Weekend Reads: "Parks and Recreation," Kraftwerk, Conspiracy Theories, Black Holes

Recommended weekend reading material for May 9, 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.

K.B. Hoyle explains why the recent Parks and Recreation pandemic special episode was so much better than it had any right to be.

The resulting story is something that feels like it shouldn’t have worked, but thanks to a monumental effort, the love and enthusiasm of old friends, and probably more than a little Leslie Knope magic, it somehow not only comes together but it reminds us why a song about a miniature horse can be just what we all need right now.

If you haven’t seen it yet — or if you just want to revisit Pawnee, Indiana (again and again and again) — you can watch the entire special on YouTube.

Florian Schneider, who co-founded the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, died earlier this week.

Schneider formed the influential group and multimedia project with Ralf Hutter in 1970. Kraftwerk — with its use of electronic instruments that included homemade and custom-built devices — has been widely credited with pioneering electronic music and influencing various genres across the musical spectrum, including hip-hop, synthpop and rock with their soundscapes, experimentation and technical innovations.

If you don’t know where to begin with Kraftwerk’s music, I recommend Trans-Europe Express (1977) and The Man-Machine (1978). Also worth reading is Treble’s overview of the Kraftwerk catalog.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine reviews the newest albums by X and Morrissey and wrestles with that age-old question: What do you do with art made by beloved artists who now hold views you find repugnant?

Morrissey may not be an ideal yardstick by which to compare X since they hail from opposite sides of the Atlantic and embrace musical aesthetics that distinctly embody the sound and value of their homeland. That said, I’m finding I Am Not A Dog On A Chain and Alphabetland stir similar thoughts and emotions within myself, making me ponder the distance that’s been traveled culturally since the 1980s.

Guillermo del Toro recently discussed how the filmmaking landscape has changed with the rise of streaming services and Marvel’s massive box office numbers.

While he has flirted with superhero work since the filmmaker hasn’t dipped his toes back into the genre fully. And on social media recently, del Toro gives a peek into why he thinks the first two Hellboy movies were able to be made and why they wouldn’t be made today.

Speaking of the rise of streaming services, Netflix had their biggest quarter ever thanks to COVID-19.

Netflix reported the addition of 15.77 million paid subscribers globally in the first quarter. Netflix’s biggest quarter for paid net additions to its subscriber total previously was 9.6 million in the year-ago quarter, according to FactSet.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Tiger King — for better or worse — was all that anyone could talk about for weeks.

Once the coronavirus pandemic has passed, we should view technology companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google with even greater skepticism.

It’s not good that we have set up an epic system of have and have-nots that could become devastating for innovative ideas and start-ups trying to get off the ground. Not good because too much of our data is in the hands of fewer. Not good because these fewer are largely unaccountable to those they serve and hard to control by governments that are elected by the people.

Via The Loop.

As doctors race to save those infected by the coronavirus, they face another dangerous challenge: conspiracy theories.

Providing a straightforward, extinguishable enemy — whether it’s a well-known celebrity like Gates or a mysterious concept like the illuminati — gives conspiracy theorists hope, agency and power in a time of chaos. In reality, those recognizable, often mortal figures are simply scapegoats for an act of God.

Related: I recently wrote about coronavirus-related conspiracy theories like the recent Plandemic video and why they’re so prevalent and harmful.

Here’s a wee bit of nerdy trivia for my fellow Trekkies: Did you know that in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise crew included several dolphins and whales that helped with ship navigation?

A new black hole has been discovered that’s only 1,000 light years away from Earth.

On a human scale, a thousand light-years is an immense distance. If a model of the Milky Way were scaled so that Earth and the sun were only a hair’s width apart, HR 6819 would be about four miles away. But in the grand scheme of the galaxy, which is more than 100,000 light-years across, HR 6819 is quite close, and it suggests the Milky Way is littered with black holes.

Via 1440.

I recently finished Alex Garland’s Devs, which you should definitely check out if you’re looking for some heady, philosophical sci-fi. From my review:

Devs isn’t for everyone. Many will find its pacing interminable, its dialog pretentious. And I’m sure that some philosophers and theologians will scoff a bit at Garland’s treatment of such age-old conundrums as free will, determinism, predestination, and lapsarianism. But for those who do get Devs, and are willing to absorb its eight episodes, they’ll find that the series’ flaws are far outweighed by everything else.

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