Monday, February 29, 2016

A.D.K.O.B., Neighbourhood Hats & Michael Buchino

Weekly Update 2016-10: Some bright indie pop with an interestingly mysterious band name, wearing the name of your neighbourhood on your head like a proud label, and some cool posters from Michael Buchino.

Music: A.D.K.O.B.
My guess: a different kind of band. In their band bio:
Apparently Damien Knights Omnipresent Bacon. A Dragon Killed Our Blacksmith. Adam Dissects Kevin Over Brunch. Aim Downward Kyle, Onya Brother. Atlas Depicts Kiev Overlapping Bosnia. Apathetic Dragon Knives Overweight Bear. Apparent Dingus Keels Over Backwards. A Different Kind Of Busy
Any of these could be the secret meaning behind the acronym that makes up this indie pop piece from Sydney. I haven't found any good indie pop lately, and the singer's voice feels like velvet in my ears. This is some good stuff.

This week, I placed a hold on an electronic drum kit at Long and McQuade. Apparently it will only be about $50 to rent the kit for a whole month (cheap!) and since they didn't have any rentals available, they ordered a new one for me. So I'll be the first to use it! How fun.

In my Brazilian drumming class, I am finally somehow getting the hang of most of the breaks and rhythms. I have been testing myself by attempting to play correctly, dance, and stick my tongue out at all the passers-by who peek their heads in the windows. And there are a lot of them. Not only that, but my teacher complimented my drumming yesterday! Such praise. See the video below:

I also attended an Intro to 3D Printing class on Saturday, which was really cool. I learned about three different modelling programs in which to make my designs, all with very different tools depending on the project one might want to build.

My ongoing list of ideas for things to print:
  • a funny zipper pull for the coat I just bought (somehow missing its zipper pull)
  • CS monogram logo keychains
  • a little planter for a succulent
  • other various TINY items because I love miniature everything
I am going to start really thinking about what to print and perhaps create some files because the next thing after getting my certification on March 16 is to print something! So exciting!

I am also going to write a blog post on what I've learned so far, especially comparing the three programs I learned about on Saturday. The contrast between them is quite different.

Unfortunately I found out the hard way that Creatron is closed on Sundays, but I am going to take some time tomorrow after work and check out all the stuff that the Home Hardware across the street sells and pick up the resistors I need for the Piezo electric disc there.

And why will I be in that area tomorrow after work? Only because I am going to a ukulele workshop! Yep, after three hours, I'll know how to play three songs on the ukulele! How exciting.

Random Thought: Neighbourhood Hats
Have you ever seen these hats? I feel like Toronto pride has been skyrocketing in the past few years, and everyone seems to be repping their neighbourhood. They're kitschy and awesome. I especially appreciate that the colours and patterns reflect the areas. Look at Danforth for example:

And of course there's one for my neighbourhood:
The truly random thought about these hats is that if you're wearing one and you get drunk and lost (hey, it can happen), some good-hearted samaritan can use the hat to return you safely home. I like to think Torontonians are polite enough to do that. It's an unwritten code!

Inspiration: Michael Buchino
I was reading an interesting article on "breaking up" with Slack (if your company's Slack has more than 30 channels, you should too), but what interested me even more than the excellent words were the even more excellent illustrations by Michael Buchino, an illustrator out of Portland (no surprise there, everything good is from Portland). Check out some of his work below:

See more on his Etsy shop.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Super Wonders

I haven't written any posts in a while about my explorations of the wonderful neighbourhoods surrounding the Noodle (my apartment). Lately in the bad weather, I have been taking to using Ossington station over Christie because they provide an exact same travel time to work, but Ossington allows me the better chance of a seat and more warmth.

Now that I am an Ossington regular, I am walking in the other direction on Bloor and noticing some very strange and excellent happenings. One absolute staple of my neighbourhood is certainly the Super Wonder Gallery, run by Christian Aldo. I have been mentally collecting a series of stories about my brushings with this establishment, and as they get weirder and weirder, I find I must put them to digital paper and share them with you.

