Luxury, Live on Facebook

Luxury on Facebook Live, 2/18/19

According to Opus, the last time I saw Luxury perform live was at Cornerstone 2001. If you would’ve told me back then that I’d watch them again nearly two decades later, and on the internet no less, I would’ve said you were crazy. And yet here we are in 2019, and I spent about half an hour last night watching Luxury tear it up on Facebook.

They played a mix of their oldest (“Flaming Youth Flames On,” ​“Pink Revenge”) and newest (“Parallel Love”) material, and it all sounded fantastic. Making the experience even more poignant, several Facebook friends with whom I saw Luxury perform at Cornerstone back in the day were watching the Facebook feed with me. It wasn’t as cool as a generator stage set up alongside one of the festival roads, or one of Cornerstone’s sauna-like tents, but it was still pretty great. Heck, it’s probably the closest thing I’ve had to a Cornerstone-like experience since the 2007 festival.

Honestly, it feels like a near-miracle every time I hear something new from Luxury. For starters, the band was in a horrible car accident back in 1995 that could’ve claimed their lives. Then there’s the fact that the band’s members are spread across the United States these days, with three of them now busy as Orthodox priests. That they still get together to make music, and sound as good as ever (if not better)… like I said, a near-miracle.

On a related note, guitarist Matt Hinton’s documentary about Luxury’s career, Parallel Love, has been garnering acclaim at various film festivals, including the St. Louis Film Festival and the Covellite International Film Festival, where it won the top prize. Hopefully, this means that an official release date isn’t too far off now.

Captain America’s Purer Patriotism

Captain America (MCU)

Tyler Huckabee makes his debut on Bright Wall/​Dark Room with an excellent column about the Captain America movies, and how the Star-Spangled Avenger speaks to our current (and complicated) ideas of patriotism.

It’s hard not to admire a person of such rock solid determination, with steely principles that stand fast against the tides of time. The trouble is, there’s nothing admirable about unchanging principles if the principles weren’t all that good to begin with. That’s the risk of conviction. Maybe it’s why so few people have it. It’s only human to hedge your bets, and make sure there’s always a way to back out of the things you say you believe. Very few important beliefs are convenient, and government leaders are not ones to run their decisions by your own personal moral code. If you have a conviction, you will at some point be forced to determine just how much it means to you. You will be forced to either stand your ground and tell the whole world to move, or just admit that it never meant all that much to you anyway.

[…]

But these movies have helped me understand what patriotism needs in order to be something pure. It doesn’t mean loving your country. It means taking ownership of it, holding it to the highest possible standard and refusing to settle or to compromise. It means taking honest measure of the distance between the Dream and the reality, and dedicating yourself to closing the gap, no matter how ​“unpatriotic” this dedication may look.

I was never much of a fan of Captain America. Even when I was a kid, he always seemed cheesy and on-the-nose. But the Marvel movies have caused me to reassess the character. While the current MCU may have kicked off with Tony Stark and Iron Man, Cap — as portrayed, with heart and nobility, by Chris Evans — is the MCU’s heart and soul, not to mention its conscience.

Also, Huckabee’s column is a good reminder that while superhero movies may be the epitome of big budget Hollywood entertainment, they can still wrestle with important topics and explore deeper themes amidst all of the CGI spectacle.

Bark Psychosis’ Hex Turns 25

Bark Psychosis' Hex

This will probably sound pretentious, but there are a handful of albums that you need to hear if you want to ​“get” me, if you want to better understand how I think and feel, particularly about music. One such album is Bark Psychosis’ Hex, which turns 25 years old today.

I still remember when I first heard the album’s opening songs — ​“The Loom,” ​“A Street Scene,” and ​“Absent Friend” — courtesy of a mixtape from an internet acquaintance. At the time, I had no idea that my ideas of music were about to be up-ended. The songs’ mercurial blend of rock, jazz, classical, and Lord knows what else, along with Graham Sutton’s breathy vocals and cryptic lyrics, sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Listening to it, I felt like I was peering over the border into some barely charted territory. And that’s still often the case now, two decades after that first listen.

