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Etcetera #20: Belinda Carlisle, Blind Gaming, Lego

Matthew Culnane
Matthew Culnane
Hello. Extremely early on in the pandemic I (almost certainly) had COVID. My partner certainly did, and was briefly hospitalised. We’ve since both had our vaccinations and yet this week we still had to go for PCR tests due to a local outbreak and us displaying symptoms. They came back negative. This is all despite us not setting foot in a pub or restaurant or indeed anywhere other than our house and the local Co-op for who knows how many months. It’s all very boring! Please keep safe!
Here are this week’s picks. Quite a lot to get through today, so let’s march on.
See you next Friday.

Belinda Carlisle on punk, cocaine, body image and Buddhism
See also: Tom Breihan is reviewing every US #1 single from 1958 to present day. He’s up to 1989 so far, so about halfway through, and earlier this year he reviewed 1987’s ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’, Carlisle’s first multinational hit:
The guitars sparkle. The drums boom. The vocals have just the right amount of echo on them. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” has crunchy rock guitars, but it’s not a rock song. It has prominent keyboard bleeps, but it’s not synthpop. You could probably dance to it, but it’s not dance music. Instead, it’s the sound of ’80s blockbuster pop cranked all the way up to full power. It sounds like Top Gun.
The series is great, and densely written in the best way: full of asides, see-alsos, callbacks and flash-forwards to other hits and bits of music marginalia from a great pop historian. If you read a couple of pieces you’ll probably tell why I like it, and maybe you will too.
Pitchfork, Seriously
Mesh, by MESH
How I read
Is It Better to Plant Trees or Let Forests Regrow Naturally?
  • This critique of Nintendo’s new Game Builder Garage (a Switch game that allows you to create your own games) is, I think, centred on a false premise. The chief complaint is that you can’t export your creations outside of the Nintendo Switch ecosystem, though I find it very difficult to imagine that anyone would have seriously expected otherwise.
  • Even more Ace Attorney localisation content.
  • “In the development of the design of the door handle we have, in microcosm, the history of architecture, a survey of making and a measure of the development of design and how it relates to manufacture, technology and the body.”
  • A terrific piece on urban beekeeping.
  • There’s a vast and ever-increasing amount of warehousing, logistics and distribution parks littering the UK landscape. This is the true footprint of online shopping. We live on the Bucks-Beds border (indeed, in one pub you can order at the bar in one county and drink in the beer garden of another) and there’s a huge Amazon presence a few miles away. This part of the shopping industry may aspire to be invisible, or at least less noticed, but it is consuming inter-city green and brownfield sites quicker than a zero-hour Prime delivery driver.
  • A steamed hams variant I hadn’t seen before:
Steamed Hams but every computer is at a different speed and synced to when skinner says Steamed Hams
Steamed Hams but every computer is at a different speed and synced to when skinner says Steamed Hams
  • How YouTube’s bonkers copyright algorithms penalise musicians who perform public domain compositions.
  • Imperfect algo-robots will destroy civilisation, part deux: US police admit to playing Taylor Swift songs during encounters with the public, so that citizen-recorded footage will be subject to immediate copyright takedowns when posted to YouTube or social media.
  • My good friend Clint Trofa has directed and produced a series of videos for Channel 4 called ‘Gaming Changed My Life’. Two have been published with more to come. Here’s Steve Saylor, aka The Blind Gamer, talking about accessibility in video games. I never knew that last year’s The Last Of Us Part II was such a watershed moment in terms of its huge array of accessibility features.
Blind Gaming  — What’s It Really Like? | Gaming Changed My Life
Blind Gaming — What’s It Really Like? | Gaming Changed My Life
  • Tom Victor on irony and sincerity in online fandom: “With each shift away from forums and towards the same four websites on which everyone spends their time, the half-life of the sincerity window becomes smaller and smaller until it requires a complete reboot. And, of course, the disillusionment we force upon ourselves through years of insincerity makes this reboot less appealing if not altogether less possible.” This speaks to some of the issues of authenticity and irony in marketing generations that we’ve briefly touched upon in recent issues.
  • The use of fat suits in Hollywood.
  • A while back we looked at the soundtrack to Terminator 2. Here’s the oral history.
  • The romance of running, a companion piece to a lovely looking new book, On The Run.
  • An app to identify birds.
  • The video in the tweet below is of an app called Brickit which looks incredible. It scans your piles of Lego (I have a three-year-old, so we have more piles of Lego than we have rooms in the house) and helps you find things to make from it:
The Topography of Africa
The Topography of Africa
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Matthew Culnane
Matthew Culnane @coldbrain

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