Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of Montreal, Coat Pockets & Massey Hall

Weekly Update 2017-46: Nostalgic thirst for Of Montreal, finding my way to accepting the design of coat pockets, and visiting backstage at Massey Hall.

Music: Of Montreal
One of those bands that stands the test of time for me is Of Montreal. Perhaps surprisingly not from Montreal but rather Athens, Georgia emerges Kevin Barnes, a majestic genre-hopping fantasyman with a knack for writing enchanting and nonsensical lyrics that seem to explain exactly how I'm feeling. Not to mention, I have a vivid memory of hearing songs from 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? on Radio Blog Club and then setting out to the mall to buy the CD from HMV. It was something like $20 which was certainly worth the lovely artwork and interestingly unique jewel case alone.

I digress. Every album is something new, with inspiration from funk to 60s psychedelic to acoustic Bob Dylan, and everything in between and beyond. I hope I'm not overselling. You may know my love of live albums, one of the reasons being they show a good range of genre-hopping musicians’ ever-changing styles, and another that you can hear the lead singer's banter. Kevin has good banter.

So peep this live album (recorded in 2015 in San Francisco) with some of my favourite songs spanning 15 years of their music:


Accomplishment:
This was an insane week. My job is the cause of most of the insanity, which involved coming up with a concept for the company holiday card, preparing for a presentation during a client meeting, and having the first check-in at my job (hosted by the President AND the CEO of the company at the same time). Intense. I got through all of it virtually unscathed, which I am honestly still surprised about. I hope it keeps going.

Thanks to a recent communication workshop I took called How To Talk To People About Things, I also did something socially that I'm really proud of, but is much too private to share on this blog (since I know some people who read it)! I'm writing this here in the hopes that my future self will remember what it is, and also a little bit to make you think I'm cool and mysterious.

Goal:
The craziness at work has yet to end; I will be running a design exercise during our next client meeting (on Thursday) and I am waaaay nervous about it. I'm happy our clients are so awesome and positive about working together, which makes the space somewhat safer, but I have never done anything like this before. It reminds me of the quote “Do one thing per day that scares you”, this one may last me a couple of days.

I'm also going to do my darndest to help my friend Sasha finally launch our app FriendCanoe. This Sunday, after the Santa Claus Parade, I'll be locking myself in a room (or possibly the library?) to work on the CSS and start designing some of the leftover assets. We're entering the project into a WFH hackathon that finishes at the end of the month, so I'll be crunching to get it done.

Random Thought: Coat Pockets
I've noticed that people who wear purses definitely have varied feelings about them. I am no exception; I like to mate for life with my purses. By this I mean, I search forever until I find a purse that fits all (or most) of my parameters – usually at Value Village, where I can't get another when I eventually wear it to death because I detest switching all my items between purses.

I finally gave into the cold weather a few days ago and donned my winter coat. I don't usually like to give in so early before December, but I am biking into the recesses of the cold weather this year and caved. This coat got me thinking – it has labelled pockets and pockets that are otherwise designed to denote that they have a specific purpose. Isn't that kind of presumptuous for a coat? Coat, who are you to tell me where to put my keys, my phone, my ID?

But then, I realized that the coat designer had (hopefully) made a thoughtful and well-researched design decision to architect how and where I would store my various items. Since I am naturally careless with my belongings (I'm working on it), I realized that this was actually a godsend. The coat had already figured out where all my things should go, and had even included little signs to remind me in case I forgot. And you know, it hasn't made one bad suggestion yet.

Inspiration: Massey Hall
On Sunday I had the immense pleasure to visit Massey Hall in a way I have never had the chance to do before. One of their rare open houses, this event featured a look inside some of the backstage areas of the venue, as well as some old artifacts from the venue's past.


The view of the audience from the stage!


Above all else, I was excited to hear a wonderful historical music lecture from the illustrious Rob Bowman. Bowman is a music professor at York University, and I had the good fortune to take a class of his during my school days. Listening to him talk about all the amazing events that have taken place at Massey Hall since its opening in 1894, I was teleported back to university and hearing him paint such vivid pictures of concerts and musical happenings that changed the history of music.