Hex, along with releases like Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock and Disco Inferno’s D. I. Go Pop, created the template for what would come to be labelled ​“post-rock.” (Indeed, Hex is basically the gold standard by which I, consciously or otherwise, evaluate any so-called post-rock album.) In this excellent essay, Stereogums Ian King considers Hexs legacy and influence, as well as the varying circumstances that led to its creation.

Lingering over the afterlife of Hex is the matter of whether it’s possible to interpret the legacy of the album and all of Bark Psychosis’ original catalog… outside of the post-rock framework now so tightly assembled around it. [Simon] Reynolds had for a while been collecting evidence for this new scene before Hex came out, but his review of the album in the March 1994 issue of Mojo magazine functioned as a dress rehearsal for his formal unveiling of post-rock in The Wire a few months later. Bark Psychosis ​“could be called ​‘art rock’,” he allowed in that latter article. ​“Art rock” would likely have been the tag had Hex come out a year or two earlier, but the link to post-rock would have been made eventually. That Hex in its day was one of the first records to be identified as part of this new genre was, again, a matter of timing.

Distance from that era now makes it easy to notice similarities between Hex and other groups that were pulled into the post-rock conversation. The limber vibraphone and dub-inflected bass of ​“Big Shot” bring Tortoise immediately to mind. Sutton’s half-throated hush, especially, in the context of songs like these, echoes the quieter exhalations of June of 44 guitarist/​vocalist Jeff Mueller. The glistening guitar patterns in ​“Absent Friend” trace a blueprint for the widescreen emotional moments of Explosions In The Sky and their kind. One spin of Hex is enough to catch traces of many post-rock bands from both Bark Psychosis’ own time and after, but it is impossible to know (without asking the musicians themselves) which are instances of influence and which are just two artists arriving at similar conclusions from different origins. What gave the idea of post-rock its allure was not so much the charisma of a tied-together scene, but the notion that a novel energy was in the air.

[…]

Twenty-five years later, Hex is still more than capable of exerting a mysterious pull on its listener — and it is ​‘listener’ singular, the album emits an aura of isolation. Spending long spells of time with it has the effect of making other rock-based records both past and present sound trad and predictable. Like in Danielewski’s House Of Leaves, new spaces open up in Hex where they weren’t before, its interior world grows beyond its bounds. It refutes the perception that this kind of music, with all its texture and complexity, was an intellectually distant pursuit. Ling had spoken early on about the spirituality and mysticism in what Bark Psychosis did, and that unquantifiable element doesn’t ebb over time or repetition. Bark Psychosis couldn’t hold together, but Hexs power remains.

Bark Psychosis’ Hex was originally released on February 14, 1994, by Circa (a subsidiary of Universal Music Group). It was reissued in 2017 by Fire Records.

Damien Jurado Announces New Acoustic Album, In the Shape of a Storm

The first thing you notice about ​“South,” the first single from Damien Jurado’s upcoming album In the Shape of a Storm, is how hushed and stripped down it sounds. Especially when compared to the psychedelic and otherworldly flourishes of his most recent albums, including 2016’s Visions of Us on the Land and 2014’s Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son.

Indeed, In the Shape of a Storm may be the most stripped down album of Jurado’s career. Its ten songs were recorded over the course of two hours in a single afternoon, with Jurado occasionally accompanied by Josh Gordon’s high-strung guitar. But for all of its sparseness, it’s no less arresting thanks to Jurado’s striking lyrics (“My body is a passing leaf/​Dead as it hits the ground/​Useless to nature’s need/​Quite a sight not to see”), pensive voice, and subtle melodic shifts.

In the Shape of a Storm will be released by Mama Bird Recording Co. on April 12 — click here to preorder.

The Cybertronic Spree’s Cover of “Immigrant Song” Rocks Nerd Valhalla

There’s a lot of growing concern over the algorithms that control what we see on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et al., and understandably so. But sometimes, the algorithms get it right and bring you something that you never knew you needed until that very moment. Case in point, The Cybertronic Spree, ​“a band of Transformers who perform classic cartoon, videogame, and animé theme songs at full volume.”

