Weekend Reads (12/11): “The Secret of Kells,” Year-End Lists, George Pérez, Suing Facebook
Recommended weekend reading for December 11, 2021.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
The Secret of Kells is an utterly charming animated film inspired by Irish and Celtic art and folklore. In other words, I highly recommend it. The film was released in 2009, but only after a long, arduous development process.
In European animation, there’s no underdog story more inspiring than that of Cartoon Saloon. The upstart studio in Kilkenny, an Irish city of around 26,000 people, has clawed its way up from obscurity to global acclaim since it started in the ‘90s. Its film Wolfwalkers was a hotly tipped Oscar contender this year.
Cartoon Saloon’s ascent was far from a sure thing, though. None of it would’ve happened without the surprise success of its debut feature — The Secret of Kells, released in 2009. And that film barely made it. In fact, it was a labor of love that took over a decade to craft.
Cartoon Saloon’s most recent film, the aforementioned Wolfwalkers, is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
But what is year-end list season if not a time to reflect on the albums that caught us off guard or arrived when we needed them most, or simply did something that no other album could do. In the end, it mostly comes down to this: These are the 50 albums we’ve been most excited about all year, and still are after the 12 months have come to an end. And that’s reason enough to reflect and offer a second opportunity to endorse them before the calendar flips to the next year.
As usual, I’ll be posting my favorite songs of the year on January 1.
The Polygon staff have posted their top 50 video games of 2021.
[I]n trying to find a unifying thread for the games that defined the last 12 months, I’m struck by the fact that this year wasn’t really calm at all. In fact, it was a weird, wonderful, disorienting labyrinth of dazzling titles. With fewer AAA attention magnets, and a renewed collective appreciation for the escapist and social benefits of the medium, it felt like we were all more willing to try something that fell outside of our comfort zone.
And then there’s this: the most mispronounced words of 2021.
Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce have something in common — broadcasters butcher their names. Virtually everyone is having trouble with “Omicron.” And “cheugy” is apparently a lot to chew on.
All four made it onto this year’s list of most mispronounced words as compiled by the U.S. Captioning Company, which captions and subtitles real-time events on TV and in courtrooms.
Once you download the experience, you’ll be greeted by what looks like footage from the original Matrix movie only... it’s not. It was created with Unreal Engine 5. And that’s not where the deception ends. Certain shots in the first section are the real Reeves, certain ones are unreal, some are obvious (such as one where he has short hair) others are not. Carrie-Anne Moss plays a huge role and she’s never real. Ever.
The Matrix Awakens is free for Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles. A video of the demo can also be watched on YouTube (make sure to watch it in 4K if possible). It’s not 100% lifelike; the cuts from “real” Keanu to “unreal” Keanu are still pretty obvious to my eyes. And while the highway chase sequence is fun and all, what really blows me away is the video’s second half, which explores a computer-generated city in which various details (e.g., time of day, traffic density) can be altered on the fly.
Technology like Unreal Engine 5 opens up whole new doors for both video game developers and filmmakers alike. As the aforelinked article points out, shots that once took hours to render can now take just milliseconds on a home gaming console — dramatically speeding up production and increasing what’s possible.
Legendary comic artist George Pérez recently announced that he’s dying from stage 3 pancreatic cancer, but he’s not letting it get him down.
I am already arranging with my art agent to refund the money paid for sketches that I can no longer finish. And, since, despite only having one working eye, I can still sign my name, I hope to coordinate one last mass book signing to help make my passing a bit easier. I also hope that I will be able to make one last public appearance wherein I can be photographed with as many of my fans as possible, with the proviso that I get to hug each and every one of them. I just want to be able to say goodbye with smiles as well as tears.
Pérez’s career spanned nearly five decades, during which he worked on numerous titles, including The Avengers, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Fantastic Four, The Infinity Gauntlet, New Teen Titans, and Silver Surfer.
A YouTube anime critic recently had 150 videos taken down due to copyright complaints, highlighting the difference in copyrights and fair use between the U.S. and Japan.
In Japan, the author has a tremendous amount of control over how their work is presented. So, conceivably, if an author doesn’t want their work shown in a certain way — say, on YouTube — then, they would apparently have legal standing in Japan to contest that. Looking closer at the law, it’s evident that authors have vast control over how their work is reproduced, presented, transmitted, adapted, and exhibited.
The whole situation raises the question of which copyright law YouTube should respect most, American or Japanese?
Michelle Barker argues that it’s time for web developers to start thinking about the environmental impact of our websites.
It’s all too easy to disassociate climate change from the web. After all, most of us are sitting at our desks day in, day out. We don’t physically see the emissions the web is producing. But according to a report by the BBC in 2020, the internet accounts for 3.7% of carbon emissions worldwide — and rising. That puts our industry on level with the entire air travel industry. So, when I think of what we can do to make our websites “better” I immediately think of how we can make them better for the planet. Because, like it or not, the carbon emissions produced by our websites not only impact our own users, but all the people who don’t use our websites too. We certainly have a lot of work to do.
Amazon is one of the world’s largest retailers, but as it’s grown in size and complexity, it’s beginning to lose control of itself, resulting in poorer, more confusing customer experiences.
It’s the paradox of plenty: The more things there are to buy, the more difficult it is to find the right thing among the plethora of ads and competition, new material and secondhand, quality and garbage.
“Amazon knows what I buy, how often I buy, what I search for,” Mr. Kaziukenas said. “But decades after it launched, it can’t answer a simple question — what would Juozas like to buy? Instead it shows me thousands of deals, with some basic filters like category and price, and hopes I will find what I like. Amazon is so much work.”
Refugees have sued Meta (aka, the company formerly known as Facebook) for $150 billion over the role it played in Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide.
The complaint claims that Facebook’s algorithms recommended susceptible users to join extremist groups, where users are conditioned to post even more inflammatory and divisive content, as it inflated the user data Facebook presented to financial markets. In doing so, Facebook’s News Feed allegedly prioritised and rewarded radical users who sparked the Rohingya genocide as negative content as that provided the most engagement on the platform.
“To maximise engagement, Facebook does not merely fill users’ News Feeds with disproportionate amounts of hate speech and misinformation; it employs a system of social rewards that manipulates and trains users to create such content,” the plaintiffs wrote in the complaint.
Via Frosted Echoes.
In the metaverse, you can have your ultimate dream wedding — so long, apparently, as you’re willing to appear as a less personable Nintendo Wii avatar.
“There’s no limitations,” said Sandy Hammer, a founder of Allseated, which creates digital planning tools for weddings. The company is investing in the metaverse by creating virtual versions of real-world event spaces like the Plaza Hotel in New York. “If you really want to do something different, in the metaverse you might as well let your creativity go wild.”
Think guest lists that number in the thousands. Gift registries that feature NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. Maybe even destination weddings in space.
“They’re going to take their friends on a space rocket,” Ms. Hammer said, adding that she envisions wedding parties globe-trotting virtually. “A bride can transport her guests into the metaverse: ‘I want my morning session to be in Italy, my evening session to be in Paris.’”
This all sounds like just way. Too. Much.
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