Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Yung Bae, BTZ & Oh Joy Sex Toy

Weekly Update 2018-15: Portland producer Yung Bae takes us on a future-funk disco journey as we explore Bunz' new cryptocurrency and Erika Moen's revolutionary take on sex education through her webcomic series Oh Joy Sex Toy.

Bunz is now a purveyor of their own cryptocurrency - the BTZ. Cute animations explain the transformation from Polyester Studio. Read more in the Random Thought section below.

Music: Yung Bae
I shouldn't be surprised to learn that Yung Bae is Portland-based after seeing this media photo.
I have no words for this.

Spinning and sampling all sorts of musical styles from disco to R&B to funk and my personal favourite Japanese city pop, Yung Bae creates a dance party that just makes me want to wiggle. I guess it's one part very danceable and happy music, one part nostalgia for songs from 70s, 80s and my personal favourite - 90s and 00s music that reminds me of elementary school dance parties. Plus it's fun to guess what songs he samples and mixes together! Take a listen and you'll see what I mean.

Favourite tracks include It's a Party and Ain't Nobody Like You.

Want more? Yung Bae is playing a set in Toronto at the Baby G on July 28.

I have been hemming and hawing about a lot of stuff lately, feeling like I've been in an excuse-making rut. I keep thinking about doing things and then rationalizing that I'm not ready yet because x-y-z. Looking back on the past year or so, pretty much every time I have decided to say "fuck it" and jump into something before I thought I was ready, it has worked out in my favour. This is the first time I am really realizing that what they say is true - you'll never be 100% ready to do anything, so just do it. I know it sounds so obvious, but it didn't really sink in until I saw it in a meme group last night. Pathetic, I know. Anyway, I learned from it.

As French author André Gide said, On ne découvre pas de terre nouvelle sans consentir à perdre de vue, d'abord et longtemps, tout rivage. Or in English, One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore. I'm beginning to accept the fact that new experiences sometimes scare the shit out of me, but I have been overwhelmingly successful at throwing myself into things without overthinking them and I need to remember that!

Specifically, we had a pretty successful Dungeons & Dragons session last week in which I showed off my high accuracy with a longbow, and I checked out OCAD's Sunshine Eaters exhibition before it closes this Sunday. (You still have time and you should go!)

Shary Boyle's work is so beautiful.

Last but not least, we welcomed a new roommate to the Noodle this weekend - meet our new fluffy boy Ario Speedwagon (or Ario for short).
He is a furry boy and I love him.

This was within ten minutes of Erika meeting him!

The true accomplishment here goes to my roommate Erika, who said she was going to get a dog, and then went out and got one. She did the research and has been putting in the time this week to train Ari and build their bond together! I am just the cool aunt this time around, but I hope to pick up her methods for when I eventually get my own dog.

The weather is (sort of) getting nicer which means it's almost time for Jane's Walks - my favourite series of free walking tours in the city! I'd like to see what's being offered this year and make some picks for the weekend. It's pretty far off (May 5-6) but some walks require reservation, and I just plain can't wait to see what's going down this year.

I'll also be visiting my parents on the weekend to do another workthrough of all the crap we have in our house, for Bunz, donation or our upcoming Garage sale.

Random Thought: Bitcoins and BTZ
Like many others, I have been waving to this trend of cryptocurrency as it passes by. It's not that I think it will ever fully fade away, but I suppose I'm not quite ready to dive into it with my wallet before I truly understand how it works and see a drop in volatility. Meanwhile, instead of me searching it out, a cryptocurrency found me. Yes, my beloved Bunz - the barter system of the future - has taken on its very own cryptocurrency. The BTZ (pronounced bits) is a new currency that can be used to even out the value of item-for-item trades, and can be used in the real world at various goods/services establishments around Toronto. One of such establishments is my favourite bar Northwood, which also happens to be the closest bar to my place. On top of that, Bunz has given every user 1,100 BTZ to start off - which is about $11 worth of real-world goods. I haven't done any trades for BTZ yet, but I am definitely open to the idea. Especially since I already have enough for a free cocktail!

