This is a fascinating book about the type of precognition often experienced in dreams, built off the work of J.W. Dunne. Author Eric Wargo provides numerous famous examples of precognitive dreams, often about traumatic events such as plane crashes or the sinking of the Titanic. Wargo claims such cases of precognition are actually “prememory”: your unconscious mind remembering a future memory, not of the event itself, but of your emotional reaction to learning news of the event. Both the author and I are aware of how crazy and “woo” this all sounds, but Wargo’s research is scientifically rigorous, and he walks a fine line of being both skeptical about paranormal claims but also open-minded to their possibilities (something I wish more on both sides of the paranormal/skeptical debate were willing to do).
This is the second Arthur C. Clarke novel I’ve read (the first being Rendezvous With Rama), and I’ve been blown away by both. For some reason I expected Clarke’s books to be a bit drier and more dated, but his is some of the most exciting and mind-expanding science fiction I’ve ever read. I should have expected no less from the mind behind 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps I had that prejudice because in some older sci-fi books, the science and ideas become outdated or the writing style does (or it was never any good to begin with). Especially with hard science fiction, which Clarke is often categorized as, the science is prioritized over the story, craft, and characters, so once the science itself becomes dated, the book does as well. But this is NOT the case with Arthur C. Clarke. Though there is some “hard science” in Childhood’s End, it was also quite weird, speculative, and philosophical (like 2001). Clarke’s ideas remain highly relevant and he is an exquisite composer of prose. This novel particularly features so many brilliant lines of philosophical insight, such as: “There were some things that only time could cure. Evil men could be destroyed, but nothing could be done with good men who were deluded.”
With the advent of streaming services, the world has been flooded with television series—much too many for any one person to watch. These shows are mostly good but rarely great. I’ve come to realize why television tends toward mediocrity. Most people only half-watch tv in the background while doing other things like browsing social media on a second screen. They don’t have the self-discipline to not look at their phone while watching tv, so tv shows cannot be too intellectually challenging. TV shows are purposely dumbed-down so they can be half-watched while viewers are multitasking. Most people don’t have the attention span to watch artistic films—or movies that make you think. That’s why most tv shows drag on and are repetitive—so people can still understand what’s going on while scrolling Instagram. But if I’m going to watch something, I devote my full attention, which is the way cinema is meant to be seen. The other issue with television is series being canceled prematurely and never getting closure. It is for these reasons, among others, that I prefer movies to tv series. Though there were a few series worth watching this year.
With 2022 winding down, it’s time for my seventh annual list of the ten best films (at least ten years old) that I watched over this past year. The list is somewhat random and arbitrary, based on the movies I happen to choose to watch (or re-watch). The only theme I noticed from this year’s list is that the 1970s truly were a Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking. Even some of the deeper cuts from that decade are great.
I would say they don’t make movies like this anymore, except they did—at least once with The Revenant in 2015, which was clearly influenced by Jeremiah Johnson. This is a powerful film, so different from most of the CGI-reliant movies made today. You can tell the cast and crew were actually there on location in the remote wilderness of Utah filming this movie—and simply seeing that natural landscape on the big screen was captivating. It makes you realize just how extraordinary the pioneers who ventured out West were, considering the lengths it took to survive mother nature. The film also portrays the tragic violence that took place between humans—the pioneers and the Native Americans. Sometimes I feel the desire to become like Jeremiah Johnson and move out to the remote mountains, build my own cabin, and live a quiet life alone in nature to read and write—but only sometimes.
There is a growing consensus in the scientific community (and society at large) that the idea of a lone genius who makes great discoveries and innovations in isolation is a myth. That may be partially true—the accomplishments of famous individuals in the past were sometimes overstated while diminishing the efforts of others who helped them along the way. However, the pendulum has swung too far in this respect. The truth is that there were lone geniuses (in science and art), without whom certain discoveries and innovations would not have been made.
There is a growing debate between free speech and censorship on the internet. Many believe certain controversial figures with large followings should be banned from their platforms. But why would a tech company ban any single user entirely from its platform, so long as they aren’t breaking the law, no matter how controversial they are deemed to be? After all, “controversial” doesn’t mean “bad” or “wrong,” it just means provoking disagreement—meaning many agree. Though some users will indeed want a controversial user banned, many others will not—and most won’t care at all. Therefore, let the choice be up to each individual user for who they do and do not want to ban. If you don’t like what someone is saying, personally block them, and you’ll never have to hear from them again—but those who do like that user will still get to hear them. This way, everyone wins.
On my Substack, Time Zone Weird, I released my first subscriber-exclusive story, a horror novelette titled “The Reaper’s Maze.” The story follows five troublemaking teens who go trick-or-treating on Halloween night. At one house, a neighbor dressed as the Grim Reaper invites them to traverse a cornstalk maze in his backyard. Amid the twists and turns of the haunting maze, the teens discover the neighbor is more than he appears, and his Grim Reaper costume may not be a costume at all…
The idea of money is warped in most people’s minds. Cash has no inherent value. Neither does gold, diamonds, or anything else used as currency. The only thing in the world of true value is time. In that respect, every human being on the planet is born of equal worth. We all have an average of 80 years, or 30,000 days, or 720,000 hours, and every second of those hours is extremely valuable.
The genre of “true crime” is growing in popularity in the form of documentaries and podcasts that cover real crimes pulled from news headlines in detail. There are also fictionalized movies and television series about true crimes. I am not especially interested in true crime, but it is the fictionalized narratives about real crimes that interest me least. Fictional crime stories are better—or have the potential to be better—than true crime stories. The difference between them can best be seen in two of director David Fincher’s films about serial killers: Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007).
Many people today claim they don’t have the attention span, patience, or self-discipline to read dense books and long-form content. That is because they have become too accustomed to the quick short-form hyperactive content on the internet like tweets, Instagram stories, YouTube videos, memes, and TikToks. In this post, I wrote about breaking my Twitter addiction and focusing my efforts and time on reading books. I suggested Twitter and social media are like drugs in that they change your brain chemistry. That is not hyperbole. Social media changes your brain by shortening your attention span.