Media Worth Consuming
Art I can't stop thinking about.
In this piece, I wanted to share the most impactful, thought provoking, entertaining, or meaningful pieces of media I’ve experienced in this phase of my life.
Why? Because I believe in an information diet. What we allow into our mind generates our self-talk, our creativity, our points of view, and our scope of thinking.
Said differently: If we’re the average of the 5 people we spend the most time around, then how does the media we consume every morning, every meal, and every night before we go to bed affect us?
Think of this article as a buffet. The next time you’re looking for something to watch, read, or listen to, and you want to try something new, I invite you to sample an entrée from this menu.
The Batman directed by Matt Reeves. Where Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy was intense, multifaceted, and epic (+ shoutout to Hans Zimmer), Reeves’ The Batman was pure, punchy, and beautiful. The cinematography and composition of its shots was nothing less than inspired. It’s a moving story if you’ve been deeply wronged in your life, with a special message near the end to take with you on your journey.
The Before Trilogy directed Richard Linklater. What stands out the most about this movie is the depiction of the least movie-like, most natural, organic conversation between a man and woman as they fall in love. Nothing else I’ve seen comes close. Many of the shots in the movies are 10-15 minutes long, which really helps you feel like you’re there with them. Some of the best dialogue in a movie I’ve ever encountered.
Everything Everywhere All At Once directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I can’t say any more without spoiling the experience. Just go and watch it while it’s still in theaters. My advice: Go alone or with close friends. Not a casual watch.
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (especially the second and third book). This is the most fascinating example of hard science fiction I’ve ever read. Where Andy Weir’s The Martian or Project Hail Mary focuses in on a single a scientist MacGyuvering his way out of the impossible, The Three Body Problem expands science fiction to the scale of centuries, civilizations, and cosmological sociology theory. It’s an incredible read that I just couldn’t put down. In particular, the five-page description of humans experiencing four-dimensional space was enrapturing - I read it over and over again. If you’re a technologist interested in the future and you want a fiction book you can’t put down, read this. Immediately.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Ever since COVID began and I began spending more time indoors, I’ve been interested in improving my interior design skills. This book taught me that I was putting the cart before the horse. First, I have to get rid of the stuff I don’t want. Second, I need a sustainable way to stay organized. Then, with the space to create and items that I love, can I begin to enjoy my interior. The key insight is this: Tidying must be enjoyable, and to do this, I a) must love every one of my possessions, and want to take care of each one - this requires a discarding things I don’t love and b) Every remaining item must have a location it belongs to. If that location isn’t immediately obvious, the mental overhead of figuring it out that causes us to skip the small task of putting it away, and over time, messiness ensues! Effect of learning her techniques? I deeply enjoy my space. I feel like it’s my baby, that I’m taking care of it. It welcomes me, and makes me feel safe and comfortable.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The two simple ideas of morning pages and artist’s dates have transformed my relationship to myself - I can now say, for the first time in my adult life, that I’m beginning to enjoy my own company.
Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. This book introduced me to attachment theory, an Occam’s razor that explained most of my tendencies in close relationships over the last several years. As an anxiously attached person, this book dispelled my fear of dependency (“The paradox is that the more effectively dependent we can be, the more independent and daring we become”) and helped me understand my emotions around avoidant behaviors in my life (“Anxiously attached people attract avoidants and vice versa - each confirm the other’s beliefs.”) If you’re interested in understanding your experience in close interpersonal relationships, this book is a must-read.
Growth Without Suffering With Tah and Cole Whitty on the Life Coach School podcast. I was recommended this podcast episode last year after recovering from some family trauma. The key insight I took away is this: While I’ve successfully avoided identifying as a victim, I’ve spent far too long identifying as a survivor. As they put it in the episode: “You’ve already put in your 10,000 hours - it’s time to let go.” How do you know when it’s time to move on? Listen to the podcast episode to find out.
The All-In Podcast hosted by Jason Calacanis, Chamath Palihapitiya, David Friedberg, and David Sacks. Four venture capitalists break down tech/world news and give extremely prescient points of view on the future of our world, while (and this is what makes this podcast unlike any other) busting each other’s balls because they’ve been friends for many years. I recently attended their summit in Miami (a total blast) and the quality of people I met was incredible - really smart and well-rounded folks of all disciplines from around the world listen to this podcast.
This amazing lecture on Rene Girard by David Perell and Johnathan Bi. (Listen as audio only with YouTube Premium) The simple idea of mimesis explains so much of human nature at an individual and societal level. An idea that immediately had an effect on my day to day life was categorizing my desires as physical desire (desire from utility) or metaphysical desire (desire from identity). The lecture is also surprisingly funny: “[describing mimesis]…even in as intimate a domain as romance, our desires are, if you'd excuse the pun, helplessly penetrated by those of others…”
The Big History lectures by David Christian and Great Courses on Audible. This lecture series explain everything from the beginning of time till today (In contrast with most courses in history which focus on a single geography & time period). The beauty of starting from the beginning is that you can maintain first-principles thinking throughout the adventure - every “why” eventually leads back to the Big Bang, and from there, we can build a solid foundation for how everything else came to be. My favorite idea: As the universe began, it created more and more complex matter, which came with more complex emergent properties, requiring new fields of study. Examples:
The big bang created hydrogen and helium, leading to the fields of cosmology, astronomy, and physics.
