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Weekend Reads (Aug 6): Nichelle Nichols (RIP), Batgirl, HBO Max, Nebraska Bands, Alex Jones
Recommended reading material for the weekend of August 6, 2022.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Nichelle Nichols, who rose to fame for playing Lt. Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, died earlier this week at the age of 89. At one point, Nichols was going to leave Star Trek to focus on theater, but a fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed her mind.
Dr. King told Nichols that Star Trek was the only show that he and his wife Coretta allowed their little children to stay up and watch. He described to her what the show and her role meant to him, how important it was for people of color to see Uhura, this character with dignity and knowledge. Finally, Nichols interrupted him, stating, “Thank you so much, Dr. King. I’m really going to miss my co-stars.” Dr. King looked at her, the smile vanishing from his face, and he said, “What are you talking about?”
“I told him,” Nichols recalled. “He said, ‘You cannot,’ and so help me, this man practically repeated verbatim what Gene said. He said, ‘Don’t you see what this man is doing, who has written this? This is the future. He has established us as we should be seen. Three hundred years from now we are here. We are marching, and this is the first step. When we see you, we see ourselves, and we see ourselves as intelligent and beautiful and proud.’ He goes on and I’m looking at him and my knees are buckling… And he said, ‘You turn on your television and the news comes on and you see us marching and peaceful, you see the peaceful civil disobedience, and you see the dogs and see the fire hoses, and we all know they cannot destroy us because we are there in the 23rd Century.’”
Nichols was indeed a trailblazer. Uhura was one of the first Black characters on American TV who wasn’t some sort of servant role, and subsequently, Nichols became a role model who inspired many to enter science and engineering (like Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to fly on the Space Shuttle). And of course, Nichols and William Shatner (who played Captain Kirk) shared one of the first interracial kisses on TV.
This is my favorite Uhura scene, from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, in which she puts an over-eager lieutenant in his place with style and panache to spare.
The Spaceshipper — one of my favorite nerd Twitter accounts — has collected numerous tributes to Nichols from George Takei, NASA, Lynda Carter, Adam Nimoy, LeVar Burton, and many more.
Geoffrey Reiter posted some thoughts on Nichelle Nichols’ performance as Uhura: “Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura… was a generous person, a hospitable person, one who extended the hand of fellowship to those around her.”
In a rather unusual move, Warner Brothers has canceled the upcoming Batgirl film. The $90 million film, which was still in the process of being made, won’t appear in theaters or on any streaming platform.
The reason? Seemingly a change in management and a change in creative direction. Originally, Batgirl was intended as an HBO Max-only movie under Jason Kilar, the former CEO of Time Warner Inc. The new WB owners and leadership of Warner Bros Discovery, led by CEO David Zaslav, have a totally different plan and remain committed to the theatrical experience, thus doing away with the old design of movies made just for streaming.
One may criticize Marvel for their glut of superhero movies, but you have to admit that the pipeline they’ve created is impressive in its efficiency and productivity. By comparison, DC just looks like a bunch of bumbling fools, especially when they cancel Batgirl but keep their cart hitched to The Flash, which is becoming overshadowed by Ezra Miller’s disturbing behavior. (I guess when you’ve sunk $200 million into a film, there’s no going back.)
In related news, HBO Max and Discovery+ will merge into a single service in the summer of 2023.
The merged HBO Max-Discovery+ will smash together thousands of hours of programming, a disparate slate spanning scripted, reality and documentary content — and will look a bit like a mini cable TV bundle. WBD took a step Thursday toward unifying HBO Max and Discovery+ on the content side, announcing that Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network programming will be coming to HBO Max this September (while remaining on Discovery+).
Some are concerned that this merger will mean the loss of HBO Max titles in the name of “content efficiencies.” Which is apparently corporate speak for cutting costs and/or getting tax write-offs.
Of course, Marvel is able to maintain that impressive pipeline of theirs due in part to the many visual effects artists that bring its movies to life — but these artists are being driven to the brink.
More VFX folks are speaking out from inside the Marvel machine, and the picture being painted is not pretty. “The visual effects industry is filled with terrific people with lots of goodwill who really care but, at the end of the day, there’s nothing in place when their backs are up against the wall and Disney is making crazy demands,” Emmy Award winner Joe Pavlo, who worked on Guardians of the Galaxy, tells The Guardian.
I feel like I can relate to this somewhat as a web designer. I’ve had many a client request breaking, last minute changes and assume they’ll be easy because they don’t consider the time and effort involved, they don’t understand the technology, they don’t think about the potential ramifications, etc. They just want everything done, and they want it done quickly and cheaply.
Also, I think people don’t really understand just how important visual effects have become to all kinds of films nowadays, not just big budget superhero titles. This is where something like Corridor Crew’s “VFX Artists React” videos have been very instructive.
Props to my home state! Jim Fields writes about five Nebraska cult bands including Digital Sex and For Against.
Now that the Omaha music scene (and the bands that made it famous) has cooled down, people today probably don’t think much about either Omaha or its music scene.
However, my home state has always had a thriving music scene and has always produced interesting music — whether the musicians themselves became nationally famous or not.
