Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dark Was The Night, Calendar Icons & Vivian Maier

Weekly Update 2018-40: Early 21st century folk music finds a home in Dark Was The Night, why dynamic calendar app icons are the expected standard and the self-reflective early street photography of Vivian Maier.

Music: Dark Was The Night
This one takes me way back. Not so much a band as a special compilation released to benefit HIV/AIDS research, this 2009 double-CD album packs in no less than 31 tracks by some of my absolute favourite folk rock artists. The title is derived from the Blind Willie Johnson song "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground", which is covered on this collection by the Kronos Quartet.

The album is a beautiful and thoughtful attempt to capture a musical renaissance, which may not have the cultural impact of grunge or punk, but is equally significant from a cultural and creative standpoint. These artists are not fringe or marginal: Feist, Grizzly Bear, The National, Sharon Jones, Kevin Drew, Arcade Fire, I could literally name anyone on the tracklist.

Take a listen and be transported to a moody, rainy Sunday back at the end of the last decade when things were a bit simpler.

I have been trying to get out to Hamilton pretty much this entire summer, and finally made the journey last week. We got some amazing food on Locke Street including a delicious blueberry honey donut from Donut Monster and some delightfully fall-inspired parsnip and pear soup. The main event of the day, though, was to visit the Art Gallery of Hamilton to see the only Canadian stop of a tour of Vivian Maier's impressive collection of photography. More on that in the inspiration section below!

Since one art gallery wasn't enough, I managed to get myself to the AGO two days later to see Edward Burtynsky's Anthropocene exhibition of photographs depicting the ways humans are using technology to reshape our planet on a massive scale. My eyes were opened to many practices I had not previously known about, such as massive deforestation in Borneo for the farming and production of the world's supply of palm oil (found in almost every man-made product) to the burning of confiscated elephant tusks in Kenya (actually a statement against the poaching of animals for their ivory). The exhibition is on until January 2019 so you still have lots of time to see it for yourself.

Burtynsky's photo of lithium ponds in Chile - with the growing need for rechargeable batteries as we move away from fossil fuels, lithium may become the most in-demand resource of this century.

Last but not least, I voted! Yes, I was able to drag myself up to Richmond Hill for an advance poll this weekend. I always make a point to vote, but in addition I sat down with my family to do some research on the candidates and make an informed decision about who we want to act as mayor over the town. Now, more than ever, being an informed citizen on the socio-political landscape is one of the only ways we can have our voices heard about the powers that control many aspects of our lives. I do urge you to vote on Monday October 22.

This week brings much change! I start a new job on Tuesday, and I am going to treat myself to a visit to the Bunz Flea after work to do what I do best: trade all my stuff away. I have lots of trades already pre-set for the event, but it's always fun to see what I might possibly be able to trade with vendors on the day of. It's really one of my favourite events of the year. Hope to see you there too!

The Bunz Flea is happening on Tuesday October 9 from 7-11pm at the Gladstone Hotel.

Random Thought: Google Calendar Icon
Having been a heavy user of Google Calendar on multiple devices for the past four years or so, I am in constant disbelief that the app doesn't automatically update its app icon to reflect today's date (like the native Apple Calendar does). It's such a small detail but something that would improve the user experience so, so much.

One calendar icon is useful, while the other...isn't.

Upon doing a bit of sleuthing, it appears that Apple's API for app development does not provide the ability for apps to change their icons in any non-manual way. Of course, the Apple Calendar and Clock apps are the exception since they were made by Apple. How dastardly! And what does Apple even do with all that power? They certainly didn't waste it on the Weather app icon, which could surely have benefitted from the same treatment.

I think the idea is a good one, and if Apple obviously sees the potential, I feel it is their duty to allow these sorts of updates to their app developers. Oh well, as they always say, a broken app icon is still correct seven days a year.

Inspiration: Vivian Maier
Dubbed the “secret nanny-photographer”, Vivian Maier (1926-2009) always had a Rolleiflex camera around her neck, yet zealously hid the resulting photographs from others. Her work included more than 2,000 rolls of film, 3,000 prints, and more than 100,000 negatives, yet she remained unknown until her street and travel photography was discovered at a Chicago auction house in 2007, when the contents of one of her storage lockers was sold off to cover delinquent payments.

In the ~100 selected pieces of her body of work on display at the AGH, her talented eye for layout and composition in photography is immediately apparent. I personally enjoyed her earlier black and white works, but in later years she also showed a talent for colour imagery.

To have been a street photographer in the earlier part of the 20th century must have been something of a wonder in itself, Maier's ability to capture momentous candid shots of strangers seems at least in part due to the fact that her subjects may not have been familiar with photography and her camera, which she held at chest height as she snapped her shots.

September 18th, 1962.

Self portrait in the reflection of a store window. October 18th, 1953, New York, NY.

Untitled, Chicago, IL, August 1976.

The exhibition is on until January 2019, alongside many other very interesting works at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. And while you're in the city, why not get a delicious donut as well? It's a great day out.

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