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Here you’ll find an archive of Nathanael’s weekly email. In it, he features an essay and curated reading on technology + marketing + simplicity.

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Harrowing reading - #391

My first summer read was a 500-page Wallace Stegner novel published in 1943. A friend hefted The Big Rock Candy Mountain from the counter and chuckled, "well this seems light."


The eclipse done right - #390

A few months ago, I experienced something amazing. I saw an eclipse of the sun at Sugarloaf. That's accurate, but does nothing to convey what it was.


Can religion modernize? - #389

One of the things that makes religious institutions countercultural is their resistance to change. Everything in our society prefers new & improved. You don't really have to explain why the new way is better than the old way: the new is to de facto preferred. This, of course, has its drawbacks. We have an ongoing disaster from putting front facing cameras on phones, connecting them to social networks, and giving them to our kids. But we didn't really question when the cameras on phones were better: they were new. And that was enough. The opposite is generally true when it comes to church: it exists to uphold the old.


This is your life online - #387

Remember what activism was like in the 1990s? I sure do. The people who didn't like world trade broke some Starbucks windows in Seattle; the ones who objected to smoking got to put body bags all over New York City (or maybe just the famous parts); to get us to never forget to think about illegal drugs, the ad people updated their campaign, "this is your brain on drugs."


Which side gets science? - #386

The second essay in the 2012 version of The Best American Essays, is Marcia Angell's "The Crazy State of Psychiatry", originally published in The New York Review of Books. Reading it now makes you realize just how much has shifted. Not in the sense of the psychoactive drugs she questions having become more demonstrably effective nor in the sense of psychiatry's diagnostics becoming more scientific. These are more-or-less unchanged. Also unchanged is our willingness for drug-based solutions to most medical problems (see Ozympic). What surprised me about the essay is that the books it reviews are classic left-of-center attacks on pharmaceutical companies; it takes for a given that a progressive person ought to be skeptical of medicines, like vaccines, and their side effects. The good leftist assumes that right-leaning people are carrying water for drugs of unknown origin with unknown side effects.


What if it's ok - #385

A lot of the more entertaining reading these days amounts to nervous hand-wringing about potentially bad futures. A lot of the best writing is the essay equivalent of ruin porn. Smartphones, front-facing cameras, and mobile social media accounts are ruining kids (especially girls). Increasing personal atomization is ruining the social fabric of our society. The nationalization of our politics promotes national tribal division and increasing violence. Various of the crazies are perpetually attempting an immanentization of the eschaton, with ruinous results. I've linked to enough of these pieces for you to know the authors getting worked up about the ruination.


Media criticism: old and new - #384

I like reading what's well-written. If there's a recurring theme here, it's that the topic matters less than the quality of the writing. When I try to make a point with what I share, the links are always less fun for you.


Three Reads About Cities - #383

A fun workplace lunch conversation recently has been my boss's idea that Boston is held back by the number of separate municipalities that comprise what most people think of as Boston. While driving around, you might think you're in Boston, but you really make your way from Revere to Malden, Summerville and Cambridge, Boston itself, then quickly to Brookline or Newton. These aren't villages or neighborhoods, like Chestnut Hill or Mattapan or East Boston; these are separate municipalities with their own schools, police departments, and boards and mayors. I'm not sure if the theory that these separate cities hold the region back is correct. It seems to me that a little competition over which city can be the best could result in them all being a bit better. But the core of this idea is that our places and how we manage them matters.


Nathanael's Reading

More than a hundred and fifty  people read the weekly email “Nathanael’s Reading,” which he’s sent every Friday since 2016. Nathanael includes original thoughts and curated reading on technology + marketing + simplicity. Subscribe by entering your email here