Eons ago, a college application essay asked what the greatest problem facing mankind was. I replied the mixed blessings of technology, arguing that while it had improved our lives in many ways, it had also produced big problems that our brightest minds couldn’t solve. Toxic chemicals. Nuclear proliferation. Decades later, these same challenges remain (global warming, anyone?) and technology is over complicating other things. Smartphones can start the oven during your commute. Cars can park and drive themselves. Refrigerators can read your email. Heck, the government is reading your email. It’s not quite The Jetstons or 1984, but we’re getting there.
Call me a Renaissance Man, but I still feel that less is usually more. When creating ads, my mantra is “when in doubt, take it out.” Because every time you remove an element from an ad, you’re reinforcing the power of what’s left behind. Good when competing for attention, but the principle works elsewhere as well. So here I celebrate a few favourite things that succeed by virtue of their simplicity:
The F-Bomb To paraphrase the great George Carlin, you gotta love its versatility. It’s an expletive (“Oh, fuck!”) A noun (“He’s a dumb fuck.”) A surrender (“We’re fucked.”) A verb (“Let’s fuck.”) A warning (“Don’t fuck with me.”) An insult (“You fucking fuck.”) An invitation (“Fuck me.”) A dismissal (“Fuck off.”) An anatomical challenge (“Go fuck yourself.”) And so much more. Do I use it too much? #@$% yeah.
Charlie Watts’ Kit While some players hide behind mountains of gear, Charlie’s had the same minimalist kit for half a century. This past week at the Boston Garden, he used it to remind us that he is the tireless engine that powers the Stones juggernaut. And he did it with a groove and swing no drum machine could ever match.
Yoga Workout fads come and go, but yoga has stood the test of time. It gets you in shape. It clears the head. And it keeps you humble. Because even if you’ve practiced for years, we’re all beginners when we step onto our mats. And as legal highs go, the endorphin rush is hard to beat.
BMW 1M A one-off that recalls the M cars of old. The 1M is shorter and lighter than its big brother (the M3 coupe) but it also packs 100 more pound feet of torque. The result? A wickedly fast and tossable car whose rear wheels break loose at the slightest provocation. Small? Yes. But there’s room for the one thing you’ll always have with you in this car: A giant, shit-eating grin.
Lego The great thing about old school Lego was/is that it was literally a new toy every time you opened the box. If you wanted to build a pirate ship, you found a way. Recreate the Death Star from scratch? No problem. Back then, you didn’t follow assembly directions. You followed your imagination.
Red Sauce My wife’s is the essence of simplicity. Brown some garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Throw in a few red peppers, a couple of bay leaves. Add San Marzano tomatoes. Cook ’em down slowly. Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Finish with immersion blender. Goes best with fresh pasta, cooked al dente. (For more yumminess, check out my wife’s kickass food blog.)
ZZ TOP For 40 plus years, it’s been “the same 3 guys, same 3 chords.” Caught live a few weeks ago, in support of the fine Rick Rubin produced La Futura, the Little Old Band from Texas made one hell of a joyful noise. Billy Gibbons is well versed in the blues, and by digging deep into their catalogue and keeping their electronic 80s stuff to a minimum, they put on a great show for the faithful assembled in trucker caps and biker gear.
Moleskine The much-imitated original. Good enough for Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Oscar Wilde. Good enough for me.
Vinyl The iPod allows you to carry tons of music in your pocket, but standard compressed music files sound like garbage. No wonder vinyl is enjoying such a resurgence. On vinyl, music doesn’t just sound warmer. It’s just there. And affordable turntable options abound. I’m partial to the Rega RP1, in Union Jack finish.
Weber Grill Sure, propane is easier, but real BBQ demands a little suffering over the heat only a searing hardwood fire produces. In fact, once you’ve done a Thanksgiving turkey this way, you’ll never suffer through an oven roasted one again.
The Ocean The busier our lives become, the more I appreciate the sound of the waves kissing the shore in the late afternoon sun (preferably with a good read in one hand and a chilled adult beverage in the other).
Bob Marley The deluxe reissue of Legend may just be the perfect desert island pick. From love songs to protest anthems to party grooves, it’s all here in one neat little package. Jah guide. ‘Nuff said.