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Hello lovely friends, I hope you're having a peaceful day. Funny time of year, this. The all-encompassing festive season is a delight to many and a dirge for many others. At its best, a coming-together of faithful friends and loved-ones. At its worst, a two-month cultural lobotomy of relentless Slade. Although rooted elsewhere, today we do it because we do it. And even though there's good reason to change what we do, even just to cut the carbon cost, we don't change what we do.

Yet, we do change, constantly. Although contemporary Christmas has the hots for Victoriana and before that Yuletide, it'd feel foreign to the people of those eras. We tell ourselves we're upholding something long-standing, yet most of what we actually do was constructed recently. That juicy paradox is my favourite bit of the whole thing.
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TRADITION: Even though the air is thick with traditions, the introduction of traditions is an end-of-year tradition in itself. No media outlet now passes up the tradition of an end-of-year round-up of something-or-other. And of course the end-of-the-decade round-up is this tradition's boss stage.

Now, if we were to be pedantic about it, the decade doesn't end until next year. But we are reasonably consistent about this collective off-by-one error; we observed the start of the decade early so it's only right we should observe its ending prematurely too. So this tradition brings forth a flurry of round-ups; from the decade's best films and best dresses to food heroes and large-scale artworks. Then there's the noteworthy scientific discoveries and memorable moments, the top-performing stocks and football teams.

Then together with the best comedy specials, sketches and podcasts there's all the musical observations: decade-defining albums, noteworthy hip-hop tracks, the one-hit wonders and the biggest-selling vinyl albums which, appropriately for an elderly medium, is dominated by old stuff. Our changing media habits are played back to us not only with the decade's most complained-about television but also the best memes and the internet's best, worst, and weirdest.

It's hard to define a decade from close-up. Give it thirty years and we'll come back to visit the fashions and culture, whatever they were. But for me, for now, the stand-outs are the ways in which our relationship with technology is changing us. Consumer technology evolves in fits and starts so it feels like there's not been a 'game-changer' for a while. It's easy to construct a list of the worst tech of the decade, from exploding phones to augmented-reality games that march you out into traffic, and from those awful hoverboards to ethically-obtuse startups.

But the game is changing, there's just not a single, Jobsian product-launch that serves as its genesis. Our attitudes towards ourselves are being pervaded by our online behaviours. In this age of the Instagram face, the 'look' of this decade is partially algorithmic. 💄
🎨 Graffiti Removals: the largest submission-based image archive of removed graffiti documents the ongoing, worldwide struggle to librate or sanitise the urban environment.

☠️ Is life worth living? The pragmatic ‘maybe’ of William James: the pragmatist philosopher had a crisp and consistent response when asked if life was worth living.

🚫 No by Anne Boyer: a fantastic read. "History is full of people who just didn’t. They said no thank you, turned away, ran away to the desert, stood on the streets in rags, lived in barrels, burned down their own houses, walked barefoot through town, killed their rapists, pushed away dinner, meditated into the light."

📦 Free Shipping Isn’t Really Free: How retailers hide the costs of delivery, and why we’re such suckers for their ploys.

🛩 EasyJet to offset carbon emissions from all its flights: EasyJet is the first major airline to announce it would offset all jet fuel emissions. While offsetting doesn't really help, it shows how seriously this industry now treats emissions. So now, as conscious consumers, it's time to get focussed on doing the offsetting last, not first. See also: improving eco-efficiency within a capitalist growth-oriented system will not save the environment.

💬 Yap: an ephemeral, real-time chat room with up to six participants. Messages appear and disappear as quickly as you type them, so unless you pay attention to what everyone says, you’ll miss it. An interesting effort to turn online chat into something more like chatting.
We'll have to muddle through somehow: Just as quickly as traditions emerge, others lose relevance. We're falling out of love with sending Christmas cards, perhaps because we're now aware and conscious of the enormous ecological cost of doing so. But there continue to be many costly elements of celebration to which we turn a blind eye. Anything with Sellotape on it goes to landfill, as does anything with glitter.

If you're the kind of person that finds the social and moral obligation of Christmas challenging—that anything, and your active participation in it, can be justified with "c'monnn, it's Christmas!"—then take heart. It is possible for long-standing traditions to be killed off. Online wedding-planning platforms Pinterest and the Knot Worldwide are putting a stop to promoting wedding venues that romanticise former slave plantations.

And if you're looking for traditions to shun, start with the ones built on formulaic predictability. Cheesy Christmas romcoms are flooding into Netflix; you'll recognise them by their extreme racial homogeneity of the romantic leads wearing red and green. I'd like to think we'll look back at this dross in ten years, aghast at their detachment from an aspirational reality. 🙄
Finally: Maps and mapping services are common and highly available, yet key bits of human infrastructure like roads and buildings are often missing or incomplete. If only there were some way we could view the earth from above, and then create maps from what we see. Oh wait, we can. 🛣

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