Rhys' Newsletter #40

Satire in the Information Age, post-capitalish communities, and microCOVID in WIRED

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it with a friend, support me on Patreon, or apply for my online school, Roote.


“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.

Howdy there,

1) Podcast this week: #79 Scott Dikkers, The Onion: How Fake News and Polarization Have Changed Satire

Scott Dikkers was a founding editor of The Onion, and is the publication's longest-serving editor-in-chief. He co-wrote and edited one of my favorite books, Our Dumb World. It’s packed full of jokes, even on the front cover:

  • Free globe inside

  • Now with 30% more Asia!

God, I love this crap. 😂

Scott and I chatted about the role of satire in today’s society. I especially liked learning:

  • How satire is changing with the medium. In the 90s, The Onion parodied AP-style newspapers. In the 2000s, Clickhole parodied Buzzfeed-style clickbait. In the 2020s, Scott showed me how folks like Conner O’Malley are parodying QAnon Youtubers.

  • How satire is a good litmus test for media literacy (ability to distinguish fake news)

  • Why the image below (from the Rwandan page in Our Dumb World) is still in the range of “allowed humor”. Why The Onion’s brand as an equal opportunity offender matters and how Humor = Tragedy + Time.

(Fwiw, I love the dark humor in the image below.)

Thanks Scott!

2) Bentoism just started a paid community. I love how it embodies abundance (pay what you want) and networkism (the membership fee is used to crowdsource $1500 grants for the community).

It’s been great to see more post-capitalish communities form. Another that I’ve been impressed by is Hyperlink.Academy. They host short courses on niche topics like Internet Homesteading and Building an Antilibrary.


1) Here how our brain “sees” the world (gif make take a bit of time to load):

Our brain provides a symbolic layer (meaning) on top of the real (sensory experience).

One of life’s goals is to (occasionally) see the world pre-symbolically. Just as sensory input and nothing else.

2) Last week (#39), we talked about how the storming of the US capitol was driven by unmet needs. In the week since, there’s been more discussion of this:

a) Stratechery quoted from Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man:

Men will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace, and against democracy.

In other words, a struggle for meaning.

b) Nils Gilman noted that the crisis is demand-driven (i.e. from bottom-up needs not from top-down institutions):

*more not lore

c) And here’s a sad QAnon message from the 8kun forum. The most intense quote for me:

No, you can't leave. Because then you have to admit you were the mark all along. That you were actually duped. That you've wasted the last four years of your life holding a key that has no lock.

3) My house (and microCOVID) was featured in WIRED this week!

How Many MicroCOVIDs Would You Spend on a Burrito?

They couldn’t convene the house parliament every time Rhys wanted to kiss a girl.


I was gone in Colorado for the picture, but here are my lovely housemates ❤️

4) There’s so much low-hanging fruit in civic tech: How Californians are resorting to crowdsourcing to get their Covid-19 vaccine

5) Nothing from The Onion this week, but the Babylon Bee has been killin’ it recently:




One of my favorite songs is “Avril 14th” by Aphex Twin. It’s a simple, sad song—just two minutes of soft piano.

Only later did I learn about Aphex Twin’s true nature—he’s an experimental, aggressive electronic producer. Most of his songs aren’t slow and quiet but fast and loud. “Avril 14th” is a black sheep interlude in a sea of noise.

This holds true for other aggressive, metal-ish artists. “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails is a light coda after lots of heavy guitar. Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence” is raw sadness. Jonathan Hulten’s harmony-heavy “Where Devils Weep” is the opposite of his metal roots.

10 years ago, I expected the best soft music to come from soft musicians. But the best soft music comes from heavy musicians.

The next time you listen to a metal album, look for the beautiful interludes.

In my ongoing theme of late-night performances, here’s that Disturbed covering “The Sound of Silence” on Conan:

Here’s a small playlist of Ambient Music as Interludes in Metal Albums:

(Also btw, NIN’s “Hurt” was featured on Song Exploder recently.)

Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Audra Jacobi, Sam Jonas, Patrick Walker, Brady McKenna, Shira Frank, David Hanna, Benjamin Bratton, Michael Groeneman, Haseeb Qureshi, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Yancey Strickler, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Malcolm Ocean, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.