16. Project update! + 36 cool things
1-1 training, Twitch streaming, and 36 projects and problems that are cool as hell.
Hello friends! I hope everyone’s October is proceeding in a properly autumnal, spooky, and festive fashion. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn, etcetera. Don’t look under the bed.
Today’s letter contains two parts:
I. Project updates.
What I’ve been working on, and how you can get involved. The ultra-short version:
II. 36 things I find cool
A list of cool things. I’m using this to figure out what to work on next.
Let’s jump into it.
I. Project updates.
A. Work with me 1-1
I resisted this for a long time...
But there’s something I know how to do. I’m extremely good at it, and I’ve done it for thousands of hours over ~8 years. Conveniently, it also brings value to others, supports my long-term vision, and could help fuel the entrepreneurship machine I’ve been fiddling with since last May. I have a good foundation for this kind of work, given my models of skill-building, my views on how to learn, my spiritual explorations, my ability to explain things clearly, and my skill at working with people. So, I think I will do it.
And I hope you’ll forgive me for introducing it with this goofy graphic that I had way too much fun making a couple days ago:
I’m experimenting with short, paid intro sessions through Superpeer. In a $60, 45 min intro session, I’ll give you a demo of what I do, and we can talk about the possibility of setting up a training relationship.
After the intro session, my prices start at $200/hr. But since I’m just getting rolling and want to fill up my calendar, and because it’s almost Halloween, I will be giving out discounts like candy for at least the next month. Even if you can only pay $100/hr or $50/hr, please hit me up anyway.
For other questions: contact [at] michaelcurzi [dot] com .
B. Let’s hang out
My last newsletter was all about this design work I’ve been working on. I may have slightly overhyped the project it was for!
That project is my Twitch channel:
For months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to share more of my best thoughts and insights at a higher rate, and Twitch looked promising on this front. I was planning to do philosophy rants while gaming, go on Twitch talk shows, and send all that content to YouTube. I built a PC and everything:
However! I misjudged something in advance - which is that I had been thinking Twitch would be a good audience-generator, but it’s looking more like a content creation platform. In other words, Twitch is a great place to send people if you already have an audience (which I sort of have, with ~130 Substack subs, and ~1250 Twitter followers) - but not the place to build that audience. It’s a good place to produce a certain kind of (live & non-live) video content, but not the place to find the people who will want to watch that content.
Indeed, apparently Twitch discovery is terrible. While people in the early days of Twitch would get found quickly, a lot of these easy wins have dried up. If anyone is interested in more on this, check out this great, no-nonsense video by Devin Nash. Tl;dr: Twitch is becoming more like trying to be a Hollywood actor - i.e., a brutally steep status/discovery pyramid, unless you’re extremely dedicated, and willing to go hard and break in via networking etc. (I still might decide to do this at some point.)
All of that said, I do want to do some streaming, because it’s fun. So I’m going to do it as more of a low-key, personal thing, rather than a main career driver.
If chilling with me while I play games sounds fun, follow me on Twitch to be notified when I go live! Feel free to jump in chat and ask me literally anything. It would be great to hang out with some of my Substack people, talk about philosophy, etcetera.
More project updates coming soon, as I continue to bootstrap Michael Curzi Studios™ (a subsidiary of CURZCORP GmbH).
Now, enough of all that! Let’s talk about some things that are cool.
II. 36 things I find cool
I’ve posted this Kanye quote before, and by the time I draw my last breath, by golly, I swear I’ll post it again:
For me, dopeness is what I like the most. People who wanna make things as dope as possible. And by default, make money from it.
The thing that I like the least, are people who only wanna make money from things whether they're dope or not, and especially make money from making things [the] least dope as possible.
Everyone wants to work on what they love. But even if we’re lucky enough to have a shot at trying this, we sometimes fail because we don’t even know what we like.
Kanye’s ode to dopeness reminds us of that innate, yet frustratingly alienable compass needle, pointing us where to go. We have to learn to ask ourselves: what would be awesome? What would be cool as hell? In order to sometimes get an answer that feels right. An answer that’s more serviceable than derivations of common opinion, stilted analysis, heuristics, social pressure, expert testimony, or a sense of obligation.
It is in this spirit that I decided to make a list of projects and problems which I find cool. These cover a range of of aesthetic, entrepreneurial, political and intellectual areas. My list is very me-shaped; it had to be. Your list would look very different. But who knows! You might like some of the things on mine anyway.
Watching Bladerunner on a 100-ft TV is cool. Have to wonder how he heats that room, though?
Theories that satisfactorily explain the present, on the basis of the past. New insights along these lines. Coherent frameworks that explain our current predicament, which are not stained by presentism, transparent political bias, or ignorance of history. Tragedy and Hope, by Carol Quigley, seems very cool here.
