Ben’s irregular newsletter mixes work and play. Unsubscribe at the bottom. Find me: LinkedIn - Twitter - Medium - Website - Podcast
The big event is live. Some thoughts on art and unexpected shows.
1. WORK: Climate Summit is NOW! + 2 Interviews
2. EXPERIENCES: Couchsurfers, Catfish, AI Art
3. CULTURE: Art Secrets, Korean Shows
4. THOUGHTS: Art Thoughts
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Climate Tech Summit Update
The line-up is complete for Oct 25-26! As co-curator, I’m very happy with it, and looking forward to the conversations that will ensue!
I’ll be interviewing Singapore’s Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, as well as the co-founder of climate tech unicorns Desktop Metal and Form Energy.
We also just confirmed the co-founder of (almost) 3 unicorns: Northvolt (raised $7 billion!), H2 Green Steel and Polarium.
6,000 participants have signed up to the event, including >1,500 investors. Get on the bus!
I was interviewed on the Climate Insiders podcast here. It covered the history of SOSV, startup ecosystems, positioning a fund, building deal flow and more.
The Survival Tech newsletter interviewed me about the companies we fund in climate tech, the best habits for founders, and my hopes for the future.
After years of knowing about it, I recently opened the house to couchsurfers - a free form of Airbnb. An eclectic carrousel of travelers stopped by — students of course, but also craftspeople, artists, even a shaman! That made for unusual conversations.
Catching a Catfish
Besides the Netflix show The Tinder Swindler, there are other scams running on social networks, trying to entice users to ‘invest’ in crypto or stock opportunities, but often using entirely fake websites for this. They play a long game starting with small sums, hoping for the big fish. I wasn’t aware of it before, but some of their social engineering is pretty effective.
After coming across a few of those I tried to find more info to catch a scammer but didn’t find any way to locate or identify them. I also discovered the term ‘catfish’ came from the cod fishing industry — a catfish is supposed to keep codfish lively and tasty. But this turned out that it likely is an urban (maritime?) legend.
I’ve been toying with Dall-E, the AI-powered image generation service. It is very impressive. The VFX guys at Corridor Crew made an illustrated story using another engine that allows graphic input (so you can use your own photos to train the engine).
My exploration of the city continues. Latest discoveries include:
An interesting VR tour, using great drone footage and casts you as a jetpack pilot. 10 euros for 20 minutes and money well spent (no motion sickness despite the vibrating platform).
Sailboat tour on the Tagus river. Also nice. The commentator talked about the rise and fall of Portugal — from seafaring / trading empire to its more modest status. Portugal started the European ‘Age of Discovery’ with ships, navigation, maps (and its caravan of trade, plunder, murders and colonialism). It’s also when its love affair with cod started: salt cod was an inexpensive, non-perishable food that could travel for several months. As a side note, Genoa-born Columbus worked for the Portuguese crown for 10 years (and married a Portuguese). He tried to pitch the king his idea of a westward route to India. He was turned down and eventually worked for the Spanish crown.
An odd anecdote: Portugal is big on canned fish, but I came across a shop that hid its stock of canned White Tuna Belly (Ventresca - the ‘otoro’ of sushi) and only sell it to people who ask for it (you also need a secret handshake).
I am not sure what people took away, but my thoughts were (you’re welcome to disagree):
(1) He made two champions out of ‘ordinary’ little girls. With the right environment, support, and deliberate practice, everyone can improve and do amazing things.
(2) Joy. It struck me how he protective he was of their childhood joy, and joy of the game. To the point of taking them out of the junior championship circuit. All other parents (and coaches) seemed obsessed — like tiger parents — with competing, stripping their children of joy (and sometimes health or sanity).
Everything Everywhere All at Once**
The best multiverse-inspired Asian-American sci-fi comedy money can buy. It’s a bit of a mess but that’s kind of the point. Entertaining but not really deep. Be kind to each other!
The famous painter David Hockney had a hunch: what if the old masters were using optical instrument to paint so accurately? He wrote a fantastic and beautifully illustrated book on his years-long research, and the BBC did a documentary with him.
Secret Knowledge, Episode 2 ****
Tim Jenison is an engineer and inventor and all around curious guy. He watched the Hockney documentary and thought: could I prove Hockney’s thesis by painting like Vermeer? His friends, Vegas stage magicians Penn and Teller, said: “make it a movie”. And he did.
