Weekend Reads: "The X-Files," U2, COVID Vaccines, "WandaVision"

Recommended weekend reading material for March 13, 2021.

Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.

One of the greatest television partnerships of all time is Mulder and Scully from The X-Files, and Bailey Herdé explores what makes their relationship so enduring — and endearing.

This is something I love about The X-Files: in choosing not to bog the show down in Mulder and Scully’s personal lives, in being honest about their work-aholism, it evens the stakes of what was once Mulder’s very personal quest. It entangles them. It makes them equals. And it makes the little intimacies between them all the more precious: they have each other’s keys, they’ve memorized their partner’s parents’ phone numbers, they know what to buy each other for lunch. The trust between them is unmatched; it’s extraordinary. One in five billion.

Even in their very earliest recordings, U2 made music that was very much their own. Langdon Hickman on U2’s Boy and Three EP:

The primary shape of these songs by and large are the ruminations of youth and life. It is on this bedrock of real human experience that the notions of the loss of [Bono’s] mother as well as thoughts of God and faith get cast like shadows or explicating rays of light, cross-examining the reality of his daily life as a man in all its smallness and firmness with those hazy macroscopic thoughts which nonetheless pierce the flesh of the world of the living. This provides a strong basis for the more romantic and abstract ruminations captured on this record, eschewing the image of U2 as purple-penned and overly-earnest by slicing clean with direct images of the life of youth.

Hickman’s essay is the first in a series of essays by the Treblezine staff that will explore U2’s entire discography.

Cryptocurrency like bitcoin are all the rage among investors and tech giants, but they come with a massive environmental impact.

A paper from 2018 from the Oak Ridge Institute in Ohio found that one dollar’s worth of bitcoin took 17 megajoules of energy, more than double the amount of energy it took to mine one dollar’s worth of copper, gold and platinum. Another study from the UK published last year said that computer power required to mine Bitcoin quadrupled in 2019 compared with the year before, and that mining has had an influence in prices in some power and utility markets.

Darryl Armstrong uses a recent controversy surrounding Martin Scorsese to consider the role that streaming services, algorithms, and intellectual property have played in shaping our culture.

Scorsese’s observations aren’t just about the film industry, although they are specifically grounded in it. They are about our society, its cruel machinations to value profit and productivity and categorization above community and shared storytelling. They are also about us as individuals, who, overwhelmed with choices and content, look for guidance and easily obtained recommendations.

Germain Lussier reflects on George Lucas’ dystopic THX 1138, which turns 50 this year.

[I]t’s a testament to the film that even 50 years later, its images of a society filled with people blindly complacent to all the evil in the world ring as true now as ever before. Even though people watching THX 1138 probably saw it through the eyes of Civil Rights or Vietnam, and today it’s covid-19 and election results, the commentary is no less upsetting.

Related: Here’s a review of THX 1138 that I wrote back in 2003, when I was still apparently smarting from The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

The “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s Justice League finally arrives on HBO Max next week after years of rumors, protests, and petitions. But once you get past all of the fandom stuff, you find a truly heart-breaking story.

For the director’s devotees, it’s a Hollywood ending for a Hollywood story, but for the truly devastating thing that happened to Zack Snyder and his loved ones in 2017, there can be no fix, no do-over. In the throes of the conflict with Warner Bros., the Snyders’ 20-year-old daughter, home from college and in the middle of a long struggle with depression, took her own life.

After two years spent largely focused on their other children and extended family, Zack and Deborah went back to work, a difficult but vital part of the healing process. When they spoke to Vanity Fair for this story, they were completing Army of the Dead — a zombie-filled heist extravaganza that will launch a new, multipronged franchise for Netflix — as well as restoring Zack’s original vision for Justice League. The latter will be a four-hour event for HBO Max that will raise money for suicide prevention programs that could help spare others the grief that shook his family.

I’m not a big Zack Snyder fan — movies like Watchmen and 300 are more style than actual substance — but even so, I’m intrigued by the new Justice League. And whatever happens with the film, I’m glad he got a chance to release what he wanted to make after everything that he and his family experienced.

The upside of books passing into the public domain is that they become freely available to all. The downside? They become the inspiration for some truly terrible cover art.

All of these covers are “real,” that is, attached to books that are at least nominally available for purchase, though many are digital covers for digital editions. You’ll find a number of covers from Wordsworth Classics, premier publisher of badly Photoshopped book covers, but many more from the wilds of digital independent publishing. Some are merely ugly; others make it clear that no one involved in the creation of the cover cracked open the book.

David French addresses the issue of Christians resisting and refusing the COVID vaccines.

America’s Evangelical Christian communities are often full of the most radically generous people you’ll ever meet — just watch my Southern Baptist friends activate when a natural disaster strikes. And they’re hardly the only ones. My father-in-law volunteers for the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, and it’s truly impressive. At the same time, however, in the arena of law and culture, all too many Christians are adopting a posture that declares “Don’t tell me what to do” far more than it asks “How can I serve you?”

On a related note, I’ve been reading up on the ethical debate surrounding the COVID vaccines’ use of fetal tissue, some of which is linked to abortions in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Given the pro-life bent of many American Christians, this seems like one ethical hurdle to taking vaccines in general — but is it really? This Nebraska Med Center article delves into the medical issues while the Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter addresses the ethical and theological issues.

Beth Moore, a popular Baptist teacher, author, and speaker, has left the Southern Baptist Convention in part as a result of her criticism of President Trump.

Moore, who described herself as “pro-life from conception to grave,” said she had no illusions about why evangelicals supported Trump, who promised to deliver anti-abortion judges up and down the judicial system.

Still, she could not comprehend how he became a champion of the faith. “He became the banner, the poster child for the great white hope of evangelicalism, the salvation of the church in America,” she said. “Nothing could have prepared me for that.”

When Moore spoke out about Trump, the pushback was fierce. Book sales plummeted as did ticket sales to her events. Her criticism of Trump was seen as an act of betrayal.

I’m not surprised Moore left. Rather, I’m more surprised that it took her so long. It’s going to the take the American Church, Southern Baptists included, a long time to deal with the wreckage of having so closely aligned their fates with a particular political party and a certain celebrity grifter.

The days when you could share a Netflix account with your friends and family members may soon be coming to an end.

Netflix has been testing a profile verification system for a small number of users that will prompt them to verify their identities using email or text notifications. If you are an upstanding citizen and actually pay for Netflix yourself, then you shouldn’t have much of a problem verifying using your phone or email. But if you’re one of those amoral rapscallions that are trying to put one over on Mr. Netflix, then you may have to figure out how to get that text/email verification to work. God forbid you’ve been using your ex-partner’s login and would have to contact them for verification.

From the Blog

Like many folks, I watched and enjoyed WandaVision, which ended its season last week. However, there was one aspect of the finale, and of WandaVision as a whole, that sat poorly with me, i.e., the lack of resolution concerning Wanda’s treatment of Westview itself (and yes, there are WandaVision spoilers).

WandaVision ends with Wanda living in a cozy, little cabin situated in the middle of a picturesque wilderness, where she can study her newfound Scarlet Witch identity in peace and quiet. But what of the people of Westview, those who were locked in Wanda’s fantasies? As enjoyable as the finale might be, I think there should’ve been one more episode where we see Westview’s citizens get to process their grief and trauma from being enslaved and held hostage in someone else’s nightmare.

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