GOOD



On a rainy Wednesday afternoon in Venice, California, Dan Kougan spreads out three shot glasses in front of a curious audience. The champagne-colored liquid bubbling on the left is a homemade hops soda. The creamy, tan shot in the middle is a barley-chocolate malt topped with a tuft of steamed milk. And the chestnut-hued beverage on the right, the raison d’être of this whole ordeal, gives off the unmistakable scent of fresh espresso, extracted from the highest-quality coffee beans the developing world has to offer.

“Thanks, Dan, I’m really excited!” says Elaine Levia. She smiles as she eyes the Flight of Three—the name given to the triptych of shot glasses on the glass-top bar before her. “Do you have drinking instructions?” she asks.

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What's the Value of a Human Life? Don't Hold the Elevator

Two friends discuss whether it’s selfish to act nice.



Years ago, my good friend Misha Glouberman and I ran a lecture series together called Trampoline Hall, at which amateurs speak on random subjects in a bar. He was the host, and I picked the lecturers and helped them choose their topics. I was interested in finding people who were reticent, rather than showy people who wanted an opportunity to perform. People lectured on many things: The number 32, getting a liver transplant, why we shouldn’t climb Mount Everest, Jews at Christmas.

After three years of working on the show, I quit, but Misha kept it running. A few years later, though, I realized I missed working with him, so I decided I would write a novel called The Moral Development of Misha. I got about 60 pages into the story of a man who wandered the city, who was nervous about his career and his life, yet was a force of reason in any situation. The writing stalled, however, when I couldn’t figure out how to develop him morally.

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