Weekend Reads: "Marge vs. the Monorail," Global Music, Political Divides, Stardom's Price

Recommended weekend reading material for November 7, 2020.

Every week, I compile a list of interesting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable articles to give you some good weekend reading material.

This week’s list kicks off with an oral history of “Marge vs. the Monorail” — now considered by many to be one of the best Simpsons episodes of all time.

In my mind it’s this episode that broke new territory. Even though it still involves the family and the town and everything like that, it’s a crazier and bigger idea that worked. I think, until then, there had been smaller stories, and this was suddenly like, ‘No, you can have the monorail come to town, and you can even have it be a musical episode, and it will work.’ I think you can say it’s probably the first modern Simpsons episode, in a way.

Via Pixel Envy. I’m pretty sure that “Marge vs. The Monorail” was one of the first things I watched when we got our Disney+ subscription.


The Grammys will rename the “best world music” category to “best global music” in order to avoid “connotations of colonialism.”

In a statement, the Recording Academy said the change came “as we continue to embrace a truly global mindset … Over the summer we held discussions with artists, ethnomusicologists, and linguists from around the world who determined that there was an opportunity to update the best world music album category toward a more relevant, modern, and inclusive term ... The change symbolises a departure from the connotations of colonialismfolk, and ‘non-American’ that the former term embodied while adapting to current listening trends and cultural evolution among the diverse communities it may represent.”

FYI, the term “world music” was conceived in a London pub back in 1987 by a group of DJs, producers, and critics to help promote music from Africa following the success of Paul Simon’s Graceland. If “world music” as a genre is unhelpful and dismissive, then by all means, toss it out. But I can’t help but wonder how simply exchanging “world” for “global” is an actual improvement and not just playing at semantics.


For every Nirvana or Pearl Jam that helped to define music back in the ‘90s, there were numerous lesser known bands that also left a mark on the decade.

Even if they don’t get mentioned in a reverential manner as much as many of their counterparts, some less “cool” bands end up defining a time period (and influence future decades) just as much as the trailblazers. What is hip doesn’t necessarily move units, and these 10 acts can sleep soundly knowing that they created pop-rock gems that will likely be heard at karaoke bars around the world forever.

Via The Retro. For what it’s worth, I’ll still totally spin The Rentals’ Return of the Rentals from time to time.


Another presidential election has come and gone. (Well, not gone gone as of this writing, but you know what I mean.) However, it may be years before some friends and families heal their political divides (if they ever do).

Trump’s election in 2016 divided families, tore up friendships and turned neighbor against neighbor. Many have turned to Facebook and Twitter to deliver no-holds-barred posts bashing both Trump and his many critics, while the president’s own freewheeling tweets have also inflamed tensions.

A September report by the non-partisan Pew Research Center found that nearly 80% of Trump and Biden supporters said they had few or no friends who supported the other candidate.


American evangelical Christians have increasingly sided with the Republican Party in recent decades. Not surprisingly, their priorities have increasingly reflected the GOP’s priorities.

“I think what happened was, over time, white evangelical orthodoxy on politics sort of just melded into Republican orthodoxy, and there’s no difference anymore,” Dr. Burge told me. “We used to always believe that religion was the first cause and then politics was downstream of religion,” but newer studies suggest that “those two lenses have switched places now and that partisanship is the first cause and now religion is downstream of partisanship.”

To paraphrase a quote that’s often attributed to G.K. Chesterton: “The coziness between church and [a political party] is good for the [political party] and bad for the church.”


Depending on your Netflix plan, your subscription might be getting more expensive in the coming weeks.

The new pricing for the standard plan is a $1 price increase (from $13 a month), while the new premium tier cost is a $2 increase (from $16 a month). New subscribers will have to pay the updated monthly fees, while current subscribers will see the new prices over the next few weeks as they roll out with customer’s billing cycles.

Netflix last increased their subscription fees back in January 2019. The Verge suggests that the increased fee is likely due to Netflix’s increased production of original content.


The story of Salma Hayek’s Hollywood career ought to be a wake up call concerning the sexual cost of Hollywood stardom.

Whether it’s a manipulative producer hovering over a reluctant actor’s shoulder, or simply a salivating society hovering over a willing actor’s shoulder, sexualized nudity and sex scenes are gratuitous. And they are gratuitous, not primarily because of their effect on audiences, but primarily because they represent the unjust treatment of human beings made in the image of God.

Related: Back in 2014, I wrote a critique of Game of Thrones’ too-casual approach to gratuitous content.


In the last year or so, I’ve become a fan of the Brave web browser, which is specifically focused on improved privacy and performance (read my review of the initial Brave 1.0 release). And I’m not the only one:

Brave also passed 7 million daily active users, up from 3 million this time last year, showing a 2.3x increase in DAU over the year. Over the past year, Brave received numerous positive reviews and is now the #1 rated browser in Google Play. Since our iOS browser became a default option on Apple devices with iOS 14 this past September, our iOS daily active users have grown by 34%.

By the way, if you’re a Brave user, you can make a donation to support Opus via the “Brave Creator” program. Via Frontend Focus.


Language is a funny thing: “Dagnabbit” may seem like an innocent, even whimsical word that’s fun to say, but its origins are anything but.

[T]he way the word evolved is not really funny. It is dark and ominous and paved with fear. “Dagnabbit,” along with the English words “bear” and “wolf,” are creations of a terrified populace, scared of beings visible and not.


From the Blog

Earlier this week, I posted the latest playlist and podcast episodes, which celebrate the autumn’s arrival by highlighting the music of The Clientele. Both of these are my way of saying “thank you” to those who support Opus financially and help ensure its ongoing existence.


This post is available to everyone (so feel free to share it). However, paying subscribers also get access to exclusives including playlists, sneak previews, and podcasts. If you’d like to receive those exclusives — and support my writing on Opus — then become a paid subscriber today for just $5/month or $50/year.