The Brilliance!


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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Youth evolves: Metal's fashionable migration to the mainstream

I grew up on punk rock, hardcore and metal. I was 1 of maybe 5 kids in my high school class of 600 who was into that world, around 2000-2003 in the Chicago suburbs. It just wasn't really part of the culture there. I remember discovering records at a shop called Threshold Records in Orland Park, IL. I was especially fascinated when I really started to dig into heavy/black/death metal, mostly because I was intrigued by all the cover art, much of which was filled with blood and guts and completely illegible band names. This felt oddly taboo to me at the time, like nobody else really knew what I was into which always felt so cool, ha. I started hitching rides to the city to see shows, buying merch and proudly wearing shirts with obscure (to everyone else) band names on them that, when worn around school, was met with mostly confused reactions. That was part of the appeal to me - the mysterious nature of punk, hardcore, and metal aesthetics weren't the norm in my corner of the world and it was a big way I found to express myself. It felt like my own thing.

Yesterday I saw Kim Kardashian post on Instagram while wearing a Morbid Angel shirt. Vetements produced a much talked about metal-inspired collection that could pass as an Obituary shirt if you just glanced at it that was worn by Alicia Keys among many other celebrities. You can read a whole article about Kanye wearing a Testament tee. Bieber's 'purpose tour' merch. Wes Lang's Yeezus graphics. In other words, this isn't really news, but it continues to fascinate me as someone who originally found the beauty of this subculture to have so much to do with the fact that it was so aggressive and not really something the average person, let alone celebrity, would wear or even be privy to. What else is interesting is what's happening beyond the fashion - Trash Talk's embrace and convergence with hip-hop via Odd Future, Tyler, the Creator and others in the culture. Travis Scott shows becoming as rowdy as any hardcore show I've ever been to, just with a new audience to experience the youthful joy of a sweaty mosh pit. It's cool to me. I understand that scenes change, evolve, adapt, become appropriated. You can probably walk in to an H&M or Urban Outfitters right now and buy a Carcass tee or hell, a Forever 21 and find a Cattle Decapitation hoodie lol. Honestly - I could write about this topic forever as it touches on so many things I love at once. I know there are plenty more articles out there about some celebrity wearing a Dark Throne tee and getting raked over the coals for it by throngs of metal fans saying "I bet so-and-so can't name a single one of their songs!" And maybe they can't. But what can you do? Subcultures become fashionable in due time, it's cyclical and fluid, becomes recontextualized by new generations who find intrigue in it. To get mad about it would not be very punk rock.

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Break a leg! A quick guide to public speaking.

I first spoke in public at the 2005 Semi-Permanent Design Conference at Lincoln Center in NYC when I was barely 20 years old in front of 1,200+ people (and Benjamin who was there in like the 2nd row!). When I say "first spoke" I mean that literally - I had never spoken in public before. Not in high school, not in college (well, I didn't go to college), not at a smaller event or on a panel. Just me, on stage, in front of all these people who knew of me because of the internet, for a full hour. That's a long time for anyone to be on stage, let alone someone doing it for the first time. Fortunately I didn't bomb or anything, but I did spend the first 40~ minutes of my time talking, mostly forgetting to actually show my work. Ha. I managed to show everything I needed to show in that last 20 minutes but it was far from a perfect presentation. Since then I've been a part of about 50 or so speaking events and panels and gotten a lot better, mainly because at 32 I'm generally better at preparing, know myself a lot better than I did at 20, and most importantly, rely on my material. While I'm no expert, here are a few tips I've learned over the years for anyone who ever has to get up in front of a crowd and make it through without having tomatoes thrown at you.