Secret Knowledge, Episode 3***
Only three stars as it’s a more humble production, but the artist Tomas Georgeson has produced a simple tool - the comparator mirror - able to not only explain realistic art, but also revolutionize artistic confidence for everyone.
My Best Friend***
If you like Werner Herzog you will appreciate this documentary about his relationship with his insane recurring star Klaus Kinski.
Inside the Mind of a Cat** (Netflix)
Not much novelty but an interesting idea on ‘positive conditioning’ to keep building your furry assassin’s trust in you. Also: cats are trainable, but it’s just much harder as cats don’t care much about pleasing their apes.
The GameStop Saga** (Netflix)
I didn’t learn much as I had followed the story pretty closely (and even put some small money on it - it paid for my office chair. I also bought 1 million LUNA Classic after the crash - I’m up 100% and waiting for the Netflix mini-series that is bound to happen). Still interesting if you’re not familiar and are interested in financial shenanigans.
The Who: The Making of Tommy** (Amazon Prime)
I watched the Tommy movie almost 3 decades ago, and found it great. The documentary retraces its origin and is fairly interesting. I hadn’t realized Tommy had been such a make-or-break moment for the band.
Better Call Saul**** (Netflix)
I am upgrading this show to 4 stars due to the excellent ending. Well done, folks.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo**** (Netflix)
Netflix kept showing it to me and I gave in. The story of a Korean autistic female lawyer - what could possibly go wrong? And it turned out great! Apparently a huge success in Korea. The acting is solid all around — I particularly liked the character of the attorney’s boss :)
Crash Landing on You*** (Netflix)
Another shot in the dark that turned out pretty good. A South Korean entrepreneur and heiress crashes into North Korea, where a handsome captain decides to hide her. As is apparently common in Korean shows, the leads are multi-talented, attractive, kind and express almost platonic love.
Cobra Kai Season 5*** (Netflix)
What started as a shameful watch became a very pleasant surprise. Did they hire new writers? Anyhow, this might be the best season so far.
The Rings of Power* (Amazon Prime)
I like the LoTR universe but I’m not a fan of this show and gave up after 3 episodes. Amazon is spending $1B on this franchise (including $250M for the rights).
The Windup Girl**
Yet another ‘climate fiction’ (after Termination Shock and The Ministry for the Future). Pros: it’s set in Thailand, with lots of unusual cultural elements. It’s not as picaresque or well-written as a Kipling’s Kim, but definitely a different vibe from the usual sci-fi. While the maths don’t quite work on some elements, there are interesting ideas about food and energy production, cloning, ethics and more.
Twilight of the Idols
Following up on the documentaries section: after chancing upon David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge book about how ‘master’ painters starting from the 15th century may have used optical systems (mirrors and lenses) to paint more accurately, I fell into a rabbit hole that led me to:
The documentary the BBC did on the book,
Another financed by magicians Penn & Teller looking into how Vermeer might have also used optics,
Then to a final publication and YouTube channel showing how you (or your kids) could also paint just as well as Vermeer (or Rembrandt)!
All this might sound anecdotal, but to me it’s huge.
Why? Because it shatters the myth of the artistic genius, which disconnects art and people, and destroys the creative confidence of everyone. It now seems insane to me to talk about classical art without talking about the use of technology - from optics (from 1450) to photography (from 1850). It’s interesting to hear about the reactions of artists and designers when they discover AI art like DALL-E. No doubt painters in the 19th century felt the same with photography!
Also, this newfound understanding totally changed my way of viewing art in museums: I was visiting again the Calouste Gulbenkian collection in Lisbon when I was arrested by a painting of Brittany women: their faces were as realistic as photographs! Well, guess what? This artist used photographs as reference! That’s also why artists started to diverge from realistic styles: how to compete with a photo? (which kept improving)
Beyond painting, this feeds into the idea that “genius” or “talent” are part of a fixed mindset, which is reinforcing self-limiting beliefs. A few days later I was at a drawing event and noticed that again first hand, in how people talk about their work or the work of others. Growth mindset training should be mandatory. That and stop people lying about talent (looking at you, the online creators who edit their process out to make the works look like magic).
As usual, comments are welcome!
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