2017 List of Lists: Part 1
[Photo: "There's probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life." —This advertisement was briefly emblazoned on city buses in a suburb of Vancouver a couple of years ago. Apparently there were complaints(?!) and it was pulled from circulation, but still. EPIC WIN.]
Welcome to the most anticipated (by me) blogging event of the year... my 10th annual (!!) List of Lists. Can you believe I've been doing this for a decade? I know it seems like longer, but that could just be the "2017 effect" skewing our perspective. This time dilation has been widely reported since the 2016 election, just ask anyone at NPR or YouTube (or I don't know—where do you get your news these days?). Anyway, I for one am not complaining about time passing (or seeming to pass) more slowly, which can only be a good thing even if the reason it's happening is that the world has gone insane. Yes, it means terrible things are happening with appalling frequency but humans are quick to adapt, desensitizing with greater speed and efficiency after every breaking-news story about mass shootings, government malfeasance and formerly trusted public figures falling from grace.
Best TED Talks of 2017
1. Natasha Hurley-Walker How radio telescopes show us unseen galaxies
2. Dan Bell Inside America's dead shopping malls
3. Lisa Genova What you can do to prevent Alzheimer's
4. David Baron You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse
5. Tristan Harris How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day
6. Anil Seth Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality
7. Cheyenne Cochrane A celebration of natural hair (obviously not about my hair.)
8. Karoliina Korppoo How a video game might help us build better cities (speaking of hair, hers is fierth)
9. Jennifer Granick How the US government spies on people who protest — including you
10. Scott Galloway How Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google manipulate our emotions (if you like this, you can read his newsletter here)
And one I missed from 2016
Oded Shoseyov How we are harnessing nature's hidden superpower
Funniest Google Searches in My Browser History
If it's not linked, it means I didn't find what I was looking for.
1. how to set up outlook 2010 IMAP email account with existing pst data file (This marked a low point in the month-long process of reinstalling everything in the wake of a catastrophic failure/BSOD-run-amok/system wipe of my laptop in May. Shout-out to Mr. Pink AKA in-house tech support/sysadmin/network ninja.)
2. how to care for aeonium succulents indoors (answer: nobody fucking knows)
3. why is my laptop making a noise like a stationary bicycle (Yes, after the failure. LOL/CRY)
4. vancouver sun newspaper front page photo 1999 capilano suspension bridge baby
5. jim cummins braineater painting aliens (Yes, motherfucking still.)
6. wall centre penthouse red lights Vancouver (Google didn't help; binoculars did. It was just a party.)
9. innovative sadistic bicycle theft prevention devices (I don't even own a bike. I just love this idea of booby-trapping/rigging up a theft-protection device designed not to deter (because nothing does), but to gravely injure or maim a perpetrator who tries to remove the lock or carry the bike away—something like a chain lock wrapped in razor wire or a seat that the owner, when leaving the bike unattended, could easily replace with a long, sharpened spike to deter (or emasculate) any unauthorized riders. Can you dig it?)
10. amazing ad exec objective statement html5 more less confident (I will never fucking know where I found this site, but it was amazing. Sigh...)
11. how did pirates keep their flags and sails black (again, no good results found)
Five Things that Blew My Mind in 2017
1. Lemming mass suicide is a pernicious myth, perpetuated by the horrifically unethical producers of a 1970s nature doc called "White Wilderness." A Disney nature doc... Shame. Shame.
2. Harvey Weinstein? Harvey Fierstein? Two totally different people. Apparently I'm not alone in this.
3. Wealth inequality has increased dramatically over the last 30 years, with median white household wealth nearly 10 times that of median black and Latino households.
4. When typing emoticons/emojis, men tend to add a nose :-) while women do not ;) and there are major differences between eastern and western interpretations of facial features. Table flip is by far my favorite emoticon now. (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻
6. This entire interview between Joe Rogan and world-renowned mycologist (or "mushroom doctor," as they'd call him if he was a character on "Zoo") Paul Stamets is just one mind-blowing revelation after another.
