Oct 22, 2023·edited Oct 22, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Yeah, it started out as funny then became deep. That’s OK; I like the unexpectedness. It also has me pondering so nice job there.

In a somewhat similar vein (since you asked), I highly recommend two books which I believe are relatively objective. First is How Democracies Die(Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt). The second is Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)

I am so sick of being mistaken for George Clooney. 😜

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Oof, that's a lot to digest. I need a Tums, and some time to think. It's ringing true, but maybe that ringing is in my ears and not out in the world? I'll get back to you. Good stuff, Michael, as always.

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This was “Us” meets “Black Mirror.” This was good. Michael, you have so much range. I look forward to reading your work every Sunday.

My doppelgänger is living a life I hate, but secretly envy.

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Bravo, Michael, this is one of the best things I've read & oh god did I ever NEED to read this & it is a timely & timeless response to our heartbreaking mess of a world.

A weird little masterpiece.

I'll be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading this piece & despite my impulse to rn make a your piece needs a trigger warning joke that flatters this piece I am so glad that there weren't any warnings. I don't think I ever sensed the futility of social media the way I have this past week, & yr words were much needed salve for that wound.

Anyway, here is how I read your piece: I just woke up & put on the band Love's song "Always See Your Face' on repeat which is how I have started every day in recent weeks & then I flipped to Substack on my phone & started reading your piece on Naomi Klein's Doppelgänger (who I am rn trying to get as guest on podcast, Naomi Klein that is, not her doppelgänger) & really right from your opening sentences my heart jumped w excitement cuz I was like, "Oh shit, Michael's really going for Naomi Klein's

Doppelgänger, oh shit oh shit what's gonna happen?"

Becuz Naomi Klein is imho one of the greatest & most unique & valuable minds of our time & so you attempting to write abt her & her book in a meaningful way automatically puts you out on a precarious tightrope (I remember Marc Maron talking abt how nervous he was before interviewing her & how he dog-eared the shit out of her book, cuz Naomi Klein ain't nothing to f*ck with.)

Now fast forward many minutes & by this point I've read 3/5 through your piece, occasionally backing up to reread paragraphs (at one point thinking, Did this motherf*cker just just quote his old Facebook post to illustrate Klein's point & somehow make it WORK? Goddam it he did, jesus H that takes some moxie, what other crazy shit is Michael abt to try & pull off & where is this piece GOING? Cuz Lordy that is one high ass tightrope Michael done put himself on & the fall could be seriously brutal.)

And meanwhile the band Love's song Always See Your Face has just been playing on repeat & I barely notice & then somewhere around when I get to the below quoted passages of yr piece, something unexpected happens to me:

"So where are we going? The reason why I decided to write about Naomi Klein’s book this week is that she thinks we’re headed to a very bad place, if we don’t stop to question the ways in which we’re sorting ourselves into “us” and “them.” I agree with Klein’s thesis. I am living through a deadly “us” versus “them” moment, and I think you are too.

As I write these words, battles between “us” and “them” are raging everywhere. According to The Council on Foreign Relations, there are 27 active conflicts around the globe. But that number probably underestimates the number of conflicts in the world because war has an absurdly high threshold that ignores a lot of violence that’s just as horrific, but maybe not as noteworthy, for some reason or another.

Simmering just below the surface of all of that violence are the rhetorical fights that divide us too. As far as I know, nobody bothers counting those fights. The rhetorical conflicts we use to divide and conquer ourselves are as omnipresent to us as water is to fish. But if you want to see the water, social media is a good window. The weird ways we’ve networked billions of humans together via social media opened Klein’s eyes when so many people confused her with her doppelgänger. But even if social media hasn’t assigned you a doppelgänger, maybe you can still see what Klein sees."

Anyway, somewhere in the middle of reading your above passages, before I knew what was happening, I just started crying (kind of embarrassing to admit I started crying while reading a Substack post tbh esp one w goddam FB references & GIFs but it's the truth so fuckit) & then suddenly that song by the band Love "Always See Your Face" was booming in my ears while I kept reading & I was thinking oK wtf I am having a profound aesthetic experience rn wtf wtf & it feels like I'm being ambushed in best possible way rn & it's requiring all of me to be present for this & lemme be clear I wasn't crying bcuz I was sad tho there was little sadness of course (I mean Jesus there's a little sad in everything rn, to not feel that is deranged) but honestly there were like 10,000 emotions coursing thru me as I continued reading yr piece & listening to that song & the 2 big dominant ones were joy & gratitude, like, "Thank you for telling the truth, Michael, & thank you for putting into words all the confusion & horror of late & goddamit YES Michael you did it you took a big risk out there on the tightrope & you stretched yrself & you named the assignment & you delivered & the results were 10/10 & holy shit Michael did yr hands catch on fire while you were writing these words cuz HOLY SHIT.

Anyway {wipes face & straightens shirt} I'm all good now & my heart's a little bigger & I'm plugged into my humanity & I'm excited as I get into making some new podcast episodes. Bravo, Michael.

Oh, my lifelong Doppelgänger is (& this has never failed to shock me when a new acquaintance or stranger tells me I look identical to this person) is Slash from Guns & Roses.

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I really feel for Klein. It’s too bad her doppelgänger wasn’t Campbell or Judd.

