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"Salt:Vanity" by Murray Fredericks (2017)

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"Salt:Vanity" by Murray Fredericks (2017)

Over the decades, Australian photographer Murray Fredericks has fallen in love with the salt flats of his native Outback. During his first visit in 2001, Fredericks reported experiencing an intense calm - a sense of diminutive oneness, the kind that could only be felt by a small being below an infinite sky.

The enchantment was cast.

In the years since that first fateful visit, Fredericks has returned time and time again to these limitless horizons - only this time, he brought a mirror. The resulting photographs, part of Fredericks' now-showing "Vanity" series, are as surreal at that first trip so long ago: in this unflinching flatland, simply reflecting anything different is jarring if not wonderful.

I'll skip the art history critique - "Vanity" is damn cool to look at, and should be revered for that quality. Even more impressive: every single image in the series is the result of physical, not digital, manipulation. With a simple tool and a simple landscape, Fredericks makes images that would challenge even Photoshop savants. 

Check out more selections from the series below, then visit the artist's website here for more. 

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"Flowerprint" Adds 2,000 Bouquets to Milan Office Façade

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"Flowerprint" Adds 2,000 Bouquets to Milan Office Façade

As part of this year's Milan Design Week 2017, Italian architecture studio Piuarch collaborated with renowned landscape architect Cornelius Gavril to cover its Milanese office in a cascade of 2,000 blooming bouquets. The flowers were hung using a storied technique where live stems are grafted onto the vines of potato plants, creating a wholly organic look while still juxtaposing the suspended bouquets with the ground they're floating above.

 (source:  designboom )

(source: designboom)

The result: an ethereal façade that livens up one of Milan's historic streets. Visually, "Flowerprint" is a Magritte painting rendered in leaves and stems - "Golconda, 1953" meets the gardens of the Villa d'Este. If you're in the area, enjoy the Instagram fodder. However, if you're either off the continent or can't make it to Milan before the flowers wilt, enjoy the photos below.  

 (source:  designboom )

(source: designboom)

 (source:  designboom )

(source: designboom)

 (source:  designboom )

(source: designboom)

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(source: designboom)

 (source:  designboom )

(source: designboom)

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12 Architects Craft China's "Bamboo Bienniale"

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12 Architects Craft China's "Bamboo Bienniale"

Last year, 12 architects from all over the globe were invited to the remote village of Baoxi — in an area south of Shanghai, still untouched by China's building boom - to demonstrate the viability of bamboo construction. Bamboo, the rapidly-growing reed native to China's forests, has long been posited as building material, but this inaugural "Bamboo Bienniale" (one every two years) is perhaps the first step towards realizing its true potential. In a country choked by smog and cement, this naturally-occurring, biodegradable material could present a novel solution to urban China's notoriously polluting behavior. 

In the present, however, the Bienniale's mandate (and gorgeous mountainous setting) create some truly stunning visuals - architectural yet organic, urban but at home in the wild. See more photos of the Bienniale structures below:

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A list of all 12 architects and their structures, courtesy of our friends at designboom:

Ge Quantao (China) - bridge
George Kunihiro (USA) - existing ceramic workshop
Li Xiaodong (China) - bamboo product research and design center
Simon Velez (Colombia) - boutique hotel
Anna Heringer (Germany) - youth hostel / design hotel
Kengo Kuma (Japan) - contemporary celadon ceramic museum
Keisuke Maeda (Japan) - invited ceramist workshop
Mauricio Cardenas Laverde (Italy – Colombia) - eco-energy efficient experimental house
Suk-Hee Chun and Young-Chul Jang (Republic of Korea) - bamboo restaurant
Madhura Primatilleke (Sri Lanka) - public ceramic workshop
Vo Trong Nghia (Vietnam) - welcome center
Yang Xu (China) - art hotel

 

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Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, and Back Again

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Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, and Back Again

Last weekend, some friends and I shot selections from the Greats SS17 collection around the University of Michigan. While Ann Arbor has its fair share of coffee shops and bike commuters, it's still a long ways from Brooklyn, NYC - unless you can find another way to bring the two together. After a long day of shooting, I channeled the Empire State of Mind to make some my own styling inspiration collages. Check out the results of my first big photography project below:

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Many thanks to Erika, Eli, Matt, Maddy, Joe, and many others for making this shoot possible. 

 

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The Art Of It: an interview with Zwade Devenish

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The Art Of It: an interview with Zwade Devenish

The following was the cover story of the Spring/Summer 2017 "Art of Fashion" print edition of SHEI Magazine. All rights reserved by owner.

 

While most high schoolers pinch pennies to buy fresh threads, Zwade Devenish had a different plan for that spare change on his dresser: “I saved my allowances from 9th to 11th grade because I wanted to make clothes,” he laughs. “I had money saved up, wanted to do a collection, but had no idea how to do it. So I just ran into a fabric store and started buying by feeling.”

