Recommendation Engine: Zambezi's Madeleine Schafer

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Sports and speculative fiction fill out this cultural strategist's daily diet.

The Recommendation Engine is Campaign US' weekly feature in which we learn about the media young people in the ad industry are currently consuming. This week, we get to know Madeleine Schafer, cultural strategist at LA agency Zambezi. 

What I’m watching
Normally the answer here would be hockey, and especially women’s hockey (which you can stream on Youtube for free!), but it’s the offseason, so I’m mainlining the Netflix series "Into the Badlands." It’s like an old Western meets an old marital arts movie, but with none of the fraught politics of either genre. For downtime I recommend "Bob’s Burgers," because it’s good to have a TV show in rotation whose central jokes are about familial love and support. That’s my curl-up-in-bed-with-my-phone show, my pocket Good Vibes machine.


What I’m listening to
I’m an obsessive podcast and sports fan, so I’m listening to "Burn it Down," which is about the intersection of sports and feminism, and an endless parade of FiveThirtyEight podcasts. Those really own my work commute. I’m also still listening to Lorde’s new album—every song on there is always, somehow, relevant to my mood. I’m moving into a new apartment right now and "Melodrama" is playing constantly. 


What I’m reading
"The Three-Body Problem." It’s a hard sci-fi novel by the Chinese author Liu Cixin about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, environmentalism, human nature and aliens. Besides being a good book, I find it’s a worthwhile experience to read genre fiction from and about different cultures. You get to see what events like the Cultural Revolution mean in contexts outside of Western historical or political texts, which gives the whole thing so much more texture and meaning. That, I’m reading soft-cover. I always have one print book in rotation.

On the digital content side, I’m really pushing people to read "17776." It’s a kind of speculative, meta, interactive sports column about, uh, football in the year 17776. It’s one of the most ambitious projects in digital sports writing I’ve ever seen, and as we watch the discipline start to buckle around us (still mourning Vice Sports), it’s inspiring to see people push the limits of the medium to stay relevant. 


Who I’m following
I’m a Twitter person more than an Instagram person, and I say that with the regretful understanding that Twitter is an app built almost solely on masochism and ego. I love Ira Madison III (@ira), Jason Concepcion from The Ringer (@netw3rk), and Anne Helen Peterson (@annehelen) from Buzzfeed. They all keep me thinking critically about the small or subtle stuff in culture that feeds into the big trends, moods, and moments that I as a Cultural Strategist have to stay plugged in to.


What I’m ignoring
I’ve got a theory that everything matters right now, which is predictably driving me crazy, but if I had to pick, I’d say I’m ignoring the threat of nuclear holocaust. Big believer in not living every day like you need to be aware of the nearest underground bunker.

national insecurity

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