We’re back with another movie review from Audre Myers, who is tossing in reviews of her favorite flicks whenever the mood strikes (or whenever I e-mail her asking her to contribute something).
She offers up her review of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, about three black women “computers” working for NASA. It was a darling of the critics for its frank depiction of segregation.
Unfortunately, some its iconic scenes—like the lady having to walk half-a-mile to use a segregated bathroom—are Hollywood hogwash. The segregated facilities were abolished in 1958—three years before the films setting—and while there were segregated restrooms in one part of NASA’s facilities prior to that year, they were unlabeled. Katherine Johnson, one of the titular “hidden figures,” unwittingly used the whites only bathroom for years, and ignored the one complaint that was ever issued without any further escalation.
These inaccuracies—perhaps dramatic artistic license?—don’t mean segregation wasn’t real—it certainly was—but it seems that NASA was not exactly the hotbed of segregationist sentiment that the film depicts. That makes sense—an organization reaching for the stars probably isn’t all that concerned about such earthbound issues as skin pigmentation. Besides, there are plenty of alien species we can discriminate against in the distant future.
I’m a big sucker—pun most certainly intended—for vampire movies. I’ve always enjoyed the vampire mythos, and find them to be terrifyingly fascinating villains (or anti-heroes). The concept of immortality in a fallen, ever-changing world is itself a haunting prospect, one filled both with opportunity and, ultimately, hopelessness.
I also love science-fiction movies, notably those that take place in space. The sense of boundless adventure and the thrill of exploration combine with high-tech gobbledygook to make for some fun stories. Sci-fi, like horror, also has the ability to be among the best social commentary put to paper.
With 1985’s Lifeforce, those two genres are combined in a pleasing, memorable way. Indeed, the film is based on a novel called The Space Vampires, which gives the game away on the front cover. The vampires of the film and the novel are energy vampires, sucking the lifeforce from their victims, luring them in by shapeshifting into the guise of what the human victim most desires in a mate. In doing so, they turn their victims in ravenous husks who must feed on the energy of others to survive. If they don’t, they explode into a puff of dust and ash.
It’s been a musical week here at The Portly Politico, so I figured, “why stop now?”
I’ve dedicated more and more space on the blog to musical and cultural matters, especially in the last year. Among the posts I most enjoy writing—and of which I am most proud—are those I write about music.
This week’s TBT feature, “Music Among the Stars,” is one I really enjoy, and I think (humbly) it’s one of my better posts. It’s about the golden records aboard the Voyager I space probe, and about the true purpose of music—to worship God.
What happens when a luxury transport ship on a routine voyage to Mars is thrown off course, set adrift on an endless voyage across the cosmos? That’s the premise behind 2018’s Aniara, based on the 1956 Swedish epic poem of the same name.
The answer, ultimately, is quite bleak. Aniara fits fully into the nihilistic ennui that Scandinavians—materially prosperous but spiritually adrift—relish so stoically. Seriously, the Swedes seemed obsessed with existential crises and a sense of meaningless in life. At its best, that gives us the likes of Danish Christian existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard; at its worst, it creates the kind of mindless pleasure-seeking the passengers of the film’s title ship indulge in here.
For all the film’s depressing messaging about the futility of life (to be fair, being trapped on an endless voyage in space, eating only algae to survive, would be a fairly depressing and psychologically destructive experience), it’s a fascinating look into how a society might develop, survive, and perish in the depths of outer space.
Today is the 99th edition of Lazy Sunday; it is also my birthday. I’m getting to that age where my birthday is still enjoyable, but also serves as a reminder that I’m on the wrong side of my thirties, slipping towards forty ever-faster.
It’s also that point in my life that I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality. Youthfulness compensated for poor dietary choices and succulent overeating in fifteen years ago; now, I’m feeling more and more the ravages of delicious indiscretions. I also find I don’t sleep as well (usually) as I once did, and I will ache in places that never bothered me before.
That said, I’m still fairly spry, and while my on-stage antics might not be nearly as acrobatic as they were in my twenties, I still manage to huff and puff my way around a stage—and onto coffee tables, if need be. Anything to entertain the crowd.
With that, I thought I’d celebrate Lazy Sunday and my birthday with some of my personal favorite posts:
“On Ghost Stories” (and “TBT: On Ghost Stories“) – Not surprisingly, I also love ghost stories. Indeed, the expiring Christmas season was, for the Victorians, a prime time for ghostly tales. The ancient bonds of memory and tradition that flow through Christmas make it the perfect time to contemplate our heritage—and the ghosts that haunt it.
“SubscribeStar Saturday: The Lost Art of Letter Writing” and “Update on Letter Writing” – I’ve discovered a new hobby, letter writing, and I’m hoping to do some small part to revive the practice. To date I’ve written around twenty-five or -six letters over the past three weeks—including one to a dog!—and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m planning on writing many more in 2021, and hope you, too, will join in on the fun and write letters to your friends and loved ones (or request one from me!).
We’re trucking one with more question-based posts in this third installment of Questions. This trio of posts is kind of fun (well, except the one about people with the goods on the Clintons ending up conveniently dead). I was trying to do these in chronological order based on their posting date on the WordPress site, but apparently the Space Force piece slipped through the cracks.