Worst Idea of 2017
How to pick just one..?? But let's just start with Lyrebird, the evaluation demo app brought to you by the same folks who inflicted Facebook and Twitter on us. The app records one minute of a user's voice and uses it to create a "Digital Voice" which can be used for any number of purposes, e.g., reading audiobooks or "tweets" out loud, creating a video game avatar with your voice or—and this is from their FAQs—"Freeze movie actor's voices to make them available forever even if they age or die." Yeah... there's nothing creepy AF about that. I bet they wish they'd invented it in time to vocally clone Humphrey Bogart, Orson Welles and—aww, Jimmy Stewart. (Have they considered the implications for voice impressionists? Here we go—AI is stealing all the good jobs.) Some technologies are just so batshit and ripe for abuse, their creators are at a loss when tasked with setting the public's fears to rest, that they end up saying things like this on their "Ethics" pages: "Imagine that we had decided not to release this technology at all. Others would develop it and who knows if their intentions would be as sincere as ours." Well shit, since you put it that way.
Best Error Message: Content
There's nothing here.
Whatever you were looking for doesn't currently exist at this address. Unless you were looking for this error page, in which case: Congrats! You totally found it.
Best 404 Page: Design
From the menu at Dark Table restaurant (Vancouver's best and only destination for blind dining):
"We try our best to accommodate all allergies. However, given the nature of our concept, no request is 100% guaranteed."
- 1. S-Town (This is the first podcast I've ever heard that made me think, god, I would love to see a film adaptation of this—or a documentary, or even a graphic novel. Hey, I think Brian K. Vaughn has some spare time! LOL)
- 2. My Favorite Murder (SSDGM*)(*stay sexy & don't get murdered)
- 3. Audio drama: Steal the Stars
- 4. Audio drama: Life / After
- 5. Audio drama: Ars Paradoxica (OMG, could fiction be the new nonfiction?)
- 6. 2 Dope Queens
- 7. Anne Ortley's Weekly Weather
- 8. You Must Remember This
- 9. The Smartest Man in the World
- 10. Planet Waves FM
Best Movies of 2017
1. Blade Runner 2049
2. Get Out (Bonus "best" moment after the lights came up: watching an entire theater full of "woke" Vancouverites trying their damnedest to avoid making accidental super-awkward sympathetic eye contact with the ONE black guy in the audience.)
4. Wonder Woman
Best Movies of 2016 that I finally saw in 2017
2. Hidden Figures
3. The Girl With All the Gifts (Best quote: "It's not over. It's just not yours any more.*")
(See also: Westworld, Episode 10, "The End of Men" by Hannah Rosen and the US Presidential election. 2016 will go down as the year we predicted "The End of Men" one year too soon.)
Best Movie from a Previous Decade That I Finally Saw This Year
The Descent (2005)
I would love to tell you that 12 years late to a party is an all-time record for me, but who would I be kidding? I would also like to thank this movie for introducing me to the second-most useless Netflix feature, the "request a title" online chat functionality, which allows you to connect with a customer service representative—in real time—to ask for a TV series or movie that you've been unable to find in their catalog. This allows them to ask you to wait while they re-check their catalog (because searching is apparently something they don't trust their customers to have mastered by adulthood) and come back a few minutes later confirming that they don't have it, but they'll try to obtain it at some future date, so keep checking for it. In my case, he added, "I've watched this movie before and honestly it's one of the few that scared me, so I get why you want to see it." This all but guaranteed that I would not, in fact, keep checking back because I have mastered the basic skill of searching, so I was watching it ten minutes later on another site. (It's great, btw—you should totally watch it!)
Best TV Shows of 2017
Game of Thrones (It's like with The Wire. Everyone recommended it to us for so long and we were always like, Look, we tried watching the first episode. We get it— beheadings, incest, fancy dresses, it's just not really our thing. Well. We gave it another try this summer and—okay, fiiiiiine. Yes, yes, we love it already. You can go ahead with your season 7 spoilers........ wait... Okay, now. Sigh... ugh, I miss it already.)
This show is so weird and great, it's like someone bet the showrunner he couldn't spin an entire series out of the epic YouTube parody, What if Wes Anderson Directed The X-Men? Only he got the last laugh because Legion is fucking awesome. It also felt somehow more like my experience of reading Marvel comics as a kid/teenager than most of the movies that have been made about my favorite characters—with the exception, of course, of Logan (maybe it's all those consonants they have in common).
Speaking of Marvel characters I enjoyed as a teenager but never thought I'd see onscreen (no, not Dazzler—the reason we won't see that onscreen is—well, are twofold. One, they would probably feel the need to modernize her and I don't have to tell you how much that would suck, unless they made her sort of an early Lady Gaga-style performance artist. (Hmm, actually...) and two, guys roughly my age are running Hollywood right now and every guy my age thought Dazzler was stupid.)