Prepare! I know it seems like a given, but you'd be amazed at how many people don't prepare, then get on stage and just kind of ramble on. I'm not one to have a super structured Keynote, but I know how important it is to gather and organize my material in a way that tells some kind of story, chronological or not. At the very least, preparing allows you to...
Rely on your material! If you prepare yourself, whether via a perfectly structured Powerpoint with speaker notes or just a slideshow of images and a piece of scrap paper with a few bulleted notes, you'll be able to get up there and let all that preparation you did do the talking, with you as the vehicle for it. If that makes sense? At a recent speaking event I did in Boston, I decided to forgo a 'typical' presentation altogether. I showed my name, social handles, website, etc. in a huge font in the Notes app, then used my new website to share my work. It was unconventional, especially for a designer, but it kept the vibe loose and I was still prepared. Plus I'd just spent a year finishing up the site so I knew it like the back of my hand.
Have a story arc. (s/o Tim Saccenti on Twitter for the nudge on this one) Preparing and knowing your material is key, but have SOME kind of story arc. A beginning, middle, and an end. It doesn't have to be chronological, you don't have to be a 'storyteller' (bleh), but you should be delivering some kind of formed narrative.
Remember there's a reason you're on stage and everyone else isn't. This isn't supposed to be as egotistical an observation as it sounds. But it's true - you were invited to be up there, and the audience is there to see you. Remind yourself of this and be proud of yourself! When a presenter is confident, audiences can feel it and they eat it up. They could be anywhere else but they're not - they're there to hear what you have to say.
It's OK to be nervous. Even the most seasoned public speakers get butterflies moments before going on stage. It's just natural. I recently heard a theory that the reason people are terrified of public speaking is literally all the eyes on them while alone and, that in evolution, having this many eyes staring at you is instinctively a predatory/prey phenomenon. Fortunately your audience are not wolves and you're not a small animal, so I promise you're not going to be killed...therefore:
Start strong. The first few minutes of your presentation are so important. This is when the nerves either get worse or go away. Figure out what you're there to say and how you're going to introduce yourself, make people laugh, and realize you're gonna be OK.
VISUALS! People are there to hear you talk but they're probably also there to see your work. Showing your final product is important but showing your working files, behind-the-scenes, sketches, 'cutting room floor' stuff is so fascinating to audiences. They like knowing you're normal and human. Be relatable and let people know you went through some shit to get where you are. If you have video, even better. Gives you a chance to catch your breath, have some water, and relax.
Lists. People love lists. If you make a list of something, I promise people will take pictures of it.
Respect your time. I once spoke at an event where everyone was given 1 hour. There were about 20 speakers. One guy, I won't name names, decided he'd keep going and went for 1.5 hours. This threw the schedule off and made for frustrated organizers and speakers. Don't do this! Keep an eye on your time. Better to finish a little early than be scrambling at the end and feeling the audience's attention wane.

Speaking of an audience's attention span, this post is.......long... ha. Anyways, congrats if you've been invited to do some public speaking! You're gonna be OK.

Brilly Brilly Brilly

Food notes from an amateur on: crudo, with love.

Reporting live from this lake house in a white linen shirt while drinking a gin tonic: an ode to Crudo. Funny, I can't do sushi. Had a relatively intense food-poisoning episode that landed me in the hospital - but! - crudo, which I only discovered a couple years ago - has me back hanging out with raw fish. I'm in love with it. Yes, I'm a "sophomoric" food guy at best, I still get KFC occasionally, but hey - "blending scenes" is my whole thing, no? Anyway... Crudo - which is Italian/Spanish for "raw" is an incredibly simple dish comprised of the main ingredient, perfectly sliced raw fish, olive (or other) oil, acid (usually lemon juice, etc), seasoning (usually salt), and any sort of creative additions (simpler the better tho), something light with crunch, etc. all served a touch below room temp if not a bit cooler. It's perfectly simple, incredibly fresh, incredibly delicious, incredibly beautiful looking, and, for me...incredibly addictive, ha. Seriously, like every evening while heading out for dinner my mind wanders to whatever local spot has it. My current go-to favorite is Nico Osteria in Chicago's Gold Coast. As per usual, sit that the bar which encircles the prep area - quite fun to watch. So yeah - if you were already hip to all this - sorry for wasting 3 minutes of you time...if not, give it an order next time you're at a proper Italian spot. It's so perfectly simple but infinitely nuanced in its variety...just like this site, ha.