Consider their cover of Led Zeppelin’s ​“Immigrant Song.” There’s so much about this performance that is pop culture/​nerdery perfection, but what makes it even sweeter is that the Spree don’t just coast by on nerdiness alone: they really and truly rock, from Unicron and the Quintesson’s riffs to Arcee’s serious pipes.

And to think, I never would’ve seen this glory if not for YouTube’s algorithms suggesting it based on some arcane understanding of my viewing history. Maybe our future AI overlords won’t be so bad after all.

What’s Up Danger

Manton Reece is right: ​“What’s Up Danger” is, indeed, a fantastic song to listen to while working. For example, if/​when you’re upgrading your server’s PHP installation or updating a bunch of ExpressionEngine add-ons.

Refreshing the Web Browser

Luke Larsen argues that even though the web and how we use it has changed, web browsers are still stuck in the past.

How many tabs do you have open in your web browser right now? Be honest. A dozen? Two dozen? It’s okay, I’m no better. If you’re like me, you blame yourself for your horrible habit of leaving tabs open forever.

But what if the problem isn’t really our habits? Perhaps the problem is the tool we use — the web browser. It hasn’t changed much over the years, and yet it’s the application we rely on most when using a computer.

Imagine if your browser encouraged good habits instead of bad ones. Either we can all agree to try harder, or it’s time we rethought how a web browser works.

Larsen looks at two browser concepts: Opera Neon and Refresh, both of which take very different approaches to browsing the web. For example, Opera Neon ​“acts like its own small, self-contained operating system” while Refresh seems to go one step further and completely alters how web pages look à la Safari’s ​“reading mode.”

In the same way that reading mode might make an article look like an ebook, Refresh could make a Soundcloud account look like an album in iTunes. Or consider online forms, which are often quite a mess to navigate through on mobile. In Refresh, they are presented in a standardized visual template. These were the only media types Refresh has addressed so far, but it’s not hard to see how smarter, more contextual browsers would result in a fuller, more unified experience of the web.

While the developer in me balks at the idea of a web browser undoing all of the hard work that I’ve put into designing and programming a website, the user in me definitely sees the benefits of presenting, say, forms in a more consistent manner.

Note: Opera Neon can be downloaded and installed now, though it’s still under development. On the other hand, Refresh was a design thesis project, and not a real app (yet).

Imagining the Next Generation of Star Wars’ B-Wing Fighters

Although the X-Wing is the most recognizable Rebel Alliance/​Resistance craft in Star Wars, I’ve always had a soft spot for the B-Wing. Though its only movie appearance was in Return of the Jedi, there’s something about its ungainly and yet — because of its Mon Calamari origins — strangely organic appearance that continues to piqué my curiosity. That, and its super-cool gyro-stabilized cockpit that maintained the pilot’s orientation even as the B-Wing rotated around them for different configurations.

Unfortunately for us B-Wing fans, the massive fighter — which was designed to destroy capital ships like Star Destroyers — hasn’t appeared in any of the new Star Wars films. Not in its entirety, anyway. But YouTuber EC Henry (he’s the one who did the warp speed comparison that I linked to last week) combined a tossed off reference in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary with inspiration from historical real world aircraft (e.g., Douglas TBD Devastator, Horten Ho 229) to imagine what a B-Wing Mark 2 might look like.

In addition to creating a sweet new look for the Mark 2, he also imagines an entire history for it, from the evolution of its mission and its eventual removal from service (due to New Republic politics) to speculation about how it might still be flying around the Outer Rim. In other words, my kind of nerdery. Via

The Captain Marvel Website Is as ’90s as a Website Can Be

Captain Marvel Website

When you visit the website for Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel movie, you might think that your internet connection has somehow broken the space-time continuum, and taken you back to the world wide web of the ​‘90s in all of its awful glory.

I mean, Captain Marvels website has it all: crappy-looking animated GIFs, lots of garish repeating backgrounds (some of which are animated, as well), rainbow text, a counter, a guestbook, broken image links, and even some honest-to-goodness blinking text (via blink tags, of course). I love everything about it. And it’s perfectly in-line with the film’s ​‘90s setting.

