April. Blog people know that this means all productivity goes out the window. Kyle’s brain goes into Coachella mode and everything else is just noise.
This year has been a strange one. I was 90% certain I was not attending, was fine with that because I HATED the lineup. GoldenVoice went all mumble rap Spotify stream numbers on us at the expense of the cool indie/weird music that made Coachella the best festival in the US.
1. Well I am going now, so that changes things a bit… (Tel Aviv -> Polo Grounds)
2. While I still think this lineup is weaker than previous years, the deep-dive has turned up some world class gems and I am back to 100% hype mode. While Sunday is the worst day in Coachella history, Friday is solid, and Saturday is so stacked you could repeat three times in a row and still miss acts you want to see.
2018 Coachella Hype List:
Surreal Mega Show: BEYONCE
Alright we knew this was coming. I’m a casual Beyonce fan at best but even I know this is a treat. Queen Bey simply does not do her thing for us common folk and after having to cancel last year she is going to bring the good shit. Don’t miss for spectacle alone.
Dance Your Face Off: Tie between CHIC FT NILE RODGERS and JAMIROQUAI
Chic is basically every funky Bar Mitzvah song you and grandma both got down to on the dancefloor. You will know every song and it will be a glorious 100k person boogie. DO NOT MISS.
Jamiroquai is the British funk group that was cool before I was born. They almost never play in the US and it’s a massive get for Coachella. Rare card.
Damn Son: TASH SULTANA
Tash is one of those people that just radiates talent. She is insanely gifted (plays 20+ instruments), makes cool songs, and has a seemingly spiritual relationship with her guitar. She is only 22 and after drug addiction and related psychosis she played on the streets before being discovered on youtube.
If you watch nothing else watch this:
Mind Scrambler: Tie between SOULWAX and REZZ
This is the live show Soulwax is bringing ->
Last year Moderate was the best live show you’ve never heard of. This year it’s Soulwax. Go in blind and embrace the weird epicness.
If Porter Robinson had an evil female twin who lived in the darkest recesses of his most twisted nightmares, it would be REZZ. Think slowed down, dark, mind melting Dubstep. Probably the one show that would motivate me to step foot inside the Sahara tent. Sidenote: New Sahara tent is a freaking beast and supposedly will have 3d screens which Rezz designed a custom show for. Take that as you will. Epic like only Coachella can be: ODESZA
The biggest electronic show of the weekend with good reason. This tour is insane.
Watch this and tell me it won’t be the biggest production of the whole thang:
New Kids Taking Over the Block: Tie between TANK AND THE BANGAS, SIGRID, and PETIT BISCUIT
Sigrid: Home-girl is 21 and exploding on to the pop scene. Think Ellie Goulding or Halsey but with better production and less bullshit. She’s so normal seeming it hurts which just makes her awesomeness on stage even better. Sidenote: I am more stoked on her than the crew. We shall see if I overhype it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9Gwk71z1e8
Petit Biscuit: Think of baby Odesza but more Piano melodic vibe.
“I don’t want to get myself in trouble – and I don’t think I’m super important or anything – but I think it’s so funny that when you look at the business and the way that people make decisions in their lives, whether they’re in art or music or they’re in industry, they forget that being unique is the answer.” -Justin Vernon
Point is, I listen to a lot of music [48 thousand hours last year], go to a lot of shows [300+ at this point] and think/talk about it constantly. Luckily, I have friends who share this disease and we all obsess together which is great.
Through it all, I have seen exactly four shows that I would call perfect. On the spreadsheet these are the four with 10’s in front of them; Sigur Ros, Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros +LA Philharmonic, and Bon Iver. Tomorrow night I am flying to London to see Bon Iver at Eventim Apollo.
Bon Iver has snuck up on me over the years. Something like: Boring sleeper music -> background coffee shop music -> hey this re:stacks song is really good -> wow Bon Iver is pretty good -> 22 A Million is one of the coolest albums I have ever heard. -> Holy shit Bon Iver just won Coachella -> Now: I can’t even listen to anything else at this point.
For context, at this point, Justin Vernon is a legend in music world. Bon Iver is certified massive with multiple Grammys and headlining festivals everywhere. Justin Vernon has produced some of Kanye West’s biggest tracks, has numerous successful side projects ranging from bluegrass to rock to soul music, and getting invited to play at his yearly ‘Eaux Claires Festival’ is one of the biggest honors in musician land. However, 10 years ago he was just a sad dude in the woods.
Quick History Lesson
In 2006, Justin Vernon was in a pretty terrible place. He was kicked out of his band, he got mononucleosis (sounds bad I guess), and his love/social life was in tatters. So, as depressed musicians are inclined to do, he drove home to his parents in Eau Claire Wisconsin, gathered some belongings, and drove to his fathers’s isolated hunting cabin in the woods up north. His three weeks away from the world turned into three months alone, recording music, hunting to eat, and reflecting on his life.
The recordings he created are basically the story of his life, coping with loss, relationship, struggles with gambling, and attempts to move forward. He generally sings in an auto-tuned falsetto style which gives everything a sort of sad/angelic feeling. It is a beautiful, soft, record that is best served with thunderstorms at a coffee shop in Brooklyn or on a long bus ride alone. Friends would convince him to independently release the recordings as an album called, ‘For Emma Forever Ago’, and Bon Iver was born. (Sidenote: For Emma’s 10th anniversary was this year and last week Justin played the whole album straight through. See a video in the footer.
