Hawkins, Indiana Is Still a Crazy Place in the Stranger Things Season 3 Trailer

After some teases on Twitter, Netflix has released the first trailer for Stranger Things’ third season, and it’s pretty packed. It begins with a scene where the rest of gang welcome Dustin home, with bad consequences for Lucas. It’s hilarious, for sure, but is it really wise to give Eleven more nosebleeds just for a little welcome home prank?

The rest of the trailer is a flash of intense scenes, including:

  • Eleven trapped in the void between our world and the Upside Down
  • Visions of what might be the mind flayer from season two
  • Will apparently still reeling from the trauma of what’s happened to him in previous seasons
  • An assassin-looking figure
  • Hopper dressed to the nines on a hot date
  • Hawkins’ flashy new Starcourt Mall
  • The gang venturing off on what looks like a camping trip
  • And finally — because this is Stranger Things — a horrific flesh monster that’s most likely up to no good

The good folks at io9 have an exhaustive breakdown of the trailer, including some interesting analysis of Billy (aka, season 2’s big jerkface).

It’s also worth noting how much older everyone looks. At one point in the trailer, you hear someone (Will?) say ​“We’re not kids anymore.” While I don’t want to read too much into a single line of dialog in a trailer, I wouldn’t be surprised if the difficulties of growing up — and eventually apart from childhood friends — is an even bigger subtext for this season than last, and on into the series’ final season(s). (Stranger Things’ creators have said they plan to end it after the fourth or fifth season.)

There’s been plenty of conjecture about Stranger Things’ third season but we’ll find out for sure when it starts streaming on July 4.

Drone Footage of Nebraska’s 2019 Flooding

Thanks to a weather phenomenon called a ​“bomb cyclone,” Nebraska was absolutely battered this past week. The western part of the state experienced blizzards that closed all highways and interstates in the Panhandle region and dumped large amounts of snow (1020 inches, depending on the area). Meanwhile, eastern Nebraska is dealing with some of the worst flooding it’s seen in decades.

The above drone footage gives you a good sense of the flooding’s scale, and how far rivers have expanded beyond their usual banks. It’s actually kind of eerie to see the small towns highlighted in the video (e.g., Scribner, Wisner). We’ve driven through them many times to go to family reunions but now, they’re completely surrounded, if not covered, by the floodwaters. It’ll take months, and even years, to recover from this devastation.

We’ve been fortunate; Lincoln has come through all of this pretty unscathed. But many other Nebraskans, including my wife’s family, aren’t so fortunate. Even if their houses aren’t flooded, they — like so many others in this region — are essentially cut off by the flooding, and it may be several days before the waters subside enough so that they can leave without risk.

Natural disasters are terrible, and nothing to wish on anyone, but they can allow for the best in humanity to emerge, as people help their neighbors, give their time and resources to help their communities, and even sacrifice their lives trying to save complete strangers.

Oh, and find some humor in even the worst of situations:

James Gunn, Tucker Carlson, and the Value of Contrition

James Gunn
James Gunn at 2016 San Diego Comic Con(CC BY-SA 2.0)

I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 with my kids last night. It was their first viewing, and not surprisingly, they loved it. Which makes me very happy that James Gunn is returning for Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3 — if only because it means the possibility of more cinematic awesomeness like Volume 2s Mary Poppins reference.

Yes, you read that right. Eight months after firing him following an alt-right hit-job that surfaced some disgusting jokes he’d made years ago, Disney has re-hired James Gunn to complete his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. However, Volume 3 won’t come out until after Gunn has finished the Suicide Squad sequel, which he’s writing and directing for Warner Bros.

(As others have pointed out on Twitter, I love the fact that right-wing trolls like Mike Cernovich have not only failed to ruin Gunn’s career, but they’ve effectively doubled the amount of work he’ll be doing.)