For Zwade, those two years of saving – and that one fateful afternoon where his senses led the way – have blossomed into nearly a decade of following the passion that stoked his high school frugality all those years ago: designing beautiful, sensuous clothes. With a resume that includes experience at the world’s most buzzworthy names in streetwear (Billionaire Boys Club) and luxury (YEEZY), to his own personal line of private client couture (the eponymous “Zwade Devenish”), it’s easy to forget that the artist himself is not yet 30. Talk to him about his art, and that temporary amnesia becomes a borderline gaslighting: there’s no way someone this skilled, this dynamic wasn’t alive for the “Seinfeld” premiere.

Yet, to call Zwade Devenish a “prodigy” is to sell short the countless hours of hard work that have enabled his craft. Michael Jordan was cut from his middle school basketball team; it was the thousands of midnight three-pointers, not raw talent, that crafted the sport’s greatest player. Here, in a world every bit as glamorous as championship sports, is another phenom forged through their passion and devotion to pure human potential. As Devenish prepares for a busy spring season, SHEI Magazine sat down with Zwade to talk about his triumphs, his inspirations, and clothing as art.  

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AR: Tell me a little bit about how you got started in fashion.

ZD: I met this counselor in high school, a woman named Tracy Karas – she saw my work sketching and designing junior year of high school, and really believed in me. One day, she told me that “this guy Chris [Bevans] and Billionaire Boys Club are going to be at this [NYC Teen Live] event.” I felt like the stars were aligning. I shot my collection, brought photos, and went. Chris gets up to speak, and at the end - as people are asking him questions – the moderator, a woman named Bevy Smith, turns to him and says: “This guy in the back was the first one in the room. You should ask him a question.”

That guy was me.

I forget what he asked me, but after his Q&A we spoke briefly, and I showed him the photos of my collection. He wasn’t just nice to me – he was legitimately impressed. He looked over everything I designed, turned to me, and said: “For you to be thinking on this level is f*cking crazy.”

I was so nervous - this was someone in the industry that understands my work and respects it! We talked a little bit more after, then he told me flat out: “you should come to Billionaire Boys Club.” I started working in fashion professionally, when Chris [Bevans] discovered me.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

Since forever. I was born in Trinidad, and my Mom owned a boutique. I would spend a lot of time in there and see what type of projects she was working on. I was fascinated with how a garment was executed – I’d see a lady in town wearing something, and just wonder how it was made. 

That fascination stayed with me when I moved to the US. In high school, I saved my allowances from 9th to 11th grade because I wanted to make clothes. There’s a quote from Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: “Preparation meets opportunity.” I had money saved up, wanted to do a collection, but had no idea how to do it. So I just ran into a fabric store and started buying by feeling. I only had two garments [out of eight] sketched, but ended up choosing materials for every piece entirely by what I visualized in my head. Then, I made my first collection. That was Spring/Summer 2013.

 

Tell me about your first fashion internship with Billionaire Boys Club. This was at Roc Nation HQ in New York, right? What was it like to be there, in that environment, surrounded by that incredible creative team?

It was really DOPE. *laughs*

I learned so much from Chris himself. Chris and the BBC team had me involved in every part of the brand from designing and styling lookbooks, to communicating with factories and making sure our samples were in on time. One of the things he taught me early on was that your schedule can be so demanding, but if you really love what you do, none of it matters. I also learned how important it is to be ahead of everything. It doesn’t matter what’s trending now – at BBC, we were focused on the bigger picture. We were pushing brands forward.

Usually you think of internships as “grab coffee” or “run to the store”, but they had me actually working in fashion. That’s how me and Chris really built a relationship – I’ve seen people my age feel so entitled [at internships], but those people crash and burn. I just went in there and went to work. I didn’t jump in there and start taking pictures for my Instagram, like “Yo here’s me with Pharrell! Here’s me at BBC!” I was just part of the team.

Related, but I also learned how to be around celebrities/high profile people and not be shook up about it. Those relationships mean so much to me now going forward, too.

 

Your personal line, “Zwade Devenish”, has some truly elegant – even, dare I say, artful - pieces. What inspires such exquisite, ornamental work?

I don’t even know where to start. I’m really inspired by Rhianna, Naomi Cambell, and Cassie - those women exude confidence. They could wear a garbage bag and just be killing it. I always tell people that I design for a woman who is confident in her skin, but comfortable in her clothes. It’s not really about me [as the designer] – it’s all about how YOU wear the garment. 

Sometimes I’m inspired by music, sometimes I look at Naomi’s catwalk and think “I got it.” I might listen to a Rhianna album, try to understand her mood, and think “she’d rock this.” I’m also inspired by the mystery of Cassie: you don’t see her, but you know her. But ultimately, I’m focused on the customer. Sometimes I go over to Chelsea, see a woman walking down the street and just think “that’s the woman who wears my clothes.”

I know Naomi’s got one of my garments, and I can’t wait for her to wear it. *laughs* I’ve never been starstruck, but I was then. Naomi Campbell is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous.

