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Weekend Reads (Mar 11): Floppy Disks, Michelle Yeoh, Movie Stunts, “The Last of Us”
Recommended weekend reading material for March 11, 2023.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Although the venerable floppy disk ceased production back in 2010, there’s still plenty of technology that relies on them.
Davit Niazashvili, a maintenance manager at Geosky, a cargo airline based in Tbilisi, Georgia, still uses floppy disks to apply critical updates to two 36-year-old 747-200s, which were originally delivered to British Airways in 1987: “When an update is released, we need to download it to two 3.5-inch floppy disks. There are no computers with built-in floppy drives left, so we had to source an external one,” Niazashvili says. “Then we take the disks to the aircraft to update the flight management system. The operation takes about an hour.”
Via The Verge.
Related: If it weren’t for floppy disks, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy Chuck E. Cheese dance routines.
Speaking of old school media, vinyl records outsold CDs in 2022. The last time that happened was 1987.
Vinyl record sales have consistently increased over the last 16 years according to the RIAA report published on Thursday, now accounting for 71 percent of all physical music format revenue. The growth margins here aren’t trivial, either — while physical formats as a whole increased by 4 percent, earning $1.7 billion between 2021 and 2022, vinyl sales alone accounted for $1.2 billion, experiencing a 17 percent increase in sales compared to the previous year. Comparatively, CD sales plummeted by 18 percent in 2022.
Sarah Welch-Larson considers the role of technology in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Glass Onion, and Poker Face.
The lived-in sensibility of Poker Face and the lush design of the Benoit Blanc mysteries help make these stories believable, but the most important prop in all of these mysteries isn’t colorful costumes or elaborate set dressing, it’s an ordinary smartphone. It’s the perfect murder mystery suspect: ubiquitous enough that it’s easy to overlook and underestimate. We all carry one. We’re used to seeing smartphones everywhere, so we don’t notice when they appear on screen in a manner that reads as true-to-life. The smartphones in Rian Johnson’s mysteries aren’t typically central to the mystery driving the plot, but like the rest of the costume and production design, the smartphones are vital parts of the equation. They’re tiny glowing mirrors, reflecting truths about the characters who carry them, and, by extension, reflecting truths about the ways we project versions of ourselves online.
Speaking of Glass Onion, Jaclyn Parrish addresses a certain irony that lies at the heart of Rian Johnson’s film.
[I]f you, like myself, streamed the film instead of watching it in theaters, you were instantly reminded of who provided you this beautifully subversive film about upending entrenched power: the powerful. Knives Out was distributed by Amazon Prime, a company whose leadership far more strongly resembles Miles Bron than Helen Brand. The franchise was then bought, for the prettiest of pennies, by Netflix, a company which, like Bron’s hangers-on, has long since abandoned its scrappy start-up boots for a pair of giant britches. Ironically enough, the rich and powerful are profiting handsomely off art that attacks the rich and powerful.
What are we to make of Johnson’s films in this context?
Not gonna lie: This irony made it difficult to enjoy Glass Onion as much as I enjoyed Knives Out. I’m sure Rian Johnson is totally aware of this; he’s a smart filmmaker. I just wish the film had really been as subversive as it clearly wants to be.
Michelle Yeoh has been garnering a lot of buzz for her performance in last year’s critically acclaimed Everything Everywhere All at Once, but the actress has actually been a star for decades.
[H]er big comeback came alongside Jackie Chan in Supercop, the third film in his Police Story series. Yeoh plays a PRC military officer who teams with Hong Kong cop Chan to infiltrate a group of bad guys led by Yuen Wah (another former Chan classmate). Yeoh absolutely runs away with the film: her stone-faced deadpan is a perfect foil for Chan’s goofy slapstick antics and her stunt-work matches him in both elegance and sheer death-defying lunacy. The next two years saw a remarkable explosion of work from Yeoh, and it’s these films, six in 1993, three in 1994, that firmly established her as one of Hong Kong’s all-time greatest stars.
I’m glad people have finally realized what us Asian cinema fans have known for years: Michelle Yeoh is awesome. And I suddenly feel the urge to watch some classic ’90s Hong Kong action.
Speaking of kick-ass action stars, Polygon’s Pete Volk highlights his favorite movie stunts from 2022, including Athena, Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday, and Lost Bullet 2.
Katelyn Jetelina (aka, Your Local Epidemiologist) separates the facts and fiction in The Last of Us’ depiction of a fungal pandemic that takes over humanity. For instance, did you know that fungus can actually community?
One of the more scary themes in the TV show is that fungi communicate through long filaments. This is true. Fungi communicate by sending electrical impulses underground through thread-like structures (called hyphae). These can expand to form a network. In fact, scientists have found that fungi have at least 50 unique “words.” If we had a fungal pandemic, it could be highly coordinated.
Earlier this month, The Gospel Coalition sparked some controversy after publishing an excerpt from an upcoming book on human sexuality that many found problematic. However, the situation highlighted another problem altogether: how Christian books are often endorsed, even by people who haven’t even read them.
[I]n an age fixated on platform, endorsements are about establishing the market appeal of an author based on their connections to famous people. As such, endorsements are usually driven by celebrity, mutual back-scratching, and power consolidated through loose social, professional, and ministry networks. There’s a reason that endorsements come through the marketing team (not editorial): Endorsements are marketing tools, not editorial reviews.
Finally, conservative blogger Rod Dreher was getting paid six figures to blog, but his sole sponsor decided to withdraw support after Dreher’s posts crossed a line.
Ahmanson had apparently long admired the work of Dreher, who has authored numerous conservative books and previously wrote for the Beliefnet blog and The Dallas Morning News. But according to the two sources, Ahmanson began to sour on his beneficiary in 2021, when Dreher, in a blog post debating circumcision, wrote the following: “All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that.” Incredibly, that was the “first red flag” for Ahmanson, one source told me, adding that the rift had been building for about a year.
As one friend put it, if I was getting paid that much money to write about whatever I wanted to without any editorial oversight whatsoever, then I’d probably be a bit more thoughtful and circumspect in my writing lest I ruin such a sweet arrangement. (Does that make me a sellout?)
Of course, being so reliant on a single benefactor is not the most tenable of situations for any profession. That said, if you know someone who’s willing to shell out six figures to support a nerdy pop culture blogger, feel free to send them my way.
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