Which brings me to this internet stupidity du jour: some folks are apparently mad because those celebrating Gunn’s rehiring aren’t being similarly supportive of Tucker Carlson, who became embroiled in his own bit of controversy following the recent release of recordings of him using racist and misogynistic language and joking about child rape and underage marriage.

It’s true that both Gunn and Carlson have said terrible things, and that they’ve both been called out for unsavory behavior from years ago. But there’s one critical difference between the two. Gunn has publicly apologized for his comments and committed himself to acting in a more mature and respectful manner. Carlson, on the other hand, has doubled down and grown even more defiant after being confronted by his disgusting speech.

Carlson’s received criticism for calling Iraqis ​“semiliterate primitive monkeys” and calling women ​“extremely primitive,” to mention just a few examples. But instead of expressing contrition for such obviously disgusting statements — as you’d expect from any half-way decent human being — Carlson instead calls himself a victim of ​“the great American outrage machine” and complains about being bullied.

Critics of Gunn’s rehiring seem to willingly overlook his past apologies, and instead, remain incredulous that people are willing to let their kids watch movies made by someone who cracked incredibly crass, offensive jokes years ago. However, I’m incredulous at those who think that someone who not only said ugly, hate-filled things years ago, but continues to espouse them (while stubbornly refusing to display any regret for their foolish words) should be considered a trusted and respected media figure.

Heart Machine Announces Solar Ash Kingdom

Heart Machines debut game, Hyper Light Drifter, received considerable acclaim for its imaginatively retro artwork, enigmatic storyline, haunting soundtrack, and difficult gameplay. (I also appreciated its spiritual aspects.) But what would its developers do for a follow-up?

If the above trailer for Solar Ash Kingdom is any indication, then it’s going to be another visually stunning game set in an intriguing, fantastical world.

Details are still pretty scarce, but there’s a lot that’s tantalizing in the trailer, from the main character’s skating movements and battle with some horrible beastie to the alien and ruins-filled landscapes. (My favorite detail is the remains of what might’ve been some sort of space station floating in the sky at the 0:18 mark).

In a statement to IGN (who debuted the trailer), Heart Machine’s Alx Preston had this to say:

We strive to tell a beautiful story through our world, the atmosphere, our characters and even our gameplay — each aspect of our games are painstakingly considered — which requires a large investment of time. Thanks for bearing with us and our relative silence; we’re so excited to start opening up about the game and the process behind it on our devlog and beyond.

Which would imply that more information will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future, including a release date.

Pop Culture Is More Than Mere Entertainment

U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D

Stacey Abrams has become something of a rising star in the Democratic Party. Despite losing the race to be Georgia’s next governor, she became the first African-American woman to deliver a response to the State of the Union address, and there’s talk over whether or not she’ll enter the 2020 presidential race.

But more importantly, at least as far as this blog’s concerned, she’s a massive Star Trek fan, particularly of The Next Generation. And according to this recent New York Times profile, Star Trek may partially explain her political success.

In explaining her approach to politics as a black Democratic woman in a state controlled by white Republican men, she devotes several pages to a pivotal scene from ​“Peak Performance,” an episode from ​“Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In the episode, Data, the preternaturally pale android with a greenish cast to his skin, is playing Strategema, a game that appears to be some incredibly complicated form of 3-D holographic chess, against a humanoid grandmaster named Kolrami. Data cannot defeat Kolrami, he discovers, but he can outlast him, drive him into a rage and force him to quit the game, which is itself a kind of victory.

Ms. Abrams writes that this has helped her focus her own thinking. ​“Data reframed his objective — not to win outright but to stay alive, passing up opportunities for immediate victory in favor of a strategy of survival,” she says in the book. ​“My lesson is simpler: change the rules of engagement.”

While Tim Carmody points out that it’s possible to overstate Star Treks importance to Abrams’ political strategies, we shouldn’t be so quick to scoff at it or dismiss its influence (emphasis mine):

[U]ltimately, it’s just a really cool show. It’s one we grew up with. And as politicians get younger, it’s one we’ve always had with us, framing our background on entertainment, war, morality, politics, economics — everything.

