Weekend Reads: Comfort TV, Greatest Sitcoms, Spotify, COVID-19 Research, Facebook

Recommended weekend reading material for May 8, 2021.

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

We live in a golden age of TV, with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, et al. constantly announcing new TV series for our streaming pleasure. However, many people are finding comfort in rewatching TV series that they’ve seen multiple times before.

This current rewatching phenomenon is the stuff of endless online discussion, as well as viral memes, with many framing it in similar ways: time and time again, people say they are drawn back to their favourite shows because of their feeling that starting something new might be stressful. Why, dedicated rewatchers argue, would I start something new that might be nerve-racking, complicated, not what it seemed from the trailer, or simply unenjoyable, when I know I have a guaranteed treat waiting for me? By reducing the element of risk, contrastingly, a rewatch can possess a restorative, zen-like power.

I definitely relate to this. When I’m feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by a decision of what to watch, I’ll almost always opt for my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and M*A*S*H. They never let me down.

On a related note, the Rolling Stone staff has compiled a list of the 100 greatest sitcoms of all time. Needless to say, it contains plenty of rewatchable titles.

For more than eight decades, the sitcom has both marked the times and provided a balm against them. From Rob Petrie tripping over his ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show to Ilana face-planting on a Broad City subway car; from The Honeymooners’ Ralph Kramden barely containing his frustration with Ed Norton to Atlanta’s Paper Boi doing the same with his cousin Earn; from Lucy Ricardo getting drunk on Vitameatavegamin to Fleabag enjoying Gin in a Tin with the hot priest, the genre’s most beloved characters have been by our sides.

Aja Romano explains, at great length, why they love the original Mortal Kombat movie so much.

The first time I watched the 1995 movie Mortal Kombat I felt like I was drunk. Movies can sometimes be joyously terrible, such that they cease to be terrible and instead become transcendent. Reader, I was transported.

Since I first randomly encountered it while Netflix-surfing a few years ago, I have come to love Mortal Kombat — a movie made about a video game I have never played — so much that I no longer know whether I love it merely ironically or have crossed over into loving it sincerely.

Spotify recently announced a patent for technology that monitors what its users are saying in order to help improve its music recommendations. This week, nearly 200 musicians sent Spotify a letter protesting the patent.

The letter outlines the five major concerns that the coalition has regarding the technology: “emotional manipulation,” discrimination, privacy violations, data security, and the exacerbation of inequality in the music industry. The letter explicitly requests that Spotify makes a “public commitment to never use, license, sell, or monetize the recommendation technology,” and asks the company to issue a response to the letter by Tuesday, May 18.

As one of the signatories said, it’d be great if Spotify would spend less of its money on silly patents and more of it on, you know, actually paying artists. In the meantime, if you actually love music and want to support artists, buy their music.

“One More Time” is arguably Daft Punk’s biggest hit, and is built around a sample of Eddie Johns’ “More Spell on You.” Sadly, Johns — who was once homeless in Los Angeles for over a decade — hasn’t seen a dime of royalties. Which just highlights the labyrinthine nature of music royalties.

Income from “One More Time” would be subdivided between the various labels, publishing companies and the artists, depending on their agreements. “What part of that Eddie shares in, we don’t know yet,” Jacobson said. “But it does seem that Eddie should have some credit on the composition and the master side, which didn’t get handled. Now it’s up to all the parties to remedy that.”

Players of EVE Online — a popular massively multiplayer online game — have been helping scientists with their COVID-19 research.

Through a citizen science project called Project Discovery, players are able to help scientists in the real world solve problems that need human input, such as helping scientists discover new planets. Over the past year, they’ve been helping scientists learn more about COVID-19.

To date, 327,000 players have completed 1.37 million analysis tasks in-game, which has saved scientists 330.69 years worth of research into how the immune system responds to COVID-19.

In addition to helping with COVID research, the game’s players have also helped improve machine learning, which will make research all the more efficient.

Back in the early ‘90s, Don Norman worked at Apple as a “User Experience Architect.” However, he now has harsh words for his former employer — and many other companies — who are ignoring the needs of older people with their designs.

The designers at Apple apparently believe that text is ugly, so it should either be eliminated entirely or made as invisible as possible. Bruce Tognazzini and I, both former employees of Apple, wrote a long article on Apple’s usability sins, which has been read by hundreds of thousands of people. Once Apple products could be used without ever reading a manual. Today, Apple’s products violate all the fundamental rules of design for understanding and usability, many of which Tognazzini and I had helped develop. As a result, even a manual is not enough: all the arbitrary gestures that control tablets, phones, and computers have to be memorized. Everything has to be memorized.

For years, Basecamp has been a highly regarded and respected technology firm. But the company has recently come under heavy fire for some controversial statements by its execs, which has lead to more than a third of its employees leaving.

This account is based on interviews with six Basecamp employees who were present at the meeting, along with a partial transcript created by employees. Collectively, they describe a company whose attempt to tamp down on difficult conversations blew up in its face as employees rejected the notion that discussions of power and justice should remain off limits in the workplace. And they suggest that efforts to eliminate disruptions in the workplace by regulating internal speech may cause even more turmoil for a company in the long run.

Bella Younger set out to parody social media influencers only to become one herself, and in the process, lost sight of who she was.

At my peak, I had almost 150,000 followers, but I still never described myself as an influencer. I wanted to be the Instagram cool girl, the renegade who sat on the sidelines, satirising the people who really cared. But I really cared. I thought I could have lots of followers without needing followers. I thought I could monetise my account without selling out. I thought that I was different, that I wasn’t like other girls.

Kara Swisher addresses the recent decision by Facebook’s “Oversight Board” to continue the platform’s ban of Donald Trump.

Here are some questions I would ask the Facebook chief if given the chance: Why build a platform that requires an arbiter of truth if you don’t want to be one? Could you not have foreseen the inevitable end point of that position? Did you trust too much that the community would sort out truth from lies?

Or was it all just a feint?

Via Daring Fireball, who points out that for all the talk about Facebook’s discrimination against Republicans, the top-performing link posts on Facebook are regularly from right-wing sources.

Finally, this Twitter thread by Rachael Denhollander concerning the recent arrest of Josh Duggar is hard to read and deals with some very difficult subject matter (e.g., pedophilia, sexual abuse). However, we cannot turn a blind eye to this stuff, especially those of us in the Church. Twisted and distorted theology results in horrific consequences for the helpless and innocent.

The cost and impact is being born by everyone but the perpetrator, and the men given free reign to be “leaders”. This is abusive culture. This is toxic Christianity. This is not manhood. This is not womanhood. This is depraved.

From the Blog

Two years ago, I discovered Children of the Stones, a ‘70s British series that’s been described as “the scariest program ever made for children.”

The series begins with Adam and Matthew Brake arriving in Milbury, which the father and son imagine to be a quaint, if somewhat remote village in the British countryside. They’ve arrived so that Adam, a scientist, can research the properties of the stones encircling the village (and get a fresh start after the death of their wife and mother). But they soon find that their lovely new home has a dark side, and as they do so, Children of the Stones becomes increasingly strange and otherworldly, weaving together themes and concepts including ley lines, black holes, psychic phenomena, pre-Christian paganism, time loops, and brainwashing.

Despite being quite creepy at times, I think Children of the Stones is a perfectly fine show for kids precisely because it doesn’t feel safe or predictable, but rather, contains real, honest stakes for its admirable protagonists.

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