Friday Videos - Feb 6th, 2015

What a week! A company retreat, a birthday (mine) and the realization that Face/Off is back for another season really made for a good one. Hope yours went as well as my own. Hope you're having a wonderful week and gearing up for the weekend of your lifetime.

The Internet Of Useless Things

I'll be honest, when I saw The Internet of Useless Things - a repository of terrible ideas including a Self-Regulating Spoon, a Cloud Based Bookmark for physical books and other terrible ideas - I was pretty excited. It's snarky but a nice way to showcase some dumb ideas.

But, turns out, the site is actually quite educational and goes on to explain what makes a thing less than useless - principles to help you create smarter, more friendly devices and products. A well played lesson from +RehabStudio.

The Reincarnation Of Bell Labs

Pretty fascinating long read on the Reincarnation of Bell Labs - specifically, the headquarters in Holmdel, NJ that housed some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the past 100 years (i.e. background radiation). The article title is a bit misleading in that its not about Alcatel-Lucent deciding to re-establish the discovery center as a place of modern insight but, rather, the slow process of turning it into an "urban development" with retail stores and plenty of residential spaces.

On the whole, its kind of a sad story. Bell Labs is still a fascinating and wonderful thing to me but these kinds of new developments are happening all over the country. Maybe it's not a technological center for creation that's the center of the story but it's becoming a familiar tale. What lesson is there to glean from this? I'm not really even sure... but it's worth pondering for a few moments to say the least.

via Bryan.

The Death Of The Artist...

Please take the time to read the entirety of this fascinating piece from The Atlantic - "The Death of the Artist - and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur." It covers a nice bit of history regarding the term "artist" and how society changed over time to revere the term as less of a craftsperson and more of a higher thinking privilege of expression.

The more engaging aspect of the article is the idea that the current definition as we think of it is certainly dying and being replaced with more of a practical Creative Entrepreneur. It sounds loaded with buzz words but it makes sense - it's not enough to make the work, you must work the audience as well.
Creative entrepreneurship, to start with what is most apparent, is far more interactive, at least in terms of how we understand the word today, than the model of the artist-as-genius, turning his back on the world, and even than the model of the artist as professional, operating within a relatively small and stable set of relationships. The operative concept today is the network, along with the verb that goes with it, networking. A Gen-X graphic-artist friend has told me that the young designers she meets are no longer interested in putting in their 10,000 hours. One reason may be that they recognize that 10,000 hours is less important now than 10,000 contacts.
Much of that sounds at odds with being an 'artist' but it's part of the changing nature of the word. Maybe it's always been this way - it's Who You Know not What You Know, right? But I think the nature of the Internet is really pushing that notion further, for better or worse.

Will the definition of "artist" be pushed further into the misunderstood loner or will we begin to think of an artist as someone who truly understands The Hustle and actually connecting with an audience? And by that I don't mean tweeting and posting at an audience, I mean actually being the head of a community. I think it's more likely than not.

Simpsons Pixels

Two incredible pixel animations - Paul Robertson and Ivan Dixon - have combined forces to create Simpsons Pixels, an 8-bit style tribute to the infamous opening sequence. The overall vibe is great but, obviously, the couch gag is the absolute best part. Perfect Robertson insanity.

Love the Jeremy Dower soundtrack and tons of quick background gags, just like a good Simpsons intro should be.

Reuben Wu

Much of the photography work of Reuben Wu feels heavily post-processed. Some have unbelievable vivid colors and many have an otherworldness to them that is.. well.. alien.I really have a hard time believing these aren't heavily post processed but maybe it's a healthy mix? In the end, it doesn't really matter but I would be curious to know how much is real and how much is not.

I highly recommend browsing his blog but it might be easier to start with something less content intense - maybe this series on The Research Base At the End of the World or this great IX set.

Wu is best known for his work in Ladytron and other music endeavors but these photos are certainly something to take note of.

Brewster

Been receiving a good bit of confirmation emails from new users of Brewster - a new solution for storing all your contacts from across the web - Instagram, Vine, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc. etc. - all in one cloud application sync'ed across devices. I find that my Apple Contacts is too thin and Google Address Book is bloated from years of accidental autosave. I need a refresh and seems like Brewster is doing a good job of it. Can't hurt to give it a spin, right?

Friday Videos - Jan 30th, 2015

Are you glad it's the weekend? I'm glad it's the weekend. Let's celebrate our joy by finding ways to distract ourselves for the next 72 hours. Hopefully this playlist helps in that quest: Have a great weekend! If you haven't seen this ClickHole presentation of This Will Change The Way You Watch 'Fight Club' - get on it. Absolutely hilarious, NSFW and the perfect parody.

Sleep Good, Dream Dealer

I stumbled into the new album from Sleep Good, Dream Dealer, and I am instantly hook. It's ambient, dreamy and atmospheric but doesn't take the backseat when listening. It feels like part of a bigger world or story that hasn't been fully revealed.
I spoke with Sleep Good, aka Will Patterson, about the creation of the album and he had some wonderful insight to share:
So since Skyclimber I took off music for a couple years and worked in film as a sound designer. I worked for Terrence Malick on two new films thats he's putting out. I was inspired by the process and wanted to try to piece an album together like a film...So I recorded about 60 tracks over the span of a year with the idea that they could be like scenes. After that I whittled everything down and combined tracks to be this sort of musical sound track.
The experience certainly shows with the new album. It is a wonderful creation and I hope this is not the last we hear of it. I know January is an early time to consider best creations for the year (the exhaustion of December's lists still lingers) but keep this one around for the next 12 months, I think it has serious staying power.

