Dec 13, 2014

Reading: Slowdive’s Reunion, James Bond, Google+, Facts vs. Narratives in Journalism, Sweden’s Pop Legacy & More

Also: Christmas music, the Internet and our own sinfulness, Guardians of the Galaxy, and real life superheroes.

Slowdive

Consequence of Sound names Slowdive’s getting back together the reunion of the year and talks to Rachel Goswell about re-learning songs from two decades ago, the shoegazer renaissance, and yes, recording a new album. “[I]f one band were to exemplify the newfound power of shoegaze, of that genre’s rise from insult to legend, it’d be difficult to come close to the confidence and clarity with which Slowdive have returned.” I completely agree, just read my review of the Slowdive/Low concert this past Halloween.

The title of the next James Bond movie was recently announced — it’s Spectre, a pretty obvious reference to Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Co. — and so was Bond’s next official ride. The 007 franchise is an interesting spate of titles, ranging from You Only Live Twice to Goldfinger to the infamous Octopussy. But what do they mean? The Telegraph explains the origins of 12 James Bond film titles.

Google+
Remember when you actually used this?

Remember Google+, Google’s attempt to outdo Facebook? Despite big buzz and big claims — this is Google we’re talking about, after all — Google+ seems to have disappeared from the zeitgeist, and a former Google+ developer isn’t too happy about it. “When it comes right down to it, maybe I just don’t want to admit that I spent 3½ years working on something that will become irrelevant. Even if Google+ regains focus and simplifies its mission, I want to believe that we were working on something significant and that had an opinion about what the world should look like. Lately, I just feel like Google+ is confused and adrift at sea.”

In light of the growing controversy surrounding a recent Rolling Stone article about a student raped at University of Virginia, as well as the popularity of “Serial,” Erin Keane considers the uneasy balance between facts and narrative-based journalism. “Every ethical reporter believes he or she is showing the facts in a clear landscape, unshadowed by discarded sources, ignored leads or deliberately softened edges. But a ‘just the facts’ approach to an in-depth investigation rarely breaks through the noise to have a real impact.” Related: Rolling Stone has retracted the article, citing “new information” and “discrepancies.” And Rolling Stone is receiving criticism for running the piece in the first place.

Abba
I still love me some “Dancing Queen.”

It’s been several decades since Abba ruled the charts but Sweden’s pop aesthetic still has considerable influence on modern pop stars like Taylor Swift. “[Tove Lo] admits that Swedish pop has specific characteristics. She told me that it has ‘clear but simple lyrics, is a lot about the melody, and also having a little bit of melancholy or a darker sense to it, to not make it too sugary or too bubblegum.’ Three parts formula, one part character.” For what it’s worth, I prefer my Swedish pop to be of the Labrador Records variety.

Joseph Bottum explains why he continues to write Christmas carols: “The problem with art in our time is, quite simply, the problem of disenchantment. We need what we lack, here in late modernity — a living connection with the past, a density of reference, a thickness of vocabulary, and an external world that glows with cosmic meaning. All the lyric writing I’ve been attempting in recent years has been an effort in my poetry (such as it is) to reach back into the thick past. And with the Christmas songs, in particular, I’ve also tried to reach toward one of the last few enchantments left in our public world.” Via

Sufjan Stevens at Christmas
Somebody’s spreading the holiday cheer.

Speaking of Christmas music, some of my favorite Christmas music comes in the form of Sufjan Stevens’ two Christmas music collections. You can read my review of his Songs for Christmas, or better yet, let Andy Whitman explain why Stevens’ holiday music is so powerful. “It’s the most deeply conflicted Christmas music you’ll ever hear, the most truthful, and some of the best. It works at 3:00 p.m., when you’re looking for that little festive boost to get you through the work day, and it works at 3:00 a.m., when there’s nobody there but your darkest thoughts, and when you see the beautiful, broken, glorious, fallen world with sudden and terrible clarity.”

My latest Christ and Pop Culture piece looks at recent stories on Anonymous, Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, and Uber, and considers how technology like the Internet brings our brokenness and sinfulness into sharp relief. “I am not arguing that we should become Luddites and abandon the Internet, and other technology in general, especially since I’d be unable to provide for my family if that happened. However, we must think more carefully about the technology in our lives — especially as it grows increasingly ubiquitous and requires increasingly less effort to employ — and what we use it for. This is doubly true for Christians.”

Guardians of the Galaxy
What a bunch of a-holes.

Geoffrey Reiter considers what Guardians of the Galaxy’s motley crew has to do with G.K. Chesterton and St. Augustine. “This complicated plot, however, is overshadowed by the delightful badinage of the five Guardians, and the actors playing their roles (including the motion-captured Cooper and Diesel as Rocket and Groot) crackle with a vibrant chemistry that has been almost universally noted by critics and fans alike. It is precisely the contrast between the damaged yet ultimately sympathetic heroes and their maniacal foes that make Guardians of the Galaxy tick.”

Enough with the comic books and movies: Ali Hussain tags along with some real superheroes to find out why they do what they do. “According to Dr. Rosenberg, many real life superheroes begin their service to society in one of two ways. They have family in some sort of civil service: law enforcement, fire service, military. They are influenced by those roles at a young age and follow that path when they are adults. A second reason is emotional trauma they have experienced. ‘To recover and make sense of this trauma they project their efforts into making sure others don’t experience the same event,’ she says. ‘They take proactive measures to ensure this.’” Via

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