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2017: The Agony and etc.

Honestly this picture sums up 2017 better than I ever could

2017 was a wild year, for most of us the endless barrage of news and controversies seemed to come at a breakneck speed — to the point where it became hard to keep up with the latest tragedy. It seemed as though every month seemed to one-up the last whether it was a barrage of hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, several egregious deals from our brain-worm president, or countless cultural controversies. It was easy to fall back into a cultural lethargy, and this year certainly surpassed expectations when it came to media with several incredible films, records, and video games releasing this year, yet even our media eventually fell into the vortex of terrible news with controversy and tragedy tainting even our distractions. It would be easy to turn this year-end article into a rambling mess trying to follow the year’s events and form some sort of underlying narrative, but I’m worried that if I tried it would be an incoherent mess. Instead I’m going to approach this year-end review by breaking it down into what I saw was the best and worst aspects of several categories interspersed with various best of lists, anecdotes, and commentary.

MOVIES:

Best — Everyone Gets a Seat at the Table, and the Creepy Uncles Get Kicked Out

Warren Beatty does his best Steve Harvey impression

In February, Oscar season was in full swing with everyone raving about movies like La La Land, Arrival, Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge, and dozens of other great movies to release at the end of 2016 and be nominated for awards. The past two Oscar seasons were met with controversy towards their lack of diverse nominees with several groups boycotting the awards. While there’s good intentions behind these boycotts, they seem to have been aimed at a symptom rather than the root problem — the underlying issue being the lack of diversity in roles both behind and in front of the camera. The ratio of representation to nominations is actually not that drastically different across the board — the problem is minorities are not getting representation in major roles. That being said, the #oscarsowhite controversy came to a head in 2016 with Jada Pinkett Smith vowing to boycott the Oscars, perhaps in response to the 2015 Will Smith vehicle Concussion being snubbed (if you’ve seen the film you may agree that there was a good reason that the Oscars ignored this one. Concussion was a painfully dull piece of Oscar bait that might as well have been an anti-concussion advocacy doc. While Smith did a pretty good job, the film was still mediocre and not as good as many of the other nominees). Twitter set the movement ablaze with thousands of people proclaiming they too were going to boycott the Oscars in solidarity of the minorities that did not get nominated or more importantly are not getting represented in Hollywood in front or behind the camera. Advertisers began vowing to pull ads from the Oscars, so the Oscars, already struggling with year-over-year losses in viewership, bent the knee and vowed to make fixes — not by giving people of color more representation but rather to give the voting academy more diversity when it comes to age and race. This year we saw the first year of the Academy trying to turn the ship around when it comes to minority representation with Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures all getting several nominations.

The awards finally came around with two major front-runners among the bunch — Moonlight and La La Land. Hollywood had to choose what they loved more — a loving ode to themselves (La La Land) or positive change (Moonlight). Obviously this is a bit of an oversimplification as there’s a lot more to both movies (the Damien Chazelle-directed La La Land had a great sense of wonder and some great production design and with Moonlight, Barry Jenkins told a story of black gay experience that felt unbelievably warm and human) but nevertheless the awards seemed to be a 15 round match between the two. This all came to a head at the end of the night with the Best Picture award. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took the stage to announce the award and well, I’ll let the clip speak for itself.

In a weird moment of Schadenfraude, this result mix-up felt like a celebration of diversity over self-obsession. Even the La La Land people seemed happy at the switch-up — in the shadow of a new Trump presidency seeing a sort of positive change in recognition, even if it was only symbolic, seemed like a triumph.

Around the same time we saw the release of the breakaway hit and my favorite film of the year, Get Out. Get Out succeeds as a biting satire of American race relations, equally horrifying and hilarious. The film, directed by Jordan Peele of Key and Peele fame was incredibly sharp in its writing and had a strong sense of tension that played ode to other great horror films while bringing something original to the genre that hasn’t been seen before. After the film was released it quickly became a cornerstone in 2017 film, spawning thousands of memes and references. The film quickly became the most profitable movie of 2017 and launching a potentially fruitful directorial career for Jordan Peele. I’m very excited to see what he does next, especially within the horror genre. Considering the film’s success, I can guarantee you that we’ll get more horror movies and films directed by black people in 2018.