But first, a short history. As per their website, The Super Wonder Gallery is a large art gallery that hosts giant and exciting group themed art exhibitions and events. This is a massive understatement.

Residing along my walking path to Ossington station, the first thing about it that caught my eye was the glittery lettering inside (pictured above) and outside the establishment. I remember thinking, "if this place is as loud and crazy as its curb appeal, I'm in." And it is.

The next time I walked by, there was an art show happening, but the place was more packed than any art gallery I had ever seen. There was a full four-piece band playing on a riser, complete with a full drum kit. Colour me impressed.

Fast forward to a little later. I was on my way to see Chrome Sparks at the Drake Underground, and I was a bit late so I was in a rush. I ran by the gallery, only to see (and hear) a crazy drumming circle happening. Everyone was facing an instructor and working really hard. It looked like the most exciting exercise class I had ever seen. There was a note on the door about drop-in classes but I was in a hurry and immediately regretted not stopping to take a picture of the sign.

I thought about this for a few days, but couldn't really find anything on the gallery's website since the drum class probably rented the space separately of the gallery's programming. I contacted the gallery on Facebook to ask about the drumming, but all they told me was to contact someone named Christian Aldo, and gave me his phone number. I thought this was a little suspect, but I called it anyway, since I really wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery. I called and left a message, but didn't hear back. 

Then, I was walking by on a particularly bumping Friday night, and decided to pop in and ask about some information regarding the drumming classes. Why not! The ladies working the door directed me to the very extravagant Mr. Aldo himself, wearing a brightly patterned blue suit with perfectly power-clashing orange shirt underneath. He also looked and acted like Quentin Tarantino, so I prepared myself for a very exuberant conversation with this man. He welcomed me into the gallery very warmly, even though several people were vying for his attention. I felt a bit out of place, and even moreso when he insisted I follow him into the basement of the gallery so he could fish out the phone number of the man who runs the drumming lessons.

At this point, I told myself, if you don't follow him, you're never going to find out about this drumming class. So I followed him. He took me past some very strange art in the mostly cement and derelict basement of the gallery, and into his office where he obtained the phone number. As I thanked him and told him I had to run to a birthday party (100% true), he offered for me to stay, have a glass of wine, and enjoy some art upstairs. Of course, I declined politely and got the heck out of there. I was not really looking forward to having my voicemails ignored by this man as well as Christian, and I luckily noticed that same sign from the drumming night behind the counter at the door. I quickly snapped a picture of it and instead of calling this man out of the blue, simply showed up for drumming class the next Sunday afternoon. The rest is history.

Every class has been more interesting and incredible than the last, especially so when we walked in on my third lesson and gazed around at all of the incredibly erotic art on the walls. There was going to be an erotic art show the following weekend, and so for two weeks in a row, we drummed along to the visuals of many a painted breast and penis. Our only witness was a naked female mannequin in the corner, who wasn't really paying attention anyway due to the dildo shoved up her butthole. I digress.

The week after that, we had to rearrange our formation due to a huge catwalk running down the length of the gallery. There had been a fashion show the night before.

Now, I make a point of looking (and sometimes walking) inside the gallery whenever I walk by. This week, there was an art show with a real, living man standing in a frame watching the passers-by. He smiled at me. 

Today, I heard some very loud music coming from the gallery around 3:00PM. I peered in, only to be beckoned inside (as usually happens when someone peers into the gallery during an...experience). This was something I can only describe as a love circle meditation dance party. I asked him what was going on, looking at all the people dancing to the DJ spinning some weird electronic/tribal music. He told me that they had been doing some meditation (which I heard as 'medication' at first), and now they were working their stuff out to some music. I really never know what I am going to find in this place. It amazes me.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Cherry Glazerr, Magazine Ads & Bunz Trading Zone

Weekly Update 2016-09: Beach Goth rock music from the excellent Cherry Glazerr, wondering why the value of magazine articles and advertisements have an inverse relationship as related to value over time, and my own personal discovery of Bunz Trading Zone (which will almost definitely take over my entire life).

