Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Amherst, Anime North and Aggretsuko

Weekly Update 2018-22: Amherst's thoughtful take on future funk raises the bar for the genre, I attend Anime North as a voyeur-extreme and binged an entire television show about an anthropomorphic red panda who sings death metal karaoke.

Music: Amherst
Ohio-based producer Amherst is making tracks that may seem like your average future funk, but are truly so much more. Beyond the usual vinyl-digging for disco-based samples (which he does a very good job of, to be sure), Amherst manages to run the gamut of emotion through his discography. One such example is that of 2015 album Heat.wav, in which he demonstrates knowingly that happiness can't be expressed without a comedown. I know I've toted a lot of future funk this year, but Amherst is certainly not one to be missed.

Check out Heat.wav:

Earlier last week I attended a design meetup - one of the better ones I have been to lately. Biography Design has just moved into a fresh new office on the "Geary strip" - the posh new up-and-coming area adjacent to Geary Avenue that includes a pinball bar, brewery, world-renowned architecture and design firm, custom designer eyeglasses warehouse, and much more.

If Type Could Talk: a seminar on typography in 2018 by Dalton Maag.

Biography welcomed us to their new office with a special presentation by Dalton Maag's creative directors Eleni Beveratou and Tom Foley, having travelled all the way from England to teach us about the ins and outs of typography design in 2018. I had no idea how stringent end user license agreements (EULAs) for fonts were.

One quote from Tom Foley really stuck with me: typography and letterform design can be seen as a "system of space". The negative space created around the letters is as important to legibility as the letterforms themselves.

I have to make a shoutout to the sold out crowd, amazing food, free beer and awesome swag bags at this event. Of course the best part is the learnings and Q&A period, but free stuff never hurts :) I was also really curious to see Biography's new office, such a lovely space and right around the corner from my band's practice space.

On Thursday I attended yet another meetup - my first in-person meeting for my beloved Young Urbanists League Facebook Group. I was particularly excited for any reason to attend a bonfire in Dufferin Grove Park (such a lovely space to hang out in) and to meet Rachel Lissner, Toronto's resident New Urbanism leader in my opinion. The greatest thing about the event was that the bonfire had been accidentally double-booked for the Bunz Wilderness Zone Facebook Group, of which I was not a member before the bonfire. But heck yes, I am a member now. I absolutely love the community atmosphere of Bunz, and also love the outdoors, so this was a natural move for me. Bunz Wilderness Zone holds hikes and other events throughout the year, you can become a member and get updates on their happenings.

And if that wasn't enough, I attended Anime North this weekend as well. My first real fan festival, I really enjoyed the home-grown nature of the whole thing. It was pretty well organized and run for over 35,000 attendees, but still felt small and friendly. Many panels were run by fans with no real fame or following, but who simply loved the shows or movies they discussed, and wanted others to feel their passion. And did I mention the HORDES of amazing cosplayers, each better than the last? I literally could not stop turning my neck back and forth for three straight days. More on that below.

After three days and two nights of running around with very little sleep, I retrieved my new bike from the bike shop and rode it to the Phoenix to catch Parquet Courts last night. I normally steer clear of Sunday night shows, especially after a weekend festival, but the call of this band is too strong. Somehow the show wasn't sold out but the room was PACKED to the gills. There was so much energy that I somehow ended up in the mosh pit and soon covered in other people's beer and sweat, so I'll call that a success. I've mentioned my love of this band before but after finally seeing them live, I simply cannot sing their praises loud enough.

Tha boys rockin' it out.

Keeping the momentum going - I want to find and follow all of the talented artists I met at Anime North. I am also finally ready to sell my old Bumblebee bike off to the next rider - hopefully it can find new love after three years in my stead. On top of that, I also hope to sell my old air conditioner now that I have a spiffy new one. If I am really lucky, I'll also be able to find a bike rack for my new bike on Bunz so I can stop loading a backpack and killing my back.

Now that my bike has been tuned up and is ready to hit the streets, I am hoping to attend one of the community bike rides this week in honour of May being Bike Month. Thursday actually has two rides (that I know of), one at Evergreen Brickworks and one on the Don Valley Bike Trails (which are very close to each other - maybe they'll combine into one super-bike ride).