This video explains BTZ.

One definite bonus to the addition of BTZ is that when TTC tokens are phased out in 2019, we won't be left with only tall cans of beer to use as currency. 

Inspiration: Oh Joy Sex Toy
I completed a very worthwhile Bunz trade last week for a couple of graphic novels I have been looking to own for a while. Ever since I visited the sex-positive Portland sex store She Bop last summer and found them on the shelves, I knew these were a very important read.

Erika's husband Matthew Nolan is a recurring character (of course).

Erika Moen's Oh Joy Sex Toy is a revolutionary read that manages to fill in all the gaps (ha-ha) of sexual education that one may have missed along the way in their own journey, while managing to be extremely charming, unapologetic, non-shaming, and just plain interesting to read, no matter what you (think you) know about sex and everything that goes with it. The project began as a webcomic series that Moen still updates weekly, and has now been published in book format (I traded for the first two volumes - I believe there are four total at the publishing of this post).

I suppose I am biased because I already have a soft spot for the comic format, but I think the illustration style and light, celebratory and humourous mood of the project really lend themselves well to soften the stigma around talking about sex that we have developed in the Western world.

I have been hearing about this series for quite a while, many modern sex educators recommend it as required reading (including my favourite Dan Savage of Savage Love). I am about halfway through the second volume and I simply must agree - it's required reading for life.

Check out more about Erika Moen (and buy these books!), or catch her weekly webcomic series - updated every Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Softwar, Consumer/Creator Relationships & Winter Stations

Weekly Update 2018-14: The sun is beginning to shine brightly again as the days grow longer and I no longer feel Vitamin D deficient! This week we move softly so as not to miss any beauty. Listening to Softwar while I try to be an active member in my internet community and enjoy some outdoor art at Winter Stations.

A beautiful spring illo by Mary Kate McDevitt (via Portland Lettering Collective).

Music: Softwar
The days are getting longer and I'm feeling the sunshine on my face again. One of the specific electronic genres I have been gravitating toward lately totally matches that vibe - 90s happy house. Softwar is a a duo from Sydney (Myles du Chateau & Jeremy Lloyd) who have been revisiting this merry chapter of music in the last few years. There are very rarely any lyrics beyond hazy, repeated bars of the same unintelligible note sequence, but honestly that's what makes the music so good - for writing, concentrating, or doing repetitive tasks like cleaning. I imagine it would be very good for dancing when one is very drunk and can't handle any sudden changes in music, either. Nice and slow, sunny and breezy music. What else can one ask for?

Favourite tracks include This Time Around, Darker, Believe and One Day.

This week marks my favourite Jewish holiday - Passover. What a way to spring into April, eating tons of matzah balls and beef brisket and potato kugel. And what's even better than all three of the above items were made by my sister, my mother and myself respectively. Yes, my mother is an amazing cook but does not enjoy it as much as her daughters, so we helped out and all made a different part of dinner. It was the first time I ever made kugel:

They're like potato brownies. 

I attended three different kinds of seders this year, which really filled my soul up quite deeply. It was lovely to get a chance to hang out with family and friends that I don't get to see very often. Here's the third “unofficial” Passover dinner last night with my immediate family:

You can see my mother's brisket in the middle - so tasty.

Depending on how good your design eye is, and how long you've been reading my blog, you may notice a few typographic changes. I've been trying to improve little things here and there about the reading experience, and actually had a big aha moment last week. I am really frustrated with how little Blogger has changed in the past few years and how its author-based user interface (my side of the controls) seems to be stuck in a simpler era (2008 A.D.) In this moment of frustration I wondered aloud if Google even supports Blogger anymore, and decided to Google search just that. Give me some answers! Anyway I found some answers: Blogger maintains a highly active Help Forum.

Within about a day of asking my question (about the italics of my blog looking like the screen had just crushed the letterforms sideways), I got several replies, one of which escalated magically somehow to a Google employee who troubleshot and solved my problem for me. So now, you see proper italics!

