Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lyrics & Albums

I was listening to an awesome mix the other day (by Chrome Sparks - no surprise there) and I stopped for a minute to look at the album art. It is peculiar.

Listen here while you read (if that's your thing):

The quote is taken from the Fader Interview that accompanied the release of the mix. The relevant excerpt:
We were staying with a buddy of mine in New Orleans who lived in half a duplex and had access to the other half, which was vacant. The last guy to live there was named the Candyman, because he would go to bars, ask girls for their IDs, and then give them candy. As there were four of us crashing at my friend's, he offered to let my girlfriend at the time and me into the other half of the duplex to stay in the vacant master bedroom. After passing what looked like a dried pool of blood at the foot of the fridge, we made our way to the bedroom, which had three locks on the inside of the door. She was too creeped out, so we went back to my friend's half of the duplex and offered up the creepy master bedroom to the drummer at the time, Dave—who took it. The next night when he went back to crash there, the lights were on, the door to the balcony was open, and the drawers were pulled out of the dresser. The Candyman had returned and trashed the room, presumably because he saw that someone had been staying there the night before. Dave came running back and we were severely spooked for the rest of our time in town.
You can read the rest (or maybe you've had enough?) here.

The absurdity of the quote really tickled me. It also got me thinking about how some lyrics of my favourite albums are so powerful yet overlooked, which is sad. I suppose it's because the album art is what people might bring to mind as a visual representation of a band, long before their equally colourful lyrics.

So why not try a little visual experiment to see if I can flip this norm on its head? I selected four of my all-time favourite albums, chose some lyrics that I especially enjoyed, and created new album art for each of them. And here they are!

Wincing The Night Away was and continues to be an excellent concept album. It reminds me of a sort of Alice In Wonderland that perhaps took place by the sea. I also love to belt out the lyrics (including this one) as loud as I can. Listen to the song Sleeping Lessons here.

Expo 86 is full of weird turns, tempo changes, and a wonderful, yet sometimes delightfully dissonant, combination of the band's two lead singers Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug. But what I love most about their music is the carefully constructed and intriguing metaphors. I get the feeling that this lyric is about a couple who fights constantly, and one declaring that they've had enough. But it sounds much nicer in the music than how I might explain it! Listen to the song In The Direction of the Moon here.

Ganging Up On The Sun is the closest album I own to country music, and I wanted to reflect the mellow feeling of banjo that the songs impress upon me. This is also one of my longest-running favourites. It's hard to believe it's been ten years since it was released. Listen to the song The New Underground here.

Was I The Wave? plays with a lot of ethereal sound and strange subject matter, under which can be found meaning that resonates with me. I imagine walking through a forest every time I listen to this album. Listen to the song Tracers here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Rufus du Sol, Hand Emojis & Danielle Clough

Weekly Update 2016-05: More Australian electronic music, how to properly use hand emojis to convey the clearest message, and the amazing tennis racquet embroideries of Danielle Clough (aka @fiance_knowles).

Music: Rufus du Sol
I originally found out about this Sydney-based producer through a recommended track related to Chrome Sparks. No surprise I am digging these sounds! And they're coming to Toronto in April! Happy birthday to me. Not much to say about the music quality except that it's basically the pop of the dark electronic world. It's easy to listen to, the vocals are buttery and nonsensical, and it leaves you feeling bubbly and collected. No wonder they're friends with ODESZA. Listen below:

I have been watching too much tv lately. And what's worse is that I am watching before bed, which I think is making my sleep wonky. Therefore, with the sudden onset of libraries (big and small) of increasing accessibility, I have set a goal to read 15 books this year with Goodreads.

I finished two books on vacation last week, and while I certainly rekindled my love of reading, it also reminded me that book reading gives me such an enriching sense of accomplishment. Especially in books such as 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, which I am reading now, where some of the words are so complicated that they are fun to try to say out loud.

