Sometimes Smaller is Better, Journey to Find the Perfect Office in NYC by Tony Chung

One of the things I adore about being in a big city like New York is meeting and working with like-minded and driven entrepreneurs.  I had always wanted to work in a big office.  So when I first got to New York, I joined a large coworking office space where hundreds of entrepreneurs and startups shared an entire floor.  It was great.  I met lots of smart people and some members of the space even became new clients.  Life was great.

But as the space grew more popular over a year, it became harder to focus on getting work done... I found myself constantly socializing with folks in the space, the Internet speed slowed down, and I just wasn't focusing and getting work done.  Also, as with most things, increase in quantity results in decrease in quality.  As such, I started encountering more and more people I just couldn't (or didn't want to) relate with.

Segue into this space that you see above (and below).  After about a year at the large space, my colleague and I decided to migrate to a more cozy (aka small, but cozy sounds fancier) space, but with the same benefits of a large coworking space.  Less noise, better location, and most importantly more focus.  We now have 8 like-minded folks from all walks of life working in this space.  Architect, designer, photographer, coder, and more.  It's a great space with an amazing location overlooking Union Square.  There is socializing, but not so much that it gets in the way of work.  We even have a small conference room for meetings and phone calls.  It works out great.  Been based here for more than two years now and it's still perfect.  

Not too long ago, I transitioned from an iPad to an iPad mini and from a 15" MacBook pro for travel to a 13".  Ever since, life has been better (and more efficient).

Sometimes smaller is better.  

Bonus: Seth Godin's blog post (and later book) on how small is the new big.

Cup a Joe à la La Colombe by Tony Chung

La Colombe, best cup a joe + style watching spot in Manhattan.

Some people go to the gym 2-3 times a week.  This is my gym.  Meet La Colombe, a coffee shop situated in Noho on Lafeyette.  No fancy, no bullshit vibe and the most swag baristas you'll find in NYC.  Their coffee is made from earth conscious ethically traded beans.  That's all great, but for me, the coffee is not what has me coming back day after day.  It's the mugs ...and the people.  I never get take-out at this spot.  Always get it in the mug (see below photo).  Something about that mug just brings out the soul of the coffee.  And the people...  Beanies seem to be a prerequisite for working as a barista here.  That and facial scruff.  Big fan of both, so.. yea.  Speaking of people, I met Malcom Galdwell here once, we talked about his upcoming book at the time, amazing dude with great taste (obviously).  Point being people who come here (generally) have a good taste.  Great variety of styles walking in at any given moment.

And finally the interior design... Just look at that circular arrangement of ceiling lights!  And the slabs of wood...  And that gigantic vent tube apparatus thing running adjacent to the ceiling.  It's just perfect...

Oh and did I mention a cup a joe here is $2.50 flat?  Like I said, perfect. 

I die for these mugs.  So much character...

You'd better not apply for a job here if you can't pull off a beanie.  I constantly find myself picking up fashion tips from these baristas...

Click to enlarge.  A quick style check from the entrance.  

X Japan at Madison Square Garden by Tony Chung

X Japan in concert at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, 10.11.2014

Earlier this year my ears were graced with some of the best news I've heard all year: X Japan was coming to New York City to play Madison Square Garden.  The moment I heard this news, going or not was not even a question. Five years ago they played in Taipei when I was living there and I'd missed their concert at the time.  Not this time!

A little background: during my high school years, my cousin, while visiting California from Asia, introduced me to their music and I instantly became obsessed.  At the time, I was going through an obsession with songwriting/band/recording/performing adolescent years and the introduction of X Japan to my ears just added fuel to the fire that was my passion for music.  What's to love about this band you ask?  I could talk for hours about all the details and reasons, but for the sake of brevity, I'm going to summarize in a few points:

  1. X Japan is the only band I know that plays at extreme ends of the music spectrum.  That is, their hard rock songs are insanely hard rock (and very high difficulty to even attempt to play as a musician) and their ballads are insanely soft, touching, and tear jerkers.  What makes this impressive is that both types of songs are equally powerful in their own way.
  2. Yoshiki, main songwriter/drummer/pianist and the backbone and leader of the band, performs with the same charisma that Steve Jobs or Barack Obama exhibits onstage (but in a music context).  It's magnetic and obscenely entertaining to watch him perform.  He truly gives it all onstage.  So much that he is required to wear a neck brace when playing due to excessive head-banging and wears a cast on his arm when is offstage to protect his wrists for piano and drum playing.
  3. They've sold out the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome (the Japan equivalent of Madison Square Garden) 18 times.  18 TIMES.  Enough said.  
  4. The band has gone through much drama through the years, yet they were able to overcome all the obstacles and push forward to today.  Yoshiki's father took his own life when Yoshiki was only 10 years old.  Their legendary guitarist, Hide, took his own life at the height of their stardom.  Then the bassist, Taiji, also took his own life years later.  The band even broke up for many years during their prime.  Their vocalist, Toshi, went through a 12 year period of following a cult leader who ended up taking all his money (for 10 years Toshi and Yoshiki did not speak to each other).  Whew.  

