Sunday, February 9, 2020

Grizzly Bear, Bidirectional Mentorship & Najah Raya's Ephemeral

Weekly Update 2020-06: Baroque pop coming in dreamy waves from Grizzly Bear, the joys and upsides of bidirectional mentorship and Najah Raya's dreamlike 2019 thesis collection of wearable art.

A hint of Raya's work - see more below.

Music: Grizzly Bear
What can I say about this band, except that they roped me in with their 2009 release Veckatimest and never let me go. Each band member's extreme precision and craft in sound making is unparalleled in their chosen genre of Baroque Pop, lest they bleed the edges of any genre around them and create music perhaps even more beautiful.

One of the true cores of my music tastes is this Brooklyn-spun band, formed in the shape of lead signer Edward Droste producing music in his bedroom. He soon teamed up with one of my perhaps favourite musicians Christopher Bear, who provided extra instrumentation and vocals. Soon Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen joined, with Rossen eventually contributing more to the songwriting and lyrics. This is the juicy part, around 2009's Veckatimest, when Rossen and Droste began experimenting with layering their vocals together on songs instead of assigning separate songs to each other. Very Wolf Parade, a la 2007.

I do of course suggest starting with Veckatimest, then move any direction that suits you.

I attended another Spelling Bae this week, this time with Eric who enjoyed it more than Matt did when I managed to drag him along. He did well! I managed to make it to the fourth round until I was amazed to realize that yes, the band Led Zeppelin had indeed spelled the word Zeppelin correctly. The UI handoff tool Zeplin certainly led me astray. If only I had blogged about either band earlier...

Vena sponsored ElleHacks at York University again this year - I only had time to visit on the Friday night of the full-weekend all-female hackathon, but it was still really enriching. I got to hear first-night pitches, talk about my experiences as a designer out of school, and hang out with the final cohort of YSDN students, 2022 graduates. One of them really amazed me - when I asked her what her favourite class was, she responded the way I would have, looking deep into my heart: third year Materials and Methods with Angela Iarocci (yes, several years later she is still teaching the same course). The student even showed me her project, so COOL:

I took a little zip up to the fourth floor to visit my old classrooms and labs, nothing's changed and everything's changed.

Sunday was our fundraising show, which was really quite lovely actually. Shoutout to Maracatu Mar Aberto and Batucada Carioca for playing alongside us, as well as Cibelle Iglesias for bringing her beautiful voice to accompany our rhythms. I finally convinced some friends to come, namely Kaylin (who helped to sell food) and Eric (who filmed some of the show). Not one of our biggest shows but very lovely indeed. The capoeira was awesome and they even started a group dance which reminded me a little of a bat mitzvah.

This weekend my sister has entered us into a puzzle competition hosted by a games store in Fairview Mall (second year in a row!), though she knows she could just do it alone and probably win...I'm just there to fill a seat and sort through piles she gives me. It was pretty fun last year, and every team goes home with a free puzzle, so we're all winners

In more exciting news, I found a great beater drum kit through Kijiji from a nice man in High Park - he even delivered it to my office in Liberty Village, all for $175. I'll have to replace some of the heads...the snare is looking particularly beat up, but I think it was still a great deal. Just having the kit in the office is a wonderful mental state for me, even if I don't have time to play it (or really, understand what needs to be fixed) yet. I do eventually plan to watch a bunch more YouTube videos on how to tune it and set it up properly, and then probably take a bunch of photos to show the drum people at Long and McQuade so they can help me figure out what skins to replace and such.

I could have purchased a more expensive kit in better shape, but I think the skins will really fix this right up and it'll give me a chance to learn more about tuning and maintaining kits. Not to mention that there's a Long and McQuade on my way home from work - so it'll be really easy!

I'll upload a better photo once it's in playable shape.

Something to look forward to when I come back from Brazil - if I'm not totally sick of drumming by then.

Random Thought: Bidirectional Mentorship
I am really into the idea of mentorship in my workplace lately, the ability to share ideas and pay forward all the skills that have been passed down to me in my career so far. Peer mentoring has been sitting especially pleasantly with me, in scenarios where I can sit with peers and exchange knowledge (especially across disciplines or across skills within a discipline). Such instances between two developers is coined as "pair programming", aka two developers sitting at one computer with one mouse and keyboard. One "drives", using the keyboard and mouse, while the other "navigates" using their words to guide the other's actions. In such a method the learning is unidirectional from navigator to driver, though the navigator can benefit in some ways as well.

It reminds me of the old silly game with two people - one is blindfolded and holding a pen and paper while the other directs them in drawing something with only they voice.

Pictured: my sister directing her friend Adam to draw a fruit bowl while blindfolded.

I really like running brainstorming sessions and workshops where attendees can discuss concepts and experiment as a group rather than just two people. It's similar energy but presented in a way that's less unidirectional. I wonder if pair programming works at a level beyond two people, or even in alternate configurations like one person using the keyboard and the other using the mouse.

Inspiration: Najah Raya's Ephemeral
I came across one of the most beautiful collections of wearables I have even seen today. Shared in a random Facebook group by the artist Najah Raya is a collection called Ephemeral, her thesis project for fashion design. Just take a look, I'll meet you at the bottom.

I am simply in love with the mixture of soft and harsh textures, the colour palette that balances fresh and electric with something perhaps blank and stands alone as a striking collection that gives each piece a chance to shine in its own right.

Upon learning more about the piece, she likens her treatment of the fabrics in multiple ways to the service of hospice care, especially so the Home Hospice Organization of Lebanon. Part of the artist's statement below:
Hospice care is a form of medical care that provides pain-relieving assistance by way of medical, psychological and social care to terminally ill patients - thus focusing on the symptoms rather than a cure - and making their last days with their loved ones as calm, dignified and meaningful as possible. Having witnessed the bittersweet beauty of hospice care up close through her work with SANAD, The Home Hospice Organization of Lebanon (which is the first NGO to deliver this type of care in Lebanon without charges) Najah Raya was inspired to shine a light on living with a terminal illness, the life sheltered in those final precious moments, the certainty of our mortality and how we can make our final moments both beautiful and memorable.
Thus, Najah presents a collection that showcases the ironic dualities that preside at the end of life; bold but delicate, busy yet calm, hopeful but accepting and vibrant yet minimal. Ultimately, she chose to express how these moments are somber, but beautiful.
Conveyed through edgy structures on one hand, and draping with romantic silhouettes on the other, the aspects of this duality are evident throughout.
See more of Raya's work here.

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