Shades of Grey

Sit back with your eyes open. In front of you is the real world, not a made-up one full of dreams and fantasies.

Sit back with your eyes closed. In front of you is a movie screen to project your imagination. The future is boundless.

Sit back and let your eyes squint. In front of you is a flickering light beam. Reality rests on the pupils. Fiction sits behind the eyelids. Vision is really just a matter of desire.

Blind Mice

Gamifying everday things makes us produce more. If we didn't have a Fitbit counting our steps, we'd probably walk less. If we didn't have people on Instagram liking our photos, we'd probably share less.

We had pedometers prior to Fitbit and Flickr before Instagram but neither of them were set up to optimize rewarding. Now, we can sync our steps to see how we're progressing this week versus last, and compete with friends. We can watch our followers respond to a photo as soon as we post it.

Mobile connectivity drives human gratification. All people want are instant rewards. A step here, a like there, we inculcate the habit by playing for the points.

More about the psychology of digital rewards in here.

Too Kind

Yes to everybody. No to none.

Kindness creates good karma but risks the occasional backlash. Instead of holding the door open for one, you end up holding the door open for all. Instead of helping one kid on their homework, you help the whole class catch up.

If kindness is your prerogative, you already win at the game of life. There's really no competition but yourself. But offering free services makes you vulnerable. People manipulate nice people.

Toughen up and treat yourself with the same respect. Be the milkman of human kindness.

The CIA Mixtape

Below are the most interesting articles I read this week, mixing topics of creativity, philosophy, and technology. I also posted my Best of 2014 so you'll see a link to that after the jump.

The CIA Mixtape

The CIA used loud music and more specifically a mixtape consisting of Barney the Dinosaur's "I love You" and David Gray's "Babylon" to torture Guantanamo prisoners. But Guantanamo "detainees exhibit a marked aversion to country.“ Sounds like the worst concert ever.

"Excuse me while I kiss this guy"

Jimi Hendrix owns one of the most popular mondegreens (misheard lyrics) of all time. What we hear or mishear not only depends on our inner ear lobes but also our biases, perception, and even where we live.

Talk like an Egyptian

It's a canard to think that everything that gets recorded today will be easily retrievable in the future just because it's digital. Digital formats change too quickly. Maybe emojis are modernity's Rosetta Stone? Best to talk like the Egyptians.

Autobiography x Fiction

“In fiction, we step out of our skin, but we still remain in our skin as we read it.”

Simon Critchley takes us in a journey of self-discovery through fiction in his newest book Memory Theater. Maybe life's best told through someone else.

Get My E-Peon

A "peon" is a person in India hired to do temporary, everyday tasks. Now it's gone digital. While the job of a peon is a bit servile, it's putting dependable money on the table for its workers.

(The Mighty) Mos Def

“Americans are not unique. They like to think that, but they're just citizens of the world.”

Besides being my favorite rapper, Mos Def is also a supreme artist and American. Whether or not you believe in American exceptionalism, read this. Think global.

Dark Social

"Dark social" is a term introduced by Alexis Madgril's to describe the untraceable referrals of the web. He recently updated his theory with some new discoveries, mainly that Facebook is the main driver of dark social sharing.

+ My Blog Post: Here's a little piece I wrote about this week explaining why Instagram is kicking Twitter's ass.

Tracks of the year

Lacing beats, electronica, and hip-hop HERE are my favorite tracks of 2014. The usual 5-track delivery will restart next week.

Thought of the week

"I like hearing things incorrectly. I think that’s how I get a lot of ideas is by mishearing something.” Tom Waits

♫ Best of 2014

In the spirit of a double-disc CD, I've tried to keep this playlist to 22 tracks.

Stream the entire playlist here or cherry-pick below.

Track Listing

  1. Dorian Concept - Sky Opposite
  2. Taylor McFerrin - The Antidote
  3. Little Dragon - Klapp Klapp
  4. Badbadnotgood - CS60
  5. Mo Kolours - Say Word
  6. Visionist - First Love
  7. Leon Vynehall - Inside the Deku Tree
  8. Jim-E Stack - Reassuring
  9. Reza - Unknown Feelings
  10. Dauwd - Lydia
  11. Joey Bada$$ - Christ Conscious
  12. Werkha - Lapwing
  13. Clark - The Grit in the Pearl
  14. DJ B.BOY - Moh
  15. Romare - Roots
  16. Stray - Fragile
  17. Airhead - Believe
  18. Teebs - Sachi Chords
  19. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers
  20. Lone - Begin to Begin
  21. Falty DL - Some Jazz Shit
  22. Paul White - Running on a Rainy Day

If this kind of music strikes your fancy, you can dig into the 300+ songs I maintained throughout the year to help me curate this final list.

