Break the rules.

Oh man, the crypto-markets are finally starting to calm down a little bit I think.

Probably because the Koreans are asleep now.

Man, the Koreans have been going bonkers over crypto these last few months.

Sammy was just there, and he said there were ads for crypto-exchanges everywhere.

All the “ajummas”—Korean for middle-aged woman—aren’t yappin’ about who kissed who in the latest episode of their favorite Korean drama anymore.

They’re yappin’ and gosspin’ about what cryptos they’re trading.

It’s kinda nuts.

You know, Korea has always been a first mover when it comes to this sort of thing, especially when it comes to the internet.

First off, they have super fast internet everywhere. Super fast, crazy fast fiber that the government set up. Meanwhile, we have Time Warner. Or whatever that new company is called.

And they were on Facebook before Facebook was a thing.

It was called Cyworld, looking back it was not only revolutionary but also prescient.

Everyone was on it. It was a social necessity.

It also supported like in-game type purchases. So you could spiff up your page or whatnot.

All the while, Mark Zuckerberg was still in like, high school.

So yeah, the price of Bitcoin and Ripple and all those other coins have skyrocketed in the last few months.

And if anyone asks you. Tell them it’s because of the Koreans.

Those crazy, crazy Koreans.

Anyway, let’s talk about something else because I think I’m all crypto-ed out after these last few weeks.

So anyway, anytime I send out an email to you guys, the service that I use runs this “spam” check algorithm on it to see if I’ve included any words or phrases that might trigger various spam filters like the ones Gmail employs.

My post yesterday got triggered so I had to go back in and re-arrange some words. (I left the original on the site, in case you’re curious.)

And it’s funny because whenever I trigger the AI spam bot for a certain word or phrase, it’s almost always as a joke or satirical or ironic or something like that.

But you know, the AI spam bot can’t tell the difference.

And it’s sort of annoying because I can’t present my writing in the way that I originally intended without risking that some people not see it.

But it also sort of makes me feel good?

Like, pfffft, stupid AI spam bot. Can’t tell the difference between real spam and satire. What a newb.

It makes me feel a little superior. Like I still have something to offer this world, you know.

Like I still have some tiny eensy bit of economic relevance in an age when the robots are taking everything we hold dear.

Because satire is such a subtle type thing. I mean, good satire is essentially indistinguishable from earnestness when done right, according to Poe’s law or whatever.

And so if people can barely catch it, then the robots have no chance, right?

Of course, the robots will eventually ketchup, but for now, every time I trigger that spam filter, I get annoyed, but then I feel good.

Like, GOTCHA.

Newb, silly, silly newb.

The thing is, society itself is sort of like this amorphous constantly evolving and adapting algorithm.

And in a way, society has its own spam filters and various triggers.

I’ll let this kewl dude explain. Because satire:

“Sometimes the funniest thing to say is mean.

You know what I mean?

It’s a tough position to be in.

So I say a lot of mean things.

But you guys gotta remember.

I’m not saying it to be mean.

I’m saying it because it’s funny.

And everything’s funny.

Until it happens to you.”

—Dave Chappelle

That’s from his new special, the second one in LA. Bird something.

In fact, it’s the opening, and what an opening.

You should check it out, it’s on Netflix. The ending is dope, too. What a cut.

A couple of years ago, when I was living in SF, my friend Anna invited me to check out a Yo-Yo Ma concert in Berkeley.

Wow!

It was really something.

I was just totally blown away. I’d never seen him perform in person before.

In a lot of ways, classical music is perfectly mathematical. It’s based on very fixed fundamental rulesets. There is a code that you, the performer, then must translate for your audience.

And so you spend a lot of time learning this programming language. Learning the rules and the platform. You spend a lot of time perfecting your craft and your technique, learning your piece.

And so like 99% of classical music from a preparation perspective is learning and mastering the rules. Becoming a perfect algorithm for the encoded music before you.

But then what separates the greats.

What separates Yo-Yo Ma from all the rest is that final 1%.

Because once you get to a certain level, everyone can master the rules.

