Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. The Meaning of Metallica

This spectacular tribute to Metallica offers a novel interpretation of the heavy metal band’s enduring success: their decision “to actively and enthusiastically sell out and make populist, semi-generic hard rock albums that sold like hotcakes.” Even for non-fans, the writing is irresistible:

Early on, each Metallica album became more punishing, more violent, more unthinkably complex than the record that came before it. They were insular, escapist fantasies for rageful losers for whom life was nothing but one long high school hallway, populated by an endless succession of jocks shoving you into one locker after another…But in July of 1991, Metallica wriggled out of their old selves like a pack of molting cicadas. They released “Enter Sandman,” an inescapable non-thrash smash and still a favorite among people in charge of picking the warm-up music for high school football games. It is hook-laden heavy-ish pop rock that seems designed in a laboratory to appeal to as many people as possible.

2. Distance Doesn't Matter

The cost of distance is going down. Bruce Upbin of Hyperloop One discusses this “megatrend” with the authors of an in-depth Bain study on the subject, exploring the implications for cities, commuting, supply chains, and decisions about where to live. Upbin:

At Hyperloop we often talk about eliminating distance (and time) through high-speed on-demand travel, and reshaping regions by enabling people to live in more affordable communities well outside a metro area, or to live in one city but work in another 300 miles away separated by a now 20-minute commute.

3. Pokemon No Go

Are there limits to where enthusiasts will play Pokemon Go? Apparently not. The Ringer offers a list of places and situations most would have thought were out-of-bounds. Funerals, for example:

We learned long ago that teens get so bored by funerals that they must resort to taking selfies. Fine. Sure. Go ahead and live out a horrible teen stereotype by taking a glamour shot in the bathroom mirror while Aunt Kathy isn’t watching. Aiming a Pokeball at an open casket, however, is just plain asking to be haunted. Or maybe it’ll trigger some sort of karma-based Final Destination scenario. Everyone featured on this Tumblr has been warned.

4. Full Metal Draft Choice

Fifty percent of first-round NFL draft picks fail. Enter former Green Beret, Brian Decker, the go-to guy for sniffing out prospects with the right stuff. ESPN offers a superb profile of the man who tells Bill Belichick which draftees he can trust. Moneyball meets Zero Dark Thirty:

Most teams want the GM and coaches asking the questions. Teams always say the allotted 15 minutes isn't enough to learn about someone's entire life, so they treat interviews as lie detector tests, with blunt yes-or-no questions before moving on to the football stuff. Decker, though, tried to profile players. He asked zero football questions. He did interviews at round tables instead of square to avoid intimidating prospects, and he asked open-ended questions, many adapted from the ones he asked soldiers. He was less concerned with the existence of what scouts would call character issues - failed drug tests or arrests - than with why those issues existed.

5. Thinking the Unthinkable with China

Game theory revisited. A new Rand study considers the possibilities of an accidental war igniting between China and the United States. The first paragraph gets right to it:

War between the United States and China could be so ruinous for both countries, for East Asia, and for the world that it might seem unthinkable. Yet it is not: China and the United States are at loggerheads over several regional disputes that could lead to military confrontation or even violence between them…If hostilities erupted, both have ample forces, technology, industrial might, and personnel to fight across vast expanses of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. Thus, Sino-U.S. war, perhaps a large and costly one, is not just thinkable; it needs more thought.

6. Desert Classic

As hipsters and tech nerds collide this weekend in the Nevada desert for the annual Burning Man festival, it’s worth taking a look back at Wells Tower’s epic diary of the trip he took there with his dad:

When I mentioned to friends that I was going to Burning Man with my 69-year-old father, “Good idea” were the words out of no one’s mouth.

Escapist Labor Day weekend reading.


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