Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spoon, Home Screen Icons & Bunz Flea

Weekly Update 2017-13: The talent and awesomeness of Spoon, wondering how to arrange my phone's home screen icons, and trading up a storm at the Bunz Flea.

Music: Spoon
I honestly can't believe I haven't blogged about one of my all-time favourite bands, going on ten years of fandom around this point. Straight outta Austin comes this rock band with a lovely range of sub-sounds within the wide genre, and led by frontman Britt Daniel (who also once sang for a since-deceased supergroup called the Divine Fits - RIP). They have a new album out and with each passing listen, I grow more fond of it. Think, pop music that has enough of an edge not to be a guilty pleasure and makes you feel cool when you belt out the lyrics. Listen:

If you love them as much as me, you can catch them at Massey Hall in July with Cherry Glazerr. How nice!

I've been hard at work on my Chai Mitzvah studies, especially thinking about what Passover means to me. I also enrolled in classes for Chanting Torah, so that I can sing as I read and really do the prayers justice. It's basically the next step in learning Hebrew, which is awesome!

I also went for a run yesterday since the weather was so lovely out. Unfortunately I realized that my running headphones are busted on one side (big surprise - this is always what happens to my headphones) so I'll have to get a new pair.

On a whim, I submitted my personal freelance business card design to a design show celebrating the analog process of exchanging business cards. This is definitely something that appeals to my sensibilities and love of analog processes (even if googling someone is technically easier to do). Business cards are such a fun way to express creativity and provide a nicely structured (and deliciously limited) format for self expression. I only heard about this event on the final submission day, and submitted in a slight panic, but I was accepted!

So feel free to come out on the opening night: Thursday April 6 from 7:00-11:00pm, and see all the wonderful cards! It's even promoted on BlogTO :)

This week, I'm going to take my bike in for a spring tune-up (yay!), drop off my business cards for the show next week, finish the research on Passover for my Chai Mitzvah, play a dodgeball game (finally one early enough that I don't have to miss drumming), book a bonfire for my birthday, and create a Spotify Family account so my five closest friends and I can all save a little money on music.

Random Thought:
You may be familiar (in theory or more likely in practice) with the areas of your smartphone that are easier to reach than others. This is actually a theory that was first researched by Steven Hoober, who came up with a sort of hotspot system to display the best way to use screen real estate when designing apps for the best usability. In other words: don't place highly-used items or touchpoints in areas of the screen that are hard to reach.

Image courtesy of Luke Wroblewski

I was looking at the setup of my friend's iPhone home screen the other day, wondering how much thought he'd put into the placement of all his app icons. It seems that from user to user, I haven't been able to find much consistency in app icon placement beyond that of the dock at the bottom. Of course, I could test out a bunch of different arrangements for myself, but I feel like there is so much data of iPhone users already that if only Apple would scrape that data to find the best placements, life would be so much easier. Yes, I know this is such a seemingly arbitrary thing, but it's really the design of the little things in life that make it joyful. And who doesn't want more joy?

Inspiration: Bunz Flea
It's no secret that I have an unending love for Bunz Trading Zone. They host some organized events from time to time, just to further ease the process of getting rid of your old crap in favour of lovely new (if gently used) things. The Bunz Flea is one of those events, held at the Gladstone every so often. Artistic and craft vendors come to set up booths of their lovely handmade things, and will even post about items they'd like to trade for ahead of time so that you can be the owner of these items in exchange for your own random crap! So it's just like Bunz, but all centralized to one location and with cute artisanal items. And a bar.

To my extreme joy, a man who makes lovely handmade earrings and pendants was in search of NES games in exchange for his wares. I had been having some emotional trouble in parting with my extra copy of M.C. Kids due to its rarity and general special-ness to my heart, but as soon as I met him I knew he would be the right person to trade it to. He told me about how his mother at home in Newfoundland keeps his NES console so that when he goes to visit in the summer, he can relive his childhood much like my (somewhat shorter) pilgrimmage to Richmond Hill to do the same.

And so, Gavin and I made the trade. He gave me some lovely handmade earrings in exchange.

I also traded a beer for a lovely vintage ombre plant pot, a bag of loose tea leaves for a vintage letterman sweater, a pair of Apple Earbuds for two excellent enamel pins, and some tokens for a “Nasty Woman” patch. Because everyone has to know.

I would recommend the next instalment of this event to everyone! I don't know the exact date but you can find out more and stay tuned by checking out the Facebook event page.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mount Kimbie, Green Beer & Arcade Games

Weekly Update 2017-12: Mount Kimbie pushes music boundaries with their carbonated electronic sounds while I drink carbonated green beer and try to get a little silver ball through a cartoon beer bubble hole.

