Etcetera #50: Ellipses, Burning CDs, 90s Music
Hello. We're back after a week's break. Having reached 50 issues, I'm intending to share this issue a little more widely so, if you're new, here's what to expect: a bunch of links to things I've read since the last issue, paired with some extra stuff from my bookmark archive; some amusing or interesting tweets; plus some things I've been reading, listening to or playing.
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See you next time.
The received wisdom is that people who grew up pre-internet fill their typed sentences with (often excessive) punctuation, whereas younger people tend to use as little as possible. A classic example of the latter is rarely including full stops in communication; the former includes the archetypal boomer punctuation... the ellipsis.
Before the pandemic I read Gretchen McCulloch's book Because Internet which looks at this sort of thing. One general idea she puts forward is that each generation has their own method of indicating pauses and separations within a body of thought, and that they are intrinsically linked with the medium they mostly used when growing up. Older people, used to writing by hand on memos and post-its, would seek to save physical space by inserting commas and ellipses rather than line breaks that require new pieces of paper, whereas younger people text in torrents of single messages where there is no such constraint.
This article offers a defence of ellipsis use. I'm not sure the article summary ("Three little dots [that] perfectly convey the experience of human consciousness") fits, but it's an interesting take anyway.
I really like this—Dev Hynes has been opening for Harry Styles at MSG of late and he records, mixes and sells CD copies of his performance before the night is out. Here's how (and why) he does it.
I opened these two links—the 250 top songs of the 1990s and the 150 top albums—with no small amount of trepidation. But I'm generally pleased with both lists, as long as I don't think about specific placings too much.
I think about nostalgia a lot: I like to use Svetlana Boym's distinction between reflective nostalgia, which is a sort of steeping in the past for the sake of sheer remembrance, and restorative nostalgia, which is more of a literal desire to return to the past and restore long-removed experiences and feelings.
The latter can be useful, and indeed keeps alive some traditions worthy of preservation. But taken to its extreme it can be a dangerous pastime, resulting in people throwing an anchor into the past and hanging on against the current. It's great to revisit my musical loves of previous decades, but they aren't times I would wish to return to. Too much school, for a start.
San Franciscans proudly trace their city’s sourdough culture (in both senses) back to the Gold Rush of 1849, but it appears that miners probably made themselves sick on that initial bread.
More about 90s music. Miki Berenyi was a singer in Lush, a British band that was popular in the early- to mid-decade. Her new book proves Britpop to be even more boorish and misogynistic than I feared.
A revealing look at the processes and economics of short story publishing. Amit Gupta wrote his story India World across 22 hours; it took 2.5 years to be published and he made almost $1,500.
Here are some newly translated interviews with Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka from around the release of 2002's Super Mario Sunshine. Long-time readers will know I think the game is far better than its reputation might suggest; one thing it doesn't get right is difficulty, and it's interesting to see the producers discuss this contemporaneously.
It's been a while since the last breakout narrative podcast hit that got everyone talking—think Serial et al. What does it mean for podcasting as an art form if it rarely inspires widespread critical discussion?
The physics of falling cats. Weirdly, there may not actually exist a true limit to the elevation from which a cat can plunge and survive.
I hadn't seen this before. In 2013 Penguin released a version of George Orwell's 1984 with the title and author's name debossed. It gradually reveals itself—i.e. becomes less censored—through wear and tear:
A discussion about removing the calculus requirement from (US) science majors and replacing it with statistics. I find this line of thought a little too seductive. In an age of—ahem—contested thinking, a mastery of data is extremely useful. But calculus consists entirely of cutting and rebuilding: it is literal problem solving, a skill all scientists require. Rather than replacing calculus with statistics, perhaps they should augment it and teach both.
A long, excellent piece by Lucas Mann which—as its title makes clear—is sort of about watching Brad Pitt eat on screen, but is really about the author's own experiences with food, health and body image. This is excellent.
The story of how the socials get bigger, get generic, then get boring. It's happened to every platform you can think of and it will happen to TikTok too.
An interesting tool that switches up the user interface for your Google Drive and turns it into a sort of wiki.
A podcast about the proliferation of Latin-speaking groups.
This issue's music anniversary link is to Grizzly Bear's Shields turning 10. A wonderful, overlooked album. (OK, I can't resist another: see also Beck's Sea Change turning 20. Sad Back is the best Beck.)
The dreaded Tweets
🎮 After my complaint in the last issue about being bad at Dead Cells, it's suddenly clicked and I'm actually doing quite well. I like this game a great deal more than I expected to.
🎵 Also mentioned last time round: Alex G's God Save The Animals, which is brilliant. He's been able to expand on both the pop and the noise/weird while continuing to improve his songwriting. A very rare ability.
🎤 In a recent episode of Bullseye Jesse Thorn spoke with Loudon Wainwright, a folk singer of some 50+ years. His 1971 song 'Motel Blues' is an old favourite of mine, bringing to life the loneliness of a touring musician, and I've rather come around to what I initially thought was a misogynistic tinge to the lyrics—now I just think they're sad and pitiable.
🎵 Wilco's 2001 masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has been given the deluxe reissue treatment. Steven Hyden, music critic and co-host of one of my favourite podcasts, digs deep into why this is such a vital collection for fans of the album:
Taking all of this in, I think it’s possible (and even necessary) to hold two thoughts in your head: 1) The stuff that didn’t make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot did not fit on the record; 2) The stuff that didn’t make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is some of the greatest music Wilco has ever made.
🎮 Something I hope to play soon is Tunic, newly released for Switch and already available on other platforms. My son has seen the trailer and is keen to play as the cute fox; I'm yet to tell him that it consists of mind-bending puzzles and punishing combat:
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