Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cut Copy, Shazam & Brewskies

Weekly Update 2016-22: The classic electronic groove of Cut Copy, using Shazam as a social media platform, and the delightful Brewskies illustration project of Kevin Yang.

Music: Cut Copy
Yet another Australian electronic band to add to this list, though this one may have been my original gateway drug, now that I think about it. I have loved this band for quite some time, I even have memories of listening to them on my old PC...when iTunes took about 20 minutes to open! Their music takes different turns throughout their discography. It can be bright and poppy (good for chair dancing at work) or moody and dramatic as well. I had the opportunity to see them play at Osheaga in 2014, and that may have been the highlight of the whole festival. Check this out:

Most of the past week was taken up in preparing for a very special Toronto Bingo Scavenger Hunt (for which our costumes won most enthusiastic team! We finished the entire hunt and found every item on the list, so I'll call that an accomplishment.

We also found a new team member on our journey - this beautiful orange pylon.

I also biked to work twice last week, and am starting to feel my legs building up muscle.

I know I've said it a million times, but I will be attempting to work on an Arduino project this Sunday. I'd like to get the RGB LED to work somehow with the photoresistor or piezo electric disc, and try to find a way to get music to be read into the system as input (as opposed to output through the speaker).

I'm also going to finally upload photos to the newest China blog post that I've been sitting on for two weeks.

I suppose, now that I have filled my calendar with things to do every weeknight (not to mention weekends), it might be time to scale back a bit. So my new goal for June is to create a calendar (like the March version), but with some time added in for relaxation. I need more face time with the grassy hill at Christie Pits, just chilling out and doing nothing.

Random Thought:
I opened the Shazam app for the first time in a while the other day. A few things have changed that I thought were pretty cool. Specifically, when you Shazam something, it tells you how many other people have Shazammed the same song. Take this weird song for example:

I thought it was really obscure, but 614 other people have already discovered it through Shazam! That's pretty cool. I wondered if you could tap on that information to see where/when these other Shazams happened, but that functionality doesn't exist. I know we're moving dangerously close to too much personal information being shared, but I heard this song during the break between bands at a concert, and it would have been cool to know that someone else in the crowd was digging the sound enough to Shazam the song like I did. Just a thought.

One thing that I haven't yet formed an opinion on is the vocabulary they've created. A "Shazam" is both the act of finding a song, and the song itself (as pertaining to your library inside the app). It's a little confusing. And while I like the name "Shazam" because it makes you feel like it's working its magic, the word starts to feel strange and foreign (and a bit silly) the more I use it. I think two paragraphs is quite enough of that for one day.

Inspiration: Brewskies
I started following Kevin Yang on Dribbble because of his awesome style of vector art. But what really sold me was his series of six-pack beer vectors. They're so full of personality!

There's something so attractive about perfectly simplified illustrations. All of these are immediately recognizable (if you know the beer brand to begin with, granted) because Kevin has truly captured the essence of the brands and reimagined them at a smaller scale. Please do check out more of the beer series here and more of Kevin's other work here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

LeMarquis, Tapper & Katie Garth

Weekly Update 2016-21: The awesome mixing styles of French producer LeMarquis, some thoughts about the video game Tapper as the original gamification of a humdrum activity, and the mesmerizing illustrations of Katie Garth.

Music: LeMarquis
I can't even remember how I stumbled upon this awesome French producer, but he is SO talented. He has some amazing mixes, and his original music is also really good. I know I don't usually post long mixes here, but this one from Brain Magazine has given me so many good acts to follow up on. It's magnetic.


I biked to work twice last week! I'd like to bike a minimum of twice per week from now on, and I'm also starting to think about going in a little earlier. With all of the bike racks at my office, there is precious little space on the wrong side of 10:00. Plus I suppose it's a good reason to wake up a little earlier and enjoy more of the day.

I also managed to spend most of my weekend in the great outdoors: a hike to Spencer Creek Gorge and not one but TWO fireworks displays in Christie Pits on Sunday, and Trinity Bellwoods on Monday.

