Category cities


I remember living in Brooklyn in the late 80s. It was amazing.

Subway trains were living canvases.

Hip hop was at the beginning stages of getting traction.

Manhattan wasn’t as user friendly as it has since become.

It was dirty, raw and magical.

For all these reasons, The Boombox project by Lyle Owerko is worth checking out.


Violins, Made in Brooklyn

I often think of the romantic, timeless elements connected to surfing. The sport has been around for centuries; it was the sport of kings in the early days. A surfer is literally immersed in nature when they practice it. Even in these modern times when nothing is handcrafted, most surfboards still are. I also love how accessible it is; you don’t have to pay $70 for a lift ticket to go surfing. You just go down to the edge of land and paddle into another world.

It’s because of all those reasons that the below film about Sam Zygmuntowicz resonate with me.

First of all, I love Brooklyn and miss it dearly. The idea that this gentleman is hand making violins in Brooklyn made my day… especially because of the way he talks about his craft. When Sam finishes a violin and hands it over to an artist… half of the story is done. Watching him speak reminds me of Chris Christensen, a deft master in the world of hand-shaped surfboards. That comparison went even further when the violin maker used the phrase “keeping the violins hot-rodded at all times.” Like Chris, Sam clearly has a deep connection with a very discerning clientele. The vignette below is a gem, like most things from A Continuous Lean.

In 2012 anything hand made is worth stopping, understanding and appreciating.

Kites as a social network

A few months back I was deep in the heart of Rocinha, the largest favela (slum) in Brazil, when one of the locals pointed out the kites.

In a near vertical slum of an estimated quarter million people there are small kites, 12″ paper squares, flying everywhere.

When we reached our destination, perhaps 3/4 of the way up to the top, I noticed the larger picture regarding the kites… they were interacting.

The kids, like the one to the left, stand on the roofs of their houses (which are DIY structures, concrete blocks, sans rebar and five to seven stories tall). The houses themselves could be the subject of a long series of blog posts.

But this post is about the kites.

Kids stand on the roofs of their homes and fly self-made kites about 100 feet up.

And they dogfight.

To make things more interesting they embed crushed glass into the string of the kite… so they can cut one another’s string.

What hit me watching tens… maybe sixty kites in the air was the social interaction going on. These kids had created their own social network. It had norms and expectations, loosely coupled and tightly aligned.

If it feels like I’m reading too much into this… I don’t think I am.

The term social network may sound new but the concept has been around since the dawn of man. There are high school cliques, college fraternities, millions of special interest groups, family ties, etc.

It was wild to see a social network a hundred feet above my head, created from… nothing… and capturing the imagination of a whole lot of kids with very little access to modern life, let alone Facebook.

Creating worlds via editing bits

In the summer of 1977 I was introduced to a new world, it was the world that George Lucas wanted me to see in his American epic space opera film series Star Wars. Like that film and more recently Christopher Nolan’s Inception… the below offers a quick view into a world which only has the boundaries that exist in our imaginations.

Nice little vignette.

Here comes the neighborhood

I like street art for the same reason I like Warhol and Linux. The concept of a scalable framework, accessible by more than a select few… is a good thing.

CCTV: Going up and then left

The CCTV building (left) by Rem Koolhaus rises above all the major architectural feats of the last decade.

The structure offers a near-perfect representation of this era; the building mixes stark, modern lines and takes healthy advantage of complex math-fueled computer-aided design. But in today’s day and age that’s not enough to stand out… a number of buildings do those things. The Bird’s Nest (鸟巢) comes to mind with it’s complete lack of symmetry. And of course Gehry’s fantastical forms seem to have more in common with sculpture than they do with architecture.

The reason this building rises above the others, at least to me, is because it rises so differently.

I cannot think of another building in the world, let alone a major work, that rises perpendicular to the earth and then takes two ninety degrees turns before it acknowledges the laws of gravity and continues back toward ground.

This building is beyond what most people could even imagine to be possible and for that reason… I love it.


Years ago I was standing in line waiting to board a domestic plane in Brazil. I vividly remember the line itself, seemingly every person in the line had an instrument.

It piqued my interest and I asked a few people if they were in a band together. The answer was no.

They were Brazilians.

Music is one more element that makes Brazilians special.

Rio, like New York City, is a bouillabaisse of cultures melted together over centuries.

If you get the chance, go.

If you go, find a local to help you see the diamonds in the rough… as there are both diamonds and rough.

I recommend four things.

  1. Acai from corner-shop fruit vendors. Like Guinness in Ireland, it’s different there… it’s thicker, stronger… better.
  2. Rocinha. Largest slum in Latin America. With a local it feels surreal, not dangerous. A trip to Rocinha will mark you for life.
  3. Footvolley. There are usually a few games happening at the local beaches. This makes college hacky sack circles look like still life paintings.
  4. Prainha. If you surf this is a nice spot 30 minutes south of Rio, a bit local but stunningly beautiful.

Post-postmodern hip hop

Hip hop’s roots can be traced to toasting in Jamaica during late 60s. If you want to go deeper you could make a case that the original DNA comes from spoken word crooning in the 50s or even the delta blues from the turn of the 20th century.

But most of us point to the 70s when hip hop ignited, perhaps even exploded, in the South Bronx and swiftly became perhaps THE communication vehicle for urban storytelling.

Fast forward to today and, in my opinion, hip hop is lost.

It’s become a self-absorbed, nihilistic and even comical (in a bad way) musical genre. Of course there are exceptions to this, The Roots come to mind.

All the above said, This song somehow transcends time. It feels old and new at the same time, classic and trendy. I love the simple back beat, the crisp delivery and soulful punch.


Quivers: Rio’s Rocinha Surf Esocla

I spent some time with the crew from Rocinha Surf Escola yesterday. Bocão (far right) and the local crew gave us a tour of the Rocinha favela. I can’t do the story of the Rocinha Surf Escola justice here. It’s larger than a blog entry, it’s already a documentary. If you haven’t seen Surfing Favela you must (excerpt here, film details here). Here is another interview with him.

Bocão is an amazing guy and his life’s legacy is massive.

Spend a second and read up on Rocinha. It’s the largest slum in Brazil with an estimated quarter million people as residents. It’s a defining element of Rio.

With this post I simply wanted to point to the school’s quiver. It’s made up mostly of broken boards that Bocão has put back together. There are so many metaphors that spring to life when I think of this man I almost don’t know where to start. I’ll simply say that he’s saving lives and starting futures via ding repair, mentoring kids and offering love and encouragement.

In a way it’s Bocão’s quiver… and yet he’d probably correct me if I said that. I’m guessing he’d tell me the boards belong to all the kids in the favela next to the surf school.

I also snapped a pic (below) of boards in the ding repair room. These are the boards in the best shape. An entire wall on the other side of this room was broken boards. The heaving beach break out front made it easy to see how so many boards break.

Thanks for your time yesterday Bocão. I have few heroes…  you are one.

Connect with them on Facebook here.

Work spaces and live spaces

The phrase “always be knolling” was one of the takeaways from the Tom Sachs film I posted a few days ago. In layman’s terms he’s simply talking about organizing a work space.

Or don’t.

This is why The Selby, a site seemingly devoted to photographing and documenting people’s work (and sometimes live) spaces, seems interesting to me. Whether you’re a clean desk freak or person that believes a clean desk is a sign of a dormant mind… you, all of us, have preferred work/live spaces.

This Selby film speaks to that, what kind of spaces to we seek out to work in, where do we choose to live… how to those relate to one another.

Rockaway Taco, A Selby Film from the selby on Vimeo.