The Monday Media Diet with Kurt Slanaker
On surfing, Ray Barbee, and Lagos, Portugal
Kurt Slanaker (KS) is a friend of WITI and always a generous dot connector. We always welcome his intros. Here, he shares what is capturing his attention lately. Have a great week. -Colin (CJN)
Hello hello from the hills of Los Feliz in LA, I’m Kurt. I started in tech then spent about six years building communities and strategies at members-only hospitality concepts across LA, DC, NYC, and now more and more in the digital space, building business strategies for creative and production agencies.
Growing up I spent most of my free time surfing in Orange County – and traveling to surf, playing a myriad of sports but mostly baseball, studying and discussing art, earning my Eagle Scout Award. As a few friends from different aspects of my life advised me all around the same time, I’m a hyper connector…I immediately start thinking of the overlap with other people and brands I know in figuring out how to connect the proverbial dots between them.
But my life changed on April 15, 2020 and I’m now completely obsessed with being a father to my 2-year old son Dylan, taking him to galleries, playing basketball at the park, or pretend cooking dim sum or enchiladas with him.
Describe your media diet.
My relationships with podcasts have subsided since Dylan became more mobile, and I’ve since moved my passion towards and have dove into more audiobooks, especially as I spend more time in a car these days. Directly from my Audible app comes “Good Economics for Hard Times” by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, “Eat A Peach” by David Chang, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” by the man himself, “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss, “The Way of Zen” by Alan Watts, and “Barbarian Days” by William Finnegan.
I have vivid memories of waking up on Sunday mornings to the sounds of jazz and blues being belted out of our ‘80s Hi-Fi system, with my father at the helm proudly interrupting the BB Kings and Miles Davis’ of the world to show me the real meaning of life with Bob Seger (my dads best friend growing up as been Seger’s tour manager for four decades), CCR and of course, and The Doobie Brothers.
So now, within our household and through a Sonos system that will be eventually replaced by an analog one, our mornings are reserved exclusively for some variation of jazz as that’s how I grew up, the only difference is on top of your standard Coltrane + Davis + King playlist we now include Ray Barbee and The Mattson 2 and BADBADNOTGOOD into the mix.
We only subscribe to a few print publications — The Surfer’s Journal, The NY Times Sunday Edition, Carla, The Motoring Journal, and Monocle, as we’ve become more intentional with our consumption habits, but also pick up a copy of magazines like The Mr. Porter Post, Peddler Journal, The Paris Review, and Surface when the opportunity arises. But mostly, we’re focused on building a thoughtful library of books that mostly fall within the art and design category.
Besides that I sporadically check in on Twitter for tech and finance thoughts and look towards newsletters for my main source of ideas, references, and news with an emphasis on a16z’s Future, HBR, Rest of World, Chinese Characters, Flow State, Nice Try Bro, HEATED, BIG Anti-Monopoly Journalism, The Art of Noticing, Craig Mod and StrictlyVC being some of the most consistently read.
What’s the last great book you read?
Malcolm Gladwell’s “Talking to Strangers” and then listening to him dictate it on Audible was simply astounding for so many reasons.
What are you reading now?
I just finished J. Paul Getty’s “How to Be Rich” and dove straight into his autobiography “As I See It.” There are so many parallels to the world he built his business empire in and the one we live in today, and the underlying lessons/values to his methodology and outlook are one I wish I would have learned earlier in life. Since we have the Getty Museum and Getty Villa close by and the endeavors and ventures of the family can be seen all over LA, I’ve found myself diving further into his life and work with careful notes on the individuals that he surrounding himself with.
Outside of that I grew up in “Surf City USA” and have had an interesting relationship with the surfing world since I was young, but listening to Chas Smith’s “Cocaine + Surfing: A Sordid History of Surfing's Greatest Love Affair” has been an adventure. It’s brilliant, honest, and paints the ideal picture of an industry that blossomed from an intricate history that spans Asia to South America and the obvious coastal shores of California. It reminds me of certain aspects of growing up, other aspects of traveling the world for waves, and a daunting reminder of how an outsider’s perspective on a highly insular industry and community is almost certainly wrong, or at bare minimum tarnished from the real truths of it all.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a copy of your favorite publication?
