This week I’m sharing a bumper pack of recommendations of things to read, watch and otherwise consume, complete with my thoughts about them. And if you make it all the way to the end, you’ll find a mini-review of And Just Like That 👀.
RELEVANT TO YOUR INTERESTS
“He bought $3 million in distressed bonds. He gave another $5 million away to charity. He was $18 million up for the day. He was $6 million down. He was beating the market again by mid-morning, losing at lunch, winning an hour later, and then losing again. ‘Does it make any sense?’ he asked himself, watching the numbers change on his screen. ‘To sit inside all day in front of a machine, making money I don’t need so I can give it to someone I don’t know?’”. This profile of Leon Cooperman, one of America’s 745 billionaires, was brilliant. The reporter lets us plod through Cooperman’s day, as he tries to reconcile his belief that he’s living proof that capitalism works with the reality that for so many today, it isn’t working. His insights were as jarring as they were thought-provoking.
Why could Agatha Christie afford a maid and a nanny but not a car? This isn’t a riddle, it’s the basis for economist Timothy B Lee’s nuanced and detailed examination of rising costs of living and how declaring that people today are better/worse off than at a previous point in history is not just about statistics. If you’re interested in economic analysis that is a joy to read, I can’t recommend Lee’s newsletter enough.
“I've spent a long time trying to articulate the precise strain of brain rot that afflicts the average contract worker — or at least contract workers like me, who tend to write two or three times a week. It renders you something of a digital hunter-gatherer; ears pricked up for even the faintest sign of an exploitable trend. You detect a loose assembly of vaguely related tweets, centered on The Thing People Are Talking About Right Now, and dive in for the kill. By the end of the year, when you survey the clips left in your wake, you'll find a colorful array of stories that are fatally bound to ancient, decaying discourses that seem to disintegrate at the touch.” There were many brutal home truths in Luke Winkie’s newsletter post about the Wordle discourse and the realities of writing things online in exchange for money. Honestly, the mindset he describes is perhaps the real reason I shifted away from writing quick-turnaround pieces, I just couldn’t cope with its negative effects
Speaking of word games, I loved the New Yorker crossword puzzle editor Anna Shechtman's essay about black-and-white thinking. She writes so powerfully about the parallels between the thinking that makes her so good at compiling word puzzles but also that keeps her locked in her eating disorder. “It was this paradox—the promise of control and transcendence—which first drew me to the prototypically modern grid: the crossword puzzle.”
This piece in HBR about identity paralysis, a feeling of being stuck following a major life change, was fascinating. It’s framed as a listicle for how to overcome such a situation (!), but I took more from the anecdotes from the people who’ve felt unable to move past disruptive events that are peppered throughout
A ridiculous story about apartment hunting in New York? About considering renting a place with no toilet? For $2000 a month? Stick it in my veins
This American Life’s two-part special about a couple in Michigan who, while house-hunting, stumbled into a police officer’s property where they found something deeply disturbing and the story of what happened next
I really enjoyed listening to Bréne Brown on Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast, in particular, what she had to say about her experience of publishing her first book. On a similar theme, I’m halfway through Olivia Sudjic’s Exposure, which is a post-mortem of the anxiety that followed the release of her debut novel
I had some leftover sweet potatoes this week and I used them up to make this vegan, gluten-free brownie recipe. I know, “vegan, gluten-free brownie” sounds like an oxymoron but I guarantee that you’ll be shocked at how delicious they are; especially at 3.30 pm with a deadline looming
The sweetest story on the internet: An 8-year-old kid from Idaho self-published his debut graphic novel (“The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis”) by leaving it on a library shelf. When the librarians discovered it, they loved the book and Helbig’s tenacity, so they barcoded it and included it in the library’s collection. Now people are queuing up to borrow it and there’s a years-long wait to get hold of it.
📌 ICYMI: Last week I wrote about how doing less is a lot of work
📺 As for what I’ve been watching lately, I saved this commentary for last, because there are spoilers for the season finale of And Just Like That below!
I watched the first two episodes of And Just Like That with my bum clenched and my hands over my eyes. But then the show found its rhythm, as did I. It gave me exactly what I needed: something familiar to talk about with friends. To me, it still feels like the same show (I just call it Sex and the City in the group chat). The characters live in a disgustingly privileged bubble in New York and they had major blindspots the first time around and continue to have them now. As far as the effort to correct the show’s overtly white, heteronormative writing, that’s been undeniably awkward, to say the least. “Overbearing wokeness,” as the author Candice Brathwaite called it. But just like Brathwaite, I’m hopeful the show will get there in the end. If only for the simple reason that just as it was ground-breaking in its deception of the lives of 30-something women in the 1990s, a show about 50-something women in the 2020s is still something to be celebrated.
It’s also a reboot and needs to be viewed within that genre. Much like there was uproar at how awful Rory was in the Gilmore Girls reboot, Carrie was also always terrible, our nostalgia just wiped that from our memories. I like that Carrie is still the same self-centred, bad friend who is only happy when she has a love interest to talk about. Speaking of which, the hot podcast dude! I blinked and missed him earlier in the season, but I’m delighted the show is finally giving us a glimmer of vintage SATC: a passionate crush for Carrie to fixate on and who makes her make bad decisions.
As for the real ghost of the season, Samantha, I miss her terribly, but that text thing? A cheap shot! We all know that Kim Cattrall is not coming back, so just let that die and let’s move on. I don’t need that cliffhanger to tempt me into a second season, I’m already signed up for it.