Friday, August 28, 2015

Things That Happen

Do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning? How about last Tuesday? Or maybe this day last year? Remembering little details can be difficult, and many of the details we do remember are unimportant and can clutter up your brain. But there are small exchanges and happenings that occur in my daily life that can be the difference between a good day and a bad one, and I tend to forget about things like that after a while.

My coworker Sasha recently showed me a small pocket notebook he uses to track daily events like these. I found it very inspiring. He can look in his little book and tell me who he had lunch with last week, how he felt about the weather two weeks ago, and the friendliness of a dog he met on the street last month. These aren't things we would usually bother to remember, but the fact that he has them recorded down makes it simple and pleasant to look them over later on. 

He inspired me to start my own book, which I've been doing for about three weeks. Even after such a short amount of time, I am able to reminisce and reflect on little occurrences that have happened to me. My favourite one so far:

"Wed Aug 26: ran 5k on College St. -> thanked a car for stopping and they responded with a thumbs-up!"

Sasha uses a Field Notes notebook that has a little space for each day of the week, with a week on each page. It's the perfect size, and even has gold leaf on the page edges! Now that's classy. He and I were comparing entries one day when we decided to find out where to buy more of his notebook. Sasha found out that the notebook is a limited edition product, and so decided to email the company.

We're still waiting on a reply, but you can read his letter below:
Dear Field Notes,
On a whim and as my first Field Notes purchase, I bought the 3-pack that came with the 56-week planner.
Since I already planned my days using Google Calendar, I refitted the 56-week planner into a mini-journal. The attractive thing about the book is that the space allotted for each day was small, but usable. Not too big to make writing entries intimidating, but large enough to be able to write meaningful highlights about any given day.
Some of my friends took interest in my little hobby and have started their own mini-journals using inferior non-Field Notes brand notebooks. 
When I went to your website to make a bulk order on the 56-week planner to stuff some stockings, I was horrified to discover its Winter 2014 limited editioness.
Do you have plans on offering the 56-planner for individual sale in the future? Even on a selfish level, I would want the capability of replacing my own little book when it fills up after a year and 4 weeks.
Best regards from Canada.
 I'm going to attempt to keep this up for six months and see what I come out with. I suppose if anything, even the process of writing and reflecting on one's day is cathartic. And since I've never been one to keep a diary, this seems a little easier to do.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekly Update: The Power of Music

Music: Disclosure
I have always wanted to see Disclosure play live. I've been finding myself hankering to go to more dance shows of late, probably because I am between favourite dance halls in Toronto. A girl's gotta dance!

Disclosure is a gruesome pair of brothers out of England, Howard and Guy Lawrence. They make music that is hypnotic and super fun, most notably elevating themselves to fame by collaborating with Sam Smith on a little song called Latch. You probably heard it once or one hundred times on the radio last year.

Our darling Sam announced the reveal of their second collaborative song when I saw him at Wayhome, which was a tip-off that they'd be touring soon. And yes they are! Here's the new song:

I have officially let up my Google Analytics account. Since its launch on Tuesday, I have had two visits, each at 3:00AM for zero seconds. So, some work needs to be done. 

I have also been riding my bike. I've mastered coasting down a hill without pedalling and completing sharp-ish turns. I'd like to be able to stand up while biking, but maybe I should master balancing with one hand and while looking backwards first. I'm thinking of making some kind of guide to help people learn how to ride a bike. It's one thing to master balance, but there are so many steps beyond that that I have devised and found helpful.

I'd like to get analytics up on all the pages of my website (it's currently only on the homepage) and figure out what these zero-second users are all about. It might be nice to look into setting it up on my blog too. And on that note, think about ways of getting some more followers. All that is happening on Wednesday.

As for that dang jumbotron article, I'll be editing and emailing it on Sunday. Might be nice to finish off Sam Smith and post it to too. I'd still like that pesky dribbble invite sometime! 

Random Thought:
I have always believed that music has the power to bring people together. A great many hobbies and interests of the world are highly subjective, but I think that music is a truly universal thing. Everyone has a favourite musician, and music affects us all (whether we want it to or not). Even cross-generationally, when it can be hard to find interests in common, there are musicians of such renown and popularity that have lasted the test of time. The obvious example is The Beatles. Pretty much everyone I know, of every age, likes at least a handful of Beatles songs. This got me thinking about how music can stand the test of time, and what makes it memorable to each person. As I hear the new tween pop songs, I can't help but feel that pop music from the 90s, my tween years, was more artfully crafted and had more soul. But that can't really be true, because those songs aren't beloved cross-generationally. I think that we can imprint on songs, applying happy memories of childhood to them that make them seem more special than they really are.

