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near death

someone I dearly love nearly died in a car accident yesterday.

she’s alright—i found out when she called me while i was walking home.

i had been annoyed and a bit frustrated from my train ride home—packed, stuffy, hot, and uncomfortable.

i was happy to be off that train— and she was happy to be alive.

that train ride wasn’t so bad, after all.

more people doesn’t equal better’

Volkswagen has a new logo. Design critique aside, one line stuck out to me from their press release:

The design was implemented with the full integration of all departments of the company in the record time of nine months using a powerhouse concept developed by Volkswagen especially for this purpose. A total of 19 internal teams and 17 external agencies were involved in the project.

That is…a lot.

There’s a term in our industry, design by committee.” It’s usually a negative term, implying that if you put dozens of people on a single project, it inevitably loses focus and turns out like shit.

Volkswagen’s new logo is not shitty, but the boasting about how 19 internal teams and 17 external agencies were involved makes little sense. Moby Dick wasn’t written by hiring a team of thirty Herman Melville’s.1


  1. I should caveat and say that, especially for branding projects at the scale of Volkswagen, you must involve your internal teams and stakeholders—at least some of them. Overhauling a brand identity should feel like a collaborative effort, even if the execution and graphic design work is left to the professionals.

all of my playlists for you to hear

You like music? Me too. I’ve got a bunch of rag-tag, disorganized playlists sitting on my Spotify. I added some cool images, renamed them, polished them up a little bit, and now you can see them.

See my profile on Spotify

See my bookmarks (with links to playlists)

a report on my longest ever fast (56 hours)

My first fast” was about a year ago: 18 hours. I remember it being difficult, but a fun mental challenge—and I never thought I’d be able to fast for much longer. This morning, I completed my longest fast to date, 56 hours (2 1/3 days).

After a year, a lot has changed. 18 hours is easy now. The very first time I fasted, I got a headache about 14 hours in. On this 56-hour fast, I didn’t have any headaches, and I didn’t really notice I was hungry until hour 33 or so. (I’ve long since learned that the secret to fasting is to drink tons of water. The hydration alone makes me feel so much better during and after fasting.)

I’ve done 36-hour fasts, which have been pretty difficult. This time around, I stopped feeling hungry around hour 37 (halfway into day 2). I went on a walk in the rain, came back to the office, and felt 100% energized for the rest of the day—no food necessary.

The most difficult part of not eating for such a long time isn’t physical, it’s psychological. I want to eat and think I need to, even though my body is energized. (A large part of that problem is that I eat too much sugar, which is addictive and makes you feel like you always need more.)

Nonetheless, I felt great.

The next challenge: a 72-hour (3 days) fast.

(Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. None of this is advice, just a report of my experience. Your mileage may vary.)

i haven’t eaten in two days

Intentionally, of course.

The number one thing that fasting has taught me is that I’m pretty much never hungry; at least in the sense that I think I am. It’s been two days without a single calorie consumed, yet I have plenty of energy. Why is that at noon on any average day I feel like I need to eat?

It’s mostly psychological. The body finds a way to keep going—the sugary shit I eat all the time just makes me feel like I need it.

say what you need to say (but not like that)

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole. (Theodore Levitt)

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (Bob Dylan)

A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed. (Coco Chanel)

You can put any statement into three broad categories:

  1. Academic/full of shit
  2. Simple
  3. Insightful

And any statement can be translated to any of these categories:

  1. Knowledge of the current state of one’s experience is best learned through the living of said experience (when possible), not through second-hand observation.
  2. It’s no use in asking other people what’s going on, just go experience it yourself.
  3. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

It follows that if you want a statement to be impactful, you should translate it as such. As Jeremy Bullmore says in Apples, Insights and Mad Inventors, a good insight is like a refrigerator because the moment you look into it, a light comes on.”1

(Alas, it might take me a long time to be as insightful as the quotations listed above.)


  1. This book is pretty good. I have almost no background on Jeremy Bullmore, the book’s author, but he seems like a most remarkably smart fellow. If you’re into marketing and/or smart writing, it’s worth the quick read.

the most wonderful walk in the world

You are only secure if you can lose your fortune without the additional worse insult of having to become humble. — Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes

I just came back from the most wonderful walk in the world. Weather is perfect in early September. I sauntered and stared at the sunset along with the breeze in the streets. I’m where I want to be. Life couldn’t be much better.

