The Brilliance!

HTTP://WWW.THEBRILLIANCE.COM

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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"A moment" via Virgil Alboh, Louis Vuitton, blogs, cold emails, and...the Wapity.

To be writing this post...on THE BRILLIANCE!!1...in Paris...about this topic...after attending my first Louis Vuitton fashion show. Can't find the words to describe how it feels. In fact, that was an incredibly common sentiment from anyone who was at the show, friends/family of his, kids in the scene, and probably beyond. "Incredible" just ends up feeling a bit...short.

While, yeah, I love fashion/style/etc and whatever that has come to mean...I don't feel quite qualified to write about the clothes from the collection. So instead I figured I'd write about the context, specifically through my lens as a a close friend of his for the past 10+ years.

I met Virgil when he cold emailed us asking to write on the site in like 2006. We got a decent amount of these emails at the time...so we declined. Though, it was one of the better pitches as it included a couple sample posts he whipped up. Instead, I ended up staying in touch via email, chatting about his work in architecture, culture stuff, etc...eventually Chuck and I got quite busy and thought a third writer would make sense...so we hit him up. He was excited, exceptionally gracious as always, and...really fucking good at the abstract, interconnected, weird, insightful kind of content we've always had on this site. A bit before then, he was working at an architecture firm in Chicago, occasionally DJing at some sushi spot he invited me to, doing pop-up concept shop-esque things with his friends under the name Fort Home (I think??), and just starting to get plugged in with Kanye's camp via Don C. Meanwhile, we'd never met in person...ever, just email. I believe it was the same year he started writing for us that we both decided a trip to NYC to shop would be fun, and to check out his friend, Gabe Stulman's, newly opening restaurant in the West Village called The Little Owl. We met at the airport arrivals, jumped in a cab and headed to Hotel Rivington, dropped our stuff, and headed out to our first stop, a shared personal favorite...the Louis Vuitton store in Soho.

The Wapity bag which, until June 21 2018—the day of his first show as Louis Vuitton's artistic director, had been discontinued...is back. It's this tiny soft-trunk looking thing with a carabiner clip and leather strap...an accessible, ironic, hand-held reference to the massive hard trunks that LV is so well know for. It's perfectly "Virgil" in so many ways literally and figuratively. And its all over his new collection...reimagined in new colors with plastic and ceramic replacing leather, attached to a vest, the outfit Kim Kardashian wore has them directly affixed, etc...it's everywhere...visible and invisible.

Full circle, after all the emails and blog posts...that first time Virgil and I hung for a weekend in NYC, in 2006, at the Soho Louis Vuitton store...we each purchased a Wapity. I bought a classic one, which I still have, and he bought the white Murakami design of course. "What a moment."

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Adam Silver and the Golden Internet Age of the NBA

The NBA 'gets it'. Like, they really get it. The most athlete-centric of all pro sports, the league has let their players be themselves more than any other - as it should be - and they're reaping some pretty incredible benefits. While the NFL is floundering around in the mess that is concussions/Trump/anthem protest mishandling/etc. and viewership is slumping (down 10% this past season!), the NBA's viewership is up across the board on all networks, across both the regular season and the playoffs, its athletes are right up there with the world's biggest soccer stars as celebrity goes, and NBA Twitter is arguably the best 'niche' Twitter there is. The way that Joel Embiid is basically a 'weird Twitter' account (in the best way), the Jerry Colangelo secret Twitter account drama, players tweeting memes and cryptic emojis at each other and the hot takes that follow, NBA heads like Shea Serrano becoming famous in their own rights because of their writing and depth of knowledge of the game...is just amazing and endlessly entertaining.

