Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Shay Lia, Culture Differences & Sueddu

Weekly Update 2019-37: Velvety vocals from Shay Lia, wondering exactly how different Canadian and Japanese cultures are and the inner life of Korean Youtuber Sueddu.

Sueddu reads a book and pets her dog before bed every night. How do I know? She vlogs about it.

Music: Shay Lia
Djibouti-born poet and author Shay Lia has been featured on songs with Kaytranada and Badbadnotgood, thanks in equal part to her velvety smooth voice and amazing lyric writing skills. I must admit R&B is not my first choice in music genre, but I find her music super-relaxing and sombre - good for changing of the seasons from summer into fall. Check out her new EP Dangerous:

Somehow I managed to pack for two big upcoming trips and lug it all to a throwback weekend at an adult sleepover camp weekend for Larissa's Bachelorette Party. I definitely faced some fears on the high ropes course, as well as their mammoth rock-climbing inflatable raft. It was a good way to relive my childhood experiences of overnight camp, and see how everything is done at a smaller camp (about 1/4 the size of the camp I used to attend).

Dinner in the mess hall. Way fancier than the dinners we got as kids at camp!

Everything bride-themed.

Larissa instructing her friend to draw a fruit bowl with a blindfold on.

It got a bit rainy, but overall a really fun weekend!

Next up I am about to get on a plane to Japan. Or should I say, the first of three planes. Yep, with my borrowed travel backpack in tow, I will be seeing the insides of four airports in the next 24 hours. Good thing I've still got some Vena work to finish up, as well as some TV shows to catch up on.

I'll be travelling from Toronto > Chicago > Tokyo > Osaka, leaving early Monday morning and arriving Tuesday around 6:00PM, all said and done. My goal for the first day is to find Okonomiyaki and go to sleep, but following that I am excited to explore all that Japan's kitchen (Osaka) has to offer before moving onto a night at a hot spring in Mount Fuji and then onto Tokyo. Thats the first half of the trip, so next week's post will definitely be juicy.

Random Thought: Culture Differences
This is my first true backpacking trip (or the closest thing to it) with multiple stops in different places and lots of things to see between nature and city life. What I'm most excited about is to experience the differences in culture. The only other comparable place I've travelled was China, and I felt like the culture there was very similar to Canada (perhaps because we have a huge population of Chinese people in Canada). I really don't know what to expect for Japan because I think it'll be really different based on what I've heard from other people who have travelled there.

I wonder how people feel about speaking English (considering they learn it in school), or about the constant stream of tourists that enter their country at all times of year, or if they ever try to look at their own country through the eyes of a tourist. I have been told that Japanese people are polite, but are they kind, empathetic, humorous? I can't wait to find out.

Inspiration: Sueddu
Taking another look into culture (though through a highly curated lens), my friend Emilia turned me onto a YouTube Channel by a young Korean woman with the name Sueddu. Through her videos performing daily tasks and rituals, she brings beauty to mundane activities like cooking, cleaning or doing laundry.

What I find very mysterious and intriguing is the way she purposefully sets the camera to first-person view, using voiceless and faceless shots to allow the viewer to feel like they are the one performing these tasks.

A recent video showing her nighttime/bedtime routine makes me feel very sleepy and calm. The sound is definitely engineered in an ASMR way to produce sleepiness (or it should be marketed that way). It is of course also a window into the differences in culture as related to domestic life like interior design, cooking, cleaning, even ordering food.

Most of Sueddu's videos showcase an activity within her apartment. Not only because she has a beautiful apartment and lots of things to do inside it, but it does appear that her life and the culture of her society is that people spend increasingly more time at home. The rise of Netflix and food delivery apps are clear testaments to this, but this channel really drives it home. The internet can be largely to thank for Netflix and food delivery apps, just as it has allowed Sueddu's comfortability with sharing her inner life with literally the entire world.

This video shows her ordering dessert from a cafe while walking her dog...

...only to take it directly home to eat.

Sharing all of her daily activities may have been a risky move when she started out, but at over 400,000 followers, it's been working pretty well for her so far.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Dirty Art Club, Late Adopters & Keiko Matsumoto

Weekly Update 2019-36: Weird, nostalgia-inducing sounds from Dirty Art Club, power in the perspective of late adopters of technology and the intersection of art and craft found in the ceramic works of Keiko Matsumoto.

Keiko Matsumoto's stunning work.