My dream is that one day in my lifetime, there will merge a new Beatles or Michael Jackson, whom I can discover and love from the start. I don't think any musicians of my lifetime have come close to that status. And perhaps, with the exponential amount of genres that have been invented since the days of John, Paul, Ringo, and George, it may never happen. It may well be that people's tastes have become too eclectic for us to have room in our hearts for a universal music idol. We'll just have to wait and see.

Inspiration: Michael Kagan
Being a designer, I have a certain passion for all creative endeavours. I have always loved how versatile oil paints can be, and how the artist can use the medium to create hyper-realism or abstraction or anything in between. Being so picky about the visual, when I find a truly wonderful painting that I would gladly hang on the wall, there's something special there.

Michael Kagan is a fine artist out of Brooklyn, and he somehow manages to make visions of space travel and highly digital, futuristic scenes into something more soft and organic. Check these out.

I love the way he manages to blur sharp lines and find warmth in such cold subject matter. It almost makes me feel like these astronauts know something about the world beyond that the rest of us Earth-walkers are not yet privy to. Only time will tell.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Weekly Update: Homer Hudson

Music: ODESZA and Little Dragon (together at last!)
You may know of my undying love for SoundCloud. It takes me a while to find new music that I like, but unfortunately I generally find my home stream of music not catered to my tastes. This is probably a reflection on me, though, because it feeds from artists I follow. Well, I think I have been curating my Soundcloud a little better lately. I strolled on over to SoundCloud today and what did I find? A new track released by ODESZA (loveable electronic duo from Seattle) featuring Little Dragon (songstress of my dreams). It's the best when two good artists collaborate to make music. Take a listen:

As you have read, the Jumbotron article has been posted! It just needs a little more editing before I turn it over to Toronto Life. But soon! I also rode my bike on an errand this weekend, which was the next step in my bike plan. I rode down a steepish hill with marginally less braking as well, but that's only a cog in the machine.

I know I don't get a lot of foot traffic on my personal website. I don't really need to, but I guess I may as well try to understand the whys and hows of Google Analytics. I feel like it wouldn't be hard to learn, either. I'll be attempting this feat and posting about it here this week, probably tomorrow and Saturday.

Random Thought:
This weekend was Time Festival at Fort York. Between seeing DIIV and Mac DeMarco for the first time and Die Antwoord for the third time, it was an awesome day. But of course, with so much time to drift off listening to the music, random thoughts will begin to occur. You know how it is. So here's this week's instalment: I was watching Tory Lanez's DJ play random songs for ten minutes without explaining to the audience that he himself was not Tory Lanez. Because I hadn't listened to him ahead of time, I didn't know that he was a rapper and so assumed that he was just a quiet-type DJ. So, for those ten minutes, I was under the impression that while the jams were good, this guy was basically shuffling his iTunes library with a two second crossfade for an audience of 200 people. And oh boy, was he getting away with it.

Now, as I mentioned, this dude was just hyping the crowd until Tory Lanez came onstage and started doing his rap thang, but he sure got me believing that he was able to create a career based solely on his curation of music off the internet and ability to press the play button on a MacBook (as the kids say). And for a moment, I wondered if I also would be able to fool a crowd into thinking I was a real DJ with the use of nothing more than iTunes. Maybe if iTunes got a little better.

Inspiration: Homer Hudson Ice Cream
You've seen me write about ridiculous ice cream branding here before. Just what is it about ice cream that makes designers try to push the boundaries of packaging and branding design where they otherwise wouldn't even lick the thought?

Homer Hudson Ice Cream is making some weird packaging for their delicious-sounding ice cream flavours, but their website is even better.

It's literally a showcase of four flavours (plus ingredients and nutritional information – artfully hidden); barely even a website by content standards. But by web design standards, oh boy. I urge you to go check it out through the link above, but if you must have me describe it to you, five colour blocks float across the screen and divulge one of the four interesting flavours – plus one secret 'coming soon' flavour. The website is maddeningly simple and wonderful. And I wouldn't be surprised if their new flavour remains called 'coming soon' even when its ingredients are divulged. They're just so wacky!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Jumbotron in Smallville II

As promised, the following is an edited and updated version of my original post from 2011. Oh how some things change, while others stay the same.

I have lived in a semi-quiet suburban neighbourhood in Richmond Hill for just over fifteen years now, and there have been some considerable changes since I moved in. Over time, the corner of Bathurst Street and Rutherford Road has undergone a very interesting transformation from farmland to commercialization. As more people fill into the suburbs for a quiet life with their 2.3 kids and a dog, urban planners and developers have been quick to respond with a change in land use.

