The Internet had another big year in 2016, and it seems as though we as a culture are beginning to grapple with the more damaging aspects of our defining technology. (Too little, too late, perhaps—but only time will tell.) Our president-elect is a walking tweet-storm, as well as a meme (many times over), and also any number of GIFs. He is backward as a motherfucker, but he’s also our future, and our present; consider him the Rhizome-in-chief.
To say the same thing another way: our arts and culture scene at the moment is very much an Internet phenomenon, for better and for worse. Podcasts represent the avant-garde of storytelling; many of the best critical debates take place on Twitter; and if a sports moment didn’t have a Vine (RIP), then it didn’t have much chance of becoming a Moment. As a result, we’re often forced to think in 140 characters and get our news in six-second bursts. But there are still plenty of great opportunities to rise out of the shallows, even while remaining among them. The boundaries across media are increasingly porous, and great artwork abounds. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote comics, for Thor’s sake! And although this was a year that abounded in deaths, it also abounded in wonderful elegies—and Vin Scully even got to narrate his own!
So what does it all add up to? I think the Internet said it best: Fuck 2016. But before we put this crap behind us, let’s revel in that shit once more.
Rolling Blackouts, by Sarah Glidden
In Rolling Blackouts, Sarah Glidden recounts her travels through Turkey, Iraq, and Syria in the company of two journalist friends and a former US soldier. It touches on a number of issues that the area is dealing with at this incredibly challenging—even tragic—moment, and although it will certainly make that world feel less foreign and more proximate, it refuses to provide a false sense of security or certainty: to read this book is not to understand the Middle East; what the book offers instead is an invitation to learn more.
Hot Dog Taste Test, by Lisa Hanawalt
I’m not sure if we’ve quite understood how influential the comics world is at the moment. Comics artists are working behind the scenes on the ads we see, the clothes we wear, the shows we watch, and the comics we endlessly adapt. Lisa Hanawalt is a great example on nearly all of these fronts. She first came up as a comic artist, but her aesthetic has since developed into a mini-empire. She’s the artist behind Bojack Horseman, and her aesthetic sense is something that I now can’t help seeing all over Los Angeles—both the filmed version and the real thing. It’s funky af, and if you want the purest distillation of her work, Hot Dog Taste Test is the fountain you need to bathe in.