*Stay tuned for my next post on the idiosyncrasies of the Caribbean jerk sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Brilly Brilly Brilly

"But I'm trying give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99"

The disclaimer is that I'm already quite biased. How many times have I referenced Jay-Z's albums as my "formal education" in lieu of going to college after high school? So of course, I really like the, really. And I've only given it a twice over – plus, I always like super early, knee-jerk reviews anyway. So if Jay-Z's Volume 2 hit when I was like 16...and it hit me so hard to eventually call all his albums my formal education...will this one do so for a current 16 year old?? Hmm. Good question. This is quite a mature offering, yeah? The talk of buying buildings in Dumbo before it was Dumbo or buying art that see's you an 8x return may not resonate with the "kids", no? Maybe it's too deep, maybe its not fun, maybe it seems impossible, maybe its over their heads, etc. Maybe not though?? Like...maybe this is what "kids" want? Maybe its a balance/contrast to the pill/lean rap? Maybe its that "juice cleanse" kids were looking for? Maybe its that flight you needed to take to see life from a different angle? Maybe? I'm 36 and grew up with Jay-Z, of course I love the album. But I have faith in the kids man, always will...specifically the under 21 set right now. They've seen a lot in the past 10-15 years. Housing crisis, student loans gone wrong, race and gender issues having a camera phone pointed at them in a way like never before, a super fucking weird political scene... Some might think its "funny" that I'd tap Jay-Z as a voice of reason in the midst of all that...but...I mean, listen to the album. Its like, "360 aspiration" – being a proper human AND "slamming Bentley doors" still!! Ha, my 2 cents. *I hope I'm never an "old head."

*Also, also! Jay bought Tidal for $56.2M. Sprint bought 33% of the company for $200M, plus an advertising budget. Yes, they've had leadership issues, etc...but come on, not a bad return for a service everyone made fun of...

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Specific Sundays: Benjamin's top 3 favorite hardwood flooring types.

This site is such an...interesting outlet. I hope you're not bored by this post...but if you are, my bad ha.

3rd place. Classic parquet, or "inlaid" parquet. Often found in the classic prewar buildings here in Chicago and NYC, etc. With one major caveat – it has to be stained super dark, even black, but not piano black, thats silly. In its natural, often yellowed color, it looks too complicated. I love it in super, super deep matte/satin walnut finish with all white walls, plaster crown-moulding, etc, etc.

2nd place. A new-comer to the scene: the long, wide, white-washed-oak "super wide" plank. I know, I know, its super tumblr, pinterest, instagram, etc - but come on - incredibly beautiful. And amazing what it does visually to a space. Its honestly the only trend I can think of that is quite modern but seems like it might be a future classic. With this one..."gallery" trimless/floating walls in, surprise, white...or maybe a venetian plaster finish on the walls in off-white.

1st place. Without question: chevron flooring. Its incredibly beautiful in effectively any finish, color, and even condition (I love the trashed ones in Paris apartments). Can do a super modern setup with it, overly regal/Versailles, Hamptons beach house vibe, condo, hotel room, etc. Thin, wide, average, etc, etc. Its almost always perfect. My personal preference is the photo at the link - natural and sanded perfectly flat. *And, be specific – not herringbone! And, yes, I know chevron is technically a "parquet" as well - but no one calls it that...

Honorable, and affordable, mention: Cork engineered flooring. In general I'm not into engineered hardwoods - so clicky and hollow sounding. BUT, I had cork at my last condo and loved it. Soft, sound-dampening, never hot, never cold. Does hide dirt a bit too well though.