I would be embarrassed to write about the best trends of 2017 filmmaking without talking about the #metoo movement. The bravery of everyone who has spoken out on the abuse and assault within the industry both to women and children is admirable and is a massive shift towards positive accountability that the industry needs. In a culture of casual quid-pro-quo and back-scratching gets sleazier when it’s meshed with the power structure and cliquishness of the industry. Accountability is a great first step towards positive change that the industry. The next step lies in breaking up the industry of these ultra-powerful inclusive corporate studios towards smaller budget, more artistically adventurous films. Sure they’re riskier as investments as the audience isn’t guaranteed but as I’ll expand on below, these corporate vehicles might not be the guaranteed profits in the long-term that people expect and the sleazy underbelly of Hollywood has finally been exposed as an exploitative tool for moguls and executives.

Notes:

Weinstein’s first film after the controversy, Amityville: The Awakening made an embarrassing box office return of $742. Even considering that it was only released in 10 theaters, at $10-$15 a ticket that means only 50–75 tickets were even sold. A pathetic end to a pathetic man. Good riddance, Harvey.

2017 seemed like a touchstone year for horror films, with Get Out and It both making huge box-office returns. I’m glad to see a resurgence of horror, I wonder if it’s a societal response to the shock of a Trump presidency. Scary films for shaky times perhaps.

TOP FIVE FILMS OF THE YEAR:

  1. Get Out
  2. LA 92
  3. It
  4. Baby Driver
  5. The Big Sick

WORST — A Brother Bearish Case of Disney

no creepypasta included

The last decade has seen Disney fundamentally shift the film industry. After their acquisition of Marvel, Disney has introduced the mega-franchise extended universe business model to the film industry, pumping two to three super-hero movies out every year. Year after year has seen a profitable return for these movies, however pumping out so many superhero movies year after year every year has over-saturated the market and the superhero craze will eventually phase. Looking at next year’s slate of Marvel points at some fatigue coming next year, with Black Panther, Avengers 4, and Ant-Man 2 all slated to release next year. Black Panther will be pushed hard for it’s #wokeness and the black-centric cast, but it will still be the same formulaic trash most likely, Avengers: Infinity War frankly has the problem of Infinity — watching the trailer makes it clear that they have too many characters in it to the point where it’s unlikely that any characters will feel motivated or fleshed out with any sort of depth, and Ant-Man 2 now without any traces of Edgar Wright or Joe Cornish’s flourishes on the screenplay to make it worthwhile. I genuinely believe that 2018 will be the first year to see a legitimate set of Marvel under-performers, and each under-performer will chip away at the enthusiasm for future super-hero movies. Paired with the already under-performing DC Universe — to the point where I don’t know if they’ll be churning out these movies at a pace they originally intended. A lack of competition from DC will lead to either one of two things — either a lack of competition in the space will lead to a de-saturation in the space which will keep the machine churning until it inevitably loses steam or the lack of competition will lead to a complacency in the planning and formulas, resulting in less adventurous, unique movies and instead safe, boring, committee made movies. The latter will lead to a quicker downfall in superhero movies and considering the recent acquisition of Fox properties seems like the more likely as we continue to get several superhero movies a year.

A graph of my increasing disinterest in superhero movies

There are a few important counterpoints to this theory that I would be foolish to omit. One of the biggest plays Disney has begun to make with these movies are to gear them towards an international audience. China is poised to be the biggest film market in the world by 2020 — however with China’s export controls only 34 US films can be released in China per year leading many companies to shape their tentpole releases to what they imagine Chinese audiences to prefer. Vox did a great video about this:

This shift in focus has created a marketplace of spectacle rather than a marketplace rooted in art with any coherent meaning. By ensuring that nothing with controversial themes or implications are put within the films we get movies that feel flat and lifeless — pandering to the lowest common denominator. This is unsustainable — as people get burned by these flat, boring, meaningless movies, consumer confidence lowers until people stop caring about the movies enough to go to the theaters.

