After a holiday season filled with family, friends and a honeymoon! - I'm back with December and January recommendations. Between the honeymoon and time off work there was a lot of time to consume culture. There's a mix of books, podcasts, blog posts, and movies that I've enjoyed over the last two months. Hope this helps you sort through the fray that is the internet / state of culture in the first month of 2015.
READ / FOCUS
Invisibilia is a new podcast from NPR that "explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior." There have been three episodes so far, and their most recent podcast, around the theme of expectations, is my current favorite.
Rembert Browne is a writer for Grantland who also does a podcast every now and again. Rembert has a really thoughtful and humorous take on the world. His most recent podcast with Chris Hayes was a treat. I also really loved his episode with Jenna Wortham of the New York Times. You could argue that it's kind of self indulgent for Journalists to publish a podcast where they talk a lot about the state of journalism, but I think it's important. As consumers of news and information it's in our interest to know the point of view that's shaping the information we consume. Having a fuller understanding of the journalist and their perspective makes us all more informed. In a good way I think?
Every few months there is an insightful and well written account of how a teen (and therefore all other teen's in the world), use social media. This is the perfect response to these powerful and well written anecdotes that aren't necessarily representative of a larger population. It's also a good reminder that we need to work to combine these anecdotes and storytelling with better data to get real insight.
Shake Shack, the popular burger chain that started in Brooklyn, recently filed for its IPO. Based on this filing, there have been lots of articles comparing the recent downturn of McDonalds to the potential growth of Shake Shack. While all of this talk was interesting (see the article for full background) - the tweet below was pretty fascinating. Much of the explanation around the McDonalds downturn is focused on McDonalds' failure to brand itself effectively for "health conscious" Millenials. While that may be true, there is also another story - The sheer size of the market opportunity for Shake Shack. Upscale fast casual restaurants with organic and natural ingredients are no longer "niche." What's more - the data below suggests that the market for catering to the tastes and preferences of the top 16th percentile in the US, is the same size as it was for McDonald's to market and cater to anyone above the median household income in the 1950s. I would also guess that those tastes and preferences of the top 16th percentile that probably enjoy Shake Shack will become aspirational for those outside of the top quintile of median household income. Maybe this is why McDonalds is serving Quinoa in Australia.
This was quite an uplifting beach read. Just kidding. I really loved the way Therborn articulated his argument around the evils of inequality across the globe. While Piketty has gotten certain circles of power to talk about inequality with the beautiful simplicity of his economic argument, Therborn raises powerful questions about whether as a global society we should be shooting for equality of opportunity or for equality of outcomes. As the world continues to get "wealthier" we need to keep a lot in mind, and maybe get more sophisticated about the way we judge and understand progress. The book ends with some examples of equalization that Therborn determines somewhat successful. While his quantitative examples are thought provoking and persuasive - I think the true power in this book lies in its ability to force us to think about what meaningful economic growth means if a true goal is combatting inequality, rather than pure growth at all costs. What are the real outcomes that indicate that life is getting better for most people?
This is just fun. Pew does a great job of data visualization even if they do oversimplify and try and play up generational differences that may or may not exist. I've been playing around with a lot of overlapping histograms lately (like the one below).
The honorable woman (Netflix)
The Honorable Woman is one of the better TV shows I've watched in a long time. It is expertly written, acted, and paced. It is both gripping and affecting. Just watch this show.
After seeing this movie it's kind of hard to believe it was only nominated for one academy award.
Timbaland written music, Terrance Howard, Taraji P. Henson... and Cuba Gooding Jr. just made an appearance in the latest episode with a bunch of horses. This show is great.
As we've dug in for winter here, the winter beers have emerged. I guess I wasn't quite ready to give up on cider however, and, as luck would have it, a perfect winter cider exists in the form of Spoke Wrench Stout Apple. Imagine a malty stout base mixed with crisp tart apple cider. If Spoke Wrench Stout Apple isn't around where you are, try mixing a dry cider with a stout. Do it.
I was lucky enough to get one of these for Christmas from my mother in law and I kind of can't stop wearing it.
EMILY'S PICK -
Emily makes a mean pizza from Trader Joe's pizza dough. Here is what she does :)
Roll out dough flat with flour. Also pre-heat oven to 425 and heat up pizza stone or cookie sheet in the oven.
Take hot cookie sheet out of the oven and add olive oil and garlic on top of the dough, cook for 10 minutes
Take pizza out and add toppings (try artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms), cook for five more minutes to melt cheese.
Ok! Let me know if there is anything that I need to check out that you've enjoyed these past two months!