Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Moi Je, Skeuomorphism & Tinkering

Weekly Update 2018-13: French House from Moi Je fills the scene as we examine a step backward in time: the analog desktop model as an interface system theory and bringing a digital musical experience back into the tactile realm.

Music: Moi Je
The rediscoveries from my SoundCloud playlist continue into this week. Moi Je is an electronic nudisco funk four-piece from Lyon, France, and they have some real bangers. I have never been a fan of twee/happy music over moody/sad music, but this is one of the rare happy-toned bands that I am really digging at the moment. It feels like really good Spring music, flowery and bright.

A little background on the band's use of the French language - obviously they would use a French name since they're from Lyon. Moi Je translates to “Personally, I...” which has a delightfully psychedelic feel to me as an incomplete phrase. And what's weirder is that most of their songs contain French names but have English lyrics. So I am led to wonder who their actual target audience is.

Check out Fais Rien, Respire and Commence.

The band's Instagram is pretty cool too. Check out a motion graphic for their music video below:

A post shared by M 💿 I J E 🌼 🌺 🌸 (@moi_je_music) on

Last Thursday I visited one of my happy places (The Paper Place on Queen) for an envelope making workshop. It's actually super easy (only takes about five minutes to make an envelope with lining) and the results are really dear. Check out the finished product of myself and my friend who joined as well:

I paired this envelope with a vintage postcard as a birthday card for my friend.

Of course we finished off the evening at Nadège Patisserie across the street for some decadent French pastries.

I also went to Snakes and Lattes for the first time in forever and we played a bunch of great games! Which is what I always think will happen and then we never get through more than two. This time was something like five or six! Including a weird wooden rolling wheel called Hamsterrolle.

Quite a long period of time after buying tickets, my day to see Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors at Toronto's AGO came to pass. I had originally planned to go with my roommate, but our viewing times were an hour apart. In the end, it was great to discuss it afterward and for both of us to take part in the “singles line” - saving about 40 minutes of waiting in line because we were alone and accepted to be paired with strangers in viewing of Kusama's six mirrored rooms.

I'm in space!

Kusama in the 1960's.

I especially liked the way they connected the staircase between the two floors of the show - it's the little things.

The experience was quite unique and wondrous, but I think it was hyped up a bit too much. While I was very careful not to look at reviews of the show before I visited, the experience was still slightly precursed by knowing what was ahead. Which just goes to show that the exhibition is certainly not to be missed on a global scale, if you're into that sort of thing.

I visited my synagogue on Sunday to have a chat with Cantor Oringel about my next steps on my Jewish journey - lots of goals this week below. It was really nice to pay another visit (it's been a while since I last attended the physical building). It still smells the same.

After the spiritual connection came the familial; I then went to visit my parents with my sister and we together spent about five hours systematically cleaning our house of all the items we don't need. The eventual goal is to have a garage sale, but I think some of the items might see some trade action on Bunz first (because it's fun and might gain more traction than the sale - but what do I know). So I posted about 75 items to Bunz on Sunday - probably a personal best and a great annoyance to my followers to be sure. I hope they weren't too cross with me. If you want to see what I posted, check out my Bunz Profile. Make me an offer!

To cap things off on this busy, busy week, I read some feminist literature by Simone de Beauvoir on the weekend in preparation for the first gathering of my friend's book club last night. We spoke about the (somewhat involved) introduction of de Beauvoir's highly acclaimed book The Second Sex, as well as our own experiences and questions about the nature of being female. It was lovely to speak with so many intelligent women (crossing two to three generations), not to mention my friend the host who is actually a treasured coworker of mine. What bonus to be around such lovely people and speak about topics for which I didn't really have a forum before.

Esme is holding a wooden frog that she uses as a gavel to retain order among the outspoken ladies.

This week is Passover (my favourite Jewish holiday) so I'll be focusing on ensuring I get the right amount of holiday spirit/enrichment and really soak it all in. I am also thankful that it doesn't fall on my birthday this year because that would mean I can't eat cake or beer! What a birthday that would be (and often is, about a quarter of the time). In 2019, my birthday is actually the first night of Passover...I hope I do something big!

