A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular culture

[BRIEF NOTE] “So Near the Touch”, a #StarTrek story about #socialdistancing (@GeorgeTakei)

The current coronavirus pandemic in Canada and the wider world has made me think of a few things. One of these is the apparently overlooked story “So Near the Touch”, the story in the first annual of the second DC Comics run of Star Trek comics published in July 1990.

Co-written by George Takei and Peter David (different sources suggest that Takei provided the story), “So Near the Touch” is centered on the world of Datugan, a Federation trading partner that was so eager to export an energy-generating ore that it irremediably polluted its environment. The very people of Datugan have been so contaminated by pollution that two individuals cannot risk bodily contact, else they self-combust. They are doomed.

The Federation, feeling some responsibility for this catastrophe, has initiated a grand project of rebirth, to use in vitro techniques to let the Datugan species continue on a clean new world. The Enterprise-A is assigned to escort a medical team lead by one Corazon Kohwangko to Datugan to help start off this project. Sulu, who has a romantic history with Kohwangko, is pleased to be reunited with her. On arrival at Datugan, the mission encounters unexpected trouble from Datugans opposed to this program.

“So Near the Touch” is an effective short story, setting a credible romance for Sulu with an interesting partner against the backdrop of a dying world with people desperate for help. (Reading this now gives me some insight into Takei’s upset with the movies’ portrayal of Sulu as gay; here, Takei literally wrote Sulu as straight.) I find that it resonates particularly with me now, living under conditions of COVID-19 quarantine, deprived of direct contact with anyone for fear of infection. Takei and David got the corrosive impacts of isolation quite nicely.

The physical issue is available on eBay, while electronic copies can be acquired from the usual places.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2020 at 3:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On the current #covid19 crisis (#coronavirustoronto)

One of the many things that has been bothering me about the COVID-19 crisis is the way that the city of Toronto around me has been shutting down. Work and those strictures have gone, of course, but so have almost all of the other events of life. Stores are shut down; neighbourhoods are almost always barren of people; the sorts of events that I normally partake in have been sensibly cancelled. (Jane’s Walk and TCAF are among the events that have been closed down, and I may never get a chance to see the Diane Arbus show at the AGO or the Winnie the Pooh exhibit at the ROM. I live in hope for the second category, and look forward to next year for the first.)

The great machineries of life of Toronto, human and mechanical, are grinding down. When will they start up again? What will be the background against which this revival will happen? What loss and suffering will there be in the background of this? More importantly, from my particular perspective, what loss and suffering will there be among the people I know, here in Toronto and around the world? I have some fears for myself, but more fears for others both known and unknown. (I am not fond of living in a situation where fatalities from a pandemic really can amount to low single-digit percentages of the global, and local, population.)

I cannot help but feel a sort of anticipatory grief at seeing my dear cosmopolis of Toronto shutting down. It is a cause of grief in itself, and it is a symbol of worse yet to come. I can also extrapolate easily enough from the specific case of Toronto to all the other great machines out there in the world, places I’ve lived in and places I’ve only visited and places I have yet to visit and the many many places I will never see. The pictures I saw earlier this week from Venice, that great first prototype of the cosmopolis, felt so wrong. One March, you have a living city; one March, you have a city clamped down on account of mass death. There are things Toronto can pick up from Venice, but I would prefer this not be one. But this isn’t really under anyone’s control, is it?

I am–I believe–keeping things in perspective. There will still be a world after this crisis is done, whenever it is done, one that will be recognizable. I just find it distressing that a proper perspective is not all that comforting. How, exactly, will things be skewed? This uncertainty is something that I do not like. Ending my 12-month Metropass, on account of the certainty that I will not be travelling much at all in April, at least, feels significant. How much more will my lived world shrink?

These past few days, I have been thinking of the classic song “Sous le ciel de Paris”, a hymn of love to that metropolis written and performed just a few years after Paris risked destruction in the Second World War. Has a similar song been written for Toronto?

Written by Randy McDonald

March 22, 2020 at 1:25 pm

[BLOG] Five JSTOR Daily links (@jstor_daily)

