Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Weekly Update: Daniel Everett

Music: Simian Mobile Disco
I've been following this English duo since my first foray into electronic music - they're a classic to me. Simian Mobile Disco was formed in 2003 by James Ford and Jas Shaw of the band Simian, which is exactly how I found out about them. While Simian does have some electronic sounds, they're more of a rock band whereas Simian Mobile Disco plays with repetition, synth, and other aspects you'd find in a London nightclub. They're the kind of band I keep going back to every once in a while, and their 2013 album Unpatterns was a slow burner for me until my most recent listen. I can't get enough. Listen below:

This was another big week in the world of getting shit done. I moved all my photos to my external hard drive, and planned and packed for my Munich trip. Don't tell anyone but I'm writing this post from the airport! Check out my itinerary here.

I also moved my old backup to my external hard drive (500GB = 6 hours!) and wrote a blog post about China. Only one more to go! Writing this second-to-last post made me reflect on the trip (even six months later) and think about how lovely and jam-packed it was. We saw so much stuff! It'll be interesting to compare that to the trip I am about to take.

I also requested quotes and some paper samples from several business card printers. I was originally debating some custom embossing, but I think it'll be too expensive as a special custom die would have to be made for the project. Might be a bit too fancy, especially if it triples the price of the project.

I started thinking about my blog redesign and explored some pretty interesting blogs. You can read my working document (which may become something that resembles a project brief?) here. I have really been inspired by my friend Sara's travel blog Backpack & Bike.

Not only does she showcase her (and her boyfriend's) beautiful adventuring spirit, but the content is really practical and targeted toward an audience of people who want to travel in the same way. But what I like best about it is the overall user experience of the blog, which is miles ahead of mine. Honestly, I've been throwing posts out into the ether without caring about an audience (which is forgivable, since I write these posts for myself), but I should at least use the project as an exercise in attaining a better user experience...in case anyone should happen here. I mean, it is googleable after all.

I'm taking a light week, so I can take in all the sights of Munich! My trip is going to cover most of the week, so I'm not worried about getting too much done. Time for a break. The only thing left to do is print out my various tickets for things, and download some offline maps to my phone. Especially Tegernsee, lord knows there probably won't be a Starbucks with free WiFi there! Although, maybe the town will surprise me.

Random Thought:
The end of good weather is approaching all too quickly, which means it'll be time to put my bike away for the season and buy a metropass. This is a disheartening thought on many levels. Obviously, the cost of the pass is a bit upsetting, and my ability to get around quickly will be cut quite short, but it's really my lack of trust in the TTC altogether. Every time I've been forced to use the subway, service has been delayed or the subway cars have been packed to the gills, or something like that. Not to mention that without the exercise biking has given me, I'll probably grow some extra winter layers...but I suppose that's not a bad thing.

One year, I'd like to try biking around in the winter. But not this winter, as my father has expressed that he could not live with the worry of imagining me trying to bike over patches of black ice (or being hit by cars who have done the same). He has a point.

Inspiration: Daniel Everett
I came across Everett's work during one of my occasional peruses through ffffound.com. I realized during my most recent visit that I usually absent-mindedly scroll through the pages of content, never digging further into where the imagery comes from. And why not? It's such a waste to simply gaze at a piece and not try to understand it in a more meaningful way. So let's do an exercise together.

What do you think of when you look at the picture above? Does it remind you of something you've seen before? Does it make you feel a feeling you've felt before? Maybe one you haven't? How do you think the image was made? Was it fabricated in a studio or found out in the wide world?

I'd never really asked myself these kinds of questions about the content on the website until I saw this image. It made me so curious that I realized I should be changing the way I consume the content on Ffffound.

And so I clicked. Arcademi, the website where the image is from, contains a quote from Everett:
"My work originates from a preoccupation with order. I am interested in the divide between an idealized vision of progress and the physical reality of the structures and objects left in its wake. In my work I tend to embrace blandness and uniformity as both a subject matter and an aesthetic value. I use art as a way of sorting through my ambivalence towards the ideals of structure and perfection."
Lovely to discover. Now, let's check out some other images from the series.

I simply love the way the lines interact and vibrate. Check out more of Everett's work here.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Other Side Day 6

As I mentioned in the previous posts of this series, I am writing a mini-series on my trip to China. Each day was so jam-packed with activities that I decided it would be best for readers as well as myself to split the days up into posts for better digestion of information.

On our last episode, we travelled to Hangzhou, the chosen location for the 2016 G20. There we saw the beautiful Tai Lake, a buddhist temple, and the most excellent highway rest stop ever.

The sixth (and penultimate) day of our trip began with a beautiful boat ride around the West Lake. We saw all sorts of things like these interesting rowers along the water. The morning was gloomy and cloudy, but we were able to enjoy the boat ride without much rain.

