Outside New York

Video by Wells Baum

“Outside New York, a high place where with one glance you take in the houses where eight million human beings live.”

— Tomas Tranströmer, “Schubertiana”

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Nick Turpin on the evolution of street photography

Images by Wells Baum

“You have to be physically and mentally present to recognize these things and be ready for them, to recognize that something special is happening on the street in front of you. That really is the skill. It’s almost more important than getting the photograph. It’s recognizing the significance of something.”

— Nick Turpin, How Our Changing Cities Are Transforming Street Photography

Our third eye, be it smartphone or standalone point and shoot camera, is only as good as the two we were born with.

Newsletter: We shouldn’t value speed over power

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web gems

  1. Even when we’re not watching each other, we’re still paying attention. It’s called ambient awareness, and it happens in real life and on social media. 🔗 You’re Too Focused on What You’re Focused On
  2. The Metropolitan Museum only showcases ten percent of its owned pieces at any given time: “A physical museum is itself a sort of data set — an aggregation of the micro in order to glimpse the macro.” 🔗 An Excavation Of One Of The World’s Greatest Art Collections
  3. If you do small things, slowly, they’ll add up to something timeless. “We need to be a little bit more tortoise-y and a little less hare-ish.”  🔗 Malcolm Gladwell: Why We Shouldn’t Value Speed Over Power
  4. “We should go for a walk, to the coffee shop, just to get away. Even Victorian factories had some kind of rest breaks,” says workplace psychologist Michael Guttridge. 🔗 The psychological importance of wasting time
  5. Beeple is graphic artist Mike Winkelmann. He’s the Seth Godin of design publishing, shipping one artwork every day for the last ten years. 🔗 Celebrating the ‘Everydays’ by Beeple

digging in the crates

  1. The Synergy EP is a joint release between drum n bass elites Alix Perez and SpectraSoul, featuring four tracks of a soulful, smoother side of drum n bass. 🔗 Listen
  2. Jan Jelinek is a Berlin-based electronic producer. He’s known for his abstract style of moiré in which he reduces beat patterns to a third dimension. 🔗 Listen
  3. CO/R is a collaboration between techno heads Herron and Joy Orbison. The duo just released Gudrun, a vinyl 12″ from the Trilogy Tapes Store. 🔗 Listen

Celebrating the ‘Everydays’ by Beeple

Poster by beeple

Beeple is graphic artist Mike Winkelmann. He’s the Seth Godin of design publishing, shipping one artwork every day for the last ten years. His latest cinema4d work is next-level.

In 2011, he designed this cover for me for a compilation I put together to support the earthquake relief efforts in Japan. At the time, he was designing album covers for the likes of Flying Lotus and other underground beat makers on the Brainfeeder label. I’m still so grateful for his contribution.

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Doing the work is easier said than done, as author Steven Pressfield can attest. But an hour a day keeps the resistance away. Here’s to the next decade of working on your craft Mike!

Doubting our own self-doubt

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Image via Ben White

The only way to allay doubt is to do. We must face our biggest fears. Perhaps the only thing holding back J.K. Rowling from success was her fear of public speaking — she did it anyway.

It’s most often the exact thing we’re scared of is exactly the thing we should be doing. It takes courage to persist with tension that wants us to simply give up.

Accept doubt for what it is – it’s there to make you practice and force your confidence. It takes some getting used to.

The trick is not to get rid of the doubt but rather play with it, feel its presence and relax into it. The approach is a bit delusional but no more faulty than doubt in the first place.

