Friday, February 26, 2021

ZB's YouTube Cavern #4


A magical music video from Fleet Foxes that moves me every time I watch it. It's like a surreal short film of sorts. I remember watching this with Shaktman and Mulcahey when it first came out and the three of us were floored. Great times in Conor's basement, pure debauchery haha. Love Pecknold and company, they are true musical auteurs painting majestic tapestries with their sounds. To couple that with such intricate and trippy animation is incredible. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer (1899)

The Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer (1899)

"What is freedom? Is it the bare privilege of not being chained?... If this is all, then freedom is a bitter mockery, a cruel delusion." - James A. Garfield

The Scene

At the center of the canvas lies a black man on a boat, it's mast destroyed and the ship directionless. He is lost at sea, and surrounding him in the dark waters are sharks ready to attack. The man sits on his back stoically as he gazes out across the ocean. Far in the distance we see a ship to our left and a swirling cyclone to the right. 

What happened to this poor man? How close is he to shore? What will be his fate? Will he be saved by the passing ship or ripped apart by the sharks? Will he make it safely to shore or will he be swallowed by the incoming storm?

Every time I look at this painting my mind floods with these questions and a sinking feeling overwhelms me. It's a stunning piece by one of the finest painters in American history. Truly an iconic work.

My Interpretation

While the piece can be taken quite literally, which I think may have been Winslow's intention, my mind goes elsewhere. 

For me this work is a representation of American Reconstruction. Where the man at the center is the newly freed slaves, the sharks are hostile whites, and the treacherous ocean is Black America's newfound freedom. He is undoubtedly thirsty, but this water is salty and deceiving. His captain - an absent symbol of the antebellum plantation owner - has gone overboard. Swallowed by the previous storm, or in this case the Civil War. The shore isn't in frame either. An unseen representation of the North, where things are safer but still uncertain and dangerous.

In the distance the foggy ship is the promise of a better tomorrow. The hope that one day equality and suffrage will be attained. While the raging storm to the right symbolizes the backlash and suffering that may arise in the coming years.

Seeing it through this lens, the painting becomes even more heartbreaking. By telling myself this story, I now know this man's fate.

That's just my vision though. The beauty of art is that it's open to any interpretation you give it. It doesn't matter what the critics say, or even what the artist's original intentions were. Look at it, hear it, touch it, sing it, experience it. And whatever comes to mind is your own personal truth. Nobody can take that feeling away from you.

What do you see in this piece?

- ZB James

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Surreal Album Artwork of Robert Beatty

Robert Beatty is a graphic designer who produces art for some of the biggest names in music and media, including art for a band named Mondo Drag - surely he is a messiah of Todd himself. I especially enjoy his color schemes and other-worldly designs.

One of my favorite all-time pieces of album artwork, which was commissioned for (but is not limited to) Tame Impala's 2017 Currents, is a Robert Beatty production. The specific rendering is a take on fluid/gas dynamics known as vortex shedding or turbulent flow. Picture those little swirls when you walk through smoke, dye in water, or the way water itself spirals behind a moving boat or an oar. Now dip that concept in LSD and you've got the cover of Currents.

Tame Impala - Currents
Mondo Drag - Mondo Drag
William Tyler - Goes West
Tim Heidecker - Fear Of Death

Beatty has a bunch more pieces up on his website which are all highly interesting and definitely worth a browse. He also does graphics for the New York Times and writes his own music. A cool human with work worth following.

- Moth

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

ZB's YouTube Cavern #3

Getting HIIT in the Face

On my first YTC I mentioned that we all end up in our own internet wormholes for better or worse. Well for todays post I wanted to share a cavern that's definitely for the better: a mondo workout routine that I crushed early this AM.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is one hell of a way to workout, especially if you are time crunched and want to burn calories fast. I don't do it all the time, but try to incorporate a HIIT at least once or twice a week. This video above was insanely difficult and is one of the most challenging YouTube workouts I've ever attempted. Anna (the workout leader whose YouTube channel is here) kicks ass - I was dying by the end and she was still going strong. Very inspirational.

The Ukranian Madman's Mondo Ab Crusher

After the HIIT I decided to go full throttle and attempted this ab workout lead by Igor Voitenko (his channel is here). This guy is hilarious - his thick Eastern European accent is great and his videos are pretty challenging. I was basically dying by the end of this one lol.

That's it - just wanted to share a circuit that I thought was engaging, difficult, and rewarding. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to sweat! 

It's super cool how many follow-along workout routines are on YT. I like to switch it up every now and then and it's nice that there's so much content to choose from (I actually had never done either of these specific routines until today).

There's also some great Yoga content on YouTube as well. Shout out to Chris who showed me SaraBethYoga, I've been enjoying her videos a lot. Might have to get a sesh in later.

One things for sure - YouTube is a bastion for anyone looking to stay active while cooped up during the pandy. If you don't want to spend the money on expensive virtual training equipment, look no further.

- ZB James

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Tayler's First Youtube Cavern

 Magnum Photos & The Decisive Moment

    As I often do before going to bed, I put on a YouTube video to help me fall asleep. I came across the below video about some of the best photo books and I thought it was quite interesting. If you don't want to watch the whole thing, the first five minutes are sufficient. 

    I did research on their recommendations and considering they were all great, it was tough to pick a favorite. There was one that caught my eye though and that was The Decisive Moment By Henri Cartier-Bresson. Apparently he’s super famous and has photographed Yves Saint Laurent, Marilyn Monroe, and Pablo Picasso. He pioneered street photography and most commonly shot with a 35mm film camera.