The biggest surprise was the change to 21st Century Fox

Another wild-card is the recent Fox acquisition. Between the acquisitions of Marvel, Lucasfilm, and now Fox, Disney is teetering on the brink of monopoly. This slew of new IP may keep them booming for the foreseeable future, especially considering the catalog of titles available (X-Men, Alien, Predator, and Avatar immediately come to mind).

It seems as though Disney senses the inevitable fall of superhero movies and has begun to hedge their bets with their Star Wars push. The Last Jedi was their latest outing in the mega-franchise — written and directed by Rian Johnson. It’s interesting that Johnson was given so much control over the film considering his last film, Looper is notable for the extensive work with China, culminating with a unique Chinese cut of the film (see the Vox video above for more info on this). This film follows The Force Awakens, a film which met widespread popular acclaim upon its first review but has soured amongst audiences as years have past due to its retread of A New Hope, and Rogue One which was a pointless nothing movie with unlikeable characters and no real purpose. In response to the lack of originality of The Force Awakens, Disney gave Johnson much more creative control over The Last Jedi, allowing him to write and direct without dipping their hand in the pot too much. The result is a jumbled mess of movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be or say. Much of the movie has the main characters stalling for time to pad out the action of the film. The narrative seems to fall into a weird part of jumbled postmodernism where the heroes don’t feel all that heroic and the villains don’t feel all that evil. As a result audiences were lukewarm — the film has a 51% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the biggest second week drop off in box office history (at 63%). The problem is better summed up by RedLetterMedia’s Half in the Bag review than I can, so watch it below.

Caution: Spoilers inside

Regardless of the quality of the movie — what’s more alarming to me is the strict terms in which Disney imposed over theaters showing The Last Jedi. Disney demanded that they must get 65% of ticket sales rather than the normal 55% and they reserve the exclusive use of the largest auditorium in the theater for four months after its release. If any theater denies these terms or cancels even a single screening, they must pay Disney an additional 5% of ticket sales. This is an extremely predatory practice towards theaters, especially small theaters with only 1–2 screens as it forces them to only show The Last Jedi for a month. Considering that Disney had 26% market share of films released this year (after their acquisition of Fox this is likely to become around 39% of all films released each year), theaters are unlikely to have any grounds for negotiations. Theaters had to pay the price for this deal after the 63% second week drop off — I directly saw the impact of this when I tried to go see Jumanji (not good) with my family. Due to The Last Jedi’s command over the largest auditoriums, Jumanji continually sold out auditoriums much too small for the demand, leading to overbooked auditoriums and lots of angry people and separated audiences. If this demand for increased ticket share becomes a new standard, theaters are likely to respond with higher ticket prices which in turn will cause smaller audiences. Eventually this will hit a breaking point where people will no longer have any desire to see movies in the theaters, instead waiting for it to hit streaming services. So in a way Disney may play a central role in the collapse of mainstream Hollywood as we know it.

I couldn’t help myself

I say let it die. The #metoo movement has shown that the whole system is toxic and needs drastic change. Of all of the Marvel and Star Wars films ALL of them have been directed by men and only the upcoming Black Panther has been directed by a person of color. Mainstream Hollywood is toxic and spews a nihilistic lack of meaning or morality in their movies instead either opting to be pure spectacle or blatant propaganda. The only way this will ever be fixed is to let them collapse. From the rubble maybe we can have a sort of New New Hollywood renaissance.

