Captain Mary Sue by Kyle Smith
While I try to maintain a certain level of high-brow respectability in my reading, I tend to like big production values and general mayhem in my movies. Thus, I'm a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as I've made known in an article a few months ago, and I was looking forward to the Captain Marvel movie.
Unfortunately, it sounds like they decided that a female superhero (super-heroine?) set in the 90s (which I guess counts as retro-cool now) would be enough to sell the movie. Smith, and other reviewers, have pointed out the boring protagonist and the flat plot-line. From the sound it, Captain Marvel is simply another overpowered female protagonist bulldozing her way to a predictable victory--and considering that we've seen this in Wonder Woman (I wasn't a huge fan like everyone else), the new Star Wars trilogy, the Disney Princess movies, and the Hunger Games, this was something of a let-down.
Already, feminists are defending the movie on the basis of it featuring a powerful and independent (read: boring and unrelatable) female protagonist. It never seems to occur to such people that the movies would be just as bad if they featured an overpowered male superhero with no serious conflict--a big reason the Thor, Superman, and Hulk movies are all pretty bad.
Lord Spoke to Paul--Not the Professor by Anthony Esolen
I mostly like this article because Esolen mentions the "Q theory" in biblical scholarship. For anyone who has a New American Bible (a standard for most Catholic parishes) and looks at the notes at the bottom, they will see a running commentary on which passages come from certain undetermined sources. The assumption is that books of the Bible were not bona fide originals, but badly plagiarized copies of unknown originals. This means that the gospel writers like Luke or John did not actually write their accounts from their own experience or from the personal testimony from St. Peter or the other apostles--no, they simply copied Mark and then pulled some tidbits from document Q, and then cooked up some other stories to fill out the narrative. Warren Carrol demolishes this theory in his History of Christendom by noting that we have recovered many early records of Holy Scripture and have never spotted these hypothetical books from unknown authors.
L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department by Tom O'Donnell
A friend of mine came over yesterday and read this to me. It's not a new piece, but it is quite amusing. It pokes clever fun at libertarianism by imagining a world that is fully privatized and individualized. A detective goes after a robber of Bitcoin and hilarity ensues. I especially appreciate how he shoots at a mailbox on principle while chasing down the thief.
Will Gene Editing Allow for Human Perfectibility? by John Brunghardt
There was some talk about the Chinese scientist who did experiments on human DNA sequencing (or some such thing), using CRISPR gene-editing technology. The articles on this event made it seem that people are now able to manipulate genes to create designer babies. Not exactly, as this article discusses. It's true that gene editing can happen, but this does not mean certain qualities like intelligence or athletic ability can be brought out by switching a sequence here and there. It turns out such things involve combinations of DNA, along with environmental factors and human choice.
However, there are possibilities for eliminating certain genetic illnesses that originate in certain kinds of DNA. Using CRISPR for this purpose is considered "therapy," which Catholics approve, while trying to engineer superbabies is "enhancement," which some eugenically minded scientists are calling for.
Personally, I'm skeptical how much we can really enhance a person through genetic engineering. I think genes are overrated when considering the achievements people make--I credit Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and my teaching experience for persuading me on this point. It makes for good science fiction: "Swarm" is an awesome short story that explores this idea, and Gattaca was a good movie that could've been great. Trying to enhance humans in reality, though, is horribly unethical and bound to disappoint.
Photo: Captain Marvel Promo Art Starforce