I finished the book I borrowed from the little library before I left for my vacation last week, and when I return it, I was thinking of writing a little review on a post-it note in the cover. I'd certainly like to find that in a book I picked up. I appreciate the completely analog nature in which these little libraries are run, so I thought it would be fitting to install an analog reviewing system as well. And honestly, I bet this idea has already been thought of, anyway.

You can check out my book-reading progress at Goodreads.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the next steps in my career. I love product design to death, and I find that the things I like most about it are the problem solving and user interaction. But what's more important is what I find has been missing from my day-to-day job. I am missing the use of everything in my design skillset. I conduct a healthy amount of research and user testing, and I code like crazy. I do love the problem solving that only coding can deliver. I also work very collaboratively, which I also like. But I don't do anything with my hands. I have been feeling the void of staring at a screen or page, that I believe can be filled by physical design. Which is why I am setting a long-term goal for myself to begin dabbling in Arduinos. My roommate has a bunch, and some skill to work them, and I think it's time to try it out. More coming soon.

On the short term, I am going to get a new version of my dad's business card done TONIGHT after this blog post. Next week, you will undoubtedly see it in the Accomplishments section of my blog. Same goes for the beer graphic. I will be emailing a version of the design to some vinyl cutting places tonight.

Random Thought: Talk to the hand
For some reason, I am always thinking about the design and user experience related with emojis. Not sure why. Maybe it's because they're so small yet somehow represent an (almost) full gamut of human emotion, and are well on their way to helping us communicate without the language barrier. When I just want to emote a piece of cheese to someone, there is now a tool with which I can easily carry out my task.

But here's what I really want to discuss: the special area of emojis that are hand gestures. Oh, those varied and wonderful hand gestures. As someone who thoroughly enjoys talking with her hands, I am a true lover of this inner section of emoji life. So we know that hand gestures are wonderful.

But this is the real question. Are emojis best communicated from first hand point of view or second hand point of view? Do I want to show someone my palm as in the peace sign, or do I want to see my own view of the A-OK symbol? Faces are easy, we just look at each other's heads. But hands, those are a fully different beast.

Inspiration: Danielle Clough
I have always had a soft spot for textiles and embroidery. Something about the mixture of the softness of thread with the utility of fabric, and the extreme detail that is possible to achieve, astounds me. And to that end, I have found an amazing artist who has taken all of that and pushed the envelope of embroidery beyond what I could ever have imagined. Check this out:

A photo posted by Danielle Clough (@fiance_knowles) on

A photo posted by Danielle Clough (@fiance_knowles) on

A photo posted by Danielle Clough (@fiance_knowles) on

These are amazing. I have never seen someone embroid onto a squash racquet before. Or onto lace with an asymmetrical pattern. What loveliness. Even her business cards are quirky and awesome:

A photo posted by Danielle Clough (@fiance_knowles) on

Check out more at her website here. Sew far, sew good.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Moon Diagrams, Drake Hotel & Quotes on Shit

2016-04: Seeing Chrome Sparks and Moon Diagrams while having a transcendent experience and the whimsical upcycling of the “Quotes on Shit” project.

Music: Moon Diagrams
I was lucky enough to catch Chrome Sparks at the Drake Underground last week, and what an awesome show it was. The opener was also of some particular note, being the solo project of Moses Archuleta, best known as the drummer, occasional keyboardist and co-founder of the indie rock band Deerhunter. His set was extremely good, although I was slightly confused by the way he sort of hid behind the propped-up case for his music-making equipment. A lot of people were talking during his set, which brought me to sit down on the edge of the stage to catch a better wave of sound. I was really grooving to it...even if it seemed like I was the only one.

I got my Toronto library card last week! Surely this is one of the upsides to working so close to the wonder that is the Toronto Reference Library. I'm also planning to sign up for 3d printing classes, though there is quite the waitlist.

I also put up my mural collage (a project I had been thinking about for a while). This is the first instalment of a collection of...well...paper scraps, I suppose. But they are very special paper scraps that commemorate some of the awesome things I've done since moving into my new place. I originally wanted to arrange them in some sort of chronological fashion, but I decided on something a little more haphazard in the end which seems to work nicely.