 Zwade Devenish presenting one of his gowns to supermodel Naomi Campbell (photo courtesy of the designer)

Zwade Devenish presenting one of his gowns to supermodel Naomi Campbell (photo courtesy of the designer)

 

AR: Fashion occupies a dual role in our society: it’s both legally necessary (outside of a nudist beach) and a medium of artistic expression. What’s your take on clothing as art?

Clothing is art. Point blank. The end.

We’re gonna be buried in clothes. It’s just so important. When I design, I understand that clothing is an artistic expression of someone’s feelings or mood.

It’s almost like looking at someone’s playlist. They listen to A$AP Rocky, they listen to Future – ok, they like trap. If they’re wearing Celine shades and a Goyard bag, mixing brands but doing it well, then you just know they understand fashion.

Take Alexander McQueen, my favorite designer – you can’t look at his garments and not think that they’re art. I remember reading this interview with him where he said he was just inspired by this certain natural scene he saw and created an entire collection based on that. That’s art. And it’s one of his dopest collections ever.

 

Zwade Devenish has, for the first time, entered the menswear world. What are some of the challenges that come with adopting “fashion as art” for a male audience?

It’s totally different. I wouldn’t say I’m “adapting” to menswear because somehow I get involved with mens clothes at every turn. However, to my heart, I’m a womenswear designer. Every blue moon, every time I get inspired, I come out with a few pieces for men.

The aesthetics are different because my customer is different. My male customer is chill, as opposed to my female customer who is sophisticated with an edge. I personally enjoy working for females more. 

 A tweed coat from the Zwade Devenish men's collection (photo courtesy of the designer)

A tweed coat from the Zwade Devenish men's collection (photo courtesy of the designer)

 

In the year 2020, what does success look like for the Zwade Devenish brand?

Giving back. I went to junior high school in Brooklyn then high school on the Lower East Side, but I really wanted to go to [The High School of] Fashion Industries or Art and Design High School [two application-only high schools in New York City]. I was declined from both schools. Now, Art and Design has reached out about me coming in as a guest speaker for their students. I think it’s really dope that I can come have a live Q&A and speak to the students, telling them about how it all works, even at a place that turned me down. Success for me is about reaching out to those kids who really want to work in fashion or the arts.

In fashion, your chances are always slim to none. My story is slim to none. There were no opportunities for fashion in Brooklyn, so I had to go out and find it. Chris didn’t come to my school, I had to go out and find him. So it’s really important to go out and tell the kids “do your research, find things out.” That’s my way of giving back.

 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you also worked on the YEEZY Season 1 collection with Kanye West – not much of that distressed sportswear vibe is present in your current aesthetic. How did that experience shape you as a designer?

A LOT. Because Kanye is really artistic, really an artist, a real real artist. *laughs*

[Working on YEEZY meant] switching gears in terms of being at BBC. There, we were always on the computer, [whereas with] Kanye we were actually cutting and sewing. A Zwade garment is executed cut and sew, so it was my style. I also learned the importance of mood boards – how to work a mood board, but still get the garment done on time.

I apply a lot of what I learned at YEEZY to Zwade [Devenish] - that street aesthetic, but still in cut and sew. I’m in that constant battle between being urban, but also chic and sophisticated. Working on YEEZY taught me how to build that reference. You’re wearing YEEZY to the airport, but once you get off the plane and go to the Ritz, you’re wearing Zwade. My customer is a traveling woman, so it’s important to understand all parts of her lifestyle. Working at BBC and YEEZY [two international, mass consumer brands] taught me a lot about that.

I hate thinking like that all the time because it might cripple the art of it, but that’s the part of being a designer. You have to bring function. McQueen didn’t bring in function at all, and that’s why his pieces are in museums now.

*laughs* But no one’s gonna wear his dress to the airport.

 

One final question: since this is the “Art of Fashion” issue, what’s the one fashion show that moved you the most?

Givenchy Fall 2011/2012 collection. Ricardo Tisci [Givenchy Creative Director, 2005-2017] was using pearls on mesh fabric, and everything was hand-sewn and hand-beaded. The pure technicality of making those garments was very, very hard. A collection like that can be hit or miss, but it wasn’t a miss for him. The silhouettes were simple, functional, and above all, artistic. Managing all those three - that’s hard to do. But Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy really killed it! 

 

 

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

A special thank you to Mr. Zwade Devenish for making this interview possible. Learn more about “Zwade Devenish”, his by-appointment-only women’s couture line, at ZwadeDevenish.com or follow @zwadedevenish on Instagram.

 

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Chicago, IL (2/26/2017)

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Chicago, IL (2/26/2017)

Last weekend, I visited the city of Chicago on my school's spring break for a long weekend of touring and fun. Given Chicago's reputation for grand architecture, the Midwest's own metropolis provided an excellent venue for some long photo walks.