Earl Earl Earl

NEW INTERVIEW: Andrew Kuo aka Earl Boykins

The first interview of this "new era" of THE BRILLIANCE! is here and we think its pretty much perfect: Andrew Kuo, or @EarlBoykins as you may know him from Twitter/Instagram, was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his brilliantly funny Instagram, life as a traditional fine artist, NBA superfandom, Milhouse, and of course the internet. These perfectly random interviews have always been a super important component to THE BRILLIANCE! and honestly our favorite part of the a way, it was one of the motivations of why we started it. We weren't cool enough to ask any of these people to coffee and have them respond so instead we asked if we could interview them...and it worked, LOL. We have a bunch of other ones too if you're new to the site check the interview archives (or actually, even if you're an "OG" fan, check out the old ones...crazy that some of these people let us interview them back its the day.) To use Virgil's words: we consider it to be a bit of a cultural time capsule on the internet. Alife, Futura, A-Ron, Alex Calderwood, Jen Stark, Josh Keyes, Kazuki Kuraishi, Jake & Amir, Tom Sachs to name a few...and the list goes on. We're super honored to get to know these people through our simple Q&A's and hope you'll enjoy this latest one with Andrew Kuo! Good bye!1 Signed, Chuck & Benjamin

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Well balanced: Magazine B!!

Print isn't dead, it just went on vacation for a few years while the Internet found its footing. In 2017 it feels like there are far fewer magazine offerings overall but the ones that are still going or have gotten started in recent years really actually matter. One of my very favorite publications right now is B, or Magazine B - an incredibly focused magazine that features one single brand per issue, highlighting stories, sentiments, and the cultures behind & surrounding each one. Founded in 2012, the brands they've chosen to highlight are always on point and the range is pretty incredible: Intelligentsia, Lego, Porter, Diptyque, Rimowa, Helvetica, San Pellegrino, Rolex, Star Wars, Vans, Maison Margiela..(the newest issue on Apple Music!) name a few. This is starting to read like a summary of topics we've written about here on THE BRILLIANCE! over the years. What I love about B is that by focusing on a single brand, they're creating these print relics that are really worth holding onto, like these mini bibles for each one they focus on that are kind of designed to stand the test of time. I really love that. They do a great job keeping it an easy read too - it goes deep, but never too 'inside baseball'. Produced by Korean creative group JOH & COMPANY, they also receive no advertising profit or financial backing from any of the brands they feature, which is quite admirable. Truly a labor of love. Truly a sort of very-grown-up DIY fanzine. Head to their internet bookstore and support the new wave of print.

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Cars have too many color and trim options...thats why driverless cars we don't own will win.

Look out your window, look around next time you're in a parking lot, go to a dealership, etc. Try and find two identical cars...year, make model, color, trim, etc. Incredibly, exceedingly rare. Ever since Henry Ford allowed you to pick another color outside of black - people have been expressing themselves via their car with trim levels, color, etc - and its mind-bogglingly (to me at least) inefficient from a manufacturing standpoint. Think about the structures and design systems that need to be in place at a plant to allow that? 1,000s if not 10,000s of different configurations...even for like an $18k Jetta. It's nuts. For reference there are...5 iPhone color options, thats it.

So, lets say there were just...4-5 major car manufactures. And each one made just ONE (just one!) model of car - no options, period. And maybe the concept of "model" year went away. And they were designed for maximum manufacturing efficiency, passenger comfort, and fuel (electric!) efficiency. The cost savings to the manufacturers would be...bonkers. I don't have any actual numbers to reference, but I don't think it'd be out of range to see 70% reductions in the cost of manufacturing - maybe more. And! You could assume because they are purchasing orders-of-maginuted more of just one type of leather, one color of paint, etc, etc...that the quality of those parts/pieces would be as high if not even higher than that of an S Class Mercedes due to the scale of purchase... I truly believe we could have S Class level quality and comfort for the cost of a mid-level VW Jetta.

Who cares? This is where it gets lets say they're not selling those cars anymore, but are instead, due their new found cost efficiencies, its more profitable for them to sell us "cell phone plan" style to access their cars. $50 for 250 miles a month, $100 for 750 miles a month, etc, etc. Would you ever buy a car again? Would it matter to you if you could get "Ibis" white vs "Arctic Fleck" white on your new Audi S5...when for $100 a month you could be taken wherever you want in something as nice or nicer than an S Class? ... kinda sucks. I'm a car for real into them. But it just seems so obvious yeah? I suppose I'm looking forward to it. Funny thing, it'll happen slowly first...but eventually its going to feel like what Napster did to the music industry. Buckle up!

