Infinite Media Recommends
Some of our favorite discoveries of 2023
Wishing you Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from everyone at OSV!
Here’s something to see you into the New Year: several OSV team members have handpicked three of their favorite watches, reads, or listens of 2023.
The content was not required to be published in 2023, so prepare for some deep cuts from the last 50+ years!
Jim O’Shaughnessy 🇺🇸
Founder and CEO of OSV, Executive Chair of the board of directors at StabilityAI, Variance Amplifier, Loquacious Provocateur, and host of the Infinite Loops podcast.
📖 BOOK: VALIS; by Philip K. Dick (1981)
Returning readers/listeners will be familiar with my appreciation for Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger trilogy. P K. Dick’s VALIS series offers a similarly mind-bending experience. Here’s Robert Anton Wilson talking about the connection between the books:
"I am often asked about two books by other authors which are strangely resonant with Cosmic Trigger — namely VALIS by Philip K. Dick and The Sirian Experiment by Doris Lessing. VALIS is a novel which broadly hints that it is more than a novel — that it is an actual account of Phil Dick’s own experience with some form of “Higher Intelligence.” In fact, VALIS is only slightly fictionalized; the actual events on which it is based are recounted in a long interview Phil gave shortly before his death (see Philip K. Dick: The Last Testament, by Gregg Rickman.) The parallels with my own experience are numerous — but so are the differences. If the same source was beaming ideas to both Phil and me, the messages got our individual flavors mixed into them as we decoded the signals."
🎥 FILM: Waking Life (2001)
An animated film starring a protagonist who passively experiences a series of disconnected events and starts discussing philosophy with other characters that cover the gamut of ideas. The film resolves with "life" as a dream of the infinite nature of reality. Trippy.
🎵 MUSIC: Anything by J.S. Bach
People sometimes don't believe me when I say how much I love listening to Bach while working, but I have receipts.
Michael Graham Richard (Liberty)🇨🇦
Michael Graham Richard is a generalist in a world dominated by specialists. His popular newsletter, Liberty’s Highlights, operates as Michael’s “Serendipity Engine,” providing its 21k+ readers with “Exploration as a Service.” As the head of Infinite Media at OSV, Michael is helping to build a win-win engine of discovery, curation, and creation.
🎥 FILM: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)
I'm not a Spider-Man fan generally, but the first Spider-Verse animated film blew my mind, and while I think I still prefer it slightly to the sequel, it's also excellent and cranks everything to 11. I'm looking forward to the next one, I hope they end the trilogy on a high note.
🎙️ PODCAST: Extended Richard Rhodes Interviews (2023)
📹 DOCUMENTARY: Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off (2022)
I almost put the Robert Caro documentary Turn Every Page here, but by mentioning it I'm cheating and added a 4th pick, so that works. I knew little about Tony Hawk before watching this except that he's a famous skateboarder. But it doesn't matter, this documentary is really about perseverance, obsession, and craft. Even if you don't care about the sport, I think you can get a lot out of this.
Helen Jiang 🇨🇦
Helen Jiang has worked in agriculture, engineering, geography, and AI. Her Substack, Earthly Fortunes, is dedicated to identifying the interconnections between different subject matters often hidden in plain sight. Following her participation in David Perell’s Write of Passage course last year, Helen joined OSV as an intern.
🎵 MUSIC: Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 3, arranged for Piano Four-Hands by Gustav Mahler (1878)
I'm a bigger fan of Bruckner than of Mahler, but this adaptation of Bruckner's 3rd symphony (1877 version) for piano four-hands is absolutely astounding -- it captured all the quintessential elements of Bruckner’s style -- and then some more.
📖 BOOK: A Legacy of Spies; by John le Carré (2017)
The third to last book of John le Carré's illustrious career, it is both a prequel and sequel to The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. I enjoyed it immensely. The fact it was published after the 2016 Brexit referendum added more dark humor to the story, the characters, and the ethos: so was it all for England, then?
🎥 FILM: The Two Popes (2019)
It's an interesting and provocative film mostly consisting of two old men talking with each other. Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Bergoglio (later known as Pope Francis) truly embodied their roles in all their joys, whims, and spiritual struggles. I laughed and wept several times while watching it, and would return to it again anytime.
Vatsal Kaushik 🇮🇳
OSV’s in-house “Mr-Meeseeks,” Vatsal Kaushik started out by helping grow Infinite Loops from an already amazing podcast to an even better one. Now, he is doing the same for OSV, sprinkling a bit of magic across all verticals to help get whatever needs doing, done.