If you'd like to read more about what I did, check out my Wicker Park shopping guide here. But, if you're more the "worth 1000 words" type, simply scroll down to see some of my favorite photos from the weekend below:

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Photos of an Abandoned Japanese Theme Park, Taken Just Before Demolition

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Photos of an Abandoned Japanese Theme Park, Taken Just Before Demolition

As part of his photo essay "Ask The Dust", French photographer Romain Veillon traveled to Nara, Japan to photograph the city's abandoned amusement park, "Dreamland", just before it was demolished last October. Naru Dreamland opened in 1961, but after years of stiff competition from parks such as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan, finally closed its doors in 2006. It lay abandoned for 10 full years.  

"Nature reclaimed the park, which disappeared slowly under the vegetation, and created an even more magical and unique atmosphere," said Veillon, speaking to seminal design magazine Dezeen. "But even this abandoned time had to come to an end." 

Just before that time came, Veillon entered the park to document its verdant decomposition. The resulting images are both surreal and serene: vines crisscross coasters; shrubs block in bumper cars. Every photograph projects an uneasy contrast of power and decay - where nature was once beaten back, it has returned with forceful grace to reclaim the park. 

In an era rife with anxiety over our planet's future, Veillon's photos tell of a salient, if uncomfortable, fate: nature will be fine without us. It is humanity - the easily overgrown, the readily absorbed - we should be worried about. Check out the rest of the photos in the series below:

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"Flower Beards" by Geoffroy Mottart (2017)

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"Flower Beards" by Geoffroy Mottart (2017)

While Belgian artist Geoffroy Mottart's latest work is far from "subversive," his guerilla style (wait for night, act, retreat) seems the stuff of freedom fighters instead of a self-described "artiste floral." However, his latest work (best known as "Flower Beards") is every bit as revolutionary as his tactics imply.

Flower Beards is a series of floral arrangements decorating busts and statues throughout Belgium's public parks. The project's motivation? "I realized that most people pass by these statues without paying attention to them," says Mottart. Like the weather-beaten busts that line walkways in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, these public tributes often fell in the blindspot of many who walk by. However, thanks to Mottart's arranging skill and artistic vision, they have received new life.

Enjoy more images of Mottart's project below, and be sure to check out the artist's website here.

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Noise Cancellation: An Arts, Events, and Culture Newsletter

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Noise Cancellation: An Arts, Events, and Culture Newsletter

If 2016 showed us anything, it's the danger of unchecked white noise in media. So, after enduring the algorithm-fueled frustration that plagues (and harms) our daily lives, I decided to make a change. Rather, I decided to make one weekly. It’s called “Noise Cancellation.”

Noise Cancellation is a weekly email newsletter. Every Friday, I’ll send out a curated list of the arts, culture, and news stories you need to know, plus, any posts from this site that pass muster to deserve a spot in your inbox. Instead of stuffing you with junk food through a News Feed, "Noise Cancellation" presents a diverse, substantial, and non-partisan menu linked by one unifying factor: the stories presented will cut through the noise. The first newsletter will go out this Friday, January 6th.

If you’re interested (and I don’t blame you if you aren’t), sign up below: 

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My Year in (Biweekly) Books

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My Year in (Biweekly) Books

There’s a wonderful conceit to the phrase “I wish I had time to read.”

For one, it’s a little known fact that every chronically-busy person throughout human history wishes they had more leisure time. While their own willful actions and priorities deny them this pleasure, it is part of carrying oneself as chronically-busy to long for the contrary. Bonus points for sighing afterwards.

For two, it’s a widely known fact that every reasonably-thoughtful person throughout human history wishes to be regarded as someone who reads for pleasure. No matter one’s private hedonism, the knowledge that another merely perceives you as someone who retreats into the written word carries a contented-if-enabling buzz of monastic importance. After all, anyone can watch TV. But it is you - the ubermensch, the Atlas-who-shrugs – who chooses to spend their leisure time exerting effort (pages don’t scan themselves) in an apparently-productive activity that deserves praise. In this case, the bonus points are self-evident.

And last but not least, for three: it’s a blatant fact that no one throughout human history has ever uttered the phrase “I wish I had time to read” in private. Simply put, it would fall on deaf ears.

No, like Mother Theresa’s charities or an expired copyright, “IWIHTTR” exists exclusively for public benefit.

When thrown into the public sphere, wishing one had time to read accomplishes little more than a sanctioned ego-yank (see: wonderful conceit). What it certainly doesn’t do is create time to read. That’s why, when I was frustrated with how little I had read during my first semester at the Ross School of Business last fall (see: chronically-busy), I did something truly radical: I kept it to myself.

In January 2016, I quietly resolved to read whatever books I found interesting whenever time allowed. No weekly page goals, no “100 to Read” lists, just autopilot. On December 29, nearly one year later, I finished what will likely be my last book for the year. And, for the first time since January, I decided to check where autopilot had steered.

Instead of doing a full review for each of the 27 books I read in 2016, I (and my sleep schedule) thought it’d be more fun to do short summaries of each. Considering I averaged about 1 book every 2 weeks, 2 sentences seemed a proper fit.