On my way to see Chrome Sparks last week, I walked by this curious place called the Super Wonder Gallery. I have noticed all sorts of goings-on there since I moved to the neighbourhood. On any given night, the space lends itself to drag shows, live music of all kinds, art showings, and god only knows what else. This particular Wednesday, there appeared to be some sort of exercise class with rows of people in their workout clothing facing an instructor. Now what sort of exercise were they doing, you may ask me? Well, it was tribal drumming. Yep, I didn't believe it when I saw it, so I certainly don't expect you to believe it in print, but that's what it was. Everyone had a floor tom in front of them and was banging away in beautiful unison. Sweat was pouring down. It was glorious.

And of course, if you know me at all, you know that my goal (for next week, since I am out of the country and otherwise indisposed of any floor toms) is to join one of these classes and experience the magic for myself. More to come.

Random Thought:
I suppose I'd like to use this space as more of a rave than a random thought, but it is indeed random. I recalled when purchasing my ticket for Chrome Sparks (online, because I found out about it very late and wasn't sure if it would sell out) that the email stated that the ticket MUST be printed and would not be accepted on a mobile phone screen. And of course, I forgot to print my ticket at work that day. I was racking my brain for a solution when I remembered that the Drake (the venue) is a frickin' hotel. They should be able to print the ticket for me at the very least! And so I called, and they did. They had it waiting for me when I got there, and I went right in without a hitch. That's some excellent customer service. Now, need I go into further detail about the blasphemy that is not allowing entry by showing a mobile ticket on a phone? Is a bar code not a bar code on a digital screen?

Inspiration: Quotes on Shit
My favourite design (pseudo) power couple Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman are at it again. This time, it's delightfully simple. Let's just take some shit and put quotes on it.

Of course, there's more to it than just some spray paint and sharpies. As per the website's About section,
We all use so much shit. We collect shit, buy shit, steal shit, trade shit and then throw shit away. So what happens with all this old shit? Is there a life after it leaves our hands? Shit winds up in our garbage, on our streets, in our landfills, and in our junk shops. We feel bad for this abandoned and rejected shit so we're rescuing these objects and breathing new life into them by giving them a voice with words. We want to turn old shit into new shit, and give them a second chance to be loved and help find this shit a new home.
I love it! Here's more.

I enjoy the idea of 'feeling bad' for an inanimate object, which is akin to my feelings for many of my possessions. While it obviously isn't healthy to grow attached to items that cannot reciprocate, we sometimes feel as though they can. When I look at my bed, I feel extreme feelings of love. Every time I use my favourite pen, I want to lick it with joy. And on and on.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sweater Beats, Experiencing Loss & David Bowie

2016-03: The smooth mixes of Sweater Beats, what happens when the people we love pass away, and the ways we can express our sorrow (especially in the case of David Bowie).

Music: Sweater Beats
I am kind of obsessed with this mix that came on while I was writing the rest of this blog post (no, I don't write these in any sort of order!) and I think it is sounding really funky. I don't know anything about it, but why not try something new along with me? It won't hurt, I promise.

I haven't done much since last week, but I have been practicing my ping pong skills! I've been feeling a little restless without running every other day (and being cooped up inside because of the cold weather), so it's good to be moving around. God bless the office ping pong room.

I did stop in front of a little neighbourhood library on Crawford Street and pick up a book to read. You know what I'm talking about, these:

They're on a take-a-book, leave-a-book policy so I'll borrow this one and then put it back when I'm done. I suppose I feel a bit silly because I haven't brought any books with me to this apartment and as John Waters says:

I didn't opt into the lunch program at work this month, so I am relishing the excuse to get away from all the delicious food I can't eat at lunchtime. How best to counteract that? By doing some Skillshare classes during lunch at work! Tomorrow at lunch I am going to complete a short Skillshare on my lunch break, and on Thursday I am going to get a library card after work! How exciting! I have been slacking on just sitting back and reading a book in my spare time, and I'd like to get back to that. I also want something to read in Mexico next week. Lucky me!

