1H 2018 Media Recommendations

Inspired by Noah's year-end lists, I've been keeping track of the things I've watched and listened to so far this year. I'm a bit behind the times, which is why most of the TV and film suggestions are from last year. Hopefully you'll find something interesting.

Links in bold.

The Farthest (PBS). If you love space this is a must.
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars. If you love Clapton this is a must.
Jim & Andy. If you love weird this is a must.
Baby Driver. If you love hyper-stylized movies where music is the lead character this is a must.
Icarus. If you love truth-is-stranger-than-fiction plots this is a must.
Okja. If you love a fight scene set to John Denver’s "Annie’s Song” this is a must.

End of the F***ing World (Netflix). The best love story I’ve seen since True Romance.
The Radical Story of Patty Hearst (CNN). A fascinating look at wealth, activism, terrorism, media manipulation.
Wild Wild Country (Netflix). Easily my favorite 6 hours of TV so far this year.
Dirty Money (Netflix). Episode 3, “Drug Short,” is a good place to start. Though you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia. Watching Errol Morris’ kid do a ton of drugs is strangely interesting.
The Good Place is the first network sitcom I've liked in years.

Brandi Carlile's “By the way I Forgive You is filed under Country, but is the best Rock album I’ve heard in a while.

Charles Oakley on Bill Simmons is 1 hour and 40 minutes of pure bliss.
There’s no song that feels more like Summer than The Beach Boys’ “I Get Around.” The breakdown of the melodies, lyrics and music by the guys at Switched On Pop is fantastic.

LinkedIn. On unexpected reminders.

Ian Sohn on LinkedIn: "It feels important to share...

It feels important to share these stories ... I recently ordered an UberX. The driver pulled up in a new Ford Explorer. Shirt perfectly pressed, car spotless and he greeted me with the friendliest hello. I assumed he was a professional driver who was picking up a cheaper fare during some down time. I asked him how long he'd been driving. Turns out it was his second week. He had recently been let go from his job of 29 years. Lives in a tony suburb and has two kids gearing up for college. He told me he decided to drive for 3 reasons:...

I'm Not A Runner (Redux)

Two years ago I wrote this after my first marathon. I took a year off running, and recently finished my second. I was curious to see how I felt then vs. now.

Remarkably similar. My times were even within a few minutes of each other (despite running this year with a surgically-repaired hand in a cast, which not only threw off my stride but prevented me from completing the last month of training). I'm a bit more informed now on things like nutrition and training, but I'm equally ambivalent about running (as a sport and culture).

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Dinners On Wednesday

A couple of years ago, on an otherwise unmemorable first (and last) date, a woman who had been on a long string of dates with divorced dads told me that if she ever wrote a memoir it would be called: "Every Other Weekend, Dinners on Wednesday." 

I distinctly remember knowing exactly what she was referring to as it came out of her mouth. I grew up seeing my own father every other weekend and for dinners on Wednesday.

And while my schedule with my kids / their mother is a bit unconventional (in a good way), I still take my kids to dinner nearly every Wednesday.

This was taken last Summer on a Wednesday night after dinner with my boys at a place I've gone to my entire life. The next day he left for 4 weeks of camp. 

This was taken last Summer on a Wednesday night after dinner with my boys at a place I've gone to my entire life. The next day he left for 4 weeks of camp. 

When I take a step back it's remarkable how I've unintentionally modeled my Wednesdays after the way my dad did it with me. The routine. The types of restaurants. The conversation. The tone. 

I think a lot about what my dad must have felt as the years marched on and I became more interested in playing Nintendo or sitting on the phone with a crush than having dinner alone with him. It's a hard thing, sensing your kids moving away from you. It's also the most thrilling thing, watching them establish their own existence.

On my Wednesdays I often look around the restaurant ... there's an unspoken language of eye-contact between the other dads (Trust me - it's real. Next time you're at a local place on a Wednesday you'll see it). Do they feel sad? Happy, like I do? Scared of Wednesdays becoming more of a struggle as their kids find independence?