Tomorrow, let’s say the perfect weather goes away. I’m forced to go back home. No more cityscape-sunset. Can I still be happy?

Sure.

So long as you and I remember how temporary the good things” are, we can enjoy them fully. (When bad things” come, we’ll remember that, they too, are temporary.)

you don’t have to do your laundry but you do have to do this

You’re going to have to do laundry again next week, even though you just did it a few days ago. And then after that, you’ll have to do it again. And again. And again. Until you die.

Well, maybe not. If you make a shit ton of money you can pay someone to do your laundry for you. You could also make enough money to have a personal assistant, your own chef, a personal trainer, a chief of staff, even a spokesperson.

But one thing you’ll never be able to buy your way out of is managing you. There are duties to attend to, impulses to control, and values to uphold that only you can be responsible for. Better yet, even if you succeed today you’ll have to wake up, get out of bed, and do the same exact thing tomorrow.

a six-hour walk

Planned for five, walked for about six.

It’s difficult, but settle into the tedium. During work if I take a walk, I know I’m only off for a few minutes. I have to pay attention to where I’m going and how far away I am so I can return to the office. But when I’ve set aside six hours specifically to explore, there’s no such concern. The repetitiveness of putting one foot in front of the other becomes a goal in and of itself.

While six hours on one walk seems crazy, if I had stayed home, I’d have wasted my evening. I much prefer this alternative.

Why six hours? It’s a lot easier to make a massive commitment (for me) than it is to make a bunch of relatively small decisions. For example, when I decide to fast for 16, 24, or even 36 hours, it’s easy to say no to food; I’ve already committed to not eating. However, if I’m eating all day and have to make five separate decisions to eat less, it’s a bit more challenging.

It follows that instead of trying to keep myself focused for six hours while I have free time, it’s simpler to go on a really long walk. Not much you can do when you’re a long way from home.

how to predict the future of music

A few years ago, Skrillex posted this mix on his YouTube channel. I knew I loved EDM, house, and even dubstep”—as tainted as that word has become. But I remember discovering, through Birdy Nam Nam, trap,” a new genre I’d never heard of. At the time, even EDM hadn’t fully become a part of pop music.

Fast forward a few years, and all of those genres that were considered obscure or niche are wildly popular. Countless pop songs adopted an electronic-style bass drop, or you can hear the wild snare drums consistently found in trap music. Skrillex has produced countless chart-toppers with his unique style that just years ago was brand new. In a different vein, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, Post Malone, Young Thug, DaBaby and more have adopted the trap sound and taken it to the top of the billboards.

Though predicting the future of music is difficult, the first step might be to pay attention to all the obscure, weird, unknown music that middle-aged white women would balk at. This applies as well to just about anything that’s constantly changing—what’s on the fringe today ends up in the mainstream tomorrow.

something you should know before you say pop music is trash”

Maybe it’s all formulaic and it’s only meant to sell as many records as possible. Maybe a lot of it sounds the same. Maybe the messages are empty, boring, unproductive. Sure. It might be.

But there’s also plenty of indie,” underground,” unknown” artists that are fucking terrible. Sales, popularity: irrelevant. It’s about what you enjoy.

For a long time, I refused to listen to modern rap” because I was such a 90s hip-hop elitist. I thought I was so much better for knowing about Nas’ Illmatic. (For the record, if you don’t know Illmatic, that should probably change.)

But let’s be honest: DaBaby is fire, Adele is amazing, Billie Eilish is incredible, J. Cole is a genius. (Taylor Swift is utter shit, but not because she’s popular.) Good music is good music.

If the music is good, everything else should be irrelevant.

this is why you should be excited about robots stealing your job

Chase Bank recently signed a contract with Persado, a software company that engineers an AI copywriter.

The AI wrote a line of copy that appeared on the Chase website and performed significantly better than any lines the humans wrote. Persado has a database of over a million words along with data on how certain words make people feel. It’s incredible technology, and it works.

