In 1997, Mike Nelson and his robot friends, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, watched a bad sci-fi film called The Thing That Couldn’t Die. We might as well rename the beloved TV series Mystery Series Theater 3000with the same title, because the fan-favorite show looks like it’s almost certainly going to be resurrected from the dead for the third time.
Creator Joel Hodgson has kicked off a new MST3K Kickstarter campaign to create three to 12 new episodes of the show, similar to the 2016 campaign that helped create seasons 11 and 12. However, this time MST3K will be returning to an online, virtual theater where fans can watch a myriad of premieres, live events, and more. You’ll also be able to host group watch parties, with a new collection of episodes released each month.
If past is prologue, the show is almost certainly on its way. The original Kickstarter earned more than $6 million, breaking the site’s then-record for its most-funded campaign (held by the Veronica Mars movie). The show has a legion of fans who have loved it since it first premiered back in 1988 on a Minneapolis, Minnesota, TV channel. But it’s also gained more over 30-plus years with its delightful simple concept—just a trio of friends watching cheesy movies and making fun of them. It’s just that two of those friends happen to be puppets.
The initial goal of the Kickstarter is to raise $2.2 million in order to create the theater, which Hodgson calls the Gizmoplex, and release three new episodes. However, the ultimate goal is $5.5 million, which would allow 12 new episodes, 12 new shorts, monthly live events, and Gizmoplex apps for TVs and mobile devices. The donation rewards are pretty amazing, including a music box that plays the classic “MST3K Love Theme” from the show’s end credits, a snowglobe, and a chance to riff a short with Joel Hodgson himself. Best of all, Hodgson says the plan is to keep making more MST3K episodes as long as fans keep paying for them, presumably with more Kickstarters, meaning the show will no longer depend on a network’s support to keep existing.
When Washington Post editors banned national politics reporter Felicia Sonmez from reporting on sexual misconduct because she is an assault survivor, they reportedly told her that they were worried about the “appearance of a conflict of interest.” Top editors reassured her that they themselves didn’t think there was a conflict; they believed she could write an unbiased story on the subject, they said.
Sonmez spoke out about her sexual assault in 2018, following a letter she wrote to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China accusing Jon Kaiman, her former colleague, of assaulting her one night when she was drunk. A woman named Laura Tucker had made similar allegations against Kaiman earlier that year, and national outlets picked up both of their stories. Kaiman, who was working at the Los Angeles Times at the time, resigned after the paper launched an investigation into the accusations. (Kaiman has denied both Sonmez’s and Tucker’s allegations and insisted that “all acts we engaged in were mutually consensual.”)
Months later, when sexual misconduct allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh emerged, Sonmez was told by Post editors that she couldn’t cover the story. The restrictions were temporarily lifted before being reinstated in 2019, according to Somnez. Since then they have prevented her from writing about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s revelation that she is a survivor of assault; the several allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens; and the Violence Against Women Act.
After Sonmez tweeted on March 28 about these restrictions on her reporting—and after Politico and Jezebel covered Sonmez’s story—the Post announced that it would be lifting the coverage ban. “Following a newsroom discussion two weeks ago, editors began re-evaluating limitations on the scope of Felicia’s work as a breaking-news reporter,” Kristine Coratti Kelly, Chief Communications Officer at the Washington Post, told Jezebel. “They have concluded such limitations are unnecessary.”
What might at first seem unusual and anomalous about what Sonmez faced at the Post is in fact the opposite. Her treatment is symptomatic of newsrooms’ sometimes uncritical devotion to the principle of “objectivity,” which can easily be warped and deployed for sinister ends. Part of the problem with objectivity is that no one can quite agree what it is: Does it mean attempting to occupy the exact middle ground between two extremes of opinion (what New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen and others call “the view from nowhere”)? Or does it mean balancing the scales, because doing so creates a more precise rendering of the truth? Is the latter what we would call “fairness,” and if so, is this what many of us actually mean when we say objectivity, or is it a separate idea entirely? These are difficult questions which don’t necessarily have a single, definitive answer. Reporters face them anew each time they sit down to write a story.
Social ostracism has been a common punishment for millennia. But freezing someone out harms both the victim and the perpetrator.
