There's some sort of party going on up the street. Lots of loud talking, borderline yelling. I hope none of them are sick. Droplets folks, droplets.
This past week I went down the rabbit hole of brainstorming potential side hustles. It was rewarding, for a little while. I've been following the resurgence of email (does anyone type e-mail anymore?) newsletters for a couple of years now. There are a lot of good things to say about them. The best thing is that they've offered a sustainable option for independent writers and journalists.
There's an interesting mix of original content and - ugh, I have to find a different word because I hate this one - curated content. I've mentioned Craig Mod here a few times. He's on the original content side of things. He writes two great newsletters, and they're available to anyone who subscribes. He also has the Explorers Club, which is similar to a Patreon model. People who really like his work can support his work financially. They get some members only perks that end up benefitting them and the subscribers on the free plan. It's designed well, and it doesn't create an environment of haves and have nots or exclusivity.
The Browser is the best example of curated content. One reason I don't like that word is that it has become watered down in the past 5-10 years. Everything is curated. I suspect that the interwebs, without even being aware of it, is collectively annoyed with the word. Maybe we'll see it used less often.
Another reason is that, in its watered down state, it discounts the amount of work that the editors behind The Browser do.They read a ton of stuff every day and ruthlessly whittle that down to 3-5 great things to read, watch, and listen to. Here's a good interview Robert Cottrell, the lead editor. I think I've posted that link before. They look for journalism, writing, and stories that are meaningful and compelling, writing that would be as interesting in a year from now as it is today. When it pops up in your inbox for your morning commute, you know that you have some solid reading options. And, as they mention, you'll have a few interesting things to discuss at dinner...when we get back to having dinner with people.
I'm repeating myself, but that's a lot of work. It's a full-time job of reading, through a critical and curious eye. Both Mod and Cottrell point out that you can't just flip the switch to turn it into something sustainable. I think The Browser has been at it for ten years. In one interview I read, Cottrell mentioned that they started doing it back in the heyday of do it, and if people like it a business model will reveal itself. I wish I could find that interview. I just looked again. There was an interesting discussion about believing what they were doing was work and was valued, and that one should be paid for work. They experimented with different platforms and price points, trying to - oh, I might just be about to sound like an MBAer - right-price it.
That's years and years of building trust, which had an even deeper foundation in Cottrell's career in journalism. I said earlier you can't just flip the switch. That's not correct. You can. And then the reader finds themself in John Malkovich's library as he sips Scotch and discusses books or gets Jeff Bezos in a sickly lit warehouse with robot Alexa using AI to comb through thousands of trending stories about how to get the bestest, most glowingest skin. (I'm not dissing skincare, a friend of mine works her ass off in that field...just dissing the snake oil charlatans.)
I keep thinking about the walk I had with Aaron the other day. He and his friends have started a COVID-era book club. They're not half-assing it. They went the Stephen Hawking route. I tried to read A Brief History of Time once. It was way over my head. I just looked it up for a link; I can't believe it was published in 1988.
Aaron and I discussed Hawking while sitting at the Volunteer Park Café. I'll never be able to wrap my head around that loop of how it all began. Here we are arguing about the choice between Biden and Trump, and not one of us knows how we got to this point. Why is there anything? That's another rabbit hole I went down the past couple of weeks. Hawking's brain reconciled itself to the idea that there was no pre-Big Bang. My tiny brain can't get there. Have I still got time to race to the store for Cheez Its?
I'm trying to cancel my streaming internet options. Ineffectively. I've added other subscriptions in my side hustle search. Grateful I forgot about HBO Max. I watched the first couple of episodes of Lovecraft Country. It's incredible, and hard to describe. (That will be remedied further below.) It is a beautifully filmed series with incredible actors. I knew that black people had to always be careful about their surroundings, but I had no idea about sundown towns or HP Lovecraft's racism. (Go to your search engine of choice and type Lovecraft On the Creation of...)
Matt Duff wrote it, Misha Green developed it. I'm still thinking about it too much to write about it. It's trippy, it's not linear, it's worth a watch. I didn't realize the extent of HP Lovecraft's influence in the horror realm.
I told Aaron I was watching it, recommended it, and had learned about sundown towns. Aaron's black. He wrote back, "Yeah America has a lot of practice at making life difficult for black people."
The actors in Lovecraft Country are fantastic. I stumbled on an interview with Jurnee Smollett and Samuel L. Jackson that does a much better job describing the show. But even if you don't watch the show, it's a fantastic interview between two black actors describing Hollywood While Black, civil rights, and the ongoing requirement for black parents to counsel black sons on how to survive interactions with the police.
Smollett: But I can’t help but feel that we as a society, especially as a nation, walk in circles. Emmett Till is Trayvon Martin, okay? The systemic racism that this nation has been built upon has yet to be dismantled. When we tell stories like Lovecraft Country, people say, “It’s so relevant, it’s so timely.” Well, name me a time since 1619 that it wouldn’t be relevant. This story is ancestral.
Have you watched Doc Rivers' presser? (Scroll down to the video. If it's paywalled, you can find it by searching something along the lines of Doc Rivers loving this country ESPN.)
"We're the ones getting killed...all you do is keep hearing about fear...it's amazing to me...why we keep loving this country, and this country isn't loving back. It's really just so sad...like I should just be a coach..." He goes on to explain that the unions and the training need to change. (That's what most people are talking about when they discuss defunding the police.)
Somewhere during this post I got it in my head to look up Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing. I'd forgotten that the NYPD shows up and kills Radio Raheem by strangling him with a baton. It goes right back to Samuel L. Jackson's and Jurnee Smollett's comments in the interview above.
I was very sorry to hear of Chadwick Boseman's death.