But what I love most is that not only did Marvel’s marketing team take the time to make it look like an authentic ​‘90s website (i.e., basically every GeoCities site ever, or the Space Jam website), they also took the time to make it responsive and mobile-friendly. In other words, they built a distinctly ​‘90s-looking website with modern web development techniques.

It’s sort of like the best of both worlds, if you think about it. Via

Supporting Opus in 2019

Opus Logo (Wide)

For most of its existence, Opus had been entirely self-funded, which is fine because it started as a labor of love and remains one to this day. But in recent years, inspired by bloggers like Jason Kottke as well as the rise of crowdfunding and patronage platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon, I’ve offered ways for kind souls to support my blogging here on Opus.

Some of you have responded generously, for which you have my undying gratitude. But moving into 2019, I want to push this a little bit more. While there are numerous blogs out there writing about pop culture in its myriad forms, and many of them deserve your readership (if not your financial support), I do believe Opus has something special to offer that’s worth supporting.

For more than 20 years, I — along with a few collaborators back in the day — have been doing our darndest to shine a light on art and culture that often gets overlooked by the masses, but that nevertheless deserves recognition and support. For the last two decades, this has been Opus’ primary goal: promoting good, true, and beautiful art and culture that might otherwise remain unknown and unappreciated. To that end, I’ve written and posted thousands of articles, reviews, and interviews on the site.

So what does supporting Opus mean? Right now, it primarily means supporting the site’s continued existence. Don’t worry: this isn’t a ​“send me money or Opus goes away forever” ultimatum. But the fact is that Opus is read by thousands of people like you every month, and recent months have seen a steady increase in traffic. In fact, the site’s readership effectively doubled over the last 12 months.

That’s exciting and validating, but all that attention costs money. I’ve pared down the costs of running Opus quite a bit, but if Opus is to expand — if I’m going to make it more optimal for you, the reader — then that’s where your support can help.

And to sweeten the deal, I’m offering the following rewards and benefits for people who support Opus:

  • All supporters will receive a semi-regular email newsletter that offers sneak previews of content that will be posted on Opus in the near future. (Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at any time.)
  • All monthly recurring supporters will also receive a monthly Spotify playlist compiled by yours truly. Each month’s playlist will have a different theme or focus.
  • Adamantium” supporters who give $25/​month or more will also be able commission one post on Opus every 12 months. Send me a couple of ideas and I’ll work with you to identify the best one. (Click here for more info about commissioned posts.)
  • Mithril” supporters who give $50/​month or more will also be able to help guide Opus into the future. I’ll be occasionally soliciting your advice on the site’s content and direction.

Additional rewards and benefits may be added as time and resources allow. Supporters will be notified as necessary when that happens. In any case, I want to make sure that Opus is worth your hard-earned dollars.

I confess, it feels weird and awkward to ask people to give money for something that often feels like a commodity these days. But good blogging, even in an arena as saturated as pop culture blogging, is worth supporting via clicks, shares and likes, and yes, even dollars.

So if you’ve enjoyed reading Opus — if you’ve ever found a new favorite album, movie, book, etc., through my writing — then consider becoming an Opus supporter today.

How Keanu Reeves Changed Hollywood Action Stars

The Matrix Reloaded - The Wachowskis

Angelica Jade Bastién makes a passionate case that Keanu Reeves’ performance as Neo in the Matrix movies forever changed both our expectations for action movie stars and how Hollywood made action movies.

Twenty years and two sequels later, it is hard to imagine anyone else but Reeves as Neo, the counterculture hacker turned savior. But before he came onboard, directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski considered several others, including Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, and Will Smith (who reportedly turned down the role so he could do the widely derided Wild Wild West, one of the greatest mistakes of his career). These actors, at least at the time, hewed closer to a more traditional form of Hollywood machismo. But The Matrix is a film that operates on multiple levels: It’s a cyberthriller of unbridled intimacy, a scalpel-sharp action flick, a curious testament to optimism, and a still-worthwhile study of technology’s all-consuming power on our lives. It needs a lead who can operate on such levels as well.