When I moved near the corner in 2000, the intersection contained a quaint little plaza on the northeast corner with a family-owned bakery, some untamed (and rather nice) trees on the southeast corner, and a sheep farm on the southwest corner.

The most interesting corner, however, was northwest. Shy-Low farms was the purveyor of farm-grown foods and our halloween pumpkins every year until they closed sometime around 2005. I remember visiting their storefront on many a happy occasion in my childhood, but it was more than a market to the people who live in the neighbourhood. The first sign of autumn was always marked with the instalment of the huge styrofoam pumpkin they displayed right at the corner, and kids were always playing in the old reclaimed streetcar tucked behind the storefront.

As an aside, that streetcar led quite the life before it moved to our fated corner. After its original days as a functional streetcar, it rested its wheels for a while as a curious little boutique west of Yonge on Dundas from 1973 until 1977. It was then removed to make room for the construction of the Atrium on Bay. From there, the streetcar (named Desire, by the way) was stored in an unknown location in Markham until 1981. Then it was sold and moved again to a lot at Birchmount and Steeles for a year, until it was bought by the owners of Shy-Low farms. They transported it to Warden and Steeles to be used as a residence and office until 1987, when the streetcar was finally moved to Bathurst and Rutherford to rest for the remainder of the Shy-Low farms days. With the upheaval of the market, the streetcar disappeared as well. I find it comforting to think of Desire frolicking happily in a nice big transit yard with other streetcars.

As for the sheep farm on the southwest corner, it has since become a plaza slightly larger than its diagonal counterpart. It now contains a Sobeys, a TD Bank, and a Tim Hortons (a necessity at every major Canadian intersection). The sheep were moved a little further south on Bathurst to graze for a while until they were moved again last summer, this time to a place akin to the streetcar's new home in oblivion. That land will soon become townhouses.

But I digress, let us travel back to the main topic of this discussion: the northwest corner. The farm of my childhood has now become a large expanse of stores, most notably the enormous Longo's (complete with underground parking and in-store Starbucks), Duff's Wings, RBC Bank, Second Cup and Aroma Coffee.

Let's put the whole intersection together and see what we get. Four coffee shops, three banks, two supermarkets, and a partridge in a pear tree. After all that development, as I was beginning to think that the construction was finished for the moment, workmen started to hack away at the grass and concrete beside the bus stop. At first I thought they were building some kind of public art or installing a statue. When the work was complete, I remember driving up Bathurst and being greeted at the intersection by a glaring, 30-foot screen.

I know that this is meant to be a normal consequence of urban sprawl and change should be embraced, but a Jumbotron in the middle of an intersection in the suburbs of nowhereland is an almost comical sight. One certainly doesn't see anything like this in any locations closer to Toronto's city-centre, where there is more foot traffic and less residential area to afford homeowners the misfortune of having to stare at the screen through their bedroom windows. It does seem rather strange to build such strong advertising in an area so far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. We folks of the suburbs are certainly trying to become everything that Toronto boasts, but I'm not sure that we're far enough along to be awarded this huge electronic light show against a backdrop of semi-detached homes and semi-detached trees.

On top of the visual confusion, the Jumbotron is a little distracting right in the middle of an intersection. Rush hour is a substantially busy time in my nook of the woods, and the added disruption of a dynamic backlit screen wouldn't really ease the problem of distracted drivers who are used to glueing their eyes to their equally bright and distracting phone screens.

In a neighbourhood that used to be so quiet and family-oriented, it hasn't taken long for commercialism to seep in through the cracks and take over an entire intersection. As I drive through the intersection, I sometimes wonder if any casual passers-by come under the impression that a Jumbotron seems a little out of place among sprawling suburbia. While it's clear that suburbanites do their best to make their neighbourhoods seem like the buzzing metropolis of downtown Toronto, this stride seems a bit too big for its shoe.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Weekly Update: Wedding Ephemera

Music: Chromeo
For my last venture into the crowds of Nathan Philips Square during the Pan Am games, I was really excited to see Chromeo on Friday. I've been listening to them since the Fancy Footwork era of 2007, and I think this was either my fourth or fifth time seeing them. I was happy to see that they brought those keyboards with women's legs that light up – always good for a laugh. And there was a bigger crowd than I thought! I think the guitarist David was thinking the same because he mentioned his surprise at how many people came out to see them.