I'm biased, of course. But I think there's something so vulnerable about these Wednesday rituals. Something beautiful, too. Something only us dads know. The story of the single, divorced dad is not often told. And perhaps that story is best understood through the rituals and emotions of Wednesday dinners.

And that's all I've got for now on this topic. But I think there's more to come. 

New York Thoughts

There’s nothing better than getting lost in New York.

Which is impossible if, as a friend says, you can count. Even more impossible given my years living there.

Yet it's completely possible if you slip into all black, throw in your earphones and hide behind your Ray Bans. You blend into the background. The anonymity New York City affords is its greatest gift.

So yeah, I get lost every time I’m there.

My boys on a recent trip to NYC. Can't explain how happy it made me that they loved getting 'lost' as much as I always have.

My boys on a recent trip to NYC. Can't explain how happy it made me that they loved getting 'lost' as much as I always have.

I had lunch today with an old friend who moved to New York about a year ago. I’m coming up on my 10-year anniversary of leaving The City, after being there for 11. And I’ve been there twice in the last 8 weeks. Which is all to say, I’ve got New York City on my brain.

It’s occurred to me more and more lately that as much as I love my life in Chicago, in many ways I still identify as a New Yorker. And many people still identify me as one, which cuts both ways.

I've said it so many times I don't know if I made it up or stole it: Chicago is the greatest city in the United States. New York is the greatest city in the world. One isn’t better than the other, because they aren’t in the same group. Just like cheeseburgers are my favorite meal and corn is my favorite vegetable.

Specific things I love (that I thought about today after lunch):

  • That I’ve been on certain subways so often I know which side the door opens for 10 consecutive stops.
  • Graffiti. Specifically, really good graffiti. Which my younger son was really into on a trip we took, and made me stop and appreciate it.
  • Food. Not the fancy places. The average neighborhood places that somehow seem better than the average neighborhood places in any other city.
  • That you can easily spend $60 on breakfast and $4 for lunch on a slice of pizza, unrivaled.
  • Walking. Everywhere. I still walk more than anyone I know. But it’s not the same in Chicago. London’s the only other city I’ve found that comes close.
  • An overwhelming sense of purpose and urgency. People don’t like their time wasted, and they don’t like to waste time.
  • That despite their reputation, New Yorkers are the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve ever known.
  • The New York Post, which I still read every single day. Not most days. Every.
  • 15 years later, the shared respect we have for others who were there on 9/11.
  • Deli flowers. But NOT deli cats.

The list could go on forever. This is off the top of my head. 

Truthfully, I'm glad I don't live there anymore. But I can still love it. Always will.

Intent Matters

Reading last night about #DeleteUber and this morning an Esquire profile/interview with AJ Daulerio, the editor at the center of The Gawker-Hulk Hogan lawsuit. Thinking about both, and how both Uber and Gawker suffer from a history of intent issues.

But first ... 

A woman with unimpeachable values and no hint of a rap-sheet walks into a grocery store with four-year-old twins who are in the midst of a world-class meltdown. Her boss is blowing up her inbox about a client presentation tomorrow. And she's in a rush to call her brother to hear all about the new girl he's bringing home for Thanksgiving. Too harried to have grabbed a cart on the way in, her arms quickly and unexpectedly pile up as she makes her way down the aisles.

She makes it out alive. (we always do)

As she reaches in her pocket for her car keys she finds a pack of gum she absentmindedly put in her pocket in aisle 6 when she ran out of hands. Rather than dragging the kids back in the store to pay for the gum, she heads home.

Technically, this woman stole a pack of gum. But would any sane person argue she needs to be punished? Of course not, because intent matters. She didn't intend to steal the gum. And she's not a criminal by nature. Lastly, given the circumstances it's understandable how she made a mistake.