  • JSTOR Daily provides advice for users of Zotero and Scrivener, here.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at instances where product placement in pop culture went badly, here.
  • JSTOR Daily considers the import of a pioneering study of vulgar language in the context of popular culture studies, here.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the–frankly terrible–policies of managing rival heirs in the Ottoman dynasty, here.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at generational divides on religion in the England of the early Protestant Reformation, here.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Architectuul looks back at some highlights from 2019.
  • Bad Astronomy looks at the gas cloud, red and green, of RCW 120.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the dynamics of identity politics, here.
  • Bruce Dorminey notes a NASA statement about the importance of understanding dust dynamics in other solar systems to find Earth analogues.
  • Far Outliers looks at the problems pacifying the Chesapeake Bay area in 1813, here.
  • Gizmodo looks at the most popular Wikipedia articles for the year 2019.
  • io9 shares a video of images from a 1995 Akira cyberpunk computer game that never got finished.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how the United States tried to “civilize” the Inupiat of Alaska by giving them reindeer herds.
  • Language Hat links to an online atlas of Scots dialects.
  • Language Log reports on a 12th century Sanskrit inscription that testifies to the presence of Muslims in Bengal at that point.
  • Marginal Revolution notes how much Tuvalu depends on revenue from its .tv Internet domain.
  • Drew Rowsome looks at the Duncan Ralston horror novel Salvage, set in small-town Canada.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the strong relationship between wealth and life expectancy in France.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes that, in a hypothetical supernova, all life on an Earth-like planet would be boiled alive by neutrinos.
  • Strange Maps links to a graphic interface that translates a word into all the languages of Europe.
  • Understanding Society looks at the structures of high-reliability organizations.
  • Window on Eurasia shares a suggestion that Homer Simpson is actually the US’ version of Russia’s Ivan the Fool.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait notes that Betelgeuse is very likely not on the verge of a supernova, here.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the mapping of asteroid Bennu.
  • Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber reposted, after the election, a 2013 essay looking at the changes in British society from the 1970s on.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares a collection of links about the Precambrian Earth, here.
  • Karen Sternheimer at the Everyday Sociology Blog writes about fear in the context of natural disasters, here.
  • Far Outliers reports on the problems of privateers versus regular naval units.
  • Gizmodo looks at galaxy MAMBO-9, which formed a billion years after the Big Bang.
  • io9 writes about the alternate history space race show For All Mankind.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the posters used in Ghana in the 1980s to help promote Hollywood movies.
  • Language Hat links to a new book that examines obscenity and gender in 1920s Britain.
  • Language Log looks at the terms used for the national language in Xinjiang.
  • Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with Jeff Jacoby’s lack of sympathy towards people who suffer from growing inequality.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that urbanists should have an appreciation for Robert Moses.
  • Sean Marshall writes, with photos, about his experiences riding a new Bolton bus.
  • Caryl Philips at the NYR Daily writes about Rachmanism, a term wrongly applied to the idea of avaricious landlords like Peter Rachman, an immigrant who was a victim of the Profumo scandal.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a paper looking at the experience of aging among people without families.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel explains why the empty space in an atom can never be removed.
  • Strange Maps shares a festive map of London, a reindeer, biked by a cyclist.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how Mongolia twice tried to become a Soviet republic.
  • Arnold Zwicky considers different birds with names starting with x.

[NEWS] Seven Christmas links: Bowie and Bing, horror, ghosts, holidays, xenophobia, Elf on the Shelf

  • Dangerous Minds shares the story of the remarkable duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at the 1980 horror film To All A Goodnight.
  • Strange Company shares a strange story, of a ghostly choir reportedly heard in 1944, here.
  • Caitlin Kelly at the Broadside Blog writes about why she and her husband each take Christmas seriously.
  • Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the xenophobia behind the idea of a War on Christmas, going back to the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford.
  • JSTOR Daily carries suggestions that the idea of the Grinch, from Dr. Seuss, has anti-Semitic origins.
  • VICE makes the case for the creepiness of the Elf on the Shelf in the context of a surveillance society, here.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Anthropology.net notes a remarkably thorough genetic analysis of a piece of chewing gum 5700 years old that reveals volumes of data about the girl who chew it.
  • ‘Nathan Burgoine at Apostrophen writes an amazing review of Cats that actually does make me want to see it.
  • Bad Astronomy reports on galaxy NGC 6240, a galaxy produced by a collision with three supermassive black holes.
  • Caitlin Kelly at the Broadside Blog writes about the mechanics of journalism.
  • Centauri Dreams argues that the question of whether humans will walk on exoplanets is ultimately distracting to the study of these worlds.
  • Crooked Timber shares a Sunday morning photo of Bristol.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that India has a launch date of December 2021 for its first mission in its Gaganyaan crewed space program.
  • Andrew LePage at Drew Ex Machina looks at the Saturn C-1 rocket.
  • Karen Sternheimer at the Everyday Sociology Blog considers if the vogue for minimalism meets the criteria to be considered a social movement.
  • Far Outliers ?notes how, in the War of 1812, some in New England considered the possibility of seceding from the Union.
  • Gizmodo looks at evidence of the last populations known of Homo erectus, on Java just over a hundred thousand years ago.
  • Mark Graham links to a new paper co-authored by him looking at how African workers deal with the gig economy.
  • io9 announces that the Michael Chabon novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is set to become a television series.
  • Joe. My. God. shares a report that Putin gave Trump anti-Ukrainian conspiracy theories.
  • JSTOR Daily considers what a world with an economy no longer structured around oil could look like.
  • Language Hat takes issue with the latest talk of the Icelandic language facing extinction.
  • Language Log shares a multilingual sign photographed in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.
  • Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the document release revealing the futility of the war in Afghanistan.
  • The LRB Blog looks at class identity and mass movements and social democracy.
  • Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution suggests that, even if the economy of China is larger than the United States, Chinese per capita poverty means China does not have the leading economy.
  • Diane Duane at Out of Ambit writes about how she is writing a gay sex scene.
  • Jim Belshaw at Personal Reflections reflects on “OK Boomer”.
  • Roads and Kingdoms interviews Mexican chef Ruffo Ibarra.
  • Peter Rukavina shares his list of levees for New Year’s Day 2020 on PEI.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map indicating fertility rates in the different regions of the European Union.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel explains how quantum physics are responsible for vast cosmic structures.
  • Charles Soule at Whatever explains his reasoning behind his new body-swap novel.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Paris show the lack of meaningful pro-Russian sentiment there.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell talks about his lessons from working in the recent British election.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at a syncretic, Jewish-Jedi, holiday poster.