Letter of Rec

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I ingest an inordinate amount of content so you don’t have to! Here are the best things I spent time on this month:

  1. What Relationships Would You Want, if You Believed They Were Possible? on The Ezra Klein Show. A conversation about how weird and awkward it is to put friendships (rather than a romantic relationship) at the center of your life. Klein points out that it’s normal to move for a romantic partner but not for friends. Something on my mind a lot re: moving back to the US from Australia.

  2. This comic, courtesy of my friend Ari. All webcomics should be gently unhinged.

  1. Determined: A Science of Life without Free Will by Robert Sapolsky. Loved Behave but nonetheless went into this excited to disagree with everything he said. Agreed with everything he said. In general, I’m wary of anyone who proclaims their determinism because I think those people are usually cynical and annoying, but this is an excellent exploration of how determinist beliefs can inspire empathy and criminal justice reform. I found Sapolsky highly persuasive (but note that I’m genetically and experientially predisposed toward persuadability).

  2. Not All Men (Are Golden Retrievers) by Rohita Kadambi in the New Yorker. Men on Hinge love to say they’re human golden retrievers. This is excellent:

  3. Staying at your friends’ house for a month. Like a big slumber party! I’m reminded of how consuming college dorm friendships are and how hard it is to replicate that in adult life—how many dinner parties do you need to have before you know someone on that level? Prerequisite is very generous friends but it’s rad if you can swing it.

  4. Why ‘Normal People’ Is So Captivating on The Watch. This is from 2020, but I just stumbled on it last week and think it’s still relevant. The hosts talk about how many shows package their romantic and emotional storylines in other plots and genres (Friday Night Lights, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.), but Normal People manages to feel rich and compelling while focusing on little outside the interpersonal relationships. They also point out that though there’s an appetite for content about intimacy and self-perception, it would’ve been difficult to create this sort of show if it weren’t based on a best-selling novel. I think this is a struggle a lot of writers/creators are facing at present—they want to make sincere, emotive art but need to create hooky gimmicks to get attention.

  5. Going Infinite by Michael Lewis. A deep dive into Sam Bankman-Fried from the author of The Big Short and Moneyball. I’ve given it some thought and decided I’ll pass on a fast-paced career in crypto fraud. Some reviews suggest Lewis isn’t sufficiently critical of SBF, but I can’t imagine leaving this book thinking SBF is innocent (or a fun guy/good boyfriend). I’m waiting for the movie version so Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez can give direct-to-camera cameos explaining tokens.

  6. This TikTok about using emojis as punctuation. IMO nonsense emojis are more ironic than the skull 🧇

@etymologynerd

emojis 👏 are 👏 punctuation 👏 #etymology #linguistics #language #punctuation

  1. Good Material by Dolly Alderton. A standup comedian post-mortems his breakup. I binged the audiobook in two days. This is one of those books that remains propulsive and charming despite a dearth of notable plot events, which is my favorite kind of book. Dolly Alderton is ubiquitous in Australia, but it seems like my American friends are just getting on board now. Worth a read if you like funny books about feelings! (Why would you not?)

  2. More dichotomies to play with. You may not be both or neither. You must always be one.

Currently reading: Stay True by Hua Hsu. I’m only 25% through, but I feel this will be an emphatic rec. Not sure what I can say to sell you on it that the Pulitzer Prize doesn’t say better.

Non-urgent thought of the week: Has Facebook changed its suggested friends algorithm? I’m convinced it suggests people who have recently looked at my profile, but it seems essentially impossible to prove this because the connections are too loose. (Should I start messaging people with two mutual friends to ask if they’ve gone looking for information about me? Bold strategy.)

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