Wishing you had time to read? Here’s 27 books, condensed for your schedule:

 

1. “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style” by W. David Marx

America’s bombing then postwar occupation of Japan created a culture vacuum that blue jeans, field jackets, and rock music filled. Give it 50 years, throw in a millennia-old tradition for Japanese craftsmenship, and baby, you got a stew going.

2. “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy

The original Mad Man explains the fundamental difference between excitement and results.

Also, good ideas are a function of research and sleepytime.

3. “The Heart and the First” by Eric Greitens

Courage is dependent on both compassion and action. As a Navy SEAL, Rhodes Scholar, and lifelong humanitarian, Greitens has an authoritative perspective on improving the world with heart and fist.

4. “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbury

Friendship transcends all divisions: class, status, even opinion on Tolstoy. Some of the world’s best people find comfort behind prickly defenses, when their elegance just needed the right chance to be vulnerable.

5. “Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell

Don’t be poor. But, if you have to be poor, especially don’t be poor in Victorian England.

6. “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster” by Dana Thomas

Luxury brands are built by craftsmen who establish a reputation for devotion to product quality. Luxury brands are monetized by businessmen who arbitrage that reputation at the expense of product quality (see: Balmain).

7. “The Luxury Strategy” by Jean-Noël Kapferer & Vincent Bastien

The relationship between normal goods and premium goods is rational: for each additional dollar you spend, you receive proportional benefits (think Toyota -> Lexus). The relationship between premium goods and luxury goods is irrational: for each additional dollar you spend, you get that warm fuzzy feeling.

8. “The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe

One of the single greatest fiction stories ever published – the definition of a “must read.” Everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.

9. “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom

By enshrining the classical liberal ideal of “open-mindedness” in policy, well-meaning administrators sow the seeds of virulent groupthink. As the reliable means through which these policies are achieved, cultural relativism, then, enables the worse angels of our nature. 

10. “The Fourth Turning” by William Strauss & Neil Howe

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. If you read no other book this decade, make it “The Fourth Turning.”

11. “Sneaker Wars” by Barbara Smit

A blood feud between the Dassler brothers created the sneaker game, athlete marketing, and the corruption-riddled governing bodies of sports (FIFA, IOC, etc.) that we know today. Hmm… Adi Dassler… sounds familiar. 

12. “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight

The autobiography of Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Unlike other business memoirs, the story of the world’s most successful and competitive sports brand takes an unexpected turn: it is honest, candid, and humble.

13. “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture” by Elizabeth Semmelheck

The definitive history of sneakers, told jointly through the lenses of fashion, function, and culture. Semmelheck’s work is as enlightening as it is thoroughly enjoyable to read.

14. “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant

The world’s successful innovators are cautious, analytical, and quietly decisive.

Remember this the next time a “world-changing” startup makes headlines.

(P.S. For any Michigan readers, Adam Grant is coming to speak in Ann Arbor on January 11. More information here.)

15. “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg

Habits are formed and reformed according to a 3-part cycle: a “cue” is identified (ex. my teeth feel dirty), a “routine” is established (ex. two minutes of brushy-brushy), then once completed, a “reward” is earned (ex. a minty tingling sensation). If you want to form a positive habit, start by focusing on the cue.

16. “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young

Idea generation is a simple process willfully ignored by many because it takes work. In this age of process automation and machine learning, ideas are the differentiator – therefore, “Technique” (first published in 1940) is as applicable as ever.

17. “Business Adventures” by John Brooks

While technology may change, expressions of human nature – hype-fueled heartbreak, insider trading scandals, market bubbles - remain constant. Brooks’ stories (collected over his career with the New Yorker and first published in 1969) aren’t just relevant and engaging – they’re uncanny.

18. “Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing

The true story of the 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Reading this book will make you feel like a weeny for ever complaining about the cold.

19. “Modern Romance” by Aziz Ansari

Thanks to advanced communications tech, an entire generation has confused the nuance of human relationships with the instant gratification of digital media. Long story short: maximization behavior only works in Excel.

(P.S. Read my full review of the book here.)

20. “Talk Like TED” by Carmine Gallo

TED talks are engaging because they are emotional, novel, and memorable. In other words: because they’re entertainment.  

21. “The Small BIG” by Noah J. Goldstein and Steven J. Martin

Details matter. This collection of 50 “back of the envelope” persuasion tactics won’t save your shitty PowerPoint from catastrophe, but if you’ve already put up table stakes, each can make the difference.

22. “Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business” by Jon Steel

The single most applicable book I have ever read. If you want to live a happy and successful life, read this and “Ogilvy on Advertising” – the rest will work itself out.

23. “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson

Stephenson is to science fiction what Jay-Z is to rap: iconic, influential, and as prolific as ever. His latest – a 700-page tome packed with drama, humanity, and the end of the world – is both insightful and wickedly entertaining.

24. “The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever” by Teri Agins

By selling vintage-inspired products “outside” trend cycles, companies like Ralph Lauren have identified a reliable, high-margin segment at the expense of the costly product innovation that once drove the fashion industry forward. The upshot: in fashion, “minimalist” and “retro” are code words for “making money hand over fist.”