📺 TV SERIES: The Railway Men (2023)
My first recommendation is fresh in memory as I just finished watching it last week, a mini-series called The Railway Men on Netflix. It's about how the station master of Bhopal railway station, along with a few other railway staff, saved thousands of lives on the night of 2-3 December 1984 when the highly toxic MIC gas leaked from a nearby pesticide factory, ending up in what's considered to be the world's worst industrial disaster. With four episodes of about one hour each, a brilliant cast of veteran actors, and promising newcomers, it's a soul-stirring depiction of how the worst of times bring out the best in some of us.
📖 BOOK: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
For a book that's read mostly during one’s childhood, I was pretty late to the party, reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in my late 20s. The "children's book" label does a bit of injustice to the book as I found it mostly about identity, agency, and courage—traits most adults struggle with or have, ironically, grown out of. Carroll reminds us that it isn't childish to imagine impossible things, but rather the essence of living.
🎵 MUSIC: O Sanam!; by Lucky Ali (1996)
For some strange reason, I got hooked on Lucky Ali this year. He's an indie-pop singer who was at the peak of his fame during the late 90s and early 00s. Early this year, I stumbled upon some of his songs that I had liked back in those days; one song led to another, and I couldn't stop listening to him on repeat for months. So, my third recommendation is Lucky Ali's entire discography, but this is a good start.
Dylan O’Sullivan 🇮🇪
Dylan O’Sullivan is a writer and media specialist whose work has been published in magazines such as The Spectator and Areo. He is also the creator of Essayful, a Substack dedicated to becoming “a new home for writing.” At OSV, Dylan works on all things Infinite Media, including as the lead editor on Infinite Books projects.
📖 SHORT STORY: Funes the Memorious; by Jorge Luis Borges (1942)
Funes the Memorious tells the story of a man who, following an accident, could remember everything; which is to say, could forget nothing. The latter is probably the right sentiment, for unable to sleep, unable to dream, his memory becomes more of an affliction than a gift. There are interesting parallels to our smartphone ecosystem today, which forces us to remember everything, bypassing the natural Darwinian processes of forgetting, whilst also eating into our sleep and dreams.
🖋️ ESSAY: The Kekulé Problem; by Cormac McCarthy (2017)
In essence, The Kekulé Problem argues that language is only a recent, supplementary gadget on the dashboard of human consciousness, whose engine continues to run on visual imagery: hence, the often nonverbal and intensely visual nature of dreams and visions (the oldest, deepest parts of ourselves). Perhaps something for writers and artists to keep in mind, with regards to aiming for the audience's eyes or ears.
🎵 MUSIC: This bitter earth x On the nature of daylight; by Dinah Washington & Max Richter (2010)
This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight is a mashup of the vocals of 1950s blues singer Dinah Washington and the instrumental of contemporary composer Max Richter. The genius transposition of genres was dreamed up by Robbie Robertson for Scorsese's 2010 psychological thriller Shutter Island.
Atman Pandya 🇮🇳
Atman Pandya has filmed and produced 100s of videos, helped launch one of the fastest-growing digital banks in the UK, built software for multi-billion dollar asset managers, and released his own music. At OSV, he splits his time across Media, Fellowships, and Adventures. He shares mental tools, ideas, and frameworks to unlock peak performance at his Substack, The Knowledge Toolkit.
🎵 MUSIC: Take Risk by Naval & Akira the Don (2021)
"How much you truly believe in something can be manifested only through what you are willing to risk for it," said Nassim Taleb in Skin In the Game. In this spoken song, Akira the Don blends an incredible tune with Naval's lucid life advice on the importance of taking risks. One of my favorite pieces of music.
📖 BOOK: Systemantics: How systems work and especially how they fail (1977)
A hilarious and incisive intro to Systems thinking by John Gall that is as relevant today as it was more than 50 years ago (h/t Rory Sutherland). The original version is here, and the latest updated version is available here.
🖋️ ARTICLE: Multi-layered calendar by Julian Behr (2023)
This article is beautiful. Calendars are how we track time, and we can add a lot more context to them to track and show how we spend our days.
Matthew Ryan 🇺🇸
Matthew Ryan is a former big agency digital marketer and strategist. At OSV, he is responsible for social media, digital advertising, performance analytics optimization, testing, and reporting.
📺 TV SERIES: Justified: City Primeval (2023)
Engaging storytelling, strong character development, and a solid blend of action, drama, and dark humor are hard to beat. Throw in the skillful direction and cinematography and finish with the nostalgia you get when you think back to the original series - I mean, what's not to love?
🎥 FILM: Oppenheimer (2023)
Who doesn't love a complex portrayal of a morally ambiguous figure, especially when it's masterfully done?