In 2011 Vernon and co released ‘Bon Iver’ by Bon Iver. To an outsider this album will still sound like coffee shop music, but compared to For Emma, this is most definitely the flushed out and heavier version of Bon Iver. Bigger, more complicated arrangements with a larger band, give an almost rock and roll feel at times. Still though Justin’s voice is the magic sauce that changes the game. Album two was again met with universal acclaim.
Then after alluding to the end of the band for years after album 2, Bon Iver reunited in 2016 and released what might be my favorite album of all time. ’22, A Million’ is not coffee shop music. It is weird, and experimental, and heavy, and closer to an underground experimental electronic album than the beautiful angelic melodies of the first two albums. Everything is symbolic and chaotic and based on numbers and feels like it came from the mind of an alien. That said, by the 10th listen you start to recognize the traditional Bon Iver sound shielded by the dark experimental exterior. I have a lot of respect for artists that evolve, take risks that might alienate their fan bases, and generally do what they want. Bon Iver lives that.
Sounds cool.. but this seems a bit excessive breh..
Fair point third person narrator.. However, it’s hard to explain how good a Bon Iver show is. Despite the coffee shop discography, Justin Vernon and company put on one of the most intense, epic, concerts I have ever seen. Take all the best parts of an earthshaking rock concert, a trippy electronic show, and the melodies and angelic voice of Justin Vernon. The result is something unexplainable and amazing where everything, even the softest songs, feel massive and meaningful.
One of the most unreal perks of living in London was that I could go to a super high quality show almost every night if I wanted to. Israel has good artists, but it’s childs-play compared to somewhere like London or NYC. While I am a massive advocate for change and trying new things, I also fundamentally believe that if you have something you are passionate about and willing and able to invest in, you are lucky. Too many people aren’t lucky enough to have that passion. So, given that I am lucky enough to be able to swing such a trip and see friends in London, I am pretty excited for tomorrow.
“I would like to die on mars……….. Just not on impact”- Elon Musk 2013
Only tangentially related to this post but I liked the quote and wasn’t sure what else to do with it….
Anyways I explained last time that I am having a hard time encapsulating Tel Aviv and my experience here in words. So.. as any sane person would do, I made a map.
Places worth calling out:
The Phi: Bar we go to constantly. The idea is if our lives are a sitcom, this is our main set. I’m completely sick of the place but find that concept hilarious and stick with it.
42nd parallel: South and North are different worlds. To quote the famous Guy Baratz “I start to get nervous North of Sheinkin Street. South and North are very different vibes and some people tend to stay in their lanes. I am not one of them
The Beaches Thing: Tel Avivians have somehow convinced themselves that their single mile long stretch of beach is actually like 10 different beaches.. In fact “My beach” actually gets insulted constantly for being full of tourists… but somehow 20 meters further down is “chill A F”… Fascinating
For clarity’s sake: “Safe Zone” is being used ironically here. Tel Avivians and their dogs are an insulated bunch.
At this point if you aren’t fighting for gun control you have blood on your hands. If you are defending the NRA you have blood on your hands. Your precious second amendment rights don’t overrule the right for kids like Peter to live. This is the real terrorist threat.
Flying to London Wednesday to see one of the best artists I have ever seen.
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” – Teddy
As part of my attempt to understand this strange place I have heard about since childhood, I have been reading a book on the history of Israel. One chapter dealt with the secret nuclear facility outside the city of Dimona. From 1958-1967 Israeli scientists secretly turned barren desert land into a nuclear facility that would produce a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons. This was an astonishing feat that much has been written about, but what I found most relevant was what happened after this early stage. Instead of the normal posturing that a state would do with the acquisition of nuclear weapons, Israel continued to act as if they had no nuclear power, even though the whole world was aware that they did to some degree. They refused to acknowledge the weapons, they never based military, political, or geo-political strategy on them. A nuclear state whose citizens and government all keep quiet and know not to speak too openly about.
There are plenty of good reasons for the Dimona strategy, but the inherent contradiction exemplifies the absurdity at both a micro and macro level that permeates life here. A Jewish state that contains non-jews and yet promises equal rights and legal protections to all. A people that have long been the victims of horrendous treatment as sub-human by the rest of the world that treats non-jews as lesser. A people known for enlightened thinking, and questioning everything that seem to be completely inculcated by far right media nonsense (Ex: this is the only semi-modern country on earth where a large population of citizens defends and endorses our president). A conservative religious state thats shining tower is Tel Aviv, a city of complete debauchery and the LGBTQ capital of the middle east. A thriving capitalist utopia that has its roots in a completely secular soviet-style socialist movement. The rapidly progressing research and innovation center of the world that frowns upon the use of electronics on Saturdays. I legit could go on for pages and pages on these contradictions, but I swear the goal here is not to be political. I only seek to illustrate that the contradictions are constant and unavoidable for all but the most northern of Tel Avivians.
I have now been here nearly seven months and have barely given you people anything to go off of. I think that is largely because I have trouble crafting a narrative to describe Israel, so any writing will feel inconsistent and possibly hypocritical. Everywhere else I have lived abroad seems to have a narrative thread that ties it all together, I am not sure if that exists here.
All of that said.. I figure a good place to start is with my own life and then go from there. So to be straightforward in typical Israeli fashion, my life here is dope. Tel Aviv is the ultimate bubble, and I live in the heart of it. Every meal is amazing (yes the hummus is to die for), the city and people are beautiful, the beach is fantastic, the nightlife is varied and wonderful, and the energy is indescribable.
