My Media Diet, Debut Edition

I really love Jason Kottke’s media diet posts. So much so, I’ve started logging and summarizing my own cultural consumption habits.

Here’s the inaugural edition, covering summer 2024.


Fire in the Valley, by Michael Swaine and Paul Freiberger. Good history of the rise of the computer industry, primarily around Silicon Valley. Filled some holes for me around how the mass-market PC segment evolved (especially with the moves Xerox did in trying to make the ‘home office of the future’). Over-emphasises some stories and undercooks others, and I got the feeling they were aggregating stuff they’d written before. Still worthwhile though. B

Insanely Great, by Steven Levy. Perfectly-serviceable recount of how the Macintosh came into being. I never really followed Steve Jobs while he was alive, but I’ve come to admire Apple’s approach to category creation. This book shows how category design was in the company’s DNA from the early days. All of Levy’s books are fairly good fly-on-the-wall accounts — I’ve also read his Facebook and Google editions — and it’s good to read one of his early works. Also, I found it much better than the Isaacson biography. B

Storyworthy, by Matthew Dicks. Very useful, actionable book from a storytelling veteran who appeared many times on the Moth podcast. Some of his advice is invaluable, like always begin a story with a place and a time, or replace your “and then” sentences with either “but” or “therefore” instead. His habit of writing out the day’s most memorable events is also a great thing to attempt for a new year’s goal. I’m giving it a go, and it’s refreshed my entire relationship with journalling, memory capture, and Notion. So, thanks, Matt?! A-

Burn Book, by Kara Swisher. Extremely dishy memoir by Silicon Valley’s most respected (and feared) reporter. I found some parts a bit soapbox-y, but that’s OK. Swisher’s great writing shone through. Recommended for anyone interested in the history of tech from the perspective of an optimist with a powerful bullshit detector. B+

Same as Ever, by Morgan Housel. The long-awaited follow-up to the Psychology of Money. Focusing on the evergreen parts of society and human nature was a great idea. Brief, breezy, and occasionally profound. B+

Cable Cowboy, by Mark Robichaux. Finally got around to this one after years of it being in my Wish List. I needn’t have bothered. It’s fine. I just didn’t find the cable broadcasting industry as interesting as I thought. Most valuable insights for me were the financial engineering behind a publicly-listed cable company (fixated on revenue growth with no profits or dividends — is this where Jeff Bezos got the idea for Amazon’s public company strategy?) and the fact that streaming video was thought of in the 1980s, long before Netflix mailed out their first DVD. B-

Extremely Hardcore, by Zoë Schiffer. There’s been a bit of a land grab to write the definitive account of the Elon-era of Twitter. Schiffer’s version is well written and has great sourcing, so I wouldn’t bother with any of the others (especially Ben Mezrich’s, which is likely to be yet another half-fictional screenplay-in-waiting like The Accidental Billionaires which Aaron Sorkin adapted into The Social Network). A-

Drops of God: Mariage. It’s here! It’s finally here!! The next saga of the Drops of God manga is at last being translated. It’s hard to overstate how much I love this series. Reading it, screenshotting the interesting bottles that appear, then trying to track them down and taste them for myself has become a pastime of pure bliss. To quote Edward in Twilight, it’s my own personal brand of heroin. I hope they do the whole series (my bank account does not). A+


Bureau of Eating and Drinking. This is, by far, my favourite new newsletter. Jay Clough is an excellent writer and deeply embedded in Melbourne’s hospo industry. His flashback to the 2008 dining scene after finding an old copy of the Good Food Guide is somehow Proustian without being pretentious. It’s kind of a miracle, really. His review of the newly-revamped Vue du Monde is also masterfully done. Can’t wait for the inevitable Melbourne vs. Sydney interstate rivalry think piece. It will be a gastronomic epic for the ages. All Victorians who eat must subscribe to this. A

Daniel Throssell. A deliberately-polarising newsletter about copywriting and storytelling. Made famous by being the email brains behind the Barefoot Investor. Not really my cup of tea. His recent experiment of passing your name in a series of subject lines and calling you ugly is eye-rolling. But, look — he obviously knows what he’s doing, and each edition is still eminently readable. Go off, king. B


