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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Hard To Explain

Guest Post!

I have been reading Meet Me In The Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman. It’s an oral history of the New York music scene in the first decade of the 2000s. Jonathan Fire-Eater, The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ryan Adams, LCD Soundsystem, and Interpol are all discussed by the bands themselves, journalists, DJs, promoters, etc. It’s gossipy but ultimately very engaging. I can’t put it down.

I was 18 years old in 2001, I dropped out of high school and lived in a house called Squaresville in Atlanta. We had shows in our kitchen; it was fun, wild, and gross. I started going out and doing drugs soon after - when all of the music featured in this book was starting to take off. The first wave of my friends left Atlanta for New York City soon after. They lived in a truly heinous apartment in Bushwick (before it was “East Williamsburg”). I would visit them pretty often. On those visits, I would be out every night in a lot of the same places featured in Meet Me In The Bathroom. I still lived in Atlanta, so it wasn’t necessarily my scene, but even my slight brushes with it were intoxicating - literally and figuratively. I am now at the age where the things that I experienced in my formative years aren’t passe, they are discussed at length - in a wordy think piece in the New York Times or even visually on Instagram. Usually, I don’t love to look back or reminiscence, but this book forced me to, and I liked it. That time was special. Nothing mattered, things seemed less serious, and it was all ahead of us - the good and the bad. I guess that is everyone’s formative years, but I like to think my peers took youthful abandon further than most. The New York I have lived in for the last decade is much different than the one people remember so fondly in the book, but that’s OK. I don’t want to be waiting in line for a vodka soda at Bar 13 on a Sunday night anyway. Plus, I never loved The White Stripes.

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That th-oughts thing I launched!

"A person-to-person education service connecting anyone to experts in any field via short, elegantly structured, super affordable Q:A interactions."

This whole thing started with: all "those" kids sending cold emails, DMs, @s, comments, running up to people on the street/at the airport, the "lets build fam" kids, pick-your-brain-over-coffee kids, etc, etc that used to be (still are?!) perceived as annoying/bothersome. Thing is – I love those kids! Honestly! Those kids are are looking to educate themselves from people THEY decide are worthy to be teachers...sorry, but I fucking love that concept. Those kids are leveraging this beautiful thing us humans have, the internet, to move whatever it is they're working on forward as fast as possible. Again, I love that. The issue is that DMs, cold emails, random @s, comments, etc, etc are not really efficient channels...there isn't any "friction" as we call it - in our case, the $10 fee, there wasn't enough brutally simple structure - as we think we've created. And while there are some somewhat similar competitors, we don't think anyone is doing it tastefully.

So we created it.

It's quite small yet still - but "its working" as we say. I love being able to say that, honestly. I almost quit this project twice. I was so worried (still am?) it was going to be perceived as corny by the community/culture. Was worried it wasn't going to work. Was worried it was an entirely too-simple/dumb idea. Again, we're super tiny still - too early to start planning what I'll wear on stage at All Things D with Kara Swisher, lol, but we're pretty stoked on where its at right now and what the next few months look like.

THANK YOU to all the kids who've used it - seriously. Thank you to our experts. And super thank you to Zac and Charles for being part of the team to make this happen...its about to be super fun this year.

***End goal is to put a ding in traditional education.

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'Visualized!': A new series of posts about artists you should know!

One of my favorite things about THE BRILLIANCE! has always been posting about artists & designers who have made an impact on me in some way personally, professionally, or creatively. Sharing other's work has become an essential part of who I am as an artist and I want to canonize that here in a new ongoing series of posts I'm calling 'Visualized!'. I'll highlight 4 people/studios/etc. whose work has left a lasting impression on me and that I feel readers should know, if you don't already. Enjoy.

Hassan Rahim — A NYC-based artist & art director, Hassan is one of the people responsible for what I consider to be a real shift in the paradigm of modern graphic design. His work has an effortless, dark beauty about it that many seem to imitate but few get quite right. One of my favorite album covers of 2016 was Gonjasufi's 'Callus' and almost right away I wondered, correctly, if it was Hassan's. Don't ask him if he designed the new Nick Jonas album though. He didn't. You're thinking of the Jacques Greene record that came first.

Andrew Savage — Andrew Savage is a visual artist & musician, most well-known as the frontman for Parquet Courts. I wish he had a portfolio I could link to but he doesn't, so in the meantime enjoy that ItsNiceThat writeup to get to know him & his work a bit more. Parquet Courts have what I consider to be the best visuals for an active rock band in the world today, honestly. I don't think it's a stretch to be reminded of what Raymond Pettibon did for Black Flag. The art and music go hand-in-hand, almost can't exist without each other. The 'Human Performance' record is really a thing of beauty.

