a renewal of hope in God’s nature. In the natural world, God reveals and displays his glory, and it often shakes people out of a lethargy, out of hopelessness, and out of a desensitization.”

Movies like Jurassic World encourage us to cheer for the villains’ demise, but is this a good thing? “How did we get to the point where we are shedding tears over the potential deaths of dinosaurs while cheering the grisly demise of human villains? Aristotle famously claimed in the Poetics that tragedy’s engendering of fear and loathing led to catharsis,’ generally thought to be a purgation of those negative emotions in and through art before they infect the real world.’ But does the violence of contemporary films lead to the purgation of negative emotions or the exacerbation of them?”

Cowboy Bebop
See you Space Cowboy

Cowboy Bebop turned 20 this year, and some consider it the greatest anime series of all time. “Cowboy Bebop is the perfect example of going back to revisit something that you were obsessed with as a kid, except instead of the sad ending where you realize that it sucked, you get to have the best possible experience, which is realizing that it was always just as good as you remembered, if not even better.”

Babylon 5 is a classic sci-fi TV series, but why does it look so bad? “Now that the series has made its way to Amazon Prime, it is ripe for a whole new generation of fans to discover it. Except that, if they do, they may find that the picture quality is highly variable, and some sequences are quite hard to watch. Now, it’s fair to say that the show is so good that it’s worth persisting with nevertheless. But how it ended up in this state is a tale of folks trying to plan for its future, only to be defeated by executive neglect”

Fight Club - David Fincher
The first rule of Fight Club…

A sound designer explains how he made the memorable fight sounds in Fight Club. “It was painfully realistic, fearsome and impossible to shake — even nearly 20 years since the film was first released. To hear how he attacked our ears with such ferocity, we asked Klyce to break down the sound production of three of the movie’s most famous fights.” Related: My review of Fight Club.

Don’t say that “only men” could possibly like a movie. “One of the most exhausting aspects of our current cultural moment are the ugh, only straight white men like this’ takes that completely erase the voices of female critics, critics of color and fans who don’t fit neatly into binaries of who should’ like/dislike something. It’s part of a larger and much more pernicious problem — mistaking pop-culture consumption for moral worth as opposed to, you know, how we carry ourselves every day.”

The youths be crazy (Zachary NelsonPublic Domain)

Church youth groups are renowned for their crazy activities. But should youth groups resemble frat houses? “If the church wants to be a safe haven for the weary, comfort and help must govern our youth ministries. Youth events should be a place where students can have fun and feel comforted in the truth that everyone has insecurities and humiliations, but Christ offers comfort that we cannot find anywhere else in the world.” I have primarily fond memories of my church youth group. But in hindsight, we did do some pretty outrageous stuff, like playing football with frozen turkeys.

Short term missions trips may have their hearts in the right place, but they may also do more harm than good. “So I first went on a mission trip when I was 17 and I think that I wanted something meaningful in my life — which is the reason for most people going on mission trips. Of course, it’s a bit selfish. And I came to Uganda for two weeks which did absolutely nothing except make me feel important. Then I got addicted and continued coming back and back and back until I moved here.”

Mushroom Cloud
 (United States Department of EnergyPublic Domain)

Here’s what would happen if a nuclear attack happened in New York. “A terrorist-built nuclear bomb detonated in Times Square would injure 300,000 people and kill 250,000 — 20 times more deaths than in any natural disaster or act of terrorism in America’s history. More than 500,000 would eventually be killed or injured by the radioactive fallout. But this is just the toll from a bomb that is puny compared to modern nuclear missiles. A larger nuke — a 300-kiloton warhead, say, of the type possessed by Russia and China — would kill at least 1.2 million and injure another 2 million.”

Why do government websites (like Healthcare.gov) suck so much? “One of the biggest reasons that these failures keep occurring could be because many public servants simply don’t understand technology and how it should be built for the government. If a public servant or governmental department hires a company to build a website, do government employees understand enough about how a digital product should look, feel, and function to adequately understand when a contractor is messing up or delivering a bad product?”

The Good Book (Leon BrooksPublic Domain)

It’s easy to misuse the Bible because don’t we don’t have a good idea of how the whole Bible fits together. “We study and memorize the Bible in bite-sized chunks, just long enough to fit on a day calendar or scribble on a bathroom mirror. Chapters and verses are useful things for finding your place, but they can give the impression that each sentence of the Bible was spoken in a vacuum, with no pertinent information around it. Using Romans 13 to defend obeying the government, as Jeff Sessions did, is a bit like using Moby Dick to defend mid-1800s whaling practices.”

Thinking of doing some world traveling soon? Well, argues Allison Jane Smith, maybe you should just stay home. “As travel has become easier and cheaper, tourism has skyrocketed. In 1996, tourists took 560 million trips abroad; by 2016 that had more than doubled to 1.2 billion. Around the world, tourism drives environmental degradation, sky-high living costs, and even forced evictions.” As an introverted homebody, I’m already doing my part. How about you?