There was a period of time this week where I considered making this weekend’s edition 100% entirely about the one year anniversary of When Things Shut Down, or When It Became These Difficult Times or whatever title you want to give our current state of quarantining / global pandemic.
However, I thought it would be incredibly depressing. Not to say there aren’t good pieces — see the history that Buzzfeed News published or this survey of creators done by The New York Times — but I felt as if it would be a horrible way to look back.
Instead, I wanted to open the floor to you, dear reader. Hit that reply button.
I cannot wait to hear your answers.
Now, onto the things…
At my old job, where I had an office to report to, one of the things we enjoyed the most was a spur the moment Nerf War. And having these Nerf Wars quickly turned into a frenzy, with people looking to buy — and modify — their dart guns to shoot harder, faster, stronger, and more regularly.
Turns out, it’s quite the cottage industry, and the business known as Out of Darts is at the forefront of the Foam Dart Arms Race.
Sean Hollister for The Verge writes:
Luke, better known as Out of Darts, went viral in 2015 when he figured out how to turn Nerf’s 12-round Zeus blaster into a 108-round ball-blasting contraption a little more worthy of the Greek god’s name. As many as 15 million people have watched PDK Films blow away an entire wall of Solo cups with Luke’s creation, after it got featured at Gizmodo and by popular Nerf YouTube star Drac (aka LordDraconical).
He wasn’t yet out to build a better Nerf blaster; Luke was simply doing some irrigation work in his backyard when he realized the pipe he was holding might fit inside the Zeus. “I put a piece of it in there, pulled the trigger and just cackled,” he tells me. When he saw the YouTube numbers, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Then the emails started pouring in. Hundreds of people had tracked him down, asking to buy his “HIRricane” blaster. He whipped up a quick Etsy shop and got to work. But even at $160 per kit or $325 for an assembled blaster — an “absurd price” he set to see if it was worth his time — he still couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Now, Out of Darts is at the forefront of a cottage industry selling original blasters and parts that can leave the official Nerf brand (owned by Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Magic: The Gathering giant Hasbro) in the dust. It’s almost something of an arms race, where the Nerf internet community one-ups each other by making their toy blasters shoot more foam faster, farther, and more accurately, whether to show off or to perform that much better in an actual game of Nerf. And while Hasbro is clearly taking some notes from the upstart maker community, 3D printers in particular are giving makers an edge they’ve never had before.
Sure, you’ve heard of creator platforms like Patreon or Only Fans, where content creators connect directly with their fanbase.
But what if these creators left all their decisions to their fans, exclusively?
A new cottage industry of apps is coming to life around removing decision paralysis and making a life lived for the fans, by the fans.
Taylor Lorenz at The New York Times writes:
“Creators are burning out, but their fans want more and more,” said Jen Lee, 25, the founder of a popular creator economy community on Discord. “By monetizing each aspect of their life, they can extract value from everyday interactions.”
Courtne Smith, the founder and chief executive of NewNew, said the company was “similar to the stock market” in that “you can buy shares, which are essentially votes, to be able to control a certain level of a person’s life.”
“We’re building an economy of attention where you purchase moments in other people’s lives, and we take it a step further by allowing and enabling people to control those moments,” she said.
Chalk up another point to this Boring Dystopia which is Life in 2021.
To me, “The Twenty First Century” still sounds like some crazy, futuristic realm. So of course, it’s 20 years old already.
If you’re looking for some great movies to check out this week, here’s a wonderful place to start — this ranking of the best film performances of the 21st Century (so far), as written about by Richard Brody for The New Yorker
The film performances of the beginning of the twenty-first century are a product of the drastic transformations that have taken place in moviemaking in recent decades, as a new generation of directors, both in Hollywood and outside of it, has managed to invent modes of moviemaking capable of adapting to unprecedented crises in the industry.
The competition from television (“prestige” or otherwise), the top-heavy expansion of blockbuster franchises, and the rise of streaming platforms have led to a decline in studio movie production.
As a result, independent producers have grown significantly in prominence and power, and their financing has had a liberating effect on directors, and, by extension, on actors: working largely with modest budgets (yet occasionally with larger ones than studios would provide), filmmakers have been able to take greater risks and make more unusual films—and to develop new methods of performance with actors whose artistry closely fits their own.
As with any well researched list, there’s a lot to take in and a lot to debate, but it’s a worthwhile read for sure.
Yes, its been a year, but you made it, dear reader. And the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter every day.
Keep wearing those masks, keep washing your hands, keep your distance. No matter what your governor says.
See you next week, gang.