Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Lower Dens, Urbanist Laundromats & Typeset In The Future

Weekly Update 2018-50: Soulful shoegaze from Baltimore's Lower Dens, what you can tell about a neighbourhood from its laundromats and the typography that shapes our perception of the future.

Music: Lower Dens
Formed in 2010 by Jana Hunter, Geoff Graham, Abram Sanders and Will Adams, Lower Dens is an exploration into shoegaze from Baltimore, Maryland. Hunter, who had been growing sick of the solo touring life, brought together a backing band along with her realization that she wasn't enjoying touring alone. The backing band stuck around and Lower Dens was formed.

According to bassist Geoff Graham, the band's creative process starts with Hunter creating "song sketches" which the band finishes together: "Every song is different but we do try to make decisions democratically, and try every idea and then decide by majority what choices we make." Check them out below.

I love their 80s new wave style, especially brought forth by Hunter's soulful voice. Favourite tracks include Real Thing and Ondine.

I visited the home of a fellow bun last week in the hopes of taking on a ten-day job to water her HUGE collection of plants. Sadly it didn't work out in the end as she found a friend to help take care of her flora babies, but it was pretty cool to nose into someone's life for an hour and see how she's decided to fill her 2-bedroom condo with so many plants and a very old cat. It's made me wonder if I should start to offer my services on Bunz - house sitting for the holidays. I really enjoyed doing it a couple weekends ago, and I think I'm pretty good at it too.

I also managed to get out to Kitchener (thanks Wayne and Leona) to visit my friend Kaylin for her very special Hannukah dinner on Friday night. Exactly how she managed to fit 17 people and two large dogs into her tiny apartment is still beyond me, but it totally worked.

I am always torn about the years when Hannukah comes so early, since it can be hard to schedule celebrations around the early part of December when we are expected to be in the office (and the end of the month feels equally empty, working when everyone else has left). But this year we even managed to squeeze in a family gathering at my aunt's house on the last day of Hannukah, right when my parents and sister got back from a vacation. So it all worked out perfectly, though it's December 11 and the festivities are largely complete for me. Which is a feeling I feel in strong contrast with the 20-foot Christmas tree propped up in front of my desk at work.

Office chair for scale. It's huge.

My office holiday party is this Friday! No less than three band practices will fill my week, culminating in the annual Tarragona Secret Santa. I feel like I really had my work cut out for me this year, but I think my recipient will really like their presents. Plus I wrapped them all spooky for Christmas...I also realized that I really like to wrap presents.

My tiny 3-foot tree.

On Sunday I will finally do my mother the honour of visiting and making Shakshuka for her - she's only ever had it leftover when I've made extra in my own home, so I think this will be a special treat for her. I can't believe how obsessed I've become with tomatoes...I feel like they're in every dish I make.

Random Thought: The New Urbanist Laundromat
The residential rental market in Toronto is pretty brutal right now, and it should be no surprise that renters will have to settle on one thing or another in finding a place to live. You'd have to be pretty lucky to find a place with on-site laundry, parking, an outdoor space, close to a subway station, etc. I think it's an unarguable fact that access to clean clothing is a human right, and yet not all apartments contain washing machines (mine included). I will accept the argument that it's not sustainable to own one's own machine, and the sharing economy is much better for the environment when it comes to high-cost/low-use household appliances.

Granted, I own enough clothing and linens not to have to do laundry more than once or twice a month (not the case for everyone) and I happen to live 30 seconds away from the closest laundromat (also not the case for everyone). I take for granted the fact that I can return to my apartment while the machine runs through its 30 minute cycle, and do chores or whatever else I need to do that isn't wasting time sitting in the laundromat watching the machine spin.

From sheer observation and the open-source data in Google Maps, I can ascertain a lot about a neighbourhood through its laundromats (or lack thereof). If we can all agree that access to clean clothes is a human right, but that landlords are no required to provide machines with rental units, then the brunt of the need fulfillment falls on the laundromats. It's not really fair, but it's how it is. And if laundromats are so few and far-between that their users would rather sit and wait for the 30 minute cycle to complete than go home and return (i.e. more than a 15-minute walk away), the current accessibility of laundromats is not up to my standard for meeting the human need.

There are more possible solutions than simply adding more laundromats to a neighbourhood (though that would certainly get the job done); why not rethink the concept of the laundromat completely? Make it a destination for something beyond clean clothes, use it to provide a new opportunity for a sense of community and belonging.

Some people have already heeded this call: take Spin Laundry Lounge in Portland, Oregon for example. Boasting a huge array of machines (all at one, manageable height I should add), a cafe, an arcade, movie nights and events, this is a cultural hub that also happens to run laundry machines. And this is the change I want to see in the world. You can read more about Spin in my earlier blog post.

Want another example? In Munich, Germany, a chain called Wash & Coffee is exactly that - a cafe and laundromat together at last. Featured in an earlier blog post as well, these two are both great examples of how we can use the access to a human need in positive ways to bring communities together.

Inspiration: Typeset In The Future
Typography is such an expressive medium for communication; while delivering the message through letterforms, the actual style of each individual letterform can deliver its own separate message as well. One such expression is the way typography can evoke feelings of futurism. Some typefaces have become so ingrained with the future through their use in pop culture that they would seem laughable when used in any other function.

The person documenting all of these futuristic fonts is the lead blogger for Typeset In The Future Dave Addey. He explains the userbase of his website and its contents through a lovely venn diagram:

Before you ask, yes, the circles are both uppercase O's set in Gill Sans.

Take for example the font Eurostile Bold Extended, which has been used in many Science Fiction films to give a futuristic feel. In fact, they have been used so often that the presence of these fonts in the credits or set design now actually helps viewers to quickly understand the setting of the scene.

Addey's blog is full of examples of futuristic typography found in popular culture and media. I found his piece researching the typography used in Disney/Pixar's 2008 animated film WALL·E to be quite inspired. From the use of an interpunct between the WALL and E (not a hyphen or bullet) to the subtle correlation of the fictional Buy'N'Large company to the real-world Costco Wholesale brand.

Check out Typeset In The Future for all your sci-fi/typography wants and needs.

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