My Pop Culture Week: Dave Chappelle’s Unforgiven

I got a hankering for McDonald’s french fries so I’ma keep this short. Gotta find pants and car keys. I’ve been slow but expect a few My Summer Lair episodes to drop soon. I’ve been recording just been slow releasing em: taking more mental health breaks from the computer.

Mentally it’s been a long hard year with one month to go. Thankfully breaks and McDonald’s french fries make this modern life much easier.

So! A comedy check-in with my Pop Culture Week.


On June 12, 2020, Dave Chappelle released 8:46 a short “comedy special” in response to police violence against African-Americans. His latest “special” Unforgiven is just under 20 minutes yet it extends his social commentary on the black experience in America. Though truly Dave Chappelle’s relationship with Chappelle’s Show is so complicated that it ah…”colours” the final product.

It’s a weird connection that probably reveals more about himself than it does for the audience: like the Will Smith beef with Aunt Viv. That’s about you; not us. Still: Dave Chappelle’s Unforgiven is stunning. I…just wow. I watched this mother twice. The callbacks, the efficient metaphors, judicious word choice: it was like watching Jordan play in the 90s. Behold The Spectacle. Wow.


Artst Tlk Episode 2: Pharrell Williams Interviews David Salle & KAWS

The branding stands out: For the second episode of Artst Tlk it’s “A new take on the talk show format hosted by award winning producer, artist, designer, and businessman Pharrell Williams.” Businessman is the word that stands out…since 2012 all those other aspects of Pharrell are not only confirmed but match his public identity. Businessman…huh.

 Episode 2…you can check out Episode 1 but this no complex Doctor Who mythology that demands chronological order. And since this episode is about Art the animations are created by Kevin Lyons, dig his work.

Confession: I’m not familiar with KAWS’ work or David Salle. What I’ve seen over the course of this episode is engaging…their personalities over the course of this episode is not and that’s kinda enough to walk away; to not sign up.

It’s one of the risks of doing these shows…Pharrell is saying “Yo…check this out these guys do fresh work!” so you hope the guys doing fresh work are fresh too. I discovered new art, thanks Pharrell but I also got bored too.

1:10 KAWS: “figure out a new scene…” The eternal struggle…do you stay where you are, build strong roots or do you pack it up, pack it in, let me begin in a greener land? Do you have to go to New York City/LA or can you succeed right where you are?

4:06 KAWS’ parallels: “a working parallel and what I like to do parallel” this fascinating dichotomy…he’s not talking about the dreaded Day Job…It’s pimping his Work to make $$$ to sell his Art…Q: How many excellent works have the Dreaded Day Job cost us? Cost Artists?

Note: Almost 10 minutes in and there’s no passion! Why is everybody so stiff? Where’s the enthusiasm…the child like playfulness? I can’t tell if Pharrell is friends with these Artists or just met em…this is not how real Artists talk when they hang out.

10:20 Pharrell: “We should give more light to the bartering aspect…” I can’t stand the people who complain about working for free; you can’t negotiate your value because you don’t have a value: there are no genuine economics to support the number you’ve come up with. Your art; your creativity automatically transcends traditional economics (even though you still gotta pay the rent, eat 3 meals a day etc.).

12:38 David Salle recognizes nostalgia is a trap i.e. Star Wars: Force Awakens. That’s engineered nostalgia just like McDonalds designed to taste good to a mass audience. There’s no challenge in nostalgia.

12:50 The Productivity Challenge: the Industrial Revolution does not apply to Artists. (Although Bowie had that remarkable 5 year output that’s more of an generous anomaly…much like Bowie himself).

13:45 “Where there’s money there’s attention.” Pharrell

16:55 “Critics…do they even matter?” If you gotta ask…then nope. Value is immediate and obvious. Goes back to working for free, too. Your work is not defined by critics: praise or hate or meh. In the Twitter era having critics is rather silly…it’s another example of how we cling to the past: this what we’ve always done so let’s keep doing that.

18:25 “You made it!” I don’t understand much less accept this idea. You get on the subway to get off at a specific station…that’s what it means to make it. That analogy can’t apply to an Artist you keep growing, failing, succeeding…there is no final stop, no final destination (excellent movie by the way!)

19:50 Martin Scorsese Presents…David Salle directed Search and Destroy a 1995 movie…peep the Trailer. Never saw it; after that trailer I’m glad I missed it.

22:47 Q: What’s the most common phrase in the world right now?

