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Generation Porno

This Slate essay about Larry Clark's films attempts to knit together some inescapable trends -- teenage exhibitionism, reality TV, easily accessible pronography, widely distributed user-generated content, exploitation being synonymous with attention -- under the term Generation Porno. Of Clark's latest film, part of the omnibus film Destricted, critic Christopher Kelly writes, "In only 38 minutes, the director has powerfully illustrated all his grand themes: that modern teenagers' and twentysomethings' compulsion to expose themselves is boundless; that our culture has now wholly transformed sex into a purely consumerist commodity; that none of us can take our eyes off a train wreck, least of all when there are attractive naked bodies involved." These themes delineate what Kelly calls the "defining aesthetic of our time," which recognizes the "truth" that "the adult urge to consume that which is young and beautiful is ineradicable."

That seems an appropriate way to assess our current cultural climate. I'm not sure it stands as a universal truth that adults will always yearn to "consume" the sexuality of children, though. If anything, that seems a particular result of an unfortunate collision of technology making the self infinitely more marketable and widely distributable, and capitalist ideology celebrating such a shrewd move. Children learn to make themselves into products just as the law of planned obsolesence has come to seem given and immutable. Sexuality, now inextricably bound with the manipulations of marketing, becomes merely a medium of exchange in which the ultimate goal is not pleasure but social recognition -- which has been divorced from any civic ideals (impossible in the Hobbesean world fomented by fetishized individualism) and now amounts to measuring how many hits your MySpace page gets or how many seconds a stranger's leer locks on your body. Sex is an appeal rather than an activity; it's the one species of rhetoric that young people know they have the edge in -- it's what they are taught by virtually every representation of themselves in commercial media.

But despite all that, generation Porno is itself a media creation -- I wonder whether these are teenagers how adults secretly wish them to be, not how they actually are. That teenage lives take place in part on the Internet -- a disembodied, near-anonymous realm that enables one to take chances and inhabit fluid identities in a way one couldn't and wouldn't in real life -- makes it easy to search out and find extreme examples of teen lasciviousness that we can then document and tut-tut about. The cohort is enormous, yet we are still willing to shocked by anecdotes. Even though we insist they should (be careful what you say and do on the Internet! it could affect you in a job interview! it could lead to Identity Theft! etc, etc), teens probably don't take their online lives all that seriously or see them as indicative of their offline morality. What Generation Porno knows is not instrumentalized sexuality so much as the ephemeral nature of identity itself when it plays out in the operating system of a one giant interactive video game, which is what the social side of the Internet has essentially become.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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