Weekend Reads (Jan 15): De La Soul, NASA, “Spirited Away,” Pixar, Wendy’s Twitter
Recommended weekend reading material for January 15, 2022.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Thanks to Spider-Man: No Way Home, everyone wants to listen to De La Soul’s “The Magic Number,” which appeared in the end credits. Unfortunately, the song isn’t streaming anywhere due to decades-old legal issues over the song’s samples.
[I]t was made during the dawn of the sample age, and to their considerable detriment, the group ended up being guinea pigs for the creation of laws around them — not only did the ensuing legal battles rack up untold thousands in lawyer fees and effectively sideline the group’s career, their music has never legally been available on streaming services. (Head here for more on the long legal back-and-forth.) The music of “The Magic Number” is based around a sample from “Three Is a Magic Number,” written by the late Bob Dorough and featured in the 1970s educational TV series “Schoolhouse Rock.”
And herein lies the downside of relying solely on streaming services for your music.
Chris Foley, the bassist in the band Luxury, explains how becoming an Orthodox Christian helped him reconcile his faith with his creativity.
Growing up an evangelical Christian, I attended a small, evangelical liberal arts college in Georgia. But I struggled to reconcile my involvement in music with my Christian faith. What makes music inherently Christian or non-Christian? How do you maintain artistic and Christian integrity? Was music only a tool to carry a message? How does someone bring the totality of their faith into their music — or any art form for that matter? Why this need to dichotomise everything in the Christian ghetto? Wasn’t there a way to just ‘be’? Could I simply be a Christian who performs music without apology?
I’m not Orthodox myself, just a plain ol’ Presbyterian, but there’s a lot in Foley’s article that really resonates with me.
FWIW, I highly recommend checking out Luxury’s music. Their most recent album, Trophies, is particularly excellent (read my review).
Discogs’ Davey Ferchow suggests five things that music lovers should do in 2022, such as upgrading your musical set-up.
A new year is here and that’s as good an excuse as any when it comes to investing in some new audio gear. To curate the best turntable setup, you’ll need the right turntable, cartridge, speakers, and headphones. New collectors and audiophiles alike may find these lists to be a great starting point for their next sonic adventure.
NASA collaborated with theologians to understand how humans might react to the discovery of alien life.
The program, which started in 2016, aimed to answer questions that have baffled us since the begging of time such as what is life? What does it mean to be alive? Where do we draw the line between the human and the alien? What are the possibilities for sentient life in other places?
Given the universe’s extravagant nature, I think it’s more a question of “when,” not “if,” we discover alien life. And no, I don’t think that any such discovery necessarily presents a challenge to religious beliefs.
The varied reactions to both The Matrix Resurrections and Don’t Look Up highlight the age-old tensions between artistic intent and audience interpretation.
An artist can never predict how a metaphor will evolve once it has been birthed. Consider the “red pill” in the original “The Matrix,” that symbolic capsule one takes to shake off the chains imprisoning humans in a computer simulation. Directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski have said the whole thing — assuming a new identity by taking pills and adopting a new name — was a metaphor for their gender transition.
But, as with “They Live,” the key metaphor in “The Matrix” — that society is secretly being manipulated and only a select few doing their own research knew the truth — was, perhaps, destined to be adopted by a nascent online right emerging from a relatively narrow news sphere to a limitless information ecosystem supported by social media.
Spirited Away is one of Studio Ghibli’s most acclaimed and beloved films, and for good reason: its animated world is rich, vibrant, and full of wonder and mystery. Studio Ghibli recently spent some time answering fan questions about the film and offering some behind-the-scenes info about its production.
One movie that I’m really looking forward to is Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle, an animated retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in a vast VR-enhanced social network. Ard Vijn had a chance to interview Hosoda about Belle and its larger themes concerning the internet and social media.
Internet history for me is about 25 years old, when it became widely adopted, and in the beginning it felt like a hopeful space, where the younger generation found change and moved things forward for the better. But as the Internet evolved during the past twenty years, I think it grew a lot closer to reality than we all thought it was going to be. A reality that has a lot of toxicity, of fake news and disinformation. With all this, I wondered how the younger generation would be able to transform the world for the better, and I think I wanted to encourage them through this movie.
Related: Read my review of Hosoda’s wonderful Summer Wars.
Disney’s decision to release yet another Pixar movie on Disney+ — that would be Domee Shi Bao’s Turning Red — even after they’ve released other movies in theaters has raised questions about possible double standards.
On Twitter, media analyst Julia Alexander acknowledged that while putting Red on streaming is the morally correct decision, it could backfire in terms of how viewers regard Pixar. “I imagine it’s so disheartening for the Pixar team to see their movies lose theatricality and go straight to Disney+ without any fee,” she said, since a higher price point for a theatrical experience can give the feeling of higher quality. And because consumer perceptions “change with technology advancements/studio direction,” it can be hard to return those expectations to their original status. “Soul made sense during Christmas 2020,” she noted, “and Luca came during a content lull. Turning Red as an original IP during omicron spikes is a tough sell.”
Put simply, COVID continues to impact the movie industry, and not even one of the most beloved and reliable studios around (Pixar) is immune to its effects.
One of the more delightful aspects of social media is, believe it or not, the Twitter account for Wendy’s. (Yes, that Wendy’s.) Whoever runs that account is a snark genius, especially when they took on various metal bands for their annual “National Roast Day.”
A new yearly tradition in metal and hardcore is the annual ‘Roast Day’ by fast food chain Wendy’s, who take one day a year to verbally bitchslap anyone who asks for it on social media. In recent years, the burger chain has gone all in on any metal and hardcore bands who dare rattle their Twitter cage. Well, yesterday was Wendy’s annual Roast Day, and once more plenty of bands asked for it — and received in spades.
Here are Wendy’s own picks for some of their best roasts.
Emily VanDerWerff tries to understand why we feel such loss when a TV star like Betty White or Bob Saget dies.
That we come to think of TV characters as our friends and family, more or less, is an observation many, including me, have made many times before. And that tendency explains why, say, we greet the endings of our favorite shows with such melancholy, even if we stopped watching them long ago. A long-running TV series puts brackets around a particular time in your life, when you were a particular person. You watched this show in this apartment, or you watched that show every week with your sibling before they moved out of the house. It’s a medium that prompts a certain immediacy of nostalgia.
Finally, in a 2021 special, CBS’ Ted Koppel visited the town that serves as a real life analog for the town of Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show.
“People looking back at that program seem to confuse the program with what reality was like in those days, wishing that we could only restore some of the good feelings, some of the kindness, some of the decency,” Koppel said in an interview. “But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the creative minds of a bunch of scriptwriters out in Hollywood.”
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