Music: Dirty Art Club
Not sure how this particular duo from North Carolina found its way to my ears, but they're weird and I really dig their style. Dirty Art Club is made up of producers Matt Cagle and Madwreck, sampling all sorts of weird things (I think I heard the theme song of The Shining and a voiceover from a cartoon I just can't place from my early childhood). While their sound journey takes unexpected turns and certainly doesn't shy away from experimentation, they still seem to make some very chilled out beats that are as calming and pleasurable as they are intriguing.

Tell me what samples you can pick out of the song Hexes, but start anywhere after that.

I really made use of my ability to go to the CNE at lunch during work, made possible by the mix of my office location being so closeby and the relaxed work hours. It made for a really nice heart-to-heart with my friends the alpacas in the farm building. They had a slightly larger fanbase this year due to the rise in alpacas as a "cute animal" - people are finally catching on that they're the best.

This is a chicken sandwich with funnel cakes for the buns. It was delicious.

My friend Nadia hosts some excellent homegrown events all over the city, some of them guided walks through specific neighbourhoods in order to understand them better. This past weekend she brought some friends and colleagues together to stroll semi-aimlessly through the Portlands area along Lake Ontario as a chance to make a sort of "before picture" of the scenery before it's overtaken and redeveloped by what will probably be Google's Sidewalk Labs.

We saw some cool things, met a Toronto Biennial artist by chance as he worked on his immersive sculpture piece, and I got some unexpected hangout time with my neighbour who also knows Nadia - she's very well connected!

This week marked the last official Toronto Cruisers bike ride. Bittersweet, but our fearless leader Natalie decided to give it a Hawaiian theme for a brighter mood. Even better, the ride went right past my house on its final leg to rest in Trinity Bellwoods, so I was able to break off and save myself some sleep. Lots to do in the next few days...

This weekend I have to do some mental gymnastics, planning and packing for two trips at once. I'm headed up north for a weekend at an adult overnight camp as Larissa's bachelorette party. It's a cute idea and I'm excited to squeeze the last drops out of summer but I do have to leave for Japan the next day. I'm really trying to pack as little as possible since I'll have a hiking backpack. I hope my back can handle it.

Speaking of which, I also need to make time to hang out with Sara this week to borrow her backpack and get any last Japan tips from her. Her backpack has already been to Japan so it'll know what to do, too.

Random Thought: Late Adopters
In creating experiences for other people, I feel a sense of responsibility as a designer to keep on top of the trends in app design and beyond. How can one be a good designer if they don't know or understand the current experiences of their subjects?

But at the same time, too close a look into trends can be detrimental to the design process. Standing too close to the problem denies us the ability to innovate beyond it, so I wonder if being a late adopter can actually be beneficial and bring a unique perspective to creating solutions to life's problems.

Being able to see the problem from the outside is usually the best way to understand how it works, especially when certain norms are taken for granted by people who have been stuck in their ways for a long time. If true innovation means going off the well-travelled path in search of something new, I think it stands to reason that this could be found equally in an early innovator or a late adopter.

Inspiration: Keiko Matsumoto
I am a sucker for a good ceramicist. I love pottery's juxtaposition of strength and fragility, and the amazing things one can make with it that vary in shape, texture, colour, size and so much more. I hope to see some cool pottery in Japan but for now, I will satisfy myself gazing at the works of Keiko Matsumoto.

I especially love the way she mashes up different tropes within the media - the octopus curling over a Ming-style vase to transfer the classic pattern to the piece feels like a weird remix of something your grandmother might be collecting in her time-capsule apartment.

In a similar way, the above piece fills in the blanks by completing a print of a Japanese pagoda on a plate with a sculpted 3-D pagoda behind it. It's as much optical illusion as it is fine art.

The first time Japanese art was exposed to the West was at the 1873 World Expo in Vienna. This Japanese art mainly consisted  of pottery, craft and ukiyo-e. There wasn’t really any contemporary art in Japan at the time, and in fact there wasn’t even a word for “art” until 1873. After the expo, influences of Western art began to show in Japan, and art was taught at universities there.

Read more about Matsumoto here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Oddfish, Accessible Peripherals & Patriot Act

Weekly Update 2019-35: Mysterious chillhop from South Korea, a look into why accessible keyboards and mice are good for everyone and my new favourite Netflix black-comedy political talkshow.

Music: Oddfish
Chillhop is back into the trendlist of 2019 playlists, which is great because I didn't know it actually went out of style after its 2016 arrival. My friend Emilia created a pretty good chillhop playlist featuring South Korea's Oddfish, something of a mysterious soul with only two songs on Spotify and a two-line bio with a personal gmail account written in it. Highly unorthodox, but I like the music. It relaxes me immediately and gives me the feeling of taking a nap in the sun on a tropical island.