A failed attempt at getting a wide depth of field. The images one the 1RMB bill are of these statues in the water! See below:

Eric told us that the West Lake is very famous for a theatrical show performed right on the water, for guests at the lakeside restaurant. We were not able to see the show at that time though, because it was being updated and revised for the G20. But here's a photo of what it looks like:

As we finished our ride, we saw so many small boats leaving the shore toward the center of the lake, all at the same time. It was really cool to see. Check out a video I took:


After the boat ride, we were off and away from Hangzhou, riding the bus toward Shanghai. But before we were to hit the hustle and bustle of the Shanghai city life, we made a pit stop at an extremely starkly contrasting place. We were going to a tea plantation. As the bus loomed around corners on a valley road, we could see the patterns of lines of tea plants on both sides of the bus. The hills seemed to vibrate around us, dotted with the odd tea leaf harvester wearing a thatched cone hat to keep the rain off their heads.

The tea plantation we visited was a beautiful structure (like all the other places we had seen so far on the trip) and we received a lesson in how to prepare and drink tea from the leaves that were harvested there.

On our way to Shanghai, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant with lots of interesting aquariums. My favourite by far was the tank filled with turtles...but I had to wonder if these were pets that remained in the tanks or if they were a pick-and-eat delicacy of some kind. I didn't bother to ask.


I also enjoyed that (as Eric warned us) the bathroom signs were delightfully ambiguous. Men were denoted by the picture of a pipe, and women by a shoe. Luckily, there were no embarrassing mixups.

We arrived in Shanghai around 4:00pm, with a sliver of sunlight peeking behind the clouds. Overcast days make for good photos anyway. We walked along the Bund, which is a sort of boardwalk along the river that cuts through the city like a knife. From our side of the river, we could see all of the iconic buildings of the Shanghai skyline. Lots of nice landscape pictures here.

Just as we were walking back toward the bus, a torrential downpour began. The clouds had certainly been hinting at this all day, and it was finally coming down. We hoped that it would subside as we ate a nondescript dinner, but it only got worse. Eric made a difficult decision to cancel the boat ride along the river because the winds were just too strong. We were pretty disappointed by this, as it was meant to be the highlight of the trip. The view on the Bund during the day is nothing like seeing it lit up at night. But there was nothing we could do except go to our hotel.

This was the entrance to the boat ride - where Eric checked to see that it was cancelled.

Some weird blurry pictures I took from inside the bus.

Things picked up a little at this point because the hotel in Shanghai was extremely opulent. I don't think I had ever stayed in a hotel this nice, perhaps apart from the hotel in Suzhou. As we waited for Eric to assign everyone their rooms, I scrawled down a few copies of instructions to make the tea we had purchased at the tea plantation. What would be better than gifts of tea imported right from the source in China?
The staircase was particularly beautiful.

Once we settled into our hotel room, my mother suggested we walk around the area a bit and see what there is to see. It wasn't too late at night since the boat ride had been cancelled, and (of course) the rain had stopped by this point. The area around our hotel was a bit curious. It's obviously a financial district, as many of the hotel's patrons are wealthy businessmen, so we probably looked a bit dumb walking around with our necks craned to see the tops of the skyscrapers from the ground.

Okay I don't know what was going on behind this door, but you can see I took the picture hurriedly because I think it was some kind of illegal gambling!

We tried to walk all the way to the Pearl Tower, but it was just too far. Here you can see it was mocking us from behind a building!

This last one that looks like a bottle opener was probably my favourite building. It's the Shanghai World Financial Center, the 8th tallest building in the world and the fourth tallest structure in Mainland China. The original design featured a circular hole at the top, supposedly to reduce the stresses of wind pressure and to reference the Chinese mythological depiction of the sky as a circle. It also resembled a Chinese moon gate due to its circular form in Chinese architecture. However, this initial design began facing protests from some Chinese, including the mayor of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, who considered it too similar to the rising sun design of the Japanese flag.

After we were done with that, we got a snack from the hotel convenience store (weird potato chips for all!) and walked around the hotel to see more of its opulence. I shined my shoes on one of the complimentary shoe shine machines that sit on every floor of the hotel (Converse have never looked so shiny) and we wandered over to the bar. Some of the people on our trip had obviously beaten us there, and were well into what looked like the third round of drinks. Why didn't we think of that! (Just kidding).

We hung out there for a little while, but soon decided to go to bed because we had been warned that the next day would be quite full. After all, it would be our last day in China!

On our next and final episode of The Other Side, we'll get a lovely view of Shanghai from the top of the Jin Mao tower (sister tower to the Shanghai World Financial Tower), eat lunch in a floating restaurant, visit the extremely interesting and eccentric Xintiandi area, take a ride on the Mag Lev (the fastest ground-transportation in the world), and visit the fake market (where you buy all your lovely fake goods - made in China). We definitely went out with a bang. Until then!