Music: Mount Kimbie
I found this band while listening to a Spotify Album Radio for BADBADNOTGOOD's album IV, which is a masterpiece in and of itself but also provides excellent suggestions for other musical discoveries. Mount Kimbie is an electronic duo out of England with an interestingly eerie sound. They have some elements of pop mixed with dance beats, but also some weird ambient stuff and sound really pared down at times. I'd say their music is really experimental but somehow always works really well. They even have a song called Carbonated that samples either the sound of soda fizzing in a glass, or something that sounds exactly like that. But I really want to show you the song that got me into them:

It's been a long time since I've made “chlasserole,” probably the easiest and most delicious thing in my cooking repertoire, so this weekend I pretty much ate an entire casserole to myself. It definitely felt right.

A post shared by Chloe Silver (@chloesil) on

I also played my very first live show with TDot Batu on repique, and I have to say I killed it. I definitely made a lot of mistakes, but the parts that I actually knew how to play were solid. And I found five bucks on the ground at the venue, so technically I got paid! Why do I always seem to find money on the ground when I play shows with this band? It's really weird.

I've actually begun a critique session at work with the other two designers in my department. We take an hour every other Friday afternoon to discuss personal work unrelated to EventMobi. There are many benefits to this (including for EventMobi as well). We already work so well together that I thought it might be nice to see how each other work in other media beyond product design (or even just beyond the constraints of EventMobi). Other than the obvious benefits of taking a refreshed look at design, building our critique skills, and improving the pieces themselves, we learn more about each other as people and grow even closer as a design team. Which, in turn, allows us to produce better work. We are a well-oiled team.

Knowing that this critique session was looming actually gave me the motivation to work on the colours and branding of FriendCanoe. Here's a sampling of what I have right now:

Complete with new face empty states from last week! Still needs some work though...

And finally, I really went outside my comfort zone this week and attended the drumming practice of one of the other Brazilian drumming bands in Toronto (yes, there are at least five that I know of!) to see what that was like. They're all really nice and talented. This band is called Bloco Loco, and they play a Samba style of music which is different from TDot Batu's Bahia-based style of Samba Reggae. There are certainly some similarities, but this music includes my new favourite instrument: the tamborim.

It's kind of like a tiny American-style tamborine, but uses a stick similar to a kit brush to hit it to make sound instead of your palm. And there are no little cymbals. I feel like it almost acts as the repique of the Samba band because it has such a high-pitched sound that works really fast above the low beats of the surdos. But alas, I was not skilled enough to try the tamborim (this band is incredibly skillful) so I played segunda (a big surdo that acts as the base beat for the rest of the band to work over). It was awesome but another difference with this style is that all the drums are played over the shoulder, and my drum is HEAVY so I am feeling the pain today. Better stick to a nice, light repique for the time being.

Other than continually studying the new repique parts for TDot Batu this week, I'd like to get some work done for my Chai Mitzvah class. Specifically, I'd like to finish the Shabbat and Passover content of my research into something polished for the book I am making. Eventually, when all the content for all five holidays is done, I'll start thinking about the visuals and layout of the book. Gotta lay the groundwork first!

Random Thought: Green Beer
What is it about St. Patrick's Day that makes us want to drink green beer? I mean, I know the obvious answer: everything has to be green (and sometimes orange) themed for the holiday. Makes sense that far. But for all the beer that some people drink on the holiday, and the amount of food colouring it takes to turn beer the correct emerald shade of green, that's an insane amount of food colouring.

A post shared by Chloe Silver (@chloesil) on

I thought about this as I drank the beer you see above, with so much food colouring in it that it turned my friend's hand green (and he wasn't even drinking green beer – it gets everywhere). There's just something so satisfying about a holiday you can consume, I suppose. I feel much the same way about Passover (which is coming up soon!), a holiday that is closely tied between the story and the foods we eat. I suppose a good way to celebrate a holiday is to internalize it, and what better way to internalize that the literal act of consuming. In any case, let's just say I was reminded of this ONE glass of green beer for many bathroom visits over the weekend. Sorry.

Inspiration: Ice Cold Beer
After a somewhat dizzying first venture to Tilt, Toronto's newest in a slew of arcade-themed bars, I was tricked into a second visit to the place on St. Patrick's Day. I must admit that perhaps the trick is to not become too inebriated before entering the bar, but rather to adjust slowly to all the dazzling lights and sounds so that one can become accustomed to, and perhaps even empowered by all the distraction and finally win that game of Bobby Orr-themed pinball.

But I digress, amogst all the pinball gams and digital arcade games, one reigns supreme over them all. And it's deceptively simple. It's called Ice Cold Beer, and involves two joysticks each controlling one side of a horizontal metal bar. Balancing on the bar is a ball bearing, which two people have to work together to angle properly into the correct hole on the backdrop. As I said before, deceptively simple.

I absolutely love the simplicity of this game. Not only is it deliciously analog, it's so charming I could die. Anyone can understand how it works within the first time playing it, and it's extremely addicting. And, best of all, it's inexplicably art nouveau-themed!