As an action star, Reeves has repeatedly shown interest not just in the limits of the body and its raw strength, but also in its grace. He isn’t like Tom Cruise, who pushes his body to ever-increasing extremes — leaping out of planes or onto the side of buildings with carefully calibrated aplomb. Nor does he possess the jokey charisma of a Will Smith. When we look at the most towering examples of Hollywood action stars — from the jaunty elegance of Errol Flynn, to the muscle-bound machismo of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, all the way down the line to the less distinct, glossy statesmen of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe — Keanu Reeves remains an outlier.

[…]

The melodramatic, FX-heavy superhero origin stories that proliferated throughout the 2000s also owe a huge debt to The Matrix. The film’s entrancing FX showed Hollywood that any actor could be credible as an action star even if they had to do the impossible — flying into the starry night sky, leaping over buildings with ease, or dispatching various foes at such high speeds that their movements blurred, with nary a hair out of place. You could even do it without the months of training Reeves and his co-stars put in to make their physical performances work all the more beautifully. Even those action flicks that operate as portraits of hangdog, middle-aged men with unique sets of violent skills — think Liam Neeson’s Taken and its various imitators — are indebted to how Reeves opened new veins of emotion in the genre.

Bastién’s right: Reeves was absolutely perfect for The Matrix. Looking back, it’s almost impossible to see anyone else as Neo. (Can you even imagine Nicolas Cage as Neo?! The brain practically melts.)

Reeves has often been derided as a bad, wooden actor. I remember my friends and I mocking his performance as Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. (And we weren’t the only ones; Reeves as Harker is considered one of the worst movie miscastings of all time.) Even so, I really like the guy.

I like the fact that, though he’s best known for action movies (e.g., Speed, The Matrix, John Wick), he’s unafraid to try different roles (with varying degrees of success). To his credit, when you watch a Reeves performance, you know you’re getting 110% from the guy; regardless of the movie, he never seems to phone it in. Also, he just seems like a really decent dude.

Note: Bastién’s article is part of ​“We Are Living In The Matrix,” a weeklong series of articles ​“about how a 1999 movie predicted kind-of-everything about life 20 years later.”

Coming Soon: A Compilation of Japanese Ambient and Avant-Garde Music From the ’80s

As I wrote last year in this post about Japanese ​“city pop” music, Japan in the early ​‘80s was an economic powerhouse, resulting in a huge boom of prosperity that impacted many aspects of society — with the country’s music being one of them. One result of this was that commercial city pop, which spoke to the country’s newfound sense of wealth and consumerism.

Another was ​“kankyō ongaku,” which roughly translates into ​“environmental music.” It was far more experimental and avant-garde than city pop, but still had some surprisingly commercial origins and inspirations.

In the 1970s, the concepts of Brian Eno’s ​“ambient” and Erik Satie’s ​“furniture music” began to take hold in the minds of artists and musicians around Tokyo. Emerging fields like soundscape design and architectural acoustics opened up new ways in which sound and music could be consumed. For artists like Yoshimura, Ojima and Ashikawa, these ideas became the foundation for their musical works, which were heard not only on records and in live performances, but also within public and private spaces where they intermingled with the sounds and environments of everyday life. The bubble economy of 1980s Japan also had a hand in the advancement of kankyō ongaku. In an attempt to cultivate an image of sophisticated lifestyle, corporations with expendable income bankrolled various art and music initiatives, which opened up new and unorthodox ways in which artists could integrate their avant-garde musical forms into everyday life: in-store music for Muji, promo LP for a Sanyo AC unit, a Seiko watch advert, among others that can be heard in this collection.

To help give this music some recognition, the Light In The Attic label is releasing Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980 – 1990, a massive collection that brings together music from numerous Japanese musicians from that era, including Joe Hisaishi (who has composed many soundtracks for Studio Ghibli movies) and Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto. According to Light In The Attic, this is the first time these songs have been licensed outside of Japan.

You can hear samples of all of the various songs — many of which sound surprisingly contemporary, especially if you’ve spent any time exploring the vaporwave genre — on the album’s aforelinked page, or via the album’s trailer embedded above.

Kankyō Ongaku will be released on February 15 in in triple LP and double CD formats. You can also order a digital copy, but it’ll be limited to only 10 songs. If you want more, you’ll need to order a physical version.