Things that make COVID less crappy. The micro-COVID project is cool. A group of my friends planning to co-locate in a village in Portugal is cool. Clubhouse, this time from the tech (drop-in audio chat) rather than social dynamics side, is cool on this dimension.
Unexpected, high quality collaborations. Hideo Kojima does all kinds of collaboration, bringing together Monster Energy and Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen and AMC and Low Roar and RJ Rey and Conan O’Brien and Khalid into his games. I’m dying to see more of this spirit in the people around me.
Things that un-fuck the mind. There are an infinite number of products offered along these lines: therapy, religion, pyramid schemes, The Secret, gratitude affirmations, meditation, meditation apps, retreats, ayahuasca ceremonies, procrastination seminars, etc. But: how many of them work? And how well? Distinctive innovations here are extremely cool. Understanding why so many of these things feel scammy, but kind of work anyway, would be cool.
Knowledge of the conditions of stable community. Two extremely useful inputs seem to be stable co-location and mutual identification of shared interests. Can we make a practical science out of this?
Communication across conceptual barriers. Someone telling me about how wonderful Ken Wilber’s Integral theory is: sorta cool, but not that cool. Someone who understands Wilber’s theory, but is able to take off that conceptual lens in order to talk about independently accessible phenomena that smart non-adherents might buy into: pretty cool!
Talking to intellectual and spiritual heroes. The recent Stoa event that had Keith Johnstone in it was extremely cool.
Romantic matchmaking as community building. Great people finding great partners is a huge deal. A few friends of mine are dipping their toes into matchmaking, in order to facilitate this. One friend (whose name I won’t mention) once put up a $5000 bounty for whoever is responsible for introducing him to the person he marries. These things are cool!
Anything that rolls back or offers to conquer atomization. Many projects propose to fight the good fight here, but don’t do it, or even make it worse; we often assume technology brings us together, for example, but it also drives us apart. Cutting this Gordian knot would be cool.
Class consciousness (used broadly here, in a way that probably butchers Marxian theory). I doubt the ‘coalition landscape’ is efficient; that is to say, we are all part of non-existent ‘coalitions-that-could-be’. Each one of us could be in a crew of 3-4 that hustled & kicked ass together. Clumps of 3-4 of us could make contact with other such clumps, and trade info/hang out/hold cool events. Things that manifest new coalitions are cool.
Alternatively, good arguments that the coalition landscape is efficient might be cool. Though I’m skeptical.
Cool people meeting each other. I’m increasingly working on connecting my friends to each other. New friends with weird skills and angles on life are very cool. This kind of work is shockingly high value for how easy it can be.
New concepts that clarify a course of action in a complex area. E.g., I like Jason Crawford’s concept of industrial literacy. It’s simple, and you get the idea pretty quickly, and the rest of the Progress Studies educational approach makes a lot of sense once you have this concept. Likewise, Samo’s concept of intellectual dark matter helps clarify why reviving living knowledge traditions is a useful course of action from the perspective of civilization.
On the ideological side, I’m interested in post-libertarian worldviews that mine the best insights from anti-market ideologies. For a view to be properly post-libertarian, not just anti-libertarian, IMO, it needs to see and appreciate everything that is excellent about markets and cutting regulation. Put simply: you need to have marveled at the majesty of the Great Machine that lets you hand some guy some scraps of green paper, and get fresh orange juice back. However, for various reasons, I’m more wary these days of the Invisible Hand leading mankind off a cliff. In particular, some of the ethos of individual self-determination in America is probably false; I think class lines are far more rigid than we like to admit; these days I believe economic exploitation is very real, etcetera. So, I want the ideological insights that synthesize the best of these worldviews.3/ Following this, Quigley articulates one of the most cogent, non-ideological critiques of capitalism I’ve seen - one which, at this time, I completely agree with. I think libertarians should cede this point. cf. attached, which can’t be overemphasized!
Divia Eden @diviacarolineMy current mood: https://t.co/T8TP9MUqKY
The New Class War by Michael Lind was very cool (Palladium digital salon here). I don’t mean to endorse any particular claim within it, and I don’t know if his conclusions are right. But he put modern populism and managerial capitalism in a clearer light for me, and proposed a course of action that left-leaning elites might find palatable, which might also have a chance of un-fucking said elites’ relationship to the South, to rural conservatives, to religious traditionalism, and the like. Maybe. I found the book methodologically unique, in that it took a lot of perspectives into account and came out with something I had never heard before.
Low key grants and funding opportunities are cool. Emergent Ventures is doing something very cool here - and I’m hyped to know a number of people who have gotten these grants. Now and then someone on Twitter offers $500-$1000 grants to jumpstart new projects. If I had the cash on hand, I think I’d be doing this kind of thing all the time.
