Reading: Death Parade, Zhang Yimou, mewithoutYou, DJ Shadow, Donald Trump, Hideo Kojima & more

Also: Bernie Sanders, the coddling of the American mind, Kendrick Lamar’s spirituality, Kim Davis, Doctor Who, and Superman’s new relevance.
Death Parade, Yuzuru Tachikawa
Death Parade

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about anime and since I’ve written for Christ and Pop Culture. So I killed two birds with one stone with my review of Death Parade. “Death Parade’s vision of the afterlife has next to nothing in common with orthodox Christianity’s… And yet, in spite of its decidedly non-Christian eschatology, Death Parade’s exploration of sin’s consequences and its treatment of justice and mercy are worth considering and even appreciating from a Christian standpoint.”

Ever wonder if you might be living in a Haruki Murakami novel? Here are some handy steps for determining whether that’s true or not. “You love cooking spaghetti to perfection, in al dente form, but you’re not a gourmet. You can make do with a simple sandwich and a can of beer. Wasting time on deciding what to eat isn’t your thing — you’d rather sit on a bench and mull over what is and what used to be.”

House of Flying Daggers - Zhang Yimou
Zhang Ziyi in ‘House of Flying Daggers’

Christopher Smail considers The Exuberant Cinematography of Zhang Yimou: “There is a striking scene in House of Flying Daggers that sees Zhang Ziyi’s blind dancer pursued by soldiers in a tranquil bamboo forest. This violent scene, which ends in a shower of arrows, is in stark contrast to the meditative natural setting in which it takes place. This is a recurring theme in Yimou’s output, the violent squabbles of humans are set against the eternal beauty of China’s landscapes.”

Roberto De La Noval breaks down mewithoutYou’s use of “apophatic” theology to discuss what God is… and isn’t. “In the end, apophatic theology only makes sense within a religious tradition: it is the negative side of what we say about God, a purgative for the positive affirmations of what religious believers trust to be true. [mewithoutYou]’s music pushes listeners to examine again and again what they say and what they believe, not so that they might dispense with faith, but that they might not let their theological language and beliefs solidify into the idols humans relentlessly construct in the place of the true God.”

DJ Shadow
DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing is rightly considered a classic of hip-hop and turntable music, but for Mark Jenkins, Endtroducing was life-changing. “It was Shadow’s ability to create something new from something old that stuck with me. It was inspiring to hear something that had been crafted from a deep and special knowledge that he had.” To show his appreciation for Shadow’s skills, Jenkins has compiled a breakdown of the numerous samples used throughout the album.

Given the breadth of their services, I knew Google’s codebase had to be massive, but I didn’t know it would be “2 billion lines of code” massive. Then there’s this little factoid: “[Google’s codebase] spans about 85 terabytes of data (aka 85,000 gigabytes), and Google’s 25,000 engineers make about 45,000 commits (changes) to the repository each day. That’s some serious activity. While the Linux open source operating spans 15 million lines of code across 40,000 software files, Google engineers modify 15 million lines of code across 250,000 files each week.”

Donald Trump
The Donald(Gage SkidmoreCC BY-SA 3.0)

I try to avoid discussing politics on Opus, but when Russell Moore drops a bomb about evangelical Christians supporting Donald Trump, I can’t help but share (emphasis mine). “Donald J. Trump stands astride the polls in the Republican presidential race, beating all comers in virtually every demographic of the primary electorate. Most illogical is his support from evangelicals and other social conservatives. To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe.”

And since we’re on the topic of politics, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders recently visited Liberty University. Which, in this day and age of “safe spaces” and “microaggressions,” was pretty cool, and a sign of what cultural discourse could be like. “Many, if not most, of its students, after all, deeply and viscerally believe that abortion is murder. And here was a speaker who didn’t agree with them on that — he was, from their point of view, in favor of mass murder. And yet they let him talk respectfully, they asked him questions, and it seemed like everyone was able to have a civil conversation (albeit a mandatory civil conversation).”

Watch what you say…

Speaking of “safe spaces,” “microaggressions,” etc., The Atlantic has published an essay on “the coddling of the American mind” and its effects on college students. “A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.” Some of the examples in the essay are just mind-boggling, and rather chilling.

Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima lists his favorite films, along with comments. “Excepting those occasional forays filmmakers might make into the realm, no video-game director has as much of a cinematic influence as Hideo Kojima, creator of the brilliant, maddening Metal Gear Solid series.”

Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar(Jørund Føreland PedersenCC BY-SA 3.0)

My Christ and Pop Culture colleague Alan Noble explores the spirituality in Kendrick Lamar’s music. “He draws upon our expectations, our desires, our unspoken stereotypes and ideologies, and he reveals them to us, naked and raw, intimate and experiential, confessional and polemic. The resulting music is a spiritual exhortation to love our neighbors, to give sacrificially to those in need, to understand the history of oppression in our country and its myriad present manifestations, and to drink of the Living Water. No one is safe from this exhortation, not even Kendrick.”

The recent Kim Davis case raised all sorts of questions about religion, politics, and discrimination. Needless to say, a lot of vitriol was spilled on all sides of the cultural divide, which is why I appreciated Eugene Volokh’s thorough, measured breakdown of religious rights in the workplace so much. “Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, both public and private employers have a duty to exempt religious employees from generally applicable work rules, so long as this won’t create an undue hardship,’ meaning more than a modest cost, on the employer. If the employees can be accommodated in a way that would let the job still get done without much burden on the employer, coworkers, and customers… then the employer must accommodate them.”

The 12th Doctor
The 12th Doctor

If you’ve got some time to kill, then why not start making your way through io9’s “best to worst” ranking of Doctor Who stories. And yes, it’s pretty thorough, though within reason: “For stories that were erased due to the BBC’s idiotic policy of wiping its old TV shows, we listened to audio recordings, and in some cases watched telesnap’ reconstructions that use existing off-screen photographs. Sorry, no novels or Big Finish stories included here, because that would be an insane list!”

Blaine Grimes considers what the latest version of Superman has to say about living in an age of surveillance. “[I]t posits that the greatest threat to the strongest man on earth — the Man of Steel himself — is not a little green rock or a giant primordial villain, but a new era of cyber surveillance that threatens to reveal his secret identity to the world, endangering himself and his closest friends. The Superman comic book line is, once again, as relevant as ever precisely because it reflects and reveals our fear of being watched in this age of cyber espionage.”

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