It’s easy to see streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon to be the service which is disrupting this Hollywood system. Be aware, however, that the serpent has many heads — Disney, through their acquisition of Fox now has a controlling share of Hulu, meaning their predatory practices towards theatres may instead be pointed straight towards Hulu users. There were talks of Disney launching their own streaming service. Instead, I think Disney will use Hulu to push their own films — intending to take market share away from Netflix and with more power, try to pull more money from the everyday user. The future is hazy when it comes to this stuff.

One final thing I need to talk about when it comes to Disney’s predatory practices is the whole L.A. Times controversy that happened earlier this year. The L.A. Times wrote a very interesting and informative piece on the relationship between Disneyland and the city of Anaheim. As a result of what Disney saw as an attack piece on them, they banned the L.A. Times from review screenings of their films. This was met by massive backlash from all of the film critic community as it sort of violates journalistic ethics and implies that journalists must cover Disney positively to have the privilige to review their films. As a result many film critics boycotted reviewing Disney films in solidarity of the LA Times. After a week or two of backlash, Disney stood down, reversing their stance on the LA Times. Nonetheless this bullying tactic by Disney towards journalists is incredibly alarming.

TELEVISION

BEST — FINDING FRANCES

After a gap year, Nathan for You returned with what may be its strongest season yet, culminating in a (series?) finale that is hilarious, sad, and overwhelmingly human often all at the same time. Finding Frances was the best thing to come from TV this year, debatably only rivalled by the Twin Peaks return.

Read the fantastic write-up on the episode by documentary legend Errol Morris here.

Watch the episode below.

WORST — PICKLE RICK

2017 was a strange year for fans of Rick & Morty. After two seasons on Adult Swim with record breaking numbers, the Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon helmed TV show was poised to be the show of 2017. In a lot of ways it was. The season premiere was played on repeat online on April Fools Day which only built the hype until the season began later that year.

However with popularity came with the most insufferable fan-base since Doctor Who mania a few years back. This reddit-obsessed hivemind of extremely online self-defined intellectuals took the show with a religious fervor, culminating with a hysteria around McDonald’s szechuan sauce. There was a joke in the show in which Rick travelled back in time to the late 90s in order to get his hands on the limited-edition Mulan tie-in sauce from McDonald’s — a sauce that he claimed was unparalleled. What was intended to be a silly non-sequitur became a point of obsession for many Rick & Morty fans, who in turned pestered McDonalds until they folded and re-released the sauce. Unfortunately for Mickey Ds they underestimated the demand for the sauce leading to absurd Black Friday-esque riots, high ticket resellers, and this video.

This obsessive fan culture has gone a bit too far in my opinion — it seems like the logical endpoint of any fandom. All I can say is that I hope fandoms die off in favor of people diversifying their interests.

Chapo Trap House had a great take on this that is worth a listen.

NOTES:

Special shout-outs to Black Mirror (amazing, but still have to finish the season), Vice Principals, You’re the Worst, Stranger Things, Master of None, Better Call Saul, Fargo, and Curb Your Enthusiasm which all had great seasons this year.

MUSIC

BEST — HIP HOP CONTINUES ITS MARKET DOMINANCE

It was a fantastic year for hip-hop, from Vince Staples getting Kung-Fu Kenny to go on a SOPHIE beat, to a fantastic EP from Young Thug and Carnage to the rise of Brockhampton to Migo’s mainstream dominance it was a fantastic year for hip hop. Below are some of my favorite songs to drop this year

WORST — PERCOCET, MOLLY, PERCOCET: HIP-HOP’S HARD DRUG EPIDEMIC

Drug use in hip-hop culture is nothing new, but the popularity of strongly addictive, dangerous drugs like Xanax, lean, and percocet is particularly troubling. This can best be seen through the wave of soundcloud like Lil Pump, Smokepurrp, and Lil Xan who were very open in their habits to the point of promoting their choices. The true face of these habits reared its ugly head in November with the death of Lil Peep, who died before a show after overdosing on Xanax pills laced with fentanyl. With the ongoing US opioid crisis ongoing, the promotion of dangerous benzos and opioids in hip-hop is a dangerous trend that I don’t foresee slowing down any time soon.

