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Weekend Reads (May 27): Nightcrawler, Tina Turner (RIP), Disney Remakes, Video Game History
Recommended weekend reading material for May 27, 2023.
Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.
Ask a nerd to name their favorite mutant superhero, and most will probably reply with Wolverine, Storm, Gambit, or maybe even Magneto. But for Tyler Huckabee, it’s Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, due in part to the character’s devout — and playful — faith.
When you’re a kid, pop culture representation of Christians is limited to either nerdy do-gooders like The Simpsons’s Ned Flanders, overbearing hypocrites like Hunchback of Notre Dame’s Claude Frollo or wizened mystics like The Count of Monte Cristo’s Abbé Faria. There’s a lot of Christian representation in America, but most of it is pretty bad and not really recognizable to your average youth group kid. But in Nightcrawler, I found what I was looking for. Here was a superhero who seemed to genuinely like being a Christian and took it seriously, but was also a fiend for a good time, a trusty drinking buddy for Wolverine and flirty to a fault.
I remember watching the X-Men episode that Huckabee mentions at the beginning of his article, and frankly, being blown away by its depiction of Nightcrawler’s faith as something sincere and devout. I still think it’s one of the most flattering depictions of Christianity in all of pop culture.
Five years ago, Karen Swallow Prior was hit by a bus. She reflects on that event, and what she’s learned since then, in this beautiful piece.
The physical and spiritual realms are not separate, not in each of us as individual bearers of God’s image, nor in the world in which we live, one that consists of both a physical realm and a spiritual one. Reality consists of both. Angels and demons are as real and as present among us as dogs and buses. The universe, as some theologians put it, is organic. It is less a machine made up of discrete parts than, as Iain McGilchrist explains, a stream — living, flowing, changing and mutually affecting all that are in it.
We need not — ought not — go about seeking a spiritual explanation for everything, good or bad, that happens throughout our day. But we also ought not to forget that everything that happens throughout our day — and our life — can draw us nearer to or push us farther away from God, depending on how we respond.
Tina Turner, the “Queen of Rock & Roll,” died this week after battling a long illness. She was 83 years old.
Starting with her performances with her ex-husband Ike, Turner injected an uninhibited, volcanic stage presence into pop. Even with choreographed backup singers — both with Ike and during her own career — Turner never seemed reined in. Her influence on rock, R&B, and soul singing and performance was also immeasurable. Her delivery influenced everyone from Mick Jagger to Mary J. Blige, and her high-energy stage presence (topped with an array of gravity-defying wigs) was passed down to Janet Jackson and Beyoncé. Turner’s message — one that resounded with generations of women — was that she could hold her own onstage against any man.
Here’s a list of 15 essential Tina Turner songs, including such classics as “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Proud Mary,” and of course, “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” And a number of celebrities and fellow musicians (e.g., Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger) have paid tribute to Turner.
Alissa Wilkinson reflects on the constant stream of reboots and remakes, like Disney’s recent live-action version of The Little Mermaid, and what that says about our cultural notions of storytelling and entertainment.
[I]ncreasingly, the new stories on our screens don’t, and can’t, become part of our commons, fertilizing a field for us to plow and plant with our own versions molded by our own creative intelligences — or at least, not if we fear a lawsuit (or fan outrage). Yes, film and television have been dominated by adaptations of stories owned by corporations since the dawn of the moving image. But there’s axiomatically more of it now than ever before. And in a world where the simple tools for creativity are easily accessible to ordinary people, not just studios who can afford expensive equipment, the lockdown on stories, and the insistence on constant regurgitation of the same stuff with the same predictable outcome, feels particularly egregious. Particularly stale. Particularly like we’ve stifled our culture into stasis.
As their name suggests, the good folks at the Video Game History Foundation are determined to chronicle the history of even the most obscure video games.
The oldest video games are now about seventy years old, and their stories are disappearing. The companies that created early games left behind design documents and production timelines and story bibles, but these kinds of ephemera — and even the games themselves — are easily lost. Paper mildews. Disks demagnetize. Bits are said to “rot” as small errors accumulate in stored data. Hard drives die, and so do the people who produced games in the first place.