For those of you who don't know, the #DeleteUber movement is a public reaction / condemnation / boycot based on this tweet from Uber in the midst of the taxi strike at JFK:

After a swift avalanche of backlash, Uber tried walking it back, basically blaming the misunderstanding on sloppy messaging. Unfortunately for Uber, these missteps are coming far too common.

And then there's the Gawker-Hogan lawsuit, which you can read all about here but essentially:

Hulk Hogan, sued Gawker Media, publisher of the Gawker website, and several Gawker employees and Gawker-affiliated entities,[2] for posting portions of a sex tape of Bollea with Heather Clem, at that time the wife of radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. Bollea's claims included invasion of privacy, infringement of personality rights, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Prior to trial, Hogan's lawyers claimed that the privacy of many Americans was at stake while Gawker's lawyers asserted that the case could hurt freedom of the press in the United States.[4][5]

In March 2016, the jury found Gawker Media liable and awarded Bollea $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.[7][8] 

The debate over this case is firmly rooted in nuanced and complicated 1st Amendment issues; many of which are of great merit and will / should be debated vigorously. Truthfully, though, most people don't buy Gawker, Nick Denton or Daulerio as 1st Amendment crusaders. Rather, they have a history of recklessly ruining people's lives for sport and profit. And perhaps nothing is more troubling than this widely-reported and utterly-revolting incident reported from a deposition:

Bono's Speech for Springsteen's Rock and Roll HOF Induction

Yeah, man. Bruce is a very unusual rock star, isn't he, really? I mean, he hasn't done the things most rock stars do. He got rich and famous, but he never embarrassed himself with all that success, did he? No drug busts, no blood changes in Switzerland - even more remarkable, no golfing. No bad hair period, even in the '80s. No wearing of dresses in videos, though there was those fingerless gloves in the '80s. No embarrassing movie roles, no pet snakes, no monkeys, no exhibitions of his own paintings, no public brawling or setting himself on fire on the weekends. Rock stars are supposed to make soap operas of their lives, aren't they? If they don't kill themselves first. Well, you can't be a big legend and not be dysfunctional. It's not allowed. You should at least have lost your looks. Everyone else has. 

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5 Human Truths

When you work in advertising you spend a lot of time talking about human truths.
Truths lead to insights lead to creative briefs lead to great ads.
Or something like that.

For no reason at all here are 5 totally useless, but indisputable, human truths:

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Small Talk In The Gold Coast

Yesterday afternoon, walking down a street I wouldn't normally find myself on at that time.

My headphones in, as always. Listening to Bill Simmons and Joe House pick the lines for Sunday's NFL games.

I heard a voice yell something and didn’t think anything of it. 
Then I heard it again, and reluctantly stopped.
f you know me, you know small-talk outside of work isn't my comfort zone. I've crossed thousands of streets in my life to avoid it.)

A man standing in the middle of the sidewalk calling my name.
I stared blankly until he introduced himself.

An Englishman who had moved to Chicago about a year ago. 
We "knew" each other from Twitter and Instagram; having first "met" via a few very loose professional connections from ages ago (at least in Internet terms ... like 2006 or so).

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A few weeks ago someone asked me to write an article on 2016 digital marketing trends. 

Flattered he'd think I'd have something unique to add to the cacophony (how many ways can we boldly predict 2016: the year of ubiquitous mobile commerce) I quickly (and politely) declined. I’ve done it before and am not interested in doing it again.

During our conversation I offhandedly mentioned I’d rather predict 10 years from now … I’d have more fun with it and no one could ever grade me. He chuckled (equally politely) and we went our separate ways.

But walking home from work that afternoon I started thinking about the future. Not 10 years out, but 36 to be exact. Because in 2051 my oldest son will be the age I am now (and the younger, 40). Specifically I thought about current-day institutions (i and I) we take for granted, and what would/wouldn’t exist in 2051.

On that 25 minute walk I captured these five thoughts. And then I stopped thinking about it, because that’s all the time it deserved. And because I wanted to get back to the new Bill Simmons podcast. And because as Nils Bohr famously said, "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.”