25. "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson

Virtual reality, language as a virus, and shadowy main character named "Hiro Protagonist": Stephenson's cyberpunk novel isn't just thoughtful and prophetic - it's also one of the most masterfully-worded books I've ever read. This was my third re-read, and I'm already planning #4.

26. “The Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy” by Christopher Hayes

The true division in American society isn’t between genders, races, or even classes – instead, it is between those with enough power/money to self-serve and those without. For an insightful and oddly comforting understanding of current events, read this immediately after “The Fourth Turning.”

27. “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” by Daniel Lyons

A writer for HBO’s Silicon Valley pens “The Jungle” of this second tech bubble. My book of the year.

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Thanks for reading about... well, reading. Funny how that works. Anyways - have you read any of the above? Better yet, any recommendations for what I should read in 2017? Leave a comment below or on my Facebook page to start the conversation.

 

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Movie Review: "Disorder" (2015)

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Movie Review: "Disorder" (2015)

Left alone without sensory inputs, it takes a mere 15 minutes for the human brain to begin hallucinating. Within our over-active minds, a lack of stimulus creates a mental vacuum we rush to fill. How, then, is life lived with this vacuum omnipresent?  

In Alice Winocour’s French-language thriller “Disorder” (“Maryland” en francais), a former solider named Vincent (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) is hired by a wealthy businessman to provide security for a party held at his Riviera estate, a palatial gated manor called “Maryland.” Despite the ostensibly light atmosphere, Vincent’s vigilance intermingles with his combat senses to create – however justified - a vicious sensation of danger. The audience is drawn into his mental convulsions through some superb camera work and a brilliant score by Belgian DJ Gesaffelstein.  

Midway through the party, the appearance of an unsavory guest sends Vincent into overdrive. His instincts to follow the guest (who eventually assaults Vincent’s employer) attracts the attention of the businessman, who asks Vincent to stay and protect his wife Jessie (played by the stunning Diane Kruger) and their child while he unexpectedly leaves to travel. The assault, the assignment, the abruptness of it all: it is fodder for the darkness within Vincent’s mind.

Vincent’s episodes – the muted, techno-driven indulgences of fear – continue, only now, the stakes are higher. When Jessie demands a trip to the beach, Vincent chauffeurs the family only to be forced into the passenger seat by Jessie after speeding through packed traffic because he sensed a pursuer. While past paranoid episodes only put Vincent at risk, his aggressive driving could have killed Jessie and her child – all because of an unnamed threat that Vincent (and, thanks to Winocour’s camera work, the audience) feel must be real.

One of the movie’s most brilliant scenes follows, as a frayed Vincent sits removed from the beach-going family, both their protector and their potential greatest danger. There’s no dramatic outburst from the stoic Vincent. He is a golem, gripped by the panic inside his head.

His is a slow burn.

Then, as the group departs the beach, the threat becomes instantly, impossibly real. Glass shatters. Ears ring. Disorder reigns. A kidnapping attempt is made on Jessie, and Vincent’s battle-hardened, paranoia-sharpened reflexes kick into gear. Vincent dispatches the attackers, but is wounded in the process.

Jessie, while thankful, is visibly distraught at Vincent’s ruthless efficacy. Despite his pleadings to seek police protection, Jessie demands that the party stay at Maryland.

His paranoia vindicated, Vincent calls in back-up in the form of his old friend Denis (Paul Hamy) to both defend the family and soothe the rift between him and Jessie. A downpour that night obscures Maryland’s security cameras, and while the three adults try their best to unwind, Vincent’s paranoia – stoked by the knowledge his fears are real – keeps him restless. During one of the film’s rare light moments (a kitchen scene where Vincent’s feeling of removal ever-so-slightly diminishes), Maryland loses power.

Just like that, the darkness returns. Glass shatters. Alarms sound. Footsteps pound.

Vincent activates.

What follows is some of the tensest cinema I’ve ever seen. The dark house, amplified by a potent blend of Vincent’s soldiering instincts and intense paranoia, becomes an environment dominated by cat-and-mouse anxiety. Here, Gesaffelstein’s score and Wincour’s camera again carry the day. The result is thrilling, disturbing, and absolutely incredible.

Vincent successfully dispatches the intruders, saves the family, and even rescues Denis from the brink of death. Despite his heroics, Maryland is littered with the effects of his paranoia-charged brutality. The thankful Jessie, happening upon the results of the violence that saved her life, looks at Vincent with graciousness and fear. The scene fades to black.

While the movie ends with Vincent and Jessie embracing, the brilliance of this film is in the jagged edges of their relationship, brought menacingly to life through intimate cinematography and a pulsing, lurching techno score. The audience is brought into Vincent, made to feel as he feels as events unfold before him.