So, what happens to all the copywriters?

If some similar software starts automating graphic design, what happens to all the designers?

I’m not sure, but I can tell you who won’t lose: the people who developed Persado.

It’s happened many times throughout history. The railroad took jobs from horses. The outsourced laborer took jobs from Detroit. The computer took jobs from operators.

While some see that as scary, others see their next company, or their next job.

It doesn’t matter what new technology is sweeping the world by storm. It matters whether we find something above and beyond to do. Now’s a great time to look for that thing—or tag along with the companies and individuals who are doing it.

how to write a headline that makes you billions of dollars

Visit any company’s website and you’ll likely read a headline like:

Though I’m sure all those headlines are well-written and carefully crafted, they all sound the same. Until one of them doesn’t.

Imagine you used to carry around a Sony Walkman and chose your music every morning from a big binder of CDs. One day, someone hands you an iPod and says, 1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Sold.

While the 1,000 songs in your pocket” headline is brilliant, the iPod is also a brilliant product, and it’s worth sharing with the world. That makes writing about it all the more meaningful.

To write a headline that makes you billions of dollars, do something special that’s valuable to others, and then write about it.

(Otherwise you’re, what we call in the business, full of shit.)

the hero i met who lived up to expectations

They say, Never meet your heroes.” Surely, they will disappoint you and fall short of your expectations.

Before joining COLLINS, I was told about this remarkable young designer on the team. Talented. Hustler. Focused. And a wonderful person, as well. I did my research, and I was impressed. ‌That’s the sort of talented I want to be in a few years.

I’ve since met Leo and worked with him for the past three months—and he’s every bit what I heard about him (and more.) Great teacher. Brilliant designer. Wonderful character.

Incredibly grateful to have worked with you, albeit for a short time. Best of luck on your next adventure.

I should have become an engineer

I’ve thought to myself many times today, Graphic design is cool, but it would’ve been way cooler to write great software.” Which might be true—I don’t know.

Then I thought about the other side of that equation: What if, instead of graphic design, I had taught myself software engineering? I’d probably be looking at the design companies and thinking to myself, Software engineering is cool, but it would’ve been way cooler to be able to design.”

Luckily, I don’t have to live in the painful purgatory between what I am and what I want to be. 1. Striving should never make you feel like shit, and 2. I’m approximately five years old and have plenty of time to continue to gain skills.

So goes the journey.

how to beat a grandmaster in chess

Expected an easy trick?

here’s why i don’t believe in storage”

Maybe I should get a new dresser for all my clothes.”

I need more cabinet space for all my stuff.”

My closet is not nearly big enough for my wardrobe.”

Okay. What’s the goal of organizing?

I don’t want it to be so cluttered. It’s stressing me out that everything is everywhere.”

Two options: you could get a new dresser, rent a bigger apartment with more cabinet space and a bigger closet…

or you could have less shit.

I promise you, option two will feel a lot more liberating than having more storage to create a black hole of your belongings.

To each their own, I suppose.

am i wasting away my good young years?

It’s late August and we’ve caught a little glimpse of fall. A nice breeze, 75º out, partly cloudy. New York, New York.

School’s starting up. Students shipping in. Washington Square Park buzzes with bright young faces excited to be in the best city in the world.

Am I wasting away my youth? Perhaps. I could have finished high school, lived at home while going to college in Austin, spent my evenings with all sorts with lovely people. I could have spent my time in class, studied for exams, accrued credits for four years and walked out.

That’s a perfectly viable option.

But life is more than exams and credits.

Another option: I could move to New York, jump into an agency full-time at a young age, embrace my love for work, work, and more work.

Also viable. But life is also more than work.

What now?

@grahammitchell: a thank you to my best school teacher

I’m eternally thankful to the best computer science teacher on the planet, Graham Mitchell.

When I was a sophomore in high school I took his Computer Science I class. I’d been learning Java from his book (Learn Java the Hard Way) for months prior to school starting. Each program earned you a certain amount of points which translated to your grade—by starting early, I was already ahead by almost an entire semester. He structured class in a way that didn’t hold us back—unlike any other class I’ve ever taken.

