Why is this interesting? - The Monday Media Diet with Rohan Routroy

On newsletters, migration, and David Eagleman

Rohan Routroy (RR) is a friend of WITI. He uprooted his life from the tropical and highly efficient city-state of Singapore to NYC just before the pandemic (which is worth an interview in itself). Here, he shares some sources of inspiration and daily media consumption. -Colin (CJN)

Tell us about yourself.

Serendipity - that’s the word that resonates the most with me when I think of my life so far. Right down to the origin of the word. In the mid 18th century it was coined by Horace Walpole, suggesting in a letter to his friend - The Three Princes of Serendip ‘were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of’.

I have lived in 15 places across 3 countries, speak 4 languages, and have made lifelong friends from every continent except the cold one. Have had the fortune to pitch ideas in 12 countries and traveled to 31 - by pure lucky coincidences. As of Dec 2020, I live in the East Village (Manhattan). My current job is as a Brand Strategist at Twitter NYC - I moved here from Singapore in early 2019. 

If I had infinite resources, I would make therapy accessible for everyone and introduce psychology and philosophy as mandatory subjects in high school. If I could dial back time - I would seriously nurture a career in film making/theater.  A medium I would then use to propagate the importance of sincerity and earnestness - basically an Anti- Seinfeld ethos. 

Describe your media diet

Lean with little to zero junk. At any given point - I have 3-4 simultaneous sources for my media consumption. As of writing this piece, I have the following

Newsletters: Brain Pickings, Tim Ferris, Academia, Genius Steals, and WITI - this is usually to start my day and/or any articles I have on Pocket. 

Fiction: Before I sleep, I read some fiction. 

Non Fiction: In the morning before checking my phone - currently reading a thesis by a Jungian psychology professor.  

Podcast: While cooking - currently listening to Stephen West’s - Philosophize This

Audible: Usually a course, during morning/evening walks, currently listening to The Story of Human Language

I am trying my best to stay away from any content which is recommended to me via an algorithm. I do have a list of movies - which I refer to and watch on some evenings. Huge fan of foreign cinema - currently into Korean and Scandinavian cinema. Burning, anyone?

Sundays are for complete digital media abstinence. Mondays must begin with Spotify’s Discover Weekly

What’s the last great book you read?

When it comes to fiction, I'm Thinking of Ending Things  (Ian Reid), for me - it was a revelation. Without spoiling anything - it was an incredible treatise on the current human condition of isolation, delusion, and paranoia - interpreted piercingly through a first person narrative. Full disclaimer - wasn't a huge fan of the film adaptation by Charlie Kaufman. 

Nonfiction - I just discovered the achingly beautiful mind of Adam Philips and his book - On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life. I am a changed person after reading it - especially the chapter titled - Worrying and Its Discontents. One of my favorite lines/insights from that chapter - ‘If worrying is, say, a defense against dreaming, if worry is the contrived, conscious alternative to the dream, at the opposite end of some imaginary spectrum, then there may also be something, paradoxically, that they have in common.’  

What are you reading now?

Right now I am slowly reading Amin Maalouf’s - In the Name of Identity - Violence and the Need to Belong. The reason for that - my personal hypothesis and also partly inspired by my very amateur understanding of René Girard’s philosophy - violence is inbuilt in us and we need to evolve as a race, philosophically and not blame networks - social or otherwise - for our inherent vices. 

The second book I just picked up is - The Midnight Library. I needed some fiction to pair up with my other book and an article described this as ‘uplifting’ and that’s all I needed to know before impulse buying it. 

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

Confession - I don’t pick up print copies of any publication. I have my fair share of digital subscriptions but tbvh - I always end up reading long-form articles on The New Yorker or The Atlantic. Although, I must admit - I have the Paris Review Book on my coffee table - and every once in a while I pick it up and read an essay, depending on my mood and the corresponding theme.   

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?

This is hard. Right now I am biased. Non Fiction - Adam Philips. What an incredibly beautiful mind - Here's the shortest, yet a fascinating peek into his thinking. Why do I love him so much? He has succinctly articulated and propagated - therapy is as much art as it is science. And personally, I feel art heals more than science does. 

Fiction - Sum by David Eagleman. My most gifted book - don’t google it. Just trust me. Read it, please. An incredibly brilliant yet poignant quasi atheist and neuroscientist (Eagleman) pontificates what lies after death - 40 times over. If you like audiobooks - it’s narrated by the likes of Stephen Fry and Gillian Anderson. Everyone should listen to it at least once. I have - 3 times. 

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?

Dislike apps. Swipe Down/Settings - Do Not Disturb is my favorite 2 steps on my phone (leash).

Plane or train?

Train, hands down. I will take the liberty to digress a little bit. Planes are the manifestation of linear time - speed. How fast can we get from Point A to B. Trains are the manifestation of nonlinear time - depth. How much can we experience while getting from Point A to B. Train rides across India, Thailand, and North America have been my favorite. Want to try the Trans Siberian and Eurorail soon - solo. Still extremely optimistic about my Before Sunrise dreams. 

What is one place everyone should visit?

Istanbul. There is no place in the world, to my humble knowledge, which symbolizes the importance and need for fusing cultures - both spiritually and physically, for the preservation or rather cognitive and emotional growth of this beautifully coincidental chance this race has on this pale blue dot. Yes, I am very aware of the political and human rights turmoil brewing there but - the art, culture, and history which seeps out of every corner of that city is something everyone should experience. 

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.

My favorite long read in the culture/art category this year was a David Fincher’s profile on NY times. I have always been an incredibly obsessed fan of his work - but this article pushed me to go deep into the IMDB trivia pages of all his movies - which lead to discovering many factoids about his absolutely mad genius. My favorite find in the rabbit hole was his innate understating of Ben Affleck (as a person) which he used to cast and utilize in Gone Girl. If you have somehow managed to read till this point here’s a factoid for you

David Fincher googled "inappropriate smile" images and found 50 shots of Ben Affleck with his creepy grin. It's how he got the role in Gone Girl.

And rediscovering this absolute masterstroke in his masterpiece - The Social Network. If I had to use the word Zeitgeist (not projected, but nailed in its interpretation) once in my life - I would use it in my description of The Social Network. 

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Rohan (RR)

Why is this interesting? is a daily email from Noah Brier & Colin Nagy (and friends!) about interesting things. If you’ve enjoyed this edition, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you’re reading for the first time, consider subscribing (it’s free!).