Shut Your Mouth and Watch the New Shaft Trailer

When I was compiling my list of 25 movies that I hope to see in 2019, I knew that some movies would fall through the cracks. Case in point, the upcoming Shaft movie, the sequel to the 2000 Shaft movie, which is directed by Tim Story and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft), Jessie T. Usher, and Regina Hall.

According to Birth.Movies.Death, this is the synopsis:

JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. (Usher), may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ’s youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft (Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem’s heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ’s own FBI analyst’s badge may clash with his dad’s trademark leather duster, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.

The cyber security angle is a neat little way to update the franchise, and if the above trailer is any indication, the latest Shaft film is going for a much more broadly comedic tone. Which is fine, so long as it still means Samuel L. Jackson dropping F bombs with that panache that only he seems to possess.

On a sidenote, Netflix covered over half of the film’s $30 million budget in exchange for international rights and the right to stream Shaft outside the U.S. two weeks after it’s released in American theaters. According to Deadline, the deal ​“can be a useful template for makers of urban-themed or genre fare that normally does most of its theatrical business in the United States” and it gave director Story a bigger budget than he would’ve had otherwise. At the same time, ​“the deal will give [Netflix’s] international membership a film that is still hot in the U.S.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Poetic Technique

Gerard Manley Hopkins

I don’t read a lot of poetry anymore, but one poet that has stuck with me over the years is Gerard Manley Hopkins, and specifically his poem, ​“God’s Grandeur.” I initially discovered the poem via Mortal’s Fathom, and its images of a God sustaining His beautiful creation even in the face of its abuse and misuse by Man, are vivid and stirring.

Earlier this week, Marybeth Baggett published a piece that explores Hopkins’ life, poetry, and the techniques he used to make his poems so beloved and influential:

Getting at the central truth of a thing — a landscape, a person, an animal, a phenomenon — this was the animating force behind Hopkins’ poetry. And his aesthetic form served to bring this truth to poetic life.

The terms Hopkins coined for these concepts, drawn from the metaphysics of John Duns Scotus, were inscape and instress, inscape referring to the inherently unique quality of a thing and instress referring to the faculty of the poet needed to perceive that quality. Hopkins’ vision of God is made manifest here — his creativity is boundless, and human beings made in this creative God’s image reenact that creativity in their perception of God’s expression in this world.

Read the full piece, which includes a breakdown of ​“God’s Grandeur.”

Adapting The Promised Neverland from Manga to Anime

The Promised Neverland - Mamoru Kanbe

I’ve recently begun watching The Promised Neverland animé series, in which a group of children living in a beautiful, bucolic orphanage make a horrifying discovery: their idyllic life is an illusion and they’re actually being raised as food for horrific creatures living in the outside world.

Like many other animé, The Promised Neverland is based on a manga (by Posuka Demizu, to be exact). And Nick Creamer offers a detailed look at how The Promised Neverland has been adapted, and how it compares and contrasts to the manga’s version of the story.

[T]he animé’s layouts tend to be far less extravagantly composed than the manga. They are brutal and intimate, peeking around dark corners, consistently conveying the sense of our heroes being spied on. The ​“camera” is often set lurking in some strange corner, secretively peering out at the protagonists in both interior and exterior sequences. Instead of conveying the story’s horror through intricately composed visual setpieces, the animé works to foster a consistent sense of entrapment, with the production largely sticking to close shots that would still be possible in a live-action adaptation.

Creamer’s article also touches on the use of digital backgrounds in The Promised Neverland. Digital work in animé has been controversial in animé circles, as some series have become known for astonishingly bad 3DCG. The computer-rendered backgrounds in The Promised Neverland are neither terrible nor fantastic; they’re just sort of there. But Creamer makes an interesting case for why The Promised Neverlands digital backgrounds make sense:

The show’s focus on intimate, realistic camera work involves a whole lot of sliding pans and jumps between angles, techniques which are naturally facilitated by the show’s convenient, replicable designs.

When adapting a work, choices and sacrifices have to be made in order for that work to exist in the best form possible in its new medium. That’s no different for animé. As Creamer puts it, ​“At its best, the process of adaptation is far more than ​‘converting comic panels into animation’ — it is an act of fundamental reimagining, of reconsidering a story’s base assumptions, and working to tell the best possible version of that story in an entirely new world.”