Daryl Austin | The Atlantic
Kipling Williams has studied the effects of the silent treatment for more than 36 years, meeting hundreds of victims and perpetrators in the process:
A grown woman whose father refused to speak with her for six months at a time as punishment throughout her life. “Her father died during one of those dreaded periods,” Williams told me. “When she visited him at the hospital shortly before his death, he turned away from her and wouldn’t break his silence even to say goodbye.”
A father who stopped talking to his teenage son and couldn’t start again, despite the harm he knew he was causing. “The isolation made my son change from a happy, vibrant boy to a spineless jellyfish, and I knew I was the cause,” the father said to Williams..
A wife whose husband severed communication with her early in their marriage. “She endured four decades of silence that started with a minor disagreement and only ended when her husband died,” Williams said. Forty years of eating meals by herself, watching television by herself—40 years of being invisible. “When I asked her why she stayed with him for all that time,” Williams said, “she answered simply, ‘Because at least he kept a roof over my head.’”
A teacher. A sibling. A grandparent. A friend. Each story that Williams, a psychology professor at Purdue University, told me was more heartbreaking than the one before. As I listened, the question that lingered most was How could these people do this to those closest to them?
The silent treatment goes by many names: shunning, social isolation, stonewalling, ghosting. Although psychologists have nuanced definitions for each term, they are all essentially forms of ostracism. And the tactic is nothing new. Ancient Greeks expelled for 10 years citizens who were thought to be a threat to democracy, and early American settlers banished people accused of practicing witchcraft. Religions have frozen out individuals for centuries: Catholics call it excommunication, herem is the highest form of punishment in Judaism, and the Amish practice Meidung. The Church of Scientology recommends total “disconnection” from anyone deemed antagonistic toward the religion.
“My research suggests that two in three individuals have used the silent treatment against someone else; even more have had it done to them,” Williams said. Experts told me that although they need more data to know for certain, instances of the silent treatment have likely increased over the years as new forms of communication have been invented. “Every new method of connection can be used as a form of disconnection,” Williams said.
Ostracism can also manifest in lesser ways: someone walking out of the room in the middle of a conversation, a friend at school looking the other way when you wave at them, or a person addressing comments from everyone in a message thread except you. “Partial ostracism,” Williams told me, might mean monosyllabic replies—a terse period at the end of a one-word text message. But in serious cases, ostracism can take a heavy toll whereby victims become anxious, withdrawn, depressed, or even suicidal.
“Because we humans require social contact for our mental health, the ramifications of isolation can be severe,” Joel Cooper, a psychology professor at Princeton, told me. “In the short term, the silent treatment causes stress. In the long term, the stress can be considered abuse.”
The Melodica Bros performed a truly mournful cover of the otherwise cheerful anthem “Y.M.C.A” by the Village People turning it into a sad ballad. This version features a key change from major to minor, a slower tempo, and a quiet performance that included various guitars, double bass, and a simple synth solo.
My parents raised me as Anglican, and I was a reasonably keen member of their church during the ’70s, although I began attending a Pentecostal church’s Youth Group on Friday nights, because: “girls”. Also, the guitar-based music seemed pretty cool to me at the time.
And thereupon the fence, I sat for many years… One foot comfortable on old red prayerbook Anglicanism, and the other, on something more strange — but exciting and interesting to me. After all, the Evangelical churches had Youth Ministers — imagine! There was a sense that we were able to explore our own concerns and interests within that construct… It felt like a spiritual buffet.
It’s effectively been two generations since I was first introduced to Evangelical Christianity. Where I stand in faith today, is complicated (and probably a story for another day). Suffice to say that I think of myself as a recovering Evangelical. I can state, with conviction, that the rhetoric of the Prosperity Gospel never sat well with me, and now makes me very uncomfortable. I know I am not alone, but I really haven’t discussed the evolution of my faith with any of my former church friends. I say former, because they don’t seem to be very good at staying in touch with those who are no longer active in the church. But, neither was I while I was active in the church — so there’s that. Which raises a nagging question, or observation, really: Why are my non-church going friends so engaged with my life? They always have been, despite my lack of engagement while I was mired in the Church community. Is it that they know life is short and precious? I really don’t know. I don’t try to overthink it these days. I have no idea what I don’t know.