Coming up into the summer means tons of drumming shows, and this week is a big one for my band. Our music, Samba Reggae style from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, was made immensely popular by a band called Olodum. Olodum is headed up by a man named Mestre Memeu, and our band leader Pato has sponsored his travel to Toronto this week to play some shows and do some workshops with our band. This is a large honour for us and a big step forward for our band. We spent a whole summer practicing one of his original songs to play for our fans in Toronto, and I am pleased to see that Pato is moving our performance music away from "drum-added" North American/European music in favour of true, traditional songs written for the genre. Here's Memeu leading Olodum through their original Salsa Percussiva, which our band plays in Toronto.

Catch Memeu playing with TDot Batu at Dundas West Fest this Saturday June 2!

This weekend I'd like to spend some time adding more accessibility-friendly features to my website, and look into adding some to my blog as well. Apparently Google just changed a bunch of features of Blogger, so I may have to check that out to see if my blog was affected negatively at all. If you see anything new and/or weird, let me know!

Random Thought: A Festival for the Fans
My roommate has been religiously attending Anime North (Toronto's very own fan convention) for a number of years, and I decided that this would be the year I see it for myself. I have been a continual attendee of lots of music festivals, so I was interested to see how this would compare.

The first and best thing I noticed as soon as we hit the convention centre was that this truly was a festival of, for and by fans. Anime North is proudly not for profit, and the homegrown nature definitely shines through. From Artist's Alley (where artists sell their lovingly ripped-off fan art to other fans) to the various panels run by fans on all the knowledge they've gathered on their favourite shows, to Friday night's Nominoichi - a Bunz-style marketplace to buy and trade used fan merchandise, cosplay accessories, games, DVDs, and tons more. You can haggle and get stuff much more cheaply than retail price, and even a poseur like me was able to find a new prized possession:

My new Nintendo Amiibo of Reese the alpaca from Animal Crossing. She has RFID powers that I don't have access to, so I was happy to buy her for only $3 and keep her on my bedside table :)

Honestly, one of my favourite parts of the convention was rubbernecking and seeing all the amazing costumes people had put together. Each one was more wonderful than the last. I do love a good piece of craftsmanship.


Colonel Sanders...maybe this is from an Anime?

A bush (Erika) and Maverick from Top Gun (me).

A bunch of characters and someone's super-cute service dog!

My friend Mike dressed as the main character from Ancient Magus Bride (and a random person dressed as his character's counterpart).

My friend Nathan dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog (and a random person dressed as Tails).

One man dressed as both Finn and Jake from Adventure Time.

Some of the more amazing costumes (including Mike's above) were very popular and their wearers couldn't move more than three streps through a building without being asked to take a picture. Mike explained that this is a choice that cosplayers make. It seems like they make the effort to become part of the sights of the convention, and don't get the opportunity to see and do everything because of it. It seems to me like attendees are almost choosing whether to be an exhibitionist or a voyeur, depending on whether they wear a cosplay. Needless to say, my cosplay was (1) not from an anime and (2) pretty low-key, so no one asked for my picture :)

Inspiration: Aggretsuko
With much reluctance, I have mostly grown out of my childhood Hello Kitty phase. There's something really appealing to me about those bold lines and flat colours, especially when they're drawn in detailed scenes. I would always look forward to the new Sanrio calendar each year, especially ones with detailed themes like dogs or fashion through the ages (seriously, it was a think in 2009).

I was scrolling through Netflix the other day looking for something to watch, when I came across something I couldn't quite understand. A new anime, co-produced by Netflix and Sanrio? What exactly am I looking at here...is that a red panda??

This was a very surprising title card to find in my Netflix menu.

Aggretsuko is the story of a 25-year-old anthropomorphic red panda named Retsuko who works in the accounting department of a Japanese trading firm. Facing constant frustration every day from pushy superiors and annoying co-workers, Retsuko lets out her emotions by going to a karaoke bar every night and singing death metal. The character first appeared in a series of animated shorts by Fanworks which aired on TBS Television between April 2016 and March 2018. And now, Retsuko finds herself famous in a full animated series that was released on Netflix in April 2018.

The show is super duper cute.

