Google Cardboard Provides A Taste of Virtual Reality for $15 USD

Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!
Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!

During a summer playdate with my best friend and our kids, he exposed me to Google Cardboard via a player received in the post from the New York Times VR (a recently launched content provider for Cardboard).  After slipping on a pair of headphones and staring deeply into headpiece (which conspicuously resembles the old, static View Master), I was blown away by the seemingly effortless experience of swimming underwater with dolphins, climbing the spire of the new World Trade Center, and exploring the history of Cuban Dance.

Despite the fact that Cardboard is 360-degree video and isn’t true virtual reality it is an astounding, immersive experience for only $15 and the content being created for the player (many of them free) is equally impressive!

But, don’t take my word for it, explore it yourself:

“Bring virtual reality to life with Google Cardboard. Using your smartphone and VR apps, this quality viewer puts the world of VR right in your hands, affordably.”

Everything Old is New Again: The Avalanches Release Their First Album in 16 Years

The Avalanches' storm back to relevance with the release of "Wildflower".
The Avalanches’ storm back to relevance with the release of “Wildflower”.

16 years ago, a group of Australian proto-punk, alternative artists turned deejays unleashed Since I Left You : a sprawling, sumptuous fin de siecle album upon an unsuspecting world.

As the 90’s drew to a close, we were witnessing the swift transformation of the music industry from guitars to turntables, record stores to Napster, analog recording to digital assembly; and the Avalanches threw themselves headlong into this brave new postmodern world inhabited by likes of Massive Attack, Portishead, Moby, Air, Thievery Corporation, and DJ Shadow.

Like DJ Shadow’s 1997 magnum opus Endtroducing, the album Since I Left You painstakingly constructed a digital valentine to the quickly vanishing analog era.  A lot has happened in since the early aughts and Wildflower quickly picks up and expands upon where the previous album left off. Assisted by a stellar roster of cameos, Wildflower is a collision of hard, urban beats and soft, psychedelic melodies expertly sequenced as only a collective of seasoned DJs can.

This was my album of the summer, but may be one of the most pleasurable listens of the year.

CODA: Listen to members of the band discuss the album with Beats Radio host, Zane Lowe.

Make a Mixtape (for Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)


Austin Kleon’s brilliant book “Steal Like an Artist” has a companion journal with invaluable exercises to get one’s creative juices flowing with a bias towards action.

As a music aficionado, I was immediately interested in the exercise: “Make a Mixtape (For Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)”. I wrote down my list and created two playlists (“Make a Mixtape Vols. 1 and 2”) in my iTunes to listen to while I work throughout the day. Hopefully you will create a mixtape of your own and share it with a friend.

Enough writing, here’s the list:


  • Charles Brown—Black Night
  • Nina Simone—Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
  • Jimi Hendrix—1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)
  • Sun Ra—Calling Planet Earth
  • Madvillian—Shadows of Tomorrow
  • A Tribe Called Quest—Excursions
  • Wes Montgomery (with the Wynton Kelly Trio)—Impressions
  • Bad Brains—Sailin’ On
  • Alton Ellis—Reason in the Sky
  • King Sunny Adé—Sunny Ti De Ariya
  • Rhythm and Sound Featuring Cornell Campbell—King of My Empire


  • Hiatus Kiayote—Breathing Underwater
  • Los Destellos—Onsta La Yerbita
  • The Black Keys—Weight of Love
  • Gary Clark Jr.—When My Train Pulls In
  • Paul Weller—Whirlpool’s End
  • Three Dog Night—Easy to Be Hard
  • Leon Thomas—Echoes
  • Terry Callier—Love Theme from Spartucus (4 Hero No Skins Mix)
  • Arthur Verocai—Sylvia
  • Nostalgia 77—Quiet Dawn (Examples of Twelve Remix)
  • Miles Davis—Flamenco Sketches

Why Prince Matters: A Belated Appreciation

Prince's ambiguity created a legion of diverse fans.
Prince’s ambiguity created a legion of diverse fans.

