Let me check one thing, I’ve forgotten since the last time, should we let algorithms written by an advertising publisher decide what is OK or not for kids to watch? James Cook:
Search for “UFO” on YouTube Kids and you’ll mostly find videos of toys that are clearly fine for children to watch. But one of the top videos claimed to show a UFO shooting at a chemtrail, and we found several videos by prominent conspiracy theorist David Icke in the suggested videos. YouTube removed the videos from YouTube Kids after we contacted it about the issue.
One suggested video was an hours-long lecture by Icke in which he claims that aliens built the pyramids, that the planet is run by reptile-human hybrids, that Freemasons engage in human sacrifice, that the assassination of President Kennedy was planned by the US government, and that humans would evolve in 2012.
Ah, that would be a “no” on the algorithms by an advertising publisher then. I’ve never had more love for the PBS Kids apps and video programming.
This documentary, The Barkley Marathons, on the most bizarre race in the US is very good. To sign up you have to give the race organizer with that $1.60, a license plate from your home state, and an essay about why you should be allowed to join the race. That essay helps the organizer pick one person he is sure will lose. The whole situation just keeps getting stranger and more brutally demanding of the people who compete in this rally for over a hundred miles through dense woods as they climb the equivalent of Mt. Everest’s elevation twice. Highly recommended. It’s streaming on Netflix right now, or you can buy it through a bunch of other services.
George Pendle has a fantastic article about it for Esquire:
The race can begin any time between midnight and noon on the closest Saturday to April Fools’ Day, always exactly one hour after a conch is blown. Runners are not given a map of the course, which is unmarked and largely off-trail, until the afternoon before. They must rely on compasses and the race’s obscure official directions to find their way. GPS is forbidden.
Runners must locate thirteen books in each loop and tear out a page corresponding to their race number. This year’s batch includes Unravelled, Lost and Found, and There Is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate. After each loop, the pages are counted and each runner is given a new number. There are no aid stations, just two unmanned water drops that are often frozen solid. Those unable to finish are serenaded by the Barkley’s official bugler playing a discordant rendition of “Taps.”
With most fan-made productions you’re kind of left to go “oh it’s good… for a fan show.” That isn’t the case for Star Trek: Continues’ continuation of Star Trek’s original series. Continues is better than the new reboot movies, it’s also better than many of the shows after Deep Space 9. This show’s cast is excellent, the episodes are entertaining and have just the right amount of morality while still leaning into what made TOS so good.
Unlike Discovery you won’t have to subscribe to CBS’ crappy streaming service to watch Star Trek: Continues. Above is their playlist that has the full run of the show for free.
James Bridle has a terrifying and important article, it’s pretty long but the most important point is that people and businesses are systematically generating new videos for YouTube that appear to be tame pirated copies of shows like Peppa Pig but after a few minutes they change to be really awful and the YouTube app and site for kids don’t filter these out:
A step beyond the simply pirated Peppa Pig videos mentioned previously are the knock-offs. These too seem to teem with violence. In the official Peppa Pig videos, Peppa does indeed go to the dentist, and the episode in which she does so seems to be popular?—?although, confusingly, what appears to be the real episode is only available on an unofficial channel. In the official timeline, Peppa is appropriately reassured by a kindly dentist. In the version above, she is basically tortured, before turning into a series of Iron Man robots and performing the Learn Colours dance. A search for “peppa pig dentist” returns the above video on the front page, and it only gets worse from here
The reason why this crap skates by is because YouTube (and Google, and other companies) refuse to take responsibility for moderating what they host. Instead of hiring more people to moderate these things, the moderation is offloaded to algorithms and viewers.
Even if you only start a video on an official channel, auto play and the recommendations next to and after the video may take a viewer to another one.
tl;dr: Don’t let your kids watch YouTube. If you don’t have kids, please let your friends who do know about this problem.
I’m not going to embed the video, here’s a link to it if you must see it, but Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg once again confirmed his status as a belligerent racist by calling someone the N-word. This guy has about 57 million subscribers on YouTube, he does this again and again, it should not be a surprise to anyone.
I believe everyone should get a chance to apologize for almost anything and legitimately change as a person, but when you’ve had multiple opportunities and the best you can muster is the half-hearted “This isn’t my fault, it’s the fault of anyone offended, the people who reported it, and by the way fuck you” that he gave last time, well it’s time to give up on that person.