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The Lockdown Drill

"We do it in case someone comes to school with a gun. The siren is different than the fire alarm. It's like woo-woo-woo instead of nuh-nuh-nuh. I kind of like it. It's kinda funny. When we hear it we all go into the reading area and sit very quietly in a circle. And we're not allowed to talk or leave until the policeman or teacher says on the microphone that we can move."

This is how my 5 year old describes the lock-down drill at school. It breaks my heart every time, including last night over dinner.

Of the many well-articulated, reasonable and rationale pleas for gun-control, the existence of the lock-down drill is the only one that really matters to me.

That there's something we can do to make it less likely the lock-down drill will ever not be a drill ... how can you be a parent (or a human) and not support that?

Go to  http://www.bradycampaign.org/  or click the image to help end the epidemic. Or just to lend your voice. #Enough.

Go to http://www.bradycampaign.org/ or click the image to help end the epidemic. Or just to lend your voice. #Enough.

Big Brothers and Creativity

I hear this narrative recounted often in interviews (most recently as told by Steve Albini) and it always fascinates me. I wonder if – or how – it'll play out in my house with my boys. Because the interplay between them is remarkable. Because I didn't grow up with an older brother, so I have no point-of-reference. Because I always wonder where creativity comes from.

A 15 year old boy sits in his bedroom, alone.

The Ramones.
New Order.
Richard Pryor.
Public Enemy. 

He studies the record jacket, the lyrics.

He imagines, for the first time in his life, a world beyond the bubble of small-town highschool; a world where value isn't defined by homecoming dates and touchdowns and penmanship.

His big brother is off to college now. Or the army or a commune. With him went baseball caps and perfectly worn-in jeans. The music, the books, the family camcorder stay behind.

These brothers, 2 ... 3 ... 4 years apart. They grow up best friends. They eat, sleep and play together. These are mine, now. Always side-by-side.

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The Things That Make The Thing

In the last few years the way I watch sports has changed pretty dramatically. Actually, that's not true. I still sit on the couch, drinking a beer and yelling at the TV. More specifically, what I watch during a sporting event has changed.

I appreciate a well-executed pick-and-roll over a monster dunk.
I'm more fascinated by the intricacies of a great changup than the thrill of a fastball.
I try explaining to my kids why the blocking on a perfectly executed screen pass is so sublime.
I'm transfixed by constantly forming and re-forming triangles on a soccer field.
In a fight I only watch the boxers' feet.

I wonder if any of my contemporaries have noticed this as well. If it's some strange sign of maturity or an appreciation for the things that make the THING (if that makes any sense).

The finish is what makes the highlight package.
But lately I find the setup way more interesting.

Speaking of pick-and-rolls ... holy awkwardness.

Conscientiousness vs (and?) Creativity

Doris Lessing has her own version of our bedtime ritual - a rallying cry for independence and creativity. I found it a few weeks ago (via the excellent Nitch):

Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly throughout his or her school life is something like this: You are in the process of being indoctrinated...What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture...You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors...Those of you who are more robust and individual...will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself—educating your own judgments. Those that stay must remember, always...that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.
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You Don't Have To 'Get' It. Just Go With It.

In 1956 Elvis shook his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Parents were appalled and confused.
Tried to get him banned, even jailed.

Happens with every generation. 

Rather than judge your kids for their Mindcraft obsession, endless selfies, hours of unboxing videos, music made by computers, Spongebob, and sartorial choices that seem to defy all reason ... try understanding it. Ask questions. I do, a lot. The things I learn -- not just about what's happening in the world, but about how my kids think -- are fascinating. And even if they don't know it yet I'm certain they'll eventually appreciate my curiosity. 

Stop pushing dated social paradigms on them. 
It won't work. They won't listen. And frankly it makes you old before your time.

These are forces way stronger than us.
Either ride the wave or get flattened by it.