NOTES:

Special shout-outs to some great non hip-hop albums this year including:

Father John Misty — Pure Comedy

Mount Eerie — A Crow Looked at Me

Jlin — Black Origami

Iglooghost — Neo Wax Bloom

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana

Special thumbs down to the Fader for writing a hit-piece on Anthony Fantano (their competition), libelling him and calling him a hateful enabler of the alt-right

Another troubling trend this year was the unabashed promotion of rappers that have been abusive towards women like Kodak Black and XXXtentacion. Promoting these people also promotes their behavior in a way which is not cool.

VIDEO GAMES

BEST — THE SWITCH HAS THE BEST LAUNCH YEAR IN GAMING HISTORY

Nintendo had a hell of a year with the launch of their new console, the Nintendo Switch. The hybrid portable/couch console quickly became the best-selling Nintendo console ever and brought Nintendo back as a legitimate contender in the console wars. The line-up of first party games for the console this year was incredible — Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was an amazing system seller and one of the best titles in the series with an expansive open-world, a survival system with surprising depth, and a sense of verticality that has been unparalleled in most open worlds preceding it (Full disclosure, I played this on a Wii U but after spending some time with it, it quickly made me want a Switch). This was followed up by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 — two Wii U rehashes that found new life as portables. Finally Nintendo ended the year with Super Mario Odyssey, one of the best 3D platformers of all time, full of charm and creativity. I’m still working through Odyssey but I can tell you that it’s easily one of the best games I’ve played all year. After turning hardcore gamers away with the Wii and the messy release of the Wii U, Nintendo is back better than ever with the switch and I’m excited to see where they go from here.

WORST — EA KEEPS SCREWING UP

a shiny turd

In contrast to Nintendo’s amazing year, this year has not been good for EA. EA has botched their releases over and over again this year with rushed games (Need for Speed Payback and Mass Effect Andromeda) and predatory blind box business models (Shadow of War and Battlefront II). This hit a crux in November with the release and massive controversy around Battlefront II.

The results were massive consumer backlash to the point where EA quickly relented after stock prices tumbled by around $2B. However even after they tried to salvage the project, consumer enthusiasm had soured and the game continues to be a bit of a dud to this day. On top of that legislators internationally and stateside are considering investigating and banning blind boxes for their predatory quasi-gambling tactics especially those pointed towards children. EA has a rough future ahead of them if they continue to push their games-as-a-service model through predatory blind box tactics like this. Honestly maybe we should let them die. Time and time again EA has proven that they are unwilling to change with the times, only looking at the bottom line. This sort of behavior is short-sighted and the end just may be on the horizon.

NOTES:

Special shout-out to Cuphead finally coming out, I doubted that it could ever meet the massive hype built around it yet it somehow surpassed it. It was the complete package, a fiendishly difficult game with amazing hand-drawn art and a crazy amount of good period big band jazzy music. Definitely a game worth checking out if you haven’t already.

When the idea of Mario+Rabbids was first leaked, I cringed as rabbids are basically video game minions. Yet to my amazement, Mario + Rabbids was one of my favorite games of the year, taking XCOM’s tactics and adding tons of color and arcade-y fun to them.

Speaking of XCOM, I fell in love with the XCOM series this year, playing both XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2 this year and beating both games within the span of a week or two. The tactics gameplay is fiendishly addictive and kept bringing me back for more. What an amazing series, I’m kicking myself for not diving in earlier.

I can’t really speak on Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds as I have yet to play it, but its rise this year was meteoric to say the least. The battle royale system pitting one hundred people against each other in a free for all has been a massive success and its influence can already be seen in games like Fortnite (a great game I did play since the battle royale mode is free).