It’s a shame that companies like Google continue to give Felix Kjellberg a platform, I feel bad for children who are still exposed to his casual racism when their parents don’t know what he stands for.
Speaking of monkeys, Jesse David Fox has a great interview with some of the people behind the fantastic Planet of the Apes musical episode from way back in the Simpsons’ 7th season. The Simpsons’ musical composer, Alf Clausen, discusses how he tries to bring some seriousness to the show:
I hearken back to something that was said to me a long time ago by a trumpet player who worked in the studios. He said to me, “You can’t vaudeville vaudeville.” The reason for that particular directive is that he said if you wanted to make something funny, you don’t use funny music to go there. You use music that is extremely serious.
Clausen expands on that with his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross:
GROSS: When you’re writing a song parody are you trying to write it as if it were serious, as if it were really a Broadway show or really a movie theme?
CLAUSEN: Absolutely, not only in creating the songs, but in creating the underscore music for “The Simpsons” and trying to give credence to the emotional content of what the characters are saying. I’m always extremely serious, and I think what happens is that the the listener and observer gets pulled into the situation more effectively once the music is serious, so that when the gag finally comes, the gag then becomes twice as funny.
I think about the musical underscore for shows a lot, how they ham it up during emotional moments to further draw you in. It works.
Fresh Air recently recompiled their old interviews with Simpsons creators and you can read the rest of that episode’s transcript, but really you should listen to it. Here’s the Overcast link for the episode.
This is frankly insane, there’s a new video out from Nine Inch Nails and it’s got footage from Llamasoft’s Polybius. Jeff Minter is Llamasoft and he has made many other trippy and intense action arcade games, most people would know him for Tempest 2000. Although Polybius is only available on the PlayStation 4, a Windows version is in development. The track in the collaboration video above, Less Than, will be on a new EP called Add Violence on the 21st of July. Less Than is available right now on Apple Music.
This is after Nine Inch Nails also appeared on the renewed Twin Peaks:
In 1988, according to Mike Ziegler, Nirvana recorded some takes for a music video that never aired at a Radio Shack in Aberdeen, Washington.
Thanks to Rusty Blazenhoff who posted this to Laughing Squid.
The surest way to gain a link is to talk about the best movie of all time, Sneakers, as Priscilla Page has by taking apart the film for Birth.Movies.Death:
Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers might just be the most undervalued movie of all time. It’s a political thriller, a caper, “tech-noir,” a little like Three Days of the Condor reimagined as a buddy film. Sneakers is awash in shades of blue, as if its story takes place in the shadows, or in the glow of an old computer screen. James Horner’s score features strings, a choir, and Branford Marsalis on soprano saxophone — it’s a wintry, whimsical, haunting thing. Sneakers is the creation of Phil Alden Robinson, Lawrence Lasker, and Walter F. Parkes, who sought to make a movie they would want to see. It took 10 years to write, ultimately becoming an excuse for these guys to hang out.
Back when DVDs were still a thing you would own and want to collect, I’d give out copies of this movie to my friends who I am sure never watched it. Sneakers is fantastic, but when you roughly try to explain to someone that it’s a movie about hacking they think Hackers and immediately tune out because that is going to be a goofy, unrealistic, bad time. Sneakers is unrealistic, but the relationships in it are incredibly relatable.
As Priscilla points out, this is also a movie that is not really high-tech. All of the 90’s and early 2000’s movies about hacking realized that people sitting at a computer typing is boring as shit to watch. So many of the crew’s solutions in Sneakers are about personal interactions and introduced concepts like social engineering that I didn’t know about when I saw the film.
Go watch the movie, then read the rest of Priscilla’s article.
Jim Sterling writing about the reactions YouTube celebrities have had to their racism being reported on:
The Internet has warped the idea of “free speech” to mean “speech without consequence” and that’s simply not what it is.
Absolutely, JonTron can share a Trumpian view on immigration and claim discrimination isn’t a problem, but other people have the exact same right to call him out on it. Given how insular YouTube communities can be, it’s easy to see why some might believe they’re free from the consequences of speech, but as their entertainment empires grow and more people become aware of them, they’re going to find those consequences are very real and they hit like a sack of bricks.