Rapid Fire Review Haikus

I’m not actually out of hiatus just yet and I realize that my posting things when I shouldn’t is really confusing and annoying and I do apologize but! I will forget these things if I don’t get them down. So. Just ignore me and come back in fall and read them as if they’re coming out every day. It doesn’t matter.

Some things that I’ve been enjoying (or not) lately and want to do full, in-depth reviews of eventually. In the meantime:

Driver: San Francisco

Despite rough polish
Hilarious game play here
What a jolly romp

The Dark Knight Rises

Not terrible but
Really over-engineered
“A solid meh“ – me

Spider-Man Reboot

Exactly needed
Best Stan Lee cameo yet
Well executed

RAT 5 Mouse

HOLY CRAP YOU NEED ONE
HOW DID I LIVE WITHOUT THIS?
WORTH EV’RY PENNY

OS X Mountain Lion

Twenty bucks later
Mere few reboots, all programs
Work better like magic

Prometheus

A good successor
Bald giants v. weird squid things
Awesome in IMAX

One of My Favorite Songs, Ever

One of the standby questions that friends ask when they’ve finally run out of other things to talk about is sometimes “What’s you favorite song / band / album ever?” This is often posed at midnight when you’re laying on the hood of your car watching the stars and drinking cream soda. You think about it for a long while before answering, but the pause – the silence – is completely comfortable, such as old friends are.

It’s a tricky one for me. I couldn’t even point to a favorite genre nonetheless a band or album. A song? Man.

But it occurred to me today. This is one of them. This is a song that I’ve had on my iPod since like, the first iPod I ever had. This is a song that, no matter how many hundreds of times I’ve heard it now I keep noticing new sounds and subtle nuances. This is a song that was released for free by Wisp who – in my humble opinion – is probably one of the consistently best IDM artists out there. This is a song for the sad days when you just sit by the window and stare out, not thinking about much as all and a song for working on your favorite project. This is a song that, whenever you notice that build finally coming up you’re just compelled to turn your headphones up to 11.

This is a song that guided high school art projects and some of the first designs I ever did for real, paying clients. This is a song that played as I sat in the backseat of my parents’ car as we drove through dusky, winding mountain roads to visit grandparents, in that surreal state of half asleep and total complete alertness that accompanies long travel. This is a song that was there for me when I first heard Steve Jobs died, and Twitter was just an unending list of personal sentiments and endearing anecdotes. This is a song that, if you close your eyes just travels up and down your spine. The fast break at odds with the patient builds and flows, the sounds with their own attitudes and stories. This is a song that, as a previous girlfriend describes, is me: spontaneous and unpredictable, but never feeling like it would randomly disappear. Just sort of there. This fog hovering over the valley; observing, watching, comfortable, secure.

There are patterns to it’s madness, and if you hang around long enough you can start to make them out, start to see what makes it tick. Break down the sounds and watch them evolve. Conway’s Game of Life. And I think it’s somewhat unapproachable at first – IDM isn’t for everyone – but there’s a certain smile behind the initially rough edges.

I have many songs like these: those that have lasted over the years and have never annoyed me with overplay, but this is one of them. This is one of my favorite songs ever.

Caring for Your New Designer

The following is an excerpt from the guide I’m writing:

Preparing Your Home for Your New Designer

Noting what kind of designer he or she is will be essential for setting up a comfortable environment for them. Is your designer a minimalist? A brutalist? Perhaps removing all furniture and covering every surface with board-formed concrete would be best. Are they a cross species half-artist? Perhaps leaving cords of sticks around for them to use in the construction of their nest would be ideal. No matter what type of designer they are, though, they’ll probably want some area in which to make a mess. This is called “a studio” and is essential for the ownership of any young designer. Although they’ll never admit it, most designers would like a little bit of softness in their life, so large, well worn patchwork quilts are often sold at local shops for them to snuggle with. (Any sort of bedding material will do, however). We suspect this has something to do with their occasional bouts of soul crushing loneliness, which is an ancestral thing left over from the cave dwelling designers of the olden times – around 1998.

Designer Ancestry

It’s believed that they first arrived on North American shores as stowaways on Viking ships. Scientists differ on true origin but we suspect they were either the weakest Vikings who couldn’t make it socially and were outcasted or perhaps very large marsupials who developed opposable thumbs and the ability to draw with Copic markets. In either case, try not to bring this up with your designer! They might relapse into more primal behaviour, listening to the musical stylings of The Skrillexes and/or barricading themselves inside their nest for weeks at a time.

