The Brilliance!

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We’re really internet and we’re really back. A website about things Benjamin , Chuck , Virgil , and various friends & guests think are interesting. Little-to-no specific focus, a bit odd, speling errors, and incredibly culturally relevant.

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Books I listened to, and enjoyed, in 2017.

I spent a bit more time than I would have liked to driving this year. Eventually, audio books kind of creep in as a time-killer...and then, for me, they eventually started replacing traditional books. Jury is still out if I'm as good at retaining the information as I am with reading, but I've just become such a fan of the more immersive nature of audio books...2D movies or something, etc. These are my top 3...though, odds are I only listened to maybe 4 or 5, ha.

1—The Social Animal by David Brooks. Wow. Wow. Recommended to me by a "business guy" / close friend, many years my senior...a quiet guy who doesn't spend a ton of time waxing human focused design, the fine details of emotional difference between humans, nurture-vs-nature arguments...just wouldn't call him the kind of guy interested in "elegant minutia" as I'd call it. We're very yin-yang. In fact, so much so that I actually was confused on what I was getting into with this book after he recommended it...it's quite different from my perception of him. It's fascinating how much you can learn from someone via their book recommendations....... Anyway, it's an incredible fictional story of two families and their respective son and daughter from life to death and how nature-vs-ntuture shapes their paths in the most intricate detail entirely powered by/backed up by various studies, scientific journals, census data, economic reports, etc, etc...entirely possible I made this book sound quite boring, but it has had an insane impact on how I see every person around me, friend or stranger.

2—Elon Musk - Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance. Man...if you want to feel simultaneously deeply inspired by what humans are capable of...and feel like you have, effectively, accomplished nothing in your life. Lol. Even if you're already hip to all the insane things Elon has accomplished...the color that this book adds to the "adventure" that has been his life is incredible. Super fun read. One of those books so good you're sad to finish. That said, it ends right around 2015...and you could probably write a book about just the past 3 years of his life. Imagine what the book about him that comes out in 2050 will be like... Business books are usually incredibly corny and boring...this one is the opposite.

3—Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays by Michael Paterniti. This was a left-field one for me...discovered it in an odd way. While reading the GQ Brad Pitt cover story, which was incredible, I was struck by how great the questions were from the interviewer. How...non-boring they were. How much they brought out of the subject. That is the, very literal (pun/no-pun), genius of Michael Paterniti. After reading the Brad Pitt thing...I googled the journalist and found he had a book of all of his favorite interviews he'd conducted over the past 30+ years as a journalist...and then turned them into essay form. Heart-wrenching years long coverage of a passenger plane crash in the frozen ocean, following the daily life of the chef behind El Buli, eating Ortolans with a dying French leader, documenting the intricacies of race and business in the motel industry of Dodge, TX, spending time with a man who works, without being asked, as a very hands-on suicide preventer on the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China...and so many others. What's magic about him is his use of words. Never in my life have I read writing like that...magical.

*Also, I actually buy the digital written version of every book I buy the audio version of...I like highlighting and taking notes where needed, not easy to do with just the audio version.

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"Everything is important" – Singer Porsche 911!

Kind of surprised I never made a post about this company in the past. It's 100% "the brilliance" in its perfect contrast of classic, absurd, and painful attention to detail. The quick hot-take: They take an older Porsche 911, specific focus on the 964 air-cooled years, and restore and re-tailor it with an almost comical attention to detail. Thats the hot-take...but the reality is that they've effectively re-engineered, re-designed, and completely rebuilt you a brand new 911 by the time you've finished PayPaling the $500-800K it costs to have them do one for you. Best thing is the level of taste they do all this with. Usually a modified car with a price tag as such is incredibly corny and obnoxious...contrast, these somehow magically blend the old with the very new without any unneeded nostalgia. They look like they've always existed. The updated carbon fiber body, the trim on the lights, the paint jobs, the perfectly referenced wheels, the interiors (!!!), the subtle use of matte carbon fiber, etc...everything, everything. This quote from their founder, Rob Dickinson, maybe best sums its up:

"...as we build a brand synonymous with understanding, re-evaluating and re-presenting iconic industrial design to a new audience."

Funny thing is...for me, I don't really aspire to own one, its not my style. I'm more just happy they exist...that the founder is able to indulge into the minutia at that level and find a consumer for it. I've even heard him joke that he can't afford his own cars. All said, google around, check them out, etc...but this short video with Chris Harris probably best shows the story, etc. ****Actually, if they could do a 2012 911 GTS conversion to electric...hmmm, maybe, ha.

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My favorite pieces of Jeff Koons' work are his interviews.

