Weekend Reads: The Death of the Office, Ian Holm, Diversity in Tech, the Lost Cause, Facebook

Recommended weekend reading material for June 20, 2020.

Every week, I compile a list of interesting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable articles, blog posts, and reviews. I hope they provide you with some good weekend reading material.

Thanks to the pandemic, more of us are working from home than ever before. Do we still need offices? Is the death of the office only a matter of time?

Even before coronavirus struck, the reign of the office had started to look a little shaky. A combination of rising rents, the digital revolution and increased demands for flexible working meant its population was slowly emigrating to different milieux. More than half of the Ameri­can workforce already worked remotely, at least some of the time. Across the world, home working had been rising steadily for a decade. Pundits predicted that it would increase further. No one imagined that a dramatic spike would come so soon.

Personally, I do find myself missing the office a bit, mainly because I miss being able to compartmentalize my day. The constant overlap of work and home life has been one of the hardest and most exhausting aspects of working from home.

We’re all tired of commercials assuring us that massive corporations have our backs during the pandemic. And then there’s Steak-umm’s Twitter account.

Anticipating the onslaught of conspiracy theories that now threaten to drown our Facebook and Twitter feeds, the personified frozen beef patty gave some solid advice for navigating the pandemic landscape. The account reminded us of the need for credible sources and pointed us to several, it challenged us to speak the truth in love when we encounter misinformation, and it reiterated best health practices promoted by the World Health Organization. In short, it managed to cut through the artificiality of the corporate world and offer us something of real value: sympathy, understanding, guidance, and exhortation.

Alissa Wilkinson looks at how the pandemic has impacted the film and entertainment industries.

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which was first identified in China in December, has had sweeping effects in the public health, business, and travel sectors, among others. And while the repercussions for the entertainment industry may seem to pale in comparison to the clear threat the virus poses to human life, the ripple effects do have implications for the people around the world who make a living producing and distributing movies, music, and more.

One enterprising filmmaker used the pandemic to make his film the #1 movie in America.

Describing the experience, Nilsson said: “We saw an absurd loophole in the system that at any other time would be impossible to exploit and thought it would be funny. Last year, the number one film at this time was ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’. This year, it was a $0 budget horror film made over Zoom.”

Beloved actor Sir Ian Holm, arguably best known for his role as Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings movies, has died at the age of 88 from a Parkinson’s related illness.

Having played Frodo Baggins in a 1981 radio adaptation of Lord of the Rings, Holm was cast as Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s mammoth three-part screen adaptation, with filming on The Fellowship of the Ring beginning in 1999. Bilbo did not appear in The Two Towers, but Holm returned for the final part, The Return of the King, as well as the first and third instalments of the Hobbit trilogy, which were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

Tributes to Holm have come pouring in from Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, Minnie Driver, Edgar Wright, and Zach Braff (to name a few).

Tech companies and organizations including Apple, Github, and Microsoft are abandoning terminology that could be racially insensitive. Examples include “master/slave” (which is used to describe relationships between devices and processes, like databases and servers) and “whitelist/blacklist.”

Several well-known brands — e.g., Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s — will be updated to move away from racial stereotypes. From the first link:

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a news release. “As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.”

Dungeons & Dragons is fixing some of the more troubling stereotypes that appear in the game.

Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game — orcs and drow being two of the prime examples — have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in.

Prior to the Civil War, Confederate leaders proudly affirmed that slavery was the reason for Southern secession. After they were defeated, however, they quickly changed their tune.

To salvage as much honor and respectability as they could from their lost cause, they set to work to purge it of any association with the now dead and discredited institution of human bondage. In their postwar views, both Davis and Stephens hewed to the same line: Southern states had seceded not to protect slavery, but to vindicate state sovereignty. This theme became the virgin birth theory of secession: the Confederacy was conceived not by any worldly cause, but by divine principle.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine’s writes about the long history of musicians using Confederate imagery.

By dubbing themselves Lady Antebellum, the trio was staking a claim, not precisely for the Confederate States of America but an imagined version of the American South, one conjured through romanticized movies, old tunes, plantation tours, and traditions repeated so often their roots become hazy. It’s a fantasy of the South, one that is common throughout American culture, one that doesn’t take into the account such unpleasantness as slavery, rebellion and secession.

Facebook has launched a major voter information initiative. Also, American users will soon be able to opt out of all political advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

With the US elections less than five months away, today Facebook is launching the largest voting information campaign in American history. We’re building a new Voting Information Center that will give millions of people accurate information about voting, while also giving them the tools they need to register and make their voices heard at the ballot box.

The announcement arrives as the social media giant faces criticism for their treatment of incendiary messages by President Trump.

Last week, I mentioned that Starflyer 59 would be releasing a new EP this week. And so they have, and naturally, I wrote about it.

It should come as no surprise by now that every Starflyer 59 release contains obvious odes to Martin’s musical influences. But part of the Starflyer 59 magic is that they’re rendered with an honesty and directness that makes them more than just mere nostalgic indulgences. Rather, it’s more like Martin simply reckons that if those particular riffs and hooks worked for Kevin Shields, Bernard Sumner, and Johnny Marr back in the day, then they’ll sure as heck work for him, too.

Original photo by mrdorkesq.

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