Generations of kids grew up playing these video games and helped to jump-start the digital revolution. But games aren’t always treated as a serious part of the culture, and historians and archivists are only starting to preserve them. (One museum curator even told me that a federal grant for his game-preservation work ended up on a U.S. senator’s list of wasteful projects.) The challenge isn’t just technical: it’s also about convincing the public that game history is history, and that it’s well worth saving.
Via Kottke. Several months ago, my mom gave me a box filled with stuff from my childhood including several old issues of gaming magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly and the long-defunct VideoGames & Computer Entertainment. Thumbing through those tattered issues wasn’t just a nostalgia rush; it was a time capsule of what video games (and video game marketing) looked and felt like in the early-to-mid ’90s.
I’m with Luke Plunkett. I was excited when Bungie announced they were revisiting their classic first-person shooter Marathon — until I learned it would be multiplayer, that is. Given that Bungie gave us Halo, why can’t they deliver another shooter with a single-player campaign?
I understand why that’s the case, from Sony and Bungie’s perspective as companies who want to make the most amount of money possible. Multiplayer shooters can release more expansions and seasons, can sell skins, can be updated and bring in revenue for years beyond their initial release. We’ve had NINE YEARS of Destiny, believe it or not, and that thing just isn’t going away.
But I don’t have shares in Sony. I’m not in Bungie management. I don’t care! I miss the way Bungie could take a crashed ship and big dumb aliens and somehow make a haunting story out of it, could play a few strings over a battle cutscene and make me feel something, could assemble a generic squad of Army Guys — whose faces we don’t even see — and make me increasingly sad every time one of them died.
AI is already upending our lives, so Maxwell Strachan decided to give ChatGPT full control over his life. The results were… not great.
I feel guilty for letting concerns for my mother’s happiness bleed into my dedicated work period and explain to ChatGPT that I sometimes struggle to keep the personal and professional obligations separate. To overcome this issue, ChatGPT says I need “clear boundaries between work and personal life” and to “communicate these boundaries to family members or anyone else who might interrupt you during those times.” The robot helps me craft a text message to send to my wife to let her know that I will henceforth set more boundaries between my personal and professional life.
“I had a conversation with ChatGPT, and they highlighted the importance of establishing clear boundaries between my personal obligations and work,” I text my wife. “They recommended that I designate specific time blocks for work and communicate these boundaries to ensure uninterrupted focus. By doing so, I can effectively manage both my personal obligations and work responsibilities without them overlapping and impacting my concentration.”
“OK that’s nice but can you help me unload the groceries now chicken juice spilled everywhere,” my wife replies.
Disney is removing almost eighty series from Disney+ and Hulu, including Turner & Hooch, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Willow, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, and Y: The Last Man. (Farewell, Mysterious Benedict Society; you were too good for this world.) It’s the latest event in an ongoing trend, as streaming services remove titles in order to save money.
Streaming companies pay residuals to the writers and directors and actors of their original shows every year those shows stay on the platform. So by removing a show like Made For Love, streamers could be saving millions. Their second motivation… has to do with changes in the streaming business. For several years, platforms were battling for market share, making tons of new shows to win subscribers. But then last year, Netflix announced they’d lost subscribers for the first time in a decade.
All of a sudden, shows that weren’t bringing in lots of new subscribers or helping to retain them started to look like costly liabilities unless, of course, someone else wanted to buy them.
However, such removals are discouraging for the people who actually make the series in question, since it negatively affects their paychecks. That’s why residuals are such a major component of the ongoing WGA strike.
CD Baby recently announced that they’ll stop longer selling and distributing CDs, vinyl, or any other physical media after June 22, 2023.
Like other services that date back to the late-1990s dot-com boom, CD Baby has gradually shifted away from its namesake offering. Launched from Woodstock, New York, in 1998 by Derek Sivers, it was one of the first web-based CD stores that focused on selling independent artists' work. By 2009, according to the company, physical sales through its store accounted for only 27 percent of the revenue it paid out to artists.
I spent many an hour perusing CD Baby’s catalog back in the day. But now their focus will be on distributing music digitally to all of the major streaming platforms (e.g., Apple Music, Spotify).
From the Blog
Earlier this week, I posted a list of some of my favorite movie, TV, and video game tropes, from the bad-ass slow-motion walk to the “gear up” montage. Despite seeing them all numerous times, I still get a thrill and a sense of satisfaction whenever they pop up on the screen.
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