“I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.”
—Sir Ian McAwesome
Maybe not quite the turn. But there’s glimmers out there, amongst the horrible. Steel yourselves. 2017 topped 2016, and as for 2018, well, the Big History™ is gonna go down in 2018.
What a gorgeous Christmas Eve! Watching the snow fall in an enveloping blanket of white, it’s tempting to think this awful year (in a series of) is being wiped away. In last year’s gift guide I called 2017 for the shitshow it turned out to be. But one hardly needed to be Nostradamus to see that coming. As your holiday festivities unfold, here’s another list of warnings, inspirations and panaceas. Spread ‘em around or take ‘em to heart as you see fit. Make that egg nog a good stiff one as I peer into my palantír. It’s way too late to pick any of this stuff up for Christmas, but let’s look out longer, goodly holiday peoples. The way is dark, but there’s always light, if you know where to look.
All the President’s Men
Or, the 2018 of our dreams. Director Alan Pakula’s 1976 classic starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman is a superb historical fiction and great fantasy material for the slowly tightening net of Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe. Some day, someone’s gonna make a great movie about bagging the most criminal president ever to occupy the office. Until that day, enjoy this one, cheering on the Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein as they unravel Nixon’s Watergate conspiracy.
While I enjoy my fevered year-end predictions, one of our true Cassandras for this modern age has been cyberpunk originator William Gibson. The Peripheral came out in 2014, and it’s his best book in quite awhile. Beyond being a simply great time-bending thriller, Gibson coined a disturbingly apt term for our destabilizing planet with the jackpot, a series of slow-moving disasters that coalesce into a grim apocalypse for humanity and most of the Earth’s living things. While most of our fictions tend to imagine a specific cataclysm coming for civilization (a comet! zombies! the Rapture!), Gibson’s insight is that it’s the totality of our earth altering actions that brings about a slow-motion doom. But where he gets full prophet honours this time around is for his vision of the klept, the bankrupting of the state by oligarchs. The word is deservedly directed at the Russians, but today one need not look nearly so far abroad to find the klept in full swing. Highly recommended, though by the time you finish you’ll be convinced our present is being frenetically gamed by a future continuum enthusiast.
Last year I pitched the tequila portfolio for your retirement planning. While it still has its merits, especially in terms of liquidity, it didn’t prove especially profitable. Who knew Trump’s wall would be a complete fantasy?
For today’s brave fiction, why not go with the craze of a collective currency hallucination? Give cryptocurrencies to all your loved ones. Put ‘em in your kid’s college fund. You’ll either be a genius or a fool. But you’ll be able to tell future generations you rode a roller coaster even crazier than the dot-com revolution of the nineties. (This does not constitute real investment advice. Go to biffbambroker.com for that!)
For our American readers. There’s gonna be a wee election in 2018. You probably know. You should really vote in it. Like, really. Mid-term elections are always the lowest for voter turnout. The Powers That Be are going to try and make it really hard for you to vote. Don’t let ‘em. Make sure you’ve got ID, if it’s required by your local polling station. Make sure you’re on the voter list, cuz they’re going to try and delete you. If there are electronic voting machines, beg your government to stop using them. Read the ballot carefully, in case it’s laid out for easy mistakes. Make sure your family is good to go, too. The entire world (well, except for the Russians, and maybe the Turks) would celebrate you pitching the Republicans out of both houses. Most of the by-elections have gone to Democrats since Trump came to power, even in the conservative bastion of Alabama! Make 2018 the year of the Republican rout!
In case Trump isn’t removed from office in the coming year, stock up on bronzer. You’re going to need to blend in with the alt-right hordes. Nothing says you stand with Dear Leader like adopting his own carrot-tinged hue. That and tweet nonsensical threats IN ALL CAPS and you’re good to go.
The Lord of the Rings / The Expanse
The slow build-up to war is thrumming through the regime, whether it’s with Iran or North Korea. It doesn’t even matter, as long as it’s distracting and the missiles sufficiently phallic as they spray wanton destruction. Real war is as far from entertaining as you can get, but for hope amidst the impending mayhem, here’s two options, one fantasy, one sci-fi. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is rightly a classic. It comes across a tad hokey from the earnestness of the 9/11 era, but the raging battles and the fierce resistance of a few trusty companions are epic and inspirational. For those with a more futuristic bent, The Expanse TV series has been called Game of Thrones in space, with its myriad cast, competing factions and ever escalating tensions boiling toward open war. It’s friggin’ brilliant, and whether you’re going BluRay or streaming, it looks incredible.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Did anyone seriously think we’d be confronting Nazis all over the place, in 2017? Machine Games and Bethesda sure did. The sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order is gripping, gory and surprisingly insightful. While all your Nazi-punching fantasies will be realized and more (this is an astonishingly violent game), The New Colossus delves into how racism is passed from one generation to the next. A rock solid shooter with an involving story, Wolfenstein 2 gives you a little perspective, as the blood flies across the screen. Available for consoles and PC.
This one’s more for the Canadians (soon), and those weirdly liberal states. Whether your drug is hugs, or something more chemical in nature (though really a hug induces a release of oxytocin, so tomato-tomahto my cuddly friend), stockpile that good stuff and dole it out with abandon as the year unfolds. I’m gonna have a rotation of cocktails and single malts anesthetizing my headlong plunge into our eventful future. As your doctor (not a doctor), I strongly advise you, do what works for you. (And stay the hell away from opioids, bath salts, or anything that makes you want to masturbate and murder at the same time.) Even prayer. Or our late writer Glenn Walker’s beloved french fries. Choose joy.
Errol Morris is one of the best documentary filmmakers around. The Thin Blue Line was an investigative crime classic, decades before our current reality crime fascination. (That doc actually helped overturn its subject’s conviction.) Wormwood is his latest, a series streaming on Netflix. It’s a twisty blend of real footage and reenactments, about the mysterious death of a government scientist in 1953. Delving into the CIA’s infamous MK-Ultra mind-control program, Wormwood is a brilliant investigation of conspiracy and how we construct the truth. Not that that applies to anything happening today. At all. Nope. No sir.
Going out on a positive note, Wonder Woman was a superb film, DC’s best offering in quite awhile, and the strongest female heroine to take the stage for any comics ‘verse out there. Director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did a bang-up job realizing the idealistic Amazonian with a roaring crowd pleaser. As the harassment controversies have enveloped Hollywood and many other walks of life, it’s great to see a strong female hero stepping into the limelight. Shopping montages aside, more of this kind of vision is what people need to see. If only we could get that lasso of truth really swinging. Wouldn’t that be something?
Enjoy your nog. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy your family. And to all, happy holidays, and a joyous, confusing, non-soul-crushing new year!