Being so far ahead meant I got to play a lot of chess (fun), and occasionally write a few more programs (also fun).

That year was his last year teaching.

In the last eight or so weeks of the year, Mr. Mitchell switched it up—he started teaching us Python instead of Java. I remember him mentioning that Python is much more forgiving and, for our purposes, more practical. While Java is useful for the AP Computer Science test, Python might be useful for a real-world scenario later on.

He was right. Python is about all I know—though I’ve tried some Javascript and even Common Lisp just for fun. But Python has given me the ability on multiple occasions to write programs that seriously helped me.

Once, at my first job, I wrote a program to help our purchasing department import a ton of data they were doing by hand. Recently, I wrote kindle2notion, a script that saved me from tons of manual data entry. In his class, I learned how to use regular expressions, the command line, and ViM—all things that have come in handy since then.

Would I have survived without this knowledge? Of course. Am I thankful for it? 110%.

Thanks, Mr. Mitchell, for allowing me and teaching me how to learn this stuff on my own.

i wrote a program that saves endangered puppies

No, I didn’t. I wrote a much more boring program. But read on.

Reading on a Kindle is great. It’s easier to hold than a paperback. No bending books. It has a backlight, so I can read in the dark. It’s light, even if I’m reading a massive book.

Most importantly, I can make highlights and take notes as I’m reading very quickly, without ruining a printed book.

But…

The highlights just sit on my Kindle and I can’t access them in one central place.

You might know about my Reading List. It’s a database on Notion of every book I’ve ever read. Where I’ve taken the time to add them, it includes notes and highlights from the book. The problem: I have forty books that I’ve read on Kindle—thousands of highlights—but they’re not in the database.

the solution

I exported all my notes in .HTML from the Kindle for macOS app. I put them all in one folder along with my Python script (even though there are better ways to do this.) Then I run the script, and it gives me a new set of plaintext files that are formatted so my Reading List database in Notion can understand it.

Simple. Sort of.

Why not just export from Kindle into Notion? When you export highlights from Kindle, unfortunately the formatting gets all fucked up. To fix it, I’d have to go through every file and manually edit them. My Python script fixes that.

The HTML files are also messy—because of all the HTML code. My program cleans them up and only returns the text, which is the part I want.

Here’s the program, if you’re interested in it:

kindle2notion.py

example

This is what Kindle gives me upon export:

(This is the HTML behind that:)

This is what my Python script gives me:

Which ends up looking like this:

a caveat

I didn’t write this so that you could download my program and use it. Unless you want to and know how, in which case, go for it.

I’m not a programmer. I only know enough Python to make some tasks a little easier for myself.

Case in point, it took me ~6 days of programming for 1–2 hours after work to finish this program. I could have hired someone on a site like TaskRabbit to help me clean up all these notes, but the point wasn’t efficiency.

The point was that I’ve spent weeks on end in front of my work computer in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. To keep myself challenged and excited about different things, I have to take on new challenges, such as this little programming project.

It’s another sandbox. And I loved working on this. Again, the code is amateur, but I solved so many problems in the process. I learned about the BeautifulSoup library, reminded myself how for loops worked, practiced my regex skills, used ViM like a semi-pro, and in the process had a lot of fun. I was staying up super late to work on this, which means it kept me stimulated and excited.

I truly cannot ask for any more than that.

re-creating my website—and a suggestion for you

Previously, I was running my website on Cargo and posting daily on a separate Tumblr blog.

It worked, but there were a few problems:

Last Friday evening, I found a piece of amazing blogging software called Blot.im. It’s simple:

  1. Blot creates a folder in your Dropbox.
  2. You place text files or images (or other files) in this folder.
  3. Blot automatically publishes them on your blog.

Brilliant.

I set it up very quickly, messed with the site templates for a few hours, and now the site’s fully functional. That’s hopefully where you’re reading this post.

the vision—sort of

Seth Godin has built an empire largely based off the thousands of readers of his daily blog. While I don’t expect to do the same, writing every day feels right. Having a public place to publish keeps me accountable.

