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The [Tuesday] Media Diet with Sari Azout
On Sam Zell, Sublime, and Endel
Welcome back after a day off for Memorial Day. Happy to welcome Sari Azout (SA) to the page this week. She is a founder and investor, currently building a product called Sublime (still in stealth mode). Have a great week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I am a founder, writer, (sometimes) investor, mom of three boys, and extremely online person on a mission to build a more human and nourishing Internet. I’m currently building Sublime – a simpler, more beautiful way to collect and connect all of the interesting ideas, quotes, articles, links, screenshots, etc. you come across. I’ve spent the past year quietly building it and obsessing over every pixel. It’s launching privately this summer. I also write a weekly newsletter at startupy.substack.com where I curate an eclectic assortment of things I find interesting, and occasionally publish essays on tech and culture at sariazout.substack.com. I’m originally from Barranquilla, Colombia but currently live in Miami.
Describe your media diet.
It's messy - on purpose. I've tried read-it-later apps and other ways to streamline my media consumption, but I've come around to the fact that I like the serendipity and the accidental rabbit holes of getting lost on the Internet without structure. I like to read widely and try to keep my inputs decor-related – old books, Twitter, personal blogs, many Substacks I pay for, and more. I try to avoid corporate media and optimize for more authentic sources. And I much prefer text over video (which makes me feel… uh, old?). I made a decision two years ago to not read the news. I am not interested in getting sucked into the news or facts of the day - I just want to go deeper into a few areas I really care about.
What’s the last great book you read?
Being Mortal by Atun Gawande is the one I can’t stop thinking about.
The basic argument is that we've been wrong about what the job is for people in the healthcare profession. We think their job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.
What are you reading now?
I'm always reading many books simultaneously but never pressure myself to finish them. I mostly read non-fiction (except Exhalation by Ted Chiang, an outstanding collection of sci-fi stories that feels like sitting at dinner with a friend who explains complex topics without being condescending.)
Other things on my Kindle at the moment:
The Baby on the Fire Escape by Julie Phillips (which I can’t put down because it so accurately describes everything I feel about what motherhood has done to my sense of time and self)
I'll Show Myself Out: essays on midlife and motherhood by Jessi Klein
Metaphors we Live By by George Lakoff
Am I Being too Subtle? by Sam Zell
The Myth of Normal by Gabor Mate
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I don’t have a strategy, it really depends on my mood. Sometimes I’ll read The Atlantic cover to cover, other times I will just pick up Vogue or Architectural Digest and scan the photos. I am a sucker for editor-in-chief letters though.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
I think I subscribe to over 800 newsletters at this point. But the ones that consistently make my soul and brain sing are Bookbear express by Ava, Experimental History by Adam Mastroianni, Maybe Baby by Haley Nahman, and Escaping Flatland by Henrik Karlsson (sporadic but so good every time).
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
I am obsessed with Endel - soundscapes to help you focus and relax.
Plane or train?
Planes are just a flying experiment in spreading germs, so by process of elimination – train.
While we’re at it, can we make all trains look like this?
What is one place everyone should visit?
In my backyard on the rare occasion of a Sunday morning when my kids slept at their grandparents, I got a solid eight hours of sleep, and I can sit in my comfy lounge chair, drink a cup of tea, and catch up on my reading with no interruptions. Absolute bliss.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
So many rabbit holes.
Right now, I'm really trying to make sense of what it means to be human in the age of AI. There are two narratives – people that see AI as a dangerous adversary and people that see it as a tool to unlock our creative potential. I liked this line from the founder of Midjourney:
Right now, people totally misunderstand what AI is. They see it as a tiger. A tiger is dangerous. It might eat me. It’s an adversary. And there’s danger in water, too — you can drown in it — but the danger of a flowing river of water is very different to the danger of a tiger. Water is dangerous, yes, but you can also swim in it, you can make boats, you can dam it and make electricity. Water is dangerous, but it’s also a driver of civilization, and we are better off as humans who know how to live with and work with water. It’s an opportunity. It has no will, it has no spite, and yes, you can drown in it, but that doesn’t mean we should ban water. And when you discover a new source of water, it’s a really good thing.
I am also endlessly fascinated by the ways in which the tools we use to consume information shape the information we produce in the first place, and ultimately shape culture. For example, clay tablets were hard to move but durable, so they made empires endure within a small geographic radius. Paper made ideas transient and disposable. Television turned everything into entertainment. Instagram taught us to document our lives in aspirational ways. There’s a range of possibilities for how information exchange and human connection can be structured and organized, and right now most of the tools we use on the Internet look the same. The Internet wasn’t supposed to be six men with too much money forcing us to behave in ways that don’t help us live the kinds of lives we want to live. Fall down this rabbit hole with me.
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Sari (SA)
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