I don’t really do links pages. I did one, once, but decided against continuing it. The links that I’d post are directly taken from links pages of other blogs, which feels more than a little parasitic.
Instead, I’ll post an annual list of my favorite articles. Since it’s hard to remember all of the articles of the past year, there’s no possible way this is fully accurate, which really makes this a list of articles that left a lasting impression. It’s by no means fair or objective; most of these are personal reading habits that I’m pretty sure a lot of my readers share.
This is also not in any order. I’ll limit myself to twelve, because there are twelve months in the year and twelve is the superior number.
- How the Brexit Referendum Was Won, by Dominic Cummings. This was, actually, in the first and only links post. It’s also appeared in a few of my articles. When I first linked to it I claimed that it was the best article of the year, which is still true. Dominic Cummings was more or less the coordinator of the Brexit campaign. Here he talks about his motivation, but most of the article is about tactics. It’s fascinating, and I can’t think of a comparable document. Its the most incisive look into a modern political campaign I can think of. People who win such victories normally hide their tools, either to present a facade of absolute competence (politically wise) or so that opponents don’t take good ideas (also politically wise). Cummings is smart enough that his decision not to do this should be immediately suspicious, which makes a meta-reading of the article doubly interesting. Note: It’s extremely long (~20,000 words), but well worth it.
- The Tower by Hotel Concierge. This is, more or less, exactly the kind of writing that I wish I could pull off without totally garbling it. I’m not going to even attempt a summary.
- The Sucker, The Sucker! by Amia Srinivasan. An article about octopus consciousness. It’s exactly what you expect, but better.
- Faces Around a Dictator by Randall Collins. Analysis of photographs of Kim Jong Un, specifically analyzing the way crowds attempt to mimic dictators, which becomes much more than that. Such an article can’t help but be political, but that isn’t really the emphasis here, or at least it’s not what I found really interesting. It’s much more about how humans try – and fail – to calculate and produce masks in political contexts and, of course, something like the aesthetics of political power.
- Distinctions in Types of Thought by Sarah Constantin. Perhaps the best non-technical introduction to Heidegger I’ve ever read, that somehow manages to be more than that already impressive feat. Note: my series on epistemology is meant to culminate in a discussion of Heidegger, so recognize that I’m extremely jealous but also grateful-to-simply-have-a-link-when-I-write-that (although I wish Sarah talked about Sorge more, and I think the lack of that discussion underlies her issues with subject-object vs. relational; I blame Dreyfuss). Otium is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs, and this was a hard choice; Sarah’s article on Hoe Cultures, as well as its preface (maybe?) on Patriarchy, were both contenders, but I decided not to put multiple links by the same author. I just broke that rule, which is fine.
- The Asshole Filter by Sidrea. On the problem of experiential traps, more or less. It’s very good. It’s also an extremely good pairing to Sarah’s article on Heidegger.
- The Kekule Problem by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy’s essay might, in some sense, be the least conceptually interesting of these. I mean that as a whole – a few passages leap out of the article and, taken alone, are fascinating. It’s really the quality of the writing that one should look it; form, not content.
- Considerations on Cost Disease by Scott Alexander. Scott Alexander writes a lot, most of it is very good, this was hard to chose. I doubt that any readers of mine don’t know who he is, so I’ll skip the exposition. I initially linked to Djoser Joseph Osiris, because I’m fond of when Scott drops all his normal themes and writes about some weird, specific thing that interests him (the writing also has a different feel to it; not better, just different), but that was a blatant attempt to persuade him to write more eccentric history articles; his cost disease article ultimately wins out. (His review of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha also made an impression, albeit for different reasons. It’s shocking and mildly offensive that anyone made me take semi-self-help-pop-religious-texts seriously, but he somehow did.)
- A Quick-and-Dirty Introduction to Accelerationism by Nick Land. Linking to Land, and particularly to Land’s articles in Jacobite, will likely not help my protestations that I’m not a neoreactionary. Whatever; accelerationism is a force to be reckoned with. This article is very good, because most things by Land are good, which is wonderful. It is important to have good enemies. This is probably why the Jacobs (both -in and -ite) are locked in a death match that produces some of the more interesting writing on the web.
- Planet of Cops by Freddie Deboer. Freddie left the internet and took down most of his articles. This one was included. In accordance with his wishes, I’m not going to link to an archived version. I’ll simply mention that it was such a good article that many people chose to preserve it in various forms across the web. It is mostly rhetoric, but well done rhetoric is nothing to scoff at. Everyone tries it, and very few succeed.
- How to Worry about Climate Change by Oren Cass. I have a strong suspicion that someone is going to yell at me for including this. I don’t care. This article made more of an impression on me than nearly any other science journalism I can recall of the past few years.
- After Temporality by Sarah Perry. There’s no good way to summarize this article.
Not really an article, and therefore not of the list, but worth mentioning: Exploring Egregores by someone-with-many-names that I think normally goes by “Blue”. A self-contained series on Lovecraft and nihilism, or ways people use Lovecraft to get around nihilism, or […]
People have occasionally asked me who I read. This site is a work in progress, I may add a blogroll at some point, unsure for a variety of reasons. Many links are likely obvious (Hanson, Chapman, Ribbonfarm, etc.). Others less so. Bloggers and journos I respect who wrote very good things this year but I couldn’t decide on specific articles: Elizabeth Bruenig, Justin Murphy (although this might be close), Ashok Karra, Zvi, Sam Reuben, David Hines, Balioc. There are many others, I’m not going to make a gigantic list.
Writing that made me realize that I forgot to include any of Pseudoerasmus‘s articles. They were all good, I can’t choose.
I don’t want to write an additional post, so a brief note. As for this blog: it’s neither dead nor moribund. This post was planned but, admittedly, is also a way to at least publish something. I’ll be back to 3-4 articles a month as soon as [life stops kicking me in the teeth]. With some luck, more. The Ossuary will be updated soon, because two books is kind of underwhelming for its purpose; I have the quotes but typing takes time. Life promises to let up mid-December, but life is a known liar. I appreciate the patience.
I dislike the year-in-review thing (also a little premature for that), and next year I’ll just put links without this, but it’s been about a year writing this blog and a lot has changed. There wasn’t really a good time to address it, or I vaguely have but less than I probably should, because there’s a really weird nebulous zone between acknowledgment and self-satisfied winking and, well, manipulation. It’s also mostly against the ethos of these essays to dwell too much on their existence, which probably sounds weird given my style but I swear makes sense. Still. November through January is a time of thanks, and gratitude is more important than almost any other practice.
It’s been a good year. This blog is bigger now, which means people reading it and linking it and commenting on it. There are a lot more of you than I expected there to be, which comes from people sharing and donating and supporting. Thank you. I dislike the word debt in this context, because turns a favor into an obligation. It also has the nasty implication that support or donation was out of sheer kindness, as though their choice was less important than that they did for you. It’s probably best to just say: I’m glad you’re here, and I’m grateful.
Real blog soon.