This invitation into the human mind is made more jarring by Vincent’s crippling paranoia. After all, projecting onto a relatable character is as Hollywood cliche as a TMZ tour. Here, there’s no projection, and for many, there’s certainly no relatability. The result feels unlike anything else I’ve seen. It’s captivating, intense, and wholly welcome – if film is meant as an experience, why not truly experience it?

The main thing preventing me from raving about “Disorder” is its sense of pacing. I kid you not, to enjoy this movie, you must forfeit 45 minutes of your life to struggle through the introduction. Then, with nearly an hour gone by, prepare yourself to shrug through a series of dubious and unbelievable character choices that conveniently deliver tempo when the action on screen calls for it.

For example: why does Jessie insist on going to the beach if her husband hired her a bodyguard? Does she not think anything of the armed stranger now sharing her address? Speaking of her address, why does she insist on staying at Maryland after the kidnapping attempt? Even a trite “my husband told me not to trust the police” would have disdainfully sufficed.

Instead, we are offered nothing, and the disdain – just like Vincent’s episodes – multiplies in its dreadful isolation.

Yet, this is secondary to what “Disorder” truly has to offer: a visceral, thrilling “show don’t tell” style of character development that hurls you into the abyss, your bungee just long enough to touch the bottom, before yanking you out again. If you come into “Disorder” expecting an action movie, thriller, or traditional art piece, expect to leave disappointed. Yet, approach the film with empathy, and Winocour’s psychological thriller will prove deeply rewarding. 

 

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Capital Investment

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Capital Investment

One year ago, this website was a scribble in a notebook. Next to "blog?" lay sketches, to-do's, and anything else I could put on paper to take my mind off Intro to Accounting. Looking back on those scribbles, 2016 has been an exercise in realization - from sketches to photos, ideas to words, I've tried to define myself by pulling the intangible out of the clouds and making it real.

Before I get all "myth of Prometheus," it's important to note that 1) I'm still new to all of this and 2) I'm still learning more every single day. By all accounts, I'm just a kid with some hobbies and a blog. However, thanks to you - you, the reader, the wearer, the supporter - that crusade towards making took its next step.

 My new baby: a Nikon D5300 w/ 18-55mm lens.

My new baby: a Nikon D5300 w/ 18-55mm lens.

This November, I made my first investment into... well, me. That same Intro to Accounting class taught me that an enterprise applying earned funds back into itself for the purpose of further growth is called "capital investment." Purchasing a DSLR with money earned through my creative ventures, then, is as close as I'll get. 

I've got a long ways to go before I take objectively good photos (that "learning more every day" bit), but for now, I'm damn proud. Below are some photos from my first week of playing with the camera. If you have DSLR experience, feel free to comment and criticize. Otherwise, thank you - the reader, the wearer, the supporter - for propelling me here. 

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Today as always, thank you for reading.

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"La Linea Roja" by Nicolas Rivals (2016)

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"La Linea Roja" by Nicolas Rivals (2016)

With neon tubes and the Spanish countryside as his lonesome companions, Paris-based photographer Nicolas Rivals painted a journey. Titled "La Linea Roja," Rivals' photo essay contrasts the iridescent glow of manmade light with the eerie stillness of the hinterlands at night. The results are alien, even chilling: artificial shapes glow with inorganic intensity, both a part of and wholly removed from the plants and trees they've invaded as support.

Yet, despite the almost predatory discomfort one feels watching the lights in the darkness, there's a subtly-attractive, even futuristic quality to Rivals' photos. How many movies portray man augmenting nature? How many rock album covers create similar scenes? Even as cruel, glowing, geometric fangs stare back from a once-tranquil forest, it's hard not to feel awed by their possibility. View the rest of the photos in the series below: 

All photos courtesy of the artist and DesignBoom.com.

 

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Hajime Narukawa's "Authagraph" (2016)

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Hajime Narukawa's "Authagraph" (2016)

Since 1957, winners of Japan's annual Good Design Award have represented the pinnacle of Japanese design to the world. Past GDA honorees have included powered wheelchairs, industrial robots, and even Nike's Flyknit Racer - all the more reason why this year's Good Design Grand Award winner wowed both judges and designers alike.

"Authagraph," the 2016 Good Design Grand Award honoree, is a world map. The map, plotted by Tokyo architect Hajime Narukawa, is an innovative portrayal of Earth's geography designed to correct misconceptions caused by the Mercator Projection, what most envision when they think of the "map of the world." First plotted in 1569 by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, the Euro-centric "Mercator Map" dramatically distorts the size of both Greenland and Antarctica, with no rational reason behind the deceptions other than Mercator's apparent wants to put Europe at the center of the globe.

Narukawa's "AuthaGraph" replots the size and location of continents according to a process that represents parts of a sphere as equally-sized regions of a tetrahedron. The inside of the finished tetrahedron is then cut out, allowed the shape to flatten into a rectangle with aspect ratio root(3):4. The final result: a rectangular world map that accommodates for both landmass size and the curvature of the Earth in an accurate way.