The world the original Star Trek entered was one where space was only beginning to open, as a direct consequence of the nuclear and geopolitical crisis than enveloping the planet. Now, we have all new geopolitical crises to deal with. Star Trek offers a surprisingly resilient fictional framework for understanding most if not all of them. That’s a powerful tool. It’s foolish to pass it up.

Inventors, engineers, scientists, and astronauts have all been inspired by Star Trek over the years, so why not politicians? Why not the rest of us?

One of the biggest mistakes that people have made — and especially within the Church, which is the social and cultural framework within which I operate most frequently — is dismissing pop culture artifacts (and especially seemingly nerdy ones like Star Trek) as (at best) mere entertainment or (at worst) sinful trifles. (Another mistake is trying to co-opt such artifacts for your own political purposes, but that’s a subject for another post.)

But pop culture is never just entertainment. Pop culture shapes us even as we create it. Even ​“nerdy” (though increasingly mainstream) artifacts like Star Trek, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and superhero movies can expose us to new ideas, reinforce pre-existing biases and convictions, help us make sense of life’s cruelty and brevity, provide a framework for contemplating ethics and morality, give us glimpses of truth and beauty, and inspire us to be better people.

This should surprise none of us, not anymore, not in this day and age. As with all things, there’s a dark side to pop culture (e.g., escapism, toxic and entitled fandoms, crass commercialization, an over-reliance on formulaic storytelling), but if Abrams wants to draw inspiration from Star Trek for her politics, then more power to her. And maybe she shouldn’t be the only one who does.

In Defense of Apple’s Perfectly Adequate iPhone SE

iPhone SE
Apple’s best iPhone?(Public Domain)

While everyone gloms onto the latest and greatest iPhones — because bigger screen, better camera, Face ID, etc. — I’m still using an itty-bitty iPhone SE, and I love it. True, it doesn’t have any of those aforementioned features, but it fits comfortably in my pocket and I can do practically everything on it with one hand, and that counts for a lot in my book.

Oh, and it also has an honest-to-goodness headphone jack. Jealous yet?

It’s far from the biggest or best phone out there, Apple or otherwise, and yet the SE is perfectly adequate for my needs. That may seem like I’m damning the device with faint praise, but far from it.

Let’s all agree that any smartphone is a luxury item. It might pain us to say it, because smartphones are awfully cool and useful devices, but very few people actually need one to make it through the day. Furthermore, I’d wager that even fewer people really need the latest and greatest model. But we think we do, because Apple, Google, et al. are really good at advertising and creating solutions to problems that didn’t really exist before. (Consider Apple’s steady stream of new cables and connectors.)

That’s not to say there’s no such thing as innovation. Though I had my doubts at first, Apple’s Touch ID is a very elegant and obvious solution for a real problem (i.e., keeping the often highly personal and sensitive data on your phone safe). But while it sounds really cool, is Face ID really that much better in practice than Touch ID? What problems does it actually solve? And does solving those problems justify the extra cost?

Obviously, others will come to different decisions and be willing to make different trade-offs than I am. But at the risk of sounding like a luddite, I’m tired of constant proclamations that this year’s model is the greatest phone ever created, when the exact same thing was said about model(s) released last year. (I love ​‘em, but Apple is notoriously bad at this.) And I’m tired of this expectation that I should be, not just willing, but eager to ditch a phone that perfectly meets my needs now, and does so in ways that phone manufacturers (in their infinite wisdom) have deemed no longer relevant or necessary.

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who feels this way. Juli Clover (via) notes that whenever SEs go on clearance at Apple, they tend to go quickly, ​“suggesting there’s still quite a lot of interest in the 4-inch device.” Furthermore, she notes that for many commonly used apps, like Mail, Messages, and Calendar, the SE is just as fast as newer iPhones. (Naturally, it’s slower for apps designed to take advantage of newer iPhones’ technology.)

