Kenkashi makes beautiful dirt

We’re experiencing a renaissance of well-crafted, well-designed, and well-marketed objects and goods. Items that had long been considered un-sexy, toothbrushes, mattresses, diapers, are now being properly (overly?) considered. I like this in theory because it means less mass production/consumption thus less waste. The world has enough garbage.

There is that grey area though, where it’s hard to discern of something is actually great or if it’s simply marketing. I came across Kenkashi, a company that sells gourmet dirt. Here’s how they describe it:

KENKASHI is kenaf inoculated with microbes for use in the bokashi method of composting and as a soil additive. It is a probiotic for soil and plants. Just as your gut biome is more efficient with a healthy microbial population because you digest food better and obtain more of the nutrients from your food, soil and plants benefit from a lively, healthy microbiome.

From a brand perspective, this is a stunning identity. Stop reading and visit the site real quick. As you’ll see, they’ve chosen some extremely lovely cream and green tones, there’s a playful serif typeface which pairs lovely with the monospace typeface, adorable iconography, beautiful typography… the works! They’ve hit every note. This makes me want to buy expensive dirt.

The challenge here, is how do I know if this is worth the $20 for a little bag of coffee grounds? The consumeristic part of my brain is entirely pleased and happy. It knows for sure that this will Jumanji the hell out of my apartment. I could go to my local nursery though and see if they have the same thing, while paying $20 for a bag 10x the size. I feel like it’s hard to understand the legitimacy of a product when it looks this good.

Tile and Error

The city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands had imposed a rule that all paving stones need to be red. This sounds orderly yet with no rule around the style or pattern of the stones the city seems to have ended up with a mixed bag of patterns. Dutch design group Envisions has a plan to bring some harmony to the city.

The project, titled Stones in Progress, is a series of beautiful samples involving washing out, cutting out, and stamping the stones to create a harmonious variety. Their ideas are a vibrant mix of stone with natural colors and patterns unlike any I’ve seen before. These would look fantastic in any home.

New Jacques Greene Album is coming

In 10 days we’ll see the release of Jacques Greene’s new album Dawn Chorus. His last album, Feel Infinite, is on constant rotation for me. It’s a wonderfully produced electronic album that’s filled with pop sensibilities and a constant humming heartbeat. Dawn Chorus though seems to be something new for him.

A bold step forward, Dawn Chorus is also Greene’s most collaborative project to date, featuring additional production and instrumentation from film composer Brian Reitzell (Lost In Translation), cello by London’s Oliver Coates, additional production from Clams Casino and original vocal contributions from ambient artist Julianna Barwick, rapper Cadence Weapon and singers Ebhoni and Rochelle Jordan, all sampled, processed and stitched back into the album. 

For the time being, I’ve been listening to this i-D mix he put out at the end of last year kinda nonstop. I think it’s a good sign of what’s to come. You can pre-order the album here.

Danusha Laméris: Small Kindnesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk 
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs 
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” 
when someone sneezes, a leftover 
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. 
And sometimes, when you spill lemons 
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you 
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, 
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile 
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress 
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, 
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far 
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. 
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these 
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

What Instagram Does to Us

I’m sitting in a coffee shop near my apartment in the middle of Los Angeles. It’s one of those very photogenic places, baby pink walls, a rough hewn wooden table, a brass backsplash where baristas do their work. Four people are sitting at the table with me, each with phone in hand, lost in the black hole, as Tavi Gevinson puts it.

I’ve just finished her essay in New York magazine titled “What Instagram Did to Me”, an honest look at her life online and on Instagram. I found her piece, well, brilliant but devastating. It highlights what an obsession we have with an app and the effects it has on us.

“For all my years growing up online, I am still unable to both rapidly and accurately manage so many realities at once: to account for hundreds of people’s feedback in a matter of minutes; to know what to give weight to and what to let go of, what to take at face value and what to read into, what strikes a chord because of a real insecurity I have and what strikes a chord because of a silly insecurity I’ve learned to have, what of other people is authentic or performance or both or neither, and how to catch my brain when it goes to this place. This cycle of judging and being judged is a black hole in which time disappears, in which I and the people I encounter are all frozen in our profiles.”

Ugh. Over the past few years my relationship with technology has changed dramatically. I’m constantly looking for different ways of connecting with people while not becoming a total Luddite. In her essay she writes a lot about how the web was different before Instagram, which I wholeheartedly agree with. It was simple to meet people, there was time to disconnect, we all didn’t have a personal brand. That’s a big part of why I’ve decided to start blogging again. This is my place for me and my thoughts and my feelings without the pressures of likes and view counts. 

I’ve now heard my fair share of stories about people becoming an “influencer”, trying to build a business off of their “personal brand” and ending up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Because of an app. I always wonder if people in these situations could see the forest through the trees? Does anyone have a plan when it comes to social media? Or is everyone so addicted that the high is enough?

Tavi’s essay definitely hits a lot of nerves for me. I think most of it all it’s helped me to understand that Instagram isn’t a place for me, as a human, anymore. It’s a tool for marketing. I don’t need to be marketed.

Frank Ocean Reappears

Frank Ocean popped back onto the radar a few days ago with an interview for W, written be Diane Solway. The piece feels like a catch-up between old friends or perhaps a therapist. Surprisingly, she covers old territory, like the release of Blonde and Endless, but also what he’s been up to since then. The last three years have gone by quickly. Here’s a few of my favorite moments.

• “I’m really looking forward.” – Something about this line resonated to me. It feels like it means a lot more than what’s on the surface.

• “There’s truth to this idea that every generation has something really big to be afraid of—at least one thing that affects their survival or their quality of life. I don’t think that we’ve reached a point where I no longer have a choice but to be pessimistic. I still think I have a choice to be optimistic about the possibilities.” – Ugh. Sums up the last 3 years succinctly.

• “There’s something that happens when you say what you’re doing before it’s done, and most of it is not positive. You’re accountable for that version that you talk about, when it very well may undergo change. It’s usually better for me to make what I make, put it out or don’t, and then talk about it freely.” – I’ve learned to keep important  things to myself for similar reasons, this blog is an example. It simply started existing.

Kara Walker at the Tate Modern

Kara Walker has a new piece at the Tate Modern in London, Fons Americanus, and it’s an incredibly poignant piece that truly marvels. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle has a poignant review of her monument to British slavery.

“Describing her work, in its full, lengthy cod-18th century title (which she has printed on the Turbine Hall wall) as an “allegorical wonder”, Walker lards up an already over-the-top monument. How could it be other? This miserable monument to the slave trade and colonialism is a ripe and fitting cenotaph to imperial ambition, and the human and material profiting on misery at the heart of empire.”

Watching Sports

Kyle and I have been watching a lot of sports here in Paris, which we never do. Sports like horseback riding, power walking, pool, cycling and more are activities you don’t often (ever?) see on American television (not that I’ve had cable since 2005) or hear about in the news. At least in the places we’re looking.

In American sports, there are only three major sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Because of the monolithic hold the Big 3 have on major media here in the U.S. it’s nearly impossible to for other sports to thrive. Hell, we barely have a soccer culture in the mainstream. It’s all ad-fueled aggression.

With these other sports there’s a simplicity. Can this human possibly power walk for 4 hours? Will that horse and jockey be able to clear this course without knocking over a rail? Can this person possibly bank that trick shot in the corner pocket? These simple human achievements are a breath of fresh air I didn’t know I needed.

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