But not only that, Retsuko's character is scarily relatable, from her ongoing torment from an abusive chauvinist boss to her friends' pressure on her to find a relationship. Throughout the series, Retsuko struggles with feminism and the unfair roles placed on her in her typical Asian workplace setting. The Verge has a really great article on the show, from which I lifted a great user comment:

The show is only ten episodes (so far) at about 15 minutes each, so it makes for a nice, light watch. Check out the trailer:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Hives, Inanimate Feedback & Fake Plants

Weekly Update 2018-21: Working out excessive energy with Swedish rock band The Hives, building a relationship through feedback with inanimate objects (did that sound as weird to you as it did to me?) and fake plants trying to pass as real.

Music: The Hives
I have been listening to this Sweden-based rock outfit since the mid-2000s, and I still have yet to grow sick of them. The Hives produce music that is consistently strong, danceable, well-produced, and just makes me feel good. If you like to shake your empowerment around through music, this is the band for you. From the soul-punching beats to the shout-sung lyrics of frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, their songs are all very, very special to me. I liken the feeling of listening to a Hives song to that of sitting down for a rest at a school dance, only to hear your jam and force your body to shake every last bit of energy you have. The Hives are my jam. And the lyrics are catchy enough to memorize after only a couple of listens. So go ahead:

I recommend literally any song. But Tyrannosauras Hives (their 2003 album) is my favourite.

The Hives are also a large staple of my new Spotify playlist Pop Rock Hammer. More on that below.

This was quite a week of accomplishments! First off, I completed my accessibility audit of my website, and even managed to implement some changes to the homepage to make it fully accessible. I taught myself how to code a skip-to-main-content link so that users with screen readers or limited use of the mouse will be able to skip to the main content of any page without having to tab through the navigation every time. I also added alternative text to all the images, which is great for visually impaired users but also for users who need more context for an image, and also for search engine optimization (so robots know what's in the images, too). I love how inter-related the ideas and principles of accessibility and SEO are.

I also created a new Spotify playlist that I'm pretty proud of already: all the amazing early 2000s indie rock that is simply amazing for expending pent-up energy. Of course my most recommended method for listening and expending is biking - no surprise there. While creating the playlist, I noticed that there seems to be a resurgence in this style of music (fast, loud beats with strong lyrics that verge on yelling but not screamo), so I added some more modern examples as well as some earlier 90s grunge rock to round it out. And of course, it includes a healthy dose of The Hives (which is also a great choice for karaoke, in case you were wondering).

The playlist contains over 150 songs, so there's no shortage if you dig the sounds!

Last Thursday I attended a clothing swap at a co-working space in my neighbourhood called Shecosystem. I was excited to refresh my wardrobe, donate some clothing to people in need, and contribute my admission fee to charity, but I was also interested to check out Shecosystem and get a feel for their impact on the neighbourhood. The space is really cute and they host lots of cool events - I'll be visiting again soon.

On Saturday I attended my first meetup - a hike from Old Mill along the Humber River. It was nice to find an excuse to get outside but my accompanying friend and I agreed that we didn't really think there was anyone we made a connection with. I might try a couple more of the hikes provided by this meetup group, if only for a reason to explore more hiking trails in the city. The weather is so lovely this time of year! It was so lovely in fact that on Sunday, I checked out Sibbald Point beach with some friends. What a lovely beach, only an hour's drive from the city.

And last but opposite of least, I got a new bike!! I am beyond stoked on this and eternally grateful to my father for making this happen for me. Good ol' Bumblebee (my black and yellow early 90s Raleigh Portage) took a spill on that really windy day a couple weeks ago, and has since ridden really strangely and slowly - well, it's because I bent the wheel.

Oh hey - I took the above photo almost exactly a year ago!

With that and the brakes issue and gosh knows what else going wrong with it, we realized that one of the bikes my dad has been collecting from estate and garage sales is actually in perfectly rideable condition. It's super light, has amazing gears and road tires (so I can go much faster), and after riding it around today, I can tell you it rides over streetcar tracks and potholes like a dream. It's actually a Specialized Roadhopper (according to the crossbar), and runs from midnight indigo to plum purple ombré. Check out my aubergine beauty below:

My dad suggested I offer to trade Bumblebee to my local bike shop in exchange for a tune-up on yet-to-be-named [Midnight Plum]. If the bike isn't even worth a tune, I may end up donating it to Bike Pirates (a Queen West bike shop who will use it as a classroom tool to teach people how to fix their own bikes - maybe myself included). 

