Some Thursday Reads

Thursdays seem to be the busiest of days for me so here's a link dump of various reads and miscellany:
  • Smart OTT Strategy: Fail Early, Often and Fast - a nice read from VHX's own Jamison Tilsner that serves as a nice reminder that content is always King. You know, for all of you looking to launch Over-The-Top subscription services!
  • Being a Developer After 40 - I already posted this over in the sidebar but it's worth repeating; being a developer at 40 doesn't mean you're dead in the water but it's good to remember the lessons you've learned along the way. Nice time capsule of sorts.
  • Hans Jenssen Cutaways - I'm sneaking in a Star Wars link under the guise of badass illustrations; which they are.
  • TalkShow - hot new app making the rounds. It's like a public GroupMe or a public Twitter chain or like.. well, it's texting between strangers and you can read it. Oddly interesting.

Irresistible Mail

I gotta give it to the United States Postal Service - they're really stepping up their game. This new promotional site, Irresistible Mail, is the total opposite of what I think of when I think of their services. This is slick, informative, compelling and just interesting to browse - whereas I normally think of them as the people that bring me plenty of trash. I might even go as far as to say this makes me intrigued to get some crazy mail - an AR mailer? an NFC enabled mailer? Sure, they might still end up in the trash but at least it was entertaining for a moment.

Have a browse around the site. Even with zero interest in the services being offered, it's very well done.

Sketch Runner

The workflow automator Sketch Runner was described to me as "Alfred for Sketch" and that couldn't be a more accurate take on the software. Take a moment and watch the demo to properly understand the benefits of being able to quickly insert Symbols, create Styles and run plugins via one interface. Aside from the convenience it also has the potential to make you look like a pro, furious with key commands.

Beyonce's Lemonade

Listen, I know it's weird for me to be posting about Beyonce here but I watched the HBO debut of her new visual album, Lemonade, and I was entranced and enamored with the whole thing. I can confidently say that every 2 minutes, there's a compelling image worth searing into your brain. The list of cinematographers and director's that are involved is impressive to say the least but mentioning that almost takes away from the impact of the undertaking. This is some next level, high-concept, somewhat inaccessible, emotionally raging art.

I'm the first to admit that my familiarity with Beyonce's career pretty much stops at her singles and high-profile events but I can't imagine anyone who considers themselves a fan of film wouldn't enjoy this.

Then She Fell

This weekend I had the pleasure of experiencing Then She Fell, an immersive theater experience based around Alice in Wonderland. Much like Sleep No More, you enter into a building where the play is happening all around you as you weave from room to room. However, in this case, actors directly interact with you on a regular basis - either through telling eyes of where to go next or through direct questioning to set the mood. There's only 14 other participants in total for each iteration of the play so you get plenty of alone time.

It's a beautiful experience where you asked to be silent unless spoken to and forbidden from documenting a single ounce of it. That sounds pretty foreign these days but it was quite refreshing. I can't recommend it enough.

Friday Videos - April 22nd, 2016

The heat is on for the May 1st Reboot. There is just over a week left to get my act together and relaunch the site. Fingers crossed that this kind of pressure fuels the fire and I deliver something that everyone enjoys as a needed upgrade and fulfills some of my own personal goals that I wished to accomplish. I guess we'll find out in about a week, huh?

Enjoy!
  • Alice in Wonderland via Google Dream - you know that Deep Dream processor that Google has? Well, someone paired Alice in Wonderland with some classic paintings for the Tea Party scene and the results could not be more wonderful. Stunning to say the least.
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps - I don't know a ton about Prince. I am familiar with the hits and I certainly appreciate his penchant for flair but I don't have a deep well of mind-blowing videos to draw from to pay the man some tribute. However, this Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductee video features the man himself taking the solo and, as usual, he absolutely destroys it. Be sure to stick through to the very end where he nonchalantly catapults the guitar from his body, never to be seen again.
  • Makin' My Way Downtown - I absolutely don't want to know any back story here. It's weird for weird's sake and that's fine by me.
  • My Name is Bady - you're welcome. This kid is a gem.
  • SF2 Gun Cat - making mods to videogame weaponry for hilarious results is nothing new but this particular mod is lightyears above and beyond what you've come to expect.
  • Swimming Robot Snake - I know I've seen this before but something about revisiting it recently really creeped me out and fascinating me. Can't look away.
  • Titantic Sinks in Real Time - it's funny that there's a 2hr 40min video of a ship sinking but it's also kind of tragic to think about how brutal and scary it would have been to actually experience this mind-numbingly slow death.
Also, revisit Batdance when you have a chance, it's a legitimately awesome piece of work.

