After the past week, month, and six months, the internet doesn’t need another take on Elon Musk and Twitter published.
So instead I’ll email it to about 10,000 of you.
This is a train wreck we’re all watching aboard the train being wrecked. Not only can we not turn away, we’re in the middle of it! Elon believes he had to derail the train in order to fix it, but it’s traveling at bullet speed and he just threw half the crew off the train. Pop quiz, hot shot: what do you do?
That answer, is also seemingly being calculated and re-calibrated in real-time. It’s not that every day has something new, it’s that every tweet has something new. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting. And excruciating — especially for those who have worked at Twitter, or have loved ones who do, or who just have loved the service over the years. It feels perilously close to the brink. A train off the tracks heading for the ravine if only it can get through that active minefield first. Look up, an asteroid!
And yet. There’s a flip side to the shitshow which you can’t help but feel as well, if you’re being honest with yourself. What if Elon is right? Even by accident? Now, his tactics are awful — in some cases, truly awful — and this all has entirely too much of a “fuck it, we’ll do it live” feel. But the reality is also that Twitter wasn’t working on a number of fronts, and most importantly as a business that was going to last in perpetuity.
I’m not sure you’ll find anyone who would say that Twitter wasn’t a bloated company. Yes, basically all companies become bloated with time, but Twitter didn’t have the financials to back up the bloat. So Elon Musk is doing what he felt needed to be done to rightsize the company and going from there. Again, there are probably a hundred ways to do it better — like this, for example — but this is the business world’s equivalent of ripping off the band-aid… and finding the wound is not healed. Oh shit.
Still, somehow Twitter seemingly beat the wild request to ship a few new things in a matter of days (or be fired). Sure, the features are perhaps half-baked, but it’s… something? What else might get out the door or thrown out the window in the next few weeks? It’s wild to watch what was a large company operate at startup speed again in just a few days. And if you can look past the personnel fiasco — “but other than that, what did you think of the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” — it’s sort of incredible? Not in a good or bad way, but in a very literal sense. Almost impossible to believe.
As an aside, hello! I'm back here on 5ish because... Twitter is (seemingly) closing the platform, Revue, on which I had been (infrequently) publishing my newsletter for the past year and a half. I actually guessed this would happen six months ago in my last newsletter, so there's that. Fun times.
The Good Stuff
☢️ This is What it’s Like When a Nuclear Device Goes Off
Just a stunning account by Rod Buntzen, who was a young Naval scientist in 1958 when the US tested a 8.9-megaton thermonuclear weapon on Eniwetok Atoll. “I thought that the hair on the back of my head might catch on fire.”
👅 Notes on Taste
A lot of really compelling thoughts and historical anecdotes on the concept of “taste” by Brie Wolfson. Here’s one:
Another framing for this is “turpentine.” It comes from Picasso remarking that “when art critics get together they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.” Taste rests on turpentine.
😶 The Making of Silent Bruce
A pretty sad but also pretty great dive into how Bruce Willis went from hugely promising up-and-coming actor to one of the biggest movie stars in the world to someone taking in seemingly endless paychecks to do cameo appearances in B-movies. I’ve long been interested in this turn, and now we know why he was doing it. And why he will no longer be doing it, sadly.
🔌 How Jack Welch’s G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed
An excerpt full of meat from David Gelles’ book on Jack Welsh, “The Man Who Broke Capitalism”, which seemed fitting to share today.
📦 Andy Jassy on the Job: Undoing Bezos-Led Overexpansion
Speaking of new CEO’s coming in to try to re-make companies, Dana Mattioli dives into Jassy’s first year in his role atop Amazon. Which has been rocky, to say the least. But a lot of that sure feels like poor timing.
🚀 Elon Musk: ‘Aren’t you entertained?’
As you might expect, there’s a lot in the FT’s lunch chat with Musk: Twitter, Mexican food, Ukraine, aging, population, Mars, money, Tesla, parenting, Starlink, China, Apple, Taiwan, Russia. You will be entertained.
“So much of the world is creatively constipated, and we’re going to make it so that they can poop rainbows.”
— Emad Mostaque, the founder and chief executive of Stability AI, on the creativity he hopes to unleash with his products.
The Quick Stuff
How’s El Salvador’s big bet on Bitcoin going? Well, not well… 🤑
How San Francisco almost pissed $1.7M away on a public toilet. 🚽
It’s possible that no one has ever had a better name than Sterling Lord, but certain no literary agent. RIP at 102. 📚
Currently surging in Australia: not COVID, thankfully, but mullets. 🦄
The Megalodon was probably even bigger — and faster than we previously thought. And hungrier too. 🦈
Every single SNES manual is now online. I repeat: every single SNES manual is now online. This is one of the most nostalgic things I’ve ever experienced, truly. 🕹
Slate’s dive into the history of the word “motherfucker” is nearly a decade old but perhaps even more relevant in our current times. 🤬
What’s the deal with all those seemingly personal spammy text messages by Max Read, not Jerry Seinfeld. 💬
Robert Vlasic loved pickle jokes and distributed a pamphlet with them, because of course he did. Also, we finally get an explanation for Vlasic’s stork logo. RIP at 96. (Also, #GoBlue 〽️) (Also no pickle emoji?!) 🥒
Let’s Aim for Newer Power
Some of My Stuff
🛩 Switching Back to Missiles
Some thoughts on ‘Top Gun: Maverick’
💻 The MacBook Airtight
Some quick thoughts on the M2 MacBook Air
📸 Instagram Doth Pivot Too Much
Methinks. But also, everyone thinks.
⚔️ Obi-Wan Mostly Lost
A few thoughts on the Obi-Wan Kenobi series…
📺 Netflix’s Purge Problem
It’s hard to commit to Netflix content when Netflix won’t…
🐻 Yes, Chef
FX’s ‘The Bear’ is no let down…
Fine, Here’s the Megalodon
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great to have news from you MG!