Her conclusion: ​“If you don’t care about camera quality, prefer a smaller screen, and don’t need to use processor-intensive apps and games, the iPhone SE is a compact, easy-to-hold smartphone that still holds up even in 2019.”

Jeff Benjamin praises the SE’s ​“timeless” design, which he calls ​“the pinnacle of Apple [phone] design.” While his article concludes by listing all of the advantages that newer iPhones have over the SE (e.g., bigger screens, gesture controls, 3D Touch), he does think Apple would do well to release ​“a smaller budget iPhone inspired by the highly-adored iPhone SE.” (He includes some concept designs of a smaller bezel-free iPhone.)

Devin Coldewey goes even further, calling the SE ​“the best phone Apple ever made” while lamenting its passage and what he sees as Apple’s willingness to sacrifice quality for novelty:

To me the SE was Apple allowing itself one last victory lap on the back of a design it would never surpass. It’s understandable that it would not want to admit, this many years on, that anyone could possibly prefer something it created nearly a decade ago to its thousand-dollar flagship — a device, I feel I must add, that not only compromises visibly in its design (I’ll never own a notched phone if I can help it) but backpedals on practical features used by millions, like Touch ID and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

I’d love to see Apple roll out a new 4″ phone that fits modern features like Face ID and gesture controls into a smaller form factor (just no camera bump, please). However, I’m not holding my breath for an iPhone SE 2 (though others are more sanguine). Apple’s been pushing ​“bigger is better” with their phones for awhile now, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon. Which is a shame, because as the above articles point out, there’s still a lot to like about the iPhone SE’s size, design, and feature set.

Finding “the Fear of the Lord” in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Stories

Writing for Christianity Today, R. S. Naifeh looks at the ways in which the fantasy novels of Lois McMaster Bujold explore religious and spiritual matters.

Though not herself a Christian (Bujold describes herself as agnostic), she is rare in the field for the seriousness with which she takes religion. (About C. S. Lewis, she once quipped: ​“He makes Christianity look good. There are many Christians who make Christianity look bad, also.”) And while her Hugo-winning series technically features a polytheistic world, it is often fueled by questions (and answers) familiar to Christian theology. Her novels treat religious devotion sympathetically while portraying a world in which the gods are objectively knowable and invariably good. Indeed, reading her books brought me to a deeper understanding of just what it means to have ​“the fear of the Lord.”

I discovered Bujold a few years ago, and The Curse of Chalion is now one of my favorite fantasy novels. Its sequel — The Paladin of Souls — is quite good, as well. I haven’t read any of the Penric novels yet, but Naifeh’s article is a good reminder that I should change that.

Review Round-Up: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel - Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has some pretty great female characters — e.g., Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Okoye, Shuri, Peggy Carter — none of them have (unfortunately) headlined an MCU movie. But that all changes with Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel.

The character — who has been billed as one of the MCU’s most powerful characters and a key to battling (and presumably, defeating) Thanos — was teased at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, when Nick Fury uses a pager(!) to send off a mysterious message. But she makes her big screen debut with Captain Marvel, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Mississippi Grind, Half Nelson).

The film opens in theaters on March 8, but reviews have already begun pouring in from critics.

ScreenAnarchys Shelagh Rowan-Legg calls Captain Marvel ​“a force to be reckoned with,” and concludes that “[w]ith a great soundtrack, the right kind of girl power, solid cast, exciting action, and the right dose of intelligence and humour, it’s a fresh addition to the canon, taking it in a needed new direction.”