My goal this week is to accomplish even half the amount of things I did last week. Here goes:

I have another meetup tonight that I am pretty jazzed about. This one is being held at the new location of Biography Design on the hip Geary stretch, and the two creative directors of Dalton Maag (a type foundry in England) are coming to talk about typography use for designers in the modern era.

And of course, this coming weekend marks my first attendance of Anime North, Canada's largest not-for-profit fan festival. I want to check out the schedule and figure out my weekend so I get to see everything I can! I think this weekend is going to take a lot out of me (similar or possibly moreso than a music festival) so I'm going to prepare as such. I also just can't talk myself out of seeing Parquet Courts at the Phoenix on Sunday night (they're currently one of my favourite bands) so it's going to be a tough one.

All I know is there is a panel about my current favourite anime Pop Team Epic so I hope I don't miss that one.

I can't really explain the show so just read this description.

Random Thought: Inanimate Feedback
As mentioned above, I had the amazing fortune to acquire a new bike just as my old bike was reaching its last legs (wheels). Since a bicycle is something I use almost every day and depend on in numerous ways, I have grown an attachment to my old bike. I'd like to build the same relationship with this new bike, which is already proving quite easy in these first 24 hours.

Perhaps best of all, it's so light that I can carry it up the two flights of stairs to my apartment without breaking a sweat. This meant that I would walk by it (and admire it) every time I walked between rooms in my apartment last night. Each time I did this, I had a strange urge to ring its bell. This seemed kind of odd considering I wasn't riding the bike and there was no one to signal to inside my apartment, so I analyzed this feeling.

I think I was looking for a way to begin building a relationship with this inanimate object that I will be depending on for the next long while. We don't know each other very well, so maybe my subconscious wanted to get some open dialogue going. I know this sounds super crazy, but it seems true!

Thinking back to when I spent a couple hours cleaning the bike yesterday, it was a great joy to explore the features and quirks of the bike as I cleaned it. I wonder if the feeling of comfort/attachment caused by familiarizing oneself with an inanimate object is a global one (or just my crazy brain). The act of providing feedback (by ringing the bell or some other form) makes me feel like the bike is communicating back to me, and strengthening the bond.

In user experience design, feedback is meant to do this exact thing: provide comfort in the user by communicating understanding/confirmation of the user's action. One might even go so far as to call feedback design the act of personifying an object or interface; making it more recognizable to a human as a counterpart in the completion of a goal.

I hope this bike marks the start of a beautiful journey together, especially now that the weather is amazing and bike meetups are springing up all over the place.

Inspiration: Fake Plants
Some people have a green thumb and can grow the most beautiful houseplants, my mother and roommate included in such group. I have some real plants of my own that I have managed not to kill, but I am also drawn to the allure of fake plants. I want to be enveloped in greenery, and if some of the foliage is fake (but most of it is real), who will be able to tell?

Am I real or fake?

While I do love fake plants, I find you have to hang them in high places so people can't see them up close to find that they're fake. Otherwise it's pretty easy to tell. 

Actually, the above plant, aptly named The Two Week Vacation, is actually fake. I suppose one way to tell that a fake plant is indeed fake, is to notice its unnatural perfection and lush green colour. Real plants have imperfections (just like real women). 

The story of three men who created a business for slightly browning fake plants that you can buy and fool your friends with:

Slightly imperfect plants are real and remind me of my nature and humanity. It's an amusing juxtaposition that we would try to impersonate this detail in plants that are, at the end of the day, still fake. But why not! There are worse things to spend your money on, surely. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sugar Candy Mountain, Toronto's Harbourfront & Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Weekly Update 2018-20: Sugar Candy Mountain complimented the sunshine as I took my mother on a galavanting expedition of the cultural wonders of Toronto's Harbourfront, and then to see a truly inspirational documentary on the honourable Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Music: Sugar Candy Mountain
This music has a big mood. One of my favourite emerging genres of the late 2010's is the new wave of 1960s psychedelic revival music. When I listen to it, I feel transported to some loungey 1960s spy movie. It's smart, suave, smart and precise, yet at the same time feels effortless like everything floats into place, which is really calming to me. I love this genre. I suppose it's also my feeling of FOMO for the 1960s, when the political mood was pretty charged but there were also notions of peace and freedom.

