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Weekend Reads (May 13): “Trigun,” “Vertigo,” The Cure, Eurovision 2023, Dooce
Recommended weekend reading material for May 13, 2023.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
I think I kept watching Trigun — and reading the manga — at the time because I didn’t know what else to do. There’s no pat lesson to be learned after violence shatters a community. It’s disrespectful to try to shove a lesson into such an event. Trigun didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know. It’s a story about a contradictory character who keeps pushing through the pain because, despite all evidence to the contrary, he believes in the inherent goodness of humanity. The manga in particular grapples with the aftermath of violence; it doesn’t give any easy answers, and the story itself seems baffled by the cheerfulness of its own protagonist. I suppose I needed something to muddle with, while I was muddling though myself. It’s not satisfying. The contradiction never resolves itself. It’s just there, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo turns 65 this year, and Ty Burr reflects on the movie’s dreamlike tone and conflicted storyline.
Once dismissed as a qualified misfire that narrowly broke even at the box office and won two “lesser” Oscars (for production design and sound mixing), Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 suspense thriller continues to blossom into fresh relevance with each new generation of film lovers. At the same time, this is the Great Movie that most daunts a casual viewer, especially since 2012, when Vertigo knocked Citizen Kane out of a half-century in the top spot on Sight & Sound’s once-a-decade poll of the best films of all time. That’s a heavy load to carry for an odd, dreamlike movie that doesn’t seem to care about meeting an audience halfway and that only becomes richer, sadder and more profound with multiple viewings.
In honor of The Cure kicking off their massive American tour this week, Michael Tedder ranked their 50 best songs.
After helping to set the template for New Wave and post-punk (spiky guitars, moaning bass, lots of free-floating anxiety) on its 1979 debut, Three Imaginary Boys, the Cure went on to record the trilogy of Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography between 1980 and 1982, firmly establishing, alongside its peers in Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees, the sound, look, and subculture of goth.
If the band had quit then, it would have been an underground legend. But something quite unexpected happened, as the Cure followed that run of albums up with the absolutely frothy pop single trilogy (lotta trilogies with this band) of “Let’s Go to Bed,” “The Walk,” and “The Lovecats.” These songs proved that Smith was willing to push back against his image and that he wouldn’t let anyone define the Cure except himself.
From there, the Cure set out to prove that it could do whatever it felt like: absolute pop bangers, wedding dance staples, guitar epics, or That Real Goth Shit. It conquered the hearts of America’s arty weirdos with the essential 1986 Standing on a Beach compilation and conquered everyone else with 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and 1989’s Disintegration.
The thing about The Cure is that everyone can make their own lists, and the band’s songs are almost all so good that everyone’s list is more or less correct. That said, these are my favorite Cure songs, listed in chronological order.
If I had to pick an absolute favorite Cure song, though, I’d go with “This Twilight Garden,” a B-side from 1992’s Wish. I talked about the song, which is one of the dreamiest and most romantic songs in the entire Cure catalog, for my April 2022 podcast episode.
The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest begins this weekend. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s competition.
Eurovision is the world’s largest musical event and a serious cultural force in the region. The Nordic countries are particularly fond of Eurovision, with 95% of viewers in Iceland tuning in to watch a 2016 final that it had not even qualified for, while in host country Sweden, 85% of viewers tuned in that year. The contest has helped launch the careers of some of the world’s biggest stars, including past winners ABBA, who won for Sweden in 1974, and Céline Dion, who took the crown for Switzerland in 1988 (singers do not have to be from the country they represent). Other notable acts to compete in the contest include Olivia Newton-John, Julio Iglesias, Flo Rida and Bonnie Tyler.
Sweden is this year’s favorite to win, though Finland, Ukraine, France, Spain, and Israel have also been flagged as potential winners.
Related: Here’s a list of Eurovision’s most memorable performances, beginning with ABBA’s 1974 performance of “Waterloo.” And of course, who can forget Moldova’s Epic Sax Guy?
Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin stopped the Philadelphia Orchestra twice when cellphones interrupted their performance.
[I]n a voice memo texted to The Inquirer, the conductor said he “stopped the concert because it was cell phone [ring] number four. Philosophically, I think what’s happening is, we do have a new audience coming in and we appreciate that they are coming in. And we’re trying to welcome them to understand the power of being together in a moment of silence and in a moment of complete focus on the music.”
He said the goal was to help the audience have the best experience possible, which is “not to be distracted by the daily life, which is represented by the cell phone.”
Give the man a medal. I’m reminded of this video of violinist Lukáš Kmiť getting interrupted by a phone, and weaving the ringtone into his performance.
I always enjoy Bandcamp’s various artist and label guides. One recent guide covered Markus Popp, who has spent the last three decades producing an impressive catalog of experimental electronic music under the Oval moniker.
