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Nolan's Pop Culture Review 2010!
Assistant Editor / Co-moderator: Terence Nuzum

Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eleventh calendar year!
Number 546  (Vol. 11, No. 37). This edition is for the week of September 6--12, 2010.

God Almighty

  • Preacher Reverses on Burning Koran...Or Maybe Not
  • I Hope The Romulans Don't Find Out: Klingon Opera
  • Machete
  • Stephen Hawking Says God Did Not Create The Universe
  • Glenn Beck's Rally
  • Deranged Preacher Named Jones Set To Burn Koran


    Crazed Fanboy's Most Memorable Moments, 2000--2009
    As submitted by PCR writers, compiled by Chris Woods
    PCR staff cover and give their thoughts on the terrorist attacks that happened on September 11, 2001.
    It appears the good Reverend Jones has cancelled or delayed his proposed burning of the Koran originally to take place this Saturday, September 11th, the ninth anniversary of the Twin Tower attacks.

    Even Ye Olde Editor, whilst admiring Jones' ballsy party gimmick to be enjoyed by his fifty or so followers, had to reassess its efficacy once runaway publicity resulted in hearing worldwide denouncing from such political luminaries as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, General Petraeus, the Pentagon(!), and even The Vatican(!!) as to the danger and grief he was causing our soldiers and, ironically, this country's Christian leaders.

    But on he marched. UNTIL he "heard" from a local Muslim cleric that the imam responsible for erecting the Ground Zero Mosque in NY had promised to move his holy meeting place to another location. The Quran/Koran burning was immediately cancelled in good faith.

    WOOPS, hold on a minute. Turns out that the NY imam gave no such anouncement and the local imam gave no guarantees that such a move was taking place. This little communication breakdown had Rev. Terry Jones fuming that he'd been had and is reconsidering the book burning. Well, that is, he'll decide after a planned meeting with the NY Muslim this Saturday. (So, looks like Saturday is out, in any event.)

    In recent memory I can think of only one other local event that went global so quickly, that is the case of the "live on-stage suicide" by one member of a rock band in Pinellas County (which didn't go anywhere and the group vanished under the intense media pressure). I sincerely think Rev. Jones planned on his book-burning being a small, local thing. Empowered by the instant fame, however, he probably felt the event was more important that it should have been, and he'd look better to remain "standing firm".

    I understand his position. He did write a book called Islam is of The Devil, after all. But it seems he feels that all religions not based on Christianity are "of the devil."

    Reverend Jones, you've made your point. The runaway publicity has ensured the whole world knows about you and the once-tiny Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. Congratulations. Our Constitution guarantees your freedom of speech to the extent that even the President of the United States has said there's no legal way to stop you, except to ask you nicely.

    Think about that and then please weigh your options carefully.



    You know, as long as I've been a student of popular culture, it's still a surprise to me how many people blur the line between fiction and reality. Fiction is so much more appealing on romantic and excitement levels, I suppose, than plain old boring reality. Twenty or so years ago, William Shatner--Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise--made an appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live and told the tunic-clad, Spock-ear-wearing patrons of a Star Trek Convention to "Get a Life!" It was meant in jest, of course, but made a relevant point about fans so caught up in the ficticious universe of the Star Fleet Federation, that it had become a way of life. A life not based on reality.

    I've become aware of a university or two over the years that offer college credit (so I understand) to learn Klingon. That is the ficticious language spoken by the once-adversarial alien race of warriors (of the same name) who tormented Captain Kirk for so many years on Star Trek TV shows and films. I've heard rumors of translations of Shakesperean plays and so forth. You get the idea.

    Now comes word of a performance of an opera, three years in the making, entirely written in Klingon to be performed in Klingon.

    Entitled "u" after the basic Klingon utterance for "Universe", the first authentic Klingon opera on earth will be hosted in the Netherlands at the Zeebelt Theater, The Hague from the 9th to the 12th of September 2010. As I understand it, the opera's "plot" revolves around the Klingon passion for combat and storytelling and will likely have a very primal feel to it using Klingon instruments, I presume.

    The opera project is spearheaded by the Klingon Terran Research Ensemble, a group that actively researches Klingon culture and historic documents(!). Please, let me savor that......They "research Klingon culture and documents"! That is a culture that never really existed except in the minds of Trek fans and its creator Gene Roddenberry (who, if he wasn't flattered at all the attention, might find all this too sad to be amusing had he lived to see this day).

    Maybe I shouldn't be so judgemental in that opera is basically fiction told in music anyway, it's just that up to now, they've been rendered in real earthly languages about real people and places.

    Oh, what the heck. It's not so different than trying to create a real religion out of Jediism, the basis of "The Force" in Star Wars movies (and a topic for another day). Science-fiction writers who create their own culture and/or religion on a lark (or assignment), it takes off, and replaces reality for people who find reality disenchanting. Is anyone else as disturbed by this trend as I am?

