December 31st 2018

No fun twenty-eighteen

In the last few years, come the end of December, I have posted about my favourite media of the preceding year, even though writing such retrospectives has increasingly felt more like a chore. I'll append a list of some of my favourite online readings of the year at the end of this post, but 2018 leaves me in no mood to write a lot about movies (with one exception), or books, or music, or television.

Anyway, if you are a human reading this and are indeed interested, I have a running list of my favourite movies of 2018 over at Letterboxd. But even though Call Me By Your Name felt like summer holidays, or Cuarón's Roma is a Cinematic Achievement, or The Florida Project tightropes between the colourful and the garish in photography as in life, or You Were Never Really Here has the Best Hammer-yielding Avenger, or First Man gave me the goose bumps because I'm all into vintage space exploration, none of those movies is really about the malaise of 2018, and the one movie I keep thinking back and reflecting upon is Paul Schrader's First Reformed.

In a dark conversation with a friend late in a November night, we discussed how maybe we belong to one of the Last Generations of a civilized humanity. Even if Miracle Fusion Energy is discovered and humanity manages to cope with climate change and soil depletion without having turned the poor first and the less rich afterwards into Soylent Green for the one percent, the fact remains that optimism and positivism at this stage feels callous. In this context, First Reformed dared to address the taboo of feeling that it is wrong for someone informed to willingly bring a new witness into this world, in which our economic and media elites consciously or unconsciously plot to shepherd the expendables (that is, me, you, and most of everyone we know) into the Door Number Four of the Four Possible Futures, as it was shockingly well articulated — in my own Portuguese tongue, no less —, by the victory of the Exterminist candidate in the Brazil presidential election.

It's not that I've stopped whatever I am doing in life and retreated to a monastery, an idea that sounds even worse after I typed it. The paradox is that I remain engaged in my research on education and technological literacy. Even though I'm not willing to bet the existence of new human beings on that outcome, I keep daydreaming about the old techno-hippie promises of freedom, equality, and fraternity, as if everyone just learns to code and we all break free from late capitalism — swallowing, so to speak, the red pill that undoes the spell of manipulation and envy. Sadly, a brief look at forums reveals that people that work in the algorithmic sausage factory are fully invested in their shit wursts, and that the red pill metaphor, much like the word 'freedom', is most often used in horrifying ways. So maybe the meaning of our lives is in nursing each other through the end of civilization, or at least through the barbarian invasions, and that requires thoughtfulness, civility, and approaching whatever the hell the internet is nowadays with the reverence one does for weapons of mass destruction.


So anyway, that BoJack Horseman funeral eulogy episode was terrific!

Here are some news articles and reports I found pertinent in 2018:

On our technological dystopia:

On how hell is other people:

On turbo-capitalism and other scams:

On science and (good) technology:

On art and culture:

On other things:


Here's some 2018 visual candy to wash away the bleakness. This one is my favourite.