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:

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