Welcome to the first Bullet List of 2018. I’ll have more time to focus on these from now on. I’ve recently decided 13 years of corporate employment was enough, and January has been my first month as a full time writer and creative. It’s terrifying, it’s confusing, but it’s pretty damn exciting. Current projects include the crime novel I’m working on at Faber Academy, for which I’m aiming to finish the first draft by April (please hold me accountable for that). I’m also writing more opinion journalism, dabbling in screenwriting, working on a documentary pitch, and I’m taking a more active role in my wife’s clothes brand. So, on to this edition's list of pop culture recommendations.
Something I Wrote
Speaking of personal projects, here’s something I wrote for UK film magazine Little White Lies about the disastrous trailer for Beirut. Somewhat dishearteningly it seems to have been getting some positive reviews at Sundance, but I’m not holding out much hope that it will be a fair representation of the complexities of Beirut in 1982. And I still think that it’s a waste of a brilliant film title.
L2 Inc’s Winners and Losers with Professor Scott Galloway. Now, before you despair at the recommendation of a channel dedicated to analyzing trends in the tech industry, hear me out. First of all, Galloway is a hilarious host. His deadpan delivery and occasional wig-wearing are worth the sub on their own. But he also has very insightful takes on an industry that dominates all of our lives, more than any other industry really. And he advocates for breaking up the four horsemen of big tech, so there’s something compelling about his approach to the industry. It's an interesting 3 or 4 minute breakdown of trends, what they mean for the economy, and for our lives as consumers.
Being on a writing course, I have honestly never read as much as I have in the past four months. But I don’t want to make this list ridiculous. I’ll just say you should definitely pick up Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, who came in and spoke to us about her process. Also, if you’re looking for a kick up the ass writing-wise, pick up Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. And for some great Bradford-based crime fiction pick up A.A. Dhand’s Streets of Darkness, which has been compared to Luther and The Wire.
OK, I know this isn’t prestige TV (and I’ve said before I’ve got a bit of prestige TV fatigue) but I've been enjoying going back through 4 seasons of Brooklyn Nine Nine. There is something so wonderful about a fun, lighthearted, hilarious ensemble comedy that’s delivered in short episodes that reminds you that TV doesn’t have to be grim and foreboding and delivered in hour-long chunks. It's also the kind of TV that can just fill up space while you're ironing or doing dishes.
Speaking of prestige TV, I have a semi-recommendation for a show that don’t stick the landing. Ozark, Netflix’s Breaking Bad, which I finally got around to watching a year after everyone else. I don’t think that’s a very fair comparison though, because Bateman’s character is already broken and bad when we meet him. It’s really quite fun and moves so quickly, packing a ton of action into every episode, until it all crumbles around the flashback episode (7, I think). Still, it’s a fun ride, and you should give it a shot.
James Altucher spoke to my good friend Mike Van Cleave for his massively popular podcast. It’s a tough (but wonderful and enlightening) listen. See, Mike was diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live a couple of years ago. Yeah, Mike’s not the kind of guy to leave this place while there’s still good parties and conversation to be had. So he's stuck around, and he's learned a lot. He is an inspiration, and I don’t use the word lightly. And this podcast will let you in on why he’s such a special friend. Turns out life advice from a dead guy is a best kind there is. If you click on one thing in this newsletter, make it this.
Another –– very, very different –– podcast I really enjoyed recently is Citations Needed. It explores the intersection of media, PR and power. The episode that got me into it was the one on Trumpwashing. The notion being peddled by the conservative and neoliberal establishment that somehow Trump is an abhorrent anomaly in the US political system, rather than it’s very id.
Quartz Obsession. I know it might seem weird to recommend a newsletter in a newsletter, but Quartz Obsession is absolutely great. Every day at 4pm you get a ridiculously detailed and interesting deep dive into one topic. The newsletter features content snippets like charts, statistics, videos cards, text, quizzes, quotes, timelines or polls. According to Jessanne Collins, editor of Quartz Obsession, “There’s a sense of news-cycle fatigue, which can offer an important gap for media products to fill. There’s a hunger for smart, relevant, interesting coverage that’s not regurgitated and not the same news day to day.” Sounds great, right? There are only so many articles you can read analyzing a Trump tweet. Treat yourself to something interesting in your inbox everyday. Oh, and one more thing, I’m finding carefully picked newsletters to be a great antidote to social media fatigue. I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything and I don’t have to be glued to Facebook and Twitter all day. Win-win.
An Idea I Want to Run By You
So I've been thinking about this for while, but I'd love to turn this list into a podcast. "Sounds amazing but how?" I hope you're asking. Well, I thought I could have bi-weekly chats with guests (writers, designers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, etc) and ask them to bring in their top pop culture recommendations and use those as a way into discussing their life and career. I'm lucky enough to live in London, know some people in the industries I'm interested in, and get to travel often, so I'd have access to some interesting people I hope. You'd be getting pop culture recommendations and an insight into the mind of someone interesting. Let me know what you think.