A secondary effect is that the people who are interested in what I’m doing have a place to access me. These one-way internet relationships don’t amount to much, but one day they might.

further steps

On Tumblr, you can schedule posts in the future and have them automatically share to Twitter when they post. This was helpful for me since I don’t actively use Twitter but I like to stay active there if I can.

To emulate this on Blot, I set up a Zap on Zapier that 1) looks for new posts from my RSS feed, 2) adds them to my Twitter queue on Buffer, and then 3) Buffer shares whatever the next post in the queue is at 12:12 PM EST every day.

a suggestion

It’s hard to go running if you make running hard.

You could make running difficult by (falsely) thinking that you need to:

If all those conditions need to be met for you to go running, chances are you won’t do it very often. In reality, you just need a decent pair of running shoes, some shorts and a t-shirt to go running. It’s simple. You just have to make it simple for yourself.

The same goes for creating. Part of the reason you won’t find me painting anytime soon is because it takes a lot of setup. You need a canvas, a working surface, paints, all sorts of things. For me to write, however, all I need is my laptop. (For me to write something great is a different story.)

Make it as easy as you can for yourself, and you’ll find yourself far more willing to do whatever it is you need to do.

avoid useless switcharoos

In the past two years, my site has lived on Wordpress, Squarespace, Cargo, Tumblr—and I’ve tried out Webflow, Ghost, Svbtle. I landed here an Blot.im.

While some of those switches have been for good reason (Blot is considerably cheaper and simpler than Cargo), more than worth the hours I spent re-creating my site, other switches have been useless. If in two months, I decide I want to use some other service, I’m just chasing novelty, which isn’t inherently good.

A perfect example: I switch the typeface on my site way too often. In the past two years, I’ve used: Roboto, Helvetica Neue, Px Grotesk, Roc Grotesk, DIN, Baskerville, Poppins, Cinderblock—far too many.1

While that seems harmless, every afternoon I spent messing around with new typefaces is an afternoon I didn’t spend reading, writing, or living my life.

So, a challenge for myself: avoid useless switcharoos.2


  1. In late 2018, I dropped $300 USD on NB International. Truly beautiful typeface, and that’s what I use as of this writing.

  2. A potent article about this theme: Confessions of a Recovering Lifehacker by John Pavlus

full-stack

In software engineering, there are “full-stack engineers.” Full-stack means that they can work across all the parts of software, from the front-end coding user interfaces to a back-end database. They could take an entire project from start to finish on their own and not need the help of anyone else.1

For example, a full-stack engineer might know HTML, CSS, Javascript, and ReactJS for front-end work, core programming languages like Perl, Ruby, and Python, and have experiences with backend databases.

What does a full-stack graphic designer look like? Probably someone who can:

The challenge is that it’s really difficult to be great at everything. However, it does give you a lot of power. A full-stack engineer can quickly and independently create (small) things without the help of an entire engineering team. A full-stack designer, similarly, should be able to quickly and independently make things, a significant advantage over the many people who have ideas but have no skills to bring them to life.


  1. This breadth in skillset is great, though it usually means you can’t be as good at any one of those things as you’d like.

low-tech

Sitting on the bus on the way home today, marveling at all the technology around me. Screens, lights, connected by dozens of computers with little programs and scripts to keep them functioning. Human-engineered combinations of metals, glass, plastics. Tens of thousands of individual parts in the engine, the transmission, hell, even the windshield wipers.

All together, it’s a remarkable symphony. Each individual part, however, is relatively simple. Gears, levers, screws, fasteners—things that have been around for a very long time and haven’t changed very much. Each computer that keeps such a machine functioning boils down to zeros and ones. Put all those simple pieces together in just the right way…

Every new invention is built on the back of another. So it goes that inventing the next thing means you first have to know what’s in front of you so you can appropriate, borrow, and steal a few ideas to make something new.

Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Yes, that’s true. Great artists, most importantly, have done their research and know exactly where to steal” from to build their next creation.

the same in honor and disgrace

Self-reliant, impartial to suffering
and joy, to clay, stone, or gold,
the resolute man is the same
to foe and friend, to blame and praise.
The same in honor and disgrace,
to ally and enemy,
a man who abandons involvements
transcends the qualities of nature.

