I need new things to read. 

Not books. I don’t have the attention span or sleep hygiene to get through a book right now. And no fiction. That’s what screens and stages are for.

Speaking of screens, I’ll take TV recos too, but anything weekly-release is a non-starter. Eff that. Tara and I were ripping through Mythic Quest (which is phenomenal) until we hit the release brick wall. I guess we’ll get back to it in a few months, if we remember. 

We’re not into anything overly dark, violent, or suspenseful either. There’s enough of that in real life. And don’t pitch me on Succession. We tried. I’m too much of an optimist to watch a show where every last character is a repugnant human being. There’s a reason I don’t work in DC politics anymore. 

Give me Ted Lasso all day. 

I’m all set on music. The discovery and recommendation tech in music is peak state. Besides, collective music wisdom is trash, otherwise The Wood Brothers would be more widely regarded as among the greatest artists of our generation. Nobody has better taste in music than I do.  

Back to reading.

As for traditional publications, I trust the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg for my business and news content. Full stop. Sure, if it catches my eye on Twitter, I’ll read others, if only because it’s fun to parse out the bias for cultural signals. 

I admire the writing in The Atlantic and The New Republic, but I particularly enjoy the smart ideological contrast between the two. Regardless of where I stand on an issue, I always want to know what the other side is saying. Biased, comfortable echo chambers are extremely bad for your health.    

I want more stuff like this, humbly speaking – relatively short, data-colored, personal, and recurring prose. Recurring is important because I love building relationships with writers, however unilateral. I’m a big fan of Scott Galloway’s No Mercy / No Maliceand Lucas Shaw’s Screentime weekly, for example. Bob Lefsetz sets the bar, even though he largely shuns data, because he’s one of the few people who can. He never edits, he’s not beholden to advertisers or paid subscribers, and he’s as candid and raw as they come. Morning Brew is okay. It’s just becoming a bit too industrialized for my tastes. 

So, fire away. What – or more importantly, who – am I missing? 

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Consumer confidence is on a heater. The mixed economic signals out there right now will make your head spin. Black Friday overperformed, partly because Gen Z door-busted, just like we told you they would. But there’s still plenty of bad news out there too. Nonetheless, our Economic Sentiment Index had its steepest climb in months over the past two weeks, reaching heights we haven’t seen since April. Confidence in jobs, personal finances, and major purchases all jumped a point or more. Meanwhile, optimism for the longer-term U.S. economy fell appreciably, perhaps because that’s what people are being told to believe. For now anyway, people appear to be feeling pretty good. 

It’s sad how stressed out people become over the holidays. For what’s supposed to be the Season of Joy, nearly half of Americans say they are at least somewhat more stressed during the holiday season, with 17% saying they are much more stressed. While financial strains – particularly around gift-giving – are the primary factor, spending time with relatives is the second biggest cause of holiday anxiety. If there’s any bright spot, it’s that people are far less worried about getting sick this year. Overall, though, it’s a bummer. People should be finding hope and comfort this time of year. Commercialism kind of sucks.

Indeed, people are taking on more debt this year to cover their holiday expenses. As evidenced by the growing credit card balances and increased use of Buy Now, Pay Later services, inflation is pushing more people to finance their gift purchases this year. The numbers aren’t staggering – 11% of U.S. adults say they will take on new debt, up from 9% in 2019 (2020 and 2021 were anomalies). Travel accounts for a lot of the debt load. What’s perplexing is that the people most likely to go into the hole financially are the same people who say they’re better off financially than they were before the pandemic. This economy is freaking weird. 

Gen Zs are less concerned about the environment and brand social consciousness than Millennials were at the same age – but they’re much more likely to volunteer. In the latest installment of our study comparing 18- to 24-years-olds today to the same age group five years ago, we found some surprising but explicable differences in their views on social activism and environmentalism, in particular. A sign of the post-COVID-inflationary-headwinds times, young people today seem to be more worried about financial realities than things like ESG. At the same time, they’re far more likely to support the causes they care about through volunteer work. Gen Z are doers. 

The Brittney Griner prisoner swap was pretty unpopular. A few hours after the news broke of the Griner-for-Merchant-of-Death trade on Thursday, we published the world’s first public opinion data on the subject and it wasn’t pretty. Fifty-two percent of Americans disagreed with the decision, compared to just 37% who agreed (11% had no opinion, somehow). No shocker, political affiliation was highly correlated, with strong Rs opposing the move at 82% and strong Ds supporting it at 72%. Folks in the middle were anything but balanced, however, where 53% of moderates rejected the swap, while just 33% celebrated it. It’s a tough one. 

The elimination of the U.S. team from the World Cup has been offset by interest in the later-stage games. Before half of you had even read this email last week, the U.S. already had their clocks cleaned by the Dutch. Sorry if I jinxed it. While interest in the World Cup among casual U.S. sports fans expectedly fell after last Saturday, interest among more die-hard soccer fans has actually increased. As the field whittles down to the best teams on the planet – and one Cinderella – it makes sense the bigger fans are getting amped. 

Way more from the CivicScientists this week:

The Most Popular Questions This Week   

Answer Key: I whistle along and my kids hate it; Alone; Almost; Lots; Yeah, when people use a hard ‘e’ at the end of the word “processes;” Hell no, that’s what insurance is for.

Hoping you’re well. 


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