Consumed the week of 9 December, 2019

What to say about this week? How about I let William Gibson say it instead. There was a brilliant profile of the author in the New Yorker this past week, some of it commenting on his amazing ability to create ficton that takes the present’s most ‘fucked up’ qualities into fascinating and sometimes terrifying areas:

‘In writing “The Peripheral,” he’d been able to bring himself to believe in the reality of an ongoing slow-motion apocalypse called “the jackpot.” A character describes the jackpot as “multicausal”—“more a climate than an event.” The world eases into it gradually, as all the bad things we worry about—rising oceans, crop failures, drug-resistant diseases, resource wars, and so on—happen, here and there, to varying degrees, over the better part of the twenty-first century, adding up to “androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad shit” that eventually kills eighty per cent of the human race. It’s a Gibsonian apocalypse: the end of the world is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed. One character reacts to the jackpot equivocally: “Either depressing and scared the fuck out of me or sort of how I’d always figured things are?”’

So, yeah. That’s my current state of mind: androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad shit is happening and it’s simultaneously scaring the fuck out of me and feels horribly inevitable.

The image above is from Photos of the U.K. in the Shadow of Brexit, a photo essay from the New York Times. Browse it and weep.

Also read this week: The Schedule and the Stream, Matt Locke writes about the cultural and political impact of digital environments and the context-free algorithms that underpin them.

Very related to that is I became part of the alt-right at age 13, thanks to Reddit and Google from Fast Company. I am so glad I don’t have kids right now.

And, related to that (sorry, this doesn’t get much more cheery this week) is Checking in on the Masculinity Crisis from Long Reads. A look at a couple of new books that promise to examine the ‘phenomenon’ of white male disenfranchisement.

And you can’t talk about white males without talking about comic books and pop culture, so that takes us to The Decade Comic Book Nerds Became Our Cultural Overlords via Medium, and This Was the Decade That Spoiler Culture Changed Everything from Gizmodo.

We watched the documentary Tell Me Who I Am on Netflix last weekend. It is brilliant but very harrowing and pretty hard going in places. Proceed with caution, but proceed if you can. I also watched Michael Mann’s debut film, Thief, starring James Cann, which has been on my list for ages. Really enjoyed it.

Amongst all the depressing events I did manage to lose myself in James Lovegrove’s latest, Sherlock Holmes & the Christmas Demon. Thank god for escapism!

Musically this week here’s two American talk show appearances, one from 1983 and one from this week. First is Takling Heads doing I Zimbra on Letterman (chosen because Byrne annonced this week that the band were NOT reforming, I admit I had got my hopes up). And after that, Vampire Weekend on the Late Late Show doing Harmony Hall with a bit of Christmas Time is Here thrown in there for good measure.

Merry Christmas?

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