Watching someone display mastery is mesmerising.
Don’t let the idea that you don’t like Tool stop you from watching Danny Carey’s drumming mastery on Pneuma. I have found myself coming back to this clip over and over lately. Something about it is calming, and complete, in a similar way to the visual loops on IFYOUHIGH.
The more I’ve watched it, the more I’ve tried to work out how he’s doing what he’s doing. Like actually trying to move my arms and legs in a way that would make that drum sound. And I’ve got nowhere. Until I found this video from Austin Burcham.
Burcham’s breakdown confirms the mastery… and makes it almost mathematical. I particularly enjoyed the explanation of how Carey shortens his orchestration cycles from 5 to 2 towards the end of the song to build tension.
Live Performance Dave Grohl and 11-year old Nandi Bushell at The Forum LA jamming Everlong with Foo Fighters
“At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly, especially when they are relatively young, simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind. It costs you relatively little to do this, but the benefit to them, and to the broader world, may be enormous.
This is in fact one of the most valuable things you can do with your time and with your life.”
This transcript of Ezra Klein interviewing Tyler Cowen is a must-read.
There are so many ideas contained within - GDP as the best metric for measuring growth, cracking cultural codes, mRNA vaccines, cryptocurrencies, and AI as signals that the great stagnation of the past 10 years might be over - but the one I want to focus on is the one in the quote above. The outsized impact of small amounts of belief and capital early in people’s journeys.
“Supplying people, especially younger people, visions of what they could be, is greatly undersupplied... In some of the grants I’ve given out through Emergent Ventures to younger people, I’ve also tried to give them a sense of what I think they could be and I suspect that’s more important in some cases than the grant. In a way it’s complemented by the grant. In a way you’re giving the grant so you can package it with this vision…and the grant makes the vision more vivid or more focal, like they believe the vision because you spent real dollars on them.”
Related: On Medici and Thiel
Blackbird is a Pledge 1% member and through the Blackbird Foundation, we provide grants to unleash creativity in young people. The Protostars, as we call grant recipients, go through a fellowship program, and are doing amazing things.
Ginger-Rose Harrington is translating an ancient text from an Egyptian Solar Cult.
If you ever needed a reason to feel optimistic about the future, the Protostars are it.
Circling back to Tyler Cowen, in Tyler Cowen is the best curator of talent in the world, investor Tony Kulesa wrote: “Everyone in the business of building and managing organizations should study Tyler’s performance and process. For entrepreneurs in today’s environment, talent, not capital, is the limiting factor in company building. Finding and recruiting talent is also the core task of venture capital investing, building a research lab, or managing a university.”
One of Cowen’s most inspiring initiatives is Emergent Ventures, a program that supports brilliant minds with highly scalable, “zero to one” ideas for meaningfully improving society.
Another of the Emergent fellows, Alexey Guzey, (whose ‘Best of Twitter’ Substack is must-read) has launched New Science, which aims to build new institutions of basic science, starting with the life sciences.
Guzey has brought on board the team from Slime Time Mold who do what they call ‘Mad Science Blogging’ to join him.
You can get a sense of their work from this insane set of posts on the mysteries of obesity, starting with A Chemical Hunger: “The first mystery is the obesity epidemic itself. It’s hard for a modern person to appreciate just how thin we all were for most of human history. A century ago, the average man in the US weighed around 155 lbs. Today, he weighs about 195 lbs. About 1% of the population was obese back then. Now it’s about 36%.”
Amazingly, we may finally have a prescription for obesity.
In June, the FDA approved Wegovy for chronic weight management in obese or overweight adults with at least one weight-related condition (such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol). In the 68-week clinical trial, participants lost an average of 12.4% of their initial body weight.
The opportunity is well summarised in this post: the future of weight loss.
“Our recent experience treating patients with obesity,” says David Macklin, MD, “is similar to the experience physicians have when they provide blood pressure drugs to patients with high blood pressure or asthma medications to patients with asthma. We finally have a drug that effectively treats the condition.” Macklin, an 18-year veteran of obesity medicine and coauthor of the Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines, is referring to his two years of experience treating over a thousand people with obesity using the relatively new drug semaglutide.”
One of the best things I’ve read this year is Kevin Kwok’s ‘Narrative Distillation’. Its ostensibly about the power of founder storytelling but it perfectly captures this moment in time in technology and startups.
“Historically, capital was the scarcest resource. Venture capital as an industry was built and structured around capital scarcity as the most important blocker on company success.
But increasingly it isn’t scarce anymore. And it certainly isn’t the main blocker for many of the top companies. Talk to top tech companies today and raising capital is ironically one of the easier aspects of building and derisking the company. Hiring and retaining a talented team is far harder. Acquiring and retaining customers is harder. Understanding and getting the team coordinated on what to build is harder. Oh, and did I mention that hiring and retaining a talented team is far harder?”
An album I’ve been going deep on recently is Fred Again’s ‘Actual Life’.
Fred Again started life as a producer, mentored by Brian Eno, and working on Eno • Hyde, the collaboration between Eno and Underworld's Karl Hyde. He then moved to artists like The XX, Stormzy, and Ed Sheeran (proof here), before releasing his own record earlier this year.
The songs perfectly capture this moment, the heaviness of a world beneath the COVID shadow, mixed with the optimism of it being almost through, and the sun coming it. The energy in the music recalls that first wave of big beat when the Chemical Brothers, and Fatboy Slim were ascendant.
I liked this description: “It’s that emotional connection people feel from Fred again..’s music that makes them optimistic: it’s not a joyous feeling of elation, it’s feeling seen and feeling together.”
Each song on the album contains a spoken word vocal sample, often just Fred recording a friend or stranger on the street with his phone. The sample will capture the ethos of the song “we’ve lost dancing”, “we gon make it through”, “I found you”, but the song will build to an entirely different place, often euphoric, but never completely letting go of the melancholy.
Fred Again explains: “I was in Atlanta, and this guy called Carlos rolled up to me, and he was kind of beautiful. I was just having gags with him, and I started filming bits on my phone as I do on nights out, and he had this beautiful, beautiful energy. When I woke up in the morning hungover as hell, I was flicking through my phone and creasing at everything from the previous night. In the clips, he was saying, “We gon’ make it through, man!” I put that into Logic and started messing around with it, and I immediately loved it.”
You should watch Series 7 of Alone. Here’s the concept: ten survivalists are dropped on the shores of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada, and told they’ll win a million dollars if they can survive for 100 days, with just 10 items of their choice. You can see below what contestant Roland takes in with him.
It is amazing. Not just the skills of these people, but the human study of what kind of psychology can withstand cold, and loneliness, and dark for the longest time.
Finally, I’m going to end with a recommendation you watch 9/11: One Day In America. It might be the most stunning documentary series I’ve ever seen. It’s 9.4 IMDB rating is not a mistake.
Unlike Netflix’s ‘Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror’ which is much more politically focussed, One Day In America focuses on the individual stories of those who were there on the day - the firefighter in charge, the man trapped in the rubble, the Marine who came and saved him, and the woman stuck in the stairwell.
Much of the footage, raw, and from the site itself, comes from two French documentary filmmakers who happened to be making a documentary about New York firefighters on the day the planes struck. As they investigate a gas leak in Lower Manhattan, American Airlines Flight 11 flies right over them, and the filmmakers catch the moment the plane flies directly into the North Tower.
The whole series is profoundly moving.
I won’t spoil it, but the moment shared between the brothers in the series’ final scene will stick with me forever.