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Stay for it! An interview w/ David Rudnick & Ezra Miller about RL Grime, WebGL, and collaboration.

A few days back, I clicked a link that designer David Rudnick shared for a new project he'd done in collaboration with interactive designer Ezra Miller: A visualizer for RL Grime's new single 'Stay For It' (feat. Miguel). Before you read any further, you should click that same link, check it out and listen to the track. I'm fascinated by the way we experience music in 2017. The idea of a music video is of course decades old, but the pursuit to innovate on the concept continues today with more experimental ideas and exciting artists to work on them than ever before. To get a bit more insight on this, I asked David & Ezra to shed some light on their collaboration, talked with them about working with musicians, and got into some of the nerdy WebGL details. Enjoy. (Click 'Continue Reading' for the entire interview...)

THE BRILLIANCE!: The two of you collaborated on Evian Christ's Trance Party site last year - was that the first time you'd worked together? If not, when was? And if so, how were you paired together for that?
Ezra: We first worked together on that Trance Party V site ( as well as Evian’s homepage ( David had contacted me through Facebook and I was very keen to work with him considering I’ve been a fan of his and Josh’s work together for some time.
David: I'd been following Ezra's work for a while, since I saw a project of his called My Shards ( ), and I just felt that what he was doing was fantastic; so dynamic and very pure. My work can be very static, I loved the idea of working whose native language was working with generative or randomized elements, I felt like there was a lot of potential for how we could combine our respective practices.

TB!: You worked together on a similar project for RL Grime's track 'Reims' recently - how did that come about? Any more tracks in the pipeline that will get this treatment?
E: David brought my name up as someone who could be involved on the creative side of RL’s new album campaign and I was happy to take part. I think the first place I saw David’s work was by being a fan of RL’s music while I was in high school. The first visualizer for Reims was started while I was in London in March and finished in New York in late April, and went through many iterations of color and composition as it evolved into the final version.

Continue Reading...

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Elon Musk interviews, his optimism, and *actually* making a dent in the universe.

If you've been a reader of the brilliance for a minute - you know I used to often write about Steve Jobs and Jay-Z. They were, and continue to be, incredibly influential people to me. I joke that my formal education is listening to Jay-Z while I learned classic ASP and SQL in my parents basement in high school int eh late 90s, ha, it worked out well. Anyway, Elon is a rather obvious recent addition to those two characters. I was always familiar with his work, but it wasn't until about 2-3 years go that I started digging in heavy on the interviews, the book Ashlee Vance wrote about him (please, please, please read it!), and his general back story. Probably too much to say in this brief post... But man, he is truly the definition of following your convictions, no? And to proper extremes...going for broke (and going broke!) on unimaginably (honestly!) ambitious projects. His stated, and 2 of 3 pretty much accomplished, goals are to disrupt the auto industry, remove dependence on fossil fuels entirely, and make our species multi-planetary. And!! Doing it all with great taste! Thats not even considering Neuralink...

So, the only real point of this post is two things: (1) to highlight a few interviews worth watching and (2) this quote from Larry Page on craziness and luck:

"...I mean we just have a single proof point now that you can be really passionate about something that other people think is crazy and you can really succeed. And you look at it with Elon and you say, ‘Well, maybe it’s not luck. He’s done it twice. It can’t be luck totally.’ I think that means it should be repeatable in some sense. At least it’s repeatable by him. Maybe we should get him to do more things.”

Fantastic interviewer...perfectly broad.

Sam Altman/YC interview - The quote about fear in this one is quite good.

LOL on him crashing his uninsured McClaren F1.

*Steve Jobs always said he wanted to make a ding/dent in the universe. I love that, though he was prone to hyperbole a's funny, Elon is the only human we have right now that is doing so in a more literal, less hyperbolic (no orbital trajectory pun intended) way.