There was also a lego model of Massey Hall (post-reno) and a really cool virtual reality exhibit, where visitors could us VR headsets to explore what Massey Hall will look like following the seven-year renovation that has already begun, Sadly, Massey Hall will be closed for an an 18-24 month period while some of these renovations take place, but it is set to restore some lovely stained glass windows, as well as expanding Centuries Bar (in the basement) into a nicer lounge to socialize and an intimate venue setting.



There will also be an additional venue added to the future fourth floor of the building, for a total of three. While Bowman's talk was very inspiring to see so much history in one place, I am at the same time very excited to see what Massey Hall will look like when it is complete. VR just can't do it justice.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wild Nothing, Navigation & Tiffany Silver

Weekly Update 2017-45: Soothing sounds from Wild Nothing, Google's changing navigation elements, and Tiffany's new line of faux trash items (otherwise known as Everyday Objects).

Music: Wild Nothing
Wild Nothing is a pleasant, easy-listening shoegaze piece out of Virginia. I think I first heard of the band on Starbucks radio (surprisingly good for finding interesting indie musicians), and they popped back up on Spotify lately. Sometimes you just need some music to be calm with and drink some tea. This music is definitely that.

Check out To Know You, Nocturne and Whenever I.




Accomplishment:
I started my post on taking stock on the evolution of my Jewish identity, but I realized it's actually a challenging post to tackle, so I've only got an outline done at this point. I'm a little stagnated because I'm not entirely sure where I want to take this learning next, so I realized I'm putting it off a little. More on that soon.

On a whim I went to Yorkville last Saturday to check out a visual art exhibit run by OCAD students. I had never been to Yorkville Village (Hazelton Lanes) before, and it was almost as interesting to walk around as the art itself.

An art piece made of block sculptures, reminiscent of children's toys.

There were some interesting food choices since the mall is somewhat upscale, including Palm Lane (a vegan salad bar by Planta), and a HUGE hot table at Whole Foods. I really tried to restrain myself and ended up spending ~$15 on bulk food (that's how they get you) but it was so extremely good - it was like the type of food that warms your heart. 100% worth it.

I hadn't been into an interesting gift store called Rolo in many years, so I decided to go check it out and see if there was anything good to give my secret santa assignee for the Holidays. I got chatting with the owner, and we both realized we had been chatting on Bunz as well, trying to set up a trade! He was such a lovely guy. He also showed me some crazy art made out of vintage IV tubes:


At the behest of my friend Sasha, he and I entered into a month-long remote hackathon with FriendCanoe, in the hopes of finally getting an MVP to market. I think I've been the blocker since my life has been going crazy lately. Hopefully this will be the motivation we(I) need to keep working on it.

Goal:
This week I'd like to keep working on the Jewish Identity reflection. I'd like to finish it between Thursday evening and Saturday late afternoon, so that I can start thinking about next steps.

I'd also like to make time for the hackathon. So some deft scheduling of my month will need to happen this weekend as well.

Random Thought: Changing Navigation Systems
I'm finishing up a user experience audit at work, of a real estate website that is in large need of revamp. Our client agrees, so that's all well and good, but it makes me wonder how their navigation even got to the state it's in now. Among other factors, various elements of the navigation change location, appear or disappear depending on which page the user is on. It may go without saying that general rules of navigation dictate that it should be consistent so that a user can become comfortable in the locations of all elements (for easier access to the information they need).

This rules does make sense for most websites. But have you ever noticed that Google, one of the most commonly visited websites...ever(?) does not follow this rule on mobile? Check out what I mean below:

A screenshot of me searching for "apple" and "joe fresh slip on sneaker" on Google.

Not only does the navigation order change to better suit what Google thinks I want to know (such as moving "Shopping" to the top of the list when I search for a shoe, but it also flickers quite a bit (note the quick change of navigation order after I search for "apple".

The former could be a winning case in that Google updates to help you find what you need, but the flicker is just messy. Its original state appears for long enough that I begin to organize and memorize the order of elements in my mind, just to have it change again.

I don't think I can use any of this in my current dilemma, but it's all interesting.