While it's easy (and correct) to credit a lot of this rise to the totally absurd levels of talent currently in the league and therefore quality of product and watchability, much credit is also due to commissioner Adam Silver's genuine understanding of social media and how his league's athletes live, communicate, and thrive within this relatively new internet context. In this recent interview on strategy+business, Silver hits the nail so hard on the head I almost don't need to write this post and could just share this: "Not many years ago, some teams were making an advertent decision not to provide robust Wi-Fi in arenas, because the view was “we want fans to be paying attention to our game rather than looking down at their phones.” Now, of course, there’s the realization that it would be like refusing to put oxygen into the arena to turn the Wi-Fi off. Teams are looking to engage fans on those devices while they’re watching the games." Comparing Wi-Fi to oxygen! That's some shit that Ben or Virgil or I would say about a bar or something, let alone the commissioner of a league that generates $7.4B annually (and climbing) about their live experience. Super refreshing. He goes on to say "We promote the posting of our highlights." That's honestly incredible when you consider other, more archaic leagues and their equally archaic commissioners actively remove user-uploaded content. This has led to a new kind of loyalty between fan and league: we trust the league to provide amazing content and the league trusts us, the fans, to know what to do with it. It's a kind of relationship between brand and consumer you simply don't see much of these days and I for one am very much here for it.

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Space Country

Guest Post!

The new Kacey Musgraves album, Golden Hour, is getting showered with praise from every major press outlet. I have listened to it countless times since it came out last week and it seems to be the rare case of an album that deserves the hype. It’s the perfect marriage of pop and country. Two genres that have flirted with each other for years, with the results usually feeling forced or plain corny, and at their worst a hokey cash grab for a major label. Golden Hour is being called "space country" or "galactic country" - both describe it well. Musgraves uses a banjo, a talk-box, pedal steel, and synth pads. The experimentation works because she does it without abandoning her roots. It's fuzzy and at times can even border on psychedelic without every truly losing its Nashville twang. Musgraves got married, listened to the Bee Gees, did LSD, discovered disco and re-discovered Sade. The 13 songs sparkle and shimmer at just the right times. It is a total body of work, even with standouts (“Space Cowboy,” “Butterflies”) the album is best digested as a whole. Golden Hour is graceful, sweeping, cheeky, and complete. A young woman is making the music she wants to make and saying what she wants to say. There is no unnecessary sheen, no pretense. It drips with soul, determination, and assertiveness. Musgraves says she went through a “metamorphosis” since her last album, if that is indeed the case, then her new skin fits well. But most importantly the songs and Musgraves herself are authentic. Something we desperately need today.

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Explosion Collages and the work of Fabian Oefner!

I first became infatuated with the work of Swiss artist Fabian Oefner several years ago from this post on ItsNiceThat which featured his brilliant experimental watercolor & ferrofluid photography. Really stunning work, the kind of work that is half art, half science, which is funny because just after I typed that I went to look at Fabian's Instagram and his bio says 'ARTIST | SCIENTIST'. Nice. Then just the other day I rediscovered his work without even connecting the dots that it was the same artist who did the aforementioned ferrofluid photography because this time it was his 'Explosion Collage' work that took my breath away, a complete stylistic departure from what I associated him with previously. Oefner's newest series is made up of black and white portrait photos that appear to be getting torn apart by a gunshot, like those photos you'd see in science class of a bullet going through an apple...the difference is, and this is the part I can't get over, he meticulously arranges this 'explosion' fragment-by-fragment, by hand, until the composition is complete. (You can see some behind-the-scenes images of him making the work on MyModernMet). Explosions are a pretty common theme in Oefner's work and this particular idea of capturing the very moment a subject is destroyed is nothing new, as his series 'Shootout' from 2009 shows where he used an airgun to blast apart Coke cans. Such cool work. I love how all his projects could live in an art museum or in a children's science museum, I think that's what is so inspiring to me about what he does. The sheer range of his body of work, the fun you can tell he has making it all, and the technical perfection that's required to do what he does just really made me a fan. Check his work at FabianOefner.com and see the entire 'Explosion Collages' series below.

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Important Listening

Guest Post!

