Five Things: August 31, 2023

_ONE

Why Gen Z is redefining the concept of job satisfaction | Kyla Scanlon

“The children of the Great Depression got the New Deal; Gen Z got the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act that led to greater consolidation in the banking sector and rising economic inequality. We witnessed a system fail and then saw the bad behavior that caused it go unpunished. Inevitably, we’ve been shaped by it.”

As the father of two Gen Z young adults (elderZs?), I remember being stunned when I realized years ago that, having been born in 2000 and 2002, they’d never known a time when the USA wasn’t at war somewhere in the world — overtly, or overtly but pretending not to be. I also remember the first time my son asked me “But why?” about something seemingly innocuous and normal, and I caught myself saying, “Because that’s how it is.” It’s just two of many glaring examples of how different a world they’ve grown up in than I did, and Scanlon’s highlighting of some of the key moments is a depressing read.

It’s an important read, though, because it’s too easy to make “Okay, Boomer.” jokes and move on, pretending Gen X didn’t have it much better, but we really did. While I couldn’t put myself through college on the GI Bill back in the 90s, I could still live in a half-decent neighborhood and rent an affordable apartment on starting wages that are roughly equivalent to New Jersey’s minimum wage today. Add in climate change, extreme racism and misogyny, and an ever-growing gap between the haves and have-nots, and the kids absolutely are NOT all right.

The most frustrating part? I have no idea what to do about it.

__TWO

50 Years Later, Is There Anything Left Of Hip Hop? | Jason England

“Which is why I can look at hip hop at 50 and say: This is some wild shit. What the fuck is going on here? Even worse, it is now precisely what it abhorred in its incipience: conservative, white-flattering, and, maybe worst of all, predictable. Hip hop in 2023 is utterly formulaic.”

England puts hip hop on blast and spares no prisoners in this excellent diatribe, and it’s a refreshing antidote to the saccharine odes appearing in most mainstream publications. (Thanks, Samantha!) I haven’t considered myself a fan of current rap music in ages and lost touch with whatever passes for “hip hop culture” long ago. Most of the newer rappers I happen to like are mostly because of the beats, rarely the lyrics, and there are whole sub-genres I find ridiculous. WTF even is mumble rap?!?

I’ve been slowly re-reading The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop by Jonathan Abrams, and it’s been a fun walk down memory lane while he was making his way through the 70s to early 90s, but my attention started to wane as the mid-90s hit. The early 90s were arguably my favorite era of rap, specifically the more conscious rap that was quickly drowned out by gangsta rap before it all went mainstream and full capitalist. Public Enemy, Native Tongues, Arrested Development, PM Dawn, and Me Phi Me were not only among my favorites back then, they’re all in regular rotation on my Hip Hop Forever playlist.

While my son has introduced me to a few newer rappers I’ve grown to like, particularly Vince Staples and Joey Bada$$, I’m mostly the cranky old man telling these kids to get off my damn lawn. What is “Okay, Boomer.” for Gen X?

___THREE

Netflix’s Next Act Is Investing in Video Games | Lewis Gordon

“Since acquiring Night School, Netflix has bought three additional existing studios outright; it has also established two, one in Helsinki and another in California. There are some 67 games in the Netflix library, playable through its iOS and Android apps; 86 more are in development, with 16 of those being made by in-house studios. Consequently, Netflix Games has swollen to 450 employees…”

I was and still remain highly skeptical of Netflix’s move into gaming, but I’m impressed by how slowly and methodically they’re doing it — and I’m starting to believe they might actually have a shot at building something sustainable. I played a few of their games last year, and while getting to them is clunky as hell and unlikely to appeal to most people, that friction has also let them slow roll their approach rather than attempting to make a big splash like Amazon and Google tried to do.

Developing games is difficult and expensive, but unlike proprietary streaming shows, they offer a broader range of revenue streams and the potential for a far more engaged audience, especially in mobile. It’s also still generally acceptable to abuse largely non-unionized developers to crank out games, something I’m sure they appreciate right now in the midst of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.

I can see Netflix eventually making their games available on other platforms, too, unlike their shows, and those games offer additional monetization opportunities via advertising and DLC. And if they’re successful enough with games while also stabilizing the streaming side of the business, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple, Amazon, Disney, or Google attempt to acquire them outright — although I’d like to think the DOJ would have something to say about that considering their successful squashing of PRH’s Simon & Schuster acquisition and scrutiny of Microsoft’s latest.

____FOUR

The Future of Football Manager | Miles Jacobson

“Football Manager 2024 will be the 20th game in Sports Interactive’s Football Manager series, and will be the last of its kind. It’s a love letter to football and the FM series as we know it. It’s the closing of this chapter of our history.”

If you used to subscribe to my newsletter on Substack, you probably got last week’s non-newsletter post about my love for Football Manager and was wondering if something had changed. I’m still doing this newsletter every other week, but you’ll also get an email when I post other things. You’re welcome, or I’m sorry!

Although I’m still deep in my current FM23 save (I got Las Palmas promoted to La Liga in my first season and am now in the early stages of being destroyed by far better teams. This is the way.), I’m looking forward to FM24 even more than usual because it will allow you to import your save from the previous iteration, so I can keep playing if I’m not ready to start over. And then FM25 will finally include women’s football, which was a literal game-changer when FIFA finally did it a few years ago. With all of the real-world scenarios the game manages to replicate, I’m curious how they’ll handle the various indignities women have faced in the fight for equality, including the current shitshow in Spain, which will hopefully have a good finale.

_____FIVE

A Striking Vision of Our Future | Isaac Gonzalez

“A young woman is terrorized by violent dreams as she struggles to connect with her boyfriend. A Film by Isaac Gonzalez.”

One of the biggest parental stereotypes is, “I want my kids to have it better than I did.” The other is usually a curse, said by an exasperated parent to their kid: “I hope you have a kid just like you!” So, when my son started developing an interest in film, two stereotypes collided!

I grew up a fan of movies, TV, box office numbers, and Nielsen ratings. In my mid-20s, I attempted to make a movie — a stereotypically semi-autobiographical story based on a script that was actually half-decent for a first attempt. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the first thing about how to make a movie, proving that simply having access to some equipment and a willing group of friends doesn’t make up for skill and talent. (At least in the days before YouTube and TikTok.) It was a fun experience, but it also helped me understand the thick line between fan and practitioner.

My son, on the other hand, wasn’t just a fan of movies; he very quickly became a student of them, too. First on his own, and then literally going to film school. Every step where we’d shared parallel experiences, he was obviously on another level compared to me at the equivalent time, until he eventually completely surpassed me. His high school shorts had a level of competence I’d never come close to, and unlike me, he had interesting stories he wanted to tell. His ability to watch and deconstruct a movie was also way more sophisticated than my pedestrian “it was engaging” reviews, and even when he’d go too deep for me on a movie I just wanted to mindlessly enjoy, he’d frequently make me see things I’d overlooked that would change how I’d watch subsequent movies.

The short above, A Striking Vision of our Future, was his final project for school last year and it was fascinating seeing it come together from a script to a rough cut through multiple edits leading to this version. Like most artists, he was never satisfied with it, and it took him forever to finally stop tinkering and share it publicly, so take a look and smash that Like button for social proof so he can make more movies!


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