I Think My Designer is Broken

What you’re finding is most likely just the effects of their introverted personality and is completely natural. Leave them alone for a few days and DO NOT attempt to console or cuddle them. Yelling seems ineffective as well, but gosh is it fun to watch them scurry in fear. They will likely retreat to the comforts of social networking to stay connected to people without actually having to deal with the dull and inane personalities of their followers (often mistakenly referred to as “friends”) – this is acceptable as long as the brooding index doesn’t get too high (and we recommend picking up a broodometer – they’re like, $5 and will save you a lot of grief).

My Designer is Filling My Spare Room with Chairs

Oh, you bought a furniture designer. Yes. Well. That is unfortunate. Maybe you should have read our other guide “Choosing the Right Designer” where we explicitly recommend against that. Much like their cousin breed called ‘Architects’, they are adorable when dressed up with those cute little black turtlenecks you can get but are terrible with children and insufferable dinner party guests. If you are looking for a much gentler species of designer, might we suggest a young Modernist?

Conclusion

With some careful attention to the proper care of your young designer, he or she will grow into a life-long companion and with the proper training, if you’re extremely lucky, might make some money to recoup the costs he / she has wreaked on your home. They might seem cute and harmless but trust us – no matter how much they beg – don’t feed them after midnight.

On Quality

As a foreword I want to reference two fantastic books. The first is one I’ve recommended and referenced before: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The second you can read for free and is by Frank Chimero, who you should already be fans of; read it here.

It’s sort of meta in how these two books talk about taking inspirations and adding momentum to get to somewhere new and I’m using them for just that. I’m taking these two dots and drawing a line between them. The first dealing with Quality and the second dealing with How and Why. I’m drawing further lines between these three subcategories, these aspects under Design itself.

I like design philosophy because it allows a lot of things normal ‘real’ philosophy doesn’t and often can’t. I’ve found in both reading and writing ‘real’ philosophy there’s this underlying gap between you thinking about these things and the things themselves. Not to suggest that the conclusions are dead ends but rather like an abrupt ending in the middle of a bridge – you can see the other side (the conclusion) but even if you can convince yourself that it’s there you find this gap in the middle that I would call the nebulousness of self-referencing ideas. The doublethink. We can hold these truths and thoughts and it’s good, but we never actually fully arrive there. It seems to me, anyway. Perhaps I’m just terrible with the existential.

So design philosophy sets up it’s own little sandbox to play in. It’s less concerned with itself. We can read and write it as a vehicle for the understanding of design, not for the understanding of design philosophy. It’s that sort of directness that closes the gap – ‘real’ philosophy gets lost in that loop because it’s inherently meta. Design is a great many things, but they’re still just grounded thoughts about, say, a process or a result. The grander questions just don’t apply in the same way. This reason, as much as any, is why I like it. It’s a practical philosophy.

Okay. So. Quality.

There’s a macro and a micro to each question that I find interesting. We can take individual pieces of, say, a car; someone might ask How this steel is bent and others might ask Why is it bent like that. These are important questions, certainly, on a micro level, but there’s also How it fits into the car and Why it’s required in the car. The Why is where we start seeing lots of soft answers. Maybe it’s aesthetic. Maybe it’s part of the chassis and holds everything together. We would agree that one is more important than the other, but our design focus isn’t always on the important one. Now we bring in economics. The consumer might choose a car based on how the steering wheel fits in the hand – do we focus on making the best steering wheel purely in order to sell cars? Do we focus on that piece of the chassis in order to make cars worth selling? But if we focus on the chassis and no one notices, does that inherently mean we’ve sacrificed on the part that would sell the car? And around and around we go. So on a micro scale we often get caught up in little eddies of thought. We must step out of the frame a bit.

Why do we make cars at all? Bigger.

Why do we make cities the way we do? Better.