Esteban Diácono — Esteban Diácono is a motion graphics designer who leaves me speechless every time I see his work pop up in my Instagram feed. I often send friends DMs of his posts with just a "!?!" note attached, and they respond with something like "!!!!!". Really a modern 3D master of the human form but in a sort of hallucinatory fever dream kind of way. Check his Instagram for more recent/frequent experiments. This set is just too wild.

Ryan Travis Christian — I couldn't go this first 'Visualized' post without including a Chicago selection. Ryan Travis Christian is one of my favorites - his work feels comforting and familiar yet unsettling in the kind of way KAWS' work often does: rooted in characters and illustration you feel like you've seen before but rendered in an entirely different, dark and strange yet oddly perfect way. Black & white graphite drawings pulling inspiration from late 20's/early 30's cartoons made up of surreal, amorphous blob-like creatures and Mickey Mouse & friends variations that creep you out and win you over at the same time. His patterns and composition are incredible too, really he's a fine artist with a veteran designer's eye. Ryan is represented by Western Exhibitions in Chicago, so if you're ever in town go check them out.

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The universality of noodles. Or, just, eat noodles.

Guest Post!

We’ll start with ramen. Crazy that a ramen master is revered, that the recipes are secret (like so many of the most delicious, comforting foods—KFC, bbq, pies, etc), that the dish is so layered, varied, difficult etc—but it’s meant to be slurped loudly by the train station after a long day of work.

Shio ramen w/ yuzu. Spicy tsukemen. Udon. Soba. Beef Pho. Vermicelli w/ egg rolls, pork, and beef balls. Linguine w/ garlic, lemon, prosciutto, parmesan. First, go eat these things. Then wonder at the impressive universality of noodles. If you’re in a big city, go find all the places. If you’re in a smaller town… the Vietnamese/Thai place is probably on point. You can get the Pad Thai, but know that there is a universe of flavors waiting for you beyond that.

If you can, avoid noodles & co.

Here’s the thing though—we often elevate the eating of noodles (especially ramen) to some holy experience. It’s existential, but not sacred. It’s passionate, but not perfect. It takes a true master to make a perfect noodle dish, but it’s meant to be spun and slurped. It’s great that it’s on Chef’s Table, cause Ivan is the shit, but it’s not the same thing as what Massimo is making in Modena—it’s nourishing, it’s confirming, it’s humbling. Go eat.

Kagari / Tokyo / clean, small, hidden in Ginza, be prepared to wait in line

Taiho / Kyoto / dirty, small, hidden in an alley in Kyoto, best at 2AM after drinking

Takeya / Chicago / best ramen I've had outside Tokyo

Hide-chan / New York / in midtown, small, locals, authentic, also close to Totto, which is also good

Brill Brill Brill

Monday randoms.

I miss doing these "randoms" posts. • I moved to Chicago this weekend - got a spot in the Gold Coast. Feels weird, feels good, feels new, but also super comfortable. • Instagram is our LinkedIn - I'm quite thankful for it...s/o to all the random people I've met, super fun. • I hardly listen to any music anymore - only podcast and audiobooks - just finished the Elon Musk book, then listened to it again, unreal. • I should probably star listening to more music though. • Finally got into the bitcoin a while back - saw a great quote from my friend Bryce re bitcoin: "If you believe in the importance of decentralized systems, get involved now and stay involved for the long run." • Do people still use RSS readers - feel like I'm the only one? • Will Hedi Slimane go to Chanel - and will kids (me?!) wear Chanel jeans? • Speaking of jeans, those paint splattered APCs Jean Toutiou...I love them, but quite un-APC no? • Pro-tip: buy fresh cut eucalyptus and keep it in your bathroom/near your shower, etc - incredibly refreshing smell in the morning. • This phone charger battery pack thing from Anker is genius. • Whats the whitest white t-shirt you can buy? Need help on that one - nothing over $30. • I have some new Benjamin Edgar products coming out this week - launching at Notre here in Chicago. • I want to design little single-serving fresh veggie, charcuterie, and cheese combo packs in all paper packaging to be sold at Whole Foods. Wish that existed. • Who would have thought T-mobile might end up being the disruptor...looking that way though. • I'm actually a fan of Mondays...its Sundays that are boring to me. • That'll do it - hope everyone is having a good day. :)

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Thank you have a nice day ❀ Michael Cherman & Chinatown Market!!

