There was recently a huge update to Stardew Valley. I didn’t read any of the changelogs and am running into the new things organically in a new game. Let’s start with the most important thing, which is rifling through the garbage. If you’re shy about even mild spoilers, stop here.

This Stuff Is Garbage

Photo by Raph_PH.


The long wild arc of Metallica’s recording career

Metallica is absolutely wild. This is a band whose last six albums—new studio albums of all new material, released in the 2010s—have debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart, tying them in a beautiful improbability knot with Dave Matthews Band. They’ve made unbelievably strange collaborations and are still putting out interesting music today, unlike almost all of the other bands I’ve written up for this primer series.

Over 35 years after their debut album, the members of Metallica are as vital as ever, and James Hetfield is still one of the coolest dudes there is. Like Bruce Springsteen, he’s…

Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and David Crosby (all by Eddi Laumanns), and the single best photo of Neil Young to ever exist (publicity still).


This folk-rock supergroup fought, broke up, and reunited enough times and ways to make Fleetwood Mac’s heads spin.

With the glaring exception of the Rolling Stones, all our bands so far have come together from the dregs of other projects, even if those projects weren’t commercially popular. (Mick, Keith, Ian Stewart, and Brian Jones just met and fell in love. Awww!) The CSNY boys were fully superstars when they started jamming together, and their second gig ever was Woodstock. …

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in a Wikimedia photo credited to Heinrich Klaffs and dated 1973.


The English band synthesized the sounds of the first wave of British Invasion bands into an intricate and massively loud new subgenre. Then they began to fall apart.

Boomers have much ballyhooed the end of the “album era,” because the youths today prefer individual songs and artists don’t necessarily record full albums in the first place. But most of the classic albums from the ’60s and ’70s still have filler. The 8-track player is a cultural joke today, but when it came out it represented a new way to skip to the song you really wanted to hear. The cassette tape reverted to continuous play, but my cassette player, at least, could skip tracks by sensing lulls on the magnetic tape or something. …

A 1971 Billboard ad via Wikimedia Commons.


Like the iconic rainbow prism from Dark Side of the Moon, the English band broke homogeneous popular rock music into a dazzling and beautiful array of parts.

Besides the enigmatic flameout of original bandleader and LSD-fueled Byronic hero Syd Barrett, there’s very little to the so-called “personal side” of Pink Floyd. Longtime lead singer and songwriter Roger Waters left the band during the ’80s. He and lead guitarist David Gilmour seem like they don’t like each other that much. I don’t know—after the sturm und drang of the Eagles and the star-topology network of Fleetwood Mac’s failed relationships between bandmates, there’s not much to see here, is there?

But with Pink Floyd, there is always, always the music. I’m going to skip Dark Side of the Moon

From Wikimedia Commons, the endpapers of a 19th-century book.

Something cool is when men share lists of books that tip their hands, like when the New York Times tweeted food editor Sam Sifton’s summer reading list. Sifton’s list included both Jonathan Franzen and just one book by a woman, and that book even had the word “bitch” in the title. That’s my favorite one ever, but this Slate list by Dan Kois of books for his 14-year-old daughter is really, really close. My criticism of it caused him to call my comments “bullshit” and then block me. Let’s review his list in more detail.

These Books Are Fine

Most of the list is…

An early publicity photo shows how creative the haircuts were, from the very beginning. Also, I want all of these shirts.


The Eagles are an enigma. They’re both a massive cultural joke (“I hate the fucking Eagles, man,” the Dude says, spilling his drink) and one of the bestselling bands in the world to this day. And their reputation as great white temper babies, earned with public fights and a rotating-door lineup, was so vital to the band’s image that they named their 1994 reunion album Hell Freezes Over.

In previous primers, my goal was to highlight the fuller dimensions of bands often boiled down to a handful of “greatest hits” that get soul-deadening amounts of classic rock radio play. With…

(This piece originally appeared on the fundraising site Philanthroper in 2012.)

There are 285 million people in the world with impaired vision, 90% of whom live in the developing world.

Much of this is solvable. A ten-minute procedure requiring no electricity or machinery can restore the eyesight of those who have cataracts — a debilitating but common clouding of the eye’s lens — enabling them to see clearly for the first time in years.

Himalayan Cataract Project enables free and low-cost cataract surgery to people around the world. They treat patients and train doctors.

The entire process, from screening patients through completion of the surgery, can take under an hour. And it costs only $20 USD. Doctors make a…


Some of the most illustrative tracks of the legendary band

Mick has been this slender for his entire life. This is a publicity photo for Sticky Fingers.

This spring, you can see the Rolling Stones in their 55th year of touring. The cheapest tickets for the opening show in Miami are nearly $300, and the cheapest tickets at the closing shows in Chicago are also nearly $300, excluding the spaceship upper-atmosphere deck of Soldier Field, which is about $250. And those are just the nosebleeds. The more VIP seats at these shows are up to and upwards of $2,000 each.

After all this time and virtually no great new material in 25 or more years, what’s still worth $1,000 an hour about the Rolling Stones? I don’t…

A young boy and his mom cross a bridge in a parallel universe. (Art from Rakuen.)

Laura Shigihara is a composer whose music has appeared in dozens of games, including To the Moon. Shigihara’s 2017 game Rakuen tells a completely new story of her own using RPG Maker as the game engine.

Writing Novel Ties is such a pleasure, because I love the kinds of games I get to write about. They’re well written and charming, but they’re also generally lower cost and less reliant on hardware and flashy graphics. And their creators are as varied as you’d expect from comparable genres of writing. For every inkle studios, where talented coders worked to make their own game engine and markup language, there’s a dozen projects made possible by existing tools like Ren’Py and RPG Maker.

Laura Shigihara is a composer whose music has appeared in dozens of games, including Plants vs. Zombies…

Caroline Delbert

I'm a writer, book editor, researcher, and avid reader. I'm also an enthusiast of just about everything. Bylines at the Awl, Unwinnable, and more.

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