Anyway, out of Oakland, California emerges Sugar Candy Mountain, a modern four-piece playing music that will transport you back in time (even if you were born after the 60s ended). From the band themselves:
If Brian Wilson had dropped acid on the beach in Brazil and decided to record an album with Os Mutantes and The Flaming Lips, it would sound like this.
Well, there you have it. Favourite songs include this whole album, front to back. But you can start with Windows and 666. Listen below:

I must say, my mother and I had an epic mother's day extravaganza on Sunday. We started off with an amazing walking tour of the Harbourfront, including a trip behind the old Malting silos to Ireland Park - hidden behind the coast. What an amazing place. I'd really like to make the trip back along there in warmer weather, between that, the Toronto Music Garden and the sandy "fake beach", there's literally tons of awesome things to do.

The Toronto Music Garden is simply gorgeous - I can't wait to come and read a book here.

An overhead view.

After that, we checked out the Power Plant Art Gallery. It's a pretty small place, only three exhibits this season, but it always packs a punch with us. Kader Attia's first solo exhibition in Canada, The Field of Emotion explores the shame, repentance and healing felt by both oppressor and oppressed in great trauma. Specifically regarding World War I, Attia's motion within the various installations of the exhibit were that to repair one's wounds is akin to erasing the trauma from history. We must bask in our broken states and take the damage into ourselves to fully understand and accept what had happened.

There was specifically a room, quite large, completely empty but for a very subtle installation. The concrete flooring, complete with cracks that had been naturally created from use and wear, was covered in small metal brackets, representatively "holding" the cracks of the floor together. They were barely noticeable at first, but extremely striking and resonated with me on a level I don't fully understand even now. But it reminds me of Japanese vases that are broken and then put back together with gold in between the cracks, their damage and repair now an intrinsic part of their value.

The term for this type of repair is Kintsugi (or kintsukuroi).

I gathered up all of the hard work and assets I created for the big project that just finished at work - there's quite a lot. It'll be a project in itself to figure out how best to display the work on my site. More on that below.

I also started the accessibility audit for my own site. Here's my list so far:
  • many images are missing alt tags (I'm going to write really good ones!)
  • no discernible H1 on project pages (oops!)
  • no skip-to-content link (I have to learn how to do this)
  • the navigation does not contain a selected state (this is pretty dumb of me to have missed)
  • non-live text on the archive page (I may not bother to fix this since I don't want people to visit the archive anyway!)
A lot of these pieces will improve the experience for users with screen readers, which may not be many visitors, but improving accessibility of a site also directly improves SEO and indirectly, user experience (see the navigation selected state problem), so I'm sure this will all be for the overall good of the site. Plus, these changes aren't super technical (except maybe the skip-to-content link) so I could get them all done pretty quickly.

I'd like to finish my accessibility audit, and then actually implement the changes to my site. I think I can do all of this between Thursday and Friday night. It would be amazing to get it done on Thursday or at least write a little blog post on my report, in honour of Thursday being Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

I'd also like to continue on writing my reflection of the big work project, to be done on Saturday afternoon (maybe in the park if the weather is nice). I'm hoping to attend a clothing swap in Trinity Bellwoods on Saturday as well, so maybe it'll be a two-for-one!

I've also been noticing that people have started following my playlists on Spotify, which is super exciting. I'm getting a bit bored of what I have now, and decided that I'd like to add a psychedelic chillout playlist and a hard rock hammer playlist. Look out for those if you're one of my playlist followers - since Spotify doesn't tell me who is following my playlists >:D.

Random Thought:
I have a dumb corner of my home that I hate - it's the Bunz corner. All the stuff I have on my profile, fresh and available for trade, except not super fresh because a lot of it has been sitting there for a while. My family is having a garage sale soon, so I hope some of the older items will get cleaned out.
While this corner is full of stuff I don't really need, every once in a while I pick something out of the pile and find a great new use for it. This use is often a totally new idea that the item wasn't originally designed for. This is probably one of the biggest highs that I chase, being able to renew and utilize items that were seemingly useless and improve my life while I save something from a landfill.

Some examples:
  • cutting an old wine bottle crate in half (horizontally) to make a drawer organizer
  • planting aloe babies in old tarnished mugs (tarnished is so on trend right now)
  • using an over-the-door shoe rack as extra closet space for clothes (I don't have a big closet, sadly)
So when I can find uses for some of these items that actually improve my life, it's really a great thing. Perhaps to offset the guilt of my habit of collecting, I wonder if there's a correlation between the collecting of seemingly useless stuff, and the ability/resourcefulness to find extra uses in this stuff.