Bhagavad-Gita, translated by Barbara Stoler Miller


for a long time, equanimity was my main word. to stay level-headed in the face of all situations. specifically ones where i was disappointed in my performance.

one summer a few years ago, i played pool every single day. i was determined to be great at the game, or at least as great as i could be. months of hard work later, i still wasn’t very good. that infuriated me, and almost every time i missed a few shots in a row, i lost my shit.

i immediately started with the negative self-talk: i’m shit. i should never be allowed to touch a cue ever again. i have no business doing anything if i can’t pot a ball. i don’t deserve anything in this world.

yes—over a game of pool. and i wasn’t even playing against anyone; just practicing.

i acted this way because i thought it made me better. i thought that if you could be equanimous through your failures that it meant you didn’t care enough. if you didn’t care enough, didn’t have enough passion, and you could never get better. 

i was right, sort of. i did get better—though it cost a lot. it cost me happiness, joy, equanimity, peace. i did this with pool, chess, debate, sports, anything that i was striving at, i made my life a living hell because i was focused only on the outcome. instead, i should have realized: i’ll never become perfect. knowing that first is the foundational peace that allows one to move on.

it’s like moving away. if you move away from home angry at where you came from, you’re fixated on the hopefully better outcome of a new place. but you have to come to peace where you are before moving, otherwise you bring your misery along with you.

and so, knowing that in the end there is no perfection, i come to peace first and only then decide to strive. now, that striving takes on a whole new meaning—not one focused on results. 

a striving that, in the face of both success and failure, honor and disgrace, ally and enemy, remains the same steady striving.

fulfilling a need

i could show up at work tomorrow,
collect all the pens in the office,
test all of them,
make sure they work,
throw out the ones that don’t,
lay them out on the ground,
sort them by color,
then by height,
count them,
and then distribute the pens
to everyone in the office.

by the end of the day, i would have done a lot of work.
but nobody needs that.

instead of, “what should i do?” ask, “what does someone need?”

empire state building

there it is!

i can see it from the window in front of my desk. big window. real pretty.

i walk to the other side of the office, i can see One World Trade. big building. real pretty.

new city, new job, new home, but not a new me.

should it be so?

time as a deadline

August 9, 2019 doesn’t mean much to me. I should be baffled—”It’s August already? No way.” But I only realize that when the calendar turns. Then another month goes by and I wonder what happened.

What if we measured time 1) by week, which is more tangible than by month, and 2) in relation to deadlines?

Example: My six month apprenticeship at COLLINS ends on the 3rd day of week 49 of 2019. Today is week 32, day 5. I have less than 17 weeks left.

That is far more tangible than, “My apprenticeship ends in December.”

Further, consider that I started on week 23, day 2. 11 weeks have elapsed; 17 are left, meaning I’m approaching the halfway point. Again, more tangible than: I started in June and it’s already August.”

I mentioned this to someone who countered, “Doesn’t that make it a bit stressful? To always have your mind on a deadline or the fact that time is passing you by?” I guess, but it’s happening either way. I’d rather acknowledge it and try to make each day one worth living than reach the end of the day/week/month/year and realize it’s all passed me by already.

if you write dull shit, it doesn’t matter what you die from”

Charles Bukowski said in an old interview, “If you write dull shit, it doesn’t matter what you die from.” He said something about how there’s glorious ways to die—I think alcohol was one of them. But dying a martyr for your art doesn’t mean anything if what you created was shitty. 

More than book sales and fame, if you write dull shit, you’ll always know it. Even if you start to sell lots of poetry books and get invited to speak and read at this or that event, if you write dull shit, you’re the one who knows it best. You’ll know you faked your way through life and never said the things you really wanted to say. That’s a special sort of hell.

