Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, JB Minton is tapped into The Feed, Varden Frias is reading The Gunslinger, and Andrew Grevas is playing games with his son on the Sega Genesis Mini.
JB: The Feed is grandchild to The Matrix, but its humanity surpasses that mechanical story of Neo and his battle against Agent Smith and the faceless computer simulation that only the foolish walk away from inside to try and get out. Amazon Prime’s The Feed was developed from the fictional source material of the 2018 novel by Nick Clark Windo. Now, normally I’d say that the entire Dystopian genre of storytelling is a bit played out, but I will always gravitate towards great characters suffering inside of great drama; scenery and genre be damned. The drama happening in The Feed is like a sequel to David Fincher’s incredible film The Social Network (script by Aaron Sorkin) about the treachery involved in the founding of Facebook.
While The Feed deals with a fictional company that built a fictional technology, this story is rooted in the terrible reality of the dark possibility of Facebook’s evolution and the tyranny of the second screen. This tyranny is the perpetual staring contest most of us (I am one of these addicted) have with our mobile devices and that ALWAYS ON RUSH OF ENDORPHINS that flood our brains whenever someone clicks a heart over another little piece of our lives. The small black mirrors we carry around in our pockets are now the primary lenses through which we engage the world, often passively through the episodic mists of our outrage. But these are all things that you likely know walking into your first few minutes of watching Episode 1 of The Feed.
The tyranny of the second screen is a point of reality distortion that can easily turn the fragility of human society in on itself and open our dungeon doors to a new Dark Age. And the story of The Feed is that the Hatfields are one of the wealthiest families in the world and they may be about to destroy it with their best intentions.
Lawrence Hatfield (played masterfully by Harry Potter alum David Thewlis), a techno- philosopher and coding savant, created The Feed as a solution to bring humanity together, to destroy the social barriers that prevent the unity of humankind, and to optimize economic markets, streamline energy production, and minimize negative interference from the political theaters of our civilization. As you start the first episode, it seems that Lawrence Hatfield has accomplished all of those goals, but it also doesn’t seem to be enough. How ambitious is this man? How far is he going to push this technology? Far enough to warp the nature of reality and put everything at risk? Perhaps.
Hatfield’s Feed has created a world of cyborgs who still look, feel, and act like human beings and so they are human beings, just now with embedded technology that tethers them together in a way both incredibly powerful and equally dangerous. These are the stakes of The Feed and they are high.
When one is online with the Feed and they see someone else who is also online, both users consume all kinds of sensory information about the other person and the immediate activity of the world happening around them, just like a cyborg would. This technology is just a short reach functionally from where we are today and this short distance from our technological potential is reminiscent of some of the best fictional work by Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov and the purpose is the same, to force us to ask if creating that kind of technology is worth the risks. “Pick up one end of the stick and you pick up the other,” as Stephen R. Covey was so fond of saying.
Feed users also pay other Feed users in virtual coin based on the entertainment value they provide. Think of all the buffoons on Youtube now who set themselves on fire for Likes and advertising revenue. Sadly, this last part is not fiction for us, but in the world of The Feed, the effects (and costs) are amplified through fiction.
Tom Hatfield is Lawrence’s eldest son and he has a mysterious childhood, one which is slowly revealed in drips of deeper horror over the course of this first season. Tom is a good man who has earned the love of a good partner, his wife Kate. They just had their baby daughter, Bea. Tom is a techno-therapist and he helps people addicted to the Feed. We meet him as he’s skateboarding into his brother Ben’s wedding, an event that will end with a prep chef attacking the groom because something in her Feed made her do it, something she calls out as being, “…so dark…”
Over the course of this season, a mystery is uncovered that hints Lawrence has been dabbling in much more than optimizing the Feed’s advertising model to maximize revenue. What happens from that point on in the story could redefine the meaning of Life and the boundaries of genocide. The story told in The Feed is incredibly ambitious and, in my opinion, it’s also that good.
Ultimately, the tyranny of the second screen is about losing humanity and the loss is a whole one. In the first season of The Feed, we watch over Tom’s shoulder as he fights and schemes to protect the ones he loves the most from a terror so deep inside that letting it out could consume everything he loves and the entire world beyond it all, the one that might be waiting for each of us on the other side of the next wave of innovation.
I recommend the first season of The Feed on Amazon Prime; it’s a show worthy of your time and attention.