Best of all, the people are amazing. I have never felt so welcomed, made so many strong friendships so quickly, or had so many deep conversations in such a short time in a new place. A summer-camp like attitude pervades the city thanks to the beach-town-esque atmosphere, the intimate proximity (walking distance) to friends, and the preference for spontaneity over advanced planning.
Much of the city is cool in a way that rivals even the trendiest neighborhoods in London and the leftist in me is constantly amazed at how shockingly liberal parts of this city are. Art is everywhere, music is vibey at worst, folks smoke weed openly in restaurants/bars, and nature parties are constantly going on (yes.. exactly what it sounds like). Work for Mint is fun and I finally am starting to get Product Management at the level required to make a massive impact on people’s lives. My team is brilliant and it actually feels like we can tackle massive problems better than any team I have seen or worked on. Plus, work is hilarious and good vibes and a constant stream of cultural jabbing and non-PC Israeli humor.
I could go on about what is awesome but in the spirit of transparency ill say it can also be super tough here. As fast as my hebrew has progressed (more on that in another post), it will take years before I no longer feel like an outsider, the tough political realities, the still not having a roommate, a terribly antiquated bureaucracy, missing friends and family like crazy after two years abroad, and the classic obstacles of daily life make even the best setup a challenge. In addition, the constant contradictions in life and people can be philosophically challenging and emotionally draining.
So, overall life here is pretty great and I appreciate everyone I have met and the constant support from the homeland. I am going to sleep now so I can do my job like a real human tomorrow, but stay tuned. A personal goal of mine is to get back into daily writing so you will be hearing from me whether you want to or not.
The post is about the transition period from being a student to running a scrum team and building new products as a product manager at a tech company. Pretty crazy transition and I feel like nearly three years later I can say a few things.
It has been a minute! Somehow we last chatted nearly 8 months ago when I was still living in Her Majesty’s kingdom. After completing my tour of duty, I was meant for a quick two-week stint collecting myself. However, for absolutely absurd reasons that I won’t dive into right now, the State of Israel was slow to approve my visa application to work in the Holy Land and I spent over 2 months in San Francisco.
If you read this blog occasionally, you probably know I have a complicated relationship with my home city by the bay. I will be the first to say that my first year in San Francisco was not the happiest for me. While my first year of work went better than I could have imagined, the 2-3.5 hours commuting to the Silicon Valley every day were absolutely soul- sucking. Despite being surrounded by some of closest friends and family in the world, something always seemed to be missing or broken, and I couldn’t escape the sense that I wasn’t growing as a person. It was easy to chalk this up to “real-world transition syndrome”, and this characterization is not wholly inaccurate. Still, the net-net was an inward struggle while outwardly thriving and no guaranteed improvement on the horizon. So I left.
One cool aspect of Brexiting was how clearly and quickly it illuminated some of the outages in my former situation. Reinforcement of the idea that stark contrast is a powerful tool for finding clarity. While it was painful at times for a variety of legitimate reasons, nine months in London was one of the best situations I have ever made.
All this is to say that the time I got to spend in San Francisco upon returning this summer, brought contentment in a way I was convinced I was not meant to have there. While crashing on friend’s couches for the first month (thanks again @Nick@Julian@Charlie@Garrett!) was certainly not easy, the overall experience and getting to spend time with the guys was great.
This was followed by a month living in a flat on Market smack dab in the middle of the Castro, Mission, Tenderloin, and Hayes Valley was amazing. Summer weather and long days in the park were wonderful. Climbing trees with Charlie was wonderful
. OSL and BFD (music stuff) were wonderful with favorite people(s). Goon-squad fourth of July at the Mackie house in Santa Rosa was wonderful. Family time was wonderful.
Weird Israel limbo state aside, summer was good. Eventually though, weird limbo state was resolved and it was time to climb the next mountain; life in a new country with a new project and new people, a strange culture with wild social dynamics and some of the craziest political undertows on the planet. I am not going to cover it in this post to keep things focused, but I promise it will be less than 8 months before I do. In fact ill have something by next week.
While the adventure continues, I can’t believe this chapter is ending. While it may not have been sunshine and rainbows all the time, overall it has been everything I could have possibly asked for and I am genuinely sad to say goodbye. I just did the classic nostalgic move and went back and read through my pre-London post. Trying to get back in that mental place is funny, such a blank page ahead of me. In retrospect I am pretty pleased by how that story turned out.
I made a bucket list at the time and wanted to check in to see how I did. It really isn’t that important since you really can’t know what will be exciting in a new country until you get there, but fun to see if it played out or not.
1. Join a handball team: The best sport we don’t have Ok I definitely did not do this one.. Handball not as big as expected. However, I played on two different 5v5 footy (soccer in cages) teams, including Intuit F.C. So I passed this one.
2. HARRY POTTER MUSICAL: I know it’s sold out.. Ill figure it out. Don’t be negative. DID IT AND HOLY DUMBELDORE IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Really amazing show in so many ways. See previous post on this subject.
3. Become a Premiership hooligan for a random team While I never went full Hooligan, I am pretty happy to say I am now a Fulham supporter. They are currently in the second division (which makes it cooler right?), but they have a great support base, culture, and an excellent stadium. Plus, they consistently sign Americans so it makes sense. Jersey purchase imminent.