Birth.Movies.Deaths Todd Gilchrist is even more emphatic in his review, calling Captain Marvel ​“an important benchmark in the evolution not just of superhero films but films that offer woefully overdue, intersectional representation of women and people of color on a massive, mainstream scale.” But lest you think that Captain Marvel is just for social justice warriors, Gilchrist confirms that it’s still ​“a rousing, fun superhero saga that earns the right to be viewed without needing conditions, asterisks or equivocation to evaluate its artistic worthiness.”

io9s Yolanda Machado praises the film’s depiction of female relationships: ​“While the MCU has shown women working together (Nakia, Shuri, and Okoye in Black Panther), as well as part of a hot/​cold sibling rivalry (Gamora and Nebula), Maria and Carol’s relationship is truly the first time we’ve seen women in a close life-defining friendship… While both are strong in their own ways, they are two different women, and it was thrilling to watch such a close female bond come through in a comic book action film.”

However, other’s aren’t quite as taken with the new Captain’s adventures.

Voxs Alex Abad-Santos finds the cinematic Captain Marvel underwhelming when compared to her comic book version: ​“This isn’t to say that Captain Marvel isn’t ever fun or joyous. It’s just that for large stretches of the movie, it feels like everyone around Carol, but not Carol herself, is channeling the joys of being a superhero. It’s not until fairly late in the film that Carol finally gets to soar. And even then, I was left hoping for something better for the character.”

The AV Clubs Ignatiy Vishnevetsky likes Brie Larson’s ​“confidence and chutzpah” as Captain Marvel but takes issue with the film’s reliance on ​‘90s nostalgia: “[I]t might be called the ​90s superhero movie that Marvel never got to make. It has the approximate pace and running time of a blockbuster of that era, which means that it’s comparatively short and fast-paced by modern standards. Unfortunately, it also has a lackluster plot; bog-standard chase scenes and pew-pewing space ships; a notable shortage of interesting characterizations; and a fight scene set to No Doubt’s ​‘Just A Girl’ that is nowhere as awesome or as silly as it should be.”

Finally, Time Magazines Stephanie Zacharek finds the film’s depiction of a female superhero problematic: “[D]oes our sense of the power and capability of women always have to be filtered through a highly fictionalized superhero universe — as if that were the only way we could possibly bring ourselves to register the value of what women can bring to the table? Words like badass and kick-ass, used to describe women, have been trotted out so often that they’ve come to mean nothing. They tell us little about whether a woman has any sense of judgment or style or true intelligence. The idea is that it’s best just to bash your way through everything, just as so many guys do. That way, no one will ever think of you as weak.”

More reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes, where Captain Marvel currently has an 84% rating.

My Favorite’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives Has Been Digitally Reissued

My Favorite

Prior to their 2005 break-up, New York’s My Favorite had developed quite a name for themselves, thanks to their immaculate take on ​‘80s new wave, synth-pop, and alternative rock as well as frontman Michael Grace Jr.‘s droll, melancholy lyrics filled with tales of alienation, youthful rebellion, and romantic angst. My Favorite’s music contained all of the right influences — e.g., The Smiths, New Order, The Cure — but the band’s music incorporated them all so flawlessly that it never felt like a rip-off or even homage, but rather, something fresh and vital.

The band reunited in 2014 and released some new music, including 2016’s ​“Christine Zero​/​Killed For Kicks,” but the band’s earlier material could be more difficult to find. Thankfully, the band has been steadily re-releasing that material, culminating in the recent reissue of their 2003 magnum opus, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, which compiled various earlier EPs along with remixes from the likes of Soviet, Flowchart, and Future Bible Heroes.

If you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned groups, or you enjoy shimmery, jangly pop music wedded to lyrics that’d be pretentious if they weren’t so poignant — examples include ​“A talent for my own destruction is all I’ve ever owned,” ​“A pathetic mythology is better than no mythology at all,” and my favorite, ​“Loneliness is pornography to them/​But to us it is an art” — then I really can’t recommend this one enough. (Read my original review from 2004.)

The 2019 reissue of The Happiest Days of Our Lives isn’t exactly the same as the original 2003 release from Double Agent Records — the track listing and order is different and it’s missing some remixes — but it’s still an absolutely stellar collection of indie-pop that feels as timeless as it does nostalgic. What’s more, it may be a harbinger of even more new music from My Favorite, if the band’s Facebook activity is any indication.