Or maybe I should stop collecting so many things, and learn to be resourceful with fewer items in general. Probably that.

Inspiration: The Notorious RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a force to be reckoned with, even at 85 years young.

Without Ruth Bader Ginsburg, women's rights would simply not be as advanced as they are today. I cannot believe the amount of change one woman could enact, though of course she did have help and support from colleagues and friends. One of only four female justices of the Supreme Court's history, her tenacity and undying thirst for gender and racial equality make her a strong contender for my personal hero. On top of all that, her octogenarian brain is as sharp as it ever was, and she embraces modernism - even the moniker of "RBG" comparing her to the rapper Notorious BIG.

The movie poster.

I didn't know much about her before I saw a wonderful documentary on her life and times. I was fortunately able to see this documentary as the closing film of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, it also being my first venture into the programming of the TJFF. I was surprised and somewhat satisfied to see that her conservative Jewish upbringing was not brought into the forefront at any moment during the movie. The subtle way in which her religion was noted through its shaping of her beliefs in justice and equality was very interesting and spoke volumes to me about the way she saw Judaism as an intersectional lens through which to examine equality for all humans.

The film's trailer.

The documentary RBG is created by Magnolia Pictures, check out more info on the official movie website. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Florist, The Spotify Limit & Jane's Walks

Weekly Update 2018-19: I hit the upper limit of Spotify's Library feature - did you know such a limit even existed?! New York-based band Florist graces us with tunes as we explore the limit of Spotify's love and a bunch'a Jane's Walks in the glorious sunlight.

A tiny Jane Jacobs doll hanging out with us on our Jane's Walk through the Don Valley River Path.

Music: Florist
I made a last minute decision to see Frankie Cosmos this weekend at the Rec Room. I eventually convinced myself to go, half for the amazing music and half just to see what a big, glorified Dave & Busters could offer as a venue for what I like to call "sad girl music". It was a strange time.

Florist opened the show for Frankie Cosmos, and I really enjoyed their music. They wrote their own bio on Spotify (which I haven't seen before and I read a lot of Spotify bios), so I'll let them do the talking:
Florist is a friendship project that was formed in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate, New York in 2013 by Emily Sprague, Jonnie Baker, and Rick Spataro. Felix Walworth of Told Slant has also been a frequent collaborator.
They're so cute I could die.

Just a trio of friends, making cute music together and putting good feelings out into the world. How can that be anything but awesome?

Favourite tracks include Vacation and Blue Mountain Road.

With much help from my friend Sasha, I dredged through the process of setting up this computer to be able to make updates to my portfolio site. I'd really like to perform an accessibility audit on my website as well, as there are some usability issues with it that could easily be fixed. Now that I know so much about it, I want to put my learnings into practice.

On a whim, I attended a show at Rec Room on Saturday. As mentioned above, Frankie Cosmos headlined with Florist as the opener. I consider it an accomplishment of considerable proportions because:
  1. It was hella far away and raining, and I still biked there and back home
  2. The venue is a bit of a strange one, sort of a glorified Dave & Busters with a music venue in the corner. It was sort of a sensory overload, especially so for the music of Frankie Cosmos. Specifically, the sounds of the arcade and sports bar section of the building were spilling into the room. Really, really bad acoustics.
I'm glad I checked it out, but I don't know if I'll ever see a quiet show there again. The venue seems to lend itself better to shows with more of a party attitude.

That same morning (and the next day) was Toronto's annual weekend for Jane's Walks (free walking tours led by neighbourhood experts in all topics and locations). More on the walks below.

I also completed a huge project at work, one I had been working on since I started this job! This felt really well timed as I was just thirsting after a change, so now I have a bunch of little projects which definitely keeps things interesting. This project's next phase is set to begin at some point in the next few months, so I have some time to pursue other goals like learning CRO from our analytics lead and this really cool international project that just came down the pipeline.

The meetups begin to roll in. On Thursday I am attending one on the upcoming provincial election and issues relating to women's rights at a really cool coworking space down the street from my office. I have been wanting to check it out; it's called Lemonade and they seem to have lemonade on tap or something. Very cute. Check out the event here.

