Weekend Reads: Rethinking Captain Picard, Graphic Novels for Kids, Alex Jones, Religious Illiteracy, and more
With the return of Captain Picard, maybe Star Trek should do to him what The Last Jedi did to Luke Skywalker. “There could be nothing more affirming of Trek’s long-held ideals than seeing their greatest champion stray from the path, be horrified by that, and inevitably return to it. And wouldn’t that be a much more interesting journey to experience than Captain Picard doing the same old thing he was doing decades ago, with nothing changing but the impossibly rare wrinkle on Patrick Stewart’s astonishingly timeless visage?” I’m not a fan of making a storyline gritty or deconstructing a beloved character simply to do so, but I’m all for an interesting character journey that doesn’t feel beholden to the status quo.
The Ringer has compiled the 100 best TV episodes of the century. “With the understanding that television is going through yet another revolution, and that the boundaries and definitions of the medium could change yet again, it feels like the right time to look back at the past 18 years and determine the 100 best episodes of TV since 2000 — the ones that stunned and entertained more than any others, and in turn made television what it is today.” Via 1440.
Cameron McAllister reviews Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. “If Nanette is supposed to take us beyond comedy, it fails brilliantly: Part of Gadsby’s subversive power consists in the fact she still manages to be hilarious even as she refuses to let us rest in the abridgments necessary to her former punchlines.”
And here’s another review by McAllister, this time of Beach House’s 7. “You really need headphones, solitude, and space (an empty porch, say) for a band as evocative as Beach House. Even their name is synonymous with escape. It’s not just that the Baltimore duo’s music displays a deep interiority; it’s that their songs seem to be made of the same stuff as memories — tantalizing echoes of some cherished time swallowed by the years. The songs feel recovered, rather than written, as though band members Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are sonic excavators sharing their findings with us.”
ScreenAnarchy’s Ard Vijn asks about films that you’d like to show your children. “I have two sons, one who is fourteen years old and one who has just turned ten. Watching films with the younger son is a lot of fun, but the older one is getting more and more curious about good adult fare. No, not porn (the internet has spoiled that completely); I’m talking about films that provide thoughts rather than thrills.” Our kids recently watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and we’re working our way through the Marvel films, so I can check those off my list.
And speaking of kids and pop culture, here are 8 graphic novels to get your kids hooked on comics. “Comics for kids are an awesome gateway — you want to get your children closer to chapter books, and they provide lots of visual stimulation along with some basic reading comprehension. And a lot of comic book stores or bookstores even have a special kids’ section full of combined volumes for earlier readers. How do you choose out of a multitude of options in that section, though?”
Tim Carmody on the impending return of The Fantastic Four: “[B]ringing back the Fantastic Four gives both the Marvel Comics Universe (which, some exceptions aside, has not been at its best for a while) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is rapidly running out of characters and stories to turn to) someplace new to go. It’s just a bit of historical irony that the future turns out to be where it all got started in the first place.”
Here’s something to keep you awake at night: what if there were civilizations on Earth long before humans? “We’re used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you’re only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated.”
An impending lawsuit involving professional troll Alex Jones may redefine free speech. “While it’s hard to sympathize with a man who spent years haranguing the parents of a murdered first grader, in a time when the modes and impacts of speech are being redesigned and renegotiated with every software update and platform policy, these are pressing questions. Whether Jones wins or loses, his suit, according to First Amendment lawyers, will be a building block for the way we think of free speech in the age of the internet.”
Nikhil Sonnad digs into Facebook’s banal evil. “Underlying all of Facebook’s screw-ups is a bumbling obliviousness to real humans. The company’s singular focus on ‘connecting people’ has allowed it to conquer the world, making possible the creation of a vast network of human relationships, a source of insights and eyeballs that makes advertisers and investors drool. But the imperative to ‘connect people’ lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct.” Via Daring Fireball.
There’s a growing amount of religious illiteracy in our culture, and Christians bear as much blame for it as anybody. “Christians have given secularists the impression that Christianity is whatever one makes of it, so why should those secularists bother to educate themselves? With 33,000 denominations all claiming to be correct, it’s not much of a stretch for an atheist to claim that his idea of Jesus must be just as valid as that of the 2,000-year-old Roman Catholic Church. As Christianity has lost its grounding, Christian religious identity has been taken less seriously, despite the rise of identity politics.”
Finally, Alan Noble reviews Bible Lens, a new app that combines Bible verses with your photos. “Take a picture or pull one from your camera roll, and the app analyzes the context of the photo and automatically creates an ‘artistic,’ ‘sharable’ image, overlaying a relevant verse onto your picture. While the Bible Lens app purports to interpret moments of your life through the Bible, thus the idea of the ‘Bible lens,’ it would be more accurate to say that the app lets you interpret Scripture through your life.”