Music: Cherry Glazerr
I had heard of this three-piece out of Los Angeles before, when Adult Swim featured one of their tracks. I was curious to see if the Best Coast/Wavves show tonight at the Danforth Music Hall had any openers, since I really dig the sounds of both bands. Low and behold, Cherry Glazerr is opening for them. Their sound really matches that of the two headliners, but is a little mellower. Check out their song about grilled cheese (that I never knew I wanted, but definitely did). Can't wait to see them tonight!

I somehow figured out how to program the RGB LED I bought at Creatron. It is so awesome. Check out my little video below: (I'm really sorry I didn't rotate my phone...I've become that which I hate).

This is a busy week so I'm keeping it doable. On Wednesday, I will be picking up the vinyl design of the Brew Beer Drink Beer graphic (woo!), attempting to exchange the resistors I bought last week (I bought the wrong ones for the Piezo electric disc – rookie mistake), and attending a puclic critique session in which I will display my 21 Days app design. In the crit session, I'm looking for feedback on what I've done so far before I continue my work. Should be interesting.

Random Thought:
Magazines have a lot of advertisements these days. For something that is purchased, the amount is a bit staggering, to be honest. I suppose they have a lot of content, but if I am going to pay $5-20+ for something that is basically disposable, it's kind of weird that the content is looming somewhere around 50% of the total pages.

That said, I think it's obvious that the main attraction of magazines is their content. I mean, you don't see magazine covers sporting headlines about the advertisements inside, do you?

What's really interesting to me, though, is the difference in attraction between new and old magazines. Some of the articles in old magazines are surely still interesting, but the content usually grows more and more out-of-date as time marches on. Adversely, the appeal of advertisements grows with age. I constantly see old magazines from the 1950s and older at garage sales, and their value is surely calculated by the amount of old, interesting, sometimes rare, and often tasteless advertisements found in their pages. For example, there are quite a few advertisements in old magazines from the 1950s (seemingly regardless of the subject matter) that depict alcohol and cigarettes, which has since been banned from printed material in Canada.

So what I'm saying is, if you want to get 100% of the possible enjoyment from a magazine, read the articles and then put it under your bed for about fifty years. Results = PROFIT!

Maybe that's why I can't get rid of any of my magazines.

Inspiration: Bunz Trading Zone
I have been noticing a flux of new apps and startups in Toronto that are attempting to connect people living in the same neighbourhood who want to trade their stuff. It can literally be anything, from old clothes to furniture to kitchen appliances to foot massagers. While I do enjoy the fact that these sites make for a more focused experience than something like Craigslist or Kijiji, I had never really felt the urge to join one. What do I need more crap for? I am trying to rid myself of this stuff!

Then I read an article in the Globe and Mail about Bunz Trading Zone and my mind was changed. Just like that. What drew me to it was either the excellent illustrations by Sabina Lindemann or the fact that the product prohibits the trading of items for money. Everything is done on a barter system, with the most popular ISOs (in-search-ofs) being tall-boys of craft beer, wine, houseplants and tokens (what I presume are TTC tokens). This seems like my kind of trading post.

The more I looked at the image above, the more I loved it. We have all come home after a long day to our roommates being a little more than unruly, but upon further inspection of some grey hair and a chore wheel, I realized this is the life of a millenial son living at home.

So I posted my George Foreman grill to see what kind of feedback it would get. I wasn't really sure what to ask for in return, so I left it to the crowd. Only time will tell what I may get in return for said grill, or perhaps no one will want it and I will be forced to continue using it. (Waste not, want not).

By the way, if you want in, the invite code is 666666. Make me an offer!

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Design Of Everyday Things

In the current chapter of my ongoing obsession with my public library, I recently picked up a copy of Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things. I haven't been keeping up on the 'classics' of my profession, and felt I had a bit of catching up to do in the literary world of design. And so I am actually really enjoying it.

I used to find design essays and theories quite dry, but now that I am out of school and reading them independently, I find I have a new passion for this sort of thing. Norman's ideas and thoughts about the usability that we seek (and so rarely find) in everyday objects strikes quite true with me. Just take the cover for example: an incredibly odd sort of teapot, such that when you think about using it, you realize that the tea would probably pour all over the dang place, give you some very nasty burns, or both.