Done deal! Episode 3 here I come.

Sammy Younan Is Snooty & Snobby: W T F

Artst Tlk Episode 1: Pharrell Williams Interviews Ben Mezrich & Andy Greenberg

Travel back in time with me (just this one time without the DeLorean/TARDIS) to 2012 when Pharrell Williams hosted an interview “tv show” on Reserve a YouTube Channel.

According to the channel’s description: “ARTST TLK” is a progressive take on the talk show format, with Pharrell Williams inviting special guests?—?culled from a number of different creative sectors?—?to explore each other’s work, motivations, inspirations and philosophies at different stages of their career.” The name alone had me boiling water for my tea; my hot version of you had me at hello.

Overall a bit stiff; I suppose that’s to be expected. It’s a steep learning curve how to conduct a television conversation that borderlines on interview while curating distinct television worthy moments. It is only the first episode.

Ben Mezrich wrote The Accidental Billionaires which came out in 2009, that book was adapted into The Social Network in 2010 and this conversation came out at the end of 2012. S’all I know about him…Andy Greenberg the name rings a bell but I can’t directly place his work so I’ll just believe whatever I read on wikipedia.

Here are my Commentary & Observations based on time:
 Fantastic shot at the top…48 seconds in with Pharrell Williams (that hair…I don’t remember that phase at all!) is holding court with Ben Mezrich and Andy Greenberg and the table is littered with books, a cup holder with pens and pencils the analog tools of thought and discussion…

1:55 Pharrell and productivity.

2:36 Ben Mezrich wrote Skin an X-Files book (he was never credited as a writer for the classic tv show! (Which returned on January 24, 2016…what did you think of the 10 episode season?)

4:03 I kinda echo Andy Greenberg’s wow…Ben Mezrich gets pitches aka stories in his inbox…he gets to pick and choose what stories he wants to share. I accept that makes life easier but that also feels too much like school for me. I’d rather be fueled by curiosity and see where I end up.

5:18 RE: Pharrell’s question: “Explain the term Hacktivist” check out a freshtastic book We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson

7:50 Andy Greenberg: “Freedom is scary:” The gift and the curse of Free Will.

8:30 technology used for evil…classic comics! We can’t let this fall into the wrong hands!

11:05 Facebook created to meet girls…back in my day that was the genesis of most rock bands, now it’s startups

12:01 According to Ben Mezrich Zuckerberg believes privacy is holding us back…I dunno if I can agree with that. I’ll have to let that tumble about in the grey matter for a bit.

12:27 Facebook Famous! Warhol: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” (see also Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message”)

13:19 Like Magneto Pharrell is right…the traffic is in the discovery of Self; but that takes time. All too often we fall into online booby trap: shoveling coal into the furnace of the internet to keep it going: we work for the internet, we work for platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Facebook will always make more money off my statuses than I will, even if I’m successfully drawing traffic to my work (every Artist has to self-promote but also make their work shareable. Now…is the best work rooted in the Self?).

15:56 Pharrell’s excellent observation: “David and Goliath obsession,” “Robin Hood types”…strange how our struggl

es and battles are updated (we’re constantly “fighting the system”) yet our metaphors are still old school.

18:33 Yeah…I know let that sink in for a moment: Andy Greenberg is talking about LulzSec a group that hacked Sony user accounts in 2011 but this was before the infamous 2014 Sony Hack in retaliation for The Interview. So yes Sony’s been hacked twice. When are these companies gonna get their act together?!

S’it for Artst Tlk Episode 1. I’m going to keep going see how this sucker develops.

Sammy Younan Misses The Vowels from Artst Tlk: W T F

Illuminated Chronicles: Gregg Popovich Video

The Spurs-under Gregg Popovich-are the NBA’s greatest magic trick: fans wanna know how they do it. How do they pull it off? There’s nothing I can say about Gregg Popovich that hasn’t been said: every superlative is accurate and more importantly he’s going to walk away with at least 5 rings. Well done, good sir.

To understand how the magic is performed FIBA released a video of Pop speaking at a coaching seminar and boy does he drop knowledge. In the first minute he refutes the notion of magic: “it’s about organization, it’s about discipline, it’s about building the blocks; about relationships with your players.” That’s…it?

 In an ESPN interview Pop identified just who they want to bring into the Spurs organization:

“For us, it’s easy. We’re looking for character, but what the hell does that mean? We’re looking for people — and I’ve said it many times — that have gotten over themselves. And you can tell that pretty quick. You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.