Newsletter: Watch it while it lasts

web gems

        1. As Oscar Wilde said: “When bankers get together they talk about art. When artists get together, they talk about money.” When both artist and capitalist align, it yields the golden ages. For HBO, it was the novelistic storytelling of The Sopranos which boosted its bottom-line and pioneered the popular episodic format for Netflix and Amazon streaming services. As Nassim Taleb likes to say, “trial and error is freedom.” Furthermore, sex and cash can coexist.
        2. Instagram has 700 million users, 80% which are outside the United States. Unlike Twitter, the platform is still growing rapidly and enriching its addictiveness with popular features like Stories. Instagram is an essential app with a trajectory that looks a lot like Facebook.
        3. The Godfather of photography William Eggleston explains how he sees “great pictures” that most people miss and why “words and pictures are like two different animals.” He also cares less about Ansel Adams’s work.
        4. If you’ve ever driven around Los Angeles, you’ll notice the none of the architecture is consistent. Some of this is the work of architect Paul Williams, the so-called architect of Hollywood. who gave LA its eclectic touch. But he was often overlooked because he was African American. The Paul Williams Project is making sure he gets the credit he deserves.
        5. The barber paradox: Imagine that you live in a remote town in the Austrian Alps that only has one barber. You either shave yourself or go to the barber. So who shaves the barber? The British philosopher Bertrand Russell explained why language confounds meaning.
        6. “My favorite records sound the worst, because I’ve played them the most.” Indie-musician Damon Krukowski’s new book looks at the listening experience from analog to the digital world.
        7. This made me laugh: For the Love of God, Stop Putting Two Spaces After a Period I got used to one space because of the Twitter restrictions. Now I practice it everywhere, from work emails to blog posts.
        8. “All experience is no more than a form of “reliable hallucination,” a movie in the head with only tenuous relation to the outside world.” Our sleepy head makes better movies.
        9. Word to the wise: Don’t let social media use you. The ‘Americanitus’ driven by the fast paced digital world is getting worse. Plus, are you lost like me? .
        10. Watch Ray Hudson’s amazing commentary from Leo Messi’s game-winning goal in last Sunday’s El Clasico: “You can drop a tarantula into his shorts and he’ll still be cool.”
      • digging in the crates

        From the Nigerian archives comes the band Grotto’s lost 1977 gem, At Last, reissued by the Lago-based Odion Livingstone label. Odion Iruoje was a former A&R manager at EMI whom discovered the group and recorded their album.

        Listen to Grotto – Funk From Mother

      • Hector Plimmer is an electronic producer from South London. His latest record, Sunshine, is an exploration of trippy synths and jazz drums. “It represents (in no particular order) my musical journey over the past 4 or so years, some of which may never have seen the light of day,” says the musician.

        The opening track ‘Let’s Stay’ is a sublime mix of dreamy keys laced to a head-nodding drum kicks. It’s no surprise his influences range from Flying Lotus, Portishead, to Theo Parrish.

        Listen to Hector Plimmer – Let’s Stay

      • Slowthai is a rapper/producer from Northampton, England. His latest solo release slowitdown packs a serious punch of grime beats and lyrical jabs, most notably on the track ‘Wiseman’ which originally premiered on Boiler Room and played more recently on the Gilles Peterson show.Listen to Slowthai – Wiseman

 

Newsletter: The Coltrane Doctrine 🎷

Web Gems

THE COLTRANE DOCTRINE

John Coltrane and Einstein shared interests in mathematical principles. In response to the Coltrane doctrine (image below), Thelonious Monk replied: “All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

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+ Now that ⚾ is back, here’s a little-known fact on how the game influenced jazz music.

WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK

“I never sleep because sleep is the cousin of death,” spits Nas in his Illmatic track ‘N.Y. State of Mind.’ What he may have overlooked is that sleep, and indeed rest can make you even more productive. It’s a canard to think that all successful people do is just work. Charles Darwin and Ernest Hemingway were slackers.

THE SPIRITUAL, REDUCTIONIST CONSCIOUSNESS OF CHRISTOF KOCH

Somewhere upon the way of evolution, humans lucked out. We developed language. We had hands that allowed us to manipulate our environment. Says American neuroscientist Christof Koch, “human civilization is all about tools, whether it’s a little stone, an arrow, a bomb, or a computer.”

