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The Monday Media Diet with Zaira Stefani Vallejo
On open tabs, Montaigne, and the charms of Radiooooo.
Zaira is a NYC-based strategist. We know her from the Lean Luxe slack. She was kind enough to share what is capturing her attention. Have a great Monday. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Zaira Stefani Vallejo, a Colombian-born, Miami-raised, now New Yorker by choice. I actually just celebrated my nine year anniversary in New York–so close to the coveted decade mark! How do I know the exact date I moved here? Because it was on the night of the Game of Thrones Red Wedding episode. Not that I was even watching the show at the time but you certainly heard about it–I do regret missing out on the zeitgeist, feels like those synchronous cultural moments are now few and far between.
Anyway, I digress. I just moved to Greenpoint, where in a remote work world I spend most of my time, and I’m a Strategist at Redscout.
And then, outside of the daily grind, I might be penning my thoughts (or more likely, voice-texting myself random things to one day write about–but does the world need another Substack?), hanging out (remember going over to your friends house and chillin’? It should be more of a thing) or simply ISO a really great dry & dirty martini–actively taking suggestions.
Describe your media diet.
I’d like to say I have a routine but I’m really more of an opportunist when it comes to media consumption. And I definitely err on the side of taking in a lot of it (see above: everything, all of the time). It usually starts with an article, then an innocent link out, which then spurs a chain of linking out that takes on a life of its own. This can happen with a seemingly interesting or unknown concept or reference too. Thank you The Internet. I am absolutely that person with tabs open on all devices–51 currently on my iPhone. It’s kind of panic-inducing but I’ve accepted it.
Otherwise, there are some go-to’s: FT has been great lately, BoF is always good, Napkin Math, and I just discovered The New Consumer. I’m subscribed to a ton of newsletters and those really do scour the web: That Business of Meaning has a really nice format, Public Announcement, and definitely Lean Luxe (+ the community). And, under the guise of work, I’ll get geeky with it and seek out research reports: Wunderman Thompson and honestly, McKinsey.
What’s the last great book you read?
First of all, I would be remiss to not thank the Brooklyn Public Library (which I just found out is different from the NYPL) for keeping my apartment decorated with stacks of good reads. I always have something handy, even if it’s likely overdue (but they don’t charge late fees anymore!). I just finished Hanya Yanagihara’s latest book, To Paradise, which was unexpected–it had an interesting structure and unexpected through line. It features a dystopian New York which was eerily believable and spurred several existential questions.
On the non-fiction side, a book that I thought was great although I can’t even remember how it came my way is How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell. Philosophers and Stoics are not something I have a hold on so this was an accidental foray but wow, really made me realize how much of our present and future is so much like our past (as people, as a society).
What are you reading now?
I’m taking a break from BIG books (To Paradise was a hefty 700 pages). I just picked up Eve Babitz’s Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, and L.A. and I am rapt. Her prose is simply delicious. It’s all-consuming. Although it’s a short book, the heft of the writing makes me think it’s still going to take a while to get through. You kind of want to read sentences twice. There’s also something captivating about Los Angeles, and LA in the 1960’s/70’s, that I’m nostalgic for even though I know nothing about it. Did you know there’s a word for that feeling: anemoia.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I’m no frills on this one: I read it from cover to cover. Well, I won’t read every article as I’m trying not to be a completionist (that must sound neurotic) but I do like to go page by page. Depends on the type of publication too. If it’s fashion or interiors, I’ll really stare at the pictures, dissecting them. When it comes to print, I do have a true and deeply felt nostalgia.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
Honestly, I’ve been meaning to revisit Hubert Selby Jr. He’s probably most known for Requiem for a Dream, which is somehow even more fucked up as a book than it is as a movie (so bleak but so visually arresting), or maybe Last Exit to Brooklyn. His characters are so raw, and the way he writes–loosely punctuated and very stream of consciousness–transports you somewhere else. He’s hard to recommend because the stories are definitely grim but if you’re up for it, it’s worth the read.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
A friend turned me on to Radiooooo, which calls itself The Musical Time Machine and it’s awesome. You can pick a decade and a country and it plays music from that time and place. A playful way to tap into history and a really easy way to find new music. There’s some crazy stat out there about how people basically stop listening to new music after they turn 27 and I think I’m one of them. Not that I want to be! Also taking suggestions for music if you have any.
Plane or train?
I’ve always wished for trains in America. Or rather, high-speed and highly utilized trains–which is part of a public utility argument but there’s definitely the novelty aspect. I may over index on it because we don’t have them here, but I like the ease of just walking onto a train and rolling away. Also, that dining cars and bar cars exist is really fun. But pragmatically, planes. They just get you places so fast. In most cases I want to minimize transit and optimize time on the ground.
What is one place everyone should visit?
You know, I’ve gotta say Colombia. Having only spent time in Bogotá, which is a really wonderful city, I myself have it high on my list of places to explore more. Cartagena, Medellín, Cali are all on my mind. Sure, I might be biased but the vibe is lively and the food is delicious–in fact proximity to Queens means I eat Colombian food way more than I used to. This is also very random but a phlebotomist I just saw was himself obsessed with Colombia. He watched some Discovery Channel documentary that said it was, because of its many diverse ecosystems, technically the most beautiful place on Earth and that was something we really bonded over.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
I’m kind of on an eBay kick lately. And there, I can fall into endless rabbit holes. I always go with earnest intentions looking for something broadly specific–a designer during a certain period of time with a label, out of print magazines, interesting glassware. I’ll lose the plot at some point and get really invested in how people style their wares. It’s fascinating! There’s actually a lot of care and intention on the platform, which was strangely surprising to me. The other thing about eBay is that it’s kind of an archive of our civilization. All of the objects on there, together, feel like an odd museum of sorts. And when you look at some of them, you can see how they influence or have been referenced to create many of our contemporary objects. It’s pretty cool.
Oh and Psychedelic Jazz. (ZV)
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Zaira (ZV)
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