Inspiration: Tiffany Everyday Objects
They've done it again. Yet another haute couture trend I don't understand. I'm talking about Tiffany, the company with its own shade of greeny-blue and products so popular that you can find any number in a range of knockoffs (you haven't really made it until someone plagiarizes your style). They've just launched a collection of beautiful silver-and-blue items that are all replicas of cheap everyday objects like a paper plate, a crazy straw, a tin can (seriously) and lots more. Of course, the kicker is that these replicas are worth much, much more than their original counterparts, which I find slightly cheeky if nothing else.


This sterling replica of a paper plate is being sold for the price of 130,000 regular paper plates.

After all, this is a website that includes two separate navigational items for "jewelry" and "high jewelry" aka "you can't afford this".

I'm not really sure what to make of this line of items, but it feels as though the rich (or at least Tiffany designers) think that it's a novelty to experience life with the sorts of items a less fortunate person knows well, and not by choice. I can't put my finger on it, but something here feels a bit classist to me.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Alt-J, Witches & Fishy Alexa

Weekly Update 2017-44: Dreamy music from Alt-J, witches as the new symbol for feminism, and soldering an Amazon Alexa to a singing wall fish.

Music: Alt-J
I am counting down the days until Massey Hall closes its doors for two years of renovations by seeing as many shows as I possibly can there. One of those is English indie rock band Alt-J, who played two sold out performances on Friday and Saturday. Being the early-adopting hipster that I am, I was able to enjoy the Friday show, and what a show it was. The three musicians arrange themselves rather peculiarly onstage, along a row facing the audience, each on their own platform. There are series of lights between the platforms all the way to the ceiling, separating them by what is essentially walls of light. It makes for quite a light show.

Anyway, you probably know their music as they've become quite mainstream since winning the British Mercury Prize in 2012. In case not, check out Breezeblocks, Left Hand Free and Matilda.


Accomplishment:
Last week was full of small accomplishments that didn't add up to much in the end, unfortunately. For instance, I managed to make a nice trip home to visit my parents but we didn't get to relax and enjoy each others' company amidst the other catching up that needed doing. I also tried to dye my hair blue for my halloween costume, which ended up interesting but not the colour I needed for my costume. I managed to Bunz trade for a wig about 20 minutes before my halloween night began, but then didn't have the kind of night I was expecting to have.

All in all, everything got done. I did manage to visit The Green Room for one last drink before it closed yesterday. I can't believe that one of the classic bars of my youth is closing. I hear it's relocating to College, but the Annex is surely becoming something totally different than it once was.

Goal:
I didn't get to do any writing last week, though I did do some soul searching to think about my next steps in building my Jewish identity. I'll be writing my reflection on my bat mitzvah this week.

One of my favourite events, the Bunz Flea is coming up tomorrow night. A whole hotel full of spooky artisans making cool stuff, all for trade. I feel almost like a travelling salesman when I attend these events, lugging all my wares along with me. But I usually find really cool stuff. And there's something about making a trade on the spot that's really thrilling.

I'm also hoping to check out the OCAD Yorkville Village Art Show in Hazelton Lanes this weekend. I've never seen anything like this in Hazelton lanes, so I am excited to see what's going to be there.

Random Thought: Being Witchy
Maybe it's the halloween in the air, but I've been noticing the higher-than-normal use of witch tropes in a positive light. It's almost like feminists are reclaiming the trope as something positive, which I am pretty excited about. The most recent episode of Broad City contained a whole sub-plot about women being witches in a coven, but in an empowering and positive, inclusive way.

Witches might be the ultimate feminists.

Maybe because we're living in a world of political turmoil where these topics are pretty much everywhere you look, it's easy to draw parallels between classic characters of the halloween season and the rapidly empowered women we are hearing about in the news every day, standing up for their rights and the rights of women around them. 

I especially love related ephemera like this vintage patch. I know it's a little extreme, but being a little edgy is funny. And I know women who could paralyze a man with their evil stare. Freaky.

Inspiration: Fishy Alexa
Ah, maker culture. Without it, we would never have...well, a bunch of things we probably don't need, but that bring a smile to our faces anyway. For example. Take an Amazon Alexa, a soldering iron and some know-how, and that old singing wall fish you got as a joke present. And what do you get?


Without maker culture, this never would have happened. There's no way a giant corporation would ever produce a singing wall fish that can be possessed by your smart home system. And if there were, I don't think I'd want to live in that world. I'm more that satisfied with the world in which this Fishy Alexa exists.