I'm not sure if I qualify as an "art person"...I buy art, I own originals, etc. But I've never felt that I "get it" as much as my friends who are properly into art...ha, you all know who you are. Jeff Koons' is one of the those polarizing art guys, yeah? Like...he's "easy" to like for the general public. And that tends to get the "real" art people all spun up, etc. I love that...making the gate-keepers uncomfortable is perhaps one of the best reactions an artist can get...for me at least. Do I like his work? Sure...its truly mind-bending in-person. I've even been lucky to be at Gagosian in LA when his stuff was getting delivered setup-up, etc. I was obsessed with the hidden hooks and fasteners in the pieces that were used to hoist them into position. Anyway, sure, his stuff is wild...completely modern in every sense and succinct/consistent. But far and away my favorite work he creates is the interviews he does... I remember watching my first one. His bizarre demeanor that's both super flat but also a combo of maybe how your dentist or optician might talk to you and then like an overly caring parent might explain to you that the family dog died...ha. How he explains his art...so weird and perfect. It's all so odd. I love it. Check this new one I just landed at on Vice. The studio visit with the stencils!?!? Unreal.

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Getting to Know your Color Spaces

Guest Post!

The human eye is sensitive enough to register a single photon, but picking out that photon’s color can be a challenge; trying to recreate and render whole swaths of color in a photograph is even harder. To start, people don’t perceive the color spectrum in a uniform way. There’s an old thought experiment where a race of people are born with weird eyes that invert their color experience. They see the exact opposite of what normal people see: orange for blue, green for red, etc. Still, they’re able to go through life without a problem, and even talk to us, regular-eyed people about blue skies, green apples and red fire hydrants. That’s because our color experiences are private ones. The visual spectrum being what it is, there’s a lot of room for interpretation within concepts like ‘pink’, ‘orange’, or ‘cyan’. As the story goes, it would be pretty difficult to pick out these people from the rest of us, or even decide whether or not you yourself are one of these monsters.

Continue Reading...

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Slide Game

Guest Post!

I walked down the stairs the other day, looked around and saw four pairs of slides by the door. Five if you count my wife’s Birkenstocks and six if you count her mules. But that’s OK for a lot of reasons, but especially when you consider that there are (at least) four different categories of slides:

Standard slides (cool varietal) - this is like your sporty kind of slide that you would throw on with a pair of sweatpants to go grab takeout or maybe even to the store on a low key grocery run

Standard slides (rugged varietal) - this slide has a beefier sole that’s perfect for taking your dog to a dog park that has that really tough bark-like mulch, the Platonic ideal for which is a Birkenstock Arizona

Pool slides - mostly rubber slides that you can wear around a pool/spa and not have them get destroyed via water overload

House slides - this is a strictly indoors/outdoor living space category of slides that serve as a way to keep a little barrier on your foot while also making it so that you don’t drag your foot mess all over your house, maybe like a adilette or Benassi.

Growing up in the Midwest, it was commonplace to keep your shoes on indoors. A few years in Toronto was enough to change my mind on that. And once you reach that “no shoes in the house” mindframe, you’re going to need slides. (Slides are technically shoes but only in the way that a square is also technically a rectangle.)
Now it’s life shoes off when I hit the door, then maybe a house slide when I’m cruising around the house, depending on general foot health. Then, whenever I need to take the dog or garbage out, it’s rugged standards. If it’s c-ball season, pool slides are in order. And if I need to make moves in the city, and the weather permits, lemme holler at those cool standards.

I do feel a bit like Monica having all these categories of slides. Don’t even get me started on sweatshirt taxonomy.

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Hinckley "Dasher" – an electric yacht.

Really doesn't matter if I never purchase one of these or even sit in one...I'm just super happy it exists. An electric boat...and, and! well designed! Tasteful even! Even with it being entirely electric...it doesn't need to have a massive neon blue trim piece down the side, or a horrible bright green accents, or look like the like a meek rodent. Incredible, ha. It just looks like...a really well designed boat. No unneeded attention-attracting features, etc. Funny thing, I'm really not that into boats...I have friends that are really into them but I've always thought they seem like so much work – they're so "fiddly" – and I actually get fairly motion sick on them. But, despite all that, I have been thinking about purchasing one over the past few years...especially so now living in Chicago. I can walk to the marina in like 5 minutes. It's quite nice. Anyway...almost anything that was previously internal combustion that is now electric is grabbing my attention. Partially for the obvious reasons about moving off of non-renewable resources and all the benefits that come from it...but honestly, sometimes more so because I think its just more elegant. It's super quiet, there are less moving pieces, its smoother, etc, etc. Boating to me is about relaxing...thats why they call them "pleasure crafts" right? Ha. With this Hinckley Dasher – what a name, ha – it's the perfect "charcuterie boat" as I call them. Beautiful, classic, perfect for a 2 hour cruise around the shore while you snack on thinly sliced Creminelli, chilled salted radishes, a simple white wine, etc, etc, etc...or whatever Jean Toutiou does when he is out and about in the Med. Anyway...I love this thing. Yeah the range sucks, but as we've seen with any other tech over the past 20 years...its get better quite quickly. Dramamine on deck – pun intended too.