I recently came across Tara Jean Steven’s podcast called “Heaven Bent” in which she explores her own experience with the Charismatic movement, and particularly, the phenomenon that expressed itself onto my path — the Toronto Airport Blessing. This “happening” set off a tidal wave of a sort of nouveau revivalism that spread hither and yon, including Tara’s home church in Prince Rupert, BC, and the Montreal Anglican church that I attended from 1999 until it sadly split in two in 2009. This is very interesting stuff.
Here’s a a YouTube video with Tara Jean Stevens discussing the podcast:
Meanwhile, here is an article that I came across today:
PreachersNSneakers on Instagram: Why one man started an account showing churches’ wealth
Sarah Pulliam Bailey | Washington Post
From his couch in Dallas, Ben Kirby began asking questions about the lifestyles of the rich and famous pastors when he was watching some worship songs on YouTube on a Sunday morning in 2019. While listening to a song by Elevation Worship, a megachurch based in Charlotte, the evangelical churchgoer noticed the lead singer’s Yeezy sneakers were worth nearly the amount of his first rent check.
Kirby posted to his 400 followers on Instagram, “Hey Elevation Worship, how much you paying your musicians that they can afford $800 kicks? Let me get on the payroll!”
Plus, Kirby wondered, how could the church’s pastor, Steven Furtick, one of the most popular preachers in the country, afford a new designer outfit nearly every week?
With a friend’s encouragement, Kirby started a new Instagram account @PreachersNSneakers posting screenshots of pastors next to price tags and the street value of shoes they were wearing. Within a month, the account had attracted 100,000 followers.
“At the beginning, it was easy for me to make jokes about it,” he said. “Some of the outfits are absurd, so it’s easy to laugh at some of the designer pieces. The price tags are outlandish.”
On his feed, Kirby has showcased Seattle pastor Judah Smith’s $3,600 Gucci jacket, Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes’s $1,250 Louboutin fanny pack and Miami pastor Guillermo Maldonado’s $2,541 Ricci crocodile belt. And he considers Paula White, former president Donald Trump’s most trusted pastoral adviser who is often photographed in designer items, a PreachersNSneakers “content goldmine,” posting a photo of her wearing $785 Stella McCartney sneakers.
As the Instagram account grew, Kirby started asking more serious questions about wealth, class and consumerism, including whether it’s appropriate to generate massive revenue from selling the gospel of Jesus.
The external pallet packed with old nickel-hydrogen batteries, photographed shortly after being released by the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The object was orbiting 265 miles (427 km) above Chile when this photo was taken from the ISS.Image: NASA
Weighing 2.9 tons and traveling 4.8 miles per second, this heap of old batteries is now the heaviest single piece of garbage to be jettisoned from the International Space Station.
The pallet is packed with nickel-hydrogen batteries, and it will stay in low Earth orbit for the next two to four years “before burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere,” according to a NASA statement. SpaceFlightNow reports that the pallet is the “most massive object ever jettisoned from the orbiting outpost.”
NASA spokesperson Leah Cheshier confirmed this as being the case.
“The External Pallet was the largest object—mass-wise—ever jettisoned from the International Space Station at 2.9 tons, more than twice the mass of the Early Ammonia Servicing System tank jettisoned by spacewalker Clay Anderson during the STS-118 mission in 2007,” wrote Cheshier in an email.
NASA’s ballistics officers “indicate no threat” of the pallet smashing into other space objects, but “this item, like all, will be tracked by U.S. Space Command,” she added.
It wasn’t the original plan for the pallet to be discarded like this. The failed launch of a Soyuz rocket in 2018, in which NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing in the Kazakh steppe, caused a disruption to the spacewalking schedule, leading to the leftover pallet…
Folks who are much smarter than I have suggested that the COVID pandemic, and in particular — the US effectively throttling vaccine availability for Canadians — underlines the need to rethink the Canada-US relationship. This is an ominous task given the high degree of integration of our economies and security institutions. A generation of Canadian government’s policy decisions has inextricably linked our fate to that of the United States. Clearly, Canada has benefitted at times from the relationship (and we would argue that our US friends have benefitted more), yet we Canadians find ourselves in an increasingly unenviable position as subsequent American administrations vacillate between abject isolationism and big-guy-on-the-block globalism. It’s not unreasonable for Canadians to assess whether a future inextricably linked to a politically unstable US is a prudent course to follow. To add to the challenge, Canada finds itself being figuratively crushed between China and the United States, as they each scale up their respective high-level geopolitical hegemony. Great article today in the Toronto Star by my good friend Richard Nimijean, and David Carment. – cPaul
In a post-Trump world, Canadian sovereignty is at a crossroads
Canadians reacted positively to Joe Biden’s election and the February summit between the Biden and Trudeau governments, reflecting the historical reality that they are more positive towards the U.S. when Democrats occupy the White House. This is especially true after the chaos of the Trump years: the January insurrection, his personal attacks on Prime Minister Trudeau, and his general disregard for this important relationship soured Canadians’ outlook on the U.S.