Ever since music avatar and popular culture icon Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016 there have been many tributes and testaments to his staggering talent but I think his most lasting legacy may be his comfort with non-conformity.

Prince KNEW he was different and that was his strength. He didn’t look, sing, play, or write like anyone else. Make no mistake, he had internalized the personas of Little Richard, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone but through the prism of his own contradictory and ambiguous worldview.

Blurring the likes between black and white, straight and gay, sinner or saint, rock and R&B, was an anathema to the culturally rigid society of the 80’s. A world of cold-war paranoia, apartheid, and homophobia. Through his music and performances, he pushed the boundaries of what was considered to be socially acceptable.

As a Generation X black kid  growing up in Milwaukee I knew my experience wasn’t much different from Prince’s Minneapolis and I saw him as a hero. Championing the underground and the counterculture and not allowing himself to be defined by his environment. The rebel, the hippie, the punk, the freak, and the queer were all equally attracted to his persona.

I never imagined that his vision would become the mainstream and that he would be embraced as an elder statesman by the cultural elite.

But, then again I never saw him dying at middle age either. Rest in peace, Prince there will never be another one like you.

Coda: 5 of Todd’s Favorite Prince Songs (in no particular order)

  1. “Dirty Mind”—Beautifully stark in its new-wave minimalism and some of Prince’s finest drum and synth programming.
  2. “I Wanna Be Your Lover”(Album Version)—At first blush this 1979 single sounds very much like post-disco Sylvester, but at 2:28 mark the track transforms into a hypnotic, proto-house electrojam.
  3. “Controversy”—This is Prince’s Declaration of Independence as he fully embraces his bad boy persona and his mastery of the recording studio.
  4. “Lady Cab Driver”—A magnum opus in storytelling and cinematic in production, Prince seamlessly merges his funk, rock, and pop influences into ONE song.
  5. “She Always in My Hair”—The greatest of his impressive body of B-Sides, Prince lays down one of his most infectious guitar riffs to great effect.

Let’s Say Goodbye to NYC’s Other Music

A cultural institution and champion of independent music has closed. For 20 years, New York City’s Other Music has served as an invaluable resource for obscure, alternative, and forgotten music.


As a music collector, DJ, and former indie record store manager, I remember when every major city had an Other Music—small, indie stores that doubled as communal spaces serving poseurs, affectionados, students, and fanatics alike. Nowadays, places like Other Music are a rare exception—a reminder of an era long past and another lost opportunity for us as human beings to connect on an interpersonal level.

I still remember ordering by mail or friends making trips to New York to secure the latest electronic and club music imports from Other Music. These strange and obscure pieces opened our minds, formed the foundation of our DJ sets, and helped us spread the electronic gospel to the uninitiated and unconverted.

NYC’s Other Music was a refuge and repository for independent music for 20 years.

The New York Times’ Manjula Varghese’s touching video tribute to Other Music reminds us that places for self expression and artistic pursuit still matter.

Other Music is dead, long live Other Music.

Coda: Check out Other Music’s Top 10 Spins Video:

These are 10 essential albums that define the Other Music sound.
These are 10 essential albums that define the Other Music sound.

Marvel’s Black Panther Gets a High-Octane Update from Author Ta-Nehisi Coates

MacArthur Genius Grant Awardee and National Book Award Winning Author (Between the World and Me), Essayist, and Social Critic Ta-Nehisi Coates reinvigorates the Wakandan warrior Black Panther for a new generation of readers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze's update of Black Panther for the modern era.
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s update of Black Panther for the modern era.

Infused with a social and political urgency uncommonly present in comics, the most advanced society on Earth (Wakanda) is in the midst of revolution and unrest and the warrior/prince T’Challa must deftly balance the duties of superhero and monarch. Brian Stelfreeze’s artwork is cinematic in its scope and movement.

