The Ledger: Civilization(s)

A Media Diary for the Week of April 16, 2018

If my life has a recurring theme, it might just be the aborted attempts at creating a public diary of media. Carve it into thy tombstone:

Here lies a failed blogger.

But if at first we don’t succeed, fail fail again. So one more time, with feeling: The Ledger, a weekly compendium of ideas, articles, videos, projects, and various linky ephemera.

Civilizations. New personal project: I am rewatching every episode of Civilization (Kenneth Clarke’s epic 1969 series about western art and philosophy since the middle ages) paired with each new episode of Civilizations (the updated, globalized version currently airing on PBS). Despite their pedigree (note the pluralization), they are wildly distinct creatures, barely deserving of the same phylum. In the original, the first episode launches into a groaning organ fugue; John Ruskin is soon quoted. The message: Art is terrifying, awesome, mysterious.

The reboot is more multiculti, sure, but more noticeable is its exuberance. One second you’re prancing with Minoan bulls on Crete; the next you’re grazing in Mayan temples in Mexico. The end effect is jarring, and for sure, less cohesive. But maybe it is time to leave that domain of grand narratives telling a single unifying tale of humanity. This is a new place: Art is incoherent, spastic, haphazard.

Beyonce @ Coachella. To find this video right now, you have to wander into the deep web, though Tidal seems its ultimate destination. There’s so much good commentary, and even better gifs, but here’s one small thing: Matt Haughey notices Bey’s attention to detail and ends up recreating the baseball bat in the Lemonade video. (What do we call this genre of semi-reported essay fandom? Too bad blogging is verboten.)

Personality Insights. Did you take the IBM Watson personality analysis machine that Kottke linked to? Connect it to Twitter and it spits out numbers. Apparently I am very, very open while also being very, very unagreeable. In other words: That’s real cool, now fuck off.

Our fear of robots is misplaced.

Wild Wild Country. Any chance 2018 is remembered as the Year of Beychella & Sheela? No. But Foster is making underground t-shirts of Sheela.

A Quiet Place. More enjoyable than expected! But for this farm boy, one moment shamefully broke the fourth wall, so I started a campaign to tell director John Krasinski about it. No reply, yet, from his camp.

The Looming Tower. An unexpected sentence: That Hulu show about 9/11 starring Jeff Daniels is pretty good!

Tweet of the Week


Peter Kafka’s Recode Media podcast is a legit fave, so I was thrilled to be a guest this week. We rap about Huey Long, George Soros, Gawker Media, and, as he puts it, writing a book about Trump that doesn’t mention Trump.

You can buy that book at MISINFO.WTF.