Birch Bark Issue #73

My favorite things of the year so far

Can you believe we’re already halfway through the year?! 2021 has not been all roses, but at least here in the US it feels like a whole new world in many ways. There’s less daily political drama, we’re getting out to see friends and family again, and things just generally feel less dystopic than they had progressively become over the past few years.

With that in mind, I’m going to share my normal links and videos, but I’m also including some of my favorite media from the year. Enjoy!

My Favorite Books/Movies/Podcasts/Games

Movies

Luca, Inside, and The Mitchells vs. The Machines have all stood out to me as the best films I’ve seen this year. Luca is as close to a Pixar indie in the vein (oddly) of Call My By Your Name, and it’s fantastic. Bo Burnham’s Inside connected with a lot of people, and I’m very much in that group as well, as this film made me empathize with people who struggled more this past year than me at staying inside. Oh, it’s also hilarious and kind of a thriller, so you know, pretty impressive for a one-man production. And finally, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is plain good time from the creators of Into the Spider-Verse.

Books

Podcasts

A couple new podcasts have come into my life this year and while they all stand out for different reasons, they are all the same in that they all immediately jump to the top of my queue when a new episode comes out.

The Argument is hosted by Jane Coaston and covers controversial topics from birth rates to racism to police reform to a whole bunch of other issues, and brings on two people who disagree on that topic to…have an argument. It’s cordial discussion for the most part, but a few episodes have gotten pretty heated. If nothing else, this show has helped me better understand how other people think in a way that screaming on Twitter has never done.

The Besties has been around for a while, but I never got into it, and it’s a fun video game show where a bunch of friends try to determine the best game of the week. They describe the show as a “video game book club” and that really is how it feels. Oh, and it’s hilarious.

Founder’s Journal is a solo show by Alex Lieberman (co-foudner of Morning Brew) where he discusses entrepreneurship and business in general. It’s a few times a week and I always get something out of it, even if I’m never going to do half the things he talks about myself.

Video Games

I know my audience doesn’t care about video games nearly as much as me, but I adore them and the games that I would say have stood out to me so far this year have been:

  • Resident Evil Village (unbelievably good, this very well could be my game of the year)

  • Hitman 3 (tons of fun, although I didn’t replay it much)

  • Super Mario 3D World (such a great Mario game, I’m glad so many more people got to play it on Switch than ever got to on the Wii U)

  • Mass Effect Trilogy (this remastered collection is very well put together and hit me right in the nostalgia)

Links

If you’re as old as me then you will get some serious nostalgia from that widget, and I’m happy to say you can get it today and it works with Apple Music!


Blogging is Freedom - Lee Peterson

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging and writing for myself vs freelancing over the last few months. What I’ve come to discover is that I really enjoy blogging here, writing how I like and about what I like.

I do some freelance work as well, and while I do enjoy it, there is something special about having my own spaces to write where I get to choose the topic, I decide the style, I determine when it gets published, and I don’t have to worry about style guides or matching a specific “voice” of someone else. I am lucky to usually be working with places that let me be myself (like The Sweet Setup), but the limitless freedom of a personal site can’t be beat.


Spatial Audio - Lefsetz Letter

Atmos catalog remixing is being done by the truckload in a handful of Nashville, LA, and NYC rooms right now and has been for a couple of years, and almost none of it is being overseen or approved by the artist or original producer or mixer.  And these versions- according to Apple- will be the new standard versions, superseding the original versions, now designated by Apple to the dustbin of history.

The more I hear about the current push for Dolby Atmos, the more I get vibes of what was happening a decade ago when Hollywood wanted to covert all movies to 3D. New music mixed for surround sound from the start: cool. Old music remixed into surround sound by the original artist/producer: George Lucas vibes, but okay. Dolby mass-converting songs to make a quick buck: hell no.


Scientists Announce Successful Experiment To Bankrupt Mouse That Can’t Afford Cancer Drug

This mouse saw its debt skyrocket quickly, since we made sure to control for only treatment that was outside of its insurance network, and that was even before we sold the debt to a third-party collector. Most promisingly, we were able to replicate our findings on other mice as well, by completely and irreparably wrecking their credit scores in all cases.” The researchers added that their findings would also be useful in future experiments to test whether a mouse that died from its cancer could pass its debt to its family.

It’s funny because it’s The Onion, right?


Cozy Grove’s Script Changed Because U.S. Healthcare is So Bad

The American healthcare system is so uniquely terrible among developed countries that a localization team translating a recent indie game had to completely replace a line about crowdfunding an emergency medical procedure because it wouldn’t make sense to players outside of the United States.

There are a bunch of great things about America, but our health system is not one of them. Every time I explain even what I find to be the most banal details of my healthcare to my non-US friends, they always respond with some variant of, “I can’t believe that’s how things work.”

Videos

We’re going light on videos this week, but here’s one of those “cool ways to use your camera in ways you didn’t consider” videos. While I’m unlikely to use any of these myself, I love seeing stuff like this because it makes me try to think more creatively about things when I’m doing my own creative work.

I’ll be real, Lego Builder's Journey was 0% on my radar before this week, but the PC version has some unbelievable visuals and Digital Foundry does what it does best, and breaks down what makes this so special.