While the book itself has some wonderful things to impart about user experience design (that I am lapping up like tea), I find that the experience of reading this book is in itself quite lacking. How ironic.

1) The pages are printed on an angle.

Honestly. In this day and age, we can't seem to print lines of text straight against the spine? This is really shameful. It surprised me so much that I actually came to the desperate point of wondering whether this was done on purpose, since we often hold books in a way that curves the pages. So perhaps this was done to correct the lines to an optically 'straight' position. But as I read further on, I talked myself out of such nonsense. It's truly testing my patience.

2) The diagrams are not placed in context
The diagrams and images often do not live on the same pages as the text in which they are referred. This is an obvious flaw in book typesetting, and drives me up the wall. When reading about a figure, I am either left in the dark until I turn the page (three paragraphs later), or have already forgotten the diagram on the page beforehand by the time I reach the text (yes, it goes both ways).

3) The subheadings are arranged toward the spine

I always appreciate a typographic rule breaker, but this is just insane. If subheads are not going to be aligned left like the rest of the text (and in the fashion upon which the entire world has silently agreed), they should at least be stuck out on the edge of the paper, where our eye is more likely to catch them. I understand what's trying to be done here, and I can even appreciate it to some extent, but it's truly maddening to have to crack the spine simply to read a subheading. Inner gutters are there for a reason, and the reason is displayed here. What a pity.

One thing this process has taught me is that even small flaws in design can lead to a terrible experience that may not be saved by wonderful content (I am slugging through the book in spite of all this of course). I wonder if Don Norman knows about these issues. It would certainly be interesting to gauge his reaction.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jamie xx, Music Services & Studio–JQ

Weekly Update 2016-08: Finally listening to the side project of The xx: Jamie xx, thinking about the different use cases of different music platforms (especially as music streaming services become more mainstream), and lovely illustration from Studio–JQ. Not to mention some tinkering around with Arduino.

Music: Jamie xx
I don't know how this one slipped through the cracks, but it did. I only just got into In Colour the other day, and it is truly a masterpiece. I didn't know it, but everyone and their grandmother has been sampling a track on it called Loud Places, including Bag Raiders and Chrome Sparks.

My favourite part of the album is no single track, although there are certainly some winning ones, but it is the fact that all of the songs have such extremely different moods, and yet flow together seamlessly. I can't count five artists who can do this as well as Jamie xx. Now that I've arrived to this party, I can only hope he'll be announced as a performer at Wayhome or Osheaga. Wouldn't that be great?! Listen to my favourite track Good Times below.

Quite a few this week. First off, I finished learning the entire Hebrew alphabet this week! Isn't that something to feel accomplished about. Next week, we begin reading the Siddur (prayer book) and I can really put my learnings into action. I am also going to attend service at the synagogue where I am learning Hebrew on Saturday. Nothing better than immersion!

I swear to God, after only three weeks of drumming classes, I can feel the beginnings of muscle gain in my upper arms. I remember having those muscles in high school during drumming class, so it's nice to see them coming back in. Who needs dumbbells when you have a big fat drum and two heavy mallets? Not this girl.

And if that weren't enough, I also managed to make a bunch of funky things happen with my Arduinos. I took a trip to Creatron for some LEDs, a speaker, and some other fun stuff, and just look what my roommate and I were able to achieve!

What's going on here: a green LED is connected to a potentiometer, which is basically a simple dial. As my roommate's beautiful hand turns the dial, the blinking of the LED will quicken or slow at the same rate. SCIENCE.

We also made a simple melody with the speaker (not shown here). I'm going to work on customizing the code in that one a little more before I show you >:)

As I mentioned, I will be attending services at the synagogue where I am learning Hebrew to put my skills to practice on Saturday.

