Your weekly, stream-of-consciousness hello.
Greetings, dear readers! Believe it or not, we are half-way through July, which means we’re half way through Summer. Not officially, sure, but my brain just goes “June+July+August=Summer”.
Anyway, it was a whirlwind week in my world, filled with lots to do and a crazy intense storm on Thursday. I was out in it briefly, and it felt like I had just gone through a water ride at an amusement park. I was soaked through and through, and learned one of the drawbacks of wearing glasses - the damn water build up on the lenses!
I also finally finished Stranger Things 3 (feels weird to say “finally”, when I got it done in a week span, but that’s watching TV shows in 2019 for you), and I absolutely loved it. Robin (Maya Hawke, who couldn’t look more like her famous parents) is a fantastic addition to the cast, and I loved how the series seemed to mash-up The Thing, Red Dawn and The Terminator while building something uniquely their own. I’d say it was world’s better than Season 2 (which I liked…minus one episode), but still pales in comparison to the perfection which was Season 1.
Originally, I was going to end this take with “Why haven’t any networks (streaming or otherwise) tried to make a Stranger Things of their own?”, but then I saw the news earlier this week that Amazon Studios obtained the rights to make a series out of the Brian K. Vaughan/Cliff Chang comic series Paper Girls.
Paper Girls is one of my favorite comics running today (though it is wrapping up later this year), and if I had to give you an elevator pitch, the best description would be that of “Stranger Things, but if the cast was all-female, and the plot revolved around time travel.” Suffice to say, if it’s casted right, I think it’s going to be a massive hit for Amazon. If you haven’t read the comic series, I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Every week, I’ll toss a few thoughts out on what I felt the biggest story of the week was.
For whatever reason – maybe because most of my hobbies are media related? – a lot of what I’ve found myself doing in this newsletter is navel-gazing into the future of things such as television and film.
I was especially interested in writing a longer piece after the official announcement this week of HBO Max, arriving in 2020, which is WarnerMedia’s attempt at having a Netflix of their own, using the strength of their media properties (HBO, Warner Bros Pictures, Cartoon Network, adult swim, TNT, TBS, etc., etc.) to build a compelling streaming service and gain the rights to your screen time just as well as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have, and in the way that Disney+ and Apple TV+ intend to do so this Fall.
(Provided you’re in the US - International rights are much messier and scattered about.)
I’m a huge proponent of the digital future when it comes to media, especially as a distribution medium.
It reduces overhead, puts people on an even playing field (basically, if you’re an independent filmmaker, you can put a video for sale on iTunes and Amazon just as well as the big studios can. Same with being featured on Netflix - it all becomes one library, really.), and makes it so people who don’t necessarily have easy access to a movie theater showing stuff beyond the latest Marvel to-do can see your work.
That said, this move from WarnerMedia isn’t an altruistic one, it’s one to join a battle where even the top contender is losing.
The shot in the arm to these media companies was Netflix Instant Streaming.
It was a nascent service on the fringe. Who’d want to watch a movie on a computer? Who would want to go through the hoops of connecting that to your big screen? DVDs and Cable are forever,baby!
Instead, we all realized it was an easier process to use a Roku, an Apple TV, an Amazon Fire Stick, watch what we want when we want, deal with no commercials, and say goodbye to our cable bill.
You didn’t really think you’d be able to spend $8 a month instead of $200 a month forever, did you?
Now the big players are coming home to roost, both raising prices for their existing services (Netflix), raising prices for the content for those services (see Netflix dropping $100 Million to retain Friends until 2020) or launching their own to make up for the lost cable revenues you cost them (WarnerMedia, ESPN+, etc.)
In a way, this was the future we wanted: to be able to pick and choose what to watch. To be able to pay only for the things we’re interested in. To erase the noise. But you’re crazy if you think you’re going to get a free ride out of this.
Sadly, much of the response I see from people to these new service launches (although I didn’t see it with Disney+…weird, right?) is “Fuck that, I’m going to go back to pirating!” This is a piss-poor response, folks. After decades of the status quo, these companies are trying to meet you half way. They want to sell their content directly to you. This is what you wanted. Stealing now makes you an even bigger jerk. Unless that service is trash (looking at you, CBS All Access), but even then, don’t pirate. Just pick up the shows on Amazon or something.