YOUTUBE

BEST — SOME CREATORS WORTH CHECKING OUT

Crowbcat — amazing video game commentary solely using found footage from gameplay, press conferences, behind the scenes footage, and reviews. Every video he releases blows me away

Videogamedunkey — this was another great year for dunkey, who expanded his range by making videos on wider topics, delving into wider topics within video games. Always funny and irreverent, his videos are a pleasure to watch

Hot Ones — Another year, another great run for Hot Ones, the great, absurd interview show hosted by Sean Evans. The premise is simple, the guest eats a series of increasingly hot wings with the host as they are asked increasingly personal questions. The result is a bizarre treat where the heat of the wings strips the guests of any reservations, forcing them to take their guards down and giving genuine answers to interesting questions, all while burning their face off from the spicy wings.

Polygon — Polygon consistently released some of the weirdest, funniest video-game related content of the year. Their team of Griffin and Justin McElroy, Patrick Gill, Simone de Rochefort, Allegra Frank, and several others makes for one of the funniest groups of people on the internet.

Everyday Struggle — What a year for Everyday Struggle. The hip-hop talk show, hosted by DJ Akademiks and Joe Budden became a cornerstone of hip-hop culture and gave us countless memes and memorable moments. My personal favorite was the now infamous Migos interview. Unfortunately Joe Budden has left the show this month bringing into question the future impact of the show going forward, but Everyday Struggle was a cornerstone for hip-hop in 2017.

RedLetterMedia — after several years, RedLetterMedia remains my favorite group on the internet. Equally insightful and hilarious, the Milwaukee group consistently drops some of the best movie based content on the internet.

WORST — THE ADPOCALYPSE SANITIZES YOUTUBE AND NET NEUTRALITY REMOVES ANY POSSIBLE COMPETITION

By many accounts this was a rough year for content creators on YouTube. Due to a media firestorm regarding ad placement on controversial videos, YouTube tightened its policies on ad placement qualification. Thousands of thousands of content creators from all genres of videos had their work demonetized. Discussion of controversial topics, tragedies, and politics were devalued as YouTube’s strict set of new content standards led to much of this type of content being demonetized. This is leading to a saccharine overly-sanitized experience. The true idea of a community market of video content is being replaced with shiny big creators that don’t really make much of value (see Jake Paul et al). Patreon remains a good way of income for content creators facing demonetization, but it is not as streamlined that it could be.

Strict YouTube monetization give us stuff like this

Unfortunately there are not many options for people looking for an alternative to YouTube. YouTube is notoriously operating at a loss and there have been no real competitors that have been able to compete as the barriers to entry in terms of infrastructure is massive. On top of that net neutrality has put a major road-block to any future YouTube competitor as the bandwidth necessary for viable competition will be too competitive, especially when ISPs are skimming off of the top. Maybe we’ll someday see a seismic shift away from YouTube, but for the time being it will be king of user created content, so hopefully they can get their acts together in terms of monetization so we can support all kinds of creators in the future. YouTube has potential to be much more than the TV competitor it wants to be, hopefully someday Google will realize this.

FINANCE

BEST — CRYPTO’S WILD YEAR

digital gambling chips? close enough I guess

At the end of 2016 I felt like an outsider putting money and focus in crypto-currency, trading altcoins and following projects like Ethereum. One year later, it seems as though every corner of culture has at least mentioned bitcoin or cryptocurrency in the last month. The whole market has really blossomed in the past year, with coins seeing meteoric rises and blockchain technology coming to the forefront of tech conversations.

Here are six coins that are worth looking into:

Ethereum — Apps on the blockchain — ethereum was my first foray into the crypto world in 2016 and a still stand behind it. The idea of centralized applications and smart contracts on the blockchain is revolutionary and will likely herald a new dawn of the internet.

Wabi/Walton — Wabi and Walton are both companies that merge supply chain management with blockchain technology. This is revolutionary in food sourcing in places like China where they have common food quality problems as well as in sectors like apparel where massive inventories need to be tracked and organized.