4. Afternoon tea at a fancy hotel with reservations Cuz monies did not go to a fancy hotel, but we definitely did fancy tea (see previous post) on our visit to Windsor.
5. Shakespeare Play at the Globe (Shakeys theatre) ok I failed outright on this one. Maybe in the next week? Lots of musicals living in the West End, but none at The Globe.
6. Morning run on the Thames More than I can count. Honestly made me like running. Such a beautiful way to start or end a day.
7. Harry Potter set! I did it twice! Completely blown away by how cool this is.
8. Michelin Star restaurant (I will likely have to fly somewhere else in Europe for this but I am doing it.) Did it in London! Beautiful (actually like art) meal for dad’s birthday.
9. Buy something at Harrods Food counts right 😃?
10. 3 last minute weekends in random cities Berlin, Edinburgh Copenhagen .. All planned within 3 weeks of going. Judge counts this one.
11. Notting Hill Carnival: The weekend I get there! Biggest Carnival outside Rio in the world. Skipped it. Was sleepy. I regret nothing.
12. St. James Church Lunchtime concerts Failed. Turns out leaving work at lunch doesn’t make much sense.
-West UK This weekend!
Overall.. Pretty happy about this. Combine it with the majority of great stuff I couldn’t possibly have planned in advance (3AM Duck and Waffle, countryside hiking, dodgeball tournament, The BoatRace, Windsor, Berlin, Chamonix, Paris, countless weird bars and restaurants, Hampstead Heath, etc etc etc) and I definitely think I passed London 102. Definitely will say more this week.. but now need to sleep.
It’s 2:15 AM on a Wednesday. Back in London. Awake from a combination of jet lag and frantic mind I can’t turn off sometimes.
Back from another amazing Coachella. Probably the best music weekend I have ever had. Stacked lineup from morning until night. Always great to get home and see the people i care the most about, but also painful because of how fleeting the time is, and how the music festival can overshadow quality time.
So last post I promised I had some news. You might know I am on a 9 month rotation in London. That ends at the end of May. The plan was then to head back and do my final rotation in Mountain View. Then life happened and the plan changed. So.. drumroll….. Starting in late June, I will be heading to Tel Aviv, Israel for 8 months building for the Mint Team. Intuit Mint is a personal financial management application that does budgeting, shows your credit score, and pays your bills. Obviously this was an agonizing decision, so a few weeks ago I wrote down the pros and cons. Today I updated them and posted them below. I am still not sure if I made the right call, but I thought I would lay down my thinking…
Why it could be the right move:
Ive been desperate to work on an product that I actually use. I couldn’t say enough good things about my current role, but the best PMs are the ones who can empathize best with users because they are users themselves. It makes it more real, and dramatically improves decision making. I have always dreamed of working on something I love outside of work, and I get excited just thinking about it. Builder Kyle is uber pumped.
Figuring life out. I’ve alluded to it in previous posts, but a big part of my Brexit motivation was a dissatisfaction with how things were going in SF. Something always felt off and I have spent a fair amount of time here trying to unpack that and figure out what was wrong. Some of it became clear immediately upon my move, while most has taken me time to really figure out. Trust me when I say my notes file is full of jumbled and often contradictory thoughts/beliefs/decisions that I have been sorting through. In this time most of what has been troubling me has become crystal clear, but I still am not quite there. With answers often comes more questions, but I can tell I am getting close to a place of understanding. I can’t know for sure, but I think Tel Aviv will be exactly what I need to get there.
It’s just an unreal opportunity. I know that life doesn’t give everyone these sorts of chances, and I am grateful to be in a place in life where I can take this chance. One of the guiding principles for my decision making until I am thirty is to go where I can learn the most. This checks that box times a million.
Israel itself. While I have visited once on birthright, I am thrilled by the idea of trying to figure out the most complex region on the planet and understand all the history and perspectives that have made this land such a global flashpoint in human history. Plus, I think i will gain a much better understanding and appreciation of my own Jewish heritage by exploring the holy land of the Jewish people.
The Middle East. FUNDaFIELD is looking seriously at what small work we can do to help children impacted by the inconceivably devastating Syrian crisis. Being close to the impacted areas will unquestionably help push this work ahead.
Why it could be the wrong move:
People.. If you read all of those pros above, they basically all revolve around Kyle Weiss. One of the things that has become obvious to me recently (see point 2 above), is that I haven’t really thought about everyone else when making these decisions. In the confusing time that is life immediately after Camp Claremont, it becomes easy to focus on just figuring your own shit out, but that can be dangerous. Tel Aviv means I can’t be there for friends and family if they need, missing birthdays, and all the big and small moments that give things meaning. Having already been gone for a while, this is hard. Really hard. While some relationships are obviously resilient, some rely on proximity and shared experience, and I hate that I am putting those at risk. This is something I am working on in life overall, and is definitely the biggest reason I still have doubts about this.
Really different. London is the perfect city for me. It’s a music haven. I get to interact with so many different types of people from so many different places. I can relate to new friends enough to have common ground, but it still feels new and exciting. Art is everywhere. People have nailed work-life balance. The time change isn’t THAT bad, and there is always more to see. While Tel Aviv has some of this, it is definitely a significant degree more foreign. Intense culture forged in a land surround by hostility, a completely different language that I know almost none of, differently values, different entertainment and priorities etc.. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I am.