Of course there is so much more, I am more than willing to discuss in person ;)  Needless to say, the concert was absolutely breathtaking.  Due to knowledge of the above points (specifically #4), I cried several times during the concert.  The experience was similar to watching a great movie, one that touches you on many emotional nerves.  Banging out during the hard rock songs and crying your heart out during the soft ballads.  Yoshiki and Toshi spoke to the audience so many times, sometimes with tears in their eyes, and Yoshiki even performed his signature 15 minute drum solo where he was elevated into the air above the audience.  Amazing. Breathtaking.  An experience I won't forget.  Photos and videos from the concert below.  Special thanks to Jon for being first in line to get tickets when they went on sale and my girlfriend Annie for coming with me to experience X (she took all the photos/videos below!).

Yoshiki playing his signature custom Kawai Yoshiki transparent grand piano.  He even played the Star Spangled Banner at one point!

Look at that gigantic 'X'!  About halfway into the concert, the two sides of the X slowly moved towards the center and connected.  Then it lit up.  Imagine how much that alone costs to execute...

Every attendee was given one of these wristbands when entering the concert.  No one knew what the purpose was.  Then about 45 minutes into the concert, they lit up!  What a sight it was to see everyone's wristbands flashing in the sea of people in MSG.  

Yoshiki's drum solo.  Notice how he is in the middle of the audience.  That platform moved all the way from the stage (on the right) down the aisle to the middle of the audience.  Then it ELEVATED.  Oh and notice all the wristbands lit up in the crowd too.

Yoshiki transitioning from the piano to drums during 'Silent Jealousy'

Yoshiki's drum solo on a platform moving across the stage.

[UPDATE] Just to give you an idea of the complexity of rhythms that Yoshiki composes and performs on the drums, here's a fan on YouTube playing the drums for the song 'X' .  Notice the 'double bass' bass drum kicking at 0:14 and again at 1:22.  

Hand and Terry by Tony Chung

Met Anthony (above) a few nights ago at the Founderscard event at the Gansevoort.  Only dude at the event other than myself dressed in casual-but-stylish clothing (everyone else wearing suits or generic blazers - bleh).  He was sporting an Everlane chambray shirt and 3 year old scuffed up John Varvatos Mcallister-esque kicks.  Clearly had his clothing game together.  We talked menswear at which time he introduced the sock line he's creating with his founder, Hand and Terry.  Kickstarter link here.  We met up earlier today for tea at Argo in Flatiron.  I got to see the socks, very solid quality.   I have a pair and will be trying them on later this week.  Thanks Anthony!  Swag. Out.

Pure Soul by Tony Chung

A stroll through the park turned into an obsession with the soul flowing from these two dudes.  Jazz guitar melodies over a loop station chord progression.  Tenor opera-esque passionate vocals.  Angelo is a guitarist from Southeast Italy, his pal Augusto a vocalist who prefers to speak in Italian.  Swag. Out.

Father and Son by Tony Chung

Spotted this rock-star-looking (and gigantic! must've been 6'3") father pushing a stroller through Washington Square Park.   Matteo (the father) had these ridiculously stylish grey crocodile boots on, and his son (Arden) was about as cute as 17 month year old can get.  So I made a run for it.  Turns out Matteo is a super chill dude and blues musician from Bologna, Italy and his son is... well, incredibly charming.  Swag. Out.  More photos in the Images section and Flickr.

Daisy Ransom by Tony Chung

What do the names Charlie Chaplin and Daisy Ransom have in common...?  They're both actual birth names!  Say hi to Daisy, yes DAISY RANSOM.  I know, what a dope name ya??  She's from Albuquerque (thank God for Apple autocorrect...), New Mexico aka home of Breaking Bad.  Daisy Ransom from the home of Heisenberg.  <-- That statement just oozes with swag.. Daisy is an art student living and studying in the Bronx and was in Lower Manhattan today picking up that dope yellow Jansport backpack.  Swag. Out.

LST by Tony Chung

The homie Madison aka Madison LST (light skinned trouble) and fellow Ford model.  How crazy that this was shot in Madison Square Park too.  Check out his rap and specifically this dope  he released recently.  Up and coming.  And don't hate, that board is his girl's.  This was right after a casting we had a block away.  More photos on the Flickr.

Red and blue by Tony Chung

Chanced upon this beaut at the Astor Place Starbucks this afternoon.  Her name is Kimberly Davis and she is... yup you guessed it!  A model.  My first time shooting a stranger portrait!  I think the bokeh in the photos is pretty incredible!