A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig, that sort of thing, and feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers. People who are participatory. The guys in the film room can tell me what they think of how we played last night if they want to. Sean Marks would sit in on our coaches meetings when we’re arguing about how to play the pick-and-roll or who we’re going to play or who we’re going to sit.

We need people who can handle information and not take it personally because in most of these organizations, there’s a big divide. All of the sudden, the wall goes up between management and coaching, and everybody is ready to blame back and forth. And that’s the rule, rather than the exception. It just happens, but that’s about people. It’s about finding people who have all those kinds of qualities, so we do our best to look for that, and when somebody comes, they figure it out pretty quick.”

The first 5 minutes is about character and talent…recognizing “the fiber of your team.” It’s entirely applicable if you’re gonna build a business or if you’re a leader. Pop transcends the ordinary metrics and he’s right: it’s easy to get a player who can rebound or score 20 points a night. It’s like getting likes and retweets those are hollow metrics that don’t accurately reflect character or the true value of your contribution (technically they shouldn’t dictate worth either but that ain’t how most people are wired).

And yeah it’s one thing to see or think differently…that’s what you are supposed to do…but you need to have the fortitude to execute your vision. Pop brings up that keyword at the 12:50 mark. Jordan and Kobe same way: fortitude. It’s a fantastic word yet it’s sadly lacking in our businesses and our arts…you can see this on social media all the time: people talk big but do little. There’s an outstanding Mark Twain observation: “Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Yes!

Twain’s quote gets into the hall of fame along with Einstein’s classic: “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds” which is a delicious summary of social media today.

Pop expands on these themes around 16:56 and listen for a few minutes as he breaks down winning: “act like you do it all the time.” Not only is this tied to character but I’ve never seen an organization built this way. Even though he’s talking to other coaches this isn’t Xs and Os; it’s almost like Pop believes you can figure out how to work that stuff out on your own: in a way that’s easy. If you’re down by 10 what do you have to do? Get defensive stops and make baskets. That’s easy to type difficult to execute. It’s understandable how almost 20 minutes in Pop is still on character and on fortitude: that’s the true challenge.

At 19:55 he talks about measuring that character and that fortitude (still on that!).

Listen to Pop’s phenomenal timeout strategy starting at 23:14: clearly this is a dude who has taken apart all the aspects of the game and rebuilt them to suit his needs. Pop has thought this through. 29 minutes on he recognizes the Big Picture and how to get there…with drills like you do for children. I’m with him on that.

However 28 minutes in Pop talks about winning but it goes sideways for me: “it’s a journey.” I can’t stand it’s the process not the product thinking. Yes I know you don’t get up and write a book in a day or make a movie in a day. Fine. But all fans and people are left with is…the product. The product is what I’ve given people to judge…anything else: my process, my ethnicity, who I am…s’not up for debate or discussion.

At 31:15 Pop admits “pride in work on a daily basis is what grows the spirit and grows the character.” That I can agree with. I’ve accepted challenges because I’m not sure if I could succeed but I understood come fun or failure it would make me better.

Like this video…I’m in awe not that Pop was able to execute his vision but that an organization is willing to be built and run this way. There are 30 NBA teams but only 1 Spurs.


Illuminated Chronicles: Kobe….Don’t Love me. Hate me.

This Wednesday Kobe will play his final NBA game. No other player since Jordan has defined Sinatra’s My Way:
 And now, the end is near
 And so I face the final curtain
 My friend, I’ll say it clear
 I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
 I’ve lived a life that’s full
 I traveled each and every highway
 And more, much more than this, I did it my way

His final Nike commercial as a NBA player…as a Los Angeles Laker…once again distills Kobe’s prosperous philosophy and vicious work ethic. I fully dedicate this ad to Dwight Howard and LeBeron James:

This isn’t about being nice.
 It isn’t about being liked.
 It isn’t even about feeding off the hate.
 In business and in basketball…in the business of basketball to commit to greatness means consistently operating on a such a high level that is difficult for others to achieve. Achieve? It is difficult for them to imagine.

We are all capable of greatness: it sounds cheezy it sounds encouraging it sounds silly it sounds like the truth.

Yet along “our way” we’ve chosen to accept the harmful messages we get from teachers, from parents…from friends. We compromise and we settle in all kinds of little ways. We push back when people see something special in us; we diminish our own value far more quickly than others do.