And if that weren't all, this weekend is the very magical annual weekend of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival at the Toronto Reference Library. I have a handful of friends tabling, which is such an intense experience that I will do my best to bring them snacks when I visit on Saturday. Plus lots of money to spend on pretty books and enamel pins (maybe...I have sooooo many).

Of course Sunday is Mother's Day, upon which I will be treating my mother to a walking tour of the western lakeshore/Harbourfront, a trip to the Power Plant art gallery, dinner, and a documentary at Hot Docs cinema. Literally all her favourite things to do downtown, except maybe if the documentary was on the rooftop of an abandoned school or something. I was also going to get her a subscription to Azure Magazine, but oh boy I see our similarities because she bought it for herself before I could do so. So she's gonna have to settle for something from the Harbourfront gift shop.

On Monday, I want to spend some time gathering together all the assets from the project that just completed at work. Not only do I need some time to reflect on my learnings and processes, but I also want to collect some pieces for my files so I can look back on the work. I am really proud of it but I feel like the development agency is going to mess it up so I'd rather keep it the way it is right now.

A stretch goal is to start the accessibility audit of my own website, though that'll probably need to be next week.

Random Thought: Spotify's Limit to your Library (Love)
I have sung praises for Spotify in many ways on this blog, but I seem to have hit an insurmountable wall. I have been copying over iTunes playlists that I made back in the day (for the nostalgia and because the early 2000s was a great time for indie rock, of course), and "saving" old favourite albums to my Spotify library as I come across them. When I was trying to save an Interpol album, I came across this message:

Thanks for the backhanded compliment on my "epic collection", Spotify.

After researching this in the Spotify Help Forum, I found that Spotify does not allow libraries of more than 10,000 songs. A reply from Spotify states:
...less than 1% of users are reaching this Your Music limit. The current limit ensures a great experience for 99% of users instead of an "OK" experience for 100%. 
Spotify doesn't explain exactly how the experience would lessen if users were allowed to surpass the 10,000 song limit, especially considering apparently only 1% of their 140 million users would reach this limit in the first place. Too bad I am one of them. 

I have mixed feeling about this. At first I was really pissed because I have over 10,000 songs in my iTunes library (which I haven't updated since 2015, by the way), and there's no limit that I know of within iTunes. Though of course it's one of the slowest desktop applications I have ever used, so maybe that's saying something. 

On the other hand, I almost never access my Spotify library directly. I access playlists, which can be composed of saved and unsaved music, so I guess I don't really see what the true point of saving music (or my newfound inability to save music) is in the Spotify world. If I search for a song in the global search bar, I'm pretty sure that saved music and "following" artists will appear first, so I'd be missing out on that feature, but it's really not a huge deal when I already know the name of what I am searching for.

I'll also take a quick moment here and mention the copy treatment for this message - since the impact behind it is quite detrimental (I now cannot save any more music to my Spotify library for the rest of my life - a major feature has now been disabled for me), it's interesting that they've chosen to begin the message with a compliment. It reads to me as, "Hey, you've got a big appetite for music and we recognize that! Too bad we can't allow you to collect any more music without removing some". And they call me, the user, their "friend". Well...are we still friends after this squabble? Maybe.

All I can say is that this reminds me that even if I were to think of my usage of Spotify as a meaningful relationship (yes, with an application), then this would be a clear limitation to that relationship. Spotify truly has a limit to its love for me.

Inspiration: Jane's Walks
I attended four walks this year:
  • The Don Valley River Path/Park - a beautiful biking trail along the river that is being continually revitalized in partnership with Evergreen Brickworks
  • The Treasures and history of Ossington Avenue from Queen to Dundas (an area I frequent quite often)
  • Stories of Spadina Kensington Market's Jewish roots
  • The history of buildings within Trinity Bellwoods Park including six bridges, a brewery, a university, and residences for young women and their children (and a 200-year-old tree)
The Don Valley River Path was especially lovely; the weather was nice and I have always wanted to bike that path. One weekend day soon I will do it. I was especially inspired by how the city has been able to reclaim some of its natural landscape with the Brickworks - nestled in the valley between some major highways, there are biking paths and hiking trails and gardens spreading out all around the area.