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2017: A cool time for graphic tees

I've amassed a pretty big collection of graphic t-shirts. I didn't mean to. I can't say it's happened by accident of course, I consciously purchase them, ha...but one day while doing laundry recently it hit me like...hmm, I...have...a lot of shirts. Probably too many. Some I don't even wear because they don't fit me that great (huge neck, too short and wide, other awkward feature, etc) but the graphic is so good I can't bring myself to part ways with it for some silly emotional attachment reason. Some of these tees I just end up sleeping in and walking the dog in, throw on a Saturday around the house or whatever to justify not tossing it in a bag and dropping it off at Goodwill. T-shirts have become such an easy buy. $30 and I can use PayPal? Done. It's virtually impossible to find a notable person/group/band/company/etc that doesn't produce tees these days and it's a cheap (generally speaking), simple way to show love to these people/entities we're fans of. This purchasing vice used to be art and prints for me, but as I've run out of wall space in my house and office, t-shirts have kind of taken their place, slowly but surely. Anyways, I basically want to use the rest of this post to list a few of my favorite places to get t-shirts right now. Some you might know, others a bit more under the radar, but all worth spending some money on.

Boot Boyz — Top of my list right now. Based here in Chicago, Boot Boyz is a self-described 'bootleg t-shirt initiative that creates original and appropriated designs referencing a wide range of phenomena'. They're most recent Chicago collection (sold out now) was the best collection of Chicago-inspired merch I've probably ever seen, for my tastes. Well-researched, super smart, and pristinely packaged, BB are setting the bar.

All In Merch — All In Merch exclusively carries merch from hardcore bands & record labels. Some (most?) of the best t-shirt graphics in history are rooted in punk rock and hardcore: Black Flag, The Ramones, Judge, Youth of Today tees etc. have stood the test of time and inspired countless others because of their simple, bold iconography. All In Merch has a huge, amazing selection of SUPER cheap ($16 avg) band tees. I don't advocate for wearing shirts of bands you don't listen to, but if you dig a tee you find here, and you will, maybe you'll become a fan of the music too as a result.

DES / Jeremy Dean — The truth is this whole post was inspired by reading interviews with Jeremy Dean. Jeremy, formerly of House Industries and House 33 fame (I still have some of those old House 33 green drip Bic lighters), is a revered designer and somewhat of a historian of graphic tees. His Grateful Dead/Wonders of Black Flag tees have become sought after and beloved for their perfect and mysterious juxtaposing of wildly different subcultures (hippie+hardcore), collaborations with John Mayer and tour merch for the Rolling Stones...always cool stuff from JD

Know Wave — Longtime friend of THE BRILLIANCE! Aaron Bondaroff, t-shirt legend and former Supreme shop employee turned founder of cultural staples aNYthing, OHWOW, Know Wave, and Moran Bondaroff, Aaron knows the art of graphic tees as much as anyone. Know Wave consistently puts out good t-shirts. You probably already own one.

Lost & Found Bootlegs — Pretty much exactly what the title says, Lost & Found makes bootleg punk rock/hardcore merch (tees, pins, hats, etc) riffing on everything from Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Void, Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, and so on. The Family Guy twist on Black Flag's 'Family Man' album cover tee is particularly incredible.

POWERS — One of my favorite illustrators/graphic designers Eric Elms new POWERS brand is so good. One of the best presentations/merch websites you will ever see. Make sure to roll over all the graphics on the page...painstaking amount of work to do all those animations, sheesh!

BONUS! THE BRILLIANCE! t-shirt is restocked and available at Notre :)

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Jean Touitou interviews.

I swear I look forward to Jean Touitou interviews like sports fan look forward to playoffs. They're so good. Every one of them. I love how APC is more of "concept" than it is a fashion label...a 30+ year old company, 100% independent (though there was a PE firm involved at one point), with one of the least "fashion guys" in the fashion business as its founder, owner, and creative voice. Jean Touitou is the kind of guy I really wish was my uncle, etc. Can you imagine the family gatherings?! Anyway, he just did, yet another, perfect interview with New York Times...but it reminded me to go back and check his old ones and pull a handful perfect quotes from him:

"Maybe it’s too difficult to make them look great, or maybe I’m just lazy on this subject. But sweatpants sort of show disrespect for the people around you."