Oh, and here’s my new favorite (npi) bit of music trivia: one of My Favorite’s earliest incarnations featured ​“Captain” Kirk Douglas on guitar before he became a member of The Roots.

Revisiting Everything But the Girl’s Walking Wounded

Everything But the Girl
Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn circa 1995

There was a period of time, roughly around 2000 or 2001, when I had Everything But the Girl’s Walking Wounded on near-constant rotation. That was partly due to the music; Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt had taken jungle, drum n’ bass, and downtempo, stripped them down, and infused them with a human warmth, and the resulting sounds were sleek, modern, effortless, and soulful.

But more important were the album’s lyrics, which were filled with stories of heartbreak, loss, and longing. At the time, I was head-over-heels for a girl who seemed completely out of my reach — I was deep in ​“unrequited love” territory — and so I’d often take the long way home after work and listen to Walking Wounded in the solitude of my car.

Songs like ​“Before Today,” ​“Single,” and ​“Good Cop, Bad Cop” were a salve. When Thorn sang ​“It’s wrong to feel this way/​I know it’s wrong, I know it’s bad/​To only see what isn’t there/​To want and want and never have” (“Good Cop, Bad Cop”), she helped me sort through (and yes, sometimes brood and wallow in) all of the messed up, conflicted emotions that I had at the time. As I wrote in my aforelinked review:

This is an album that lends itself to driving alone, late at night, while trying to figure out your own romantic endeavors and why they aren’t quite working out the way you planned. Everything But The Girl knows what it’s like, and this album is a comfort during those late drives. At least, it is for me.

That was, of course, nearly two decades ago, and those feelings have long since faded, and even seem a little ridiculous and overwrought with some time and distance. But what hasn’t changed is Walking Wounded, which still sounds as relevant, soulful, and heartbreaking as ever. All of which is to say that I was glad to see Pitchfork finally give the album its due in a recent Sunday review. (Every Sunday, Pitchfork posts a review of ​“a significant album from the past” that’s not in their archives.)

Each Everything But the Girl album has its own style and story, but the one on which Thorn and Watt’s individual gifts shine brightest is the one on which they stripped everything back. They shared their knottiest feelings, created dialogue with skeletal new sounds, and made the record in a much more insular way than they ever had previously. Its timely sonics and emotionally wrought themes spoke as much to teenagers, myself included, as it did the band’s adult contemporaries.

Walking Wounded was originally released in 1996, and I remember it being touted as one of the first albums to blend pop music and electronica (though I don’t know how true that is). It would become the duo’s most successful album, selling well over a million copies worldwide. It was later released as a two-disc deluxe version in 2015 by Edsel Records.

The Wandering Earth Wanders Over to Netflix

Netflix has acquired the streaming rights to The Wandering Earth, an epic sci-fi film from China that has become a box office sensation back home, and achieved several significant milestones. Among other things, it’s 2019’s most successful film to date and already one of the most successful sci-fi films of all time.

Based on a story by China’s most acclaimed sci-fi author, Liu Cixin (best known for his award-winning ​“Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy), The Wandering Earth is set in the not-too-distant future where the sun has begun to expand, threatening all life on Earth. To escape extinction, humanity has turned the planet into a giant spaceship and begun a 2,500-year-long journey to find a new home in a distant solar system.

The Wandering Earth was directed by Frant Gwo (My Old Classmate) and stars Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior 2, Sha Po Lang), Ng Man-tat (Shaolin Soccer), and Zhao Jinmai. And as can be seen in the trailer above, the film boasts some pretty impressive production design and effects. The film’s reviews have been generally positive. Screen Anarchys J Hurtado loved the film, calling it ​“a rousing space adventure,” while Simon Abrams appreciated the filmmaker’s ​“can-do spirit and consummate attention to detail.”

