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Quite a busy Summer it turns out. (Note: if you don’t want to miss this newsletter, click ‘not a promotion’ in gmail if it goes to that tab)
1. WORK: Climate Summit: Great Speakers!
2. EXPERIENCES: Travel, Drawing, Lisbon
3. CULTURE: Burr, Psychedelics, Louie, Speculative Fiction
4. THOUGHTS: Mannequin, Covid Life
Back on the Road
Helsinki for Arctic15, then London Tech Week and a trip to NYC. It was nice to catch up in person and meet new people, and to get back home! (in Lisbon these days)
Climate Tech Summit: Great Speakers Coming!
We announced the first speakers for the SOSV Climate Tech Summit on October 25-26, 2022 (trailer). It will include the founders of five unicorns, as well as Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash but more importantly Termination Shock (the climate fiction novel I talked about in a previous letter). More great ones to come!
As a reminder, it’s virtual and FREE to support the ecosystem. Over 1,500 participants are already registered (we aim for 5,000+). You can RSVP and invite contacts easily via LinkedIn here (apply filters for an easier selection).
My routine when traveling for work these days is to stop by a museum, see a comedy show — often more for the local cultural input than the laughs — and to train at a local jiu-jitsu gym.
I couldn’t do it in Helsinki, but managed to see comedy in London and NYC, and train in NYC (once at a ‘home gym’, and twice at Clockwork Jiu-Jitsu, which was very welcoming).
London’s comedy show was an open mic. Some audience members were also given colorful dildos to wave comedians off stage. A jury provided feedback, which added an interesting layer of ‘shop talk’ and audience involvement.
In NYC, I picked a random club near my hotel. $30 cover + two drinks and comics were pretty average compared to my usual Comedy Cellar. I also felt some disconnect in the themes as comics were telling gen-X jokes to a mostly millennial and gen-Z crowd.
Subway Drawing Guy
This NYC artist draws subway passengers in what looks like a minute (he has 26.7M followers on TikTok). Every commenter was in awe but I found a few things suspicious in the framing and editing of his videos, so I decided to test my hypothesis. Here is the result of my experiment.
The coastal city has been trending. Here are a few recommendations if you visit: (1) Check some Miradouro (viewpoints) (2) Berardo Collection Museum (3) Surf lesson in Caparica (don’t forget sun cream). For longer stays, there is also an emerging group connecting Lisbon and the Bay Area called Redbridge, hosting monthly events.
Bill Burr: Live at Red Rocks***
It’s not his best but still a very enjoyable performance from the perennial temper man.
Joel Kim Booster: PsychoSexual***
It was a shot in the dark as I had never heard of him, but this Asian gay comic had a great presence, interesting ideas, and I think a long career ahead of him. You can see him on Conan and Colbert.
Not exactly my style of standup — I prefer Anthony Jeselnik for dark humor — and I’m not a huge fan of one-liners, but it was pretty good. I bought his book Before & Laughter and it had some interesting ideas.
Not exactly a new movie, but new to me! Keanu Reeves is 57 (Tom Cruise is 60). He was 49 when he acted in the first John Wick movie in 2014. Keanu Reeves trained for a few months then intermittently under Rigan Machado for the past decade. I have to admit the fight scenes are pretty slick, especially as they make good use of jiu-jitsu and judo. While it’s still action for show, this analysis gives it a high mark.
How to Change Your Mind*** (Netflix)
With Michael Pollan, based on his book on psychedelics. The series reviews the origins, research, uses and current state of several of them. I had read Albert Hoffman and Aldous Huxley’s books, and watched the Other Worlds and The Spirit Molecule documentaries, but there were many things I did not know.
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster*** (Netflix)
A friend recommended this documentary, which turned out to be totally different from what I expected. It’s a movie about the band’s group therapy, as they struggle to produce a new album and keep the band together. They overcome grudges, addiction, and the departure of their bass player. Note: they were playing in Lisbon this month, and Iron Maiden is coming on July 31.
Into the Inferno** (Netflix)
Werner Herzog is one of those filmmakers that I don’t get tired of, thanks to his never ending curiosity about the world. Even from the edge of an active volcano, his narration also has a soothing quality. He just released a sequel focused on two French volcanologists.
Elon Musk: The Real Life Iron Man (Netflix)*
I did not find much original material there.
Better Call Saul*** (Netflix)
The show with the most streetwise lawyer in Albuquerque is back. I continue to think it is better than Breaking Bad despite being an offshoot prequel. It’s nominated for a bunch of Emmys.
Louis CK bought back the rights to his TV show Louie and is selling it as a bundle for $30 on his website (you can stream it for 5 years). I bought it and enjoyed watching the whole thing, including some episodes I had never seen. Here is also a link to 15 comedians who got in trouble for jokes.
Stranger Things Season 4** (Netflix)
It’s been a long time coming and was noticeably better than Season 2 and 3. It’s hard to keep it fresh when the formula is always ‘monster comes, then superpower girl kills it’. The last episode was pretty good.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 4** (Prime)
The scandalous fictional female comic contemporary of Lenny Bruce is back. I don’t recall a lot of new things in this season but the acting and photography are pretty good.
Giri / Haji**
You can probably live without watching this Japanese police / yakuza drama, but it was interesting for me to catch up with the angry Yosuke Kubozuka who played a zainichi in GO, a movie I liked a lot two decades ago (his co-star then was Ko Shibasaki, who acted in Battle Royale).
The Ministry for the Future***
In my ‘climate fiction’ series after Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock (which was an easier read), it took me a while to finish Kim Stanley Robinson’s opus (it’s 576 pages but felt longer than Stephenson’s 700 pages novel). It touches upon many interesting topics, including the politics of climate action and various forms of geoengineering (still mostly taboo, while nuclear has re-entered the Overton window).
My friend Fredrik Haren, who made a name for himself as a professional author and speaker about creativity, innovation and change, published his first novel. The core idea is pretty original as well as the structure of the book alternating views from both worlds. Could un-visible people live among us? How many strange events would it explain? I loved Wim Wenders Wings of Desire and found some echoes there too (though the Unvisible are no angels).
Written by Yanis Varoufakis, mostly known as the former finance minister of Greece during the financial crisis. He wasn’t too happy with the betrayal of the Greek vote and the bail-out plan (note: Greece’s minimum wage is now at 663 euros, and unemployment is among the highest in Europe around 17% - almost 3 times Portugal’s). I liked a lot his other work detailing the politics leading to the bail out, called Adults in the Room. This book is a kind of alternate reality economic fiction, where a parallel world lives in a “democratic post-capitalism, post-techno-feudalism system”. The write style is not enchanting but the truly interesting question is: could it happen? Azeem Azhar interviewed him on his Exponential podcast.
This guy builds various things with Lego, and his latest submarine iteration is amazing. The depth control is very ingenious and precise.
Sam Harris & Morgan Housel***
If you haven’t read The Psychology of Money (which I highly recommend), you can start with the excellent interview of its author here.
There is some kind of mystique around artists, including the ‘old masters’. Yet, if you consider a portrait, most of the subject is fabric with a bit of face and hands. Tricks of the trade are not the same in the tik-tok era but some masters relied on mannequins (like here, here and here) to complement posing time.
It seems like we’re getting a bit of a break this Summer in terms of severity of infections, and most non-sensical policies have been put at rest. I have lost track of the latest variant. Just for fun, here is a publication discussing the bacterial and fungal presence on masks. What I took away: don’t eat natto, but I already knew that ;)
Enjoy the Summer!