Just after we made it to the 5-hole. When you lose all your lives, the little screen flashes “OOPS”. So charming!

I can't think of a better way to spend my St. Patrick's Day than drinking beer and playing beer-related arcade games with my friends!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Steady Holiday, Forgiveness & Girls

Weekly Update 2017-11: The lovely voice of Steady Holiday, Grace Hopper and her thoughts on forgiveness, and the weird twists and turns of the tv show Girls.

Music: Steady Holiday
I am so lucky to have found such intense lady power in my music in the past little while. Steady Holiday is a delightful band fronted by the lovely Dre Babinski. Her music is dripping with emotion, but somehow restrained. It's spooky, sad, joyful and angry. Sometimes all at the same time. I was lucky enough to see her open for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah this past week at the Horseshoe, and she killed it. She's also really good at power-clashing her clothes. Well done.

As I foreshadowed with a sketch on Instagram last week, I have completed the face empty states for FriendCanoe! Yep, that's what all the little doodles were about. It was nice to take some time to do a bit of illustration. I challenged myself to work with mostly circles and curves to build these faces, and to provide a different emotion for each one. But I'll let you decide what those emotions are. It's more fun that way!
I also finally scanned in some typography from my sketchbook. Just not too sure what I want to do with the sketches. You'll see some of them soon, if all goes well.

Finally, on a health note, I have been feeling a lot of back pain lately. I went to a physiotherapist about a year ago, and recently rediscovered the stretching guide she gave me. It has ten stretches to perform daily to strengthen my back muscles, and by George I'm going to try to do them every day until my back stops hurting. I have realized as I get older that exercise isn't just about vanity, but it keeps your body in check and able to do the things you demand of it every day. Wow, am I getting old?

This week I'd like to start thinking about colours for FriendCanoe, now that I've got some momentum from the faces. I'm also going to finish cleaning out my hard drives.

Perhaps I'll vectorize one of my typography sketches and see what comes of that. 

Random Thought:
I hear the same advice from time to time and never really stopped to think about it, until now. People often tell me that it's easier to do something and ask for forgiveness later rather than asking for permission first.

So who was Grace Hopper? Quite an amazing lady. She coined this and many other common phrases, was the developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language, and at the end of her service she was the oldest serving officer in the United States Navy. Hopper was a glorious lady, always looking for new ways of doing things. She said, “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

While I am a big fan of Hopper and her lifestyle, I suppose I started off feeling a bit squicky about her quote. If you think that a person may hesistate to give you permission to do something, wouldn't it be disrespectful to do that thing anyway? The chances of them forgiving you seem low enough to risk their feelings being hurt, or worse.

On the topic of forgiveness, it's kind of a difficult concept to put into practice. It seems somewhat unfair to expect forgiveness from someone, as it's not an easy thing to do for a lot of people. Myself, I have been struggling with forgiveness pretty much my whole life. I've only recently come to terms with the reality of true forgiveness of someone who has hurt you.

The more I thought about it, I realized that many people don't have a good concept of what's good for them. I know that some of the best experiences I've had have happened by chance or because someone (who cares about me) has pushed me to do something I was hesitant about. I'm not completely sold on the idea, but I think there's more credibility to this piece of advice than I originally thought.

Inspiration: Girls
Well, this is a weird one. It has been quite the guilty pleasure to absorb myself in all six seasons of HBO's Girls, a show that I often cringe, yell, and tsk my teeth at as I watch. I can't really say what about it has been entertaining to me beyond the clothing and set design (often my favourite part of any television or film), as the characters are quite vapid and in my opinion, give a bad name to hard-working, intelligent and kind young people who happen to be approaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.

Yes, the term “millenial” has been made to feel rather dirty in the past decade or so, and I have often wondered whether Lena Dunham has been helping or hurting the stigma associated with people my age. While I certainly don't identify with the characters on the show, in fact I sometimes abhor them, I have come to realize with the episodes of the final season of the show that Dunham is trying to dig deeper than the shallow storylines of the earlier seasons. Where once her character Hannah would cry over being denied an allowance from her parents to bail her out of a stupid decision (you're a grown-ass person now!), she is currently exploring her agency as a female writer and as a feminist. And while I still find many of her antics downright disgusting, I can attest without any spoilers that Dunham is exploring issues that align with my own life at the moment.

For example, Hannah spends an entire ‘bottle episode’ in the apartment of a famous author and one of her personal role models. She takes the half hour exploring whether she could see the side of this author, who has come under fire from young women accusing him of sexual assault. While he appears to be innocent, convincing and bashful, the somewhat shocking end of the episode remains poignant that misogyny is still rampant, even if carefully hidden behind silky words and kind smiles.

In today's world, I see importance in women finding strong role models in other women. We need to see things from a perspective other than the one that's been rammed down our throats our whole lives. And if I have to get it from Lena Dunham, at least I'm getting it somewhere.