Leaving London. See above but I really love London. I have made some great friends here and leaving them is going to be painful. It has taken time to build up a life here, and now that things feel normal, the idea of walking right back into another life where I don’t know anyone and live alone is tough.
There is a lot more to it, but thats where I ended up as I thought about the decision. In the end I decided to go for it, while being acutely aware of the cons and prioritizing working extra hard to minimize the negative impacts. I am scared, no doubt, but I comfort myself with the thought that I will be able to visit, have visitors, and be back in the homeland in early next year. Seems manageable. Stay tuned. I suspect I will be writing a lot in the next few months.
con muchisimo amor
Kyle David Weiss.
P.S. Check out Mint in the App store. It is free! I will be working on helping users with their bills, but any thoughts on the app overall are incredibly helpful for us.
In a perplexing twist of events, it is currently Sunny in London. The last few weeks have warmed up and it is fantastic. The parks are full of people, rooftop bars are opening, and Kyle’s Vitamin D levels are normalizing. Anyways, it has been a crazy and wonderful few months, and I wanted to share some of the highlights with my six loyal readers.
Windsor Castle: One of the most spontaneously fun days I have had in London. Went with the lads to explore the Queen’s current residence (royals don’t live… that’s for mortals.. they “reside”) and the surrounding area. Getting out of London is always a breath of fresh air (literally http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/24/air-pollution-london-passes-levels-beijingand-wood-burners-making/) ), and a day of mucking about in Windsor was just what the doctor ordered. Best part was that Queen Lizzy herself was in the castle that day, and while we didn’t see her, her standard flew above for all to see.
After exploring the castle, we did what is known as the long walk.. Basically the trail that is a few miles long leading to the front of the castle. Very fairytale-esque to walk up to the castle through nature and see it get bigger and bigger in front of you. We eventually took our worn out selves to a gastropub for lunch, and then headed to a local shop for tea time. In the words of one of our British friends, “This was the most British day of my entire life.”
The biggest adventure I have been on in a while, we rented a huge house in the French Alps. <— sentence I thought I would never say.. Chamonix is a town surrounded by a bunch of the most beautiful mountains I have seen in my life. The town is small enough that you can walk to any of the gondolas up to the Mountain’s from your doorstep. Very chill. This trip introduced me to the wonder that is apres ski; basically after you finish on the slopes (during for some), everyone congregates before dinner for a drink or twelve. Crowds are huge, live music, and a ton of fun.
Then at night, the town turns wild (and Chamonix is one of the more conservative alps towns), with bars and clubs galore. Being France, the food was painfully delicious and rich. Even on the slopes, one of our lunches was a fully seated, French feast. The snowboarding was amazing, and the crew was a blast. From wearing wigs about half the trip to having snowball fights during runs, I couldn’t have asked for a better long weekend.
I visited Oxford. See: Cambridge. Amazing place that would be incredible to study at. At some point I will likely be headed back to school, so visiting different schools and seeing the programs they offer is a good time.
5v5 footy… basically indoor soccer outdoors.. Intuit F.C. was off to a hot start with 3 straight wins to open the season. As of this week we have now been promoted to the first division, and while we lost our first game 9-7, the energy is amazing. Feels great to work these muscles again. I love this game. The Brits get way too intense about it, and near-fights and actual fights are surprisingly common, but that makes it even more intense. Sidenote: one of my favorite bands, ‘The XX’ played 7 nights straight in Brixton. I got a last minute ticket to one sold out show and went straight from a match, all by myself.. Worth it. Amazing show.
Other than that, life has been pretty amazing lately. Work is engaging and fun, friendships are what I would assume to be lasting, and running on the river in the mornings is more pleasant than ever.
Weekends are spent exploring new areas, eating good food, having wild nights out, drawing, and having Hygge time at Sunday BBQ, one of my favorite weekly traditions.
Really appreciate all the homies here who have welcomed me, and shown me the ropes. I am beyond stoked to head home for my favorite weekend of the year on Tuesday, and am already sad thinking about the end of my rotation. As of 12 hours ago I know where my next role will be, and spoiler alert, it won’t be London. Stay tuned world.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.. What to say? What to say? Is it fair to say it was one of the greatest (maybe the greatest), thing I have seen or done in the last few years? Maybe.. To be honest, I went in with pretty low expectations. While I purposely avoided reading the screenplay, those that did were not all too impressed by it. More importantly though, I have learned to lower the bar with Potter in general. Both the original eight movies, and the newer Fantastic Beasts story are alright, but for me were always a bit of a letdown. I enjoyed watching them and was in line at midnight like everyone else, but they never quite captured the magic of Harry Potter in a way that came close to the complete suspension of reality that J.K. Rowling’s books had. This show did.
The plays themselves were outstanding (it is two full shows that can be watched in one day), the acting was amazing, the stage design and special effects were absolutely surreal, the story line was completely engaging, and in general, all the boxes that separate a great show from a good one were ticked. This is me basically saying that your cousin who never read the Harry Potter books (why oh why :((((? ) could walk into the Palace Theater in London, and be blown away.