One last thing, you must watch this. Hasbro recently hosted a weird Facebook event where three of their mascots played Hungry Hungry Hippo's but weren't allowed to speak.. so Topher Chris put some Eyes Wide Shut music behind it and made it ultra weird. Very creepy.

Hole-Punched America

In the 1930's, the U.S. government commissioned an agency to combat poverty entitled the Farm Security Administration. The FSA did many things but it's legacy is best known for the massive amount of photographs taken by the likes of Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks and many more. However, those images were curated by a man named Roy Stryker and in an attempt to prevent some of the less desirable images from making their way out into the public, he hole-punched straight through the original negatives, assuming this would be enough to sway anyone from ever using the image.

But he was wrong. Bill McDowell combed through the massive archive of hole-punched photos and created a beautiful collection of images with an ominous presence of nothingness.

Many thanks to Mr. Kleon for the heads up and the brilliant comparison to the work of John Baldessari. Go have a look.

Irreverent Country

I'm extremely happy for the gals of Birdcloud for how heavily they are featured in this Rolling Stone piece, "Raunchy Country: Inside the Genre's History of Comedy and Irreverence." The piece covers a good deal of historical irreverence in the genre it also highlights several more modern acts, like Jonny Fritz, that ride the line between sincerity and questionable expression.

The reason I enjoy the article so much is because I find Birdcloud hard to explain to folks. Their songs can certainly be blunt but there's a pathos to many of them that gets overlooked. A prime example is I Got Problems, a song that appears to be about the celebration of over indulgence but, if you decide to take it seriously, is also be a scathing personal commentary on bad behaviors. Songs like "Indianer" and "Livin' with my Granny" seem like offensive jokes or silly storytelling but if you're familiar with growing up in The South, these songs are accurate portrayals of attitudes, behaviors and experiences from the region.

On the whole, I'm just happy to see them getting some recognition for being more than a throwaway joke. Sure, there's plenty of work there that you wouldn't play for your mother but, underneath it all, there's more than just crass words.

*repeat repeat

Last night I had the pleasure of, finally, seeing *repeat repeat play live. If you are not familiar with their Surf Rock-tinged, combo harmony vocal, guitar crushing goodness please have a listen to their latest song release, "Plugged In."

You can hear the rest of their catalog in all the usual spots and I recommend you do so at your earliest convenience.

An Illustrated History Of American Money Design

Quite the "hub-bub" yesterday with the announcement that Harriet Tubman will adorn the $20 from now, not Andrew Jackson. If you know someone that feels passionately against this, question their devotion to bank note design and maybe suggest they dig a little deeper.

But enough of that. Take on some extra learning and dive into this Illustrated History of American Money Design. It's amazing how much Masonic imagery has been on our money and how consistent the intricate design has been, considering printing techniques in 1862. Fascinating for sure.

Support Great People

I've written five drafts of this post and I'm still not quite sure how to approach it. It's personal and rambling and probably far too much of a downer for the standard content of this site. Despite that warning, I'm going to post it anyway because there's a catharsis to saying it and, hey, it's my site.

I have a deep love for my hometown of Nashville, despite not having lived there for several years. It's been going through a lot of growing pains lately but whenever I go back (which is fairly frequently) I'm struck by how great the people there are. So many smart and creative and interesting people continue to make the city better, despite the city planners and the architects who seem to take great strides to homogenize the town.

