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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THE BRILLIANCE! Book club (First Edition) ft. Jeff Staple, Andrew Kuo, & Benjamin Edgar!!!1!

For as long as I can remember, I've loved being around books. My dad had quite a library growing up and when I turned 16 I got a job at Borders Books (RIP), pretty much for the fact that I knew employees got discounts and could even check books out like a library. There's always been something comforting to me about just being surrounded by books. The irony is that I've never particularly loved to read(!?). So the middle ground became art and design books. I could enjoy these books the way a kid enjoys books - with words broken up by many large pictures, lol. Today, art books are one of the few things I would say I collect. I've discovered amazing artists, learned a lot about making and running a creative business, and just generally found inspiration when I've needed it most from these books. I thought I'd ask a few of our friends on occasion for a new series of posts to share their favorites and for this first post we've got Jeff Staple, Andrew Kuo, and Benjamin Edgar. Enjoy:

Jeff Staple
Moleskine: The Detour Book // Jeff's note: The ultimate Moleskine.Who doesn’t want to peek into the greatness of someone’s sketchbook?
The Field Study Handbook by Jan Chipchase // Jeff's note: My friend Jan fucked around and got a triple double. He wanted to make a book about his experiences being a field researcher. Needed $20k to make the book so he went to Kickstarter. Raised over $300,000! Needless to say, its worth it.

Andrew Kuo
Theories of Everything by Roz Chast // Andrew's note: A collection of cartoons from one of the all-time greats. Inside the neurotic brain of the tri-state area.
FreeDarko Presents: The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac // Andrew's note: A wonderfully detailed, funny and unique snapshot of the league at a certain time. The precursor to what became “NBA twitter".
American Fine Arts by Colin De Land // Andrew's note: A collection of snapshots documenting the life of the late great art dealer and downtown fixture Colin De Land. It captures the melancholy spirit of 80s and 90s downtown NYC.

Benjamin Edgar
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Life by Keith Richards
The Social Animal by David Brooks
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Brilly Brilly Brilly

Bollinger's Electric Truck. I'm in love.

Some days this site basically writes itself. The Bollinger's electric's effectively perfect. It being electric, having a decent range and top speed, fairly decent price, and the is what is missing right now. How, how did Land Rover not ship one of these first??? Honestly? I understand car manufacturing isn't easy and Land Rover has a brand to maintain, etc, etc...but some 16 year-old current version of me is on Japlonik right now and the Land Rover vs Bollinger argument isn't even a question in his mind. The deep-seated brand attachment is already setting in. Undoubtedly in Bollinger's favor. Coming from a guy (me) who's owned two Land Rovers and deeply loves them...does the Defender look a bit cooler and have more heritage? Sure, maybe...but you can't get that car anymore, and haven't been able to in the states since 1997, so it really doesn't matter. Land Rover has forgotten its own "romance" - and didn't even give it a sub brand like Mercedes has with AMG - and catered to its highest spending consumers. Literally, and figuratively, rounding off all the hard edges that made it an incredibly compelling company. :( Point of the post is: the future is electric and the playing field is WIDE open for companies like Bollinger to unseat the classics like Land Rover, etc. Please, please someone tackle the 911. I can't wait.

*I could do a whole post about screens in cars. Can't stand them. They ship to the consumer with out of date software before they've even hit the lot. We all have super computers in our something create with those.

*Also still need to get used to grill-less cars–taking me a bit.