Well, we have this mass of people and spaces in between these things we call buildings – which is where the people go to do things – and instead of running everywhere we’d like an easier way to travel. (This, of course, as a personal aside, is where I run into my general dislike for cars: when simplified to this level they make absolutely no sense at all. They only make sense in how they’ve evolved alongside the infrastructure such that to remove them would make for different and perhaps greater problems.) and so we start to see the why in macro sense: we need transportation over distances and cars offer (hopefully) more solution than problem. There must be some scale tipping goodness to them otherwise we wouldn’t continue using them. (This is false logic, just smile and nod; I’ll explain). Isn’t the goodness of something Quality? But we run into a semantic issue here. When we’re on the car lot kicking tires and say “That model is a quality car” we don’t mean that it’s generally more good than it is bad at getting us from building to building (the overarching goal), we mean that the pieces inside are good, are full of Quality. Macro and micro differences. (and this is where Zen fell short, I feel. So close, too. It went over the scale differences with subsets assemblies and how to define them, but never really covered the macro of the macro-micro Quality differences.)

It’s unfortunate that the language is the thing getting in the way. I wish, like Dr. Seuss, we could just make up words and introduce them globally around the community as the accepted new way of describing the subtle differences that get lumped into bigger words like Quality. Alas, we cannot and so I write pieces like these, to try and explain: the quality that something has can be the adjective describing it (say, it’s quality is dirty or red or soft) or it’s state (it’s quality is used or new) or it’s function (it’s quality is aesthetic or mechanical) or – and this is what Zen touched on – it’s intangible, unquantifiable ‘goodness’ (this car has quality – it’s well made or good).

The purpose of this rant is one of frustration, I suppose. I’m sad to see on /r/design or forums or wherever that people actually fight about such semantics. Such useless squabbles, in my opinion. Quality can mean all of these things. It’s just one of those words we haven’t properly broken up in English. A shame, I agree, but more of a shame is how vile people can be. And I know, this is the internet and all and as a citizen of it I’ve come to learn that some of these things are unavoidable (seriously, Youtube?). I just wish we didn’t have to fall to such barbarian measures. I mean, this isn’t religion. We’ve separated design philosophy from real philosophy and while there’s a middle in the venn diagram of overlap, it’s nothing to start wars over. I mean, you’re making posters. Calm down. Quality is both subjective and objective, critique will offend and that’s just as often good. I realize we as artists and designers tend to become personally attached to our work but to say that it’s quality is somehow reflective of your personal quality is not true nor fair.

I say these things as if I’ve been personally involved and I haven’t. I sit merely as a lurker and an armchair critic who seeks to moderate things a bit. I am, I suppose, a design apologist. My format is non-specific and quickly darting (especially in and out of scale), but I do hope that some snippets make sense.

To everyone: do good work. Work with pride but not vanity. Work with high Quality and with good qualities. Take strangers’ criticism as you would from a wise friend. The internet is often harsh, but fires make a forge. Not everyone else is right, but if you find yourself thinking that no one else is right, you probably need to re-evaluate. Be honest but kind, to yourself and everyone else. Hustle.

So go. Ignore the philosophy written by old buzzards like me and make your own work code. Do what you like, not what’s in fashion. Shake the system and ignore the petty semantics. You’ve got better things to do than respond to hate mail.

Illuminated Landscapes :: Benoit Paillé

Brilliant.

How have your summers been? Good to hear. I’ve missed you all.

In the meantime, I’ve built a desk which I hope to post photos / build notes of eventually. Today I’m in search of a minimal / modernist lounge chair. I’m not really sure yet, but something comfy for reading and movie watching.

I don’t wear a pedometer, but I’m willing to bet I’m walking / longboarding 50+ km per weekend. It’s pretty glorious. I rarely take the camera, though, which takes some getting used to. There are lots of things that I’ve passed and thought “Man, that’d be an awesome photo” but then I remind myself how much better it is that I simply enjoyed it instead of trying to capture it. I’m learning to be selfish like that. Enjoy the world for my own sake.

Photos via Colossal

Lumberfell

Hello everyone. Your summers have been going well, I trust? Mine too. I miss writing here a lot, you should know.

These photos were taken by yours truly over three years ago, when I had first bought my Canon XS. I remember this was one of the first trips outside of my comfortable home with it and was super paranoid of it getting hurt. Interestingly enough, this is actually the same place my T1i and tripod flipped over in the crazy thunderstorm I was trying to timelapse, and the side got all bashed in and I think I cried a little bit at one point. It was fine, however, and remains a faithful additional to my arsenal to this day.

Anyway.

In sad news, I’m not ending the hiatus – I’ve been really, really productive with my extra time – but I am excited to share a few things coming up.

That sunset is practically a Tycho poster, isn’t it? No Photoshop or filters there: that’s straight off the sensor.

You can see a fuller set here.

Stay awesome!


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