Solution? Don’t write dull shit.

sandals

i look at a lot of art
for someone who hates art.
and i talk to a lot of people
for someone who hates people.
and i read a lot of poetry
for someone who hates poetry.
and i eat a lot of food
for someone who hates food.
and i write a lot of words
for someone who hates words.

and i like you a lot
for someone who
cannot fucking stand
people who wear sandals.

how to compare yourself to the greatest people of all time

I’m often told it’s a mistake to compare my life to the success of others. It’s unrealistic, they say, and perhaps that’s true. Of course I’m not as good a chess player as Bobby Fischer or as visionary as Coco Chanel. It is unrealistic to aspire to be like these people and then be disappointed when I’m not nearly as brilliant. But Coco Chanel and Bobby Fischer are both great people to aspire to (in certain qualities.)

The key is to avoid comparison and just to observe. Bob Dylan looked at Woody Guthrie early in his career and thought there was no matching him. He was right. Even as Dylan would learn and sing Guthrie songs, he would always fall short of being Woody, for obvious reasons. Namely, Bob Dylan is not Woody Guthrie. He became Bob Dylan in the process.

So goes the process of comparison—we look at our idols, try to become like them, fall short, and then become ourselves. A few dangers lie the path. Depression, for one. Falling short makes me feel defeated by all measures. Despite the fact that I’m a solid five years old and there’s no real pressure to be anything substantial yet.

Another, becoming a shitty person. When I read the Steve Jobs biography at twelve, I figured it was okay to be an asshole because Steve did it, and by golly if Steve wasn’t a successful bastard. The fact is, he was. But thinking that I should be like him at such a young age was dangerous.

In the end, it’s all about finding joy in the work—or whatever that feeling is that keeps you going. Charles Bukowski never wanted to be the mythical cult figure that is Charles Bukowski. He just wanted to be drunk and write. I’ll be damned if that wasn’t a great formula for him.

It’s definitely not my path, but whatever mine is, that’s the one to follow.

a playlist of the greatest people in the world

I’m on a down phase right now. Unsure of my work, unsure of my abilities. Unsure if I’m living up to the insane standards I hold myself to.

These people—these are my standard.

Steve Jobs, Coco Chanel, Charles Bukowski, Patrice O’Neal, Ronnie O’Sullivan Bobby Fischer—the greatest. I’m not the greatest at anything yet. I might not be for a while, if ever. (In reality, it’s only about being the best that I can be, even if that’s not number one on the leaderboard.) But these people who were the greatest remind me to stay focused on becoming.

Am I doing what it takes to get there one day in my own life journey? Am I thinking about life, experiencing it, working hard, focusing, poking the universe? Am I attempting to do whatever I’m doing better than it’s been done before?

If too many days go by in a row where the answer to these questions is no, something has to change. Revisiting the videos above reminds me of what to be (and sometimes what not to be.)

sediment

What do I hear? The air conditioning, my new roommate and her friend moving in, a television, some video of Steve Jobs playing on my phone. I don’t see much. It’s pretty dark except for a glow down the hallway from the bedrooms. This new roommate just moved from another state and is starting her new life. Much like I did by deciding to come to New York.

Much like many people have in the past.

Steve Jobs was talking about how in technology, it’s not a field where you create a timeless work. The latest iPhone will inevitably be obsolete in a matter of years, not decades and surely not centuries. The same follows for a laptop or a desktop computer. He observed that this means his contribution is just a small layer of sediment for people in the future to build on, just like he built on the layers of the great scientists, programmers, inventors, and mathematicians of decades past when him and Steve Wozniak created the first Apple computers.

You do something amazing, or perhaps not amazing at all, and then you die along with your work. And people forget about you quickly. All that triumph disappears—even for Steve Jobs. Hearing Steve talk about this and in the background listening to our new roommate move in to her new room and new life—it was a perfect, accurate soundtrack. So goes life, and so goes our small layer of sediment.

Yet resigning to this fact and deciding not to add to the mountain, deciding not to create something with your life, that is the great sin.

On Hold

This blog, as of this post, is on hold until August 1.

For the last 6 months, I have created and published printed magazines titled Diego Segura. For the seventh issue (July 2019), I will not publish a printed booklet, but a documentary-style video.1

As of now, it’s a very vague idea. I intend for it to be a half-hour long. I will treat the video with a similar dramatic, high-contrast black-and-white look that many of my photos on Instagram have. I plan to release the video on YouTube, of course, but possibly also on some sort of physical medium. I’m not sure how I’d feel if there was no physical object to ship.

