Dear Kanye West

Kanye West is a musician, a fashion designer and now a video game producer.

The music itself is not enough for Kanye.

Will Smith and LL Cool J used their success in music to go into acting but at the expense of their rhymes. Their hip-hop skills suffered.

Success is one area hampers or taints the other. Kanye still thinks he's a hit-making machine with a Midas Touch. It doesn't help that's he's surrounded by people that are also living in their own tabloid cocoon.

When I saw Kanye perform in 2003 he was at the top of his game, making his own beats and rhymes and producing for Mos Def and Common. He was appreciative and still learning. That Kanye even showed some humility.

But Kanye's new music is unlistenable, along with his persona.

Today, Kanye is just another Internet celebrity that makes a lot of noise but offers little value in return. His comments in favor of Bill Cosby are beyond absurd. Like Donald Trump, he uses bombast to make up for his creative vulnerability.

Next week Kanye may be (or think he is) a movie director like Spielberg. He may run for President in the next decade.

Writing in excess is often an indication that you haven't found the right words yet. The same can be applied to artists that overcompensate their past success and exaggerate their skills to stamp their mastery on other types of work.

Mr. West needs to stop changing his new album name and go back to the studio and make another record that matters.

Kanye is a much better marketer than creator. But having built up a legion of fans and married the lightning rod of the Internet, he's ensured that his ego, not his work, will be relevant for years to come.

Choosing Comfort Over Impressions

As Brian Eno once said, "Art is everything you don't have to do." But ownership of fashion, fancy cars, and paintings are also artful things you don't really need.

Comfort is the ability to live without having to impress others. It means going to work in a hoodie because you'll be head down in code all day. It means owning a basic car that goes from A to Z or using Uber whenever/wherever you need to go. It means using Pinterest boards or your phone desktop to collect art. Living pragmatically like this saves you money and space.

Doing creative work is one thing. Owning it is another. There's no need to dress up to other people's standards if it doesn't align with our own.

Express yourself. Don't impress others. Just try to be you.

The Yin and Yang of Basketball (My Notes)

It started in 1891 when James Naismith, a PE teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts needed to keep his students entertained inside during the winter. He put up two hoops at either end and used a soccer ball for shooting. Dribbling became the only way to move forward. Fouling led to brawls. Naismith called the game basketball. 🏀

Below are some of the key milestones outlined in this fascinating podcast on the origins of basketball from 99% Invisible.

1891: The first basketball game. Naismith makes an arbitrary decision to make the hoop 10 feet.

1936: The first slam dunk in an organized basketball game. Big men or "goons" dominate the game.

1945: Goaltending gets banned.

1966: NCAA Texas Western beats Kentucky. The Texas Western plays were all black, Kentucky all white. Pat Riley played for Kentucky.

1967: The games gets political. The dunk becomes "the black power manifest." NCAA bans the dunk for 10 years, a racist decision. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is in disbelief. Without the dunk, basketball becomes boring.

1970s: The ABA introduces the three-point shot, an egalitarian shift that gave smaller players new opportunities.

1976: The ABA merges with the NBA.

Flash forward through the years of Bird, Magic, the Bad Boys, Jordan, Shaq/Kobe....

And Steph Curry, a skinny guard at 6'3, dominates the league today by shooting lights out. The young generation wants to play like Steph Curry. The NBA game becomes about quickness and traditionalists (e.g. Greg Popovic) fear the game is getting out of control. What's next: a 4-point shot?

Whatever happens to the dunk or the 3-point (or 4-point), there will always be the layup.

Listen: 99% Invisible: 199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball

Tools R Us

Is photography art? Is race car driving a sport? Humans decide what to do but machines (e.g. camera, car) still do most of the work.

On the other hand, drawing/painting or playing soccer/basketball depend on the human widget, the body, playing in tandem with the mind. Traditional art and sport require natural dexterity.

As technology evolves, these activities will continue to require less effort. With smart glasses, you can snap photos on demand or record your day and snatch a photo out of it later. You can develop a follower base that watches you master online sports games.

So what's a professional artist or athlete in today's age? Even more, what's a student? Why make kids memorize stuff that can be googled?

However easy it gets to capture stuff, play virtual sports from the couch, or "know" Spanish, we still need to learn how to see and connect the dots.

Art, like athleticism and education, is knowing what you need and what move to make at the right time, whatever your tool you're using.

Forging Aspiration

Fake art.

