Weekend Reads: Shang-Chi, "The Suicide Squad," Pluto, Biblical Poop Jokes, Afghanistan

Recommended weekend reading material for August 28, 2021.

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

I’m geeking out a bit over the upcoming subscriber playlist. It’s one of the more unique and eclectic ones I’ve put together. Monthly playlists are a perk for paying subscribers, so if you’re not one, consider upgrading for $5/month or $50/year. Now, on to the links…

Marvel’s original logo for the Ten Rings terrorist organization featured Mongolian script, which the Mongolian government considered offensive. Now that the logo has been changed to use Chinese characters for the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, however, that sentiment has changed.

Last year China began a crackdown on the teaching of Mongolian script in Inner Mongolia — a move that has endangered the existence of the script and sparked widespread protest. “My complaint was the kind that a happy child makes about just having bread but not cake on the table,” Tsedevdamba says. “When even the bread disappears, everything looks good, even a terrorist logo. I wish Marvel had stood firm on its use of Mongolian script. I want the world to use it — any movie, in any way.”

Incorporating aspects of non-Western cultures into Hollywood movies is a fraught process (see: cultural appropriation). This is certainly an interesting development.

Related: More details on China’s crackdown on Mongolian culture.


K. B. Hoyle takes issue with The Suicide Squad’s dehumanizing spectacle.

Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 is one of my favorite entries into the MCU, and I held out hope that there would be some redemptive quality in this one to explain the rave reviews I had been seeing in my social media feeds. By the end, my hope had not played out, and I was disappointed — not just in a couple hours wasted, but by the fact that The Suicide Squad is a genuinely bad movie. Why is it bad? Because it plays on war and death for laughs in irreverent, dehumanizing ways.


You could make a convincing case that the Mission: Impossible movies have passed the James Bond movies as our best modern action movie franchise, especially when they’re always working on bigger and bolder stunts.

During Paramount’s presentation at CinemaCon 2021, exhibitors were treated to a 10-minute video detailing Cruise’s latest stunt. This one will see him drive a motorcycle off an actual cliff, jump off the motorcycle in mid-air, freefall a few seconds, and then parachute to the bottom of a huge gorge. And, of course, it’s actually Tom Cruise doing this. Not a stunt person. So he had to practice and train a lot to be able to pull if off.


If you haven’t seen the drum battles between 11-year-old Nandi Bushell and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, then you’re missing out on a really delightful story (and some really fun videos). Their ongoing saga entered a new stage, though, when Bushell recently joined Foo Fighters on stage to perform “Everlong”and she absolutely killed it.

The entire video’s awesome, but my favorite moment is the brief interlude during which Bushell starts twirling her drumsticks with abandon while Grohl doubles over in laughter. It’s so pure and joyous and rock n’ roll, and I love it.

Via Consequence.


Back in 2006, Pluto was stripped of its “planet” status and instead, got demoted to “dwarf planet.” But the debate over Pluto’s planetary status is far from settled.

The New Horizons mission showed that Pluto has fascinating and active geology to rival that of any rocky world in the inner solar system. And that solidified planetary scientist Philip Metzger’s view that the IAU definition missed the mark.

“There was an immediate reaction against the dumb definition” when it was proposed, says Metzger, of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Since then, he and colleagues have been refining their views: “Why do we have this intuition that says that it’s dumb?”

Via 1440.


Luke T. Harrington presents a compelling case for why you should read the Bible: it has the best poop jokes.

Everyone, in my experience, seems to have a very strong opinion about the Bible — what it is, what it means, what we should all think about it — but eighty percent of people admit to never having read it. That’s unfortunate, since the Bible is — to borrow a metaphor from the now–Deeply Problematic™️ David Foster Wallace — the water we’re all swimming in. And if right now you’re thinking, “Ugh, fine, I guess I should read the Bible or whatever, but it’s soooooo borrrrrring,” I’ve got good news for you: The Bible, like Shakespeare, isn’t just a bunch of flowery language; like Shakespeare, it’s full of bizarre violence, depraved sex, and so, so, many poop jokes.


American shoppers have been terrible for a very long time, and that’s forcing a false — and very harmful — distinction between customers and those in customer service.

Even before the pandemic pushed things to further extremes, the primacy of consumer identity made customer-service interactions particularly conflagratory. Being corrected by a salesperson, forgotten by a bartender, or brushed off by a flight attendant isn’t just an annoyance — for many people, it is an existential threat to their self-understanding. “How many kinds of status do most of us actually have?” Strasser, the historian, asked me. “The notion that at the restaurant, you’re better than the waiters, it becomes part of the restaurant experience,” and also part of how some patrons understand their place in the world.


In this powerful essay, Onsi A. Kamel addresses what the American political right gets wrong about Afghan refugees.

[N]either of the concerns voiced by the nationalist right is relevant here, first because the refugee crisis in Afghanistan has been precipitated by the very foreign policy for which the right routinely advocated under President Trump — “getting out” of our regime-change wars — and second because the fears about the number and character of refugees dramatically misunderstands the significance of the proposed resettlement and the political values of recent immigrants.

The “outrage” over America welcoming Afghan refugees — which is obviously intended to work various right-wing pundits’ audiences into a frenzy — is yet another reason why I have a steadily decreasing desire to identify myself with any political figure or movement that claims to be “conservative.”


From the Blog

If you’re a fan of martial arts comedies, or just comedies in general, then I highly recommend adding Tran Quoc Bao’s The Paper Tigers to your Netflix queue.

[A]s a story of middle-age, friendship, brotherhood, and the debts that one owes the past — albeit with kung fu assassins thrown in for good measure — The Paper Tigers is a true indie gem that deserves every single accolade it receives.

Click here to read my full review.


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