Mind-Altering Substances

Micro-dosing my best reads of 2022.

Mind-Altering Substances

You must know by now how much I love lists.

I already told you. And when it came to reads this year, there were a few that kept me going back.

Not just to re-read, but re-engineer me. In ways big and small, update my mental model with new ideas, then look at them again, awry as if to say - really? And then going back.

Because isn't writing wonderful? A bunch of pre-agreed symbols that let us into each other's minds, occasionally to full hallucinatory effect.

The end of the year? Perfect time to share.

Bring on the listicle!


Dan Luu, Willingness To Look Stupid


Most of my professional contexts have involved not looking stupid, a task at which I am semi-successful.

Dan's paean to not giving a fuck and embracing comfort with stupidity is made all the better because the man clearly lives this shit.

Woe betide the Apple Genius who tries to educate him.

Internalising this message has been challenging, but also as liberating as being told that the key to health and happiness is fucking a lot, and eating copious amounts of gelato.

Which, now that I think about it, might not be wrong.

June Huh, High School Dropout, Wins the Fields Medal


Reading this disassembled my vision of hard work and success.

Most of my co-conspirators are equally bloodthirsty; I simply do not encounter a man like June within my social graph.

Spending a bare few hours in hyper-intense thought, inventing new ways of doing things, persisting for better outcomes over years, but relaxing for the rest of each day before falling asleep with his whole family in one big old bed - is a different kind of goal-setting.

That this man could therefore be one of the highest-impact in his field is mind-boggling. I guess that's what comes of being a super chill, high-achieving poet-mathematician. The only way I can read this and stay sane is by appreciating the latitude one can have as a tenured professor.

In which case, this becomes a valued missive from a parallel universe, sent for perspective.

Riva Tez, Endemic Pathogens Are Making You Crazy And Then Killing You


Riva's work is always a little like getting stabbed.

I love that she always, openly, brings such an agenda to the conversation that the details are perhaps less important than the mental shift she provokes.

In this instance, in praise of scientific anarchism.

Read it and love it, or hate it. There is rarely an in-between.

Honourable mention: similar work conducted by the good people at Slime Mold, Time Mold.

Holly Elmore, How I Say Whatever I Want


For some, this stuff isn't mould-breaking, it's obvious.

For me.... well, I grew up with a mouth stuffed full of cotton wool and a duct tape gag wound round my head, like, fifteen times.

So anything that loosens the tongue helps.

I don't know Holly's stuff well, but she seems super interesting, mostly because she blogs as a way to curate thought rather than create a product.

Sasha Chapin, How I Attained Persistent Self-Love


Sasha's great. Among other gifts, this piece gave me the tools to find people of a similar wavelength by simply dropping the term existential kink and seeing if there was a flicker of recognition.

Deep down, the belief or understanding that we are the cause of the things we hate is soul-shaking.

Jennifer Coates, I Am A Transwoman. I Am In The Closet. I Am Not Coming Out.


Empathy > activism.

Jony Ive, Interview with Washington Post


Jony - he of the million-dollar voice - sounds like a very stressful person to visit as a house guest but re-reading this piece has turned him into a kind of creative partner whenever I start a new endeavour. He never lets me use the word "chair".

Visakan Veerasamy, I Don't Wanna!


Quit hitting yourself.


A few reflections

Grateful to come across a few zingers, but it just makes me lust for more: I am always eager for linguistic DMT.

I want wild shit. Crazy brain-reprogramming writing that flummoxes me.

And so the search goes on.

Overall, my information diet this year was ok - delightfully little news, not enough books, too much Twitter.  That channel will probably die soon, and this is an opportunity to create more variety: dead writers, old books, euphoric brain bombs.

Please keep reading, and please let me know what you read.




Bonus: Geoff Managh, Greater Los Angeles


"No matter what you do in L.A., your behavior is appropriate for the city. Los Angeles has no assumed correct mode of use."