A recent court ruling could have massive ramifications for both Visa and the online porn industry.
To be clear, the judge’s decision doesn’t hold Visa liable for profiting off child pornography. Instead it merely rejects Visa’s attempt to dismiss the case. Specifically, the court found that Fleites properly “stated a conspiracy claim” against Visa under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). She also properly stated a TVPRA claim against MindGeek. She now has the opportunity to prove those claims in court.
It’s important at this point to remind readers that child pornography is not constitutionally protected speech. Its creation and dissemination is criminal. If Visa ultimately loses its case, it will not be penalized for facilitating or monetizing legal activity. It will be penalized for knowingly monetizing profoundly illegal, abusive, and exploitive behavior.
Nicholas Kristof — who previously covered the prevalence of child porn on Pornhub back in December 2020 — also weighs in on the case.
Jonah Goldberg weighs in on the Right’s new, Trump-centric definitions of manliness and virtue.
Klingenstein looks at a serial adulterer who bedded a porn star when his third wife was still recovering from childbirth. He gazes upon a father who reportedly didn’t want to give his name to his firstborn son because, after all, “What if he's a loser?” He sees a businessman who was a legend for cheating his partners and contractors and a politician who threw this country into turmoil to protect his ego, and proclaims, “What a man!”
Again, he says the best part of Trump, the stuff that makes him indispensable, isn’t his policies but “the rest of him.” And he declares the rest of him “manly” and “virtuous.”
Alex Jones, who has achieved wealth and notoriety by peddling conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, where twenty children and six adults were murdered, is finally being held accountable for his lies.
It’s unclear still whether Jones will face true, career-altering consequences for his Sandy Hook lies. But whatever the damages rendered, the process has offered us a glimpse at the truth. The best way to understand Alex Jones is to put him inside the legal system, even if he opts to lie under oath. Yesterday, Judge Gamble repeatedly scolded the conspiracist for his petulant behavior, while reminding him of the grave nature of his legal situation. And as soon as court adjourned, the old Jones emerged. Only moments after her remarks, he confronted a Sandy Hook parent across the courtroom aisle. Seconds later, he yelled at the opposing lawyer about feeding the jury fake, doctored videos (they weren’t). It’s grotesque behavior, but, in the legal setting, it’s instructive. Jones has spent his entire life believing the rules don’t apply to him. For decades, he’s managed to build a fantasy world where that’s true. It’s only in a courtroom that the gravity of real-world consequences seems to apply. It’s the only place he can’t hide.
In a truly remarkable twist, the attorney for the people suing Jones revealed that Jones’ own attorneys had sent him several years’ worth of email and text messages from Jones’ phone — apparently proving that Jones had committed perjury.
Thanks to the First Amendment, Alex Jones can, of course, say whatever he likes on his program. But free speech comes with responsibilities and consequences. Jones’ lies and conspiracy theories have caused incredible harm and damage to innocent people, and he continues to lie and peddle stupid conspiracy theories.
I hope Jones eventually comes to a place where he can sincerely repent and make amends. In the meantime, he’s been ordered to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of one Sandy Hook victim. And there are still two more defamation trials to go.
In light of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, privacy advocates are warning about the sheer amount of info that law enforcement can gather about women and their health decisions.
The Dobbs decision has led to a wave of concern over widely used smartphone apps that track menstrual cycles. Depending on the policies of the specific app, data about users could be shared with third parties. The app Stardust promised in June to encrypt user data, though TechCrunch reported the company was sharing users’ phone numbers with an analytics firm. Such data could be combined with other information, including travel records, to create lists of potentially pregnant women traveling out of state for an abortion.
The amount of information that can be easily gathered concerning our travel patterns, personal health, and online activity should always be a cause for alarm — regardless of your stance on abortion.
Finally, June 29 was the Earth’s shortest day (by 1.59 milliseconds) since scientists began tracking our planet’s rotation.
The news is historic but unsurprising. Since the 1960s, astronomers have been using atomic clocks to record Earth’s rotation. In 1987, the International Astronomical Union and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics established the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Services to monitor Earth’s rotation and maintain global time. But in recent years, they have observed a peculiar pattern. Earth’s spin is getting faster. In 2020, our planet had the 28 shortest days on record — on July 19, 2020, midnight came 1.47 milliseconds sooner than expected. The speed of Earth’s spin did not slow down in 2021, though 2021 was fractionally longer than 2020.
The loss of 1.59 milliseconds isn’t a big deal to humans, but it could have negative effects on GPS satellites, computers, and smartphones. Scientists are unsure as to the cause of the shortened day but they have some theories, including seismic activity and pressure changes in the atmosphere and ocean.
From the Blog
The slowcore/post-rock band LN returned after nearly a decade’s absence to release a new album titled Monkeys & Spoons, and it boasts some of the year’s most haunting lyrics and arrangements.
LN albums have always been moody, melancholy affairs, but Monkeys & Spoons is something else entirely. The more I listen to it, the more I’m convinced that it’s the perfect “sitting all alone in your darkened house at 1:00am” album. Such albums always run the risk of navel-gazing and solipsism, of being gloomy simply for the sake of being gloomy. There’s no such risk here.
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