Weekend Reads: "MST3K," D&D, Pandemic Playlists, Typography, Apple's New iPhone

Recommended weekend reading material for May 2, 2020.

Every week, I compile a list of interesting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable articles, blog posts, and reviews. I hope you’ll find they’re good weekend reading material.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is returning to make our social distancing a little more bearable.

The A.V. Club is the first to announce the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live Riff-Along, a special streaming event taking place May 3 at 6 p.m. ET. Coupled with a new short, Circus Day, the centerpiece is a screening of the vintage MST3K episode Moon Zero Two, which will find the show’s touring cast riffing between the jokes their first-season counterparts first made in 1990.

The special will stream on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and other platforms.

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing how people play tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons.

Like any hobby, D&D is escapism. It just so happens to be very good at the “escape” part. “It helps you be somewhere else,” says B. Dave Walters, author of the Dungeons & Dragons comics. “We feel freaking helpless. We’re bombarded by an invisible adversary and the only thing we can do is literally nothing. More than ever, to be able to say, ‘I’ll hit them with a fireball’ is a very needed outlet.”

Bandcamp proves once again why they’re my favorite online music service: they’ll be waiving their revenue shares to give artists more money.

The pandemic and its impact on the music community aren’t over, so on May 1, June 5, and July 3 (the first Friday of each month), we’re waiving our revenue share for all sales on Bandcamp, from midnight to midnight PDT on each day.

If you’re looking for a playlist to make it through the pandemic, then the good people at Rise Up Daily have you covered.

In the early days of our nation wide quarantine, I reached out to a few friends, musicians, and music writers to compile a pandemic playlist — what songs are you listening to in this time of pandemic and economic crisis? what songs are giving you hope or inspiration? what songs capture your attention right now?

The playlist features the likes of Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Nine Inch Nails, and Talking Heads.

And speaking of pandemic listening material, this virtual performance of “Tank!” by Seatbelts is a lot of fun. For those of you who don’t know, “Tank!” is the opening theme for the Cowboy Bebop anime series as well as one of the greatest opening themes of all time.

Universal Pictures released Trolls World Tour directly to video-on-demand, where it made $100 million. Universal then announced that their future movies may be released to both theaters and video-on-demand. In response, the world’s largest theater chain announced that they’d no longer be playing any Universal movies. I suspect we’ll see even more changes to the movie industry before this pandemic is over, as both theaters and studios have to make adjustments to their operations.

David Yong explores how confusion and uncertainty about the coronavirus has continued to spread since day one.

The coronavirus not only co-opts our cells, but exploits our cognitive biases. Humans construct stories to wrangle meaning from uncertainty and purpose from chaos. We crave simple narratives, but the pandemic offers none. The facile dichotomy between saving either lives or the economy belies the broad agreement between epidemiologists and economists that the U.S. shouldn’t reopen prematurely. The lionization of health-care workers and grocery-store employees ignores the risks they are being asked to shoulder and the protective equipment they aren’t being given. The rise of small anti-lockdown protests overlooks the fact that most Republicans and Democrats agree that social distancing should continue “for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus.”

Typography nerds can start celebrating: Microsoft Word will soon start flagging double spaces after periods as errors, ending one of the great typographic debates of our age.

Much of the debate around one space or two has been fueled by the halcyon days of the typewriter. Typewriters used monospaced fonts to allocate the same amount of horizontal spacing to every character. Narrow characters like “i” got the same amount of space as “m,” so the extra space after the “.” was needed to make it more apparent that sentences had ended. Word and many other similar apps make fonts proportional, so two spaces is no longer necessary.

Good. Now Word just needs to start flagging serial comma omissions as errors, too. Via Daring Fireball.

This Twitter thread is tech support done right. You’ll never look at your wifi router or Friends the same way ever again.

And finally, I put on my “tech pundit” hat and wrote about Apple’s revamped and resized iPhone SE.

The new iPhone SE has received rave reviews for both its performance and value — its price starts at $399 for the 64 GB model — and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sorely tempted to upgrade from my current iPhone SE. However, there’s one aspect of the new iPhone SE that’s a bit, well, disappointing: its display size has been increased from 4″ to 4.7″ (the same size as the iPhone 8).

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