Weekend Reads (May 6): “Star Trek,” Ed Sheeran, AI Fears and Concerns, the iMac
Recommended weekend reading material for May 6, 2023.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Writing for Christ and Pop Culture, Geoffrey Reiter sings the praises of Star Trek: Picard’s third season. (Disclaimer: I edited this article.)
Picard’s third season successfully introduces a complex serialized storyline that organically draws together the TNG characters to resolve an exciting crisis that is satisfyingly appropriate to their journey and their past. There are Easter eggs aplenty for the hardcore Trekkie, but the characters aren’t static reproductions of their 1990s selves. They have changed in surprising yet fitting ways, and while they dominate the action, the show’s writing staff makes ample space for a younger generation to step into their own as well. Even so, the writers make certain to emphasize the value and wisdom that only age and experience can provide, a refreshing perspective in our youth-fixated culture.
Related: As a lifelong Trekkie, I really enjoyed Star Trek: Picard’s third season, and especially the relationship depicted between Picard and Riker.
Earlier this week, Ed Sheeran won a lawsuit that claimed he ripped off Marvin Gaye’s classic hit “Let’s Get It On.” The lawsuit’s claims, writes Elizabeth Nelson, weren’t just ridiculous but also “a threat to Western civilization.”
The case presented by the Townsend estate is nakedly cynical and designed to play on fundamental and understandable misapprehensions about how songs are created. Much like math or writing, music is limitless in its possibilities but paradoxically required to repeat itself. The notion of copyrighting any chord progression, let alone one as common as the one used in “Let’s Get It On,” makes no more sense than copyrighting the numbers six and 13 or the conjunctions “and” or “but.”
Gaye was a full-stop genius, Townsend a fine songwriter, and “Let’s Get It On” an objectively great song. But the litigants no more “own” that progression than they have a legal claim on the wind or the rain. It is elemental. There are thousands of instances of those chords played in that order that predate “Let’s Get It On,” including several popular ones cited by Sheeran’s legal team. Such things are, and must always remain, the property of the global human consciousness.
Related: This Twitter thread by music professor Robert Komaniecki further explains why the lawsuit’s claims were misguided. “Point 296 asserts (correctly) that the songs share the same formal structure. This is true, but about as relevant as pointing out that both Sheeran and Gaye sang using their larynxes.”
The 2023 inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, including Kate Bush, Missy Elliott, and Rage Against the Machine.
“This year’s incredible group of inductees reflects the diverse artists and sounds that define rock’n’roll,” John Sykes, chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said in a press statement. “We are honored that this November’s induction ceremony in New York will coincide with two milestones in music culture; the 90th birthday of Willie Nelson and the 50th Anniversary of the birth of hip-hop.”
Luke Plunkett is frustrated that companies keep ditching their forums for Discord.
Discord excels as a means of real-time communication, for people talking in the moment. What Discord is not good at, however, is being a long-term repository of information, the kind of place you can ask a question, get an answer then have that answer remain easily accessible for months, years or even decades to come.
I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve used Discord several times and I fail to see the fuss. It’s a great chatroom for my D&D group and… that’s about it. As a replacement for the functionality and utility of discussion forums, Discord seems like the epitome of “this is better because it’s new and not because it’s actually better.”
Eyecandy lists examples of all of the visual techniques that filmmakers use, including arc movements, parallax, tilt shift, and truck shots. And don’t forget about the good ol’ dolly zoom.
The dolly zoom is like the mullet of camera techniques — business in the front, party in the back. It’s used to create a disorienting and intense effect that’s perfect for showcasing moments of shock or realization.
Via Morning Brew.
The Verge staff have compiled a list of 2023’s best entertainment so far, including TV shows, movies, and video games. Their picks include the second volume of Star Wars: Visions, Star Trek: Picard, Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume, and Resident Evil 4.
Appropriately enough, Carrie Fisher received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday, May 4th.
Fisher — who died in 2016 — joins Star Wars co-stars Harrison Ford and Hamill on the Hollywood tourist attraction that recognizes luminaries from film, television, music and other entertainment industries. The trio’s stars are all located on the 6,800 block of Hollywood Boulevard, near where the original film debuted in 1977.
Michael Schulman talks to several TV writers to find out why they’re all going on strike and why being a writer — which once seemed so lucrative and rewarding — has become such a dispiriting job.
For people outside the industry, the woes of TV writers can elicit a boo-hoo response: it is, after all, a more lucrative form of writing than most, right? But the economics of streaming have chipped away at what was previously a route to a middle-class life, as the cost of living in Los Angeles has crept upward. “It feels like the studios have gone through our contracts and figured out how to Frankenstein every loophole into every deal, which means that, at the very best, you can keep your head above water,” Jacqmin said. “You can maybe maintain the amount of money you made the year before, but more than likely you will be asked to cut your quote. It just feels really grim.” She added, “I’m on Twitter every other day, and I’m seeing writers who are, like, ‘Please Venmo me some grocery money. I am desperate, and I have not worked in three months. Help!’”
One of the driving concerns behind the writers’ strike is the fear that studio execs, intent on cutting costs and increasing profits, will replace human writers with AI tools like ChatGPT.
Thanks to the WGA’s account of how their proposal on AI was received, the issue became a lightning rod on the picket lines on the first day of the strike. “This is existential for us,” said writer Vinnie Wilhelm (Penny Dreadful: City of Angels) as he picketed Netflix’s Hollywood offices. “We need to have a seat at the table. You can easily see the job becoming polishing AI scripts. It fits neatly into what companies have been doing — turning everything they can into gig work.” Adds WGA negotiating committee member Adam Conover (The G Word With Adam Conover), who was also demonstrating in front of the streamer, “AI can’t and won’t replace us. But the fantasy of the technology will be used to devalue us, to pay us less.”
As news publications increasingly turn to AI tools to generate their articles, that raises a number of questions about just how reliable and trustworthy the news will become.
Journalists have naturally been experimenting with image and text generators, crafting policies regarding how publications will and won’t use these forms of AI. There are still lots of unanswered questions. When, for example, is it appropriate for a publication to publish a generated image, no matter how benign it may appear? Can a chatbot help write a story? How transparent should a publication be with its readers about how it’s using AI?
25 years ago this week, Steve Jobs introduced the iMac to the world, saving Apple and forever changing the computer industry.
As an avid Apple fan in the darkest period of the 1990s, it was hard to deny that the iMac sparked excitement. Here was something new, something distinct from everything else on the market, something that perfectly exemplified the company’s then-only recently adopted slogan, which, though only in use for a few years, became its most iconic motto: Think different.
Watch Jobs’ introduction below.
iMacs have been my primary computer ever since I bought an iMac DV SE in 1999. As much I love the convenience of a laptop, I always feel like I’m coming home when I sit down in front of my 27” iMac 5K.
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