A digest of interesting, entertaining, and otherwise worthwhile reads collected from around the web-o-sphere.
1 — The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo considers how Chungking Express plays with our perceptions of time.
The coffee-drinking shot does something similar, but sort of in reverse. How it was technically achieved, I don’t know, and I had no luck digging up any information online. Somehow, Wong and Doyle depict Faye and Cop 663 in slow motion, while simultaneously having pedestrians whiz past them in the foreground at exaggerated time-lapse speed. It’s an extraordinary effect, repeated just once later in the film (when 663 is putting quarters in a jukebox), and it creates the vivid sensation of a moment elongated into eternity. The shot feels both longer and shorter than 22 seconds — objectively shorter, and subjectively longer. When I estimated it for a review on my personal website, immediately after its release (so there was no way to time it), I guessed 10 to 15 seconds; if I had to guess how long it seems to the characters, I’d plump for half an hour, at least. It’s the temporal equivalent of that visual illusion (made famous by Vertigo) in which the camera simultaneously zooms out and dollies in (or vice versa) in perfect sync, making it appear as if the subject is motionless, while the background is inexplicably growing or shrinking. The world has both sped up and slowed down, and each reinforces the other, making the contrast even more extreme.
The article is also enjoyable for the sudden revelation that D’Angelo has right in the middle of writing it. And for what it’s worth, here’s my review of Chungking Express, which is one of my favorite movies.
2 — Ian Bogost argues that the “evil” in Google’s famous “Don’t Be Evil” slogan is not the same kind of “evil” that you’re probably thinking of when you hear the word.
This is what makes the whole matter seem so insidious: It’s not that Google has announced its intention not to be vicious and failed to meet the bar. Nor is Google, Arendt-style, just manning its station, doing what’s expected. No, through its motto Google has effectively redefined evil as a matter of unserviceability in general, and unserviceability among corporatized information services in particular. As for virtue, it’s a non-issue: Google’s acts are by their very nature righteous, a consequence of Google having done them. The company doesn’t need to exercise any moral judgement other than whatever it will have done. The biggest risk — the greatest evil — lies in failing to engineer an effective implementation of its own vision. Don’t be evil is the Silicon Valley version of Be true to yourself. It is both tautology and narcissism.
3 — Earlier this month, I wrote about Neil Halstead reuniting with Rachel Goswell for a couple of shows. More recently, Halstead has opened up a bit more regarding the possibility of a Slowdive reunion.
“We’re still all friends who talk, and there have been some offers we’ve discussed,” Halstead confirms. “Everyone is up for doing it. It’s just a case of whether we would. The question is what is the point? Why would we do it? Because it’s kind of an exercise of nostalgia?
“But it would be nice to play together again. That part of it is really cool: getting up with those guys again. We were at school together, so it’s not just about music for us, it’s also about friendship as well. I guess it’s always in the cards. No one has said they wouldn’t do it."
4 — As a Christian, I have a pretty boring testimony. I never did drugs, was never a hardened criminal, nor did I come from a broken background. Rather, I was born in a Christian family, went to church regularly, was a good kid who stayed out of trouble. So I appreciate J. F. Arnold’s defense of “boring” testimonies.
Every Christian has a redemption story. Whether you are saved from cocaine addiction or a prideful heart, from deep in a prison cell or the comfort of your suburban home, your story is filled with grace. If we can't see the beauty of a redemption story, the problem isn't with the story: the problem is with us.
5 — GQ has published the “Confessions of a Drone Warrior”, a profile of one man’s experience as a military drone pilot. The article bypasses much of the political controversy surrounding the United States’ use of drones, and instead, focuses on their effects on those who pilot them.
In the early months Bryant had found himself swept up by the Big Game excitement when someone in his squadron made “mind-blowingly awesome shots, situations where these guys were bad guys and needed to be taken out.” But a deep ambivalence about his work crept in. Often he’d think about what life must be like in those towns and villages his Predators glided over, like buzzards riding updrafts. How would he feel, living beneath the shadow of robotic surveillance? “Horrible,” he says now. But at first, he believed that the mission was vital, that drones were capable of limiting the suffering of war, of saving lives. When this notion conflicted with the things he witnessed in high resolution from two miles above, he tried to put it out of his mind. Over time he found that the job made him numb: a “zombie mode” he slipped into as easily as his flight suit.
6 — Zack Hunt asks Christians to drop the whole “Jesus vs. religion” meme (which, unfortunately, is apparently still a thing).
Jesus was a Jew who taught (mostly Jewish) people how to better understand and practice their Jewish faith. That’s what all that “You have heard it said…but I say…” talk was about. Which means Jesus literally spent his entire life learning, teaching, and practicing religion.
7 — Scared of an impending zombie apocalypse? Don’t be, according to naturalist David Mizejewski; nature will do a great job of destroying the zombie hordes. For example, moose would be very effective in subduing the undead:
Moose attack and kill more people than bears do every year. They consider humans a threat, but as the largest living deer species, they are not afraid of human-sized creatures. If a zombie got too close, a moose would stomp it into an immobile pile of gore without a second's hesitation.
Other animals that could prove to be the bane of zombies’ non-existence include magpies, bears, jaguars, bison, alligators, and alligator snapping turtles.
8 — Scratch Magazine’s Jane Friedman recently gathered together editors from The Toast, Slate, and The Atlantic for a roundtable to discuss the challenges facing online publishing today, including how to acquire and keep writers and pay them well for their writing. As a writer and editor myself, both here and at Christ and Pop Culture, this is a topic that I’m definitely interested in. It’s no secret that online publishing has undergone massive shifts in recent years. The old ad-supported newspaper model is slowly but surely dying and nobody knows what will (or can) replace it.
9 — There’s a new movie coming out soon titled God’s Not Dead, in which a young Christian student must defend his faith against his atheist college professor. My Christ and Pop Culture colleague Alan Noble explains how God’s Not Dead perpetuates a tired and disrespectful trope.
Stories like this can also give believers a false sense of security and superiority. We feel like atheism is obviously stupid and evolution is a fairy-tale for unthinking adults. We become sure in ourselves and our abilities to refute the unbeliever and in the unbeliever’s stupidity. We come to think that we have specific knowledge of the atheist’s perspective and can expose it easily. But what happens when a evangelical meets an atheist with really good questions? False confidence in a straw-man vision of atheism does nothing to build up the faith. If we are honest and humble, we ought to recognize that there are many difficult, troubling, and complex aspects of our faith. This honest recognition may mean the difference between a faith that weathers the storms of life and one which sinks under sudden and unexpected doubts.
10 — Physicis Steven Weinberg explains what we do know and don’t know in physics.
From these measurements, and also from studies of the effect of the expansion of the universe on the cosmic radiation background, it has been found that the dark energy now makes up about three quarters of the total energy of the universe. We have also learned that the universe has been expanding for 13.8 billion years since the time it became transparent. So now we have a standard cosmological model: our expanding universe is mostly dark energy and dark matter. In this darkness there is a small admixture, a few percent of the whole, which consists of the ordinary matter that makes up the stars and planets and us.
I love articles like these because they reveal that, despite our greatest intellectual achievements — and they are great, indeed — creation remains so much stranger and more wonderful than we could ever imagine.