Weekend Reads 5/29: Marvin Gaye, "Ted Lasso," Cancel Culture, QAnon
Recommended weekend reading material for May 29, 2021.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On turned 50 earlier this month. But the album, now considered an R&B classic and one of the greatest albums of all time, was almost never released.
[Motown head Berry Gordy] dubbed “What’s Going On” “the worst thing I ever heard in my life,” pooh-poohing the “Dizzy Gillespie stuff in the middle, that scatting.” He refused to release it.
Gaye stonewalled by going on strike, refusing to record any music whatsoever.
Eight months in, Motown’s A&R Head Harry Balk, desperate for another release from one of the label’s most popular acts, directed sales vice president Barney Ales to drop the new single behind Gordy’s back.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Related: My review of What’s Going On.
Bandcamp continues to be awesome. On June 18, the online music service will hold a Juneteenth fundraiser with 100% of their profits going to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. Also, their popular “Bandcamp Friday” program will return on August 6 and continue on the first Friday of every month through the end of 2021.
Related: An intro to Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
In this candy-colored future, where there’s a car straight out of F-Zero in every driveway and gas stations exist only in the imagination, there’s room for a race-car driver to vroom his way to victory, over both his competitors and the conglomerates that back them. Speed is free to make art — the word that his mother pointedly uses to describe what he does out on the track — without any climate-destroying byproducts. It’s a beautiful vision, both visually and emotionally, of a world unfettered by the ticking time bomb of global warming and the bastards who lit the fuse.
I’m fully convinced that Speed Racer is a truly unsung classic (read my review). I watched the movie with my kids a few months back, and it was just as much fun as I remembered it being. As an added bonus, watch the Corridor Crew gang discuss the Speed Racer’s visuals.
I would be watching whatever this show wanted to put in front of me, without pause, until the end. I watched it all in one night. It hurt and I cried. I cried because I miss people so bad. I miss so many people so bad. And I miss believing the world could be like it is in Ted Lasso, that it could contain such people, such forgiveness, such grace, such kindness, such patience, without feeling creepy or weird or cringey or cheesy. Just pure. And hilarious. I just forgot, over the course of 2020, and 2019, and 2018, and 2017, and 2016, that any of us, at any time, could simply choose to be like Ted, and everything would change. Like a miracle. I forgot humans could be like that.
But I suppose more specifically, piercingly specifically, I forgot Americans could be like that.
My wife and I love Ted Lasso — read my review — and we can’t wait for season two to arrive on July 23.
In one of the biggest examples of media market consolidation, Amazon has announced plans to purchase MGM, one of Hollywood’s most iconic studios.
The deal, which is valued at $8.45 billion, gives Amazon an extensive library of film and TV shows that it can use to fill out its Prime Video content coffers. MGM has a catalog with more than 4,000 films and 17,000 TV shows, according to Mike Hopkins, who heads Prime Video and Amazon Studios.
The MGM catalog includes 2001: A Space Odyssey, Shaft, Poltergeist, Rocky, Hackers, and most importantly, the James Bond movies.
Luke T. Harrington has some ideas as to why video game movies are a bad idea.
When you adapt a book into a film, you’re taking words on a page and making them come to life — which in itself is a fundamentally interesting thing to do, at least if you do it well. When you adapt a videogame into a film, all you’re doing is abridging it and stripping out the interactivity. That’s … a considerably less compelling pursuit.
Last September, Pew Research Center surveyed 10,000 Americans to find out what they think about cancel culture. Not surprisingly, people’s opinions fell pretty clearly along party lines.
There were some notable partisan and ideological differences in what the term cancel culture represents. Some 36% of conservative Republicans who had heard the term described it as actions taken to hold people accountable, compared with roughly half or more of moderate or liberal Republicans (51%), conservative or moderate Democrats (54%) and liberal Democrats (59%).
Conservative Republicans who had heard of the term were more likely than other partisan and ideological groups to see cancel culture as a form of censorship. Roughly a quarter of conservative Republicans familiar with the term (26%) described it as censorship, compared with 15% of moderate or liberal Republicans and roughly one-in-ten or fewer Democrats, regardless of ideology. Conservative Republicans aware of the phrase were also more likely than other partisan and ideological groups to define cancel culture as a way for people to cancel anyone they disagree with (15% say this) or as an attack on traditional American society (13% say this).
The QAnon conspiracy theory appears to be slowly dying online.
Data retrieved and analyzed by the DFRLab shows that the language of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement as it has historically appeared online has all but evaporated from the mainstream internet. In its wake lies a kind of neo-QAnon: a cluster of loosely connected conspiracy theory-driven movements that advocate many of the same false claims without the hallmark linguistic stylings that defined QAnon communities during their years of growth.
That’s not to say that QAnon doesn’t still hold considerable sway in American culture, however.
A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” while the vast majority of Americans (82%) disagree with this statement. Republicans (23%) are significantly more likely than independents (14%) and Democrats (8%) to agree that the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.
Fifteen percent of Americans agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” while the vast majority (85%) disagree. Republicans (28%) are twice as likely as independents (13%) and four times as likely as Democrats (7%) to agree that because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence.
Related: Back in June 2020, Adrienne LaFrance wrote an excellent article on QAnon’s quasi-religious aspects.
Ben Zotto argues that thanks to the internet, the desktop metaphor for your computer’s interface no longer makes any sense.
There’s a whole techno-econo-social history of how we got from then to now, but the specifics aren’t important. What does matter is that if you were to fire up an old Macintosh from the 1980s (or even 1990s) today you’d find the interface to be surprisingly familiar but you’d be stuck asking: OK but does it… do anything?
That’s because the internet undergirds almost everything we do on a computer today. How many browser windows do you have open right now? (I have 37 windows open, with some 75+ tabs.) Email, calendar, cloud document collaboration, Twitter, Instagram — are mostly or all in the browser. What else? iMessages and Slack are apps that require the internet to do anything at all. None of this stuff existed in 1985.
From the Blog
Earlier this month, my wife and I finished H. G. Parry’s debut novel, The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, and we both enjoyed it. It’s delightful and imaginative, and a clever, postmodern take on classic authors like Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Emily Brontë.
The crux of Parry’s delightful novel is that different readers can and will interpret the same book and its characters in different ways. When you read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Emily Brontë, your vision of Sherlock Holmes or Heathcliff — the details of their appearance, their personality and tics, etc. — may be very different than mine, and this regardless of what the text might actually say. It’s a concept that lies at the heart of postmodern literary analysis, and Parry takes that concept and has an absolute ball with it.
This might make The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep sound like a boring — and dare I say, pretentious — work written by a Ph.D for her fellow Ph.Ds and nobody else. But even if you’re not up on your latest literary theories, or reject postmodernism out-of-hand, there’s still much to appreciate and enjoy about the novel.
Click here to read my full review.
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