What We’re Devouring: 12.15.16


[The Outline]

This is what we might call a “topic of heated debate,” but new Zambezi fav The Outline takes a pretty hard stance against meme-splainers. “Every day we see a thousand memes, each one the product of 15 seconds of labor, and it takes us half as long to forget them. We remember memes like swarming insects. They move with such frenetic grace that our primitive eyes struggle to pin down anything but the mass itself, a survival strategy used by the vermin of the world to evade predation.” Memes, as argued here, are expressions of shared feelings, not the catalyst of them. The assumption that we cultural observers might make is that memes are a good way to measure the tone of a moment, but not its importance, nor its magnitude, and certainly not its staying power.


[The Ringer]

Guys, how are we going to #SaveNelly? The streaming thing didn’t work — and if you’re wondering why, this is a fantastic read. Nelly, who, the article points out, is actually one of the most popular musical artists of the aughts, has a personal debt of just under 2.5 million, and fans of classics like ‘Hot in Herre’ and ‘Ride Wit Me’ have attempted to come to his aid by boosting his streaming numbers. Luckerson breaks down seven of Nelly’s possible routes to his 2.5 mil, not just streaming but concerts and kickstarters, by how many fans it would take for each to work (spoiler: more than the #SaveNellly movement). Along the way he neatly and simply explain the reasons some artists grappled with making money in 2016 and how they might find greater compensation going forward.



BRAAAM is the official name of the low and throbbing attack-like sound that was born in the Inception trailer and has now invaded action sequences across genres and mediums (TV loves a good BRAAAM). It is also, possibly, the best-named sound effect in history. Or … is it a soundtrack? BRAAAM’s ascension from gimmicky sonic one-off to omnipresent cinema staple marked a transition in eras. Once, soundtracks reflected a romantic ideal in storytelling, pseudo-classical orchestral scores accompanying carefully subtle sound effects. BRAAAM, which is neither a true sound effect (nothing in the Dark Knight actually makes that sound), nor a soundtrack, brought sonic “grit” and minimalism to the mainstream. Whether or not the movies that employ BRAAAM reflect that, it’s helping set the modern cinematic tone.


[The Verge]

“The science wasn’t in yet, so I’m just going to wing it,” is a punk sentence in the hands of VR game makers and storytellers. Except for that when you try to ‘wing’ human gestures you end up firmly in the uncanny valley, with the animatronic clowns and the zombies. It turns out that human beings are better at recognizing the physical ticks, gestures, and motions of other humans than they are at anything else, so when games invest in recreating humanity in a virtual space, they’ve got to be careful; human-like objects that are not human can set off gut reactions of fear and loathing in viewers. This is especially important in the nascent world of social VR, where we need to create ourselves in a digital space. The bigger question, of course, is what happens when we can accurately recreate human beings in all their complexity digitally. (Westworld). (Or Second Life).


[New York Times Magazine]

The Outline did cop to the fact that memes can function as comedic reprieves from dark times, but even the memes this year have been self-consciously dark or cynical. Has humor change post-election season? Has it been ruined, scuppered, warped — or elevated? And who better to ask than someone who made the transition from comic to politician, from celebrity to wonk, long before the lines were so blurred? Al Franken, D-MN, was a long time SNL writer and satirist who professionally extracted comedy from from absurdity, and specifically absurdity in conservative politics. He let most of that go when he ran for the US Senate, but with the way that politics, culture, and comedy have mingled, he (and, woven fascinatingly through the article, Conan O’Brien) wonders where humor might belong in politics now, where there is no normal to play off of.



“People turn to sports for all kinds of reasons. One of them is that a team’s season or an athlete’s career is one long parable for what normal non-athletes struggle with every day. Watching people work hard, collaborate, recover from injuries, try, fail, try again … edifies us to believe that we can do the same in our own lives, and even if we can’t, it makes us think it’s worth trying.” The author, Vinay Krishnan, discovered an enduring love of Lebron James during an interview in which he admitted, “I’m afraid of failure. I want to succeed so bat that I become afraid of failing.” Then, during the 2016 playoffs, Krishnan was hospitalized with intense OCD, and Lebron’s — and sport’s — openness to the possibility of losing, the necessity of living with uncertainty, offered him support and solace, and cemented Lebron’s Kingship. Not through fearlessness, or might, but through vulnerability.


[Radio Garden]

This is the coolest thing. Radio Garden broadcasts radio stations live from around the world — talk shows in Canada, Electronica in Estonia that includes the words “super mario,” Shawn Mendes in Sri Lanka, something smooth and kind of soulful in Mexico City — and they’re all just the tip of this site’s iceberg. It also includes bits of radio history searchable by location, explorable soundbites of people telling their stories of hearing and interacting with radio stations abroad, and analyses of different radio show intros and jingles from around the world. It’s a pretty fabulous bit of attention for the radio world, a wicked tool for desk-chair explorers looking to hear new sounds, and an interactive cultural archive. Definitely take some time this morning to scroll around the world.



EVERYONE is talking about Pantone’s color of the year which is, well, green. But it’s a very nice color of green, emphasis intentional. Pantone has expressed that it wants ‘Greenery’ to “provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment.” In the world of post-election brand reactions — from meetings with the President-elect to special ice cream flavors — Pantone somehow comes across as uniquely, bluntly, warmly honest. “‘There’s a Japanese concept called ‘forest bathing,’ which says that when you are feeling stressed, one of the best things to do is go walk in the forest,” the Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute said. “But if you can’t do that, what can you do? Bring green into your environment … That symbolic message is very important.’” Keep an eye out for it in 2017.

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