TOKYO’S HOTTEST NEW DJ IS THIS 82-YEAR-OLD DUMPLING CHEF

She makes dumplings by day and spins records by night. Check out 82-year-old Japanese woman DJ Dumpling. Watch the video.

Poll: What’s your jukebox preference: iTunes or Spotify?

WHO CAN NAME THE BIGGER NUMBER?

Scientists have shown again and again that the mind, like a piece of software, is elastic. We are the sum of a hundred billion neurons that strengthen through knowledge and experience. Our skull evolves within a gooey flesh.

But there has to be a cap on human acuity, surely. At some point, exponents can’t go any further. We can’t get any smarter, nor pinpoint the largest number which is infinity and beyond. Even “Moore’s Law peters out, “as microchip components reach the atomic scale and conventional lithography falters,” says computer scientist Scott Aaronson.

DR. GABOR MATE ON WHO/WHAT IS NORMAL

You’re either left brained or right. You’re either normal or mental. Rather, it’s a continuum of both. The stigma that goes along with differentness makes you an outsider, yet these ‘weirdos’ are exactly the ones crazy enough to change the world. Said the American mathematician John Nash: “I wouldn’t have had good scientific ideas if I had thought more normally.”

As Physician Dr. Gabor Mate explains in his interview, maybe we should make more space for those different to express themselves rather than hide in anguish.

Watch

THE STREETS OF PARIS

“Go out into the streets of Paris and pick out a cab driver. He will look to you very much like every other cab driver. But study him until you can describe him so that he is seen in your description to be an individual, different from every other cab driver in the world.” — De Maupassant

+ Speaking of cars, “Americans are used to cars the way that fish are used to water.” Ezra Klein explains why we should take a cue from Barcelona.


Digging In The Crates

STUFF is a five piece instrumental band from Antwerp, Belgium. ‘Strata’ is the first track from the band’s second album old dreams new planets due out April 28th.

The song vacillates from broken jazz before weaving into a funky, electronic jungle. Says the quintet’s SoundCloud page, “it makes you doubt whether you’re at a rave or at a fusion jazz concert in some late 80’s basement.”

LISTEN

Noga Erez is an electronic music producer from Tel Aviv. ‘Off the Radar’ is one of the lead singles from her debut album of the same name.

Noga’s electro-pop vibes will most certainly remind you of MIA’s adventurism. Says the artist, “have this idea of giving people moments of thought and inspiration, and at the same time offering escapism and fun.”

LISTEN

With jungle nods to LTJ Bukem comes Mysterious of a Blunt, presumably an alias of Berlin-based techno producer Orson Wells.

Here’s how he describes his music making process in an interview with EdHid:

“It’s somehow a meditative process immersing yourself in a basic loop and trying to add selectively more elements based on your experiences you have collected. I didn’t have a mentor or did a programming study. Everything I do is the result of an autodidactic approach.”

LISTEN

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‘Sleep is the cousin of death’

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“I never sleep because sleep is the cousin of death,” spits Nas in his Illmatic track ‘N.Y. State of Mind.’

What he may have overlooked is that sleep, and indeed rest can make you even more productive.

It’s a canard to think that all successful people do is just work. It’s more complicated than that. Scientists Charles Darwin and writer Ernest Hemingway excelled at relaxing. They put in a few deliberate hours of effortful work and just as equally, took their foot off the gas to do other stuff: socialize, spend time with family, walk. They were wise slackers.

24/7 connectivity exacerbates our always work-leisure problem. Like a doctor, we make ourselves available to everything from the trite to the important, treating work and freedom as continuous instead of mutually exclusive.

Integrating task and play backfires. Availability is a game of neediness, we want to show people what we’re up to but then get sucked into the abyss of distraction. We are addicted to the endless stream impressions to alleviate the anxiety in our heads.

What if our productivity depends on the ability to chill out? What if we could practice more deliberately so we could slow down afterward. The work is vital; to master it, we need to free the mind from labor’s oppressive demands.