Here it is—with two other questioning posts—for your enjoyment:
“Why the Hate for Space Force?” (and “TBT: “Why the Hate for Space Force?“) – When President Trump announced the creation of Space Force—an independent branch of the military dedicated to the defense of outer space—I was over the moon (pun intended). It just makes sense—the next strategic frontier will be space. We don’t want the ChiComs pointing death lasers at us from low-earth orbit, right (or, more plausibly, disabling our communications satellites)? So I was surprised to witness the sheer mockery coming from the Left. Never mind their darling, John F. Kennedy, energized the space race in the 1960s.
“Clinton Body Count Rising?” – Everyone knows Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself. That so many people of all political persuasions know Epstein was murdered indicates the incredibly low level of trust in our society today. But it also points to the sinister nature of elites. The Clintons may be yesterday’s news in the Democratic Party, but their tactics have become the norm. Evil is infectious, and slippery.
“Saturn: The Creepiest Planet?” – I’ve written many times before about my love of outer space (see also—the post you’re reading). But I’ve always possessed a strange fondness for Saturn, that most elegant of the gas giants. Jupiter might hold the title for most regal, but Saturn is so stately, like a princess of the night sky. But according to radio signals emitted from the planet, it sounds super creepy—the point of this fun, throwaway post.
That’s it for this week. Keep watching the stars—and watching out for the Clintons. Gulp!
Since the dawn of this blog, space exploration has been a perennial theme. But it’s been awhile since I’ve featured space-based posts for Lazy Sunday. The last one was way back with “Lazy Sunday XII: Space,” which I wrote in May 2019.
With that, and after writing “Music Among the Stars,” it seemed like an intergalactically good time to revisit some more recent posts about the vastness of space:
“Music Among the Stars“- This post is about the golden records aboard Voyager 1, but it’s mostly about singing praises to God, the Creator of the Universe. It’s apparently a much-beloved post, so check it out!
That’s it for another Lazy Sunday. Here’s hoping yours is out of this world!
Back in 1977, NASA launched Voyager I, which is some 14 million miles from Earth. The super nerds behind the mission stowed two golden records on board. Those golden records included various selections to represent life on Earth, from “Johnny B. Goode” to nature sounds to classical music.
The former explores the possible deep origins of humanity’s music-making abilities. It posits several theories developed from evolutionary biology. As a Christian, I find these explanations ultimately wanting, though they each make interesting points (the second proposed theory, for example, suggests “that music arose because it was a social glue that helped our ancestors bond with one another and with a group”). Music serves many purposes, even if those purposes are not strictly utilitarian (and even then music can serve that function, such as coordinating workers’ movements via work songs).
Chiefly, though, music is intended to praise God. Like the other arts, music is God’s grant of a small sliver of His Creative potential to His Creation—Tolkien’s “sub-creation” of Middle Earth serving as a prime literary example. The highest form of musical expression, then, lifts up songs of praise to God.
We’re continuing our dive into the B-sides and deep cuts of the TPP oeuvre. For this Lazy Sunday, I decided to check out September 2019.
Whoa! What a gold mine of hidden gems and nuggets, forgotten in the tide of events. I didn’t realize how many good posts I generate during that first full month of the 2019-2020 school year. There’s enough for a couple of weeks, but here are three forgotten posts to tide you over until next Sunday:
“Remembering 1519” – With The New York Times‘s 1619 Project all the rage—a retelling of American history in which racism and slavery are the only pertinent factors in our grand national story—this post examined a piece from The Federalist about Hernan Cortez’s conquest of the Aztecs in 1519. Rather than framing it as evil Europeans callously destroying the peaceful natives (any fifth grader can tell you the Aztecs were anything but peaceful), he flips the script to something closer to the Truth: the Catholic Christian Spaniards toppled a wicked regime built on human sacrifice and false gods. The Spanish weren’t angels, but they destroyed a great evil.
“Saturn: The Creepiest Planet?” – Quora inspired this post, and the site has now become a favorite of mine for people smarmily answering astronomy questions. The Solar System has always fascinated me, and Saturn in particular is alluring—so mysterious and regal, with its massive rings. I’ve even written a song, “The Rings of Saturn,” which I will hopefully record one day. The Quora post in question asked “What is the creepiest planet in our solar system?”; the answer, per a recording of Saturn’s electromagnetic waves, is Saturn. The embedded video to that recording is now, sadly, dead, but I’m sure some intrepid searching could turn it up.
“A Tale of Two Cyclists” – One of my more frivolous and cantankerous posts, this short screed denounces “spandex-festooned cyclists riding in the middle of a busy lane during rush hour.” Yet my sympathies are entirely with the second cyclist, “a black man of indeterminate age…. wearing street clothes, and riding what appeared to be a fairly rundown bike.” I have no problem with folks who use a bike as their primary means of transportation, lacking any other options. But these large groups of “cyclists” who ostentatiously hog entire lanes at 5 PM drive me batty.
That’s it for this Sunday! We’ll continue our exploration for at least another week, as there are some more goodies from September 2019 to explore.