Weekend Reads: Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop,” “Every Breath You Take,” Marilyn Manson, “Halo”

Recommended weekend reading material for November 20, 2021.

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

I was cautiously optimistic about Netflix’s adaptation of the cult classic Cowboy Bebop anime series, especially after watching this recent teaser. But to date, reviews have been routinely negative, like this one from Andrew Mack.

The showrunners have completely missed what made the anime so good, how it has stood the test of time. Even with the underlying story about Spike’s past, that ultimately it was fun. This series is not fun. It is bland, dull and boring. Moreover, the showrunners decided that what we really wanted was more anger, violence and gore. No. No we do not.

Meanwhile, Louis Chilton argues that live-action anime adaptations like Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop reveal a certain snobbishness towards animation, and overlook what makes the original animated works so special in the first place.

I still plan on checking it out, more out of curiosity than anything else. Suffice to say, however, my expectations are now even lower than they were before. But even if Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop really does turn out to be a train wreck, that won’t affect the original’s status or legacy one bit.

LeVar Burton didn’t get the Jeopardy! hosting gig that everyone thought he should get. Instead, he’ll be hosting a new Trivial Pursuit game show.

“LeVar Burton has been an iconic member of American pop culture for decades from Roots to Reading Rainbow to Star Trek and beyond,” Tara Long, president of global unscripted television for eOne and an executive producer of the new Trivial Pursuit show, said in Tuesday’s release. “His love for intellectual curiosity paired with his ability to connect with audiences worldwide make him the perfect partner to bring Hasbro’s beloved trivia game to households in a new and exciting way.”

Sesame Street is set to debut their first Asian puppet, a 7-year-old Korean American named Ji-Young.

The character was created amidst plenty of behind-the-scenes discussions surrounding how the show could react to major 2020 events like George Floyd’s death and anti-Asian hate crimes. In response, Sesame Workshop created two task forces — one to examine its content and one to reflect on its own diversity. The result was Coming Together, a multiyear initiative designed to teach children about race, ethnicity, and culture.

Perhaps not surprisingly, at least one conservative figure is up in arms over Ji-Young, claiming that the new character is an attempt to inject race into Sesame Street and represents a “push for woke politics.”

Related: This isn’t the first time that Sesame Street has skirted controversy or addressed serious topics (e.g., death, racism, HIV).

Some movies are sooooo bad, they end up coming ‘round full circle.

Personally, I’d almost always rather watch an interesting failure than a boring success — sometimes because passion is contagious, and just as often because a true WTF-level debacle is a rare and glorious thing. Here are 20 of them.

After analyzing the streaming data for millions of songs, Danish researchers identified The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” as the song most frequently listened to regardless of the time of day — making it the ultimate all-round song. The reasons for this honor, however, aren’t exactly the greatest.

“It’s a very in-the-middle type of song,” Heggli says. “It’s a medium tempo. It’s a bit groovy, but not too much groovy. It doesn’t have any loud surprises. And it’s all over just a very pleasant, perhaps even a bit bland song.”

On a sidenote, I wonder if people would stream the song so often if they realized that it’s about an obsessive lover. (You know it’s about an obsessive lover, right?)

Nearly four decades after its original release, Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love” is finally a top ten single in Japan with its own music video. “Plastic Love” is one of the most iconic songs in the “city pop” genre, a slick, polished blend of jazz, pop, and funk that emerged from Japan’s economic boom in the ‘80s and celebrated a glamorous urban lifestyle. City pop has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, with artists like Opus Science Collective and Macross 82-99 drawing inspiration from it, and I suspect that “Plastic Love” is how many people have discovered the genre.

Related: This short YouTube documentary explains how “Plastic Love” became such a huge hit thanks to memes and YouTube’s own algorithm.

Also related: “Plastic Love” was the focus of my August 2021 podcast.

Rolling Stone chronicles the many allegations of sexual abuse leveled against the controversial shock rocker Marilyn Manson (real name: Brian Warner). Note: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse.