Quite a bit has happened this week! First, I got my G2! Onto the highway I go. Other than that, I managed to ride my bike up and down a very challenging hill (scared out of my mind) and play some tennis. I also scored a ticket for Kaytranada in September and Disclosure in October!

And something else of note: I was inspired by a coworker to start a little diary about all the stuff that happens to me every day. Things like achieving my running goals, interesting conversations, little personal victories, delicious food I eat, that sort of thing. I hope it will feel rewarding when I finish the last page of the book and read back over everything.

I didn't get to Sam Smith or the Jumbotron post this week, but I'll get there! The Jumbotron post should be coming up either Wednesday or Thursday.

Random Thought:
I've been trying to go to as many ribfests as I can this summer. There's actually a master list of all the communities that run their own, which you can check out here. It hasn't been updated since last year, but you can use it as a guide to find the dates. Ribfests are awesome because they provide all the things I love about state fairs (delicious food and different booths where you can win stuff) with none of the things I don't like (long lines, rides, expensive prices, only a few days long). There's nothing like getting your face all messy and saucy with a rack of ribs, and trying to guess which booth will win the festival. With all of this, I have always wondered why there aren't other kinds of food festivals of this sort. I know we have a Mac and Cheese Festival and those sorts of things popping up in Toronto, but these ribbers travel all around America and Canada doing the festivals. I know there is a clam chowder festival that runs around the states, but we don't get that here for some reason. What a shame.

Inspiration: Venamour
If you've ever done freelance work, you know that brides-to-be are probably the most difficult client out there. They are picky to a fault, know what they don't like but never what they do like, and their tempers are very easily disturbed. Mix all that with the fact that last time I worked for a bride-to-be, she took three extra weeks to pay me because she kept making excuses that she was too busy to get the money over to me. The last excuse was that she was in a car crash (which, darkly, turned out to be true).

This website is not only beautifully designed, but their wedding ephemera design is beautifully on-point. As a person who pays a lot of attention to detail, I wouldn't mind having any of these invitations for my wedding. Check these out:

On top of all that, I can only assume that if you lend your life's work to designing for brides, you must have the patience of a saint. And for that, I salute you, Venamour.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The New Design Method

Back before the advent of computers, all design was done by hand. Countless iterations, the likes of which we could now move through with a few swift strokes of a keyboard, were slugged through in a matter hours or days. Before the rise of the digital age, design was only produced for print. There was no worry of screen sizes and responsiveness, what you saw was what you got.

The print medium was by the paper, of the paper, and for the paper. These days it's a little more complicated.

Having been too young to have witnessed the world back then, I can only go on what I've heard and estimations to really get a feel for what that must have been like. These days, the process is so different that it's pretty much unrecognizable from what it was then. Not only do we have a whole language of words with which to describe the digital process of creating design, but we also have a whole slew of devices that look virtually unrecognizable from the tools we used before.

But more than any of that, the main difference between the world before the digital age and now is the way we approach the process of design. When once we would use paper and pencils to iterate and research, we now use the computer. These days, I find the process of making design (whether it be for digital or print media) to be more of a digital nature than it is of a print nature. No matter the final purpose, a business card or a piece of custom type or a drawing, things that once began with a hand-to-paper motion are now made almost completely from a computer screen.

It's kind of an interesting phenomenon, if you think about it. It's quite clear (at least to me) that any kind of creative process naturally suffers without the use of analog mark-making at least somewhere in the process. As humans, I believe that we crave that simple activity to get the creative juices flowing. So, even though we openly believe that the advent of technology is the best method to solving any design problem regardless of media, all of these 'quirky' or 'tongue-in-cheek' analog methods that are creeping back in are just a sign of the process righting itself.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Weekly Update: Self Assembly

Music: Alison Wonderland
In keeping with my festival research this summer, Alison Wonderland will be playing Time Festival on August 15. I am all for female electronic musicians (because there are so few notable ones, and also because I totally wish I was one of them), and I like that she samples weird stuff like Little Dragon and the Rolling Stones. Not to mention, she's from Sydney, which only furthers my theory that all good electronic music comes from Australia.

Sam Smith's face is complete. I was also able to take the bike out for a spin (finally found my helmet, too). How cute is he?! Kind of a weird hairline though...but those cheeks!

I'll be finishing my wee Sam this week, probably on Wednesday. This is definitely a week for goals because I am also taking my G2 test tomorrow! I also want to ride my bike and maybe play some tennis on Sunday.

Kind of importantly, I want to write a special blog post this week. You may remember my post Jumbotron in Smallville. I want to expand on that post and edit it a little to reflect the recent changes to the corner near my house. More to come!

