* The biggest news of the day, week, and perhaps year: “SpaceX Successfully Lands Rocket After Launch of Satellites Into Orbit.” See also “Reusability: The Key to Making Human Life Multi-Planetary,” from SpaceX itself.
* A place where blogging really matters and bloggers die for their writing. Those of you who doubt the importance of writing, read on! I’ve read it argued that when everything ie permitted nothing matters and that when nothing is permitted everything matters, but I’ve never fully bought that.
* “I Rode the Smart Bike of the Future, and It’s Actually Pretty Smart,” on Vanhawks; see also my last essay on bikes.
* Print books are rising again? I still think publishers need to treat print books more as art objects and less as commodities.
* “Roger Scruton: ‘These left thinkers have destroyed the intellectual life,’” interesting throughout but also overstated; intellectual life has just shifted, away from humanists and to social scientists.
* NYU does the right thing, to my surprise.
* “I’m Having a Friendship Affair,” which is longer and weirder than the title suggests.
* Star Wars and decadence. I didn’t see the movie and find its success depressing, in part for the reasons Douthat states.
* “Seattle shows San Francisco and New York how to fix the housing crisis;” the article verges on the obvious but I’m posting it anyway.
I think Douthat is profoundly wrong about 1985 not feeling like a different planet today. If he believes the world of 30 years ago is just like our own, then he may not have sufficiently and honestly recalled what life was like then. In a largely homogenous culture, most people had access to only a couple hours of television news per day; newspapers (including comic strips and syndicated columnists) were relevant; and most of us, in the absence of the Internet, spent evenings reading books or watching a handful of popular dramas or sitcoms–or we simply went to bed. We weren’t all constantly connected; most houses had only a couple phones on a single land line. Politics and popular culture hadn’t yet mated. “Geek culture” barely existed; tinkering with computers, gaming, and reading SF, fantasy, and comic books were obsessions for a small number of people, most of whom were misfits and nearly all of whom were male. Kids (including me) still bought songs on 45 RPM singles. There were almost no black leading men, tough film heroines were rare, Asians were regularly caricatured, and the period’s most popular comedians talked about and satirized gay people in ways that even fairly conservative people would now find insensitive. In most of the country, a Chinese restaurant was the most exotic food you could find. Coffee was still unpretentious. Guns in schools were unthinkable. No one cursed on TV. A newspaper comic strip could get censored or cancelled for using the word “sucks”–or sometimes for far more innocent language. Religious voters mattered more at the polls than they do now, and they had a considerably stronger influence on the day-to-day culture.
Those are only examples I came up with in haste, but I’m sure there are many more. Hollywood nostalgia just isn’t sufficient evidence for cultural stagnation. (In fact, the new Star Wars movie wouldn’t exist in its present form without developments since 1985: the Internet, the rise of geek/fan culture, wider roles for women and minorities, and sufficient change and confusion in so many aspects of life that there’s a hunger for nostalgia in the first place.)