In the past year, more than a dozen women have come forward accusing Warner of psychological or sexual abuse, several in interviews with outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and People; four have filed civil lawsuits. The accusers who spoke with Rolling Stone say that Warner was able to hide his abuses in plain sight behind the Marilyn Manson character he created and the music industry that supported, and profited from, his living-demon shtick. To his accusers, some of whom have not spoken publicly or in depth about this before, he is a serial sexual predator who has been telling the world who he is for more than 25 years. This investigation is based on nine months of research, court documents, and interviews with more than 55 people who have known Warner at various points throughout his life.

Via 1440. You can’t help but wonder how many artists have gotten away with abuse and other horrible behavior committed under the auspices of being “provocative,” “edgy,” and “misunderstood.” I suspect that number is much higher than we’d like to think. It’s all too easy to excuse and overlook awful behavior that seems to be part of a schtick, and especially a schtick that challenges the status quo, when in fact, it’s most likely a reflection of their own twisted narcissism.

Andrew Liptak explores how the Halo games were influenced by real world military developments. And while that verisimilitude can enhance the game’s thrills, it raises some questions about undue militarism and fetishization.

That militarism extends into popular culture as well. The military and the entertainment industry have collaborated for decades, producing films to sell conflicts abroad to the American public. In other instances, that partnership has been a bit less on the nose, with the various branches of the U.S. military serving as consultants. Callahan points to Halo: Reach as one example of where military consultants helped to increase the authenticity of the military world: “ONI, the Office of Naval Intelligence, ‘Winter Contingency,’ the radio communique, the chatter, and just the way that everybody conducted themselves — it’s as if the folks at Bungie just hung out with Navy SEALs for like a year.”

That reverence for the military can carry with it some darker elements. “The big picture implication,” Callahan says, “is January 6th. That is the big picture implication —radicalization. It’s feeling like you need to militarize yourself to defend yourself, and to just enact that violence on others.”

As commenters have pointed out, the article’s insistence on drawing parallels with the War on Terror is a bit weak if only because it seems to focus on the Halo games. The Halo novels, on the other hand, contain many more parallels.

Even after all this time, people are still using terribly insecure passwords for their various accounts.

Most of these, like “123456789” or “000000,” involve some kind of number-mashing on your keyboard that the company estimates would be relatively easy for any coder to crack in about one second. Other popular choices like “password” and “abc123,” are just as easy to crack.

I don’t want anyone to get hacked, but if you use “123456789” for your bank password, then I kind of feel like you deserve it.

When Google announced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) back in 2015, they claimed that it would dramatically improve website performance on mobile devices. AMP has since turned out to be a huge disappointment (complete with court cases), and has led to developers viewing all of Google’s announcements with no small amount of skepticism.

For years the company encumbered already struggling news organizations with the requirement of AMP. The DOJ’s detailed description of how AMP was used as a vehicle for anticompetitive practices simply rubs salt in the wound after what publishers have been through in expending resources to support AMP versions of their websites.

I experimented with AMP when it was first released, and it seemed really cool at first. But after awhile, I concluded that most of AMP’s benefits could be realized through proven techniques for optimizing website performance that didn’t require jumping through Google’s hoops.

From the Blog

This past week marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, one of the most influential video games of the last two decades, and the start of one of my favorite video game franchises. The Halo franchise has developed an increasingly complicated mythology over the last two decades, though, so I thought I’d offer a high-level view of Halo’s world-building.

If you’ve played any of the Halo games, then you probably know the basics. It’s the 26th century and humanity has colonized hundreds of planets throughout the galaxy. This expansion leads to a confrontation with the Covenant, an alien alliance that subsequently declares war on humanity. In their attempts to confront the Covenant threat, humanity’s forces — led by the augmented soldier known simply as the Master Chief — encounter ancient alien technology that contains new threats to the galaxy.

But this only scratches the surface of Halo’s lore, which has been further expanded by numerous novels and comics, various live-action shorts and web series (e.g., 2012’s Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn), and even anime.

Fair warning: This is, without a doubt, one of the nerdiest posts I’ve ever written. And it’s filled with spoilers.

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.