This commercial is gloriously unapologetic. And if you want to be great…if you want to do things “my way” knowing how it all ends this is how you start.


Illuminated Chronicles: O Pioneers! (Levi’s Commercial)

This 2009 Levi’s commercial stays with me…I’m always on the hunt for creative and visual ways to communicate poetry. I’m a poet as much as I am a prophet…the free verse poem is my weapon of choice to confront a cold calculating culture. Yet in this modern society of guns and rough violence it’s almost like I am walking around with a sword. En Garde isn’t Avant-garde. Or is it?
 Directed by M Blash for Wieden+Kennedy (the beautiful people behind Nike’s best ads_ this Levi’s ad O Pioneers! thrusts Walt Whitman’s poetry from Leaves of Grass into the public consciousness:

“O you youths, western youths,
 So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
 Plain I see you, western youths, see you tramping with the foremost, Pioneers! O pioneers!”

See? The sword of poetry cutting through the warm tv glaze…now to unleash those words sharp as broken glass in a tv spot celebrating reckless youth, freedom…jeans: rebellion is as much American as apple pie and the cowboy.

Grant McCracken wrote about these themes expressing an elegant eloquence: “But there is another deeper reason why Whitman ought to appear in an American ad. Advertising has taken up what Whitman thought was the poet’s job. All those grim protests from Mad Men notwithstanding, W+K and other agencies are now active inventors of American culture in a way very few poets can claim to be. As Whitman said in the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass: “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.”


Illuminated Chronicles: adidas “Your Future Is Not Mine”

In 1925 Al Capone at 26 became the new Boss of a sprawling criminal network. At the height of his seven year mob-reign Capone seemed untouchable. Keyword: seemed. A lot can happen between today and tomorrow.

As a modern Eliot Ness adidas’ is facing their untouchable Al Capone in Nike. Nike is…well, Nike and they own about half of the market share of fresh kicks. adidas is facing a daunting task: Nike seems untouchable.

In Brian De Palma’s 87 classic Untouchables Sean Connery uttered these infamous lines:
“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?”

Today adidas emphatically answers Connery’s questions with “Your future is not mine.”

I watched this magnificent short four times in a row.

Your future is not mine: The rallying cry of adidas Originals for its Spring/Summer 2016 campaign “Future.” (Nike’s version of this was during the 2010 World Cup; their slogan was Write the Future).

Directed by Terence Neale adidas has Avengers Assembled a group of dynamic creatives including NBA-er Iman Shumpert (MVP for Best Hair!).

As a corporate description of the YouTube video says: “Watch them confidently stride together towards an optimistic tomorrow, dismissing the hurdles of the negative future they seem to have inevitably inherited.”

Yes! You can effortlessly inherit the future the same way so many willingly accept criticisms and limitations as facts and truths or…you can actively create the future.

Complain or Create: You Can’t Do Both.

(Man: the selfie stick ridicule…that alone is solid: we must be relentless in mocking the negative aspects of our culture least they become entrenched habits.)

So far in 2016: Kanye released Facts, adidas gave Snoop Dogg a football talk show and now this…adidas is finally bringing guns to its knife fight with Nike.


Ziggy Was Here January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016

Conan’s Ride Along Gang

Another classic Conan remote…though this one surpasses the cheerfully awkward Steven Yeun & Conan Visit A Korean Spa and the excellent Dave Franco & Conan Join Tinder: That one was my favourite until today…

Conan, Kevin Hart, Ice Cube teach a Conan staffer how to drive. You already know with that much street cred in that car Conan is gonna try to overcome his persistent whiteness and “roll with the homies.” It goes…exactly as you’d expect.


Kevin Smith…Why vs Why Not?

Kevin Smith…yeah, Kevin Smith: our generation’s Spalding Gray. He drops some fantastic and inspiring dimes in this video:

He’s 100% right. “Anybody can do this.” And even though he’s talking about filmmmaking, it really applies to everything. Don’t be Weak.

Fear…fear is always gonna present, who cares.

Failure…good, fail a lot. Everyday if you can, put failure on your daily To Do List.

Doubt…again, who honestly cares. All that matters is the work.

Be insecure, be fearful…just do great work. Nut up, suit up and do the work.

Forget money…there’s more ways now than ever before to get money. Stop making barriers for yourself.

Sure the odds aren’t even in your favour. Again who cares.

Encourage Artists. Don’t be discouraged making your Art.

Have fun and keep fit.


Ziggy Was Here January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016


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