And finally, I ran almost 8km yesterday! I've been stagnating around 5km runs, and I want to bump that up. That said, it's getting hotter out during the day and I may have to keep the runs to evening time now. A good reason to break out the bright neon clothing.

I haven't been keeping up with Arduino stuff lately, and even my China posts have fallen a bit by the wayside. This week is going to be really busy, especially because I want to finish off my Wolf Parade project in time for the concert on Friday. I'll be making buttons out of all my illustrations of their faces, and hopefully it will make its way to them somehow! I'm literally on pins and needles waiting for the shows. I still can't believe they're back together!

Random Thought:
I was watching Wreck-It Ralph again the other day and the scene in the Tapper game got me thinking.

If you know anything about Tapper, you'll know that it's a game of multitasking against the clock as you run around to serve increasingly disgruntled patrons of a bar.

This got me thinking about all of these video games that are based on real life jobs. It occured to me that you can gamify every occupation into something fun, even if it's redundant. People love fake accomplishment. Bake story, Farmville, temp assistant story, Garbageman story, whatever. I wonder what will be next.

Inspiration: Katie Garth

I have fallen in love with Katie Garth's simple and delicate illustrations. I came across her work in a design article I was reading online, which is often how I come across excellent artists. What a great medium in which to apply some creativity. Check some out:

Her work carries such a strong weight to it, which seems to juxtapose the thin lines and negative space. I suppose what I really appreciate is her approach to composition that packs such a punch in such a subtle way.

In addition to her depth of illustration work, Katie also has a design portfolio which you can view here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Zhu, Karaoke & Subway Book Review

Weekly Update 2016-20: Crossing my fingers that the Phoenix Concert Theatre has figured out how to put on an electronic show, thinking about how to coax shy people to perform karaoke, and asking subway-riding book readers to share their thoughts in a sweet little project called Subway Book Review.

Music: Zhu
Tonight's the night, I'm finally seeing Zhu. Gotta say, his songs are pretty hit-or-miss, but my friend is really excited for it. I just hope that the Phoenix has worked out its sound issues with electronic music since my last electronic show there (Neon Indian). The show is sold out, so hopefully there will be some good vibes. In any case, I hope he plays this song (especially since Gallant is opening for him):

I love living in the city. Amongst all the chores I had to do this weekend, I was still able to fit in time to go to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and support my friend Tess who was tabling this year. So much beautiful illustration! And what was even more cool was that Zanta made an appearance and started yelling a bunch of stuff in the middle of the show floor. But such is Toronto.

I also ran my 8th fastest run EVER on Saturday, right after a big brunch. I wonder if there's some kind of correlation between the two?

And finally, I found some cool stuff to see during Doors Open in a couple of weekends. May is such a big month for cultural events in Toronto.

I'd like to ride my bike to work twice this week (hell yeah), and actually complete an Arduino project (which I didn't do yesterday). I did write another post on China, and plan to write at least one more this week.

Random Thought:
I was waiting for my turn to sing at Karaoke on Saturday (we've all been there, right?) and noticed that the slips of paper for writing your song choice were actually the backs of bar tab receipts. I was looking at all the alcohol that these people had consumed, and the cogs started to turn.

Many people don't like to do karaoke because it's a bit embarrassing, you make yourself a little vulnerable for three and a half minutes and maybe you forget the words. It happens. So, what if there were a karaoke bar where the bartender could provide a special drink to customers, payable by singing a song of the bartender's choice. That way, people would feel more comfortable singing a song, have a better time, and invariably purchase more alcohol. It's a win win! Maybe I'm in the wrong profession.

Inspiration: Subway Book Review
I have been feeling a void lately that can only be filled by a really good novel. I posted to Facebook looking for suggestions and was delighted that my friends still love to have their opinions heard. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski has been placed on hold at the Reference Library, and I can't wait to sink into all 700+ pages.

Isn't it great how much you can learn about someone by their book choice (and of course their opinion of said book). I found this great little collection of snapshots by Uli Beutter Cohen, displaying riders of the NYC subway system with the books they choose to read. So it's kind of like Humans of New York, but with a spin that perhaps, if you can find someone with whom you identify, you might choose to read the book they're reading. What a great way to choose a book to read.

