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#57 | Climate Tech, Language Learning, Comedy, BJJ by Ear, Stonks & more
Ben’s irregular newsletter mixes work and play. Unsubscribe at the bottom / Sign up here Find me: Twitter - LinkedIn - Medium - Website - Podcast
Year 2 A.C. — Year 2 After Covid (soon 3 since it’s Covid-19 but who’s counting?). If you’ve never caught it, I hope you don’t feel left out.
1. WORK: Climate Tech 100 and Climate Summit
2. EXPERIENCES: Language Learning in 2022
3. CULTURE: Comedy, Therapy, Bad Movies
4. THOUGHTS: Playing by Ear, Stonks & more
SOSV Climate Tech 100
After the SOSV Human Health 100, highlighting the top 100 portfolio companies in health tech, we updated our SOSV Climate Tech 100. The total valuation doubled in 12 months, and now includes five unicorns (including cultured meat pioneer Upside Foods, which just raised $400 million).
Climate Tech Summit
Last year we had over 4,000 RSVPs to hear Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla, multiple climate unicorn founders and many other inspiring investors and entrepreneurs decarbonizing our planet (videos).
This year’s summit is on October 25-26, 2022 (trailer). We’re including more content on carbon capture and how startups can navigate and help shape policies. The first speakers will be announced soon. RSVP here - it is virtual and free!
Language Learning in 2022
It’s been a while since I studied a new language, but I’ve started learning Portuguese on iTalki. It’s less than $20 per hour 1:1 and quite effective, likely more so than an in-person group class. Sadly, Duolingo only offers Brazilian Portuguese so I stopped using it. After French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin Chinese I hope to know enough to get by soon!
I went to a small standup comedy show. One comic shared his previous life of ‘gay for pay’, while another suffered from cerebral palsy and, in addition to mobility issues, he could not speak! He had a creative solution to this: he relied on his iPhone’s Siri to say his lines (with a female voice of course). He had started only three weeks prior but he was pretty funny with a dry sense of humor. He even did some improv responding to the crowd, with one-handed-thumb-typing. Very impressive. I hope he sticks to it!
Smell of Elderberries
John Cleese of Monty Python fame was on tour and I decided at the last minute to give it a chance. It wasn’t quite a comedy show but rather — as titled — “Last Time to See Me Before I Die”. The first part was a commentary on some videos of his past works and life, the second was a kind of moderated audience Q&A. I probably had misplaced expectations.
Movies & Documentaries
Ricky Gervais: SuperNature*** (Netflix)
The man knows his craft. Solid writing and delivery.
Michael Che*** (Netflix)
An interesting comic I didn’t know. Two specials on Netflix.
Stand-up for Drummers*** (Netflix)
I’m not a drummer but it was a pleasant watch. When a market grows, it segments, so I suppose that’s where we’re at in the standup world! Note: they tested people’s drumming skills to get in (maybe some other shows should test their audience before entering as well). Talking about drumming, Yoyoka, the Japanese drum prodigy, turned 12 and is always a joy to watch and listen to. I’ve also come across an outstanding bass player - check it out!
The movie adaptation of a famous Balzac novel, detailing the rise and fall of a young poet from the countryside coming to Paris in the mid-1800s. He quickly switches his focus from the beauty of poetry to writing for a kind of tabloid, gradually losing all integrity. The acting is solid, the set and photography are gorgeous, but the story itself is sad and somewhat predictable.
The movie adaptation of the Zola classic describing French coal mine workers in the 1860s. While well played and filmed, it also sounded like a fantasy of the working class aimed at both scaring and reassuring the middle class, picturing workers as ugly, stupid, violent and cowardly. Meanwhile, the ruling class largely keeps out of sight.
Bill Burr: Friends Who Kill (Netflix)**
Bill Burr invited some of his favorite comic friends for this special. It was a bit uneven.
I quite like Tom Cruise and the airplane shots are great but the storyline felt a bit thin. Tom still got my money.