Random Thought:
I was playing Cards Against Humanity at a party on Saturday and I realized something. I usually play the game with the same group of friends, people who have the same sense of humour as myself. And if I may be so bold, I usually clean up. I'm pretty funny. But this time, I was playing with people I had just met. This changes the game substantially. I find that the best way to read people is to see which black cards they choose to win, and play accordingly. For example, take the cards played below:

This is hilarious on so many levels. I find that most of the humour like this was lost on the crowd, who tended to go for the white cards that were more shocking than relevant. Of course, it might have been because alcohol was involved, but I think my point stands: Cards Against Humanity is the best way to get to know people and what their sense of humour is like. This is good for me to know because a good sense of humour is pretty much the number one thing I look for in friends.

So this begs the question; how can I force everyone new that I meet to play the game with me? More planning is obviously involved.

Inspiration: Fuzzco
Another Portland design studio that makes my heart ache for Oregon. Founded by Josh Nissenboim and Helen Rice, their website has won me over alone. The title re-types itself in different forms as your scroll down the page, the employee images are ripped and taped together into some strange morphing sub-humans, and the work is easily as quirky as the website. And if that doesn't excite you, they have a make-it-yourself self assembler on the site that allows you to remix some of the choice body parts of their staff into a grotesque monster of your own. Here's mine:

You can also see it (and make your own) here.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wayhome Top Five

As promised, here is my breakdown of the top five acts at Wayhome this year (according to me – who else?!)

5) Kendrick Lamar
I dragged my feet listening to Kendrick because rap isn't really my thing. I had heard some of his songs in passing, and they hadn't really stuck. Three days before the festival, I sat myself down and ventured through the entirety of good kid M.A.A.D. city, which was astoundingly amazing.

We were pretty far back for the show, but able to see everything without having our view obstructed. And the crowd was really pumped, even as far back as we were. Halfway through one of the songs, some people started dancing with us and even had us all bear hug together in honour of our love for Kendrick. Why not.

4) Odesza
Time got away from us and we got to Odesza a little later than we wanted. Even ten minutes into the set, the crowd was really big! We were wearing glowsticks and all sorts of fun stuff, and bonded with some other people who were wearing similar garb. Together, our new troupe got pretty close to the front (as close as I wanted to be so that I could still dance).

The set was crazy; I feel like I've been able to watch the two dudes really grow as musicians from seeing them earlier in the day on a small stage last year at Osheaga, to seeing them at a very un-sold-out Mod Club in November, and now playing on a main stage at Wayhome at midnight. Quite a step up.

3) Com Truise and Girl Talk
I had been waiting to see Com Truise since I first listened to his music earlier in the year, maybe February. He was only playing a half-hour set, and even though I had told everyone I knew to catch his set, it was easy to get to the front. He was all business and barely addressed the crowd at all, but he played some new stuff that sounded awesome. Much too short.

Girl Talk came onstage right after him, and that was a sweaty messy dance party for sure. Again, just like Grove Festival in 2013, I missed my chance to dance on stage by a moment! But we had fifteen minutes before Girl Talk to go see Kaytranada, and I'm happy we took the chance. The crowd got a little too tight, so we ended up watching from afar for the last little bit of the set. But dancing in a crowd to songs everyone knows and can sing along to is so much fun!

2) Modest Mouse

Some very skilled pushing and inching to the front won me a second-row spot (behind a luckily short girl) to see my beloved Isaac Brock play songs off the new and amazing MM album. His banter between songs was easily as entertaining as the songs themselves. My favourite part was when one of the huge (doorway-sized) beach balls was thrown onto the stage. Brock referenced it in a grumpy old man voice and said "Hey you kids, don't throw your ball into my yard!", after which he returned the ball with a triumphant kick. What a crowd pleaser.

1) Broken Social Scene

Passion Pit had to pull out of the festival on Friday morning, which didn't bother me too much. I like Manners but everything after that has been rather saccharine and much too happy for my taste. They were to be replaced by a 'special guest', which was announced at the beginning of the Modest Mouse set to be Broken Social Scene. I was really excited because I'd never seen them before and I love their music.

No one wanted to come with me because Metz were playing at the same time, but I found some strangers to dance with. When they set off fireworks at the end, I knew I'd chosen the right band to see. Even though If I had stayed at the main stage after Modest Mouse, I could have been at the front for Kendrick. But it's all about priorities, right?

Fire Eye'd Boy is one of my favourite songs and they simply killed it. It was amazing.

Can't wait til the next music festival! They're probably my favourite thing about summer.