Monday News: RIP David Bowie; That Dragon, Cancer; Urban Romance stereotypes; and the first book of photos
Legendary Artist David Bowie Dies at 69 – Even as I type this I cannot believe it. After an 18-month battle with cancer, and only two days after he released his 25th album, David Bowie has died. I still remember having floor seats to one of his shows at the LA Forum, and the traffic/parking were so horrible we almost missed the show, but once we got in and Bowie took the stage, the experience was absolutely unforgettable. Bowie was an artist of multiple genres and venues, setting, rather than following trends, and his music has influenced and was influenced by myriad aspects of popular culture. Back in November, when Bowie released one of the two videos for his new album, Entertainment Weekly released their ranking of his ten best music videos. His most recent video, Lazarus, released with the new album, seems an eerie portent.
“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief,” read a statement posted on the artist’s official social media accounts.
The influential singer-songwriter and producer excelled at glam rock, art rock, soul, hard rock, dance pop, punk and electronica during his eclectic 40-plus-year career. He just released his 25th album, Blackstar, Jan. 8, which was his birthday. – Hollywood Reporter
Playing for Time – The new Bowie album, which examines, among other things, death, reminded me of this recent story about the video game That Dragon, Cancer, which was created by Ryan Green, who built the game around his four-year-old son’s death from brain cancer. The game, like Green’s experience with his son, Joel’s, illness, is one that is open-ended and geared toward unsolvable problems. Green’s game also becomes an example of gaming as a “metaphysical exercise,” and of the complex relationship between games, their creators, and the players.
Amidst all the plasma guns and power-ups, it can be easy to overlook the fact that videogames are inherently metaphysical exercises. Designing one is like beta-testing a universe. Its creators encode it with algorithms, maps, and decision trees, then invite players to decipher its hidden logic. Intentionally or not, games contain implicit messages about purpose, free will, the afterlife. Master the secret rhythms of Super Mario Bros. and you can deliver the eponymous plumber to a princely paradise. But even the best Space Invadersplayer is fated to end the game in defeat, another futile circuit in its samsara-like cycle of death and rebirth. . . .
Toward the end of Thank You for Playing, the documentary about the game, there’s a scene in which you can spy a copy of Reality Is Brokenon the Greens’ bookshelf. The manifesto, by designer and academic Jane McGonigal, argues that we should engineer our world to be more like a videogame, incorporating its system of rewards and escalating challenges to help us find meaning and accomplishment in our lives. Green, though, is doing the opposite. He’s trying to create a game in which meaning is ambiguous and accomplishments are fleeting. He is making a game that is as broken—as confounding, unresolved, and tragically beautiful—as the world itself. – Wired
I Wrote the Accent: A Black Writer Considers “Urban Romance” – A very thoughtful and interesting piece from Brittany Allen on the request of her “e-book romance novella publisher, a self-professed white man” for Allen to write an Urban Romance, presumably because, as a Black woman, she would obviously know how to do that (!!!!). Instead what could have been a straight-up rant, Allen interrogates the assumptions she perceives behind the request and her own feelings about writing outside her comfort (and experience) zone.
But, media, make no mistake: I am still Black. I want to create thoughtful work about being Black, as I experience it. I specifically want to do this for the girls like me, who were nine and ten and eleven and seeing their own faces nowhere in books, magazines, or movies. Girls like me grew up not-quite-knowing why we were different from others, but every now and then, we’d get told. We’d get knocked down a level, with cold, quick remarks in classrooms and job interviews, at parties, on dates. The perfect retorts to those micro- and macro-aggressions occur to us now only in the dead of night, years later; they wake us and fill us with sharp, righteous anger, anger doubled by the fact that in not speaking out when we were first offended, we tacitly accepted the system that is forever diminishing us. . . .
On Amazon, and in real bookstores, there are sub-genres for Fiction — like “African American Literary Fiction” and “Jewish Fiction” and “Women’s Fiction” — though I’ve yet to meet a writer, literary or commercial, who enjoys being bundled into one category. No one really wants to write to and about one type of person; people want to write about people, to make other people feel like people. A genre that is defined around a particular audience breeds the “idea of the ghetto,” the “idea of the kingpin,” as opposed to creating someone alive, someone precise. To write to perceived type is to pay lip service to the institutional prejudice that keeps minorities exactly where the groups in power expect them to stay. The Toast
This is the first book of photos ever made, and it’s only images of British algae – This is a cool story for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this book — which is now in the public domain and viewable on the New York Public Library site — was created by a female botanist. How many times have you heard Matthew Brady’s name? How many times have you heard Anna Atkins’s? Yeah.
In 1843, Anna Atkins loved botany, especially scientific illustrations. Two years earlier, William Harvey had released the pioneering “Manual of British Algae” but the entire text lacked photographs of what the algae actually looked like. Atkins got the idea to make her book, “Photographs of British Algae” as a companion piece to Harvey’s. – Business Insider