Metropolis Maria

Friday, November 23, 2012

Recommended Podcasts

I enjoy listening to my mp3 player on my morning commute.  Often, I check out Old Time Radio series, but increasingly, my player has featured podcasts covering a multitude of topics. 
Lately, three have bubbled up to the top of my playlists, as they focus on science fiction and fantasy TV shows, movies,and other forms of genre fiction.  Now I know that there are a lot of podcasts that cover these subjects, but these three do so from a Christian perspective.
A few years ago, I had wanted to produce a podcast of my own along these lines, and actually managed to put together three episodes before Everyday Life concerns killed the project.  That’s why I’m glad these three have picked up and run with the idea, and done so in  a way that makes my efforts look really puny by comparison.
Below are the shows listed in no particular order.  They are well worth the listen.
Strangers and Aliens
This first podcast is hosted by three friends, Ben Avery, Dr. Jayce O’Neal, and Steve MacDonald.  Ben is a writer (who constantly gets busted by his co-hosts for plugging his books), and Dr. Jayce is an actor, writer, college professor, and now is pastoring a church plant, and Steve is a freelance writer and editor.
The show itself is a conversation-style series.  It features reviews of movies, books, comics, and TV shows, but it is not so much a typical review as it is really more of a discussion of themes prevalent in genre fiction.  They have debated the crews and captains of the various Star Trek series, time travel, and a comparison of the DC superhero movies vs. the Marvel films.
My only real objection is that the release schedule isn’t very regular, and when I catch up, I’d like to have an idea when the next one is coming out.  Having said that, they have started releasing their episodes pretty quickly lately, so maybe I’m being nitpicky.
The Sci-Fi Christian
I discovered this series after Strangers and Aliens when I was looking around to see what else was out there.
For the majority of its run it features two co-hosts, Matt Anderson and Ben DeBono.  These two are seminarians from Minnesota.  Recently, Ben took a hiatus from the show citing Everyday Life concerns.  His slot was filled by two others, Daniel Butcher and Koby Radcliffe, and recently, Ben DeBono has made guest appearances.
Like Strangers and Aliens, The Sci-Fi Christian features a conversational style of presentation, covering deep themes within SF and Fantasy, really looking for the theological concepts that are often layered within the plots of the stories.  There is a strong element of (often) irreverent humor.  Also like Strangers and Aliens, the guys here accept audio contributions from fans.
Ben DeBono recently revealed on an episode that he had converted to Catholicism.  This led to an episode dealing with the why of his conversion.  When they go ‘off topic’ like this on episodes (and they have done so on more occasions than I care for), it leads me to skip those episodes.
Again, that is no reason to skip the series altogether.  The Sci-Fi Christian has a great website that features a number of writers that bolster the podcast, and when the episodes are on, they are really on.
The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast
The Spirit Blade Underground was the first podcast I discovered that reminded me of my aborted attempt at Christian geekery podcasting.  Unlike the other two, this one is features a solo host, Paeter Frandsen.  Paeter produces an audio drama series, known collectively as the Spirit Blade series, and the show began as a way of updating fans on the progress of the series.  To fill the show out, Paeter also did reviews of movies and television series, video games and comic books (he is an unabashed Green Lantern fan). 
Paeter favors dark and gritty stories and this appreciation often shows through in his choices of material to review.  As with the others, he also accepts audio content from listeners, and as the series has developed, there are a number of contributors that have made multiple submissions. In addition, the series has highlighted interviews with individuals who are authors, bloggers and other creative types.
What makes this podcast unique is that the production values are very high, with good audio, very professional bumpers and music production (all done by Paeter himself).  In addition, Paeter closes each episode with a ‘non-preachy’ Bible study that seeks to apply biblical truth to the geek life.
One of the things I appreciate the most about this series is that the running times are kept to no more than thirty to forty-five minutes each.

If you are interested in checking out geek-oriented podcasts that also feature a Christian worldview, these are probably the ones to check out.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Max Headroom and the 2012 Election

It’s now just a few days to the US General Election and I need to get something out of my system, with this disclaimer: this will be my one and only political post for this election year.

I am increasingly annoyed by blogs, news organizations and Twitter feeds that habitually refer to Mitt Romney as a reincarnation of Max Headroom.  Nothing could be further from the truth. I also do not believe that his opponent, President Barack Obama, is Max, either, or any other politician for that matter.

The gleeful misidentification of a particular politician as Max begins back in Max’s heyday, the closing years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when cartoonist Garry Trudeau decided that President Reagan acted as a Max Headroom-esque character (Trudeau referred to him as ‘Ron Headrest’).

Here’s the bad news for everyone who wants to compare Max to a politician: it’s just not possible.  Trudeau revealed his ignorance in the mid-1980’s, and others have been following his lead ever since.  The fact is, Max Headroom would be the one who would be calling politicians out for their lies and manipulation, not joining them.

Keep in mind  Max’s origin: he was created in Bryce Lynch’s lab at Network 23 by downloading the memories of star crusading journalist Edison Carter into a massive database which then took on a life of its own, as Max.  Do you see the disconnect here?

During the short-lived run on ABC, the series made it very clear that Max said the kind of things Edison would have loved to have said, except that he had a built-in professional filter that would have kept his internal monologue more or less internal.  Edison often did say the same kinds of things as Max, but only in the safety and security of his close friends and colleagues.  Max is wide open with everyone, and his transparency made him a fan favorite on Network 23.

If folks want to make political comparisons with Max Headroom characters, the series was more than obliging.  There was Simon Peller, Network 23’s sponsored politician, was willing to round up all the ‘Blanks,’ or people with no digital record on the grounds that they were dangerous, when he really believed that their presence was “untidy.” The Blanks would have been denied basic rights for the simple reason that because they were undocumented, they didn’t exist, and no rights were due them. Anyone want to make  comparison to Gitmo and the Patriot Act? Feel free.

Another politician that people could point fingers at and make comparisons with is Harriet Garth, rival Network 66’s candidate.  I am surprised that no one has tried to make a comparison between Harriet Garth and Hillary Clinton before now, but I think the resemblance is striking. Hilary&Harriet




Harriet found herself at the heart of a moral scandal, yet was able to respond philosophically “A couple of weeks is a long time in video politics.  This week, ruined; next week, revered.  One good show with the right ratings I’ll be back in days.”

Max, on the other hand would be the first one to call shenanigans.  He would be insulted to be compared with Romney, Reagan, or any other political figure.  Can we please stop the madness?