Biden has already returned the relationship to normal by making his virtual meeting with Trudeau his first as leader, reflecting his plan to stabilize American foreign policy.
Despite disagreement on a few key issues, Canadians were pleased. Biden and Trudeau have an obvious personal chemistry, reinforced by their centrist ideological outlooks and their recognition that politically they need to tack left. Both want their countries to “build back better” while paying attention to climate change and addressing socioeconomic inequality. Progress will occur on other shared concerns, such as NATO’s future, multilateralism, human rights and democracy promotion.
Canadians love international attention, so hearing President Biden acknowledge the importance of the relationship was a big win. His forceful words on the plight of the two Michaels showed he was aware of strong Canadian feelings on this issue.
However, a friendly American administration will not necessarily make it easier for Canada to pursue its interests and enhance its sovereignty. Biden is an American president first and foremost, and is using diplomacy and statecraft to promote his interests and goals. Like Trump and Obama before him, Biden will pressure Canada to help him succeed, such as by spending more on defence and security.
But on issues that truly matter to Canadians, he so far has given precious little. There was no word on American assistance on vaccine procurement, exemptions from Biden’s nationalist procurement strategy, or consideration for Canada’s pipeline concerns…
One of the world’s few female whirling dervishes, Rana Gorgani has opened up Sufism to a wider audience and is now making surprising spiritual connections over Zoom thanks to the pandemic.
French-Iranian Gorgani, 37, used to think of whirling — a sort of “moving meditation” through which Sufis seek to commune with the divine — as something that should remain behind closed doors.
Despite growing up in France, she was initiated into the practice while visiting Iran, a place where Sufis often face persecution by the authorities and dancing in general is frowned upon.
She had never intended to perform the whirling in public — that was something normally reserved for men.
But a decade ago, she decided she wanted to share its beauty with a festival audience in Montpellier.
“After some minutes, I panicked and stopped for a few seconds. It felt like I was breaking some rule,” she recalled. “But I started turning again, and heard a roar of applause, and I told myself ‘everything is OK’.”
When people came up to her after the show, with tears in their eyes, to thank her — she realised this was something she wanted to pursue full-time.
– ‘Extremely intense’ –
Sufi whirling, sometimes known by the Arabic name Sama (which means “listening”), sees performers twirl in distinctive wide robes in a rhythmic turning that mirrors the movement of the Earth around the Sun.
It’s more than a dance, said Gorgani — “it’s a prayer, an act of devotion to the divine”.
A traditional part of Sufism, particularly in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, it is normally only practised by women when they are separated from men.
But for Gorgani, in Sufism — a more spiritually focused approach to Islam founded by followers of 13th century spiritual poet Jalal al-Din Rumi — the soul is neither masculine nor feminine.
To be female and a dervish “does not go against this spirituality”, she said. “In Europe, I am lucky to be able to express myself artistically and freely.”
Her parents fled Iran after the revolution, and it was during her first visit there at the age of 14 that Gorgani became interested in Sufism. She has since taken part in many ceremonies in Iran and Turkey, but often secretly.
Now her performances have been forced online by the pandemic, but she has been “touched and moved” by the number of people reaching out to learn more about Sama.
Her first Zoom class, during France’s first lockdown, attracted around 100 people and the numbers have continued to grow as she delivers performances on every new and full moon.
To her surprise, the experience has been “extremely intense”, with participants saying they are in profound need of meaning and connection.
“I think I’ve helped some people reveal something to themselves,” she said.
While rooted in her studies in the anthropology of music and dance, she nonetheless likes to mix up the soundtrack, opting not only for traditional Sufi music, but also live piano and even traditional French tunes such as those of Jacques Brel.