📖 BOOK: The Pursuit of Dominance: 2000 Years of Superpower Grand Strategy; by Christopher J. Fettweis (2023)
A fascinating historical case study that focuses on what empires did uniquely right that allowed them to dominate for as long as they did, rather than what they did that led to failure.
Diego A. Rojas 🇨🇴
Diego A. Rojas is a futuristic AI artist and entrepreneur, proficient in prompt engineering, design, and digital marketing. He has worked for companies like Microsoft, Apple, Sony, Motorola, and Samsung in commercial and marketing roles. He now helps entrepreneurs in his country create digital ecosystems for their businesses with his freelance team. At OSV, he brings ideas to life through his AI artworks.
🎥 FILM: The Killer (2023)
David Fincher's latest film, The Killer, stands out as the jewel in the crown of Netflix's 2023 schedule. Centered on a skilled murderer, this thriller is distinguished by its subtlety, moving away from the conventions of the genre.
🔧 TOOL: TouchDesigner
I have been experimenting with TouchDesigner, a real-time development platform for creating live visuals, interactive systems, mapping, and immersive environments. I recommend that any artist or programmer learn about these tools- we are going to see a revolution in the visual arts.
📖 BOOK: Yo, Gaudí; by Xavier Güell (2019)
Since I visited Barcelona, Gaudí’s architecture has been in my DNA. This book is an excellent introduction to his life and the reasons for his work.
Hiromu Rose 🇯🇵🇺🇸🇪🇸
As OSV’s Futurist-in-Residence, Hiromu Rose is exploring new technologies and looking to create a vision for a more techno-optimistic world for tomorrow. He’s focused on bridging the gap between OSV’s Infinite Adventures and Infinite Films & Media by worldbuilding a positive vision of the future using Generative AI tools while also helping to identify the companies that are shaping this future (with a special focus on Deep Tech). Prior to joining OSV, he worked on bringing about new technologies to this world at Tesla, SpaceX, Apple, Waymo and more, working in roles ranging from high level product concept design to manufacturing engineering.
📖 BOOK: The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World's Most Successful People Launched Their Careers; by Alex Banayan (2018)
The Third Door is a fascinating book that taught me that anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it. This may sound clichéd at first, but once you pick up the book, you will be hooked. It revolves around the concept of the "Third Door:" in a nightclub, there are 3 ways to get in, (1) you line up like everyone else and enter through the main entrance, (2) you know people who let you in through the VIP section, or (3), the third door, where you take a creative route to get into something that you had no business being in. Alex uses this concept to chronicle his journey from a student at USC with big dreams and no connections to someone who gets mentorship from world icons such as Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Tim Ferriss, and more.
📺 TV SERIES: For All Mankind
For All Mankind is an alternate history/science-fiction show set in a world where the Soviets land on the Moon before the Americans do. This sets off an immediate response from the Americans, resulting in an increasingly intensified space race. The coolest part about the show is that it references actual theoretical NASA and Soviet designs for spaceships and future missions, which is a great way of exploring techno-optimism. The 4th season was released this year and focuses on a Mars colony, something made even cooler by the fact that the prospect of us landing on Mars is becoming ever more likely. 100% recommend!
🎙️ PODCAST: Age of Miracles; by Packy McCormick
Packy McCormick, who writes the Not Boring newsletter, has been talking about techno-optimism and deeptech for a while now. His new podcast, Age of Miracles, is focused on talking about a new "sci-fi"-esque technology every season. Each season explores the history of that technology, current available options, expert interviews, narrative stories, alternatives, and more. Season one explores nuclear energy, demystifying the technology in a way that's very easy for someone not in the tech world to comprehend.
Ed William 🇬🇧
Ed William is a recovering lawyer who packed in contracts and board resolutions to join OSV as a writer. He contributes to multiple OSV projects, including this Substack and his upcoming biography of Dr. David Rhoiney, to be published by Infinite Books. A film-lover, Ed writes about THE MOVIES over at his Substack, Rough Cuts.
🎥 FILM: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Within a week of watching Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, I could not imagine a world where it hadn’t been made. The film, which inspired Apocalypse Now, follows the journey of a small band of Spanish conquistadors into the depths of the Amazon in search of the mythical El Dorado, the city of gold. As they descend further into the belly of the beast, they become overwhelmed by the deafening apathy of the elements and human nature, falling victim to elemental justice, Indian assault, and the increasingly demonic behavior of the petty tyrant Aguirre. If you’re unsure if this is for you, check out the magisterial opening scene - breathtaking stuff.
I’m cheating by sneaking in another recommendation here - the soundtrack, a sort of uncanny valley space choir, is one of the most haunting pieces of music I’ve heard this year.