These next few years are going to be an incredibly interesting time for movies and television. We’ve already seen them morphed together into the stomach-turning term of “content”. Now we get to see each studio, or mega-studio, considering the level of consolidation, aim directly for John Q. Public’s wallet. Will they get it? Will it be enough? Netflix, the leader in the industry, is burning billions and billions of dollars. Can Disney do that? Can WarnerMedia do that? Can Apple do that? Do they want to?
That’s when things will get interesting.
Everyone wants to know: when can I get my Apple Music or Spotify-like “all you can eat” service?
You’ll have it. When this war is over. But will we be the winners? Time will tell.
A bunch of cool links what I read this week, typically culled from my ever-growing Instapaper queue.
Just wanted to take a moment to also recommend some other newsletters I really enjoy. Maybe you will too?
Liner Notes is a weekly newsletter from Jason Tate of Chorus.fm. The newsletter is published on the website for supporting members every Friday. It usually includes a rundown of music news I find interesting, thoughts on music (both new and old, usually in the punk, pop-punk, alternative, and pop-rock genres), and a recap of my weekly entertainment diet (thoughts on movies, tv shows, books, comic books, and other things I’ve read or watched over the past week). Each week also includes a ten song playlist of music I loved during the week (for Spotify and Apple Music) and usually three to five things I think are worth sharing. Those topics can range from products or new apps I like, to often a rant about something currently newsworthy, or even a deep-dive ranking of a band’s discography.
Each morning I visit about 75 news sites, and from that swirling nightmare of information quicksand, I pluck the top ten most fascinating items of the day, which I deliver with a fast, pithy wit that will make your computer device vibrate with delight. No bots. No computer algorithms.
It is likely to pollute your inbox on at least a weekly basis, maybe a little more, depending on what’s going on. It is likely to contain work updates, random incoherent thoughts and other mental rubbish guaranteed to improve your life and inoculate your brain against alien spores or god I don’t even know what I’m typing right now. It’s a thing that’s happening.
Hey! Super Art Fight (that thing I host) was featured by SyFy Wire as a part of their Geek Road Trip series.
I’m quoted at length within it, so I kinda had to share, right?
Here’s an excerpt.
“Now, I will be the first to say — this is not our typical scenario.”
Standing on the lip of a low stage in front of a clutch of costumed con-goers whose average age might generously be rounded up to twelve, Super Art Fight co-host Marty Day could hardly make a greater understatement.
Now in its 11th year touring the Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia metro area (and beyond) under the banner of The Greatest Live Art Competition in the Known Universe, Super Art Fight is most at home in the low-lit fug of indie rock bars like Baltimore’s Ottobar and D.C.’s Black Cat, or in the bigger event spaces at major conventions like MAGFest, Katsucon and Awesome Con.
At the latter, the crowds it draws are so large the competition is usually split across two nights — one for all ages, one strictly 18+.
The con Super Art Fight I’m attending today is hosted in the basement of the Catonsville Branch Library just west of Baltimore, the diametric opposite of a rock bar, and it’s far smaller than a con like MAGFest.
The Super Art Fight crew loves it.
Every week, I’ll make a recommendation of something to read, to watch, or to listen to. I’ll even link to where you can check it out.
This week’s recommendation:
With his releases thus far, (2011’s Dive, 2014’s Awake, and 2016’s Epoch), graphic-artist-turned-electronic-musician Scott Hansen’s Tycho project has written beautiful, chill music, the kind which is perfect to work to, the kind which is perfect to relax to. The type of music you listen to, zone out, and land on those grand thoughts.
With his new release (longer than an EP, shorter than an LP, so let’s just call it ‘a release’) Weather, Hansen has decided his songs need to do more than be a canvas - it’s time for them to tell stories of their own.
And in turn, for the first time, there’s a voice guiding them.
While the release kicks off with the (mostly) instrumental track “Easy”, 6 of the 8 tracks on Weather feature the vocal talents of Saint Sinner, with her etherial tones telling stories across tracks like “Pink & Blue” and “Tokyo”.
It’s an interesting growth for the Tycho project, moving into the traditional songwriting realm, but the sound is still 100% what you’d expect.
The album has already gotten a few spins from me, and I can see it being a late Summer fav. Hope you enjoy.
Programming note for next week! Starting on Wednesday, I will be away enjoying Bethany Beach, DE with my lovely wife, Sam and her family. In turn, next week’s issue may be a bit shorter than usual. But hey, today’s was longer than usual! Evens out…I think?
Until next time…
Don’t let the bastards bring you down.