    I did learn one thing while researching this article: after years of hearing the Klingon homeworld referred to as only "the Klingon homeworld," I began to think it had no proper name. But it does: Qo'nos. And now you know it, too.

    "Captain, we're getting a signal from the Romulans....unless they get their own opera, they're prepared to go to war with the Federation!" Hey, don't laugh. It could happen.



    Although this week's PCR homepage theme is religion in pop culture, my first topic this week isn't about this, but about the film Machete, which I saw this past weekend with colleagues Terence Nuzum and Chris Woods, and wanted to comment.

    Long-time movie fans are well aware that Machete started its life as a fake trailer played during the "intermission" of the Quentin Tarantino - Robert Rodriguez film Grindhouse. It wasn't the only fake trailer, but the one that seemed to catch on with fans, especially fans of low-budget '70s action flicks.

    Mike Smith's in-depth review of Machete for PCR #545 we all felt was pretty much on target and we agree with his three-out-of-four star rating. Good performances, over-the-top action, and the pivotal retro feel. It's a fun film, to be sure, but not necessarily life-changing.

    For whatever reason, writer-director Robert Rodriguez decided on a plot about illegal immigration. What I did not count on is the subsequent backlash against the film from movie-goers who found the film racist! Sure, we got stereotypical white-supremecist redneck Texans out to gun down them escapin' wetbacks, but guys, my understanding is this film is a send-up of low-budget action flicks from the '70s!! Did I miss something? Did Rodriguez mean for this to be a "statement" film and I missed the memo?

    For those who missed the '70s, it was the era of Archie Bunker and Blacula, of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Nudity, vulgarity and gore (those were the days!) were the norm, not the exception. Nobody's feelings were hurt then, and they shouldn't be hurting now. Machete is a send-up, an homage. Lighten up.



    World-reknowned physicist Stephen Hawking, in his new book The Grand Design, informs that with a complete understanding of the scientific theory of the universe's creation, there is no need for a creator at all. "God" was not responsible for us being here, and the universe literally came out of nothing. In fact, according to Hawking and the laws of physics, the universe couldn't help but spring into being!

    Hawking, 68, won global recognition with his 1988 book "A Brief History of Time," an account of the origins of the universe, and is renowned for his work on black holes, cosmology and quantum gravity.

    He is a personal hero of mine for many reasons. His near total paralysis due to neuro muscular dystrophy did not stop his research (but is associated with the "voice box" sound from his verbal simulator). He is Cambridge University's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by Isaac Newton (who, rather ironically, did belive in a creator, but understandable for his time), and is a position he recently announced he was retiring from.

    His latest pronouncement of a creator-less universe is astoundingly brave in view of the touchy religious mood of the country and the religious nuts who are likely to reject him outright anyway.

    In fact, to be sure I had this right, I had to Google his exact quote. I seemed to remember his saying before that while you can't prove that something doesn't exist, like a God (double-negative argument, thus invalid as a debate topic), that God wasn't necessary for the universe's creation. Well he did say that previously, but now has revised it to say emphatically and without qualification, that God did not create the universe.

    That is amazing. Of course, this will be rejected by those who think of scientists as isolated-from-society cartoon-characters, but the more informed among us can, at least for the moment, enjoy a satisfying smile.



    From the sublime to the ridiculous. Radio talk-show host, political commentator, and Neo-Con hero Glenn Beck appeared at a Washington DC rally at the end of August, where he exclaimed that America has lost its way and needs to "get back to God". His speech was basically a sermon to his brothers and sisters of the extreme right wing and filled with the ravings of an evangelical wanna-be.

    This was followed up by an appearance on FOX News Sunday where host Chris Wallace attempted to coax anything out of Beck that made a lick of sense, to no avail. I watched this embarrassing travesty in its entirety, and was truly concerned that Beck was having a nervous breakdown on the air. Despite Wallace's sympathetically trying to lead him into any number of relevant topics, Beck continued to babble incoherently about religion for the entire segment.

    I came away thinking it was a complete waste of time except as something I had witnessed myself for future reference. How far this former TIME Magazine cover boy has fallen is scary, even by my standards.



    Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., says he is planning on publicly burning copies of the Quran (or "Koran" as it's alternately spelled), the holy book of Islam.

    Calling it an "evil book" he had planned on doing it this weekend, but couldn't get fire permits. Funnily, the city fathers told him it conflicted with a football game that day (haha!).

    Not surprisingly, this local event (for Floridians) has set off waves of protest overseas to the point of General Petraeus urging that "burning could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort."

    Startled by the reaction, Pastor Jones and his followers are praying for guidance, but he has not cancelled anything as of this writing. He has talked about taking what he sees as a freedom of speech issue to court.

    I have to hand to him, it's a dandy idea for a local party, but the international publicity has ramped up the stakes considerably and it might be wise to indefinitely postpone this event. Endangering soldiers and causing riots is not going to solve anything.


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