I compiled this non-definitive list of albums that young people should check out. A light education, a starter kit, a history lesson - not available on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. If you are older, add to this list and pass it along. If you are younger, put your AirPods in and get familiar.

Oasis - “Definitely Maybe”
Most teenagers don’t have much swag. Listening to this album will encourage them to stand up a little taller and make eye contact with the world. Liam Gallagher’s signature snarl will give them that confidence boost that they so desperately need. They might even leave the house wearing their Dad’s cool bucket hat singing “Tonight, I’m a rock n’ roll star” under their breath.

Notorious B.I.G. - “Ready To Die”
A must-have, it grabs you with the first note. It’s cool and autobiographical, revealing and braggadocious. Easily one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time. Also, not a bad album to listen to when you smoke weed for the first time.

The Rolling Stones - “Exile on Main Street” -
Mick, Keith, Charlie, Bill, and the other Mick at their absolute best. On the run from the man at Keith Richards’ villa in the South of France the boys made a bluesy and gritty masterpiece. I didn’t discover this until later in life, and it pains me every time I listen.

The Smiths - “The Queen is Dead”
No album on this list will put you more in touch with your emotions. It’s so dramatic and beautiful. Just like adolescence!

Outkast - “Stankonia”
This album is a masterclass in pure creativity. Andre 3000 is a stylish lyrical genius; Big Boi is a more stoic, traditional rapper. Together they have given us countless funky, southern fried classics. So if you are in the school band, don’t write off the jocks. Because one day you might make beautiful music together.

Black Flag - “Damaged”
Someone once said that music is what feelings sound like. The most apparent feeling expressed on this genre-defining album is anger, but there is just enough humor not to make it a total downer. The official soundtrack to teenage angst.

The Lemonheads - “It’s a Shame About Ray”
Yes, Evan Dando was really into drugs. But do not let that cloud your vision, “It’s a Shame About Ray” is sentimental and sensitive, and most importantly the songs are beautiful. The lyrics are catchy and fun, but if you take a harder look, Dando is tackling divorce and self-discovery. Two things a lot of teens are forced to deal with.

Elliott Smith - “Figure 8”
These songs are so sad but so catchy. Which illustrates an important lesson to learn early, life is always going to be a little bit of both.

The Clash - “London Calling”
This one album covers almost every important genre in popular music. It has it all - punk, rockabilly, reggae, soul, and even jazz. For a time, they were referred to as the "only band that matters," this album explains why.

My Bloody Valentine - “Loveless”
MBV might seem a little dense for this list, but this album is great for zoning out. Had a bad day at school? Go into your room and let Kevin Shields shoegaze masterpiece wash over you. It will make it all better.

The Strokes - “Is This It”
Knowing that you have your whole life in front of you is a fleeting, but exciting and important time. Unfortunately, not everyone is really good looking, well dressed, and talented. But that’s OK because listening to this can make you feel like you are. Give the gift of confidence!

Fleetwood Mac - “Fleetwood Mac”
What can I say? Perfect music. Once you dive into the backstory and twisted history of the band, you can learn a lot about relationships and what not to do. A musical and emotional education with perfect harmonies!

Teenage Fanclub - “Songs From Northern Britain”
Power pop is an underappreciated genre. Big Star is probably the most well-known of the bunch, but Teenage Fanclub was very close to being a household name. These songs stick in your head after the first listen. They influenced a lot of important bands, why not let them influence today’s youth.

Brilly Brilly Brilly

BENJAMIN EDGAR, the "all the way through" thing, and perfectly unnecessary labeling systems, etc, etc.

I don't think I've ever done a post on my "object company" stuff...can't remember, don't feel like searching for it. The whole "BENJAMIN EDGAR," project has been a sort of playground for me for the past 9 years...its a business, yeah, but its this place where I can explore, create, and not have any rules, etc. Love that. This latest concept...the "all the way through" system and the new labeling system. I'm calling them systems because they're my first stab at creating an actual framework (like....rules??? ugh) for all future objects, etc. Maybe even a step towards taking the whole project a but more seriously. I even hired a production manager, s/o Colin.