Black Panther will have a major role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) helms the upcoming film starring Chadwick Boseman (42, Captain America Civil War).

If this comic series is any indication, Black Panther will be the prototypical hero for the new millennium.

Black Panther Marvel Online Update #1
Watch the video recap of Black Panther issue #1 paired with the music of Run the Jewels.

The response to this series (now in its third issue) has been overwhelming and Coates is providing a video update of each issue paired with exciting new music from artists such as Run the Jewels, Mobb Deep, and Prodigy.


Observing Bill Cunningham’s New York City

Bill Cunningham chronicled New York Fashion and urban street style for more than 40 years.
Bill Cunningham chronicled New York Fashion and urban street style for more than 40 years.

Legendary New York fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died last week, he was 87.

His more than forty years of photographing New York fashion and street style is a singularly astounding body of work and a fascinating catalog of cultural anthropology.

BCunninghamStreet BCunninghamStreet_3

My first encounter with Bill Cunningham’s work was attending the premiere of the documentary “Bill Cunningham’s New York”  at the AFI Silverdocs Festival in 2010.

Bill Cunningham's New York (2010) is a moving and fascinating documentary of the aforementioned street fashion photographer.
Bill Cunningham’s New York (2010) is a moving and fascinating documentary of the aforementioned street fashion photographer.

Although I remember frequently seeing his photographs in the
New York Times, I never knew anything about the dedicated artist behind the camera.


Leaving the theatre I was awestruck by the passion, focus and dedication Mr. Cunningham had for his craft. In this age of social media there are many, many street fashion photographers; but Bill Cunningham was a true original.


Five Lessons Learned from the Greatest: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, an athlete whose accomplishments in and outside of the boxing ring transcends the world of sport and makes him one of the most recognizable and influential figures of the past century.

Here are five lessons to be gleaned from “The Greatest”:

Muhammad Ali 2016

  1. Believe in Yourself—Muhammad Ali called himself the Greatest long before anyone else did; so believe in your abilities and banish the negative self-talk.
  2. Believe in Something Greater Than Yourself—Mr. Ali’s strong spiritual faith was a source of both humility and strength during a time of great social and political upheaval. Find your center and it will ground you in times of adversity.
  3. Believe in the Greatness of Others—We can’t do it all alone and we must rely on a team to reach our goals. Choose your friends, partners, and confidents wisely and in turn help them achieve their goals.
  4. Believe That You Can Change Your World—If not you then, who?!
  5. Believe the Change You Affect Will Be Remembered—Execute tasks and complete work with your legacy in mind.

Explore the Universe of Miles Davis on His 90th Birthday

90 years since his birth on this day and almost 25 years since his passing into immortality; the shadow of Miles Dewey Davis still looms large on the cultural horizon.

Polygraph’s The Universe of Miles Davis quantifies the jazz avatar’s wide ranging influence through his 2,452 Wikipedia mentions (English).

It’s Miles’ World and we’re just living in it.

Through this visually striking interactive site we descend down a digital rabbit hole of recordings, people, and places that traces a through line of Miles’ relevance from the early twentieth-century to today.

“Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery”
—Miles Davis


If Mr. Davis were alive today we are certain he would approve. Happy Birthday Miles!

Life Lessons from Nobel Physicist Dr. Yoichiro Nambu

I love reading newspaper obituaries.

Not only does it remind one of how brief life is, it can be a powerful motivational tool for learning life lessons. Here’s one from Nobel Prize winning Physicist, Dr. Yoichiro Nambu:

“‘When he won the Nobel Prize, Dr. Nambu was asked what advice he would offer students interested in science.

Yoichiro Nambu

‘Think independently and think all the time,’ he said.
‘I like to tackle a problem first by myself, and then look up somebody’s answer, if there is one.’”

For a man of science, Dr. Nambu sure sounds a lot like an artist.