This year, I'll be making an effort to discuss the meaning and feeling of Passover with my family. I'm attending three types of seders this year, so there's lots to compare and consider there. I'm also making a potato kugel for the first time, which I'm pretty excited for. It took a lot of reaching on the very bottom shelf at the supermarket to find the right kind of Manischevitz box mix for kugel, but I am ready.

I also have four freelance projects on the go right now (how did that even happen?) so I'd like to devote some time to that.

Most importantly, I'll be hanging out with a friend I haven't seen in a long time and I'd like to take the opportunity to do something with a healthy dose of outdoors. It's finally staying above zero degrees (yes, I probably jinxed it) and I've been feeling deficient of Vitamin D.

Random Thought: Skeuomorphism's Reprisal
Remember when iPhones first came out and screen interfaces were all bubbly, shadowed and resembling of real-life objects? Even Instagram's first logo (RIP) was trying to pop out of my screen and print me a polaroid photo.

Instagram's old and new logos.

This design trend made a lot of sense when it was at its height of popularity; people weren't familiar with the nuances and patterns of interactive touchscreens and smartphones themselves, so interfaces were made to resemble something familiar to provide a sense of trust and understanding in users. This is the essence of the word skeuomorphism.

We've since abandoned this visual style in favour of a flat design that features simple shapes and bold colours or gradients, which I try to see as more than a trend because of its favourable clarity and essentiality that declutters and streamlines the experience for the user. But the basic idea of skeuomorphism still intrigues me, especially in instances that are less visual and more theoretical. Why not base experiences, tasks and flows upon patterns and systems that humans already understand? One example that constantly comes to mind for me is the desktop model. We still refer to the “homezone” of our computer's stored information as our “desktop” - which is a skeuomorphic idea derived from a physical desk with a top. In case you've never heard of such a thing, perhaps I should note that a digital trash bin, folder and file are all constructs derived from the physical desktop of which I speak.

How do files work? Well, you start with a new/blank file and enter information onto it. You then decide whether to keep it (by putting it into a folder) or throw it away into the trash bin. Drafts and archiving mirror the analog experience as well. I know this may seem rudimentary, but we often take this construct for granted without realizing that a connection had to be made between the two in order for the digital system to become commonplace.

Inspiration: RFID Smart Jukebox
Just as we feel comfort and familiarity with skeuomorphism, so too can we experience joy in adding an analog or tactile element to our increasingly digital worlds. I believe this is why conversational interfaces are becoming so popular - since speaking is such a natural method of communicating for humans. But on the other hand, we also love nostalgia and sometimes pine for a long-abandoned experience even if the replacing experience is more successful in achieving a goal. An example of this is the resurgence of vinyl and record players over digitized music. A physical collection, the relationship you experience with music when going through the motions of playing a record, are simply not present in the digital experience. The RFID Smart Jukebox is a marriage of analog and digital practices in listening to music.

I do love a good tinkering project, especially when people use a deeper-than-average understanding of technology (hardware and code) to build something that intentionally makes a digitized process more analog. As is the case with a Github user @hoveeman, who just published a rather cool project.

I guess this guy got tired of speaking his music requests to his Google Home, so he built an RFID card system to communicate with the device via a series of custom made music album cards.

Tap a card ($40 for 50 programmable cards) on a reader ($10) and it will play the corresponding album for you. It's so utterly useless and frivolous that I love it to bits. Recalling days when I would ask Google Home to play BADBADNOTGOOD and she would respond by spelling out all the letters, I think I could see the reasoning behind this project and wanting to move away from the voice-based music commands.

The tactile nature of tapping and collecting and holding the cards, the visual cues to remember to play your favourite albums, the cute display wall I would probably make for it...this project is right up my alley. And the creator used a Raspberry Pi Zero for the microcomputer, which is similar to an Arduino. Yay for music, tinkering and open-source code!

Check out @hoveeman on GitHub.

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