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:
- The Darkness at the End of the Tunnel: Artificial Intelligence and Neoreaction, Viewpoint Magazine;
- The Cambridge Analytica Con, The Baffler;
- The Algorithmic Trap, Perell — on how tourists became bots controlled via Instagram;
- Dystopias Now, Commune — Kim Stanley Robinson, always the optimist;
- Ambient Cruelty, Real Life Mag;
- How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually, New York Magazine.
On how hell is other people:
- ContraPoints' wonderful takedown of Jordan Peterson, YouTube (it's a video but should be required reading);
- No Hugging, The Guardian;
- The Daddy Dialectic, LA Review of Books;
- The Internet of Garbage, The Verge — on online harassment;
- The Dark Core of Personality, Scientific American;
- Psychpaths and the Rest of Us, Hazlitt (TLDR: run as far away as possible);
- Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?, The Atlantic.
On turbo-capitalism and other scams:
- Edutopia, Jacobin;
- A Letter to My Daughter About the Black Magic of Banking, Yanis Varoufakis;
- Why we should bulldoze the business school, The Guardian;
- It’s Basically Just Immoral To Be Rich, Current Affairs;
- The CIA Reads French Theory, LA Review of Books — an account of how secret services nudge(d) academia;
- If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism?, Umair Haque;
- It's time to abandon the cruelty of meritocracy, The Guardian;
- The language of capitalism isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous, The Outline;
- A Business With No End, NYT.
On science and (good) technology:
- Why Paper Jams Persist, The New Yorker;
- The Scientific Paper is Obsolete, The Atlantic;
- A Modern Prometheus, The History of Processing, Casey Reas and Ben Fry;
- Trying not to Try, Nautilus — modern cognitive science agrees with ancient Chinese philosophy;
- The Empty Brain, Aeon — your brain is not a computer.
On art and culture:
- As a Lute out of Tune: Robert Burton’s Melancholy, Public Domain Review;
- The Problem with Muzak, The Baffler;
- The Good Room, Frank Chimero;
- Against Popular Culture, Aeon — about Theodor Adorno;
- The Book No One Read, Nautilus — about Stanislaw Lem;
- Brutalism and Antidesign, Nielsen Norman Group;
- Corrupted Texts: Silent Cinema and the Intertitle, Silent San Francisco;
- The Deal of the Art, The Baffler;
- How to Be an Artist, Vulture — refreshingly realistic while not cynical.
On other things:
- The Lost Art of Staying Put, The Baffler;
- Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Engage in Class Warfare, Topic Magazine — about board games;
- The Secret Language of Ships, Hakai;
- The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People, AlterNet;
- Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?, The Guardian;
- What Is It Like to Be a Man?, The Hedgehog Review — a candid and realistic account of masculinity;
- We Will Curse You, Lapham's — a history of curses in sports.