And Tonight, We’re Going To Party Like It’s The Current Date and Time.
2018 was a big year for me.
I ended my tech career with the best job, the best team and best company of my life.
I spent a summer back in the US close to my family.
I talked openly about the mental health crisis I’d experienced at the end of 2017.
Lights, Action, Kindle
Through all this activity, I’ve been reading, listening, and watching. This year, more than ever I feel like I need to pay closer attention to what’s happening in our world and make sure I don’t accept simple answers. And, of course, be entertained from time to time. So, here’s my favorite media from 2018.
Note that I don’t claim to be timely or filled with FOMO enough for this to be a list of media that were released in 2018. It’s just stuff that I experienced in 2018. Sorry Copernicus, the world is still revolving around me a bit.
This year has certainly been more thematic in my favorites – understanding more of the history of white privilege in America started in 2017 with the documentary 13th, and in 2018 reading Between the World and Me drove the picture that I’d been oblivious to even deeper. Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman was exceptional, and I surprisingly found myself with tears in my eyes, as we juxtaposed the hope of progress that many Americans had in the 60s, with the current US President and his unwillingness and inability to condemn outright racism in our society. I wrote a public article on Atlassian’s blog about my challenges in understanding my own bias, though it never feels to really capture the blindness and how long it’s taken me to understand the basics here, and I still have a lot to learn.
After my first 15 months of being veganish for athletic reasons, How Not to Die (thanks Sundeep!) cemented the clear, scientific case for a plant based diet. It’s not even a debate once you hear the evidence. We’re poisoning ourselves every day and laughing it off. Doctors aren’t recommending the diet because they don’t think you’ll comply with it. I.e. they don’t think you’re strong enough or smart enough to really take care of your own health. Are you?
Darkest Hour was my favorite movie overall that I saw in 2018. As usual, I took in the majority of films after I had reclined my seat and stowed the tray table in front of me.
I had a lot of time on airplanes, in cars, and on bikes to listen to podcasts, and discovered quite a few.
While Savage Love is a staple for me, Waking Up (soon to be renamed) is now my favorite. Sam Harris has become the one to two hours each week that impact me the most. I may indeed be a “radical centrist” on many issues, though of course on climate change, the republican party, and many others I’m now anything but measured in my beliefs in the changes we need. Mostly, it’s one of the few examples of challenging intellectual debate on topics that aren’t easy, and isn’t the tired, polar arguments of Fox News or MSNBC.
While I never imagined myself a patron of the opera, having the Sydney Opera house close by has become a treat, especially when I can bring my friends along with me and expose them to the experience, instead of just exposing myself (yes, intentional). Sadly I subjected someone who didn’t like opera to The Nose, an absurdist story that I am sure didn’t have an intermission because 80% of the audience would have fled despite the price of the ticket.
Luckily, the year was redeemed with the incredible story of La Traviata, and even more impactful Lucia Di Lammermoor, which gave me the chance to witness a man leap to his feet and shout ‘BRAVO!’ during the final solo of the primary tenor. I have no background to appreciate the music at any other level than how it strikles me. I am the Pretty Woman Opera fan, simply reacting to how it makes me feel, in many ways no different to someone who loved Milli Vanilli because they liked dancing to it. Maybe the main difference is that I hope Opera will exist in 100 years.
Musically I played one song more than any other: “Slow Mover” by Angie McMahon. The chorus changes with each verse, as she moves from resistance to despair to reluctant hope. It’s a textured song that digs into you and holds on, and I hope I can see her in concert some day.
Honorable mentions this year include:
Books: Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys Club of Silicon Valley (which features my first employer, Trilogy, as “patient zero” in the spread of misogyny in the tech industry. Tim Kreiger’s I Wrote This Because I Love You, where I felt like I had met my twin who was simply raised in a different place, and who can write circles around me.
Movies: Una Mujer Fantastica, Isle of Dogs (like being wrapped in a hand woven blanket)
TV: Mr. Robot (how could a Fight Club fanatic not like this?), Altered Carbon (and not just because it features the voice of Vic!), The Punisher
Art: The Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW. A story from my childhood, and now I get to appreciate the other side and the reality of what was happening.
Music: The Album “Love is Dead” by Chvrches
Worsts of 2018: The book Ishmael (could you be any more preachy? could the format be any more annoying? could you oversimplify pre-human history?), the film Oceans 8 (no excuse), the book La Alquemista (good Spanish practice, but ridiculous notions of humanity), The Dark Tower (movie, not the books), the opera “The Nose,” and seeing The National in concert (just not my jam).
Enough of the rear view mirror – I know that Sam Harris will continue to play a big part in both my meditation practice and the ideas that I think are worthy of debate. I know that I have only brushed the surface in the metric tons of research around climate change, and that my pursuit of reading the best science fiction of the last 100 years will keep me well occupied.
Shameless plug: If you have a recommendation in Fiction, I’m in dire need.