Sorry, this is all you get for now:

This was a busy week. Rachel Lissner and some Young Urbanist's League colleagues all joined together to sit in the grass of Christie Pits to discuss Dave Meslin's new book Teardown and our personal experiences with politics in general. With the oncoming federal election, I have been feeling a sense of hopelessness lately and looking for ways to turn that around.

One thing that does give me hope and motivation is working with my awesome coworker Sheri on a company lunch and learn on how to incorporate more accessibility and inclusiveness in content creation in our workplace. It will be law in 2021 but we definitely need the lead time to plan and honestly get buy-in from the rest of the company. So, we ran a lunch and learn to try to build some clout around the subject. The turnout was around 80 people (about a quarter of the full staff) so I guess I can't be too disappointed.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend two very cool events. The first was Taiwanfest at Harbourfront Centre, a lively celebration of Taiwanese food, dance, fashion, music and more. We overheard from another festival attendee while waiting in a food line that there would be a special percussion performance later in the night, so we had to stick around. Ju Percussion, a mixed gender troupe of drummers and percussionists, played a wonderful set filled with a display of different moods, rhythms and instruments of percussion. It was art in the truest form that I know.

The next day I visited the Brian Jungen exhibit at the AGO, and was double-excited to see that I would have time to check out the newly permanently acquired Infinity Room (a Yayoi Kusama classic). Being in there reminded me of when Erika and I got memberships to get advance admission to her exhibit in 2017.

Jungen's exhibit was exhilarating in a totally different way, with his intriguing and skilful dismantling of everyday objects and reassembling them into works of art. From hockey jerseys to Nike Air Jordans to jerry cans and more, Jungen makes a striking statement about our relationship to our belongings and the material value we hold so high.

I hope to make good use of the CNE being so close to my office next week, and get some delicious fried food as one does at a carnival. I'm also meeting with Sasha to keep planning our Japan trip - thee are so many details to work out now that we have our city locations planned. Good thing I like to plan trips.

Random Thought: Accessibility
My coworker Sheri and I finally presented our lunch and learn at work, and I wanted to share some of my favourite things from it.

Motor functions are varied amongst different people, which sometimes means it's difficult to use a conventional keyboard or mouse. There are so many different types of peripherals like keyboards and mice with various designs to meet the needs of all users. This notion really speaks to me because I often wonder if ergonomics was considered at all with some conventional (read - inaccessible) peripheral device designs.

Good ergonomics relate to being able to complete work (in this case, at a computer) in conditions that are comfortable and shaped to fit the user, rather than the other way around. This allows users to work longer, feel fewer effects of pain or fatigue, and generally be more efficient and happy in their work.

This is just one example of the way designing for accessibility can help all kinds of people, not just those who may require differently designed peripherals. Sometimes, the "normal" way doesn't actually suit anyone's needs.

Inspiration: Patriot Act
Now that politics has become a common conversation...pretty much everywhere, I have been trying to learn more about world events from alternative voices and sources. One particularly entertaining method is through a new Netflix comedy web television talk show hosted by Hasan Minhaj. I appreciate Minhaj's revelatory candor on his one-man show, picking on corrupt world leaders with dark jokes. But his show is more than entertaining; he puts an interesting and investigative spin on many corrupt processes in the US and around the world that are obscured from public view.

I particularly enjoyed the episode on drug pricing in the US, wherein four separate corporate parties are working together to drive up drug prices, especially the case with insulin for diabetic patients. The cost of insulin in the US has shot up so high beyond the average price in any other country, that people are literally dying because they can't afford the medicine they need.

The show reminds me of Penn and Teller's Bullsh*t of the early 2000s for its willingness to poke around in issues that may be provocative. Minhaj has even come under pressure from his episodes regarding the political ongoings of Saudi Arabia's corrupt crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. After the prince's request to have one of the episodes regarding his actions removed from Netflix, Minhaj recorded a new episode explaining the absurdity of this "request" to his audiences. It does prove the point that the show is making waves.

Of course, you can't believe everything you see, even this show. I have noticed that Netflix seems quite relaxed with allowing Minhaj to rip on pretty much any topic (even Netflix itself) which he has done so many times that it makes me more skeptical that they may be censoring him from speaking about some topics. This is total conspiracy talk, but wouldn't Netflix allow him to "talk shit" about them as a rouse to make the rest of his topics more credible?

In any case, I'm learning at least one side (if not a fully rounded picture) of many world events I wouldn't have otherwise known about, and finding it super entertaining. Some of his jokes nail the point in a step too deeply, but Minhaj's style and charisma have actually given me a talkshow to enjoy (possibly a first, ever for me). Check it out on Netflix.