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Prime Cuts #1
Idiosyncrasy masquerading as a newsletter.
Welcome to Prime Cuts, a curated weekly collection of the most interesting content for your Reading, Watching, or Listening playlists.
Fantastic interview in David Epstein's Range newsletter with Jeff Eggers about his book Leaders: Myth and Reality, in which they discuss the under-covered and not well understood impact of context, and of institutions, on the success and failure of leaders throughout history.
Nicholas Britell is one of my favorite young-ish film “film” composers, rising to fame from his collaborations with Barry Jenkins but is probably best known now for his work on Succession. I personally love his score for the under-appreciated film, The King. This is a great conversation about collaboration between masters of differing mediums.
An interesting profile for two diverging reasons. One is it very much represents the "picks and shovels" monetization opportunity presented by a gold rush (in this case, AI), which the article itself mentions. But it also represents the downside of hyper-scaling, with very obvious miniscule-wage worker exploitation and an obvious, explicit attempt to obfuscate this fact. It's the modern equivalent of "sweat shop" manufacturing, just replacing textiles with data labeling.
This Week in Uncorrelated Interests…
In this launch week for the newsletter, I wrote several pieces for your perusal:
What is This Newsletter? - a short essay dealing both why I’m writing and what you should expect.
Saving the Silver Screen in the Streaming Age - the first in a four-part series examining the theatrical film business.
The Obligations of Innovation (Part 1) - Silicon Valley has built incredible technology and wealth, yet both internal and external perceptions have soured. Why?
What is Growth Strategy? - A quick primer on this mercurial, oft mischaracterized area that just so happens to be a core piece of our firm’s work.
Urban planning is a pet favorite of mine, and this is a nice short video exploring Brooklyn's historical planning and development from the fantastic site (typically words, not video!) Works in Progress.
There is a distinct dearth of great documentary filmmaking about video games, so I'm quite thankful that Noclip is around. They are the first and best "studio" (a very small operation) focused exclusively on video game documentaries, and they are uniformly excellent. Perhaps their best work is this series on the creation of the award-winning indie game Hades, in which they partnered with Supergiant Games to follow the development of this game from start to finish (and even after the launch). An incredible resource if you're interested in what it actually takes to create a modern video game.
This is just an absolute delight start to finish. Kevin Kelly has devoted his life to exploring the human condition and expressing his learnings across different mediums (writing and photography especially). Tyler Cowan is probably the best interviewer out there, and multiple times in this episode Kelly starts laughing in response to a question - an instinctive reaction of surprise due to the unexpected nature of the question Cowen just posed. He even takes time, unprompted, at the end of the conversation to point out how interesting the questions were. This coming from a man who's been interviewed probably 100s of times in his career!
Nicholas Britell’s The King
I mentioned Nicholas Britell above so might as well include a piece here. This score is quite brooding given the subject matter, though this track in particular has more of a magisterial quality to it.
Radically Against the Grain
This is a bit of a dangerous segment I’m going to try 😬. Each week I will avail myself to public flogging by stating a contrarian view that I unequivocally believe to be true. Is it a hot take if I actually believe it!? I dunno.
But I’m curious to see just how out there some of my “core” beliefs actually are. Hit me up at @ericdickinger if you so desire.
Open floor plans are not only bad but the worst possible design choice for any space.
It’s no surprise why open floor plans came to dominate our offices:
They take absolutely zero work or forethought to setup.
They’re quite easy to photograph.
That is, open floor plans are now the default because of abject laziness and, well, Instagram. The madness must stop. Spaces must be designed with actual objectives in mind.
Open is the absence of design; it says “we want everyone to feel like they’re equal” but what it delivers is “we want everyone to be 10-90% less productive by designing a space that optimally delivers for exactly no one”.
Open floor plans are the sporks of interior design (yet somehow worse).