Nashville recently lost two staples of the creative scene and their departure weighs heavy on my heart. I'm not marginalizing any loss but these two in particular happened more publicly than usual and it makes the impact so much heavier.

Jim Ridley was the editor of The Nashville Scene, the weekly Alt that showcases so much of the creative awareness in the city. He had a sudden heart attack and did not recover. His direction at the Scene likely impacted the perception of Nashville more than anyone can ever realize. I did not know him personally but I read the paper every week and was always overjoyed when something I was doing made its way in.

Candice Burnside Ferguson was part of Battle Tapes, a recording studio founded by her husband, Jeremy Ferguson. They've fostered and recorded bands for years; a home for creatives looking to express themselves. She battled cancer for years and recently lost the fight. I had met her but wouldn't consider myself close, though I can count dozens of people I know that recorded at their studio and were a part of their extended family.

Every city is only as good as its people. This is true everywhere. No matter what weird condos go in or what beloved bowling alley is torn down and replaced by a giant hole in the ground, the people make the place. Losing these two feels like a blow to Nashville. I implore anyone that lives there to please reach out and support their families. There is a GoFundMe for Jim's family to cover hospital expenses and another one for Candice's family to cover hospital, funeral and family expenses now that she has passed.

It's strange to post such a ridiculous long diatribe about two people that I was not personally close with but I can't help but feel the impact of their departure, even from afar. My heart is heavy but I have hopes for Nashville to recover and support the families of these wonderful folk.

The Untold Story Of Magic Leap

I've been plowing through this month's WIRED cover story, The Untold Story of Magic Leap, the World's Most Secretive Startup (not to be confused with Leap Motion). For all intents and purposes, Magic Leap is another contender up against Oculus or Hololens or Vive but, according to the article, quite a bit head of all of them in terms of the experience it creates and the technology it uses to create an augmented reality experience. The catch, of course, is that very few people outside the company have used it or seen much footage from the experience.

It's unfortunate that the technology hasn't made its way out into the world but I imagine they'll have to move relatively soon or their competitors will catch up and, possibly, pass them. Even if the device itself is all hype (quite possible), it's a great article about the current state of VR, AR, MR and how it interacts with the biology of our systems.

Book Block

I can't tell you the number of notebooks I have for various note taking and design scribbling. Between my bag and my desk, there's at least 3-5 at any given time. I do my best to differentiate between them but they all kind of blend together. The folks at Book Block seem to be tackling that issue by allowing you to customize a notebook with your own imagery. The price point seems pretty reasonable for a one-off book with edge-to-edge printing! Not only would it help my own personal organization but I can see this making for some good gifts as well. Win win all around.

Designing A 10ft Ui

A nice read on designing a 10ft UI that goes over some of the basic principles of largess, focal point and gamma warnings. On the whole, good fundamentals to keep in mind but I can't help but want more; particularly in the realm of best practices and failed UI's. Anyone know where to find more quality reading on this topic?

Rockshow

It recently came to my attention that there's a 1975 concert film of Paul McCartney and Wings entitled Rockshow that captures the band during the sweet spot of their career. The film itself debuted in 1980 and it's a great watch. You could watch the trailer, read about it or dive in at your convenience; all great options.

The Golden Age Of Music Laziness

Interesting piece from the Nashville Scene went up recently regarding the current state of music discovery. The piece, entitled It's a golden age of laziness for the music lover, and that's a good thing, can be summed up quite well with this simple line:
Music is utilitarian, and that is now reflected everywhere you look.
There's a lot of high minded waxing and pontificating that could be done on that one line. There was a time that music was sheparded to us via radio or music critics. That turned into smaller niche gatherings of bloggers and passionate fans and that turned into following your friends on Spotify and being fed automated, algorithmic, playlists.

I'm a little biased in my enjoyment of the article because I get a little quote near the end but, honestly, it's a think piece worth regarding even without my unhelpful insight.