A pretentious person.

What does it matter if the attempt is authentic?

Thanks to the Internet, the child gets to see Remembrandt images without traveling to the museum. Thanks to creative interests, we get the likes of David Bowie who inspires us to discover what else is unique.

The real thing only serves the purpose of appreciation. Until then, it helps us learn and demonstrates what's possible.

How Cities Shape Music Scenes, Madlib/Dilla, Naval Ravikant on Happiness Hacks, and Why Kids Are Opting Out of the Online Public Square, New Tunes and More

Arts & Culture

The Waves: The Brotherhood of Madlib

I met Madlib at Fat Beats in NYC about a decade ago not too long after he had produced “Champion Sound” with J Dilla. Madlib is still the prolific sampler to this day, lacing records of past and present to make dope beats.

“The equipment doesn’t matter, it’s the vibe you put into it. If the music sounds good, music sounds good.”

Bonus Reads:

From Berlin's Warehouses to London's Estates: How Cities Shape Music Scenes

Motown, Grunge, Grime, Techno, and Hip-Hop all got their creative energy from their surroundings. The environment constricts creativity, leading to new sounds and movements.

When the Berlin Wall came down, 30% of buildings in east Berlin were empty, says Der Spiegel journalist Tobias Rapp, the author of a book on the city’s clubbing scene. “Techno in Berlin happened in ruins,” he says. “E-Werk was an empty electricity factory. Tresor was the empty bank vault of a former shopping centre. Planet was an empty warehouse.”

Bonus Read:

  • An intriguing read on urban development as it relates to humans and animals: The Human Ratio

These street pigeons we have gotten used to aren’t practical in any sense for the human; they appear to us as an excessive accessory to the urban landscape. They use city squares as pastures; come winter or summer, heat or rain, they stand guard for as long as the sun is high, waiting for alms.


Philosophy & Productivity

It’s no surprise that every other newsletter features a Tim Ferriss podcast. He gets great guests. Star entreprenueur/investor and philosopher Naval Ravikant is no exception. His life philosophy in a nutshell: Be present. Pursue growth rather than busyness. Choose happiness.

”You choose to be happy and you work at it."


Social Media & Tech

So Long Social Media: the Kids Are Opting Out of the Online Public Square

Look no further than direct messaging apps (WhatsApp, FB messenger, Snapchat) to see where social media is headed. The kids want to be in public but share in private. However, the urge to build your own brand will remain.

..young people are actually transitioning out of using what we might term broadcast social media – like Facebook and Twitter – and switching instead to using narrowcast tools – like Messenger or Snapchat.

Video Is the Web’s Future and It’s a Wonderful Mess

Every social network wants your videos. Videos are a stickier experience than photos and text. The problem is how all these videos display. They’re standardized and high quality on YouTube and Facebook but compressed on Instagram. But unlike the early days of social media, viewers are agnostic about where they watch them.

As more and more people come of age using the web and using technology, uniformity in design and aesthetic isn’t as necessary. Facebook emerged as a service friendly to people who had never used a social network before, and that population is rapidly dwindling. We’re moving toward visual cacophony because we now have the ability to parse that mess easily. That beautiful mess is something to look forward to.


New Music

Episode 79 | Tunes of the Week

  1. DJ Mesh - Winter’s Day
  2. Quit Safari - 000 145
  3. Black Milk - For 4ever
  4. Lord Raja - Red Light District
  5. Junia T - My My My feat. Briskinthehouse

🎵 Listen


Thought of the Week

“You may have “natural” talent, but it’s the practice, failures, and will that made you make it look “natural” when you finally succeed.” - Rusty Redenbacher


Other Cool Stuff


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In Search of the Micro

Imagine a world where you could get closer to everything, where every image and sound appeared as it does in an iMax film.

Virtual reality, augmented reality, etc. promise to bring it to us one day. Until then, we have to immerse ourselves in real life.

How do we lean into that everyday physical space? For one, listen to your surroundings. Pay attention to sounds both near and far away. Secondly, talk to people and show genuine interest. Start with sports or the weather and then go a little deeper. Lastly, pursue the obscure. Most people take pictures from afar because they're afraid to get closer to the action. The best way to zoom in is to use your feet to be right there.

If you want to experience more interesting things you have to pursue the micro. Proximity has to excite you.

The facticity of life happens near the core. But have to be brave enough to capture it.

