On the occasion of Devo’s nomination to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, as they hurtle towards their 40th anniversary, founder Gerald Casale writes an open letter about their past mission as “the canaries in the coalmine warning our fans and foes of things to come in the guise of the Court Jester”, and what that means now that everything they were warning of has come to pass.
The rise of authoritarian leadership around the globe, fed by ill-informed populism, is well-documented at this point. And with it, we see the ugly specter of increased racism and anti-Semitism. It’s open season on those who gladly vote against their own self-interests. The exponential increase in suffering for more and more of the population is heartbreaking to see. “Freedom of choice is what you got / Freedom from choice is what you want,” those Devo clowns said in 1980. So, let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late. Perhaps the reason Devo was even nominated after 15 years of eligibility is because Western society seems locked in a death wish. Devo doesn’t skew so outside the box anymore.
Casale says Devo’s contemporary role is as “the house band on the Titanic”, but we think they’d maybe serve just as well as the house band on the four-day cruise Laurie Penny took with the many sultans of cryptocurrency. Ordinarily Penny’s exhausting “look at me!!!” style grates on us, but it suits the apocalyptic feel of this one.
Better things happen at sea: we always enjoy Jessica Camille Aguirre’s features, and this quiet little piece about an American fabulist in Berlin, compelled to surf the Baltic Sea by riding the breaks created by a passenger ferry, is a really nice character portrait.
Self care mindfulness regime — whenever we find ourself drawn to think too much about dark days and cynical cryptocurrency hooey, we’re just going to think about radical mycology instead. Except maybe hipsters and the Valley are also ruining mushrooms? Dammit.
Be careful what you wish for. A few weeks back we asked for an in-depth read about what’s going on inside Deciem, a company elaborately breaking down in full online view. Joseph Brean obliges at the Financial Post, and it’s dark and sad and messy and we didn’t enjoy it one bit.
Much of the madness that made Bloomberg Businessweek so fun up until a couple of years back came from the very… particular… design brain of Tracy Ma, whose illustrations we pointed out again last week in their new home at the Times. We’re glad this profile of her work and career at It’s Nice That is appropriately unhinged in both aesthetics and interactions. A fine example of an online magazine working hard to have its own design match its subject.
The AI Now Institute’s annual report on the state of the machines is clear and precise in its focus on accountability. Read its recommendations in summary here, but if you can, take the time to look through the entire document – you won’t find a better or more even-handed rundown of the major issues currently in play in tech. Despite the name, it’s not really “AI” they’re talking about here – it’s the automation and ceding to algorithms of so much of our everyday lives and our governance, grounded in an understanding that actions and decisions in this space have profound social ramifications.
GQ’s tribute to “the enormous life” of Anthony Bourdain, in the words of those he touched along the way, is a beautiful thing. Related, if you haven’t yet watched the last posthumous episode of his Parts Unknown, a tribute to New York’s Lower East Side in the 1970s, do so immediately by whatever means you can — its last scene in John Lurie’s tiny apartment, in which he boils an egg for a profoundly grateful Bourdain, is both perfect and heartbreaking.
Fun to gauge the distance between the biggest fiction bestsellers of the last 100 years and what we consider “important books” today. Less fun to note something the article’s author Emily Temple puts well: "There are so very many books, and we have forgotten almost all of them.”
There are so very many newsletters, and we are glad you have not forgotten this one of them. We’re back next week with one more issue before the holidays, so do tell your friends to sign up for the inevitable seasonal cheer!