Jun 2, 2017

Reading: OK Computer, the Perfect Schwarzenegger Film, Katsuhiro Otomo, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Silicon Valley vs. Grilled Cheese & More

Also: The beauty of storms, the GIF turns 30, a history of snake handling, call-out culture toxicity, and killing iTunes.

Radiohead
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke

Radiohead’s OK Computer turns 20 this year, and the band reflects on its origins and influences. “Released in the spring of 1997 — a time when music was fragmenting into a thicket of subgenres and the relevance of guitar rock seemed to be fading (guitarist Jonny Greenwood recalls thinking that ‘bands are already old hat’) — OK Computer was the last masterpiece of the alt-rock movement, and a reminder that there’s still room for rock bands to carry on the late-Beatles mission of using the studio to create grand artistic statements with heretofore unheard sounds.”

Sebastian Zavala claims Commando is “the perfect embodiment of 80’s Schwarzenegger” and I don’t disagree. “The movie is almost abstract in places, forgetting that it’s supposed to follow some kind of narrative structure; but hey, who cares about things like that when you have Schwarzenegger uttering brilliantly stupid lines of dialogue before disposing of his enemies?”

Nebraska Prairie #9
A storm’s a-brewin’

As a midwesterner, I appreciated Brett McCracken’s rumination on storms and the paradoxes of nature. “Such is the nature of nature. It has two faces. It nurtures life on the one hand and threatens it on the other. When storms come, we may cheer for our parched land. But we must also take shelter. Because while storms can save, they can also be savage.”

This extensive interview with Katsuhiro Otomo covers the Akira manga and anime in depth (obviously) but also covers a host of other topics and titles. “[W]hen I saw the first rush of the movie version of Akira I thought it would be a failure. I left the theater very quickly and came back home to tell my wife that the movie was a failure… In general, I thought the picture quality and cut quality went down when the movie went into the latter half. So when I saw the movie’s quality decline as I watched it made me feel miserable.”

Marvel's Agents of Shield
My favorite television covert agents

My latest Christ and Pop Culture pieces looks at some intriguing storylines in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fourth season. “Led by the indefatigable Phil Coulson, the agents of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division have saved the world from numerous threats, both terrestrial and alien, in the show’s first three seasons. But the show’s recently completed fourth season forced them to face one of their greatest foes yet: their own regrets.”

The humble GIF turns 30 this year and Wired reflects on its origins and lasting appeal. “Animated GIFs have transcended their obscure 1990s roots to become a key part of day-to-day digital communication… The GIF does double duty as both expression and as badge of digital literacy. Not bad for an image standard that pre-dates the web itself.”

Grilled Cheese Sandwich
And now I’m hungry

Who could possibly have foreseen that a Silicon Valley grilled cheese sandwich start-up (yes, really) would fail spectacularly? “The Melt’s blundering trajectory is instructive, as Silicon Valley wunderkinds seek to recast everyday objects with help from algorithms and apps. Entrepreneurs frequently embark on these missions with vast sums of money and a deep belief in technology’s power to solve all problems — which is not always a formula for success in the brick-and-mortar business of ordinary life: delivering groceries, selling luggage, or making sandwiches.”

Luke T. Harrington provides a brief history of snake handling in the American Church. “It’s a tale as old as time: some guy discovers a verse in the Bible, he’s convinced no one has ever noticed it before him, he doesn’t bother to look into what thousands of years’ worth of scholars have had to say about it, and he starts his own movement based on a single sentence.”

Angry Computer Guy
Calling you out…

Calling out people on the internet for oppressive behavior may have noble intentions, but call-out culture is ultimately toxic. “[W]hen people are reduced to their identities of privilege (as white, cisgender, male, etc.) and mocked as such… we’re treating each other as if our individual social locations stand in for the total systems those parts of our identities represent. Individuals become synonymous with systems of oppression, and this can turn systemic analysis into moral judgment.”

M.G. Siegler argues that it’s time for Apple to kill iTunes. “[A]t this point, it’s old hat to rag on iTunes. It has been so bad, for so long, that the joke is stale. And yet, somehow Apple doesn’t seem to be in on the joke. Because if they were, surely iTunes would no longer exist.” Separating iTunes’ functionality into separate apps seems like such a no-brainer that it’s surprising Apple hasn’t taken steps in that direction.

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