Social Media: Once You Pop You Can't Stop

Social networking is sugar for the brain. Likes and comments are designed to keep you coming back and glued to the screen.

I used to blame Twitter for wasting my time but now I think it's actually Instagram. The Instagram heart pops up like a slot machine every time you open it. There's no option to disable those notifications.

The success of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger show that social networking is shifting to direct messaging apps. But the public nature of social networking will continue to thrive because everyone wants to be a quasi-celebrity.

Given that the social platforms are designed to be addictive, how do we become more mindful of our use? I'm the first to admit that some weekends I've done nothing but refreshed the feeds just to see if I got another like, comment, or new follow. It's easy to get hooked on the accumlation of dopamine.

Social media stuffs the brain with stimuli that makes it so fat and distracted it can hardly focus. The lizard brain is even at loss of words. Yet, going offline also leaves us with useless agony.

Everything in moderation.

Why I Moved Away From Evernote

The problem with keeping everything in one place is that it causes clutter.

I used Evernote for years but recently stopped because it became too bloated with my notes. I also stopped because I found cleaner alternatives in using ByWord or IA writer with Dropbox sync.

Evernote acts like a second brain. It wants you to dump stuff you can quickly rediscover with keyword search. But Evernote also becomes an excuse for hoarding. I started saving everything (emails, reports, presentations, brain farts, etc) regardless of its future importance.

Evernote is an app for everything. That’s both its greatest strength and weakness. But how does it help writers? Here’s a list of alternative writing apps.  How does Evernote help project managers? Basecamp and Slack are more effective at team communication and tracking milestones. Those tools are built into the software.

We invest years in programs that we think our indispensable until we build systems that are more tailored for us. Apps that specialize in certain needs fulfill those needs and render other programs unnecessary.

At the end of the day, we adopt the technologies that make us more efficient and evolve to our work demands.

Defining the Creative in the 21st Century, Why Models Never Smile, The Useless Agony of Going Offline, and More

Arts & Culture

Creative Thoughts from Street Etiquette

What do we make of all these writing and photography tools that help us create? What does it even mean to be creative in the 21st century? Street Etiquette offers some insight on Twitter.

Yes. "Creative" is a new occupation held up by our generation. Where there is a diversified route of communicating through photo/writing/etc

A "Creative" takes many forms whether you're monetizing off of your art, or still figuring it out. We share the same space at some point.

Why Fashion Models Don’t Smile

New year. Same runway face. Models pose with a controlled face to express seriousness and baddassery. It all goes back to photos of 19th century aristocrats that basically said “I am better than you." The runway is anything but fashion forward.

To be emotionally controlled also suggests elevation above earthly concerns, access to higher knowledge and – in the modern world – an ability to be “unshakeable”.


Philosophy & Productivity

The Useless Agony of Going Offline

The Internet is addicting not just because social media and push notifications trigger dopamine but because the Internet enables us to learn "about new things." However, it’s still good practice to disconnect regularly to remind ourselves how amazing the Internet actually is.

I was less harried, I suppose, but I was also far less informed, and not as advanced in my understanding of all sorts of things that interested me. I felt as though I were standing still rather than moving forward. And while standing still for a while can be pleasant, it’s not without its drawbacks. Instead of feeling more relaxed, I mainly felt unfulfilled.

Being Happier at Work

Minimize burnout, relax and breathe, and have compassion. These are some of the things you can do be happier at work. And if you're trying to be more creative in the office:

“Do more of nothing." - Emma Seppälä

Alternatively, uou can just wait until the Internet goes out.


Social Media & Tech

Age of Abundance: How the Content Explosion will Invert the Media Industry

Content is king. But in a world where everyone creates art using iPhone apps and distributes their work freely on the Internet, it's ever-harder to get people's attention. The Internet turns to curators with good taste to find the good stuff for them.

the next evolution in the media value chain will be the rise of decentralized curation – with individual tastemakers building up mass followings and driving enormous consumption by recommending various articles, videos, shows, films, albums, exhibits and so on.

+ Having a smart algorithm that excels in curation is one of the reasons why Facebook has reigned at Twitter's expense . Read How Facebook Squashed Twitter


New Music

Episode 78 | Tunes of the Week

  1. White Bully - O Lord
  2. DE - Sunrise
  3. KWC - Dreaming of You
  4. KWC - Moon Salon
  5. Basic House - Bouncing Bomb

🎵 Listen here


Thought of the Week

“I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.” Mark Twain


Other Cool Stuff


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