Digest, 3/26/2023: The Past is Epilogue
the eighty-sixth digest post
In case you missed it, here’s my Iraq retrospective in the Daily Beast.
This Week’s Posts
Sunday, March 19th - Education Commentary is Dominated by Optimism Bias
This piece (which was supposed to go out on Monday morning but I’m an idiot and scheduled it incorrectly) is my brief against the dominance of optimism in our education discourse and how it distorts everything.
Tuesday, March 21st - You Get Better at Being Psychotic
Amanda Bynes’s recent behavior is more understandable than you may think.
Thursday, March 23rd - Why Irony, Bro?
I don’t know why people on the socialist left are still doing irony.
Friday, March 24th - Greater Than (subscriber only)
Some movies I like more than other movies. Sure to be the first in a series.
From the Archives
Song of the Week
Non-Garbage Online Reading
Coming specifically to fiction, there can be no fiction without appropriation. Because we fiction writers are predators too. If serial killers are merciless sociopaths, novelists are merciless appropriators. To construct our fictional worlds, we appropriate everything that crosses our path and we put it all in play. That is what makes great novels dangerous and revelatory things.
Speaking for myself, I have tried to learn my craft not only from politically irreproachable writers like Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, but also from imperialists like Kipling, and from bigots, racists, troublemakers and rascals who write beautifully. Should they now be rewritten to march to the beat of some narrow manifesto? - Arundhati Roy
Bad Blood, John Carreyrou, 2018
For a month or so recently I got obsessed with the Theranos scandal. I’m not really sure why; certainly it’s an easy thing to fold into socialist politics, but my interests were a bit more primal than that. What strikes me is not just Elizabeth Holmes’s ruthlessness, which is on display in this book again and again, but how fundamentally vacant she is. You watch interviews of her and there’s nothing behind her eyes. A question that’s really obvious in hindsight is… where and when would Holmes have become a visionary in the field of medical laboratory testing? She famously dropped out of Stanford at 19 and started the company immediately. Though her name appeared on all of the patents, she never demonstrated any particular facility for her industry at all. Why did people fall for it, given that there was no reason to believe that she knew anything at all about biochemistry or phlebotomy? Well, because she dropped out. Her genius was in creating a simulacra of what a tech founder looked like; that there was no there there was of little interest to investors. Carreyrou’s book is a workmanlike and convincing chronicle of the company and its rise and fall. If you’ve followed along with the story before, such as with podcasts or the series The Dropout, there’s a lot of good information here, but no real revelations. It’s also a little slow. But if you’ve been sucked into the story like I was, this is an essential text.
Comment of the Week
Pre-ordered a hard copy. Congrats for this. I can't believe you wrote a book while sustaining the pace on this substack. You have a hell of a work ethic. - Garret (yes this is an extremely self-indulgent comment to choose but you gotta sell the show my gang)
See you tomorrow. AND PREORDER MY BOOK!