All that is well and good, but I didn’t refresh the ticketing website for months in order to just see a great show. No, this show was the number one item on my London bucket list because of what Harry Potter represents to me, and what this production had the potential to create. As many others did, I first discovered the boy who lived when I was eight years old, and was lucky to be able to grow up alongside him. While I read plenty, these books were unquestionably the refuge I kept going back to. When the real world felt unfair, when I thought I would never be very good at anything, when I didn’t understand how to interact with people, when things were bad in general, I escaped into Harry’s world. This world made sense for little Kyle, good and evil were distinct and obvious. Even when things seemed bad, the heroes figured out a way to keep the darkness at bay. Plus, as most people probably know at this point, Rowling’s world building is as good as it gets. The attention to detail and consistency across all seven books is hard to fathom at times. It creates a setting so intensely vivid that one can escape completely into the pages for hours on end. So, it isn’t shocking that the prospect of a Harry Potter tale on stage has enticed me and everyone else on the one-year long ticket waiting list. I essentially had low expectations, but a high potential bar.
To my pleasant surprise, the show captured the Potter magic in a way I thought would never happen again after finishing book seven. It managed to stand up as a new story (that of one of Harry’s children and his friends), but a new story that delved into the ramifications of the old story and paid constant homage to the originals. While other stories (the new Star Wars), can slightly lose themselves trying to placate their original fan base, The Cursed Child does so in a beautiful, unforced, and poignant way. More importantly, the story was completely believable. The ramifications and implications of being born Harry’s children, of unavoidable deaths that occurred in the books, are all are explored at length, and they feel genuine. The character’s personalities still shine brightly into their adult-selves, and the humor and warmth comes through even in the darkest parts of the show, just like the books. The two shows run over five hours (with dinner in between), and after the initial wow factor of seeing unexplainable magic happening on stage wears off, we were completely engrossed for the duration. Through the final act, it was pretty clear that much of the theater was in tears. All in all, I am still processing how fantastic this production was.
At this point of any review I would normally be pushing anyone who got this far to go see the show as soon as possible. In this case I realize that is a rather cruel thing to do. The Palace Theater will never hold a fraction of the Potter fans in the world, London is far from most people, and the insane ticket prices will be a barrier for many, even if they weren’t sold out. So I guess I would just say that if you are a HP fan and ever get the chance to see the show, do everything in your power to make that happen. You won’t be disappointed. It will hit you in all sorts of ways, and let you lose yourself in the wizard world all over again.
Note: This is a brief meditation on my thoughts on information and education. I think anyone who follows the news understands how this issue has put the very foundations of western society, values, and progress at risk recently, so it has been on my mind pretty constantly.
I’ve been thinking a lot about information. Where it comes from, how much exists, how we access it, how we process it etc..
According to IBM Marketing Cloud, 90% of the worlds data was created in the last two years, and that growth rate is accelerating. Currently about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. This is generally a good thing. Data allows us to further academic research, predict patterns and trends, create better products and generally improves our lives in countless ways (we can talk privacy another time). So while on balance I would argue that the data explosion is a positive trend, I think it has a few particularly dangerous consequences:
More data existing means more objectively false or generally misleading data existing
More data increases our reliance on the gatekeepers/gateways through which we access that data
The sheer magnitude of available data makes getting a fair sampling of information nearly impossible.
The first point is a relatively obvious one. I easily could have completely made up the IBM Marketing Cloud fact I gave above. I didn’t, but very easily could have, and when I published this piece, that complete fabrication would exist in the world’s cumulative database. With the world population now having unprecedented access to information and technology, not only can most people consume this information, but they can contribute it. Through stupidity, human error, and of course, through nefarious intentions, inaccurate or misleading data is being created at an equally unprecedented rate. Even if the proportion of accurate information increases, the overall amount of false information will continue to skyrocket.
The second point is where the real danger is. Historically information was funneled through a select group of gatekeepers, and while these gatekeepers were not always accurate, they were generally held accountable by their constituents. There certainly were purveyors of bullshit, but the well-defined gateways meant that people had greater exposure to more accurate information. So ya, I might get some wonky views from my pastor, or creepy Dave down the road, but those were well balanced by the news each night, the newspaper the next morning, the public education I received, and various other information sources.
The problem today is not that there is not enough accurate data and information accessible to me, it’s that there is far greater exposure to the ever-increasing sources of inaccurate information. So while I may now have access to evidence backed academic research on almost any topic, I am more likely to be exposed to a random blog, a FB comment, a marketed study with financial incentives to create a certain viewpoint, or worse, talk radio.
Worse still, the third point means that even if we had perfect information, the sheer quantity of information that exists means it would be nearly impossible to filter it appropriately. This problem is exponentially compounded by the tailored content that FaceBook and Google have perfected. When the main pillars of our online lives have business models that rely on serving us content we are likely to click, then it’s pretty safe to assume that content is not representative of reality. We all know online echo-chambers, and the biasing reinforcement that comes from being surrounded by those that agree with you. While historically those were just communities of similar interest that you opted-in to, today you don’t have a choice and it is impossible to opt-out.
I don’t need to even get started on the devastating impact this is having on the world. The tools that were meant to create an ideal state with perfect information and accountability are being used to manufacture fear, spread hate, distort reality, prioritize profit over truth and on and on.
I believe that fixing this problem is going to take a concerted effort from the technology industry, our major media players, our legislators, and our executive branch. However, in the long run I believe we need to radically redefine our education system in a way that combats this issue:
Remove focus from rote memorization and regurgitation of information
Focus on understanding how to query the specific information needed from an unlimited set of potential sources
Focus on critical analysis of sources and evaluating the quality and biases of sources
Today, I can do every calculation I will ever need and find almost any information on any topic that exists in seconds from my bed. The winners in this paradigm are not those that can store the most data in their heads, but those that know how to filter through the noise and find what exactly what they need, as instantaneously as possible. Doing so requires deep training and subsequent understanding of the information landscape, in order to avoid confirmation bias and evaluate the strength of one’s source. Whether that means understanding of who funded the research that ran a study, understanding assumptions made in a report, or being presented with strong counterpoints, this will be a critical and potentially transformative solution to the information accuracy issue.