Poor Things. Quite liked this while watching it, but the more I thought about it afterwards the more flaws emerged: long, uneven, a second act that felt like an art student’s homage to Wes Anderson. Also, spoiler alert, but just how fast was her transplanted brain developing again? Because if you really consider the implications of the idea it gets creepy. Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, and Willem Defoe were all great though. Doesn’t hold a candle to The FavoriteB

Saltburn. Gorgeous visuals. Great cast (Barry Keoghan is extremely unsettling). Banging 2000s-era soundtrack. Has an icky aftertaste at the end, though, where you’re not sure who to root for. All the bodily fluid stuff was a not-so-subtle “eat the rich” metaphor. Emerald Fennel, are you a hack or a genius? B-

Dune 2. Living up to the expectations set by the first one was always going to be daunting, but Denis did it! A sweeping epic that has almost single-handedly saved the cinema-going experience for 2024 — the same way Top Gun: Maverick did a couple of years earlier. Long, sometimes overly-expository, other times logistically challenging (where did Zendaya get the ornithopter from? How does one dismount a sandworm, especially if there’s a whole party of riders?), but these are all minor quibbles. See it on the largest screen possible, ideally multiple times so Warner Bros greenlights the third one. A-


Friends, the Matthew Perry tribute rewatch (Netflix) Don’t care what anyone says, it’s a near-perfect sitcom (barring a few bits that didn’t age well and too many white people, of course). RIP Matthew Perry. Your timing was impeccable, except for Season 7 when you were strung out and in visible physical discomfort. Also, many of the song selections are wild. Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha, Hootie and the Blowfish, Smash Mouth, and then an Interpol song right near the end?! Like a changing of the guard in the 2000s to the Pitchfork era of music criticism. A

Slow Horses, Season 3 (Apple TV+) The best season yet. The final two episodes were simply incredible. Gary Oldman you are a king among kings. My favourite garlic bulb on legs. A

Silo (Apple TV+) It came highly recommended. Tried to watch it. Got bored. Too slow. Is it nice outside? Is it a dystopian wasteland? Who cares, not for me. Sorry. C-

Drive to Survive, Season 6 (Netflix) The worst season so far, production value and storytelling-wise. Did they assign it to their interns? They didn’t even cover Hamilton joining Ferrari. Hoping this quality dip was just a blip. Luckily next year’s one is all but guaranteed to be a barn-burner. C+

The Gentlemen (Netflix) Enjoyable adaptation/spinoff/prequel-ly thing of Guy Ritchie’s recent Netflix movie. Nice to see the guy from White Lotus Season 2 play a likeable character. B+

Deadloch (Amazon Prime) Equal parts dark and hilarious, this is the best new series to come out of Australia since Please Like Me. I loved the blending of a Scandi noir-like atmosphere (which works so well with the stunning Tasmanian landscape) with a humorous cast of small-town Aussie battlers. Well done to the Kates — cannot believe this came from the same minds as the Katering Show web series. Kudos! A

Halt and Catch Fire, the exercise rewatch (Purchased outright) Rewatching this old favourite while riding the Peloton bike. I was reminded yet again how much I love this show. And having worked in tech for the last few years, it’s even more poignant. Sure, they obviously had to green-screen some of the sets at the end of Season 3 — maybe because they got unexpectedly-renewed for a fourth season and had to set it up for the next decade of technology. No matter. The Paul Haslinger soundtrack. The Stranger Things-like nostalgia for the 80s and 90s. Lee Pace and McKenzie Davis before they struck it big. The senses of triumph, heartbreak, ruthless competition — and thrillingly limitless opportunity that technology brings. Damn I love this show so much. A+


Old Apple keynotes (YouTube) OK this is super nerdy, but it’s really helpful to see how Apple first introduced some of its most iconic products in terms of positioning and category creation. It was very interesting to see the initial ad campaign for the Macintosh, with the “computer for the rest of us” tagline. It’s not one we remember these days. ‘Think different’ and ‘here’s to the crazy ones’ were what made it into the history books. B+