Michael Cherman is a fashion & graphic designer from New York who first made his mark with his brand ICNY, a sportswear company that utilized 3M reflective to keep night activities safe while still emphasizing smart, good design. The concept was Cherman's response to an incident in 2012 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike home from work. Sometimes great ideas are born out of shitty life experiences. During that time, he was also honing his branding and design skills with projects for the likes of Nike, KITH, and A$AP Worldwide. Fast-forward to 2016, Cherman's inspiration has shifted from the serious, technical, safety-as-priority ICNY to the opposite end of the spectrum with Chinatown Market, his new endeavor described as "An homage to the spirit of Canal St." So...You pretty immediately feel this is a brand its creator is having a lot of fun with, which honestly is why I wanted to write this post. (That's not to say he wasn't having fun with ICNY, this looks pretty fun to me). Smiley faces, bootleg Gucci kingsnakes, 'Thank you have a nice day' and a rose lifted from plastic takeout bags, the 'SHIRT SHIRT T-SHIRT', which is hilarious to me...all tell a story of someone who found a simple point of inspiration and is having a good time building on it. It's all very New York but still somehow universally wearable, much in the way that early aNYthing was. I was living in the Chicago suburbs when A-Ron got that brand rolling and I never felt weird wearing it - it just felt like a perfect homage to an incredible city that anyone who has ever visited could appreciate and participate in to a certain extent. Check out the Chinatown Market Instagram and the site at the link below. Thank you and have a nice day.

Space Space Space

Space fever / the intersection of space exploration and culture.

I'm not a particularly jealous person...but whenever I hear about kids who were between the ages of 6-18 during the Apollo mission era and how incredibly inspiring it was to be around that...and how it ended up shaping their entire view of what the future could be and that anything was possible, etc, etc...I'll be honest, I get a bit jealous. I, on the other hand, am a product of the internet. Don't get me wrong, still incredibly inspired how us kids could make something out of nothing with a $200 used laptop hanging in our parents was (and continues to be) something I feel super lucky to be involved in. But stuff. I feel like I've had "space fever" these past 2-3 years - for real. Its all I'm consuming with podcasts, books, audiobooks, blogs, netflix, youtube, etc, etc. Feel like its not just me...feels like its swelling in the overall zeitgeist. While there are the big guys, SpaceX, Blue Origin, etc - could call them the Space 2.0 era - there are a ton of tiny start-ups and projects in the space (ha) popping up. I call it "Space 3.0"... I'm having too much fun being active in the funding of kickstarters, being a monthly Paetron of various podcasts, paying member of Planetary Society, PayPaling independent amateur rocket projects, etc, etc. Even taking a personal trip out to InterOrbital Systems this summer. Too fun. Quick, certainly not complete, list of things/projects I'm into, have participated in, etc.

LightSail - kickstarter funded light sail satellite project with one launch under its belt and another one with SpaceX this. So well executed - truly felt like you were able to help something get into space.

Copenhagen Suborbitals - incredibly well-branded amateur, non-for-profit, rocket company doing regular ocean-based launches.

InterOrbital Systems - a rocket start up in Mojave working to get to orbit yet this year and the moon in the next few years!! I'm visiting them this summer...will post about it, ha.

LunarX Prize - incredible.

PSU Rocket Program - amazing what they've accomplished. Still waiting on my mission patch......

StarTalk - classic.

Cosmic Vertigo - podcast with such a different...feel.

Pioneer Plaque Kickstarter - intersection of art kids and space.

Crash Course Astronomy - so incredibly well done. Can't say enough. But Phil never replied to my email... :/

...sure there are some I'm forgetting.

I think we're at this fascinating intersection of culture and science right now...maybe we always were?! Just feels considerably more interesting to the creative kids, innovators, entrepreneurs, designers, etc. Teaser, I have a project coming out in mid 2018 in the space (ha, again)...had to dip my toe in. SPACE FEVER.

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Paolo Girardi!! Heavy metal painter, Italian Instagram romantic.

All I wanted to know was who did the album cover for Power Trip's 'Nightmare Logic', one of my favorite heavy records of 2017. I expected to find a reclusive American painter with long hair who doesn't talk much. What I found was so, so much more than that. What I found was my new favorite Instagram follow. What I found was --- Paolo Girardi. Paolo is a 43 year old Italian painter who seemingly only creates his paintings for album covers of the metal variety. Doesn't matter what kind of metal - power, black, grind, thrash - just needs to be loud and heavy. I've actually seen his work on many record covers over the years but never took the time to find out who the artist was. So far this doesn't sound particularly unique, surely there are a lot of artists out there who do work in this vein. But!! Have you seen his Instagram!? Honestly, finding his Instagram was a bit like seeing a band live who you were only familiar with because of one or two songs, then being blown away by the live performance and leaving with a t-shirt and listening to them on the drive home. I'm really fascinated by this guy! Not only does Paolo post his intricate paintings...Paolo posts videos of himself in his studio lifting weights (he's huge!), in ripped tank tops, denim shorts, no shirt at all, going to bed in his studio on a cot with snowflake pajama pants on. He really is the embodiment of his own work. But none of this is an act or an ironic vibe, this is just who Girardi is and, according to this interview, who he always has been. From that interview: "I’ve never changed my “style” since the late ’80s/early ’90s. That’s all. I am a bit out of date, some people call me a dinosaur, stubborn huge brick wall, or Neanderthal man, actually. Well, Italian ladies hate my old style." Well, their loss. Get lost in Paolo's world on his Instagram, link below.