Anyway, earlier this year I somehow stumbled across the news that a Cloak & Dagger series is actually in development. Part of me (my inner 12 year old) was like <screech> OMG!! But the other part—the part that watched every episode of Iron Fist and 13 Reasons this year—is dreading the almost certain train wreck this story in particular could be in the wrong hands. It all depends on who's in charge and what message they decide will make Cloak & Dagger relevant and appropriate for the kids of 2018. And we have zero reasons to be optimistic about that. I mean, nostalgia aside, 1980s Cloak & Dagger was a 4-issue miniseries about two painfully two dimensional characters whose mutant powers are basically shorthand racial stereotypes. Tandy is rich and white with a neglectful father and Tyrone is poor and black but sweet—with a stutter (but wait, it gets better!). Through a series of unlucky accidents and foolish decisions, they end up meeting in a meat-packing district warehouse, where they've been kidnapped and injected with massive doses of some experimental drug by a shadowy cabal of evil men. Other unlucky teens are dying grisly, drug-induced deaths all around them, and soon they're the only survivors. The drugs that killed the others trigger their latent mutant abilities which, through fate or happy accident, somehow mirror each other's in what kids today would call a kind of ultra-racially problematic symbiosis.
They manage to escape, swimming across the toxic wastewaters of the East River to safety, only to find that they can no longer return to their old lives. Their mutant powers make them effectively inseparable—in Tyrone's case anyway, because being apart from her for any length of time results in painful and increasingly dangerous withdrawal symptoms. She can generate daggers of light that either kill, maim or heal (him anyway), depending on what the situation calls for. He can transport himself, her and others within the fabric of his... uh, well, it's a big, black and blue striped blanket he found lying around the warehouse and wrapped himself in it the night they were kidnapped? Now he and it are inseparable and it's the magical portal he uses to teleport around the globe and absorb bad guys—I mean, he just wraps them in it and they disappear, forever. No one knows where they go, not even him. Is his body like a Portal ™ or Hell Mouth or gateway to Limbo or Purgatory or some other dimension where bad people go to be punished? Is he the Devil? He seems to think so, since of course he's one of a handful of inconveniently religious members of the Marvel Universe (see also Wolfsbane, Daredevil and Nightcrawler). Oh yeah, and then there's her costume. Not even going to go there.
So they're symbiotically bonded and teenage, so that's awkward, but not as much as you'd think. In real life, they'd probably just spend the next decade locked in a bedroom somewhere, but this is Marvel in the 80s, so of course he falls in love with her because—duh, she's rich, white and pretty—but she not so much with him. They're stuck with each other, though, because they're equally confused, alienated, emotionally stunted and damaged, and they pretty much stopped developing in any dimension that might make them interesting the night they get their powers. Over the next 30 years or so, they continued to pop up here and there to help Spider-Man or the X-Men save the day and then when they were asked to stick around, they'd give some lame speech about how they're "not heroes" before teleporting away to not have sex with each other.
So, yeah... the only thing worse than a horribly Nerfed™ Cloak & Dagger might just be a completely faithful rendering. I mean, how do you even craft plausible backstories in 2018 to set in motion the kidnapping, drug dealing, addiction, human trafficking and shadowy government experiments on society's disposable underclass? I guess you set it in 1984 like Stranger Things.
3. Better Call Saul
4. American Gods
6. Narcos (The best entry in Netflix's endless roster of Pablo Escobar-related original programming co-stars Oberyn Martell (aww, yeah—shout out to those of you who know!) and his fabulous Burt Reynolds/Simon & Simon mustache. Benedict Cumberbatch can take a break now. I want to see Pedro Pascal cast in literally everything for the next ten years.)
8. Ozark (Netflix proves once again that their algorithm-to-table creation formula still works!)
11. Wanted (AUS)
12. Stranger Things
13. Fear the Walking Dead (for the first half of season3, it was so much better than The Walking Dead... and then... well, it is The Walking Dead, so we're used to this.)
14. The Crown
15. The Keepers (Netflix documentary series)
In Memoriam: 3 Shows We Said Goodbye to in 2017
Bates Motel (RIP)
Sense8 (tragically/too soon)
House of Cards (Wow, I've never seen a show killed off by a 30-year old groping scandal before... but only because I'm not British—they're used to this sort of thing.)
