Weekend Reads: My Bloody Valentine, City Pop, Netflix, Fan Tantrums, Generation X

Recommended weekend reading material for April 3, 2021.

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

The influential shoegaze outfit My Bloody Valentine made several announcements this week. Their releases are now available on streaming services; they’ve signed to the Domino label, which is reissuing their albums in May; and they’re planning to release two new albums this year.

When he was young, Shields said, he thought he needed to peak before he turned 25; after My Bloody Valentine achieved some success, he stopped thinking about time altogether, hence the long layover. Those days have passed. “Time is a bit more precious,” he said. “I don’t want to be 70-something wanting to make the next record after ‘m b v.’ I think it’d be cooler to make one now.”

As encouraging as those words might be, I — like every other MBV fan — won’t believe them until I’ve actually listened to the albums several times.

Japanese “city pop” has become increasingly popularity in recent years, thanks to the YouTube, but how much of that popularity is due to the music, and how much is due to nostalgia and a fetishized view of Japanese culture?

When we talk, McLeod comments that many internet-based genres harbor a kind of “retro-futurist melancholy,” as well as an obsession with “the accelerating collapse of capitalism as epitomized by the collapse of the Japanese dream.” Boom-era Japan, with its neon metropolises and abundant consumer freedoms, embodies a lost promise of capitalist utopia that was crushed in the ’90s by the country’s recession. By savoring its music, listeners can both indulge in and mourn the beautiful, naive optimism that seemingly defined the time — as well as its bracing visions of what would lie ahead.

I discovered “city pop” back in 2018, and I’ll admit, my fondness for songs like Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love” and Toshiki Kadomatsu’s “Space Scraper” and “After 5 Clash” is certainly shaped by my own interest in Japanese culture. But they’re also amazing funk/pop songs in their own right.

Time recently profiled a group of women who are working together to prevent the spread of COVID-related misinformation even as they receive death threats and harassment.

While experts throughout the U.S. are trying to tackle misinformation and persuade Americans to get their shots when they become eligible, these doctor-scientist moms believe they are uniquely positioned to make the case. Not only do they have the expertise to answer medical questions and clear up misperceptions, but they can relate to the people they encounter on social media as fellow parents who also want what’s best for their families and communities.

I’ve been following Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, aka Your Local Epidemiologist, for awhile now, and have found her newsletters incredibly informative.

Jim Vorel reflects on the glory days of Netflix’s DVD library. (Remember when Netflix was a DVD-only service, before streaming became everything?)

10 years later, that DVD library has become a lost treasure — undervalued, hacked to pieces, mothballed and generally a hollow shell of its former self. Rest assured, Netflix still sends DVDs to its subscribers — myself included — by mail. But the scope of that film library has shrunk precipitously, reflecting a lack of interest both from the company and the moviegoing public. In the face of easy, instant access via streaming, consumers were simply all too happy to sacrifice comprehensiveness. We traded in a library of 100,000 titles for one that currently has less than 4,000 — and we’re never going to get the former back.

Via Pixel Envy. I haven’t thought about Netflix’s DVD service in ages but I can remember the thrill of perusing that massive library and then, a few days later, seeing one of those red envelopes in the mail, and knowing that it contained a movie I couldn’t get anywhere else.

Vorel also points out that Netflix’s streaming service has shrunk quite a bit, too, as more streaming services launch and start acquiring as many streaming rights as possible. Hence the shift by Netflix, Hulu, et al., towards original content. Which makes sense from a business standpoint, but also leads to a crazy amount of balkanization and repetition — something I’ve certainly noticed while preparing my monthly streaming recommendations.

Have you ever wondered why Wes Anderson’s films look the way that they do?

So many Anderson films unfold like storybooks — we often see a hardback book with the same title in the film itself, or in the case of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a series of stories and books, all nestled inside each other. Flight doesn’t make the comparison, but it is worth doing so: Anderson’s films are like epistolary novels of the 19th century, such as Frankenstein or Wuthering Heights, stories within letters within stories.

And have you ever wondered why movie theater carpet looked like… well… whatever it looked like?

Those frenzied, high-octane, blacklight carpets that took over movie theaters for a small, fixed period of time and then mostly just… went away. Like an obscure one-hit-wonder earworm, the carpets might keep bugging you, prompting you to wonder: How is it that we, as a society, spent that much free time in these bizarre wall-to-wall settings without ever wondering what acid-doused party monster’s fever dreamt them up? Who decided this is what movie theaters should look like? What was this “style” even called?

Via The Retro.

In his most recent newsletter, Drew McWeeny addresses “fantrums” like those surrounding the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

If I started a conversation face-to-face with someone about any topic except Zack Snyder, and all you could talk about was Zack Snyder, that conversation would be over, and I’d walk away wondering how you got your skull dented. Understanding when it is or isn’t appropriate to discuss things is one of those fundamental lifeskills you might want to get locked down before you get an internet account, but these people make this their entire online personality. They’re currently review-bombing other Warner Bros movies on IMDb to drag their scores down.

An academic tracked down the man who was impersonating him.

We started digging around, and things quickly became unsettling. I found a video clip of him at a conference, reading a chapter I’d written. He was dressed like me. Even his mannerisms and speech patterns were similar. Then I came across a picture of his hands, where he’d poorly copied my tattoos: the flowers on the backs of my hands, with the words “know more” and “artefact” written across the fingers. This man had been stealing my work and elements of my identity for years. It creeped me out.

Lawmakers are trying to crack down on “dark patterns,” i.e., design elements that trick and manipulate users into making choices that they ordinarily wouldn’t make (like giving up more personal info).

Harry Brignull coined the term “dark patterns” in 2010 and has been keeping tabs on them ever since on his website (he also wrote about them for The Verge back in 2013). Dark patterns existed in the physical world long before the internet came along: ’90s kids will remember the mail-order music club Columbia House’s amazing deal to buy 12 CDs for just one penny (plus shipping and handling), which then automatically opted them in to a CD-a-month club that was almost impossible to cancel. But the internet has made dark patterns so much more ubiquitous and powerful. Websites can refine their methods using the very specific feedback their visitors provide, optimizing their manipulation at a scale that the physical world could never in its wildest dreams achieve.

Heather Burns argues that the real threat to the internet’s freedoms isn’t coming from out-of-touch boomers.

If you think that the biggest threat to internet freedom is old white men who hate the internet because it does not allow them to attack anyone who does not look or sound like them, it’s time you found yourself in a meeting with someone under the age of 30 who is unabashedly in favour of mandatory identity verification for all users of the internet to protect people who look and sound like her.

Via The History of the Web.

From the Blog

As you probably guessed, I watched Godzilla vs. Kong earlier this week. (For the record, we’re a Godzilla-fearing household here at Opus HQ.)

While I had my various issues with the movie, my sons did not. I had just as much fun, if not more, listening to their running commentary during the Godzilla/Kong battles. In their opinion, Godzilla vs. Kong was “sick.” As a geek dad, I can’t ask for much more than that.

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