I'd like to reflect on the seders I attended this weekend and think about how I want to represent them in my Holidays book, and take in some art at OCADU's Sunshine Eaters exhibit. It's pretty close to my office and open until 7:00 on some evenings...and I want to check out Assembly Chef's Hall again for dinner too. Gotta have a full stomach to absorb the beautiful art. I can't wait to check out more of Shary Boyle's art.

We'll be beginning our Dungeons & Dragons campaign at work this week, I'm pretty excited to test out my character. And if all that weren't enough, I'll be roadtripping to Ottawa on Saturday to pick up my roommate's new puppy!

Random Thought: The Consumer/Creator Relationship
I sometimes write abstractly on my blog about a recent hobby I have taken up that's been a growing part of my life. It all started when I joined a Facebook group called Young Urbanists League, which I definitely suggest if you're into new urbanism and/or Toronto culture. Public Facebook groups can often be intimidating places, seemingly over-controlled by members who have too many inside jokes and underhanded references for a new user to ever feel welcome, much less want to make a post themselves.

I mention Young Urbanists League specifically because it created an atmosphere where I felt comfortable to post something, which led to my move from consumer to creator in many other Facebook groups. I know it may seem trivial, but these groups of various topics from human emotions to amateur culinary skills to trains and their enthusiasts (with people from all over the world) have made me feel at once more connected to people who share some of my weird interests, and inspired me to change my outlook on many things. Most importantly, they're actually full of people who don't mirror my opinions and don't make me feel like Facebook is an echo chamber. I've made an effort to see other people's point of view on tons of different things, and it's made me a better person.

I read a statistic somewhere that 90% of social media users are consumers who rarely, if ever, post any content, leaving the remaining 10% creators who provide for the consumers. I have always felt like a consumer throughout my social media journey (I don't count the blog because I write it for myself - consumption) until I joined these groups. I have started to post more and become an active member, which has helped me to strengthen the bond and connection I felt. I give and get advice, learn, ask questions and post photos of food I've made. I've made jokes about the TTC with people from Boston, explained poutine to a European, and I've even invited some of my real-life friends to join and share in these communities as well.

I suppose Reddit is the true, unfiltered version of Facebook groups, but having this interface as a part of Facebook (which I already use to keep in touch with friends) where people don't hide behind usernames is actually a huge bonus in my eyes.

Inspiration: Winter Stations
Outdoor art exhibits are the best. There's something really special about enjoying art in the open air and sky that takes it to a whole new level. Outdoor art is also usually more accessible than indoor art (because there aren't any walls - duh) and is often free of charge. Such was the case for Toronto's fourth installment of Winter Stations - a lovely display of sculptural installations around existing lifeguard stations on Kew Beach. 2018 brought us seven installations that I visited last weekend with some friends. It was a lovely overcast day - great for pictures.

A view of all seven stations (and C.N. Tower!)

A cute little message someone wrote on the installation. Of course I am not for defacing art, but this seemed to fit with the piece's message.

I like taking candid photos.

Pussy Hut by Martin Miller & Mo Zheng

Action shot: skipping stones.

One of the many statues part of the series called Revolution by OCAD University -
Ben Chang, Anna Pogossyan, Amr Alzahabi, Carlos Chin, Iris Ho, Tracee Jia, Krystal Lum, Adria Maynard, Purvangi Patel, Judiette Vu.

Obstacle by Kien Pham - This one was really fun to walk into and be enveloped by.

Wind Station by Paul van den Berg & Joyce de Grauw

Make Some Noise!!! by Alexandra Grieß & Jorel Heid - turn the crank to sound the siren!

As you can see in the photos, this installation brought a lot of people together which was amazing to see. There was even a community piano beside a little beach bonfire that two kids were playing on. So sue me, I took a picture of them, too. It was cute and I had my DSLR.