So, why the "all the way through" thing? What is it? Why the heat-sealed labeling thing? Was like mid September 2017 and I put a thing on my calendar saying "design a classic/forever" t-shirt" - something I'd personally wear. (Fun fact, I never wear/use any of my own products...) My references were Ralph Lauren basics and the kind of t-shirts small contractors, electricians, maintenance people where...almost boring. So, super simple, embroider a logo hit on each pocket area on the front, and call it. Trick is, I'm not a " graphic t-shirt" guy...so I started thinking of it less as fabric/piece of flexible clothing, and though of it as a fixed/solid object. Idea that embroidery isn't like screen-printing, in that embroidery actually goes into the garment, becomes part of it. So I imagined thinking of the embroidery application the same as a CNC machine...and having it go all the way through the garment. So simple, but took something...almost boring, and made it perfectly "benjamin edgar," ...a bit off/odd, weird, humor with a technical spin. My favorite part is how flexible it is as a design language. And yes...I have plans to use it on a lot, lot more than just t-shirts. Can't wait man.

And the weird tagging system? I love the inside of technical outerwear. The seam-taping specially. There is something confidence inspiring about it...it looks very, very permanent. You trust it to truly seal out water, weather, etc. I love things that feel permanent and forever. Then I love taking something and placing it in the wrong context. Take this highly technical material, and use it to hang one of the cheapest clothing labels possible...printed satin. Put the size tag in there as well. And other things soon too. Then apply it everywhere. Envelopes, boxes, walls, windows, bottles, bags, etc. I can't wait on to show off the other applications of it...its honestly one of my favorite things I've ever designed.

***So yeah, this post is too long. Bunch of typo/grammar stuff I'm sure. But, a bit of insight into why I did what I did...why its so "simple" compared to everything else. Super thank you to everyone who's purchased it.

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On Cookbooks: Why Cookbooks?

Guest Post!

The set of cookbooks in my kitchen are my friends. Old and new companions on my amateur journey of food and flavor.

On most days, they just sit there. Which is OK. On other days, I get lost in them.

Great cookbooks do three things:

  1. Look great in your kitchen
  2. Tell inspiring stories
  3. Teach you to cook

But why have them? We have access to near-infinite amounts of information at any given time. Any recipe or advice or tip is available to you. But the "food internet" is confusing. Are you on a health-spo mom blog? Are you just finding weird overhead-shot videos that make cooking look way too easy? There are also great apps, Kindle editions of things, etc. And this isn't some "oh physical books are great" tip. It's just that these artefacts become IRL companions.

Find a couple books you trust. Get them messy, bookmark them, live in them.

(quick note, always append your google search with “bon appetit”, makes finding trustworthy, tasty recipes easier)

My books aren't going to be the right books for you, but for reference, here are the three I rely on:

Joy of Cooking
Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
Any edition. It contains the basic recipes and how-to’s for everything. Find a couple dishes you like, use the red ribbon as a bookmark, and make it over and over and over.

Keys to Good Cooking
Harold McGee
Not a cookbook. But it tells you simple tips, rules, and more for every ingredient you might cook.

The Minimalist Cooks at Home
Mark Bittman
It’s got simple, easy recipes that quietly teach base principles for making a good meal.

And some that are really great, and look good stacked up in the kitchen (and have really good, inspiring, mind-expanding stories):

L.A. Son
Roi Choi

Ivan Ramen
Ivan Orkin

Rice Noodle Fish
Matt Goulding

Nigella Bites
Nigela Lawson

Gjelina
Travis Litt

You don't need cookbooks, but they do make good friends.

Brilly Brilly Brilly

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.

Brilly Brilly Brilly

"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.

Brilly Brilly Brilly

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.