Look at the ads, flip through page-by-page front-to-back for visual stimulation, find the one article that usually appeals to my reading sensibilities at that specific moment, then place it in either one of three places around our place. We’re waiting to organize and display our library of books for when we buy a home and build our Vitsœ system, but for now, there’s a careful stack of TSJ’s (that have all only been skimmed) under my fiancé’s nesting pair table, a stack of The Motoring Journals (that I haven’t even looked at) on a side table in our bedroom, and a curated stack of about three magazines that act as the base for our little Noguchi table lamp, and these are the ones I actively read.
Who should everyone be reading that they are not?
Annie Cohen-Solal is a brilliant researcher and historian and tells amazing stories from facts and first-hand accounts she personally takes the time to educate herself on. If there’s one author I could read in perpetuity, it would be Annie and her collection of stunning literature that showcase European and American culture, its cultural figures and movements that still define aspects of living today, and the sought after stories that showcase the people and their true intent behind some of the most powerful artistic ideas presented in “modern times.”
What’s the best nonfamous app on your phone?
Renpho, for lets just say personal health milestones I want to get back to. And one for the parents out there but the Loog Guitar app has been taking up more of my time as of late, maybe more so than Dylan playing the actual guitar..
Plane or train?
Train. Since moving back to LA I’ve dearly missed the subway in NYC. The people-watching, the lonely commute in a mixed huddle of insanity, the ease of traversing between neighborhoods, and being able to pop around for relatively cheap is something I constantly yearn for. I grew up watching my father commute 4+ hours a day, 5 days a week for over 25 years so it pains me that I drive as much as I do, but that’s the LA way. But we are looking to do a trip down to San Diego and up to San Luis Obispo this year on the Pacific Surfliner which will be a great experience for Dylan.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Casa Mãe in Lagos, Portugal is a magical place that everyone should visit. It’s a beacon of hospitality — from the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff to the garden-sourced dining experience and the sea air-filled studio rooms, it’s all an overwhelmingly beautiful experience. Take a stroll around the nearby cemetery, crush plates of sardines at O Escondidinho, lounge by the triangular pool taking in fresh herbal scents and enjoy, life is good my friends.
Also, and this might sound a bit weird, but if you have the chance and know the right person a visit to the Modernica factory in Vernon, CA is a must. I love downtown LA (not the Arts District) and aim to explore it more in 2022, but what Modernica has and continues to do with manufacturing in LA, nurturing lifelong relationships with LA families as their employees, and showcasing how much of this great city started is a beautiful thing.
Tell us a story of a rabbit home you feel deep into.
I haven’t fallen into a rabbit hole in 2022 — the closest I got was Ryan Petersen’s Twitter maybe saved Christmas, at least yet. But I have an inclination it will be about the development — both commercial and residential, of Malibu. But as I’m reading a book about the relationship and history of cocaine and a sport, I started looking at old Coca-Cola ads and stumbled across this absolute gem of an ad, which I can’t help but think the soldier is more interested in a powder, not liquid substance. (KS)
Partner post: The Daily Upside
What do you get when you mix WITI, Wall Street, and a healthy dose of wit? The Daily Upside, our preferred email for business news. Digestible in a five-minute read, the site delivers actionable insights every weekday morning and once a week they publish a deep dive newsletter that unpacks complex business trends, giving you domain expertise in an easy-to-understand voice. Last week they covered the $100 billion water economy, breaking down the surprisingly profitable business models that make the water industry hum. We read it. You should too — sign up for no cost here.
WITI x McKinsey:
An ongoing partnership where we highlight interesting McKinsey research, writing, and data.
Sporting Goods 2022: What do sneakers have in common with Coco Chanel? According to the founder of a running-shoes company, in the past two years the global industry has seen a major shift, “comparable to the 1920s when [Chanel] liberated women from corsets.” A new report, from the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry and McKinsey, reviews the market and dives deeper on five trends that could reshape it.
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Kurt (KS)
Why is this interesting? is a daily email from Noah Brier & Colin Nagy (and friends!) about interesting things. If you’ve enjoyed this edition, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you’re reading it for the first time, consider subscribing (it’s free!).