Oh shit you guys it’s February wow my bad here’s all the stuff I learned about in January!! There’s a couple book recommendations in here, my new fave show, and a gaggle of various links at the end, but I gotta admit: TikTok has wormed into my brain and warped my ability to read and also my sense of space and time, so now I process my daily experience by saying, Oh wait, I saw a TikTok like this. (It’s fine, I’m fine, I can stop whenever I want.)
First up, my new favorite Substack isby Adam Mastroianni. This post, in particular, feels relevant to a lot of things I’ve been thinking about, from composting to drugs to botulinum toxin (which we’ll get into in a minute):
Last year, Mastroianni argued that peer review has been a failure and we need to make scientific papers enjoyable to read again (a piece I also loved and recommend), and he describes rebuttals to that piece centering around the idea that people are not smart enough to be trusted with information:
Some objections boiled down to, “We can’t let everybody say and hear whatever they want. They can’t handle the freedom!” The unstated assumption, of course, is that people with .edu email addresses can determine what is safe for others to say and to hear.
This elitism is a huge reason I haven’t gone into academia despite loving the experience of higher ed,1 why I’m focusing on podcasts, newsletters, and Youtube videos instead of formal publishing, and why I graduated from a BFA program not wanting to be a “fine artist” anymore.
I fundamentally believe that people are not stupid — everyone can learn, and we do people a disservice when we deny them the opportunity to learn something new and figure it out for themselves. Of course, writing people off that you don’t agree with by saying “that guy is just stupid” feels satisfying in the way that easy answers often do. But people have reasons, and asking why someone did what they did requires a bit more work.
Trying to understand people, even when we disagree with them, is the only way we’re going to figure out how to work together. This requires empathy, humility, and curiosity before judgement — emotional work that doesn’t always feel great, but I think is necessary if we want to survive.
A Compost Conspiracy?
This section is gonna be about poop so be warned if you are squidgy or about to put a delicious sandwich in your mouth or something!