The Dann Chronicles: April 🗣
Everything everywhere, pixel artist appreciation, cult leader dads, overcoming AI bias, and stupid billionaire things
The perceptive among you may have noticed something different about last month's newsletter: a brand new audio addition to the email. If you didn't notice it last month, perhaps you'll notice it now — it should be at the very top of this email. Look for the play button.
It can be said of some people that they just like to hear themselves talk. I'm not going to lie to you, that's exactly what this is.
Composing this email brings me great joy each month, and each story I choose to write about has captured my attention in some specific way. There is a reason why I'm talking about one topic and not another. Sometimes there are things I'll leave unsaid.
The audio edition is my way of exploring each topic in an unstructured way. For anyone curious about the why of the newsletter, rather than just the what, it's a great place to explore next.
Plus, if you listen this week, you'll get to hear my snappy new jingle. Who doesn't love a good jingle?
Happy April, everyone.
👨👩👧 Dann to Daniels
I've been extremely excited for the movie Everything, Everywhere, All At Once since it was first announced. I've been stupid excited. So excited, in fact, that I was sure that I was bound to be disappointed.
I was finally able to see it this month and I must report, even with all my excitement, it exceeded my expectations.
Of course my worries were unfounded. The film was helmed by the talented Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known simply as "Daniels"). Their feature-length directorial debut was the crass-but-deeply-moving Swiss Army Man, where Harry Potter stars as a talking corpse. That film blew me away, too.
Before movies, they were prolific in the music video and shorts categories. It's easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of their portfolio website. But to me, their highlights are definitely DJ Snake and Lil Jon's "Turn Down For What" and Joywave's "Tongues" (both NSFW, the latter VERY NSFW).
🎨 Kiss the ChefRPG
There's an independent video game that's currently in development. I really don't care about the game that much, and I probably won't actually play it, but I've been following the game development closely. It's riveting.
ChefRPG is a poorly-named upcoming independent roleplaying game that is deeply inspired by the masterful Stardew Valley. It wrapped up a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in December 2021, and has been hard at work on the game since.
While the game doesn't really excite me, the aesthetics of the game are excellent. The pixel artist that's designing the artwork has been releasing detailed tutorials of his design process. This 20-minute video showing the creation of a Spirited Away-style bathhouse is my favorite, but each video is a peek into a world, and a way of thinking, I don't often find myself in.
I've always loved watching masters at work, regardless of the trade. I don't expect to be making pixel art myself any time soon, but I damn sure have respect for the process.
🎓 Yes, Daddy
Sometimes it takes time for things to come to a satisfying conclusion. For example, I don't know how I'm supposed to wait a year+ for the resolution of the recent white-knuckle season one finale of the TV series Severance.
But when a resolution does finally come…hoo-boy is it satisfying. That's how I'm feeling about the conviction of Lawrence V. Ray (free NYT gift article) for trafficking and extortion.
I've been waiting for this sentencing since April 2019, when New York Mag's The Cut published a jaw-dropping longform article about a Sarah Lawrence student's father who moved in with her on campus and became a cruel cult leader amongst her and her friends.
It's a wild story that's perfect for the longform article format. It's also apparently being made into a TV series, but don't let that stop you from diving into the written story. We all know that sometimes a series can absolutely kill an otherwise perfectly interesting story (coughcough Anna Delvey coughcough).
🖼 The woes in the machine
There's a new Artificial Intelligence that's taking the world by storm. The adorably-named DALL-E 2 allows researchers to input a description (ie "Shrimp Budget the sports team logo") and it will generate a wholly new image matching that phrase. It's limited only by human creativity. It's amazing.
Amazing…but also not without its faults. Artificial Intelligence in general has a habit of reinforcing harmful stereotypes and biases, and it's a complex problem to try and fix.
Vox explored some of the AI bias problems with DALL-E:
Researchers wanted to filter out sexual content from the training data because that could lead to disproportionate harm to women. But they found that when they tried to filter that out, DALL-E 2 generated fewer images of women in general. That’s no good, because it leads to another kind of harm to women: erasure.
🙄 Just Billionaire Things
Elon Musk was in the news a lot this month, first for purchasing a 9.2% stake in Twitter (making him the largest stakeholder), then for making a (real? fake?) offer to buy Twitter outright for $54.20 per share. Try not to roll your eyes too hard at the "420" hidden inside that purchase price.
There are a million-plus-one hot takes already. I don't have anything additional to add. The only article worth reading is from The Onion.
Also, before we wrap things up, can we please, as a society, do something about billionaires? A billion dollars, let alone multiple billion like Musk has, is too much money for humans to even wrap our heads around:
If you were given $5,000 every single day from the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492 to today, you still wouldn't have one billion dollars.
That's so dumb. That’s a dumb amount of money for one person to have.
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I'll be sending out these emails once per month, and I'm happy you're along for the ride. I'm trying to make it one of the best things that arrives in your inbox each month, so thoughts and feedback are always appreciated. You can just reply to this email.
Also, if you find anything interesting, send it my way.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, Dann