Learn more about Winter Stations on their website.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Moi Je, Skeuomorphism & Tinkering

Weekly Update 2018-13: French House from Moi Je fills the scene as we examine a step backward in time: the analog desktop model as an interface system theory and bringing a digital musical experience back into the tactile realm.

Music: Moi Je
The rediscoveries from my SoundCloud playlist continue into this week. Moi Je is an electronic nudisco funk four-piece from Lyon, France, and they have some real bangers. I have never been a fan of twee/happy music over moody/sad music, but this is one of the rare happy-toned bands that I am really digging at the moment. It feels like really good Spring music, flowery and bright.

A little background on the band's use of the French language - obviously they would use a French name since they're from Lyon. Moi Je translates to “Personally, I...” which has a delightfully psychedelic feel to me as an incomplete phrase. And what's weirder is that most of their songs contain French names but have English lyrics. So I am led to wonder who their actual target audience is.

Check out Fais Rien, Respire and Commence.

The band's Instagram is pretty cool too. Check out a motion graphic for their music video below:

A post shared by M 💿 I J E 🌼 🌺 🌸 (@moi_je_music) on

Last Thursday I visited one of my happy places (The Paper Place on Queen) for an envelope making workshop. It's actually super easy (only takes about five minutes to make an envelope with lining) and the results are really dear. Check out the finished product of myself and my friend who joined as well:

I paired this envelope with a vintage postcard as a birthday card for my friend.

Of course we finished off the evening at Nadège Patisserie across the street for some decadent French pastries.

I also went to Snakes and Lattes for the first time in forever and we played a bunch of great games! Which is what I always think will happen and then we never get through more than two. This time was something like five or six! Including a weird wooden rolling wheel called Hamsterrolle.

Quite a long period of time after buying tickets, my day to see Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors at Toronto's AGO came to pass. I had originally planned to go with my roommate, but our viewing times were an hour apart. In the end, it was great to discuss it afterward and for both of us to take part in the “singles line” - saving about 40 minutes of waiting in line because we were alone and accepted to be paired with strangers in viewing of Kusama's six mirrored rooms.

I'm in space!

Kusama in the 1960's.

I especially liked the way they connected the staircase between the two floors of the show - it's the little things.

The experience was quite unique and wondrous, but I think it was hyped up a bit too much. While I was very careful not to look at reviews of the show before I visited, the experience was still slightly precursed by knowing what was ahead. Which just goes to show that the exhibition is certainly not to be missed on a global scale, if you're into that sort of thing.

I visited my synagogue on Sunday to have a chat with Cantor Oringel about my next steps on my Jewish journey - lots of goals this week below. It was really nice to pay another visit (it's been a while since I last attended the physical building). It still smells the same.

After the spiritual connection came the familial; I then went to visit my parents with my sister and we together spent about five hours systematically cleaning our house of all the items we don't need. The eventual goal is to have a garage sale, but I think some of the items might see some trade action on Bunz first (because it's fun and might gain more traction than the sale - but what do I know). So I posted about 75 items to Bunz on Sunday - probably a personal best and a great annoyance to my followers to be sure. I hope they weren't too cross with me. If you want to see what I posted, check out my Bunz Profile. Make me an offer!

To cap things off on this busy, busy week, I read some feminist literature by Simone de Beauvoir on the weekend in preparation for the first gathering of my friend's book club last night. We spoke about the (somewhat involved) introduction of de Beauvoir's highly acclaimed book The Second Sex, as well as our own experiences and questions about the nature of being female. It was lovely to speak with so many intelligent women (crossing two to three generations), not to mention my friend the host who is actually a treasured coworker of mine. What bonus to be around such lovely people and speak about topics for which I didn't really have a forum before.

Esme is holding a wooden frog that she uses as a gavel to retain order among the outspoken ladies.

This week is Passover (my favourite Jewish holiday) so I'll be focusing on ensuring I get the right amount of holiday spirit/enrichment and really soak it all in. I am also thankful that it doesn't fall on my birthday this year because that would mean I can't eat cake or beer! What a birthday that would be (and often is, about a quarter of the time). In 2019, my birthday is actually the first night of Passover...I hope I do something big!