Conceptually based and abstract from the beginning, Oval’s music has only grown more complicated to define over time, if only because it continues to evolve. In fact, if there’s one throughline in everything that Oval’s released, it’s change. While Popp is always working to create music that’s identifiably Oval — however many different permutations it might take — he likewise has a parallel objective to deliver something unexpected. Something that sparks his own curiosity.
The latest game in the iconic Legend of Zelda series — Tears of the Kingdom — was released this week to widespread acclaim. One beloved aspect of the Zelda games has been their acclaimed soundtracks, which have helped popularize video game concerts.
The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses played a major role in popularizing symphonic video game live shows, especially in the United States. Officially licensed by Nintendo, the world tour kicked off in 2012 and became one of the most successful video game orchestra performances of all time, adapting themes and musical highlights from 1998’s Ocarina of Time, 2002’s The Wind Waker, 2006’s Twilight Princess, and more into four grandiose movements. Symphony of the Goddesses evolved with the times over its five-year run, integrating melodies from new Zelda releases like 2015’s Tri Force Heroes and 2017’s Breath of the Wild while targeting devoted gamers and philharmonic regulars alike, acknowledging that neither had to be prioritized over the other in the pursuit of a professional, intricate, and evocative show. Future installments, potentially featuring the music of this year’s Tears of the Kingdom, aren’t yet in the works, though that’s not for lack of interest from fans. Zelda music was played at the Sydney Opera House and London’s Hammersmith Apollo, cementing video game music's place in prestigious rooms.
The Russian media hasn’t exactly been forthcoming when it comes to telling the truth about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat created a custom map in the video game Counter-Strike, which is very popular in Russia, that contains a hidden room where players see the facts about Russia’s activities in Ukraine.
Originally created in the United States, Counter-Strike differs from many Western online services and digital platforms in one respect:
It is not forbidden in Russia. Russians can still play the game.
After the start of the war on Ukraine, Russia has banned its citizens from accessing such online services as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as the sites of several Western media, including Helsingin Sanomat. Due to this, a large proportion of Russians are not aware of what is going on in Ukraine, for example.
The Russian state-controlled media are not telling the truth.
This sparked a crazy idea: Could we create a place in Counter-Strike, where the millions of young Russian men playing this first-person shooter game would be forced to face the terrors of the war in Ukraine?
Heather Armstrong, aka Dooce, died earlier this week from suicide. She was 47 years old. During the early ’00s, Armstrong was arguably the most popular “mommy blogger” thanks to her brutally honest posts about marriage, parenting, and her struggles with depression.
Armstrong didn’t hold back on Instagram and Dooce, the latter a name that arose from her inability to quickly spell “dude” during online chats. Her raw, unapologetic posts on everything from pregnancy and breastfeeding to homework and carpooling were often infused with curses. As her popularity grew, so too did the barbs of critics, who accused her of bad parenting and worse.
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help, please call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
A long, long time ago — 2021, to be precise — Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed that we would all soon be living in the Metaverse, and countless pundits and executives bought the hype. But hype is all the Metaverse ever turned out to be.
While the idea of virtual worlds or collective online experiences may live on in some form, the Capital-M Metaverse is dead. It was preceded in death by a long line of tech fads like Web3 and Google Glass. It is survived by newfangled ideas like the aforementioned generative AI and the self-driving car. Despite this long lineage of disappointment, let’s be clear: The death of the Metaverse should be remembered as arguably one of the most historic failures in tech history.
I do not believe that Mark Zuckerberg ever had any real interest in “the Metaverse,” because he never seemed to define it beyond a slightly tweaked Facebook with avatars and cumbersome hardware. It was the means to an increased share price, rather than any real vision for the future of human interaction. And Zuckerberg used his outsize wealth and power to get the whole of the tech industry and a good portion of the American business world into line behind this half-baked idea.
I never once believed for a second that the Metaverse would ever be anything more than a flashy promo video. Virtual reality is cool in cyberpunk dystopias, but that’s about it. (Of course, some might argue that we’re basically living in a cyberpunk dystopia already, only sans the cool clothes and flying cars.)
From the Blog
One of the most powerful moments in Star Trek: Picard’s third season is when Picard and Ro Laren are reunited after so many years, and they get the chance to air out their grievances and feelings of betrayal. After seeing that episode, I had to go watch my favorite Ro episode from The Next Generation — which also happens to be one of the few Star Trek episodes that explores religious belief.
“The Next Phase” is arguably my favorite Ro episode. There’s the religious aspect, to be sure, but I also enjoy the episode because it pairs Ro with Geordi La Forge — a pairing that you wouldn’t think of at first. Picard or Riker? Sure. (Although Ro was paired up, quite literally, with Riker in an earlier episode, “Conundrum.”) Perhaps even Worf. But La Forge? I didn’t see that one coming. And the unlikely duo finds themselves in a real predicament when they find themselves in what appears to be the afterlife.
And speaking of Star Trek: Picard’s third season, I loved practically everything about it. But I especially loved how it explored the relationship between Jean-Luc Picard and William Riker.
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