The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Varden: Back in the 1960s, America witnessed a popularity spike of westerns. Television programs like The Lone Ranger, John Wayne movies out the wazoo, and a slew of western pulp novels populated the mainstream entertainment venues for a while. In the 1970s, Clint Eastwood cowboy flicks hit the cinemas with a host of avid western fans ready to digest the latest gunslinging movie.
Now, the western is not nearly as popular but in 1982, renowned horror author Stephen King released an epic dark fantasy novel placed in a setting reminiscent of the classic western. The Gunslinger is a dark fantasy novel, the first in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Such a simple tagline alone is not enough to describe the epic journey that the beginning of King’s Dark Tower series is.
The Gunslinger is the dark western epic fantasy of a man named Roland Deschain of Gilead who learned the sacred ways of the gunslinger, which is a bygone martial art of sorts during the time this story takes place. The gunslinger is a combination of a Samurai and a Knight with all the aesthetics of a gentlemanly cowboy. Roland harkens back Clint Eastwood’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with his “bombardier” blue eyes and walks this scorched world with the burdened trek of a tainted saint.
Roland begins the novel chasing after The Man in Black, his mysterious adversary whom he chases across a barren desert in this fantasy land of salt scrub brush and hard-packed sand. At an abandoned weigh station, he meets Jake Chambers, a boy with no recollection of himself or his past. Together, Roland and Jake cross the desert: Roland in search of the Man in Black and Jake in search of his identity. The plot is that simple, which is a friendly wink to the classic western tales and fantasy epics. However, the underlying themes of identity, reconciling false memories, and one’s personal code of honor keep the story interesting.
The Gunslinger also teases at esoteric symbology, especially with tarot card archetypes being personified and the use of bone oracle divination. In the end, Roland and Jake catch up to the Man in Black. Although it remains unclear who the Man in Black truly is, Roland’s undying desire to chase him and the inherent mysterious nature of the villain is what drives the novel and makes it an interesting read. Gunslingers in this fantasy world are a past dream. The world has moved on, such is the refrain of the novel and in subsequent sequels in the Dark Tower series. The world no longer has a use for the romanticized fighter who wields Colt revolvers and unloads shots quicker than you can blink an eye. They are the metaphor for the nostalgic years of America when it was still wild and romantic as well as a metaphor for the mystical elements of a fantasy world left to rot. This is the vibe of The Gunslinger. It’s old fashioned but still relevant today. Check out this classic western, dark fantasy mix written by a true master.
Sega Genesis Mini
Andrew: I loved video games as a kid. I grew up on the NES, spending hours and hours on the floor of my older brother’s room playing the titles that introduced me to the world of gaming. When the next generation of consoles was introduced, my family opted to not purchase the SNES and instead, become a Sega Genesis family. I would spend the next several years enjoying a plethora of titles for the Sega and despite all of the advances in gaming over the years, have maintained a soft spot for the Genesis.
This year for Christmas, we purchased a Sega Genesis Mini for my 5 year old son. My son wants to play modern games like his older brother but as a parent, it’s not something I feel like he’s ready for yet. Discovering that Sega had joined the trend of releasing something new to appeal to nostalgia fans was a perfect solution. The pricing of $80 was market friendly and the fact that the console comes with 40 pre-loaded games was a huge selling point. The titles range from multiple Sonic entries to classics such as Road Rash II, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Streetfighter 2 and one of my personal favorites, Streets of Rage 2. The Sega Genesis Mini also includes two controllers and you can save your progress on multiple games, which was a great touch.
As a consumer, I’m impressed by the fact that my child has age appropriate games he can play and then I can enjoy games more suited for adults when he’s not around. This has effectively given me my nostalgia fix all while helping me as a parent keep my son playing games that are less expensive, age appropriate and most of all, really fun. Within minutes of hooking the console up, I was reminded of the sense of innocence these primitive consoles had about them. Prior to online play, when it was just you playing whomever was in the same room as you, with simple graphics and cartoonish characteristics. Not to diminish modern gaming at all, there’s just something enchanting about simpler times in the world of gaming.
If you enjoy vintage gaming, I highly recommend the Sega Genesis Mini. Superb selection of titles, small console, same classic gameplay as you remember. Having all of the games pre-loaded to the console is a huge improvement over having dozens of cases taking up space for all of the games you owned when this console was popular. Really, the only issue I have with it is that I now want to have more titles for the console but these 40 will keep my son and I occupied for quite awhile.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!