The concentration of energy in the death of stars, especially supernovas, led to the creation elements that fill out the rest of the periodic table, aka the field of chemistry.
The accretion of those elements led to planet formation, creating the field of geology.
The CHON (Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen) in Earth’s atmosphere led to the beginning of biology.
Evolution of those early organisms led to humans, leading to anthropology and human history.
Lazy, a Manifesto by Tim Kreider. There is no better tool in my arsenal to dismantle my constant instinct to be productive at the expense of my mental health than this article. The first time I read it, I stared off into space for 10 minutes, in shock and how quickly and effectively it had dismantled my unrelenting productivity. I proceeded to throw out my to-do list and spent the entire day doing whatever I wanted - the next day, I felt as though I had come back from a weeklong vacation. (yeah, I’m like that sometimes)
Frame Control by Aellagirl. The best analytical introduction to how power, leverage, and charisma play out in social situations. When analyzing dating, work, or family situations, frame control is the first mental model I apply.
What Makes a Cultural Superpower? by Noah Smith. There’s hard power from military strength, and there’s soft power from exporting culture. For example, the Thai government increases its soft power by training and emigrating Thai chefs, stimulating worldwide consumption of Thai food and indirectly, its tourism industry.
I find Elon Musk’s pending acquisition of Twitter to be fascinating for the future of free speech on the internet. Over the last few months, the story has generated all the braindead takes from both sides of the aisle, while the most interesting takes came from independent thinkers (a trend that continues to accelerate):
The Elondrop by Balaji Srinivasan proposes a method to circumvent the inevitable regulatory battles of acquiring Twitter by politically aligning its global user base with a token offering.
Back to the Future of Twitter by Ben Thompson makes the observations that 1) Twitter (so far) is a financial failure 2) its social graph is extremely valuable, and 3) its cultural impact is large and controversial. Ben proposes splitting Twitter into TwitterServiceCo (social graph, underlying data, the backend) and TwitterAppCo (the frontend applications and ad monetization layer). Anyone, including TwitterAppCo, can build a user experience on top of TwitterServiceCo’s social graph, allowing the free market to decide which moderation policies it would like to adopt. TwitterServiceCo then washes it hands of moderation issues while monetizing its a social graph for a simple x$/user/month.
If We Ruled The Tweets by Packy McCormick synthesizes several points of view, including Ben Thompson’s above, and proposes creating an app ecosystem on top of Twitter, similar to WeChat. Packy’s article (written May 9th) was prescient - earlier this week on June 15th, Elon echoed similar sentiments during his first internal meeting with Twitter employees.
Yishan Wong (ran Reddit from 2012-2014) wrote a Twitter thread breaking down the obstacles Elon would face in implementing free speech in today’s climate. Key point below, but read the whole thread for a full reckoning with the challenge:
Touch by Daft Punk (RIP to the band) is a song with multiple acts stitched together under a common musical tapestry - not unlike EDM’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The lyrics tell the story of a robot desiring to understand this foreign human thing called touch. A rare 10/10.
Luminous Beings by Jon Hopkins is my go-to piece to show off my favorite artist of all time. The first minute of the song features a bass synth that pitches down so low that you can hear the individual clicks; these clicks turn into the kick drum that powers through the rest of the song. Genius. For the full experience, I also recommend listening to Jon Hopkins’ appearance on Song Exploder episode where he breaks down this song in its entirety.
Fahrenheit Far Enough by Telefon Tel Aviv. I distinctly remember the first time I listened to this song, it felt like I was flying over Yosemite Valley hearing the footsteps and clicks of every insect and animal in the forest below me. It’s one of the most “tactile” music experiences I’ve had, where layer upon layer of sound builds upon your eardrums until it feels like the music is tickling the very gray matter in your neocortex. The intricacy of every sound sample is insane - I can’t imagine how long it took to create this masterpiece.
Can you create a song out of a car’s “door open” chime? Here’s Tennyson’s chill, jazz inspired take: Lay-by. Pair that with Robotaki’s interpretation, which begins like a light October snowfall and ends in a hail-infused maelstrom: Snow Angel.
In closing, I’ll turn the question back to you: What’s your favorite piece of media you’ve experienced recently?
You should add more women to your media list! It’s too Balaji vc focused for a media diet 😉 chamath and those guys have a very clear media bias. Otherwise, really cool concept. I should do more of the same.
Hope you’re doing well brother.