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Thanks for listening and reading my blog. Have a great 2015!

Your DJ,


Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

  • Sleep on it
  • Think about it
  • Mull it over
  • Take a step back

There are countless ways to say that time heals the sting of emotion and builds deeper perspective. Anger today can be calm tomorrow. Time is also likely to make people forget as other things become a bigger priority.

But reactions are less about timing and more about pride. The lion sleeps 20 hours a day but it still maintains the order of the jungle. How do we use time to make things better, not worse?

Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

Instagram is Twitter without the words. Speaking in images removes the friction of writing, which is intimidating for most people. People want to express themselves in the simplest and quickest way possible on the visual web.

Instagram takes the best of Twitter, most notably its immediacy and the ability to follow both friends and influencers. It also adopted Twitter's glossary of hashtags and @ symbols.

The only threat to Instagram is VSCO which reminds me of the early days of Instagram with its strong artist community, grid, and myriad filters. But I get the feeling that VSCO sees Instagram more as a friend than a foe, using Instagram's 300 million active users to markete its presets and software through the ever-popular #VSCOcam hashtag.

Twitter, Instagram, and emerging apps like VSCO all complement each other. Each tool is vehicle for sharing information across each other's networks. But the fact remains: Twitter's growth is withering and Instagram is blowing up. All the meanwhile, Facebook is just competing within itself.

Faking It

  • Fake it until you make it.
  • Fake it to blend in.
  • Fake it to remove the discomfort of being an outsider.

Faking it has many benefits. It allows one to blend in at social events, to feign skills at work, and to pump up confidence.

The problem with faking it is that you may get stuck in character. Instead of becoming the person you want to be, you become the person others expect you to be. After all, it's more comfortable in than out.

But a true life asks for authenticity. Faking it is merely a temporarily survival to get through the bullshit. Real enthusiasm can't be faked.

"Because you can't eat the roots of the tree and not eat the tree."

Working on It

We're always working...

  • Because everyone else is doing it.
  • Because we can create artificial light (aka electricity) that wasn't available 100 years ago.
  • Because we're not tied to our desks or the factory anymore. We have our phones.
  • Because for obvious reasons we need to eat and help others do the same.

Work means nothing if it's neither remarkable nor meaningless. The American Dream is a marketing gimmick, driving the Industrial complex.

"Are you working? What kind of work do you do?"

The Antidote

Information is like dynamite. Just ask Edward Snowden. Once you know what they know, you see through everything: the red tape, the laziness, the manipulation, the overall lack of cooperation between two so-called "partners."

Once you have the inside scoop to how things really work, it's up to you whether or not to blow the horn. You can tweet about it but it'll get lost in the morass of Bieber trends. You can email or write a letter via snail mail and get offered a sop (free tickets, money back, etc). None of these, however, will successfully scratch the itch.

The only antidote therefore is action, the endeavor to fix a system broken by incompetence and insouciance. Care to care, or care to let it slip?

(Loosely based on recent airline travel experience)

Obama's First Album

Covering everything from art, music, and technology. Here are the articles and jams inspiring me this week.

Rock the House

I usually ignore the articles that get talked about a million times over but this one is too good. Chris Rock talks the latest on comedy, race, and politics. Here’s an excerpt of the interview on Bush/Obama:

“People thinking you’re dumb is an advantage. Obama started as a genius...So it’s not that Obama’s disappointing. It’s just his best album might have been his first album."

Analog Xmas Cards

Christmas cards take time to write. They show more care than a mere email, text, and Facebook message. It also turns out that the average number of people reached via Christmas Cards is 150, which is also the Dunbar Number.

Normalizing the iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 Plus is "like holding a waffle iron to your face," writes Steve Chaney. Yet people love it for than any other of the previous devices. The iPhone 6 Plus is by true definition the world's first phablet. People can get used to anything.