    He’s also one of the founders of Magnum Photos. If you’re like me and have never heard of Magnum Photos, this page sums up their historical significance.

The Decisive Moment 

    As you go through these photos it can be easy to ask yourself, what makes this great? Just spend some time looking at each picture, the many minor details and how all the patterns are working together. The composition is some of the best of all time. He has a unique eye for capturing creative, yet everyday situations most would never even notice.

    For example, and the most obvious, is the first picture of the bike wizzing by the spiral staircase. This scene was in his mind before the bike was coming by. He was simply waiting for that moment. Notice how the bike perfectly matches up with the bottom of the staircase, the curves of the hand railings and their relationship to the stairs, and how it works with the curved road and sidewalk. Really interesting stuff. This picture earned the prestigious award as The First Background on my New Computer.

    The second photo is equally as impressive. Again, perfect framing and timing. The five doors all working together, the shadows down the center, horizontal and leading lines everywhere. Great stuff. 

    The third photo is best explained by the author, “…a man jumping across a puddle, with his reflection in the puddle of water, and on the wall in the background, is a poster with a man jumping in the same position”. Something I didn’t even noticed until I read that.

    The rest of the article is interesting as well. It only shows a handful of photos, but it does a good job of getting the point across. You can purchase the 160 paged book on Amazon for about $400. That’s quite expensive, but maybe some day I’ll have a copy on my coffee table. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Thoughts on Tom Brady


Last night as Tom Brady took the field I couldn't help but think to myself that, win or lose, I needed to just soak in the moment and enjoy what I was witnessing. Because what I was watching was arguably the greatest athlete in the history of modern professional sports. 

There were arguments to be made beforehand that Gretzky, or Jordan, or Ronaldo are better. But last night I think those conversations were officially put to bed. Brady just went on a three game playoff run where he beat Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes at 43 years old. Absolutely astounding. The fact that he can even start a game in the NFL at his age is a miracle, and he just won the whole damn thing.

As a Patriots fan, sure I would've loved for him to have stayed in New England and won it with Belichick and Co. But had he stayed would he still be on that podium? I don't think so - the Patriots supporting cast wasn't nearly as good as the Bucs. With that in mind, I couldn't be happier that he went to Tampa and won it the way he did. He owes Pats fans absolutely nothing and we should be happy that he's added to his legacy.

As for that legacy, it's unbelievable in every sense. His story embodies so much of what the American Dream means to people: Fighting for survival in the beginning. Getting an opportunity and climbing to the mountain top. Experiencing heartbreak and controversy while getting knocked off. Only to ascend once again into immortality. It's American folklore/mythology in it's purest form.

- ZB James

Sunday, February 7, 2021

ZB's YouTube Cavern #2

Bowie on Pixies

Quick post today for the YTC. In this video David Bowie talks about his admiration for the Pixies. Anytime a YouTube clip of Bowie pops up I find myself clicking it. What a brilliant guy, one of the handful of rock gods that commands total attention and respect anytime he opens his mouth. So eloquent with his explanations of music.

- ZB James

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

ZB's YouTube Cavern #1

I feel like, for better or worse (most likely worse), there's a dark cavern of YouTube for everybody. As the platform has grown and their algorithm has adapted, it seems like no matter what you're directed towards a cave deep in the belly of the beast. At least that's been my experience in the last few years. So in an attempt to make sense of these various virtual landing spots I've decided to create a series called YouTube Caverns. It's a simple concept: post a video that you've stumbled upon, or a series of videos that you've been following, and talk about why you think it's cool.

So without further adieu, here's episode #1:

El Chapo

Ever since the pandemic hit one of those wormholes I've been watching/listening to is a show called Chapo Trap House, which I've streamed on YouTube, Spotify, and Reddit. It's a political comedy podcast hosted by a bunch of slacker quasi-socialists that's equal parts stupid and profound. They make a joke out of everything, but hit upon thought-provoking points regarding socio-political issues too. Mainly I have enjoyed it as a source of comedy - they're not afraid to shit on anyone and I respect that. It's sad how subversive comedy like theirs has been widely demonized these days. I think that type of humor serves an important purpose within well-functioning societies, and the hyper-PC knee-jerk reaction to discredit art/artists that question our systems is unhealthy. If you were to read about these guys in the mainstream media you'd get the impression that they're evil, misogynist psychopaths lol. And while they definitely are controversial in their own way, I think they mean well at their core.

Here's one of my favorite bits I've ever heard from them, talking about how everyone has a white trash buddy that they grew up with.


One of the hosts Matt Christman does his own side vlog called CushVlog that I enjoy listening to every now and then. In it he goes on hour-long philosophical rants about the most existential shit you could ever imagine. It's one of the more wild YouTube caverns I've ever been in lol. But it's enjoyable hearing someone who is so smart explain the problems of the day as he sees it. In the latest post he announced he was going to try and write it all down in a book, which I thought was an epic moment. I'm excited for him to get his thoughts down on paper. I think Matt is one of the most interesting intellectuals I've listened to during this YouTube era. He is pretty black pill nihilistic in his vision, but to watch someone on the fringes like that during such a tough time feels more real than watching some mainstream media puppet tell me that everything is ok. In a way his rants feel like philosophical sermons in the tradition of Nietzsche. His latest post is below. It's some next level stuff.

Anyways, just wanted to get my thoughts out on this for episode #1. Hoping that Cushbomb can pull off writing the book. I understand, to some degree, the battles and struggles that come with artistic and philosophical expression and am in his corner big time.

- ZB James