089: Back talk


Verbatim

Look, whatever darkness faces us all this winter, keep this one close by for light and warmth. We’re just so happy that our north star (and unforgettable conversational partner) Barry Lopez is still here, cancer be damned, to take us to the ends of the earth, hunting for meteorites and answers.

​​To get oriented here is difficult. The light is flat because the sky is overcast. The sun’s weak rays create only a few anemic shadows by which to judge scale and distance. Far-off objects like mountain peaks have crisp edges because the atmosphere itself is as transparent as first-water diamonds, but the mountains are not nearly as close as they seem. It’s about negative-twelve degrees Fahrenheit, but the wind is relatively calm, moving over the snow distractedly, like an animal scampering.







Things

Should the NYT blockbuster investigative piece on the massive extent of the location tracking business have made more of a splash? It’s a terrifying read, even if you think you know everything about what your phone knows. But don’t read it as an exposé that’s going to change anything, read it for what it is: a depressing document of the open secret of how the world works right now.

More on that beat: John Herrman spitballs what might come when Facebook, having “lived a full life”, bless it, goes the way of MySpace. No great new insight here, but it’s kind of interesting for the overview of what happened when MySpace passed from dead into undead, “existing in some corporeal form, with nothing left behind the eyes.” At Wired, Virginia Heffernan writes about a dinner she had with Sheryl Sandberg in 2012 that made her so concerned about Facebook she waited six years to tell us about it. And following on from Vox’s explainer on YouTube’s baby-fascist-generating recommendation algorithms, Tom Scocca jumps in to point out that algorithms really aren’t so hard to figure out as all the hand waving suggests.

(Question for BS readers: do any of you not get bombarded with recommendations for videos about how The Last Jedi is supposedly ruining cinema? Is that just us? Does YouTube just really hate that we kinda didn’t mind it and never thought about it much after?)

Were we hypothetically ready to settle in for the holiday season prepared to read just one dense, long accounting of everything horrible ahead of us (reader, we have so many queued up), William T. Vollman’s new two-parter Carbon Ideologies might be a good candidate — as Katy Lederer describes it in this decently critical review at n+1, it’s not so much another warning of where we’re going, but, as better befits Vollman, a comprehensive “ethnography of our present-day denial.”

Last time out we were talking about nostalgia for the old Lower East Side, via Anthony Bourdain. This LA Review of Books review of a new collection of Gary Indiana’s 1980s Village Voice columns shows how the archives of the art critic can be a counterpoint to the nostalgia and mythmaking.

Kanye and Nietzsche, identical twins. Though he’s not the first to make the comparison, Sam Kriss works wonders in this roving and heartfelt essay summing up precisely what 2018 felt like.

Branded fruit. Write your own take.

'Tis the season for lazy best-of-the-year lists and predictions for the year to come. But Emily Nussbaum doesn't play at sentimental or sage; her "Not-Top-Ten Television List" reads like a caching of her year's worth of constant streaming rather than a final sorting out. The season might provide punctuation, but mixed feelings aren't resolved just because the year is over. And the stream doesn't wait for anyone.

December, 2018, is when you first heard the sound of Martian wind. Ain’t that something? (And also the non-podcasty bits of NASA’s Soundcloud are pretty great, so, uhh, check out their Soundcloud.)


One more next week before we take a li’l break. This week, instead of asking you to tell your friends about us, how about instead you tell us about your friends? Let us know some of your fave emails and other things you’re loving right now!

But still, here’s our website.