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THE BRILLIANCE! - Better shipped than perfect!

When we first started THE BRILLIANCE! in 2005, Benjamin and I were in our early 20's, social media didn't exist yet, and we just didn't think too much about what we were doing, we just did it. There weren't any outlets for people to criticize or comment. When I was 18 and building NoPattern it was all hand coded HTML in a basic text editor, and having my work on the internet quickly and efficiently was way more important than having a "Coming soon" while I crafted the perfect site. I mean - really, I got my career started off the backs of those early sites. They may not have been the most compelling websites but they were perfect in the sense that they did what I needed them to do - show my work off. That's always the thing, right? What is "perfect"? THE BRILLIANCE! right now, in its newest form with a freshly built CMS and slightly overhauled design is perfect, to me, in the sense that its actually live and you're reading this. Is it perfect in the sense that everything that we've brainstormed and dreamt for it is a reality right now? No - but we'll get there. A little behind-the-scenes/"inside baseball" here, but we really struggled over the last year with what to do with this site. All three of us felt strongly it should come back, but how? On what platform? Wordpress? We'd already tried that, it wasn't right. At one point I got a pretty decent version of this site going on Squarespace, a small miracle when you consider THE BRILLIANCE! almost goes against the "pretty websites" that Squarespace seems constructed to produce. But still, it wasn't right. Ultimately we went back to our friend Dennis Eusebio and had him help us build a fully custom CMS because we really believed we needed the writing environment to match the final thing. Anyways - we ultimately found ourselves overthinking everything until after a while we just went with our gut and did what we should have done in the first place.

A question I get a lot as an artist is "How do you know when what you're working on is done?" And I never know how to answer besides - I just do. I can feel that nothing more will help and nothing less will be good enough, and when I feel that I know I'm good to go. And with something as fluid as a website, you have flexibility and room to grow.

An article on Virgil's recent talk at RISD touched on this whole thing succinctly: "...what students should understand is the attitude he brings to every endeavor: Just do it. "It's so simple. It's three words. It's not clever," he says, echoing the age-old Nike adage." So —here we are, live for just over a week now and happy to be here, just doing it.

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The “art” of dining out alone.

Two things, maybe three: First – I’m not really a “foodie” - but I’m obsessed with restaurants. I eat roughly 90% of my meals out and have done so for over 10 years. It’s truly one of my favorite things to do. Second – of all those meals out, many are often solo. Apparently this is insanely weird to most people. I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I love dinners with my girlfriend, friends, etc. There’s just a magical respite to dining alone - for me at least. Third – my top “things” to keep in mind when dipping your toes into this hobby:

Most important rule of them all: Only eat at the bar. Only. Counter-intuitively - the better/nicer the restaurant, the better the experience is dining at the bar…for real.

If you’re not over 55 or wearing a bad “I’m a traveling sales guy” sport coat with big shoulders - most will assume you’re in the service industry – doesn’t hurt to roll with it for bit, you get better service. But you’ll have to come clean if you’re going to eventually be a regular there.

The bartender will pretentiously adjust your quality of service based on what you order. Chicken ceaser and a Captain and Diet will make for less magical experience. Foie gras laced steak tartare and a negroni, with an extra burnt orange garnish, will get you “in” if thats what you want.

Don’t: spend your entire time glued to your phone. Chat with the bartender - but metered by how busy they are. Don’t: be that guy telling them super long, boring, stories. Don’t: try and impress them with your obscure cocktail/food knowledge. Don't: ask them "so what's good here?" Do: ask them their favorite pairing / current favorite on the menu.

An oddly converse nuance to the previous rule - though only before 7pm - its usually acceptable to bring your laptop and do a bit of work while you enjoy a proper meal - even at a fairly high-end restaurant. I wouldn’t try and pull it off at Le Bernardin but its probably fine at Honey’s in Chicago. ***If the dinner crowd rolls in, tuck the laptop...bright screens are a bad look.

I’m not much of a small talker, but don’t be completely tuned-out. I once ended up restaurant hopping for an evening with a fellow solo diner who turned out to be a notable figure in the oil business and wanted a bit of a shoulder to cry on about a recent divorce. Was an oddly entertaining evening.

Go on the slow nights! Sunday - Wednesday. For those of us who live with seasons, snow storms are particularly fun evenings to tuck in.

Don’t get drunk. Don’t treat servers poorly.

Don’t rush through it - enjoy it. It’s great “thinking” time.

Bonus: order a “Ferrari” as your meal ender.