Netflix has yet to announce a release date for The Wandering Earth but hopefully, it’ll be sooner rather than later.

Steven Spielberg vs. Netflix

Netflix Logo

Following the success of Netflix’s Roma at this year’s Oscars — Alfonso Cuarón’s film received ten nominations, including ​“Best Picture,” and won for ​“Best Director,” ​“Best Foreign Language Film,” and ​“Best Cinematography” — no less a filmmaking icon than Steven Spielberg is supporting changes that will effectively ban Netflix’s films from future Oscar nominations.

Essentially, goes the argument, Netflix’s films aren’t ​“real” or ​“cinematic” films. Instead, they’re ​“TV movies” and as such, should be recognized by the Emmys instead of the Oscars.

This isn’t the first time that Netflix has received the ire of the ​“traditional” film industry. At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja was booed when it played, and questions were raised about whether or not movies from streaming services were less legitimate and cinematic than movies made by ​“real” studios that played in theaters.

All due respect to Spielberg and his desire to maintain cinema’s integrity, but this recent kerfuffle feels less like a desire to preserve cinema and more like Hollywood just being mad at Netflix (and other streaming services) for stepping on their turf and not behaving the way Hollywood thinks they should.

Spielberg’s concerns about cinematic experiences aside, IndieWire has a list of studio grievances concerning Netflix, and all are business-related. For example, studios don’t like how much Netflix spent to promote Roma, that Netflix doesn’t report box office numbers when their films do play in theaters, or that Netflix’s movies are available around the world all day, every day. (IndieWire also points out that it’s not entirely clear how these grievances mean that Netflix’s films fail to meet Academy Award standards.)

Getting back to Spielberg’s argument, it seems to overlook the simple fact that, for many people, the moviegoing experience has been irrevocably altered by technology — for better or worse. This desire to enforce ​“pure” cinematic experiences seems rooted in a very idealized, even nostalgic view of the movie-watching experience.

One could argue that thanks to advances in home theater technology, it’s possible to have a purer cinematic experience in your living room than you could have in your local theater. (At the very least, you don’t have to worry about sticky floors, fellow moviegoers answering their phones, and projection errors.) And I say this as someone who enjoys the spectacle of the big screen and does think there’s something unique to seeing movies on it. But not to the point that I’m willing to necessarily denigrate other movie-watching experiences (and the movies geared towards them) as second-class.

Finally, this idea that movies made for the ​“small screen” are less cinematic strikes me as a rather limited view of cinema. It seems to be saying that if a movie isn’t seen the right way, then it can’t have the power or effect of a movie that is seen the right way — whatever the ​“right way” may be.

True, some forms of movie-watching may be more enjoyable or beneficial than others, but it seems to me that a truly great movie can transcend the way it was viewed. Put another away, if a movie is a truly great work of cinematic art, then on some level, it doesn’t matter how you see it. Its story and craft will still leave a powerful impression. (Interestingly, Academy Award voters cast their votes based, not on seeing the movies in theaters, but rather, after watching them on DVD screeners or streaming versions, i.e., the very method that Spielberg decries.)

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the growing dominance of Netflix and other streaming services, including the ways in which they encourage us to be passive consumers of entertainment, not to mention the streaming market’s growing balkanization as more and more streaming services become available.

At the same time, I really can’t drum up too much enthusiasm for this whole ​“keep cinema pure” angle. Not when Netflix, Hulu, et al., are giving talented filmmakers increased freedom to make their art, many movie theaters offer substandard moviegoing experiences, and the studios’ reaction to Netflix seems driven by business gripes, jealousy, and curmudgeonliness as much as anything resembling concern for artistry and integrity.

The OA Travels to Another Dimension in This Season Two Trailer

Upon finishing The OAs first season back in 2016, most viewers probably found the Netflix original series as nonsensical as they did fascinating. Though it had garnered some comparisons to Stranger Things, which premiered earlier that year, The OA got a lot weirder than Stranger Things’ delightful play on ​‘80s nostalgia.