(Re grants, some will correctly argue that money is frequently NOT the bottleneck on new projects. On the other hand, a vote of confidence from the right person can be crucial, and sometimes that’s why the grant is useful. Many of our bottlenecks are social and spiritual in nature.)
Clarity on ‘what the next big thing’ will be. Everyone wants to be the guy who spotted oil or crypto or railroads before everyone else. Following these trends in a lame way is not cool. But getting it right would be extremely cool!
New economic forms. One thing I’ve been wondering about is why there aren’t more well-paid, ½-time jobs. E.g., if you were going to earn a $70k salary, why not earn a $35k salary and work 2.5 days a week, or half-days all week? It seems like this would give people a lot of time for family, self-development, cool side projects, and the like. That would be cool.
Maybe this structure doesn’t serve employers. Then again, maybe this opinion is stupid. Plenty of employers probably once thought work-from-home would kill their businesses.
’Half-speed companies’ sounds interesting and new and cool and weird.
Along these lines, Justin Murphy seems like he’s doing something cool, re helping non-academic intellectuals get paid to think and communicate.
Things that roll back the ways that technology makes people dumber are cool. I’m not into kids growing up on iPads. I’m not into apps and technology that train us into addiction. I don’t think you can use addiction to solve addiction. But maybe we can do something to solve technology addiction.
Publishing companies are cool. Stripe Press is cool. Mystery Grove seems edgy, as far as their Twitter presence goes, but the small-batch-ness of it is cool. I like the idea of bringing back old books in beautiful new forms. On first glance, publishing doesn’t seem like the hardest area to break into.
Effective leadership training. Everyone’s got a leadership theory, but nobody seems to really know why some people become innovative, self-driven hustlers, and others don’t. Figuring this out would be dope. This is a hard problem, and 99.99% of opinions here are very wrong.
Classics education is cool. The Classics get a lot of hate, but they’re incredible, and to be honesty I’m pretty sick of hearing the people being faux-contrarian by dunking on the Classics; in 90% of cases these people haven’t read them; and even if they have ‘read’ them, the extent of their reading was being forced through Julius Caesar in high school. Anyway, the Classics are one of my few sources of hope for the re-invigoration of humanity. There are many potentially cool projects here that I haven’t looked into.
Knowledge of great new cities is cool. Various people think SF or NYC is dying - are they? Is Austin the future? Is the Coastal Diaspora going somewhere in particular? I don’t know. Lots of dismissable/bad opinions here, but I’m sure someone is nailing this question.
Low-key ways to financially invest in dope shit are cool. I don’t know what it takes to be an accredited investor, but I’ve heard it’s rather expensive. But I want to give a bit of money to things sometimes, anyway! I should just Google this.
Ye’s presidential campaign might be a load of crap, but it’s also cool. The purple hat is cool.
Palettes are cool. Brilliant, amazing looking shit is cool.working with a friend on palette development an example of what you might call 'averting the degenerate signals of a design language'; i.e., not signaling the bad thing that's next to the cool thing you want to signal
Michael Curzi @michaelcurziWhere can I find the absolutely sickest & most incredible color schemes (Did find this one website...) https://t.co/X4Wy0Hefsl
Society returning to epistemic fundamentals would be cool. A society needs high-quality, objective information; modern journalism is a great example of something which has drifted from this purpose. ‘Science’ is also supposed to do this, but science journalism sucks, and anyone who thinks the deep and treacherous spectre of Scientism isn’t a threat to our ability to build knowledge, just isn’t paying attention. I want solutions to this.
Finding new thinkers is cool. Mike Solana seems cool.
Competent post-tribal political stuff . Lots of these are LARPy and sort of BS - I must admit that I never really believed in Unity2020, for example. But radicalization is clearly happening, and sucks. Properly long-term and non-naive solutions could be cool. 99.99% of ideas here are bad.
People being assessed for quality, rather than ‘vibed affiliation’ is cool. I want to hear about thinkers who break a few norms about ‘what you’re supposed to believe’, but who have good stuff anyway, and are at least a little bit socially responsible about how they throw their weight around. Zizek is cool.
Good new art is cool. I like this guy’s stuff.
Multidimensional cultural revival is cool. I don’t think this looks like ‘planning a new society’ - I think this looks like making cool shit together. I like a group that is testing and refining its intellectual, social, and aesthetic sensibilities. People that know how to chill, how to share art, how to do good projects, how to discover brilliant ideas. I have been around such people! The raw material is there.
Good new sci-fi is cool. I’ve never run into modern sci-fi that beat Ted Chiang’s, but I’ll keep looking. Everyone keeps telling me to read God-Shaped Hole.
Space is cool. But you knew that.
As a rule: any new project that avoids the common failure modes of its area starts becoming interesting and extremely cool. More of these would be cool.
Thus ends the exposition on what I currently find cool.
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