Why can’t I continue writing every day on this blog?

My magazines consist of writing, photos, and design. Writing on this blog was a great way to write first drafts of content throughout the month and then compile them into a polished publication by the end of the month. However, writing will not be an integral part of this video. So, I’ve decided not to dedicate my time to writing and instead focus on shipping this.

I’ll be back, hopefully with something interesting.

Or, something mediocre. But I’ll have learned something in the process.


  1. That was the plan. It never worked out like I wanted it to, and now I have 13 or so small clips from this project that I’ve yet to release to the world. Maybe one day I’ll throw them out into the world.

i read three books in one day

Very short ones. But still took a lot of time and focus. I enjoyed almost every minute of it.

First, Chairman by Tibor Kalman. A biography of Rolf Fehlbaum, who grew the Vitra furniture company into what it is today. It was mostly pictures, with a beautifully written narrative threaded throughout. Found it on a random shelf at work. 

Second, Erasmus is Late by Liam Gillick. This book was a shitshow. I have no idea what the hell I read. Much of the philosophizing, if I can call it that, went way over my head. The concept, characters, and execution of the book were sort of brilliant. I made it through the entire thing relatively quickly, so it wasn’t too unbearable. But weird as hell. Would not recommend, to be frank, but it did inspire me to think about different ways of writing.

Third, Duchamp’s Last Day by Donald Shambroom. I learned about Marcel Duchamp and his last day alive. How his friends took an important photo of him right after his death. This also happened to Victor Hugo. Was the art collaboration between Man Ray, the photographer, and Marcel Duchamp, even though he was dead? I learned about the readymade, and how Duchamp championed it. This book was a pleasant read. Would recommend, especially if you have some preexisting knowledge on Duchamp.

The Tower and the Bridge

The beauty of a bridge can best be measured by how full of shit it is.

Some bridges have large stone towers at their ends that don’t support any weight at all, they just look strong. Some bridges feature columns in the middle to add some sort of decoration, like structural makeup.

The best bridges perform their duty, requiring no decor and no recognition. Each column, support, nut, and bolt is there for a specific and clear purpose. In short, the best bridges are not full of shit.

David P. Billington’s The Tower and the Bridge changed my perspective on just about everything, and I didn’t realize it until recently. In that 1985 book, he explains what makes a piece of structural art” so great, i.e. the Brooklyn Bridge or the Eiffel Tower. As I understood it, great structures do exactly what they need to do without excess.

We often have an impulse to do more. In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile, he spends many pages to describe examples of iatrogenics—where a treatment or action causes more harm than it does good. These include lawmaking: When something happens, lawmakers make haste to pass a law that may or may not be ineffective or even harmful, and medicine: a doctor might not diagnose a patient correctly and put them through risky treatments for no reason at all.

It’s the same in art and design. We should do more. Add more. Make it more complicated than it needs to be, add decoration, something! Something to make our job look like more. 

In graphic design, that’s easy to do. Adding more typefaces, more colors, and more versions adds zero cost to the project, only a few minutes of your time. In a bridge, however, adding more costs lots of money, lots of time, and lots of planning. Not to mention, there’s risk involved. The bridge could collapse if the designers and engineers don’t do their jobs correctly.

Perhaps this is why bridges are some of the most fascinating design objects in the world. By necessity, they are (usually) reduced to their core elements. They don’t add more than necessary, because there’s not an unlimited budget. And they work—at least those still standing.

Encounter

Adorable. Truly, all three of you.

Classic group. Wild one, smart one, and timid one who is just along for the ride. (Smart one was easily the cutest.)

I had a girl with me, but the wild one—who was sober, surprisingly—still found a way to exchange numbers.

A few moments later, I looked her in the eye and said with a smile, I bet you’re batshit insane,” or something pseudo-rude like that. But I said it endearingly. Righteuously—as if I was just acknowledging a fact and in some odd way, approving of the fact that this girl is probably a little crazy. No harm in that, just a little shocking to hear two minutes into a conversation with a complete stranger.

Hugs were exchanged, hands were briefly held, and off we went. Happy Fourth.