Read Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too

Newsletter: In search of micro-moments 👫

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web gems

  1. Seinfeld: “If you can walk to work or take your bike on a daily basis, I think that’s just about the coolest thing that there is.” It was National Walking Day this week. Studies show that walking is more powerful than meditation. Author Rebecca Solnit wrote a fantastic book on the history of walking.
  2. Receiving likes, comments and shares on social media all strike the right neurological notes. Here is your weekly article on how smartphone addiction is ruining your mental health.
  3. Issac Asimov wrote nearly 500 books in his lifetime. Warren Buffet says he spends hours a day reading in his office. The message is clear: go offline. But here’s why I think toggling between moments of multitasking and single-tasking yields benefits.
  4. Love and science: The warmth of everyday greetings makes you healthier, says Professor Barbara Fredrickson in her book Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection. She calls them “micro-moments.” Watch her Tedx video.
  5. Do you prefer smart watches, Kindle books, Spotify streams OR the telltale “tick-tock,” the fresh smell of an unopened book, or the surface noise of vinyl? In the case of books, price may be a more significant factor to their durability than the threat of their digital counterparts.
  6. Phillip Kremer’s faceless portraits are still freaking me out, in a creative genius way. Jess Mac’s Tumblr is also a riot.
  7. Quotes I’m chewing on:

“I’ve got a theory that what you hear influences – maybe even determines – what you see.” – Paul Theroux

“The earth laughs in flowers.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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via giphy

digging in the crates

  1. After teasing his new track ‘X22RME‘ two weeks ago, Actress is back with another dark, grinder of a single. ‘Dancing in the Smoke’ sounds as Actress sees music, as bits of data, and the hypnotic loop and accelerating orchestral keys allude to our electronic ‘future,’ a vocal that punctuates throughout the track. | LISTEN
  2. Objekt is Berlin-based electronic producer TJ Hertz. Joining the avant-garde composer Actress, Hertz also excels in future, data-driven music. | LISTEN to ‘Needle and Thread
  3. Eric Lau is a London beat maker known for his work with an array of hip hop artists like Oddisse, Lupe Fiasco, and Guilty Simpson. His newest solo record Examples is a collection of bouncy head-nodding instrumentals. | LISTEN to ‘Re-Lax
  4. Flashback: Mos Def Feat Black Thought & Eminem | WATCH ‘The Cypher’

67 million viewers

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“It’s such an American thing that nothing is real until it’s on television.” – Tom Nichols

It doesn’t matter what books we write or discoveries we make. People only remember us if we appear on TV. In Tom Nichols’ case, succeeding on on Jeopardy superseded his professional accolades as a published author, foreign advisor, and professor at Naval War College.

Television is magic. It informs large audiences that we exist. That’s where talents like Will Smith established their brand. But TV also generates the antithesis: it makes stupid people famous.

The Kardashians pollute the news with their meaninglessness. The President too is a product of the mass marketing machine that is TV. The tube amplifies our status, but it rarely legitimizes the importance of work. Just ask Professor Robert Kelly whose video will forever be remembered as the poster parent for those who work from home with kids. And yes, online is an extension of TV, including YouTube, SnapChat, and Facebook Live. The future of storytelling is pervasive and persuasive video.

Like a social media following, appearing on TV lends instant credibility. Fame is forever tied to visual media. What’s universally more important though is what we build with our bare hands off-screen.

Incomplete paths

Image by Averie Woodard
Sometimes the path to discovery begins with a roadblock.

We end up going a different direction because our daily route is under construction.

Suddenly, that simple redirection refocuses our attention. Our surroundings appear new again. We’re woke.

It doesn’t take much to release the shackles of inattention and break free of our conscious automaton.

The second we think we’ve explored everything is also the moment our environment expands into more depth.

Routine is just a gesture to a ‘directed’ pathway that is the least straightforward. 

The roads we walk are as boundless as the desert.