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Monday randomz!!1

Been trying to write a clever quip about Mondays for like 5 minutes but nothing's working so let's just cut the bullshit and get to the post lol.
↝ First and foremost, you can follow THE BRILLIANCE! on Instagram now. It's this new website we just heard about so we have an account now. We couldn't get the name 'thebrilliance' and we didn't want to do like, theREALbrilliance OFFICIALTheBRILLIANCE or whatever so it's @httpwwwthebrilliancedotcom. Was shocked it was available. We're posting a bunch of 'archive' stuff from the 2005-2014~ era in black/white and everything from 'now' in color. Go enjoy the trip down internet memory lane.
↝ While not fans of Drudge Report's politics, did you know the site had a big influence on the design of this site when we built it originally in 2005? Drudge, Google, and Jakob Nielsen's back then were so different than everything else, so intensely pragmatic and information-first, style (if any) second, and it played right into what we wanted for THE BRILLIANCE. Today it seems everyone refers to this in the zeitgeist as brutalist, which leads me to...
Read our interview on - Thanks to Pascal from for interviewing us about this whole topic. It was a fun interview and you should check it out :)
↝ Everyone is talking about the new Tyler, The Creator album, which is great, but I just want to give some love to the artist who did the cover, Eric White. His work is so good, check it out.
↝ Nike is releasing 20 new colorways of the Air Max 97 between now and the end of the year. That's...a lot... but I do love the 97 and it's fun to dig through everything they have cooking. The gray/white/volt ones are good.
↝ Spotify's 'Discover Weekly' really is my favorite way these days to find new music. Every Monday night or whenever it is that it updates I always look forward to checking it out. Some weeks it's really hit or miss but I find myself +'ing songs to my collection more often than not.
↝ Chicago's restaurant scene is SO good right now...if you're from here you already know, and if you're not, come visit. A few of my favorites right now: Ema, Monteverde, Giant, Honey's, Gather, Bienmesabe, Cafe Marie Jeanne.


Brilly Brilly Brilly

Amazon Prime, Colette, the internet, and the art of the "french exit."

First off – I want to thank Sarah Colette for creating a store (an era?!) that gave all the kids with the newest, weirdest, freshest, riskiest, and most-abstract ideas a launching pad with Colette. The creative world is, without question, a better place because of her hands-on approach to curation, her eye, and her willingness to help. Thanks for carrying all my friends stuff and thanks for that one time you paid like $350 in shipping costs to have 2 cases of Boxed Water shipped 2-day express to Paris for placement at the Colette Water Bar. That meant so, so much to me. Thank you Sarah...can't wait to see what you do next.

So whats next? Funny, I was just sitting yesterday talking with a close friend of mine, MJ who is part owner in my favorite clothing shop here in Chicago – Notre, about what the future of retail looks like. That exact conversation is being had by lots of retailers right now... 6-7 weeks ago I was having the same convo with him telling him that I don't think Amazon's taste level or broadness will ever disrupt Notre's intense attention to detail and curation. I still don't think Amazon specifically will...but after launching my latest, very tiny, BENJAMIN EDGAR collection and embarrassingly running into an issue that made some of the orders 7-14 days late (sorry!) on shipping...I kind of thought to myself: "why didn't I just forward-position this stuff with Amazon and let people order it using Prime???" Then I thought about it in the context of the much larger business that is Notre. I still want to touch fabrics, I still want to experience a space, a feeling, curation, etc...but if Amazon is already able to get me a new Cuisinart pan, a tube of toothpaste, a phone charger, etc to my apartment in Chicago in under 2 hours...why wouldn't I want that convenience for a new APC Louis W bomber jacket, or pair of Nikes that today I can only get in boutiques? How will that look and feel? What will be lost in the experience? What will be gained?! This, again, isn't new thinking...but Colette announcing its closing makes all of it feel a bit more real, yeah? If anyone was untouchable in the retail space it was them. Perhaps they're calling it earlier than everyone else. And shoutout to Sarah for doing that, being like: "It's done." Such a perfect French exit after an incredibly good run.

I don't at all think retail is done...but if the internet does anything, it changes things in insanely dramatic ways and almost always for the better. It's going to look different. If they can ship something to me in 2 hours'll be 2 minutes in 2-3 years - history has shown this time and time again. There's always two sides after the shake-up: the people who saw around the corner, took a risk, and changed dramatically...and the people who thought their mountain was immovable.

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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...

Brilly Brilly Brilly

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