Random Thought:
I was watching Frankenweenie the other day, and (no real spoiler here), there is a scene at the beginning where the boy's dog dies. He doesn't really have any friends, and the dog is pretty much his whole world, which made it very sad. Not to mention that Tim Burton always does an amazing job of bringing empathy out in his audiences. The boy's mother tells him that when a loved one passes away, they don't go away. They just move to another place: your heart. They're still very much alive in your memories and dreams. I've heard that cliche before in one form or another, but this time it really struck with me. A family friend's father passed away this weekend as well, and he was someone that I had spent time with when I was younger. I hadn't seen much of him lately, which made me sad because I remember him as being so full of life.

Sorry for the grim subject, but my point is that I will remember him as the guy with the silly jokes who always had a smile on his face. He loved trains, and had a very interesting collection of train pins on a conductor's hat that he showed me. At the funeral, everyone was given small pins to wear during the service. I wore my pin all day, and I think it will become one of my favourite things.

I never quite know how to feel when a famous person passes away. When I found out about David Bowie this morning (as I was getting ready for the funeral mentioned above), my first thought was that the world has lost a great artist. After that, I was feeling sad for his family, who have to deal with the grief I am currently facing as well as the huge crowds of fans who love him for his music (but will not be personally affected by his death). That said, what can we, the fans, do to show our gratification for the life of such a great man? We can dribbble. Check this out:

Nothing is more comforting to me than a good bit of design created in the light of the loss of someone great. I know that sounds crazy but these shots are just so good. And they make me think of how lucky I am to have lived in the time of Bowie. Maybe it's time to download that new album of his...since it'll be the last one.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Chrome Sparks, Pyjamas & Stamps

Weekly Update 2016-02: A revival of one of my favourite musicians (Chrome Sparks), wondering how a regular shirt becomes a pyjama shirt (and whether that's a promotion or demotion), and the wonderfully intricate stamp designs of my friend and fellow designer Lily Kao.

Music: Chrome Sparks
I know I've already gushed over my Brooklyn electronic crush Chrome Sparks, but he really deserves one more mention, especially considering he's coming to Toronto next Wednesday! I am so excited, it's literally all I can think about (or listen to). If you haven't already, try this on for size:

This week, I've been getting really frustrated with the slowness of my computer, so I am starting to delete unnecessary stuff from it in preparation for a clean install of El Capitan. Just today, I freed up 15 GB from the app backups on my computer and a bit of music I'll never listen to. Cool! The hard part is going to be cleaning up my old school files. Check out the breakdown below:

I've also been writing down more thoughts in some old blog post drafts, and (this is more of a goal, I suppose) I'll be starting Hebrew lessons tomorrow! I'm pretty darn excited for that.

I've got to keep cleaning my drive before I can get down to any serious work, but I didn't get a chance to do a SkillShare for lunch last week, so I'd like to do it this week. Maybe tomorrow!

Random Thought: The Life Cycle of A Pyjama Shirt
As I put on my old worn pyjama shirt (I always write blog posts in pyjamas – it's my secret to success) today, I was thinking about how it's become such a choice shirt to wear to bed because I've worn it in to a soft mess. I always used to think that shirts that are too old to wear in public become pyjama shirts as a sort of shame, but now I realize that it's quite the opposite. All of my sleep shirts are quite prized to me, and I occasionally bring them back into daytime rotation in their thin, pilled states. I suppose it relates to the fact that I love to buy worn clothing at thrift stores. Some of the most comfortable clothing was made that way by other people. I know it's a common feeling to find that a little weird, but I don't mind being contrary. :)

Inspiration: Lily Kao's Stamps
My super talented friend Lily is starting off her year with an excellent habit. She has vowed to illustrate a stamp to commemorate each day of the year. So far, the results have been excellent!

Can't wait for more! Check out her Facebook page and Instagram, you won't regret it.