This year, I'll be making an effort to discuss the meaning and feeling of Passover with my family. I'm attending three types of seders this year, so there's lots to compare and consider there. I'm also making a potato kugel for the first time, which I'm pretty excited for. It took a lot of reaching on the very bottom shelf at the supermarket to find the right kind of Manischevitz box mix for kugel, but I am ready.

I also have four freelance projects on the go right now (how did that even happen?) so I'd like to devote some time to that.

Most importantly, I'll be hanging out with a friend I haven't seen in a long time and I'd like to take the opportunity to do something with a healthy dose of outdoors. It's finally staying above zero degrees (yes, I probably jinxed it) and I've been feeling deficient of Vitamin D.

Random Thought: Skeuomorphism's Reprisal
Remember when iPhones first came out and screen interfaces were all bubbly, shadowed and resembling of real-life objects? Even Instagram's first logo (RIP) was trying to pop out of my screen and print me a polaroid photo.

Instagram's old and new logos.

This design trend made a lot of sense when it was at its height of popularity; people weren't familiar with the nuances and patterns of interactive touchscreens and smartphones themselves, so interfaces were made to resemble something familiar to provide a sense of trust and understanding in users. This is the essence of the word skeuomorphism.

We've since abandoned this visual style in favour of a flat design that features simple shapes and bold colours or gradients, which I try to see as more than a trend because of its favourable clarity and essentiality that declutters and streamlines the experience for the user. But the basic idea of skeuomorphism still intrigues me, especially in instances that are less visual and more theoretical. Why not base experiences, tasks and flows upon patterns and systems that humans already understand? One example that constantly comes to mind for me is the desktop model. We still refer to the “homezone” of our computer's stored information as our “desktop” - which is a skeuomorphic idea derived from a physical desk with a top. In case you've never heard of such a thing, perhaps I should note that a digital trash bin, folder and file are all constructs derived from the physical desktop of which I speak.

How do files work? Well, you start with a new/blank file and enter information onto it. You then decide whether to keep it (by putting it into a folder) or throw it away into the trash bin. Drafts and archiving mirror the analog experience as well. I know this may seem rudimentary, but we often take this construct for granted without realizing that a connection had to be made between the two in order for the digital system to become commonplace.

Inspiration: RFID Smart Jukebox
Just as we feel comfort and familiarity with skeuomorphism, so too can we experience joy in adding an analog or tactile element to our increasingly digital worlds. I believe this is why conversational interfaces are becoming so popular - since speaking is such a natural method of communicating for humans. But on the other hand, we also love nostalgia and sometimes pine for a long-abandoned experience even if the replacing experience is more successful in achieving a goal. An example of this is the resurgence of vinyl and record players over digitized music. A physical collection, the relationship you experience with music when going through the motions of playing a record, are simply not present in the digital experience. The RFID Smart Jukebox is a marriage of analog and digital practices in listening to music.

I do love a good tinkering project, especially when people use a deeper-than-average understanding of technology (hardware and code) to build something that intentionally makes a digitized process more analog. As is the case with a Github user @hoveeman, who just published a rather cool project.

I guess this guy got tired of speaking his music requests to his Google Home, so he built an RFID card system to communicate with the device via a series of custom made music album cards.

Tap a card ($40 for 50 programmable cards) on a reader ($10) and it will play the corresponding album for you. It's so utterly useless and frivolous that I love it to bits. Recalling days when I would ask Google Home to play BADBADNOTGOOD and she would respond by spelling out all the letters, I think I could see the reasoning behind this project and wanting to move away from the voice-based music commands.

The tactile nature of tapping and collecting and holding the cards, the visual cues to remember to play your favourite albums, the cute display wall I would probably make for it...this project is right up my alley. And the creator used a Raspberry Pi Zero for the microcomputer, which is similar to an Arduino. Yay for music, tinkering and open-source code!

Check out @hoveeman on GitHub.