🎥 FILM: The Worst Person In the World (2021)
I was torn between this and the Mads Mikkelson starring existential-crisis-masquerading-as-buddy-comedy movie Another Round. The Worst Person In the World just edged it as it captures a sense of noncommittal millennial restlessness that rings uncomfortably true. If everything is possible, nothing is possible. To live is to commit.
📖 BOOK: The Left Hand of Darkness; by Ursula Le Guin (1969)
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Initially, I struggled with this one, but thankfully, I persevered. Le Guin is a masterful world-builder, and Estraven is such a complex, richly drawn character. The book’s central conceit - that individuals on this mysterious planet are ambisexual (i.e., there is no gender) - is so thoughtfully explored. Wonderful.
Andre Worrell 🇹🇹
Andre Worrell doesn’t have a traditional “career,” but rather a collection of experiences. He’s been an entrepreneur, led business development teams at two startups, ran the business desk at a media company and managed the strategy and transformation office for a major financial services firm. At OSV, he is responsible for partnerships and outreach with the mission of advancing the company’s name, presence, and impact in every corner of the world.
📖 BOOK: Winning: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness; by Tim Grover (2021)
I quite enjoyed this book because it delves deep into the mindset of some of the greatest winners in sports and identifies lessons that can be transferred over to life in general. Tim touches on ideas such as motivation (totally overrated! routine is exceedingly more important), selfishness (in the sense of being able to deal with those around you who can't see or feel uncomfortable with your vision), betting on yourself (not just words, but self-belief in action demonstrated by work!) and finally the fact that nothing entitles you to a "win." Regardless of the effort you put in, winning anything in life has no guarantee!
🎙️ PODCAST: Brian J. Roberts Interviews 50 Cent: From Bullet Proofs To Tailored Suits (2023)
I am not a traditionalist when it comes to podcasts, as I enjoy a variety of content. I don't only listen to "galaxy brain" stuff. As many people know, I'm a HUGE hip hop fan. So, my favorite podcast was an episode with 50 Cent on a podcast hosted by Brian J. Roberts. 50 Cent is a really wise gentleman. In the episode, he speaks about the transition from music to movies, how there are more ruthless people in business than in the streets (they just don't do it with a gun), and the power of being independent and maintaining relevance with a core audience over the long term. You can check out the interview here.
📺 TV SERIES: How To Become A Mob Boss (2023)
TV shows are another area where I'm not traditional. I quite enjoyed a series on Netflix called How To Become A Mob Boss. I find mafia stuff truly fascinating, so I always gobble up that content. The series chronicled the rise and fall of some of the most legendary mob bosses in history (Capone, Gotti, Escobar, etc). What I particularly enjoyed, again, is how intelligent these men actually were and how, had they applied their "street genius" to legitimate enterprises, they would have likely been equally as successful. It takes both brains and brawn to rise to the top of a mob empire, and there are powerful lessons that anyone can extract from that. The series also chronicled their downfall - showing that your lifespan as a boss (in any walk of life) is not forever. Again, the ability to take lessons from something seemingly nefarious, extract them, and find the positives is something I find continually interesting.
Camellia Yang 🇨🇳🇳🇿
Made in China, assembled in New Zealand, delivered in the UK, and unpacked in the metaverse, Camellia Yang is a bilingual content creator aiming to accelerate idea exchanges beyond language and culture barriers. Her podcast and Substack, Chiwi Journal, boast thousands of followers. At OSV, Camellia is helping to create a world-class social media presence and build an engaging community where ambitious creators can unleash their potential and deliver valuable content to the world.
🎙️ PODCAST: Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin
I recommend checking out Rick Rubin's podcast, Tetragrammaton, especially the conversation with Tyler Cowen and the extra bonus episode, where Rick sits down with Tyler to discuss and play the music that inspires them, covering everything from avant-garde to modern pop. It's a fantastic experience listening to these two brilliant minds talk about various topics, and their great taste in music makes it even better! By the way, Rick Rubin's book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being is one of my favorite reads this year.
📖 BOOK: The Tibetan Book of the Dead (2007 Penguin Translation)
Since I've been deeply immersed in studying Eastern philosophy and Buddhism this year, I’d like to recommend the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This profound text provides valuable insights into the nature of existence, consciousness, and the transition between life and death, enriching your understanding of these intriguing subjects with its timeless wisdom.
📖 BOOK: William Blake vs the World; by John Higgs (2021)
William Blake is my person of the year, and this book is a great starting point if you’d like to know more about this fascinating man.
Last but not least, here is my playlist for this year, gathering all the songs I frequently played. Enjoy!