SiaCoin/Golem — SiaCoin and Golem both decentralize computing — SiaCoin allows for decentralized hard-drive space while Golem allows for decentralized computing. Both of these projects will likely be integral in the future as tech will be more demanding on both storage and computing need.

Patientory — Patientory puts medical data on the blockchain, allowing more access to medical records and data, bringing the whole sector into the new technology age. The idea of this is very promising.

WORST — THE CRYPTOCURRENCY HOUSE OF CARDS

While the rise of crypto is exhilarating, the amount of potential fraud in the space is deeply troubling. The deepest point of worry is the situation with Tether. Tether a USD equivalent was created in the early days of crypto, meant to be a USD backed crypto analog used in order to trade USD values without trading actual fiat currency. The problem however is that the creators of Tether are also the owners of the largest cryptocurrency exchange on the market, Bitfinex. Massive influxes of tether has been added to the crypto space, but there is no explanation on its creation. In addition Tether has refused to undergo a transparent audit. The worry is that tether is not actually backed by USD fiat, and if there are massive enough swings, Tether will prove insolvent, bringing down the whole crypto marketplace by billions of dollars in a massive correction. I’m not the best at explaining this whole situation but here’s a better jist of the situation.

Also check out @bitfinex for more up to date reporting on this situation.

Here’s another great article on all this going into much more depth than I ever could.

With all the newfound cryptocurrency gains have come a whole new class of grifters looking to take advantage of the bullish marketplace. A good example of the wild attitude of the market comes from the recent events around John McAfee. McAfee, famous for the popular computer security company has lately gotten very interested in the crypto space. He began issuing Cryptocoins of the day — tweets recommending crypto assets that he thought were promising and deserved more attention. This immediately had an effect on the price of the coins — minutes after his tweets, the respective coins would pump up in price by upwards of 30%. Tech savvy traders caught on to this trend fast, leading to bots being created that would capture McAfee’s tweets immediately after he tweeted them and buy massive amounts of the coins tweeted only to sell them minutes later for massive profits after everyone else saw the tweet and jumped on-board. In a way McAfee’s tweets became automatic pumps — instant jumps of 20–30% in valuation magnified by these auto buying bots.

This came to a head last week when someone hacked John McAfee’s twitter account, hijacking it and tweeting about several coins in the space of minutes. This caused several of the coins mentioned to pump and it’s very likely to have made large sums of money for the hacker. McAfee got his account back after less than 15 minutes but at that point the damage had been done and whatever money the hacker was looking for had been made. This high tech market influence hasn’t been seen before in this sort of way. We’re experiencing a wild west of sorts when it comes to the cryptocurrency space and I have no doubts it will remain wild in 2018.

Coins to Avoid

BitConnect — You may have seen ads for this one before YouTube and in various corners of the internet. I want to warn against this coin as it is a ponzi scheme that barely hides itself. Please avoid at all costs.

Bitcoin Cash: In August, bitcoin’s scalability debate came to a head with the creation of Bitcoin Cash. Bitcoin had — and still has — congestion problems on their network as each block of transaction is only one megabyte — limiting the amount of transactions available per block. This led to massive bottlenecks with thousands of transactions being backed up and the transaction fee bubbling to massive amounts. The result was a hard fork led by Roger Ver called bitcoin cash. Ver is a controversial figure to say the least, going to jail for selling explosives through the mail and making large sums of money through Mt. Gox’s collapse (allegedly). Many people have been opposed to BCH’s rise as Ver’s involvement has raised a red flag for many. This had led to great interactions like this.

There was also huge controversy in December when Coinbase unexpectedly listed bitcoin cash for purchase and trading. In the run-up to this, BCH pumped to massive levels, raising flags about possible insider trading. All in all BCH has had a shady background and I can’t recommend it.

