Hi, welcome to your Weekend!
The official opening of holiday gifting season is upon us, so we meet the moment as we always do—by shaking down our colleagues for gift suggestions. Our subscribers are obviously discerning, so we take gift tips seriously. I was able to knock off half of my list already by following our staff’s recommendations. (Daughter 1, if you’re reading this: Don’t buy yourself a Blendjet blender.)
There’s another category of readers who will be enjoying their holidays this season: Crypto short-traders. Margaux put on her Michael Lewis– hat to deliver us a “Big Short” for the FTX age. Her tale of high-wire risk-taking by retail short-sellers is riveting to read. At least someone involved with the FTX fiasco is enjoying some merriment this holiday season.
With “generational” profits in hand, they can comfortably treat themselves to some of those gift suggestions—a Skin Worldwide Sierra Robe (recommended by Caryn), perhaps.
Now onto the weekend’s stories.
After the roller-coaster ride of the past month, everyone needs a little retail therapy. So, in honor of Black Friday and the upcoming holiday season, we assembled our annual gift guide, asking The Information’s staffers to share their favorite tech and tech-adjacent purchases of the last year. The results range from the ultimate portable gaming accessory to a self-scooping litter box. And, unlike last year’s gift guide, this is an NFT-free space. (Too soon?)
For shorts traders, the more momentous the crash, the greater the profit. And, from the implosion of luna to Celsius to FTX, the last several months have given short-selling crypto traders multiple chances to capture huge windfalls while the rest of the industry burned. Margaux talks to a band of crypto traders who shorted FTX’s token, FTT, at just the right moment.
If you found yourself dreaming of Elon recently, you’re far from alone. According to psychologists, nightly visitations from the new Twitter owner are skyrocketing. Such shared dream occurrences, which often happen during periods of instability, offer a broader insight into our collective psyche. “A lot of people are thinking about Elon Musk,” said one clinical psychologist. “He demonstrates the human lust for power, play and creativity…and he’s also disappointed a lot of people.”
When Redpanda CEO Alexander Gallego started his first company in 2014, he approached it with the same determination he’d used to learn English as a teenager: “I just had to figure it out,” he said. “I had no backup plan.” Here, Gallego shares his journey to startup success, and his aspirations to bring more people from underrepresented backgrounds into Silicon Valley’s inner circle.
Listening: The most entertaining World Cup natter
I’m not a soccer lunatic, but every four years, like an American werewolf in Paris, I morph into one. The World Cup brings out a temporary obsession that can only be soothed with smart, funny and accessible soccer content. Thank the futbol gods for Men in Blazers, the podcast turned Peacock TV show, live-event tour, publishing house and all-around World Cup hype machine. Podcast co-host Roger Bennett is a Liverpool-born version of college basketball’s Dick Vitale–a wildly enthusiastic, deeply humane, and hilariously hyperbolic champion of the game he loves. The MiB’s daily breakdowns of the on-pitch heroism and heartbreak has become my constant companion. I’ll relish it for the next 22 days. —Jon
Reading: The blast-radius reading list
When FTX arrived in the Bahamas, it seemed like a boon to the island economy. The company donated generously to charity groups, hired up locals and showered them with perks, including free meals and access to company cars. Then, suddenly, it all went poof. Forbes reporters Sarah Emerson and David Jeans went to Nassau to speak with some of the people left holding the bag. Pair their excellent piece with the Wall Street Journal’s deep-dive on the Bahamian victims, the New York Times’ study of Sam Bankman-Fried’s influence, and Fortune’s voyeuristic look into his tropical penthouse lifestyle. —Arielle
Noticing: TV makers going Filmmaker Mode
New TV on your holiday gift list? If you specify one of the growing number of sets that come with “Filmmaker Mode,” you’ll surely end up on Hollywood’s Nice List. The new settings are the antidote to “soap opera effect”—the high saturation and “motion-smoothed” frame rates that’ve become standard on TVs, making even the most visually stunning scenes look like they were filmed on janky studio backlots. (Such settings are great for pro sports games, but terrible for “Game of Thrones.”) TV makers such as Samsung and LG are finally getting the memo, offering Filmmaker Mode in response to a prolonged lobbying campaign from Hollywood studios and bigs like Tom Cruise and director Christopher Nolan. Wired magazine explains the behind the scenes haggling that may finally rid us of motion smoothing. —Abe
Makes You Think
Who doesn’t like to save a buck?
Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.
Weekend Editor, The Information