I have a name doppelgänger and an appearance one. I have a pretty uncommon last name that is almost never coupled with Amy, except that there is one other in the U.S. and she’s an artist and photographer from Texas. Constitutionally and geographically, she could not be further away from being my twin. But I send her good wishes whenever the Google alert set to my name sends me something about her instead of me. “Aww, look at other Amy go!” 😊

My appearance doppelgänger is eerily also named Amy. She has curly reddish hair and a facial bone structure much like mine. She also works in my former “industry,” albeit at a higher level. We would often get mistaken for one another at work-related meetings and events. At first, when people told me I looked like her, I scoffed and thought, “this is just another of the hundreds of times someone told me I looked EXACTLY like someone just because we both have red hair.” 🙄

But then about 15 years ago, I found myself sitting diagonally across the table from this other Amy at a statewide meeting, and I spent the whole time surreptitiously glancing at her because this time, she really DID look just like me. It was uncanny and rattled me on an existential level.

That “other Amy” and I have since actually talked and become Facebook friends. She is always telling me that she finds the comments from people about our “twin-ness” extremely flattering, because apparently she considers me more attractive than her (which then I find flattering - WEIRD!).

I loved your Jerry Garcia story and that you played along in the end 🤭. Seems very on-brand for you to do that 🩶

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1. Even when you tackle dark subjects, your voice keeps me from drowning in them. Thank you for digging into this very raw topic with grace and humility.

2. I'm a feminist. Meanwhile, my doppleganger struggles to celebrate the successes of other women I've decided are superior to me, physically, personally or professionally. Obviously, I feel INCREDIBLY gross about this, but that's the exercise we're doing, right?

5. I have no physical doppleganger that I know about. No one's ever told me I look like anyone other than my mother. I also just purchased megoolders.com as a domain name, so I expect we're a rare breed.

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This was dope. Thanks for this piece and glad you’re enjoying Naomi Klein. Haven’t check out Doppelgänger but now I’m gonna add to my reading list.

I had a similar realization about politics/social media/news/culture war during the lockdowns and it really crystallized with me about last year. I’ll just copy and paste what I wrote:

“Living online is a condition of generalized distrust, and these effects don’t vanish once we turn away from the screen. We operate from self-interest, which turns everyone we interact with into a self-projection. Faceless strangers are assumed to be the worst parts of us, minus the self-exculpatory context that allows us to justify or understand our own actions without the assumption of evil intent. This dynamic makes genuine intersectional politics impossible because there is an inherent suspicion of the out-group. Many conflicts within institutions in the last few years seem to be rooted in the expectation that the world should work like the internet. If you don’t like a person or an idea or an expression, you should be able to block them. Push a button and make them disappear forever. Like in the prisoner’s dilemma, we cannot negotiate a collective agenda in these circumstaces; we are stuck fighting for primacy in a culture war even as the world shudders and cracks around us.”

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I apparently have "one of those faces". I've been mistaken for many an old friend, at least from a distance. Once I was mistaken for someone's ex-husband. Fortunately I've never been mistaken for someone's arch enemy.

Good essay. We often need to spend time in darkness to appreciate the light.

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Oct 24, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Whoa. I read until the end but I’m still stuck on this: “Basically, we project all of our worst selves onto others, and so doing, we avoid looking at our own complicity. That’s why every doppelgänger story is about confronting the other, but ultimately, every doppelgänger story is really about confronting us.”

Imagine if EVERY TIME I was critical of another, I immediately acknowledged that the perceived fault was my own projection. I would learn so much! It would radically change my life!

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Damn. Thanks for this.

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Oct 22, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

This is one of the most thoughtful pieces I’ve read from you. You didn’t mention Israel/Palestine at all but I’ve been thinking about the “us” and “them” concept obsessively since the attacks of October 7th. (Maybe you’re deliberately hitting it sideways.) Anyway, have you seen Party Girl? Or Weeds?

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I'm basically a dead ringer for Heath Ledger. I've dealt with this for decades now.

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I love everything about this, they are things I ponder all the time. The us v them that I get mired in often. I think my doppelgänger is a nihilist, sometimes (most times) she just wants to sit back and let it all burn down in some sort of cleansing fire, but the me that is me (but both) desperately holds onto hope that we can change and be better.

Things like this, stories like this, make me believe that we can. If only.

Also, Jerry Garcia is my favorite, I’ve been a deadhead since childhood (hippy parents). I’ve been told my doppelgänger is the brunette version of Drew Barrymore, I don’t see it, but I do love her so I’ll take it as a win.

As for how I’m doing? Holding together with the help of other’s words.

Thanks for this stuff today.

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Oct 22, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

My celebrity doppelgänger is the John Goodman version of Fred Flintstone. Although I did have a family friend that called me Penn from the comedy magic team.

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Excellent stuff, Michael. My favorite line is this:

“[P]eace almost always follows war. Which means history is also telling us that peace is in our nature too.”

As a former history major, that just blows my mind.

I once had a girlfriend who spoke fluent German. Hearing her pronounce “doppelgänger” correctly was an unexpected pleasure. I wish I could remember the context in which that came up.

My celeb doppelgänger was Dave Matthews. I no longer look like him, and I’m glad. I got tired of drunks in bars yelling “do Satellite” at me.

I never really cared for DMB, which made it worse. You’re lucky. One can do a lot worse than being mistaken for the great Jerry Garcia.

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1. Yes, a little dark, but that’s okay. I’ve got a cold, my doppelgänger probably doesn’t.

2.I work hard to believe in the oneness of all, but Worldly Steiner sings the 2000-year-old Man National Anthem: “Let Em All Go To Hell, Except Cave 76!”

3. All I can think of is “Strangers On A Train.”

4. I do, but all too often he’s already read my recs. Case in point - when I discovered John Fante.

5. I went through a Pavarotti period, but now I’m too old and he’s too dead.

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