With a plot that featured altered states of consciousness, near death experiences, talk of angels, and interpretive dance, calling The OA ​“oblique” just scratched the surface. But I must admit, for as often as I found the series frustrating — which was quite often — I was also never not intrigued by its otherworldliness. Which is to say, I’m in for another season.

However, it’s been more than two years since the first season aired. Is it worth diving back into The OAs strangeness? Netflix and series creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij seem to think so; season two arrives on Netflix on March 22, 2019. And if the above trailer is any indication, The OAs second season looks to be just as strange as its first, if not moreso, as the characters find themselves in another dimension where, among other things, Barack Obama was never president.

Entertainment Weekly has more details, including new characters and statements from Marling and Batmanglij about the new season’s direction and tone.

The Human Cost of Moderating Facebook

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The Verges Casey Newton has written an excellent, yet stomach-churning and heart-breaking article about the people in charge of moderating all of the filth (e.g., pornography, violent videos, conspiracy theories) that’s posted on Facebook, and the terrible stress and side-effects of their job.

For this portion of her education, Chloe will have to moderate a Facebook post in front of her fellow trainees. When it’s her turn, she walks to the front of the room, where a monitor displays a video that has been posted to the world’s largest social network. None of the trainees have seen it before, Chloe included. She presses play.

The video depicts a man being murdered. Someone is stabbing him, dozens of times, while he screams and begs for his life. Chloe’s job is to tell the room whether this post should be removed. She knows that section 13 of the Facebook community standards prohibits videos that depict the murder of one or more people. When Chloe explains this to the class, she hears her voice shaking.

Returning to her seat, Chloe feels an overpowering urge to sob. Another trainee has gone up to review the next post, but Chloe cannot concentrate. She leaves the room, and begins to cry so hard that she has trouble breathing.

No one tries to comfort her. This is the job she was hired to do. And for the 1,000 people like Chloe moderating content for Facebook at the Phoenix site, and for 15,000 content reviewers around the world, today is just another day at the office.

From the human cost that comes with fighting all of the crap that gets posted on Facebook to the company’s ongoing privacy breaches (and lame responses to them), it’s increasingly difficult to see Facebook as anything resembling a positive for society.

But I don’t know what the solution is. Obviously, on a personal level, you can close your Facebook account, but that won’t solve anything on a larger scale. Bad press doesn’t seem to affect Facebook, either; despite gross privacy abuses, people still want a place to post memes, videos, and photos of their kids for free.

But therein lies the problem, because nothing is free, not really. You may not have to pay for a Facebook account, but there’s still a cost involved, whether it’s your private information being gobbled up and sent to countless advertisers or the psychological and spiritual toll paid by those being exposed to the dregs of humanity in order to ensure that Facebook remains ​“safe” and ​“clean” for everyone else.

I’m no fan of government overreach, etc., but let’s just say that I wouldn’t shed any tears were the government to lean more heavily on Mark Zuckerberg and Co. (That is, of course, hoping that the government’s actions are led by people who understand technology.)

Listen to the First Single From Pure Bathing Culture’s New Album Night Pass

Last year, dreampop duo Pure Bathing Culture released a full album cover of The Blue Nile’s classic Hats. Following that, Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman teased that new original material was in the works, and that’s come together in the form of a new album titled Night Pass, which will be released by Infinite Companion on April 26.

The album’s first single is ​“Devotion,” and as is the case with all of Pure Bathing Culture’s music, the song’s highlights are Versprille’s soulful voice and Hindman’s nimble, elegant guitar-playing. ​“Devotion” might also be one of the poppiest songs in the band’s repertoire — or as Stereogum describes it, ​“a triumphant, ​‘80s-indebted jaunt” that emerged from a dark period for the duo.

The band will also be touring the U.S. this spring in support of Night Fall alongside the likes of Lucius and American Football. Tour dates are on the band’s website.