Alexandra Posen

Red Hook artist Alexandra Posen creates a variety of fascinating works but I suggest diving in first with her wax drawing series Fields. There's a beautiful grotesqueness to the organic shapes and colors of every piece that is both appealing and oddly offputting at the same time. Granted, the allure outweighs the other feelings but it's like looking at a slide of organic matter that's been through some distress.

Also, be sure to watch the Quietudes piece. It's every bit as intimate and organic as the paintings but even more immersive due to its moving parts. Lovely.

via Rachel.

Universal Basic Income

While I hope to avoid any sort of heated political debate, I will point out that I was extremely intrigued and fascinated by this Guardian article on Universal Basic Income. If you are not intimately familiar, as I was not, the general idea is to pay everyone (rich or poor) a standard amount of money just for existing in a particular society. On the surface it sounds audacious but it seems to have a lot of upsides to consider - liberates folks in abusive relationships if they are scared of having no way to live, it allows people to focus on work they enjoy rather than work they must have and, maybe the most intriguing, it prepares us all for a culture in which a lion's share of work is done by machines, not people.

That last bit is really what got to me. While I understand people may want to get into standard political fights involving welfare mudslinging, it's pretty undeniable that we're moving to a place - technologically speaking - where a lot of jobs won't be done by people. Driving trucks long distances, driving cabs short distances, manufacturing assembly-line style jobs, etc. etc. It's a giant chunk of the workforce that can, and will be, replaced for automation. With that in mind, the basic income seems beyond sensible.

Anyway, food for thought! I don't claim to understand the intricacies or pratfalls of it at all but it is a great piece, so read it.

Friday Videos - April 15th, 2015

This weekend is Record Store Day 2016. Despite some store owners having concerns and where it is headed, I'm a huge proponent, fan and contributor to the idea that records - particularly vinyl - are a phenomenal way to experience music. I don't think any sane person disagrees with that. So, make a little trek to your local brick-and-mortar store this weekend and throw em a few bucks, keeping their doors open another year - just for me, okay?

Enjoy these wonderful distractions:
  • Bust a Move - Dog Dancing - This is the original vine I encountered of this and the music is perfect. I can't find that version on Youtube, so enjoy the alt version in the embed. No matter what music is set to this pup, the dance moves are undeniable.
  • Infinite Schwarzenegger - thanks to Kevin and Austin I was introduced to this gem and I'm shocked I've not seen it before. Aside from the obvious enjoyment of it, I'm amazed at how well Schwarzenegger and steel drums pair together.
  • How a TV Show Gets Made - I kind of love this series of Vox edutainment pieces. I knew 90% of this but that last 10% was still interesting enough to get it listed here.
  • Logan's Sick Jump - this goes exactly as well as you'd expect it to.
  • Rob Crow's Gloomy Place "Oh, The Sadmakers" - maybe not the most compelling video but it's great to see Rob Crow back making music. The style of this song runs the gamut but still manages to work.
  • Dancing Dog: 10 Minute Version - what's that? You want a 10 minute version of the first video but with a different song entirely? I got you covered thanks to Pinnix.
Oh yea, give a listen to this - you'll be hearing plenty more about it later.

Persona

The keen minds behind Cargo Collective have launched a new service entitled Persona that enables anyone to create a simple homepage for themselves. Yes, it is fundamentally the same as Flavors.me or About.me but the devil is in the details - particularly typography choices, layout options and mind-numbing javascript image manipulation. Please take just a moment to peruse the available styles to see the great styles they have to offer - particularly the subtle, tasteful but acid trip-y environments they offer. If your simple website is your business card, these certainly make a very impactful statement.

Now I just hope they merge it with Cargo Collective so I can give my own portfolio a serious scrubbing.

CaptionBot

Microsoft had a bit of a false start with their new Bot Framework but they're following up with CaptionBot; a bit of AI that looks at an image you upload and describes it with casual language. The results are surprisingly accurate and, dare I say, sometimes pretty funny. At the very least, upload some screenshots of your co-workers and throw them into Slack, it'll be a hoot.*

* But seriously, AI is seriously improving and this is a nice, simple, example of some legitimate progress. Speaking casually isn't exactly something robots normally excel at.