And One I Hate-Watched Until the Bitter End
(AKA the "Scandal" Award)
13 Reasons I Can Never Remember the Full Name of This Piece of Shit Show
The utterly predictable meta-controversy; does it glamorize suicide/ is it too realistic/ will it trigger copycats/ are there enough trigger warnings/ should anyone who uses the phrase "trigger warnings" be taken outside and shot? The only argument no one made: it's just a fucking television show! The worse thing about this stupid, pretentious show isn't its predictable controversy-mongering or even the way it misguidedly bends over backwards with pre-episode trigger warnings and a "very special" post-post-mortem episode where the cast and showrunners humble-brag about how seriously they took their responsibility in covering such weighty topics and how much good they hoped/expected it would do. Meanwhile in the real world, their "unflinching" look at teens having non-consensual sex, drinking, driving recklessly, getting high (but not enjoying it), getting in fights and playing with guns, to say nothing of the actual graphic onscreen suicide—all the while seemingly bending over backwards not to offend or LOL "trigger" anyone—the show was all but blacklisted by concerned parents the instant it hit Netflix. The most offensive thing to them was the possibility that some fragile, impressionable handful of teens might actually be stupid enough to absorb the wrong takeaway and copycat-off themselves.
The only thing I found truly offensive (and yet, I'll just come right out and say, not unrealistic) is that the dead girl around whose suicide the story revolves, is such a fucking asshole. She starts out sympathetic enough—pretty, quirky, funny, creative, friendly to rich jocks and social outcasts alike—like a wannabe Veronica Mars, but unfortunately neither interesting nor genuinely interested in other people enough to investigate anything other than her own fragile psyche. As the indignities against her, both real and imagined, begin to pile up, she alienates and lies to every last one of her friends and ignores every overture by her really-not-all-that-bad parents, who are doing their best to muddle through financial troubles of their own. She wallows in self-pity, lashes out at well-meaning people and acts—or fails to act—in ways that make her character not just an incredibly annoying drama queen but a pathetic excuse for a human of any age. I mean, when she finds herself trapped in the bedroom of her former best friend at a party (where she had been wallowing in self-pity), she fully hides while her friend is raped by the show's cartoonishly irredeemable rich kid villain, who predictably later goes on to do the same thing to her (maybe because nobody bothered to, I don't know, tell the police or their parents or any-fucking-body after the first time he did it?). (#Me too!)
Of course, she doesn't see any of this as her fault (blaming the victim? No, I'm blaming the person who sat cowering a few feet away from the victim and then acted surprised when the guy kept getting away with it because clearly no one had any interest in stopping him, herself included). Of course, all these character flaws are projected onto everyone else as "reasons" to justify the final act of slicing her wrists in the bathtub (and leaving the water running—thanks, now your mother has to find you like that and probably replace the floor in the bathroom and the hallway?).
Ugh. Icing on the cake? She records 13 of the worst mix tapes ever (which most of her "friends" will have to listen to on the one old school Walkman borrowed/stolen from the only guy in school with access to pre-Information Age technology) and gives them to her friends (and some acquaintances that barely seem to qualify but I guess that's how many blank tapes she had) with elaborate instructions that they have to listen to all the tapes and then pass them to the next person so they can listen to her harangue them from beyond the grave, and repeat 12 more fucking times!!! Worst, longest after school special ever.
This isn't the first and, though he's been internet-silent over four years now, it probably won't be the Last time I give over the last word to the late-great Last Psychiatrist. He wrote this in response to a similar event IRL about rapist jocks at a high school party (Stuebenville, I think?).
"Every stupid parent teaches their girls not to get raped, duh, but have any mothers spent any time indoctrinating their daughters what to do if another woman is being raped? Have they made it a reflex to defend, to attack? "We need to support each other!" Sure, as long as it's from the safety of a computer monitor or a 5K, yay women. Have you explicitly told your daughters that if a woman is passed out drunk and you see a Notre Dame Hat climbing over her couch, it is your responsibility to grab an aerosol can and a lighter and threaten Armageddon, or at the very least yell stop? "Well, that's kind of dangerous." Yeah, that's kind of the point, but I grant you that it's safer to giggle and let boys be boys. Do you want power, or the trappings of power? Somebody's going to have it, you can't make it vanish. I wasn't at this particular rape, the town's defense amazingly appears to be she was a slut and she was asking for it, and my point is: so what? Why didn't the other women stop it anyway? Why didn't they just rise up?"