A digest of interesting, entertaining, and otherwise worthwhile reads collected from around the web-o-sphere.
1) As my kids grow up and spend more and more time online, I will make sure they have this blog entry memorized:
Type up a Facebook status update — and it can be radioactive forever. Don’t be fooled by your keyboard: the Internet doesn’t have a delete button. Screenshots can make your words have a half life of eternity. Social media is exactly that — social. It impacts you socially for as long as you are a member of society.
2) Zach Hoag has made a New Year's resolution for 2014: he’s quitting the “Progressive Christian Internet”:
In the name of “feeling all the feels” and “being angry at my oppressors”, the Progressive Christian Internet justifies unhealthy affect, arrogance, and aggression as normative, totally fine, and DON’T SILENCE ME. Being an online asshole is now not an accidental slip — it’s a virtue. And ever tighter ideological circles are drawn until rigid cliques are formed, and everyone outside (like, the rest of the Internet) are The Patriarchy or The Racists or The Oppressors. Often, strange Survivor-esque alliances are made to fight common online enemies, with bedfellows collaborating on badgering and intimidating their foes despite glaring contradictions in their own respective positions. Love for God and neighbor are nowhere to be found, overwhelmed by pharisaical posturing.
3) If you’re a Mac user of a certain age, then Jeff Keacher’s account of introducing his 27-year-old Mac Plus to the Web will bring up some serious nostalgia.
Yes, in a certain sense, my Mac has already been on the internet, first via BBSes and later via Lynx through a dial-up shell sessions. (There’s nothing quite like erotic literature at 2400 bps when you’re 13 years old.) What it never did was run a TCP/IP stack of its own. It was always just a dumb terminal on the ‘net, never a full-fledged member.
How hard could it be to right that wrong?
4) Speaking of computer nostalgia, the Ars Technica staff recently took some time to remember their first computers.
Being a bunch of technology journalists who make our living on the Web, we at Ars all have a fairly intimate relationship with computers dating back to our childhood — even if for some of us, that childhood is a bit more distant than others. And our technological careers and interests are at least partially shaped by the devices we started with.
My first computer was a Commodore SX-64, a 23 pound “portable” version of the venerable Commodore 64. I spent many an hour staring at that 5” color screen, playing games like Murder on the Mississippi, Lode Runner, Temple of Apshai, and F-15 Strike Eagle — and it was magical. Computers have never seemed to advanced, so futuristic, so powerful.
5) Attack on Titan was one of 2013’s most acclaimed anime titles, but not one without controversy. For starters, it’s a very violent and gruesome series. But, as Charles Webb points out, it might also celebrate pre-WW2 Japanese expansionist thinking.
Who would have thought that an anime about naked giants attempting to use the last of humanity for their own personal buffet would evoke World War II, Japanese imperial thought, and advocate the individual's sacrifice to group-think?
Or maybe over its 25 episodes, the opposite is true: that Production I.G.'s adaptation of the Hajime Isayama manga is a sly critique of the all of the above, and that one season in, the audience hasn't yet been exposed to the line of thinking which upends what would seem to be a sustained celebration of the kind of expansionist thought that led a militarized Japan to look to the Philippines, Korea, and China and begin licking their chops.
For what it’s worth, here’s my review of Attack on Titan.
6) You probably saw Apple’s “Misunderstood” commercial a couple of times around the holiday season (it’s been viewed over 6.6 million times on YouTube to date). I thought it was a charming and thoughtful commercial, but there are some who, strangely enough, saw it as something far more pernicious.
7) You might remember “Gangnam Style” as that crazy silly video with the horse dancing. However, Sungyak John Kim argues that PSY’s big hit is an exemplar of our post-modern age.
One of the most-discussed issues in music theory today is the relationship between language and music, whether one qualitatively compromises the other, or whether there is a balance to strike between text and tonality, etc. “Gangnam Style,” I believe, is a resounding conclusion to this debate, at least at the popular level. The text has yielded to tone. Meaning has been lost. Perhaps this is what people have always said about pop music – that values like meaning, coherence and virtue have long been exiled into the “old, rich people who attend operas” category. Well, “Gangnam Style” has put another nail in the coffin. No longer is meaning merely absent. In our postmodern culture, absence of meaning is celebrated.
8) Wired presents a photo gallery of the AK-47, arguably the most well-known and influential assault rifle of all time.
9) Roger Ebert wrote this piece on movie language and morality back in 1992, but it’s just as relevant and insightful today as it was then.
The most fundamental mistake you can make with any piece of fiction is to confuse the content with the subject. The content is what is in a movie. The subject is what the movie is about. Word counters like Medved are as offended by a Martin Scorsese picture as by a brainless violent action picture, because they see the same elements in both. But the brainless picture is simply a form of exhibitionism, in which the director is showing you disgusting things on the screen. And the Scorsese picture might be an attempt to deal seriously with guilt and sin, with evil and the possibility of redemption. If you cannot tell one from the other, then you owe it to yourself to learn; life is short, and no fun if you spend it disowning your own intelligence.
Speaking of morality and movies and art, I recently posted this on Facebook:
I don’t have any plans to see American Hustle or The Wolf of Wall Street, for various reasons, but I have enjoyed reading what various friends have posted regarding these two movies — precisely because the opinions have been so varied.
Some people have loved these movies, and some people have hated them. Some have seen them as vile and exploitative whereas others have seen them as insightful and thought-provoking. And here’s the thing: regardless of their stance, people have posted perfectly valid and thoughtful defenses for their view.
That’s how art works… and it’s a beautiful, and frustrating, thing. Different people can see the same movie, and come to very different conclusions, and both can be “right.” This is not to say that art can’t be evaluated or critiqued, or that we can’t declare one work to be better or clearer or more well-made than another, or that we shouldn’t hold up certain titles as exemplars or standards.
But it does mean that art, and our reactions to it, are all complicated things. And when we’re discussing art, and our reactions and impressions, there needs to be grace and humility for each other, and for the art in question.
Or, as one of my favorite critics, Jeffrey Overstreet, put it: “Please, be generous with each other. Don’t judge a movie you haven’t seen. Don’t judge others for their responses. And don’t judge artists for painting pictures of what they see happening in the world around them.”
Amen and amen.