Now to figure out how to make this a reality.
Thanks for indulging me. Please shoot me any thoughts, disagreements or corrections!
Note: If you read this and concluded that this issue is the cause of CNN, the NYT etc creating fake news, you are part of the problem and should reevaluate where you get your information.
I am a big advocate of New Year’s resolutions. We are creatures of habit, and we don’t often reassess those habits against goals or priorities. So NY resolutions are a cool way of analyzing ourselves, and then committing to behavior changes that align with our goals. While I have a few things I want to focus on this year, the two biggest are; learning new skills, and creatively expressing myself.
New Skills: I am going to write a whole blog post on my philosophy on learning, but suffice to say I feel like I am a bit lacking in the ‘developed skills’ department. Learning new skills and trying new things are pretty important to me (good liberal arts student), and I feel like I am finally at the place in life where I can think about things I want to try, and then put some effort into a select few. Someone I look up to in this area is my friend, Max Deutsch. Max is a fellow Product Manager at Intuit, but also a serial entrepreneur who does more cool projects in a year than most will in their whole lives. One of Max’s current projects is called ‘Month to Master’ where he is learning one new skill a month, at a ‘master’ level, for a whole year. So far he has learned to; memorize a shuffled deck in 2 minutes, draw a photo-realistic self portrait, and solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 20 seconds. This month he will be learning to land a backflip. You can follow his progress with daily updates here: https://medium.com/@maxdeutsch. While I don’t currently aspire to any master level skills, Max shows the power of some sustained effort in areas you might not be comfortable. Flexing new muscles helps expand our mind, and keeps things fresh and exciting.
Creative Expression: Blogging is great, but at the end of the day can feel a bit limiting. It’s perfect for summarizing a time, sharing photos, making arguments, expressing opinions etc… However, it is not great for capturing really strong emotions, feelings, thoughts in the moment, abstract concepts etc… On a personal level, living alone in a new place with all new people, naturally leads to a lot of novel thoughts, feelings, perspectives. It’s a lot to keep bottled up, and so I have been eager to figure out new ways to analyze these things, and express myself. Something about the creative process is extremely cathartic and something I could benefit from.
So drumroll….. I decided to experiment a bit with drawing! I have been spending about 30 minutes a day just looking at images of whatever I randomly decide, and trying to figure out how draw it with charcoal and graphite pencils. I definitely was not born with artistic inclinations (coloring in the lines was for suckers), so this is a very new space for me. The current goal is just to get comfortable with the process, and learn some basic techniques. Once I get to a place I feel good about, I will start thinking really hard about what I want to express and get a bit more creative with it. In the meantime though, I have been surprised by how relaxing I find the process, and how engulfed in the task my mind becomes. It has been strangely therapeutic, and a nice change from being in front of a screen all day.
As you can see, definitely a big work in progress, but I am actually happy by how some have turned out. I don’t really trust my hand yet, so there is definitely a shakiness to everything, but the hope is that I will get more steady over time. Next step is learning how to properly shade, and then to start working on human figures. Note: in general I am attracted to darker themed art.. not sure why, but I am particularly interested in darker, fantastical imagery.
Images from Porter Robinson’s live show^.. (seeing him Tuesday in London:)
If last week was one of my larger deviations from the trusty travel blogger formula, this week will be an enthusiastic overcorrection. Count on lots of cute pictures in front of noted landmarks with fun captions, hunger-inducing foodie pics in honor of Kira Weiss, and a steady stream of hygge (if that word does not compute, read blog from beginning), and good times.
So in order to make the most out of my time here, I decided to stay in London town over the holidays and was lucky enough to have a bunch of the team head this way. In the last Month, I’ve had Nick Weiss, E Choy, Chanteezy, Kira (Chippy), Papa G, G Weiss, and mom all in the casa. Thanks for coming everyone!
Since Nicky came before everyone else, him and I did three days in London, and then four in Paris with some of the CMC crew. We did three days of London; one in the east, one in the center, and one in the west.
I like Paris but honestly it all looks the same so I have trouble remembering individual events that take place (disclaimer: I really like how Paris looks.. it just all looks the same).
Strange story in Paris: Leaving a club at around 2AM.. get in Uber.. 2o angry men surround car… start screaming…. open doors… throw us out of uber… realize we are tourists…. stop yelling at us…. yell at driver…. say “uber.. no” while gesturing to their throats…. us shaken… walk around corner….. call uber… go home feeling victorious… Seriously strange experience though. While I feel for anyone who is replaced by an unregulated industry, harassing customers and drivers is definitely not winning you any goodwill.
I will say that there is something magical about Paris. From the parks to the museums to the long boulevards dotted with cafes, the sense of grandeur makes everything feel fairy tale esque. In terms of food, the Hot Chocolate at Angeline was the best thing I have ever tasted. Seriously, everything since has tasted bland. L’As du Fallafel definitely lives up to the hype as best Falafel in Southern Europe, worth the line.Plus, drinking wine late at night with friends on the Seine is always wonderful. Squad finished with an accidental 4 AM night at a Jazz bar we just walked into. Huge Midnight In Paris vibes.