When Art Meets Curation

What is like to organize all the world’s art? The New Yorker talks to curator Hans Ulrich Obrist about organizing all the world’s art. Here’s what he said when he discovered Instagram: “Maybe the iPhone is the new nanomuseum.” To which he adds: “Do you know any poets who use Snapchat?”

Bringing Back Sweet Memories

Instagram inspires you to see the world around you but it also distorts memories. Om Malik sits down with Cole Rise of Pi.Co to talk the impact of mobile photography.

“I think we confuse photos on our smartphone as memories..." - Om Malik

Album Covers

NPR sits down to interview Storm Thorgerson, the designer behind Pink Floyd album covers including Dark Side of the Moon. A lot of thought and meaning when into those album covers, but some of it was remixed: "Nothing’s new, everything is plagiarized but it's how you plagiarize and how you use it."

Make a Ruckus

“This might not work.” Seth Godin provokes people into making a ruckus, again and again, despite success. Watch it.

Tunes of the week | Episode 34

  1. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers
  2. Leon Vynehall - Inside The Deku Tree
  3. DJ Bad Boy - Moh Cota
  4. Sia - Big Girls Cry (Odesza Remix)
  5. Atjazz - Does This Qualify?

♫ Peep the playlist

My Best of 2014 will be posted next week. I’ve got 300+ songs to go through.

Thought of the week

“There’s no room for hatred in music.” - John Peel

Body Movin'

It's amazing how positive, negative statements can be. Double negatives intensify the negation so much that they create positive action.

  • Never quit quitting
  • Never say never

Conversely, it's amazing how negative, positive words can be. Double positives intensify positivity so much that they overstretch limitations and have deleterious effects.

  • Keep pushing
  • Keep on keeping on

Thoughts predetermine action and therefore, willpower. But really all that's needed is good practice so you don’t have to think at all. What works is the execution, not necessarily the right frame of mind.

Bounce back

Why does every new passion start off with a rush of positive energy and excitement and then die?

Alacrity lives for the short-term. What's new becomes old. Boredom strikes, a new and superior product emerges that we have to have. We also give up on our passions. The work involves outweighs the sticktuitiveness to achieve it.

Passion is a tricky subject. We can cultivate it through gratitude but it'll never reverberate with energy like it once did. Maybe it's time to try something new.

Extant Ailments

Things never die. History repeats itself because people never fully learn from their mistakes, nor can they resist their nativistic urges.

America is an ongoing experiment of democratic and pluralistic principles. The only hope in resurfacing old problems is that they retest the validity of beliefs. It's better to come face to face with reality than under the couch and think everything's all ok.

Democracy matters. Fairness matters. Pluralism rests on such openness.

Fake It 'til You Make It

Confidence and skills are two separate things. We all the know someone that talks a big game but doesn't back it up with successful action. Conversely, we all know someone with incredible skills that doesn't talk a lot. They rather let the work speak for themselves.

A skilled person is confident by default whether or not they have a big mouth. The unskilled wannabe has to fake it until they can catch up with their glib talk.

The mouth is strategic. Actions are permanent. Faking it is a wise holding strategy that builds confidence but doesn't necessarily manifest itself in skills. The work is the only thing that really counts.

Mind over Matter

The brain works like a dishwasher. After filling it up with information and experience it needs time to get rid of the excess.

To do that, you might want to:

  • Take a walk
  • Meditate
  • Do the dishes, brush your teeth, or take a shower

The brain produces just as many good ideas when it's offline as when it's on. Suspending thought lets your ideas play. Now imagine that!

Revisiting Black Friday

  • Coercion > Persuasion
  • Fabricated urgency
  • Hysteria

Black Friday isn't even on Friday anymore. It starts Thansgiving day at 6pm. Retailers open up early to stay competitive. Consumers shop ahead of time to get the best deals.

Black Friday could be any day of the week. Even British retailers are adopting "Black Friday" marketing. Black Friday is really just a prelude to Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is already bigger.


But some analysts predict Black Friday sales to eclipse Cyber Monday next year while others predict that the majority of shopping will all be done in advance. When the web is open 24/7, maybe Black Friday and Cyber Monday "don't really matter".