A viking boy grows up to avenge his family. I took a chance on this movie thinking of its distant connection with the Hamlet story. Unfortunately, despite the photogenic sets, CG, camera work and actors (including the lead from Queen’s Gambit, Ethan Hawke, cameos by Bjork playing a witch and Willem Dafoe as a jester), it really didn’t work for me. I considered leaving the theatre several times but was curious about the ending. Maybe I reached ‘peak Viking’ too early?
This show (free in French) featuring a psychiatrist (or rather: psychoanalyst) and some of his patients was created in Israel and remade in various countries. France is the latest to do it, and the acting and stories are excellent. This is the second season after the succcess of the first. It addresses the core question to life: “do you want what you desire?” (and: “do you know if what you want is what you need?”). I gave a try to the US version but it had much less charm.
A nice show featuring fictional stand-up comedians trying to succeed. Created by Fanny Herrero, the screenwriter who gave us Dix Pour Cent (“10%”) chronicling the world of actors' agents (the UK remake just came out). Herrero was taking a break after the success of Dix Pour Cent and fell into the world of standup comedians, and her new show is focused on the characters and their industry. In an interview, Herrero mentioned one of the French government ministries contacted her to get advice on how to use TV-style storytelling for their political communication (she turned them down).
I was looking for a show in Portuguese to study and came across this dystopian sci-fi one. The top 3% live on an island (think Singapore) while others live in a dump. There is a test for those turning 20 and only 3% are picked. I’ll rank it below Dark but the characters and acting are great, and the storyline pretty good as well.
History of Stand-up*** (podcast)
If you’re into the genre, this is an interesting exploration.
The Pentaverate* (Netflix)
Netflix has some extra money and gave it to Mike Myers (Austin Powers) who decided to make a rather obnoxious show about a nonsense cult. He saved some costs by playing a dozen characters himself. As one commenter wrote “it’s not brilliant but neither are you” (or me).
Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters****
I was browsing in a museum shop when this hardcover book caught my eye and I immediately bought it. It’s a detailed investigation by the famous painter of Californian pools David Hockney into how classical masters moved from “low-resolution” to HD painting over a few centuries, likely thanks to the use of advances in optical instruments. Hockney might be wrong but this remains a fascinating and beautifully illustrated book, which also removes some of the mystery and sacredness of ‘Art’ vs. craft. A few weeks later it inspired me to use Michelangelo’s famous hands and my computer screen to trace then paint a neo-classical wrist-lock for my BJJ coach. It worked great!
Playing by Ear
When I try to be proactive in my Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, I think “let’s find how to avoid my most frequent problems”. I go to YouTube to look for tutorials, then I practice them during sparring. This is a decent feedback loop, but something felt amiss. Should I play a score or play by ear? Many famous musicians notably can’t read music (and were even worried about losing their creativity if they learned). It might be like learning to code only by copy-pasting from StackOverflow, not understanding the core principles behind programming. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I will try to ‘play by ear’ more in sparring.
I finished reading Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock climate fiction. In it, he describes hand-to-hand fights at the frontier between two nations, streamed online in a kind of ‘performative war’, where fighters become online celebrities. Then I heard that the show in which Ukraine’s president starred was being sold worldwide, which gave me a strange feeling, as if Netflix could start a war to market a show... Meanwhile, I have both Ukrainian and Russian friends suffering.
Back in August 2020 I was wondering why the stock market kept pushing higher, even beyond pre-Covid years despite the obvious slowdown in the global economy. I guess it caught up — painfully — with reality. Between “the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent” and “a broken clock is right twice a day”, what’s rational these days?
Meanwhile, it’s hard to find which asset class is the right one to invest in currently: cash is losing value, the stock market is unpredictable, gold is not particularly strong, real estate might go up… or down (if you believe this WSB ape). Even crypto is not moving much (I bought 1 million LUNA after the crash in the unlikely event it shoots back above micro-cents). Wait and see?
The fridge’s lamp stopped working though the fridge was a few months old. As I tried to change it, I saw it wasn’t a bulb but some LEDs on a circuit board. Of course, this is not sold in retail and a technician had to come over. Making things too smart could lead us to a world where things are hard to fix. A friend of mine is the proud owner of a tiny old Fiat which has no electronics. When the great EMP will blow up all our gadgets, he will still be rolling!
Until next time,