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Reading: Dead Can Dance’s Origins, Internet Outrage, Bill Cosby, Penn & Teller, Mad Max, the Death of the Universe & more

Also: Planned Parenthood, building Minas Tirith, the state of web design, atheists and Christian rock, and more.
Dead Can Dance (The Early Days) has uncovered the secret origin of Dead Can Dance. “The result of the merging of the two bands Marching Girls and Microfilm was the track A Means of Escape’ — the very first professional studio recording by Dead Can Dance which featured the line-up of Perry (Vocals & Electric Guitar), Gerrard (Pearl Syncussion), Monroe (Drums) and Paul Erikson (Bass Guitar), who’s bassline on the track clearly has echoes of Joy Division (similar in sound to songs such as Dead Souls’, or Insight’).”

The good people at Treble have compiled a list of the top 100 songs of the ’90s underground. “Looking around at the current hotbed of ’90s nostalgia surrounding us, we found ourselves pleasantly filthy in listicles and retrospective pieces on the decade, some of which we’d published ourselves. But we’d noticed that the word alternative’ had been tossed out an awful lot in the past 20 – 25 years, and we began to question what exactly it meant to be truly underground or alternative in a musical era that we tend to romanticize for being against the grain.” This is straight up nostalgic bliss for me, and instantly takes me back to my freshman year in college and that TV lounge in Selleck Hall where I binged on “120 Minutes.”

Michael Silver

One album I’ve been enjoying a lot lately is CFCF’s The Colours of Life, and NPR has this to say about it: “Across his discography, Michael Silver has made no secret about his love of ’80s music of all stripes, from gloss to dross, be it Phil Collins or the squishy New Age tones of Windham Hill Records. On Colours, though, CFCF transcends such influences and the tags associated with high and low art, and instead seeks a true synthesis of all those silky textures.”

The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus discuss art, beauty, truth, and their upcoming — and highly anticipated — album, Beauty Will Save the World. “Whatever and wherever the sacred is, it can only be approached in a spirit of innocence, and we can only be guided by a kind of insatiable nostalgia. That ache and restless yearning… is so difficult to analyse and explain, but it is maybe the most perfect realisation of what we have been trying to communicate throughout the album, which is the unceasing longing for transcendent beauty.”

Cecil the Lion
Cecil the Lion(Daughter#3CC BY-SA 2.0)

The outrage surrounding Cecil the lion’s rather horrific death highlights, once again, the nature of moral outrage on the Internet. “The Internet launders outrage and returns it to us as validation, in the form of likes and stars and hearts. The greatest return comes from a strong and superior point of view, on high moral ground. And there is, fortunately and unfortunately, always higher moral ground. Even when a dentist kills an adorable lion, and everyone is upset about it, there’s better outrage ground to be won.”

Speaking of Cecil, some Zimbabweans want to know why Americans care so much about a dead lion. “Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being beloved’ or a local favorite’ was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from The Lion King’?” Be sure to read the comments if you want a nice dose of nigh-racist paternalism.

Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller

I’ve been a fan of Penn & Teller for years, and their show Fool Us is a family favorite here at Opus HQ. Why is Penn & Teller’s relationship so unique and magical? “The idea that you can respect someone without wanting to sit by a fire and snuggle with them is maybe not a very popular idea in show business, but it is a very true one. And what turns out to be more important in a long-term relationship is that you can do your job, and doing your job includes things like: Neither of us drinks, neither of us does any drugs, we are never late for gigs, we never miss gigs, we always show up — we always do our job.”

D.L. Mayfield has written a powerful piece on Bill Cosby, sexual predators, and raising daughters. “I was told for so many years to focus on my family, to make it good and strong and holy. But now all I ever want to tell my daughter is that it is sometimes those who speak the loudest about morality and spirituality who are all bluster and bluff. I want to tell her what I have learned, that there are those who seek out power in order to prey on others. I want to tell her that being pious and quiet and good will not save her. I want her to scream bloody murder at the first hint of predatory behavior. I want her to be badly behaved when authority figures behave badly.”

Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max

Leave it to Steven D. Greydanus to discuss ISIS, Planned Parenthood, feminism, Hollywood’s objectification of women, and much more in this excellent piece on Mad Max: Fury Road. “In a thundering action film that’s essentially one immense chase scene involving fleets of muscular, oversized vehicles, and lots of explosions, shooting, and hand-to-hand combat, Miller manages to inject a genuine feminist perspective, offering an implicit rebuke not only to oppressive patriarchal states, but also to ongoing sexism and objectification of women in Hollywood blockbusters, and by extension the wider media culture, from advertising to pornography.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see this appear in Slate, of all places: claiming that abortion only accounts for 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services misses the point. “Ask anyone who runs a for-profit business or nonprofit charity if something that brings in one-third of their revenue is central’ to their endeavor, and the answer is likely to be yes. So yes, abortion is central to what Planned Parenthood does. There ARE a few things that aren’t central to their purpose though. As compared with the nearly 334,000 abortions that Planned Parenthood provided in 2011, 28,674 women received prenatal services. And 2,300 were referred to adoption agencies.”

Minas Tirith
Minas Tirith

In what might be the most epic act of nerdery ever, a group of British architects are attempting to crowdfund more than $3 billion in order to build a life-size version of the city of Minas Tirith. You know, the capital of Gondor in the Lord of the Rings novels. “We all share a love of Tolkien’s work, and a desire to challenge the common perception of community and architecture. We believe that, in realising Minas Tirith, we can create not only the most remarkable tourist attraction on the planet, but also a wonderfully unique place to live and work.” A mere $624,400 will get you your own one-bedroom residence in the “City of the Kings.”

This is a brutal-yet-brilliant deconstruction of the current — and increasingly homogenous — state of web design. “What are we putting out in the world? If design is the expression of content, and the content is worthless, what is the point of good design? Most of the shit we are compelled to put out in the world doesn’t deserve the pixels it’s rendered on… and you know what? No one seems to care. We’ll even interrupt the readers who were baited into reading crap content with a popup badgering them to sign up for more crap content to fill their inboxes so we can increase our reach.’ ”

Undercover(Ojo Taylor)

J. Edward Keyes may be an atheist, but that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate a good Christian rock album. For example, here’s his take on Undercover’s God Rules. “The songs radiate actual cheer: the chipper ska of He Takes Care of Me,’ with its taut apostrophes of guitar and wabba-wabba keyboards is as sticky-sweet and joy-making as a vanilla cone on a hot day, and its shout-along chorus of Loving God makes me a happy boy’ is just goofy enough to be endearing… [A]s a snapshot of surf-loving Jesus kids playing beach volleyball in the California sun, it’s hard to match the all-smiles enthusiasm of God Rules.”

And speaking of Christian rock, Chris Short writes about one of the strangest and most obscure bands to emerge in Christendom — a band called Fluffy. “I typed Chris Colbert’ into the search on Facebook. With a click I learned that we have 26 mutual friends. I sent the friend’ request. A short time (exact time is not known, but it wasn’t days) later, I was informed I was the 300-something friend of Christopher Colbert, mastermind behind the band/project Fluffy. It’s the Internet of Things Big Data Clouds and this is how to secure The Interview (I think … but talk myself out of it … in to it … out of it). Friend Request? Why, yes, thank you much Facebook.”

Carina Nebula
Carina Nebula(NASAPublic Domain)

Here’s something cheery to think about: the universe is dying, albeit slowly. “[Astronomers] analysed starlight from more than 220,000 distant galaxies and found that the universe has lost about half of its twinkle over the past two billion years. It will lose far more in the next two billion… The fading will play out over billions of years, until the universe glows only faintly with a smattering of stars.”

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