Things That Aren’t Awful: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Because the world is awful, we’re trying to look at some stuff that isn’t awful today. How novel! We’ve got the history of Mother 3, an interview with Daniel Radcliffe (it mentions erections), a look at indie rock’s artful handling of depression, and how to keep Norwegian weird when it’s under attack by English, the bloody bastard.

First, at Vulture, an interview with Daniel Radcliffe, who stars in this weekend’s (very good) Swiss Army Man. In this bite-sized piece about what the actor endured on the shoot, we learn that he’s down for destroying his body (because he’s young, and so he can) and also that he had to coach the film’s directors on how to make a convincing fake erection.

Among the things he willingly submitted his body to on Swiss Army Man were a high-pressure rig inside his mouth that sprayed water like a fountain, and a prosthetic mold of his butt so they could blow air through it. He even gave notes to make Manny’s erection more realistic. “The first dick they had was like a broom handle,” says Radcliffe. “It didn’t have the right shape. You need — in England we call it a bell end.” And then he let the directors stick a remote-controlled hydraulic penis in his pants, “which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever been around.”

Next, the development history of legendary RPG Mother 3 — known in the U.S. as part of the EarthBound series — which, like a few other legendary RPGs, had a really difficult time making it to completion. Here, Bob Mackey unpacks the long history of the game, including a tumultuous localization process and a heartbreaking interview with the man behind the game’s production.

Had digital distribution been a possibility for Nintendo on the Game Boy Advance, Mother 3 might have had more of a chance outside of Japan, but releasing a cartridge-based game (with a costly localization) for a seemingly niche audience amounted to a risk they weren’t willing to take. And it’s important to note Mother 3 essentially released for a dead system: Coming 18 months after the Nintendo DS’ launch, the decreased profile of the Game Boy Advance existed as one more strike against a possible American release. Given the sheer rabidity of the EarthBound fan base, they weren’t about to take this lying down. As expected, many fan translations kicked into gear, but only one managed to cross the finish line: A localization spearheaded by Clyde Mandelin, a professional translator and key figure in the EarthBound community. Working with the guts of Mother 3 proved to be a colossal undertaking, as the work involved much, much more than snipping out the Japanese characters and dropping English ones into their place. Despite just how much effort it took to simply get things working, the Mother 3 fan translation is phenomenally well-written, and perfectly communicates the dry absurdity and bittersweet emotions of Itoi’s writing.

Mitski’s Puberty 2 is a great album, but it’s also an important one, touching on themes of depression with a kind of directness that is sorely needed. At The Atlantic Spencer Kornhaber looks at both Puberty 2 and the new album by Car Seat Headrest, and finds that they have a commonality in their stark humanity.

If Puberty 2 masterfully demonstrates how a certain kind of melancholy feels,Teens of Denial, the recent album from Car Seat Headrest, is a powerful companion piece for talking about its causes—or its lack thereof. While Mitski’s songs manage to gut the listener while remaining small and sculptural, frontman Will Toledo works in the style of anthemic but lo-fi rock reminiscent of Modest Mouse or the Get Up Kids. It is surging, fist-raising music, but its lyrical concerns are precise, introspective, and often near-political in criticizing how society treats the congenitally sad.

At Hazlitt, an appreciation of the quirks of the Norwegian language, which, as writer Jessica Furseth points out, is kind of dying. Well, not dying, really, but it’s being infiltrated by English words, as they pop into most conversations even when they’re unnecessary. A lot of this has to do with TV shows, but also, as always, just with the plain desire to be trendy. It’s an interesting look into the evolution of language, even if it’s an odd form of evolution.

I call Janne Bondi Johannessen, a prominent linguistics research professor at the University of Oslo, to ask if she’s concerned about English eclipsing Norwegian in everyday use. “What’s happening has far more to do with trends, than with practicalities,” she tells me. Most of the time there are local words available, even for new things; the Norwegian for “memory stick” is the nifty “minnepinne,” a direct translation. Some people use the new word, while others prefer the English. But this doesn’t explain why people will all of a sudden start using English words like “fresh” and “keen” in the middle of Norwegian sentences, abandoning local terms “frisk” and “ivrig.” “When you pull new words into a language, it’s not necessarily because you need them. It can just feel trendy or cool,” says Bondi Johannessen. From a linguistics perspective, this “coolness” is actually at odds with how languages normally evolve: “Nouns tend to be the open category, where you see new words emerging. But this isn’t the case for spoken Norwegian.”