What I’ve been reading
Much more than you wanted to know about ivermectin. Has broader applications, a general response to the question of “How can the initial evidence for a drug look so strong when it (probably) does nothing?”.
Why VAT is better than sales tax.
Examining the culture of 1999 through its greatest films, maybe the greatest year in cinema history. Matt Lakeman’s excellent travel series has also continued with Notes on the Dominican Republic.
The Library of Athena A project to make reading classic texts online easier. It’s like Project Gutenberg but good.
The Queen’s Gambit Entirely forgettable, a competently written book but almost identical to the Netflix miniseries, which was itself competently produced but lacking in heart.
David and Goliath And with that I’ve now read all the Malcolm Gladwell books. All his books are at least worth listening to, since he does the narration for the audiobook. Sometimes I feel like he’s pulling the lever on a slot machine to determine what X is counterintuitively related to Y, in a way that somehow feels like it makes sense when you get into his mindset.
The Great Mental Models: Vol 1 I’m not sure Shane Parrish has anything particularly interesting to say by himself, as I didn’t get much out of this nor his blogposts. The motif of returning all the examples to Berkshire-Hathaway is also off-putting, it makes it feel like too much of a business book. And we all know how much filler there is in business books.
What If? Pure fun, from XKCD creator Randal Munroe. If you have any 13-year-olds in your life with a burgeoning interest in science, get this for them for Christmas!
Shenzhen Another travelogue from Guy Delisle, all of which are worth reading.
What I’ve been listening to
Balaji Srinivasan on… many topics. He did another podcast with Tim Ferriss earlier this year, also worth listening to and covers a lot of the same ground. The anti-woke stuff is boring, I’m not qualified to have an opinion on the crypto stuff, but I found Balaji’s ability to talk for very long periods of time intelligently and without being repetitive very impressive. And the Fry and Laurie skit about the Treaty of Westphalia.
Niall Ferguson on Lex Fridman discussing University of Austin, his influences, literature, and financial history. You can skip the anti-woke stuff, or at least listen on 2-3x speed.
Paul Bloom has a new book out, so he’s been doing the podcast circuit. Two of the best are with Sam Harris and Very Bad Wizards.
Tyler Cowen: “Gifting someone a book is actually a cruel thing. Because they’ll feel some obligation to read it, and that’s bad unless it’s the best book for them to be reading at that time. I have some people where I give them books and they feel no obligation to read them, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
The Complete Live at the Lighthouse, especially ‘The Beehive’. Lee Morgan, 1970.
What I’ve been watching
The French Dispatch Initial impression: too busy, too “Wes Anderson”. I feel I will have to watch again as there are many details I missed the first time. The lack of French spoken in the film is my biggest single problem with it. This was somewhat excusable in ‘Isle of Dogs’ but it reaches new heights here.
No Time to Die Entertaining, but immediately forgettable. It’s weird that there is such an arc between the Craig Bonds, despite the fact that almost no one goes back and rewatches the old ones when they come out. His relationship with Vesper in Casino Royale was starkly more believable than his relationship with Madeline here and in Spectre.
The Cat Returns My new third favourite Ghibli.
Dirty Dancing Given that this is a classic film I thought it would be good and it… really isn’t. You have to be in a certain mood to not cringe at the sheer awkwardness of the dialogue. My mum tells me it absolutely rocked conservative Ireland in the 80s, and that my uncle even made Patrick Swayze t-shirts for the family. Simpler times.
Okja From Bong Joon Ho, the director of Parasite. Excellent, filled with heart, plays to the strength of the language barrier (half the film is in Korean and the other half in English). It also has the guts to show the inside of a slaughterhouse, which I don’t think I’ve seen in a single feature film. Too real, I guess.