Becoming a Better Writer Thanks to the IndieWeb

Laptop Keyboard B&W

There are plenty of reasons for being frustrated with Facebook and Twitter these days, and for reassessing our use of them, including massive privacy breaches and subpar responses to abuse. But while it may not be as critical or headline-worthy as those issues, there’s yet another aspect of social networks that should be concerning: the ways in which they encourage us, either purposefully or accidentally, to be careless with our content.

Social networks have spent untold resources on making it as easy and enticing as possible to post content on them. After all, the more people who are actively engaged with their services, the more money they make. And I think we can agree that much of that engagement results in content that is pithy, lighthearted, and trivial. We open the Facebook app, post something off-the-cuff — say, a cool video or funny GIF — and then we’re done. (Actually, then we come back again and again to see how many likes and comments we’ve received because we crave validation, but that’s a subject for another post.)

There’s a time and place for that sort of content — I love a good meme or reaction GIF as much as the next person — and yet, I rarely give much thought to its longevity. Instead, I feel like I’m just throwing it into the ether, and only God — and some algorithms — knows where it’ll land. I have no real control anymore over what happens to it, who sees it, how it’s presented to them, and so on. And with that lack of control comes a lack of any sense of ownership or accountability.

Fortunately, there exists an alternative to this: the IndieWeb. Calling itself a ​“people-focused alternative to the ​‘corporate web,’ ” the IndieWeb is sort of a mix between a movement, a manifesto, a set of best practices, and a technical spec. But basically, it advocates for people having more ownership and control over the content they post online:

Our online content and identities are becoming more important and sometimes even critical to our lives. Neither are secure in the hands of random ephemeral startups or big silos. We should be the holders of our online presence.

You could probably argue that, by running my own blog, I’ve been part of the IndieWeb for years now. However, I didn’t really know anything about it until I discovered Micro.blog, a blogging platform and social network developed by Manton Reece.

Micro.blog has some similarities to existing social networks, but it also has some major differences. For starters, it relies on a growing network of independent, self-managed sites that are brought together using open technologies advocated by the IndieWeb (e.g., webmentions, microformats).

As I worked on recent incarnations of Opus, I incorporated those technologies as best I could. But more to this article’s point, the process of IndieWeb-ifying Opus caused me to reconsider how I want to write online and how I want to own that writing (as per the IndieWeb manifesto).

When I post something on Facebook or Twitter, I have difficulty feeling like it’s mine. I type in a few words or sentences, maybe attach an image, and then push a button, and it’s out of my hands. I no longer own it and am no longer responsible for it. And I don’t think that’s healthy. First of all, that’s all an illusion (if I say something terrible, I’m sure to get called out) and second of all, I should want to take ownership of the things I say, even in a space as ephemeral as the web.

Basically, the IndieWeb’s ideals have challenged me to view my online posting activity through the lens of questions like:

  • Do I want this content to still be accessible decades from now?
  • Do I want this content to (hopefully) still be interesting decades from now?
  • Am I willing to have my name, face, and reputation attached to this content for that long?
  • Do I want to make it easy to see if and how my thoughts have developed, changed, and matured over the years concerning this particular topic?
  • Do I want to make it easier for others to link to and share this content, while still retaining control over how it’s ultimately presented?

I haven’t stopped using social networks altogether nor am I posting content on Opus exclusively. But in recent months, I have found myself desiring the latter more.

Posting on Opus affords me more space and time for reflection and encourages me to think twice about what I’m posting, and whether it’s beneficial for both me and my readers. It encourages me to be more thoughtful, because if I want my content to be around 10, 20, 30 years from now, then I need to be comfortable with that legacy. I need to be willing to both stand by what I write and be humble enough to admit when I was wrong or misguided.

I want to create content that I can be proud of, or at least comfortable with, years from now. Social media pushes us to live, think, and post in the moment. The IndieWeb encourages us to be more responsible and take the long view.

Microsoft Had This Year’s Best Super Bowl Commercial

Unless you have a heart of stone, this commercial for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller will hit you right in the feels. The moment that really hits me is when Owen’s dad emphasizes that when his son plays video games, he’s no different than his friends; his handicap means nothing.