This spring I met someone who I found intelligent, inspiring and interesting. I had no idea that just a few months later he'd die - at the painfully young age of 43 - from a particularly insidious and aggressive form of cancer. Aren't they all?

I didn't know Tom well, but found myself glued to every word of every tribute that came across my inbox yesterday (and to the news articles I read about him). I guess it was the way they described his love of life, family and faith (and surfing). He sounds like a great man and father. And of course, his age hit me like a ton of bricks.

Almost a year ago to the day, another guy I knew passed away far too young (36) and far too suddenly. Again, I didn't know Kevin Silverman all that well but I can't help but marvel at the legacy he's left at such a young age. His friends set up a tribute page on Facebook last year, and it's always heartening to see the impact this guy had. Someone posts in it nearly daily. And just the other day his wife (who I've never met but seems like an amazing woman) challenged his friends ...

Today is Kevin's Birthday and we all want to remember and celebrate his amazing life ...
We would like to commemorate one of the major ideals Kevin stood for - kindness. We are asking for this huge group to participate in 6 days of random kindness. So today through the 20th please do something kind, little or big, doesn't matter - if we all do it it will add up to something amazing. We all like pats on the back so please comment to this post to tell us what amazing thing you did today! 
One of many messages posted on Kevin Silverman's tribute page.

One of many messages posted on Kevin Silverman's tribute page.

As I scrolled l through the ‪#‎wwkd posts something became abundantly clear to me ... when I die (which I hope is a loooong time from now) I don't really care what people say about me. Sure, I'd prefer nice things, but only for my kids' sake. What really matters to me will be the impact my life had on the way others live their lives. That in some very small (tiny, even imperceptible) way I'd be a catalyst for people leading a more kind and generous existence.

That's the only legacy I care about. 

I'm not there yet. Not even close.
Yesterday was a reminder to do better.

That's Tom and Kevin's legacy.

I'm Not A Runner

My mind doesn't find peace as miles melt away.
I run fast to be done sooner.
I don't have a clue if I under- or over-pronate (or what pronate means).
I can't pin a race bib on straight.
I don't hit the lakefront path to run an anxiety out of my system.
I sometimes pretend to stretch before I run. Yes, pretend. But only when other people are around, naturally.
I don't think I've experienced runner's high.
I buy running shoes based mostly on aesthetics.
Carbo-loading sounds horrible to me.
I run alone, but not for the solitude or space or peace. Simply for convenience.

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10 Family Commandments

I have a general disdain for blogs and articles (and people, for that matter) that dispense parenting advice. But recently I came across an article (which I can't find) with a smart suggestion: sit down with your kids and make a list of 10 things you want your family to be about/do/stand for. 

Commandments - I guess - is the best way of putting it. 

Here's where my boys and I netted out.

#10 was an executive order from dad.
#5 led to a solid 30 minutes of really bad (in a funny way) joke telling.
#3 was the most intriguing to them ... of course it would be for an 8 and 5 year old.
#2 and #7 were immediately violated when Maddox made fun of Henry's attempt at cursive - which provided an immediate teachable moment.

Just thought it's an idea worth sharing.

Transference of Expectations -> POTUS -> SCOTUS

I was recently at a conference hosted by Contagious Magazine, called Now / Next / Why. Really one of the most thoughtful days I've had in while. So it basically starts with these two guys talking about this idea of transference of experience expectationsas explained here ... 

“To start off with, Matt and Will from Contagious encouraged us to think about the best and worst brand experiences as of lately, and how transference of experience expectation happens without us knowing: the last great experience you have with a brand will then go on to shape how you feel about other things in your life. You might have had a terrific experience with Uber, where you can sync your Spotify playlist with the car you’re about to board, and then reasonably wonder why you can’t do the same thing with, perhaps, a restaurant you’ve booked for a special dinner out. You start to wish other brands or services in seemingly unrelated industries offered the same level of personalisation.”
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