Once everyone left, I decided to go hardo adventure travel guy and see all of Versailles in 4 hours before my flight. So freaking worth it guys.
Amazing history, amazing nature/outdoors, amazing tours, amazing place to throw on your running shoes and just walk for miles. Honestly can’t recommend this enough. One of the rare days 20s Kyle has been completely awestruck (see: Zion National Park, Havasupai Falls, Coachella, Koh Phi Leh).
One week of work.
Kira, Dad, Emmett
Those three all arrived the same day^ lol. Between eating incredible food (Dishoom on day 1), teaching Kira how to order a drink, and late night Shwarma/noodles, this time passed in a hilarious blur. Plus living 100 yards from #ZooBar is my curse and blessing. Christmas Day stands out as one of the most eerie scenes ever.. No trains or busses so we just walked around ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ London. That night we had dinner with one our awesome South African family living in Britain, and took a classic tourist Abbey Road pic.
The next day was another crazy weird quiet London day, this time in Shoreditch where we played Junkyard Golf (minigolf course and bar but way funnier), and ate more good food. We ended up at Winter Wonderland where we may or may not have done 8 rounds each in the Oktoberfest Tent.
Garrett Chantal Kira Emmett Dad
Once Chantal (planned), and Garrett (suprise)showed up, we really had a dreamteam assembled. That night we finally had a MICHELIN STAR DINNER. Take THAT bucket list! I will say no more and instead just show photos of food.
It tasted exactly as amazing as it looks. Happy late Birthday Dad!
Sidenote: Since I am a devious puppetmaster, I suprise secured the flat next door to mine for the break, so we were able to have all these shenanigans at a close distance.
Garrett Chantal Kira Emmett Dad Mom
Next suprise was mom’s arrival, which although was somewhat known, still completed the massive holiday crew. I am incredibly thankful to you all for visiting ice cold London to hang out. Next day, we did some food at Camden Lock, and discovered a ski resort themed bar with an amazing live musician, as well as a massive 3 story rave store? Rave Rave Rave includes live dancers, pulsating beats, baby rave gear, and even a sex shop in the weirder levels. Fun for the whole family!
Dinner that night was a not-so-cheeky Nandos, a British favorite!
The 30th took us to The Brixton another “grungy Hipster Neighborhood” and the worst possible day on the London Eye. Visibility was zero, and still people lined up and went for it. Gotta love tourism.
News Years Eve stands out as another Kyle bucket list item complete. The whole gang went all the way east to the olympic park and took on the worlds tallest and longest tunnel slide. Basically they built this hideous structure for the olympics, and in a stroke of total genius, decided to put a build a slide on it to save face.
Pretty smart actually. The world needs more slides. Dinner that night was a feast at Black Roe. Think 7 types of poke, champagne, and mac n cheese in a lobster. Divine.
After a celebratory meal, Chantal Emmett and I jumped ship and went to a rave.
What we didn’t realize was that the whole thing was a Drum and Bass show.Rookie mistake. 7 hours is a lot of drum and bass. 20 minutes is a lot of drum and bass. At 5 AM we headed home (with a quick detour at Buckingham Palace), got food, and EChoy headed straight to the airport. Legend.
First week of 2017 saw Kyle and Chantal doing some serious Londoning..
The Sky Garden:
All the food, and long walks across London, we did it all.
On the last day we finally made it to Greenwich and having low expectations set by the internet, were pleasantly surprised with how cool it was. Imagine shrinking all of London into one adorable town, throw in a Maritime museum and some scientific legacy, and you have Greenwich. We even had traditional pies and mash at a local spot.
Also maybe the highlight of my tourisms, I ended up going with Garrett and Chantal separately on the Harry Potter Studio Tour in a 5 day timespan. I promise this is one of those things that is definitely worth doing, regardless of your HP fandom level.
What really made this cool was just a look at how 8 films with essentially unlimited budgets get made. Example, thousands of wands were made for the cast, rubber wands for action scenes, Hero wands for close ups, etc etc.. 20,000 props are in the storefronts of Diagon Alley alone, 1000+ different “potions” fill up the potions class.
You get to see the actual castle they filmed all of the castle scene with, etc etc.. Very cool and surreal experience for those of us who grew up with Harry. “It’s like being in a museum where the theme is just your childhood.”-Chantal I really should do a full post on this, but this post alone is taking forever, so just go on the tour yourselves!
Honestly could go on and on forever about the last month of life, in fact I completely skipped the cheeky Copenhagen trip I took two weeks ago, but at some point I need to push the publish button. I finally feel like I have some sense of ownership on London.. Granted I still haven’t seen HUGE portions of the city, but have definitely now hit the main spots. The fact that I got to spend this time with my favorite people on the planet, exploring such a wonderful place, is something I am beyond grateful for. Thanks to you all for making it out here! Ciao.
Tune in next week for your regularly scheduled program.
One quote from each:
“So I want one night out to be themed around my love for Jaimie XX, and one night for The Smiths… Can you do that?”- Nick
“Does anyone else listen to hardo trap music to help them fall asleep?”-Emmett
“Buckingham Palace… tehe”-Chantal
“Officer I only had one butterbeer… I’m fine!”-Garrett
“Oooooh I should make a new Instagram for that!”-Chippy