I am also going to take another trip to Creatron for some parts (most excitedly: a programmable RGB LED that I bought without the proper resistors - rookie mistake). My goal is to learn to use a photoresistor (basically a light sensor), and eventually create a tiny sound-and-light display for the party my roommate and I are throwing...sometime soon. These are exciting times.

I am also wrestling with the idea of posting some possibilites of my dad's business card to Dribbble. I strongly believe in the main use of Dribbble being about feedback and iteration, and not the shiny outcomes with no process that people often post. I am just a bit skittish that no one will respond! Maybe I'll get some feedback from people I know first.

And lastly, if that weren't enough, I am signing up for a class at the library tomorrow to get my 3D printing certificate (which I need in order to be able to use the 3D printers at the library).

Full week!

Random Thought:
The widespread love of listening to music provides us with an excellent array of music services that cater to every sub-need users have for listening to music.

For example, the use case of 8tracks is different from that of SoundCloud, even thought both are for discovering and listening to new music. 8tracks doesn't let you skip over more than five tracks at a time, and doesn't show you a track listing. This is reminiscent of mixtapes, which had an air of mystery to them, yet a sense of order in how the creator had shaped the listener's experience for them.

On the other hand, SoundCloud allows the user to browse all sorts of music with no mystery or real order, the experience is more like that of going to a club and hearing whatever the DJ feels like spinning at the moment. Or, you can be your own DJ and curate your own playlists.

They are decidedly different, and yet the goal of each is to explore and find new music. How specific can you get? It's really wonderful.

Inspiration: Studio–JQ
I have been following Jon Quintin on Dribbble for a little while, and I find his designs both refreshing and delightful. I also appreciate how carefully he crafts his brand; I thought the account was owned by an entire studio of people for quite a while. Check out some of his shots below:

And if you love logos like me, check out his collection of logos, marks and icons here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gilligan Moss, Socks & Tanaka Tatsuya

Weekly Update 2016-07: Poppy, chanty, experimental music from Gilligan Moss, the joy of socks not having itchy tags to contend with, and peering into the miniature worlds of Tanaka Tatsuya.

Music: Gilligan Moss
I can't even remember how SoundCloud led me to Gilligan Moss, a soul/electronic outfit from Chicago. The music is poppy, chanty, experimental, catchy, and a whole lot of other things at once. And my favourite thing about music that Gilligan Moss has down is the transitional experience that the music takes you on. After listening, you feel like you've been taken somewhere far away. Listen below:

This week, I actually succeeded in getting these two examples working! I used the hardware I have to write and program a light to blink on and off on the Arduino, and to write a message in TextEdit using only one button on the breadboard.

I also attended my second class of Afro-Brazilian drumming yesterday, and paid for four more classes. I even got a blister on my finger! Not to mention my legs are killing me from moving around so much with a heavy drum hanging from my waist. Getting back into running in the Spring is going to be a challenge.

I also managed to procure a SIM card adapter, and subsequently moved my SIM card from my iPhone to a Nexus 5 I am borrowing from a friend. It's quite different from what I'm used to!

Now that the easy Arduino stuff is out of the way, I want to buy some LEDs and get cracking on some more difficult projects. I'm going to find three projects tomorrow, and buy some components on Wednesday.

I'm also going to try to use the Nexus 5 for a week, getting it to a similar lifestyle that I have with my iPhone. Jumping into the pool is the only way I'll learn!

Random Thought: Socks
Isn't it nice that socks don't have tags? If I ever find a pair that do, I'll know that the person who sewed them on is a true sadist. Obviously, sock sizes are quite a bit more one-size-fits-all than other clothing, so it would make sense for them to be tagless. They are, at the very least, the least complicated of all sized clothing, which is ironic when comparing them to the crazy sizing of their cousin, the shoe. Also, socks are so utilitarian that it doesn't dang matter where they're from, and I've never had anyone ask me "who I was wearing" on my feet..."oh these old things? They're Chanel's sock line!" I wish underwear would take a page out of the sock book and do away with all tags, washing instructions, and for that matter, those useless tiny bows, too.

Inspiration: Tatsuya Tanaka
I love miniatures so much. But possibly not as much as this dude. Tatsuya Tanaka is a miniature artists extraordinaire, with three instagram accounts for three times the excellent miniature feeds.

