This year was ripe with political conversation and conflict. That’s a given. At The Smart Set, we reflect on the things that brought us joy this year. These were the texts in which we found comfort: the noise control from the constant squawkings of pundits and politicians invading our spaces, from the bad feelings and vibes that permeated and settled into our skins. Here are the salves and balms that made 2017 a bit more pleasant. Some of us stayed in the present, finding these bits and bobs that helped accentuate some of the truly cool stuff that happened this year, that amplified some of the positive energies that erupted in 2017 — collective formations, activism, points of solidarity. Others looked back, finding pleasure in artifacts once looked over and discovering their relevance and pleasure. In a post-KonMari method world, it’s necessary to think of pleasure. In her 2011 book on tidying, she suggests holding each of your artifacts and asking “Does this bring me joy?” If yes, keep and cherish. If no, discard. This question is just as relevant to maintaining your body/mind/soul as it is your abode. With all the noise and distractions, the following items were the standouts that, when sorted into the piles of texts we consumed over the year, we could say in earnestness: this brought me joy.
More… “Best of 2017”

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The day after the season one finale of Naked and Afraid premiered on August 3rd, I went to brunch with my in-laws at a deli in Bethesda, the kind of place that serves toppling smoked meat sandwiches and omelets the size of handbags. When the subject of the Discovery Channel’s hit reality series came up, I felt a brief surge of excitement as I hovered over my sausage and eggs. Naked and Afraid — a show in which one man and one woman are stranded nude in hostile wilderness without food or water for 21 days — was my guilty pleasure of the summer, and I wanted desperately to talk with someone who understood how wonderful and ridiculous and shameful it was to be hooked on such over-the-top reality fare.

Essays and stories by Joan Marcus appear in The Sun, Fourth… More…

It is 50 years since Federico Fellini made La Dolce Vita. That fact alone makes the film fresh again. It is no longer a movie about the contemporary world, even if its critique of shallow, fame-obsessed popular culture feels relevant as ever.


It is said, often enough, that La Dolce Vita represents the transition from Fellini’s early works of neo-realism to his later, more fantastical films. There is surely some truth in the claim. La Dolce Vita has no explicit storyline and moves along with a series of episodes that never resolve. You’d be hard-pressed to explain to someone, with concision, what La Dolce Vita is about. The opening scene is a good example. It is unforgettable as a series of images. A giant statue of Jesus Christ is being carried by helicopter. Jesus passes… More…


When it comes to Sunday morning media, most people concern themselves that day of the week with the hefty Times or one of the number of political discussion shows you can find on any network or cable news channel. Fewer people concern themselves with CBS Sunday Morning. That’s the tame general interest magazine that opens with a trumpet fanfare and the image of a rising sun. For an hour and a half, CBS reporters (those not assigned, say, the White House or the Pentagon) deliver inoffensive features on topics such as railroad-inspired art, the history of the doughnut, and actress Estelle Parsons of Bonnie and Clyde fame. This week, it celebrated its 30th anniversary on the air.

The show ends each week with a short montage of scenes from the natural world. These tend to relate… More…