See more here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Other Side - Day 3

As I mentioned in the previous post of this series, I am writing a mini-series on my trip to China. Each day was so jam-packed with activities that I decided it would be best for readers as well as myself to split the days up into posts for better digestion of information.

On our last episode, we stepped into Tiananman Square and the Forbidden City, and saw a very interesting play. Today begins with a plane ride from Beijing to Shanghai.

The Beijing airport had some very interesting things to see, even though it was around 6:30AM when we arrived there. I tried some very tasty macarons from McDonalds (I was surprised too), and visited a very hip art shop in the terminal.

Beer in the vending machine! (And available at 6:30AM in an airport – when I most feel the need to drink)

As we were waiting for our plane to arrive, I noticed a man eating ramen, which is sold in vending machines. I stopped for a moment to wonder where he got the hot water, but then I remembered that no one in China drinks cold water and all of the water fountains dispense boiling hot water. While I was truly missing my cold water, I did think about how useful it would be to always have access to ramen (hey, it's better than what we have in our vending machines in Canada!).

We landed in Shanghai, and then were stuck in traffic for a few hours as we moved through downtown Shanghai traffic on our way to Suzhou.

Everyone hangs their clothes outside to dry. What if something blows off?! These buildings were at least 40 storeys high.

We saw someone being pulled over by the traffic police – who have a pavilion in the middle of the highway. I guess it's common.

Most of the street signs have Roman characters – which was surprising.

I liked the look of this guy. Taking a break.

Luckily, our faithful national guide Eric had some interesting things to share. Apparently, it is common to ask for a bathroom by saying that you need to "sing a song", and referring to the bathroom itself as the "happy house". I personally really like that last one. He also explained that Chinese people believe that there are four elements that must be present in a garden for it to have proper feng shui. Those are: plants (the most obvious); buildings (someone should be able to live on the land to enjoy it to its fullest – or at least be able to take shelter when necessary); water (for life); and stone (I forget why, but something to do with strength I think).

We finally arrived in Suzhou, which is a town famed for its beauty (both in geography and in its people). We met our wonderful local guide Jessica, who explained that Suzhou women are highly desirable for marriage. There is a saying, "To be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou." I was more interested in the boat ride down one of the water ways in the town. It was so majestic, just like I think Venice might be. People were waving at us from their house along the shore as we floated by. I would love to be able to do this again one day, but at night.

My beautiful mama inside the boat.

After the boat ride, we visited an embroidery factory. Never have I seen such fine detail in my life. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, but the work was beautiful. I especially enjoyed the silk embroidery screens with animals on them, because the threads lend themselves well to look like fur. One thing that I had never seen before was double-sided pieces with two images on a swiveling panel. Apparently these are the most complex to create, and both sides must be completed simultaneously. We saw some workers doing their embroidery, and I honestly couldn't even see the needles in their hands. They were that thin. There was also terrible lighting and a large lack of ergonomic furniture/equipment, so it is understandable that embroiderers can only work for about twenty years of their lives.

Outside the factory, there were some fruit vendors with some things I had honestly never seen before.

A duck friend!

We also drive through the wedding dress discrict. Apparently brides still feel the need to wear the traditional Chinese wedding apparel (in red) but will also buy a Western-style dress in white – even though white symbolizes death in China.

This was kinda weird.

We ate in the embroidery factory, and then drove to our last stop for the day – Golden Rooster Lake. It was so beautiful to see at night, with all the multi-coloured lights. Apparently there is an area nearvy in Suzhou that rivals Times Square, but we were a bit pooped by that time and had to go to bed.

A vendor sold light-up toys by the side of the lake.

On the way back to the hotel, Eric told us that if you are ever lost in China, you can find clues of your location based on the local food. Northern food is salty, Western food is spicy (the Hunan region), Eastern food is sweet, and Southern food is just plain strange (his words, not mine).

And so concluded our third day in China. Stay tuned for day 4, which includes our last day in Suzhou visiting some beautiful gardens, and on to Wuxi for the Buddhist Disneyland and the most beautiful teapots I have ever seen.