"Without that, I wouldn’t be have been able to keep being arrogant with bankers, which is my little pleasure in life. I have to say I have this weakness." – on owning the building APC's HQ is in.

"A guy that looks too fashionable is not sexy for even one quarter of a second. All girls will tell you this, and all gay men will tell you the same."

"If you think my work is French...I don't see why you'd think its French. ...Well, its true its not Italian."

"Its difficult to make a living out of doing garments...stylish garments that is. I mean, its easy to make to make a shit load of money with ugly garments."

"I do not belong to celebrity culture. If people only knew what actresses are paid to sit in the front row at the shows in Milan or Paris, they would want to kill somebody."

"At dinner, I like to drink two cocktails and a glass of water. I smoke when I feel like smoking. I never buy cigarettes; I just pinch other people’s. It’s too good not to do it, and I’m lucky not to be addicted."

"The rock star who uses a personal stylist to dress him should go to jail. If you’re doing rock and roll, you should know how to dress. You shouldn’t need to hire anybody."

The more interviews you read, the more of an APC "nerd", to use his words, you become...the funnier these quotes get. Anyway, check the latest interview with him below.

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Visualized! #2: Artists to know.

In case you missed it, back on June 5 I posted the first of what I figured would be a new ongoing series of posts called 'Visualized!', where we highlight a few artists we really enjoy at the moment. Continuing that here with round 2...enjoy.

Mark Wilson — Sometimes you discover an artist (or a song or a book or a movie etc etc) and think 'ah yeah this is cool, surprised I haven't seen it before, must be pretty new', which I did when I first discovered Mark Wilson's work, only to find out he's 74 years old and one of the true pioneers of digital art. I found this old interview with him that is totally worth a read, but found this answer in particular pretty great: "When I started using computers in 1980, very few artists were using them. To me, these machines were totally cool and exciting. Back then, there was little software of interest to an artist like myself. To make art with computers, you had to invent new working procedures. I bought a personal computer and learned to write my own software. I was trying to find a unique way of using the computer and software to create geometric images." Hope I'm not too ignorant here for not being aware before, but - I'm a fan. Only wish I'd discovered his beautiful, complex work sooner.

Pat Perry — I'm a little biased on this one, as Pat is a friend I first met when I was living in Michigan who I really took a liking to immediately. I'd even go so far as to say I had the pleasure of being an early mentor to Pat as he was getting his start, but since then – and we've lost touch a bit and maybe he doesn't know this – but he's turned the tables and really inspired me in more recent years. His work is so full of detail and more importantly, purpose. Everything he creates is so thoughtful and often politically driven, yet always fun and full of discovery. His website bio describes him as "an artist from Michigan who writes and makes pictures through careful and cautious observation. He often works itinerantly, and lives in Detroit." Careful and cautious observation. I love that. Need more of that mindset from artists in 2017.

Michael Benson — Feeling inspired by the eclipse the other day so sharing Michael Benson's work makes a lot of sense...but...I'm just going to let Michael's own bio do all the talking and let you just click the link. "Benson takes raw data from planetary science archives and processes it, creating large-format landscapes. He edits, composites, mosaics, and then finally optimizes these images, producing seamless photographs of landscapes currently beyond direct human experience." Fuck. So cool.

GMUNK (Photography) — Bradley Munkowitz, more commonly known as GMUNK, is one of the most sought-after visual effects/design/motion graphics directors in the world. He really is a legend in the graphic & motion design community (and one of the nicest dudes I've ever met). But - this is more about his recently launched photography portfolio. Seems unfair right? He really is a true polymath. Using a custom modified Full-Spectrum FujiFilm X-T1 IR, infrared filters, and vintage Nikon lenses, his work really transcends what you're 'used to' seeing with photography, even of the most heavily edited variety, and shows this wild, infrared world that's really quite beautiful.

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"WiFi & Water" ~ our interview with Tremaine and Acyde of No Vacancy Inn!

"Water & Wifi"–who has a better "tag-line"? Honestly though. Been a fan of Tremaine and Acyde for a while...as with the rest of the world, we connected on DM, then parties, etc, and it only made sense to link for a quick interview. They have one of "those" project...it's either incredibly tough–in a good way–to explain the magic of Tremaine & Acyde's No Vacancy Inn, or...it's incredibly simple. Is it a party, or a the zeitgeist's roaming church? In a way, it doesn't really matter. You either "get it" now, or you eventually will–as everything thing these two guys touch seems to be perfectly ahead of it's time. We talk on everything from mobile phone plans, cities as nations, what "culture" really is, and everything in-between. Link below, etc!