Welcome to my Studio Diaries series! Each week, I share a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc., that I’ve encountered in the last few days.
Here’s what I’ve loved this week!
I have been a fan of the Freakonomics franchise for years—it was the first podcast I ever subscribed to. This week’s episode, Are M.B.A.s to Blame for Wage Stagnation? explores the correlation between business school graduates at the top of organizations and the trend toward falling wages that we have seen in the United States for a significant period. As usual with this show, they bring in voices from both sides of the argument. Although the research posits a curriculum focus in business schools on the bottom line and shareholder value with an instinct for those graduates to cut labor costs when in company leadership positions, I found one of their more nuanced counter-explanations more compelling. While shareholder value is undoubtedly emphasized in business education, some of the more equitable practices taught in business schools today will potentially take decades to be realized in practice, as graduates aren’t hired as CEOs straight out of school. Many of the leaders of fortune 500 companies we see today are graduates of a previous generation of business ethos and education and don’t necessarily embody today’s business values and ideas taught in schools.
Listening: You’re Wrong About
Sarah Marshall is one of my favorite podcast hosts; she is witty, intelligent, and can think on her feet when talking to guests. In this episode of You’re Wrong About, she brings in Amanda Mull from The Atlantic to discuss the history of online shopping and the present-day experience of trying to find what you need. They discuss the ethics of fast fashion, the history of debt (thanks to David Graeber), and the misled romanticization of barter economies. Sarah poignantly describes the contemporary experience of online shopping:
“Like everything we need is at our fingertips…but you can't get what you need because everything is at your fingertips, right? And you're in a giant garbage dump, and somewhere in the garbage dump is like the normal rug that you want, but where could it be?”
David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors of all time. Like watching The Office, Seinfeld, or The Nanny, reading his essays is guaranteed to make me laugh in a timeless way. I have read many of his books and finally picked up a copy of Calypso, which has been on my list for an embarrassing four years. Like always with Sedaris, I was laughing within the first few sentences:
“Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll acquire a guest room.” (Calypso, p. 3)
If you also admire Sedaris’ humor and are a writer yourself, I would also recommend his Storytelling and Humor Masterclass.