I really like the undersides of bridges. This is the Bloor Viaduct bridge.

I was also really inspired by the walk through Trinity Bellwoods Park, which I frequent but never knew once housed a university and a brewery (way before Bellwoods Brewery came along). I really enjoyed the way the speaker presented his information as a passing-down of oral history. He implored us to pass along the information orally as well (which I have done, this is just a bonus of course). I love that sort of thing - passing along history through verbal storytelling. It makes me feel like an active part of it, rather than just reading it off a page or screen.

The point of Jane's Walks (at least to me) is to get out into your neighbourhood a brush shoulders with others while enjoying public spaces and nature. And I did all of that. There are a couple more coming up in the next few weekends (even though the official weekend is over), so my fun continues on!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Makeness, IRL Communities & Expressive Type

Weekly Update 2018-18: Makeness creates artful broken-sounding dance tracks while I comb the online and real-life communities in Toronto, and the expressive Japanese typography of Nozaki Azusa.

Music: Makeness
Here is some experimental electronic music I can get behind. Makeness' one-man-noise-band Kyle Molleson takes us on a psychotic breakdown acid trip followed by a nice nap in the sun on his 2018 release Loud Patterns. I am digging the drastic changes between tone in songs and his apparent mastery of many, many genres. My favourite thing is when the enchanting rhythms of a song slowly disintegrate into noise, and back again.

Makeness is accompanying Unknown Mortal Orchestra on some of their tour dates, so I hope I get to see him on Wednesday. Favourite tracks include Fire Behind the Two Louis, Stepping Out of Sync and the title track Loud Patterns.

This week I (mostly) finished up some freelance work for two clients that came in at the same time. I haven't taken on freelance work in a while because I prefer to use my free design time for personal projects, but this was a nice opportunity to help out some local indie music acts.

I also managed to scour the annual Jane's Walks listings to create a weekend of walking tours for myself and my mom. I have mentioned Jane Jacobs and my love of walking tours before, so this weekend we'll be soaking up the sun and enjoying tours of the Don Valley, lost buildings of Trinity Bellwoods, Treasures of the Ossington strip (where I live!) and more.

I've got another chapter of Dungeons & Dragons coming up tonight, so let's hope that all goes well.

Last week I attempted to gain access to my website to change something in the footer, but I guess I haven't touched it since I updated my computer...so I hope I can get that all sorted at some point this week.

As a stretch goal, I'd like to begin an accessibility audit of my website as I am sure there are things I could fix. I know it's not screenreader-compatible, so maybe a goal for this week is to source out a checklist to use.

Random Thought: Communities
People tend to throw the word “community” around a lot, and I have found lately that it means different things to different people. Over the past six months, I have been becoming more and more engrossed in Facebook groups with widespread reach on a specific topic (online shopping, biking, drumming, design etc), but in the past two weeks I realized that some of these were less fulfulling to me than others. I decided to make an audit of my own to decide whether these groups were actually valuable to me, since I was looking at them in most of my free time.

I noted that the groups based in Toronto were more meaningful to me because I recognized similarities in posts and other members - not that dissimilarities are bad, but I suppose I was hoping for more "real" connections that I could potentially make some real-life friends from.

So, I joined Meetup and Eventbrite. I scoured the sites (both of which have kind of a bad user experience, by the way) and found a few different groups that are of some interest to me, including a brunch group and a biking group. I am much more excited about these groups than I was about some of my Facebook ones, which makes me think that I probably prefer the magic of in-person communities than virtual ones. Both have their place in my life, and of course I haven't actually attended any of these meetups yet, but knowing they're in my calendar (first one next week) makes me feel like I'm actually shrinking my city a little bit.

Inspiration: Nozaki Azusa
I have always admired beautiful typography, and even moreso in languages/letterforms that are not English/Roman-based. Japan's Nozaki Azusa has created a simply lovely collection of typographic compositions in Japanese that I can't take my eyes off of:

Translates to "get up early".

While I couldn't find translations for all of these, you can sort of tell their meaning from the expression of the letterforms. Really cool stuff.
I suppose what amazes me about Azusa's work is its ability to push the boundaries of readability and legibility of the language; a task only someone with intimate understanding of the language could do. I can't read it myself so I am taking some liberty in assuming this, but it certainly seems that way.

Check out more of these amazing specimens here.