That parts easy.

What makes Yo-Yo Ma special is how he breaks the very rules he long ago mastered.

To break the rules within a framework where you are following the rules.

It’s where Yo-Yo Ma’s craft transcends mere math and becomes true art.

He stretches a note just a smudge here. Lingers longer than he’s supposed to. Or jettisons off to the next melody before you thought you were ready. He soothes you into calm then whips you around when you least expect it. You know the piece he’s playing. You know it so well.

And yet.

You have no fucking clue WTF he’s gonna do.

Such is greatness. Where you expect the expected, unexpectedly.

One of the big talking points of the last year was the issue of political correctness.

And what is political correctness anyway, but a cultural, institutional ruleset for how one can or can’t behave. You can say this. You can’t say that. If you want to say this, you have to say it this way. You CANNOT talk about THAT.

And its become a talking point because of how calcified and inflexible its become as our idea of what should and what shouldn’t matures. Or rather, what we think we should or shouldn’t do.

One reason it’s sort of taken us by surprise is because of how quickly it all happened.

And the internet and social media is a big contributor to that.

Our cultural, institutional ruleset for how we should behave used to evolve at a much slower clip. These days, outrage cycles so quickly through the system that there’s new rules being added every day. Someone says something. People scream at each other until it’s clear that one side wins. And there you go, another rule.

As such, the culture becomes so stringent and unaccommodating that unless you toe the party line, you’re going to be called the fuck out. You’re going to be battered online. And in real life, you’ll probably lose your job, your livelihood.

This sense of inflexibility is heightened because culturally, the last few years, we’ve sort of gotten our social validation by showing other people that hey, look, I’m kewl, I’m following the rules.

And so it becomes this beast that feeds unto itself, like when Pizza the Hut got stuck in his limo and ate himself to death.

Because we get so excited about saying the right thing now. And so people get even more excited about coming up with more rules about how to say more right things.

And it goes and goes.

This was maxed out when I was living in SF. And so I couldn’t wait to get back to NY.

But when I got back to NY, it was clear that NY was no different.

After all, we all live online.

And so a lot of the time, people just don’t get to say the thing they want to say. They can’t say the thing they should say. Because if they do, they’ll get their ass kicked by society.

And so it’s in times like these that the real comedians, the Yo-Yo Ma’s of comedians will rise to the fore.

Because remember. It’s easy to follow the rules.

That’s easy. That’s just practice.

Like hey, look, everyone’s making Trump jokes. I can bash Trump, too!!! Yay!

But it takes real genius to be able to follow the rules but also know when to break them.

And the only guy doing that at that level right now is Dave Chappelle.

Because he’s not just breaking the rules to break the rules.

He’s not doing it to be controversial or provocative.

The thing with Dave is that you always know he has some grander point.

So you might see the headlines, where people will write an article that takes something he said out of context.

And you would be missing the point entirely.

You’ve been filtered out by the AI spam bot. You’re irrelevant.

LOOK, they’ll gasp. LOOK. WTF. HE’S BREAKING THE RULES.

WTF.

LYNCH HIM.

HOW DARE HE BREAK THE RULES.

Ah, the outrage.

But if that’s all you see. If that’s all you get out of it.

Then you’re missing the point entirely.

You can no longer separate the tree from the forest.

And with Dave, his canvas is always the forest.

Because Dave has such mastery of the rules, he knows precisely when he’s supposed to break them.

And only through that, will you find truth, whether in music or comedy.

Or email.

Which is to say—guys, please don’t forget to move DONUTS out of your spam folder.

Love you.

PS Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying go out and break the rules. That’s what dumb hipsters like me in my 20s did and what Holden Caulfield did in his teens. (I’m a late bloomer.) You don’t get to break the rules until you master them first.

PPS If you read my post yesterday about investing in acronyms, FANG, I conceded that my referenced acronym might be outdated. Turns out I was right.

Mike: “They added an extra a to fang I think now. FAANG”

That, ladies and gentlemen, I think, says it all.

Cya.