The video game world can be incredibly divisive, petty, and cruel sometimes, so it’s good to be reminded that video games can be ennobling and equalizing in a way that’s unique among most other forms of play, like sports.

As far as the other Super Bowl commercials go, I also really enjoyed the NFL’s ​“100-Year Game” commercial. It was fun and goofy, a nice way to pay tribute to older players like Joe Montana and Jim Brown, and it looks like everyone had a blast making it.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Wins Big at This Year’s Annie Awards

Spider Man Spiderverse 2018

It’s easy to dismiss movie awards shows as pretentious, self-congratulatory extravaganzas that exist only to make Hollywood celebrities feel better about themselves. But sometimes, awards shows get it right and celebrate excellence and artistry, and when that happens, it’s worth noting.

Case in point, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse essentially swept this year’s Annie Awards, winning seven awards in all for best feature, character animation, character design, direction, production design, writing, and editorial.

Into the Spider-Verse has also been nominated for a best animated feature Oscar. You’d think that it’s strong showing at the Annies would increase its chances of winning the Oscar, but Terry Flores points out that’s not necessarily the case due to changes in how the Academy treats the category.

Whatever happens, though, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and everyone else involved in the film should be incredibly proud of themselves. Into the Spider-Verse is simply fantastic, a brilliantly designed and animated film that’s filled with lots of heart as well as breathtaking action. It’s everything you could possibly want in a superhero movie, and then some.

The Sights and Sounds of the PowerBase 180

Shortly after the new year, our family began a concerted effort to clean out the basement. (That my wife was watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix series at the time may or may not have influenced this decision.) Among other things, this meant going through all of the computers that we’d acquired over the years, determining if they were still usable, transferring and archiving old files, and figuring out how to dispose of them.

And so, on a Saturday afternoon, I found myself reassembling my very first computer — a Power Computing PowerBase 180 that I bought around 1997 — on our dining room table. The PowerBase was one of many Macintosh clones that emerged in the mid-to-late ​‘90s after Apple licensed its technology to various companies (e.g., APS Technologies, Motorola, Power Computing, UMAX) in an effort to grow the Macintosh’s market share and generate some much-needed revenue.

(This official clone program was shut down after Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. Many execs were worried that clones were eating into Apple’s own profits while Jobs saw clones as an outdated model for saving the company.)

It’d probably been close to two decades since I last turned the PowerBase on. After several years of faithful service, it was replaced by an iMac DV SE and relegated to basements and closets. But as you can see in the video above, it started up just fine, though obviously pretty slowly (and this even though its RAM had been upgraded to 96 MB so I could run Adobe Photoshop 4.0 on it).

It was actually pretty nostalgic seeing the System 8 loader pop up, as well as the 20+ extensions and control panels loading across the bottom of the screen. They were a reminder of just how much fun you could have customizing and tweaking your Mac in the pre-OS X and macOS days. (Kaleidoscope, anyone?) And how about that fan, huh? Just listen to that baby purr.

My PowerBase was mostly empty aside from a few audio files from a short-lived musical project (which I’m still trying to figure out how to archive). But it still had many applications installed, including Netscape Navigator, Eudora Lite, and the aforementioned Photoshop 4.0. I didn’t try connecting the PowerBase to the internet — I’m pretty sure it would’ve melted the first time Navigator tried to load a modern website — but seeing them all reminded me of how I used to use computers.

I used to be incredibly anal and OCD about how my programs and files were organized. At one point, I’d even split up the PowerBase’s massive 1.2 GB hard drive into three partitions to better organize things. (Those three partitions were initially named ​“Cloud,” ​“Tifa,” and ​“Aeris” because I was a huge Final Fantasy VII nerd at the time. I’d even configured my Mac to use Final Fantasy VII sounds for various events, like copying files and creating folders. I actually still kind of miss that particular customization.)

Of course, the PowerBase is literally ancient by today’s standards. Even my iPhone SE is several orders of magnitude more powerful. But it was still fascinating to see (and hear) it run after all these years, and to note how much the Macintosh operating system had, and had not, changed.