Weekend Reads (Jun 11): Pizza, Online Privacy, “Akira,” the (Missing) Mother of God
Recommended weekend reading material for June 11, 2022.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Given the rate at which the web grew and evolved, it’s hard to know exactly what the first thing ever sold online was, but there’s a pretty good chance that it was a pizza.
The technology behind PizzaNet was surprisingly rudimentary. On the site was a webform, itself fairly complicated but well trodden even in the early days. The form contained a customized menu with a list of pizza toppings and drinks. When the form was submitted, the data was transmitted to a centralized Pizza Hut server in Witchita, then relayed back to the Pizza Hut location in Santa Cruz through an Internet connection that had been set up in the location specifically to receive messages about what orders came through the site. To ensure that the order was error and prankster free, an employee would then call to verify the order, and the customer could pay for the pizza upon delivery, just like you’d do over the phone.
This was a delightful surprise to me. I was honestly expecting something more salacious and prurient, given the various ways in which the adult industry has pioneered technological innovations like streaming video and online credit card transactions. (Don’t worry, that link is work-safe. Some might still be disturbed, however, by how much modern society owes to porn, technologically speaking.)
Also responsible for the web’s rapid growth and development: devoted fanbases like Deadheads.
According to the internet researcher and historian Nancy K. Baym, “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of dial-up computer bulletin board systems were launched throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and many were specifically set aside as forums for Grateful Dead fans. Here, early adopters innovated the idea that the internet might be organized by affinity. Though early internet fandom was invite-only and near exclusive to well-paid white men, it was also the first evidence of a pattern. Fans became, almost as a rule, the first to adopt new platforms and to invent new features of the internet — a habit molded by the fact that they were the people with the most obvious incentive to do so.
On the one hand, it’s good that Congress is working on legislation to protect our privacy. On the other hand, the pending “American Data Privacy and Protection Act” has a lot of room for improvement.
As it turns out, there are a lot of details. 64 pages of them, to be precise, courtesy of the full text of the draft bill that dropped Friday afternoon. It’s a lot for anyone to get through, but seeing how it’s my job to delve into the details of shitty privacy policies and shitty privacy legislation alike, here’s my initial take on what lawmakers are offering. Though there’s much to chew on, I’m offering my three biggest gripes with this draft as it’s written now.
Via Pixel Envy.
Everyone’s worried about video games warping the minds of children but they’re overlooking a greater danger: encouraging people to leak military secrets.
A fan of the video game War Thunder, the free-to-play vehicle combat simulator, has leaked classified Chinese military documents on the game’s online forum. According to defense analysts, while the details of the anti-tank weapon in question were previously known, this is the first time that authenticating documentation has been seen outside of China. How do we know the documents are authentic? Well, they’re pictured next to the weapon itself.
Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira is one of the most influential cyberpunk titles of all time, and an exhibition at Berlin’s Tchoban Foundation highlights the anime’s amazing artwork.
Thanks to the curator’s exclusive access to the studio archives of the artists involved in Akira’s production, on display will be background artwork, layout drawings, concept designs and imageboards instrumental in crafting the vision of Neo Tokyo’s unique cityscape. Many of the artworks have never been presented in an exhibition, and only very few of them have ever been published — amazing not just because of its worldwide renown, but also the ton of press coverage Akira received in 2019, the year in which it was originally set.
The above link (via Airbag) contains a few examples of the exhibition’s pieces, and they’re all stunning.
Related: Despite being released over 30 years ago, Akira remains one of the greatest animated films of all time. Back in 2020, the Corridor Crew fellows sat down with animator Eric Koenig to discuss some of the animation techniques that make Akira so great. (Their discussion begins around the 1:00 mark.)
This past week was Netflix’s “Geeked Week,” during which the streamer announces upcoming action, sci-fi/fantasy, and animated titles. Some of this year’s highlights include blockbuster films like The Gray Man and Day Shift; animated titles like Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and season four of The Dragon Prince; and live action series including 1899 (from the creators of Dark) and The Sandman (based on Neil Gaiman’s beloved comic) as well as new seasons of Manifest, Shadow & Bone, Sweet Tooth, and The Umbrella Academy.
And of course, any and all noteworthy Netflix titles will be highlighted in my monthly streaming recommendations (which paying subscribers receive early).
My Christ and Pop Culture colleague Alisa Ruddell has written a pair of excellent articles inspired by Beth Allison Barr’s The Making of Biblical Womanhood. In them, Ruddell considers the effects of Protestantism’s deemphasis of Mary on its views of female sexuality and the role of women in the Church.
When the highest feminine symbol within church history was rejected as an idol, a primary example of women’s palpable and indisputable dignity disappeared too, along with the cultural-imaginal space in which feminine greatness wasn’t an oxymoron, but a given. After the Reformation, a woman could be her husband’s helper like a Martha in the kitchen (that was Luther’s preference) or even Martha’s sister at Christ’s feet, but she couldn’t be like the Holy Queen in heaven, the “Throne of Wisdom” where Christ reigned. While we modern evangelicals have inherited centuries of forgetfulness of Mary, those initial Reformers didn’t have a blindspot: they saw Mary and then they carved her out on purpose.
Confession: I started reading The Making of Biblical Womanhood last year but never finished it. Not because I didn’t like it or find it thought-provoking, but rather, it just fell through the cracks. That’s an oversight I need to correct.
Next Friday, June 17, is Juneteenth, and to mark the occasion, Bandcamp will donate 100% of their share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
This annual fundraiser is part of our larger, ongoing commitment to racial equity, and we’ll continue to promote diversity and opportunity through our mission to support artists, the products we develop, those we promote through the Bandcamp Daily and Bandcamp Radio, how we work together as a team, who and how we hire, and our relationships with organizations local to our Oakland space (some of which we’ve highlighted below).
Related: The next “Bandcamp Friday” will be September 2.
From the Blog
The biggest movie in America right now is Top Gun: Maverick, and for good reason: it boasts some truly thrilling aerial sequences. But long before Maverick ever took to the skies, Hollywood had a long history of aerial stunts, as evidenced by 1933’s The Phantom of the Air.
Given that The Phantom of the Air is a classic Hollywood serial, you should know what to expect: ridiculous cliffhangers designed to get crowds back into the theater each week for the equally ridiculous escape; damsels in distress; and our stalwart hero slugging it out with Crome and his cronies. However, The Phantom of the Air also has the benefit of some truly stunning aerial sequences, be it the thrilling race in the first episode or the various dogfights between Raymond and Crome’s gang, in which biplanes are seen spinning and twirling amongst the clouds.
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