Verge — While Verge has seen MASSIVE growth in 2017 exploding in price by over 1000%, primarily through a heavy push from John McAfee, the fundamentals remain shaky at best — Verge has continually missed their own release dates and has a bad track record of actually delivering. After the massive growth its had in 2017 matched with their weak relative fundamentals, I would recommend to avoid this one for time being.

Monero — I was on the fence about putting Monero on this list as I have traded Monero throughout 2017, however when regulation inevitably comes to the crypto space, privacy coins will be one of the first targets. Centralized governments do not want the widespread use of untraceable money as it means dark money and criminally used money can become widespread in use and the government will lose some enforcement power. While personally I have no problems with privacy coins, I would advise to be careful entering the markets of these coins as regulation inevitably draws nearer.

NOTES:

Let me be clear, everything above is solely my opinion and should not be regarded as pure facts or investment advice. Always do your own research and never risk more money than you’re willing to lose.

POLITICS

BEST — THE RISE OF THE POPULIST LEFT

The one positive in the sea of shit that was Trump’s first year was the rise of the populist left in America. Between the massive women’s march, protests against the travel ban, the rise of antifa, and major democratic wins like Doug Jones, we’ve seen an exhilarating rise of populism against Trump and the new right that is great to see. In an scary, uncertain world, it’s easy to hypernormalize everything and fall into a complacency of dread, however the way to overcome the world we live in is to present a bold vision of the future. While it would be easy to rant about various issues, I’m going to instead leave it with two pieces from Adam Curtis, last year’s seminal documentary Hypernormalisation which explores how we got here and a great clip from an interview with Chapo Trap House on where we go from here. If you have the time both are absolutely worth watching.

WORST — NEO-MCCARTHYISM

When I say the obsession with Russia is the worst part of 2017 in politics it’s easy to see that as a defense of Trump. That is not my intent — I don’t like Trump, it’s just the obsessive blame of Russia distracts us from the legitimate policy and cultural problems we face. By blaming the outcome of the election on Russian interference, it gives a pass to the legitimate alarming rise of the reactionary right in America. It brushes that aside, minimizing Trump’s alarming massive support as Russian bots and trolls without looking at the more alarming implications like the rise of nationalism and the transgressive right in America. In addition, the focus on Russian influence distracts us, leading to a vacuum in which real, terrible policies can be drafted and passed without as much attention as they deserve. The Russiagate obsession is bizarre to me, I found it to be a hilarious parallel between Trump and Boris Yeltsin, a drunk who was pushed into power through American influence and led to the collapse of the Russian economy. The comparison is striking and has stuck in the back of my mind throughout 2017. I’m doubtful anything conclusive will come from the Russia investigation, if it does I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but until then the American public is better off focusing on community organizing and presenting a concrete vision for the future.

I could write more about this but all this writing has burnt me out and I think everyone has lived through too much of it this year already. Instead I’ll list my favorite news sources of the year:

The Outline

Jacobin

The Intercept

Zero Hedge

Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone Articles

CONCLUSION

2017 was a crazy year. We laughed, we cried, we cried some more. Hopefully 2018 doesn’t suck quite as much.

Here’s some stuff I couldn’t fit in this recap that I couldn’t leave out.

This was a great year for podcasts — some of my favorites this year included Chapo Trap House, The Outline World Dispatch, Cum Town, My Brother, My Brother and Me, and the Polygon Show.

Tweet of the year goes to Ted Cruz (never imagined I would say that)

I read a lot more than I expected, especially when it comes to new releases. Some of my favorites to come out this year were Insane Clown President by Matt Taibbi, American Kingpin by Nick Bilton, and Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle. Other great books I read this year include JR by William Gaddis and Reminisces of of Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre.

I launched a horror film themed podcast called Pod People this year with my friends Matisse van Rossum and Eugene Lundin. Check us out on iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher, Spotify, Soundcloud, or Google Play. Our Christmas special is below and stay tuned tomorrow for a special 2017 recap episode.