He even has a daily calendar page with a new miniature for each day. I'm dying! Go check out more here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bag Raiders, Rec Centers & Fresh Guacamole

Weekly Update 2016-06: Listening to Bag Raiders through a bike company mixtape, thinking about how my new neighbourhood feels like Animal Crossing, and the amazing stop-motion mimickry videos by PES.

Music: Sole Fixtapes and Bag Raiders
I had been hemming and hawing about seeing Bag Raiders next month (especially because it falls on a Hebrew Tuesday), but a lovely new discovery changed my mind. I found this wonderful collection of mixes called fixtapes, each one created by a different artist (many of whom I love) for a Bicycle company! How interesting. I suppose the brand is trying to become a lifestyle more than just a simple bicycle retailer. Check out the other 44 fixtapes here.

Anyway, Bag Raiders are a funky two-piece from Australia (where else) that seem to do just about everything one can do with electronic music. Listen below.

This was a busy week. For one, through a bit of hardship and dumb luck, I finally found the information for the tribal drumming class I walked by the other week, and attended my first class yesterday! It was awesome. I am already four classes behind, but I am sure to catch up. Just gotta find those online practice videos somewhere...

I also managed to borrow some Arduinos and breadboards from a friend, and found some great online resources through Lynda and Skillshare. I signed up for a 3d Printing class at the library, and overcame my fear of Facebook groups by posting in all three of Toronto Rave Community, Young Urbanists League, and Simpsons Trivia. Trust me when I say that all three groups have a very specific sensibility and if you don't carry it, you'll be shunned. May I also say that my post in TRC earned me a grand total of 156 likes! Out of 50,000 group members, that's really not bad for a first-time poster. Now, what did I post, you may ask? You'll just have to join the group and look for yourself. I can't be giving everything away, now can I?

And what did I promise you? Was it possibly a business card and a beer typography graphic?

The business card is still a work in progress, I don't love the colours yet. But it's coming along.

As for this little baby, I still need to hand-vectorize the logo (why can't people keep vector versions of their logos?) and send it off to be cut. Exciting times!

I have the basics to begin an Arduino project, but I need to figure out what projects I want to do and buy the peripherals for them. So I will be selecting three projects on Thursday, and attempting to make them on Saturday or Sunday.

I also have to practice drumming! Catching up on four weeks of classes in drumming is quite a bit harder than a whole semester of Hebrew, let's just say, so that's gonna have to happen at some point. I wonder if I can practice on the subway walls without bothering other people. Most likely not.

One other small goal for this weekend is to change the Behance link on my website to my SoundCloud profile. I never really got around to filling in my Behance page, and since I already have all my work on my website, it kind of makes no sense. So why not share something I care more about (and even mroeso as time goes on): my SoundCloud page. I don't actually have any original music, but I care a lot about the music I have curated and collected over the past six months and feel that it would be good to share. Unfortunately, people don't seem to access 'Likes' pages very much, so I am going to organize my Likes into playlists and go with the proverbial flow. Maybe I'll get some more followers in the process?

Random Thought:
I decided to take a stroll through Christie Pitts last Monday night on a whim. Without my brain really knowing, my feet brought me to one of my favourite spots in the park: the skating rink. And what did I find there? Nothing but a bunch of cute 20-something guys playing hockey! Such luck! It was wonderful to see such a community spirit. And as I turned around, I was delighted to see that someone was manning the tiny rec centre behind the rink. It gave me a strong feeling of playing Animal Crossing, when things like the town hall and the police station are only open at certain hours of the day, depicted by a warn yellow light emanating from the building. This was the same feeling. "Someone's inside, come on in!"

Except it wasn't raining. :)

Inspiration: PES
I found this crazy video online and I must share it with you:

This is awesome. I love the way the artist creates a realistic-looking 'guacamole' out of (decidedly inedible) household objects. The attention to detail is astounding, not to mention the use of stop-motion is impeccable. Check out more of PES's work here.