While "Authagraph" is unfamiliar at first, the image it presents has deep ramifications for how we manage our increasingly-imperiled planet. If humans had spent the past 450 years looking at properly-sized Africa, Asia, and Antarctica, one can only imagine the effect on our policies.

Check out more about "Authagraph" on the Japanese Good Design Awards site here, or even purchase a poster of the map here

 

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Swimming Up A Waterfall

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Swimming Up A Waterfall

The following first appeared in an issue of Consider Magazine published October 20, 2016. The prompt supplied asked contributors their opinion on the future of media. All words are my own.

A mere three decades after creating the “Information Superhighway,” we’ve come to a fork in the road.

On one side lies the path most traveled: popular media will inevitably become more digital. 45% of the world now has Internet access, and as that number continues to grow, the same fundamental tendencies that link us all will live online as well. As a species, humans seek novelty, convenience, and stimulus, all three of which are breathtakingly more efficient to transmit through fiber-optic cabling than pressed letterhead. As Digital Features Editor of SHEI, it is my job to facilitate that transmission.

On any given week, I edit 2-4000 words of text, provide everything from language consultation to art direction, and publish original content to SHEI’s many-thousands readership, all from a laptop that cost me less than one month’s rent. What used to take a newsroom and a factory press is now the sole charge of a college junior who needs a Google Calendar alert to remember rent is due.

What a time to be alive.

The purpose of the above isn’t to flex SHEI’s production ability – instead, it’s all about efficiency. If one bored kid in a Starbucks (whose only real costs are his laptop and a latte) can do what once took the work of many, there becomes a rational economic argument for change. Add in the information commoditization offered by social media and the advent of free-to-consumer, advertising-driven news sources, and that rational economic argument only grows louder.

In 2016, we are living in the aftermath of that conflict’s opening salvo: “new media publishers” like Buzzfeed and The Daily Beast have eaten traditional publishers’ lunch to the point where the formerly-impenetrable stalwarts (The New York Times; Conde Nast) must either adapt to this digitalization (and its accompanying revenue models) or face some rather uncomfortable choices. The Times chose T Brand Studio; Conde chose magazine closures. Both were forced into layoffs.

In short: the future of media is digital. Denying this fact is like swimming up a waterfall.

However, while our shimmering digital future appears bright at first, it is naught but gilded: the same economic arguments that dictate the print-to-digital transition have directly sown the seeds of digital media’s worst offenses.

In the last year alone, we’ve seen a tide of ethical breaches directly linked to our hurried embrace of ad-driven, real-time “free” media: Facebook’s Trending Topics, emboldened native advertisers, and the scourge that is algorithmic news filtering. None of the preceding would exist without the new and unfamiliar goal of media to inform people of events that conform to how their world is shaped, not the events that shape their world.

Simply put, if you wrap that novelty/convenience/stimulus trifecta in content someone already agrees with, that person is more susceptible to your message – whether that’s “vote Trump” or “buy these shoes.” What they are not is an analytical, informed, individual human being.

The solution to this stunting of growth lies squarely on that “other path.” I believe the future of thought remains soundly with the past: safely, securely, in print. While those rational economic arguments from the above may mean it’s no longer possible to make a ruinous fortune in publishing, the printed word – in its traditional human-curated, “pay for access” form - must survive.

Are humans inherently biased? Yes. But in the age of digital media, that bias is mitigated by the tangible publishing of a static object. Printed newspapers don’t change in real time because you googled “Nike sneakers.”

In addition, the selection of worthy articles by a vision-driven professional team will provide the diversity of thought needed to nurture a complex, nuanced view of the world. You and I will learn from the same Wall Street Journal, not from personalized News Feeds that handfeed us only what we already want to see.

For these reasons, it is my firm opinion that digital media is biased against providing the intellectual discomfort human beings need to develop, leaving print media to nurture thought and stoke positive growth.

To tie it in a bow: SHEI is fortunate enough to publish both on the web and in a biannual printed magazine. While our website is “viewed” by thousands, when writers look to publish the sort of original editorial content that makes an impact on their world, they ask me first to put it in ink.

I’m more optimistic than I am offended.

 

Additional reading:

Facebook admits it must do more to stop the spread of misinformation on its platform - TechCrunch

New York Times Asks Subscribers to Stay Loyal After "This Erratic and Unpredictable Election" - Deadline

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THE PLAYBOOK: A Brief History of the Village Halloween Parade

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THE PLAYBOOK: A Brief History of the Village Halloween Parade

"New Orleans may have its debauchery-fueled Carnival parties during Mardi Gras - where the streets fill with jazz bands, colorful characters, and the intricately-feathered costumes of the Mardi Gras Indians - but New York has a raucous nighttime festival all its own: the Village Halloween Parade."

On this week's edition of THE PLAYBOOK (a new biweekly publication by Greats Brand), Complex editor and New York's own Jian DeLeon walks us through a brief history of the city's worst-kept secret: a 200,000 party in the streets, with enough tricks and treats for an entire metropolis. Check out the full story of the Village Halloween Parade at the link here

Happy Halloween!