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Listen to this article on Spotify or use the audio player below. Recorded by Listle.
What is art?
I believe artforms improve over time. The more art that came before, the more you can assess what worked and what didn't—and iterate on it. Movies, music—all of it—is often better than it was.
I know that's controversial. I know nostalgia and wanting to signal your cultural taste blind us to this likely truth.
That said, all new art isn't universally better than all prior art. Economics and culture pressure new art into optimizing for vanity metrics.
But the best art of each era trends to being better than the best art of the prior era.
If an artform can systematically improve via analysis and iteration, what distinguishes it from engineering? One thing: disparate, non-obvious breakthroughs borne by creativity. These breakthroughs are critical and warrant respect, but they're inevitably improved upon over time.
And so I present to you my favorite media, without shame that there isn't a greater representation of older art.
- Make Happy — A truly original comedy special that doesn't forget to be funny
- True Detective (S1) — Atmospheric, intellectual, and exhilarating storytelling
- Rick and Morty — Inspired, inventive storytelling that pulls no punches
- Making a Murderer — Masterful affinity-building and long-term storytelling
- Jones vs. Gustafsson — Two great UFC fighters going toe-to-toe for 30 min
- Between Two Ferns — Wildly bold and inventive self-indulgent comedy
- Counterpart — Brilliant plotting, brilliant character study, and very slick
- The Boys — Rich characters, rich perversion of culture, and unafraid
- Others — Sherlock, Barry, Altered Carbon, Westworld, Death Note, Daredevil, The Newsroom, The Office, Who Is America?, Patriot, Star Trek: Discovery (S1), Nathan For You
- Pod Save America — An informed and insightful (heavy) liberal skew of politics
- Joe Rogan — The best interviewer of all time: curious, patient, and sincere
- Eric Weinstein — The best thinker-by-analogy I've encountered; eye-opening
- Searching for Sugarman — A triumph of documentary narrative storytelling
- The Matrix — Intellectual, philosophical, and visually dazzling storytelling
- The Prestige — A great example of stimulating plotting and character building
- Whiplash — A great example of character-based, emotional arc storytelling
- Free Solo — The filmmaking is fine, but it's Alex Honnold who's fascinating
- Finding Frances — An absurd documentary about the human condition
- Into the Spider-Verse — A dazzling feast for the eyes, and original fun
- Others — Heat, Edge of Tomorrow, Nightcrawler, 500 Days of Summer, Man on Wire, Moon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Collateral, MacGruber (for gleefully not giving a sh**), Peanut Butter Falcon, Punch-Drunk Love, Zootopia, Star Trek
- Two Dancers — Atmospheric, melodic, and original indie rock
- Transatlanticism — Ditto
- The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me — Inventive, moody alternative rock
- Continuum — Perfect contemporary blues rock with pop rock catchiness
- After the Gold Rush — The original folk rock album that others aspire to
- Ctrl — An inspired alternative R&B album with back-to-back earworms
- Every Kingdom — A melodic, emotive, and impassioned folk album
- Others — Carnavas, Better Nature, Channel Orange, Dawn, Emergence, For Emma Forever ago, The Garden, Simple Things, When It Falls, In Between Dreams, In Rainbows, OK Computer, The King of Limbs, Landmark, Miike Snow, The North Borders, Plans, A Rush of Blood to the Head, Scorpion, Starboy, Till the Sun Turns Black, Voodoo, Wasteland Baby!
People with consistently great output
- "Relax, no one else knows what they're doing either." — Ricky Gervais
- "If you gave him an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox." — Christopher Hitchens
- "Step 1: Wonder at something. Step 2: Invite others to wonder with you." — Austin Kleon
- "You're telling me I can dodge bullets?" "I'm trying to tell you that — when you're ready — you won't have to." — Morpheus
- "If you play a Nickelback song backwards, you’ll hear messages from the devil. Even worse, if you play it forwards, you’ll hear Nickelback." — Anonymous
- "If you paint the leaf on a tree without using a reference, your imagination will only supply you with a few leaves. But, nature offers you millions — all on the same tree. The artist who paints only what is in his mind must very soon repeat himself." — Renoir
How I consume media
- My primary news source is Google News "For You."
- For analysis on anything intriguing, I read Washington Post.
- I don't pay attention to social media — except to post to Twitter.
- I pay for most of the streaming services. But I only watch the standout gems.
- I watch YouTube interviews on my iPad while winding down at night.