Lastly, take note of Blackland Hall, a new recording studio put together by Mr. Patterson focused on doing sound work for films and recording bands.

Nuzzel

Their website isn't much to look at but, thus far, Nuzzel is doing a good job of what it promises - delivering news from social feeds that you may have missed. Basically, it scrapes your Twitter or Facebook and gathers up stories that occur multiple times and may be worth your time (there's likely some fancy algorithm at work I'm unaware of) and delivers them to you via the web and email. It's a simple concept but a convenient way to get a digest summary of your personal social feed.

via Kevin.

Pixelapse

Lately, we've been using Invision to share designs amongst the team, gather feedback and quickly prototype user flows. It's been working quite well.

That being said, we're also open to new tools - such as Pixelapse, a similar collaborative workspace that was recently acquired by Dropbox. I love the sync'ing of files, Git repository style version'ing and revisions and overall presentation. On the whole, I don't think it looks markedly better than InVision but it looks interesting enough to check out.

Dust & Grooves, Sheila B

Really enjoyed this Dust & Grooves interview with Sheila B - a Brooklyn vinyl collector who's spent a hefty chunk of time amassing 45's from 1960's girl group, French Ye-Ye singers and Japanese Pop gems.
Aside from being a collector and skilled DJ, as evidenced by this mix, she also runs an ongoing blog over at Cha-Cha-Charming that shares many of her findings. She may prefer vinyl as her format of choice but I love this quote on being a music collector:
The joy of listening far exceeds my need to have it on record. The song is the cake, the original vinyl record is the cherry on top.
Well said. Dive into that interview - even if just for the photos! Plenty of amazing record covers to enjoy.

Ryan Schude

Nice writeup from Vantage on the photography of Ryan Schude. Aside from having a load of great examples of his elaborate work there's some nice insight on how he goes about setting up these shots. The most impressive thing is that, while staged, they aren't heavily composed in Photoshop, this is actually captured in the moment.

There's a fun lightness to the work and often a bit of surreal lighting. Dive into Schude's Tumblr for some more traditional work and inspiration or hit up his official site to really immerse yourself in the Tableaux Vivants.

Making Mr. Man

After the release of Nahnee Bori's latest album, Mr Man, I was curious how composter and creator Cody Uhler managed to put the whole thing together. Where better to go than but the source for insight. He was kind enough to field some inquiries about making the album and provide some insight that gives me even further appreciation of the album.
Can you talk about the technical creation process with making this record? It has such a unique blend of instrumentation, I'm curious how you came to bring them together.
CU: I really wanted to exploit sub par virtual instruments and digital voices. One of my favorite instruments to use was an old garageband saxophone. I filtered a lot of the high end frequencies out to create a really ambiguous woodwind/brass instrument. I became really fond of the stiff, angular sound it presented. These kinds of sounds were perfect for layering and weaving a dense, kinetic auditory fabric. While the virtual instruments and voices laid the groundwork for the compositions, I could pepper in found and recorded samples, synthesizers, and real recorded instruments. I liked the obvious juxtaposition of organic content to artificial. It really brought out the stark, comical aspects of the fake instrumentation.

Can you discuss the more emotional process? Where was your head at in creating this?
CU: I was feeling very ponderous. I wanted to make music that sounded like 80's and 90's kid's show background music that gets completely out of context and control at times. I imagined that most of the music was played by a group of weak, little creatures or people. There's something really endearing and hopeful to me about that concept. The ambiguous tone of the assorted digital voices were perfect for creating a mood that seemed benign, yet magical at the same time.

You had a distinct vision for the cover art that Rachel Briggs was able to bring to light - do you feel there is a dichotomy between the sound of the record and the art or would a forest of animals make songs like this?
CU: The cover art is an incredible fit to me. The group effort of the birds surrounded by all of the ornamental details translates the music wonderfully. The detail that really ties it all together is the empty opening in front of the conductor. It's warm hue and emptiness nails the overall emotion of the album.

What's next for you? You seem to have blended Lotic Prattle and Place quite elegantly with this - what would the next Nahnee Bori record be like?
CU: I'll probably blend concepts and techniques of the past three. With each album you gain a new set of tools to use on your next idea. I've been wanting to synthesize old country music with electronic elements for a while now. I'm haunted by the idea of a lonely cowboy traversing the cosmos on horseback.

WhiteAlbum

Everything old is new again. Right? Such is the case with White Album - an app that takes up to 24 photos at a time and then mails you physical copies of said photos. No previews, no retouches, no filters.. just point, shoot and get some photos later.

I won't lie, I think it's an interesting idea. The transient nature of all the photos we take is actually a bit sad. Even your best selfie only exists for a few days, at best. Having a physical copy of something gives you a reason to revisit it later, even if it's just during the rare occasions that you look through a photo album. When's the last time you went deep diving into your digital photo archives (and, no, Timehop doesn't count).

Having a large party of people use this at a single event seems the most worthwhile reason to try it out but I don't see any harm in making an effort in photographing the people in your life and holding on to it, physically.

Project Blue Book Collection

Project Blue Book was the name that was given to the official investigation by the United States military to determine what the Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) phenomena was. It lasted from 1947 - 1969.
There are 129,491 pages from some 10,000 cases within the vaults of The Project Blue Book Collection pertaining to government led research regarding UFOs, all browsable with a few clicks. It is an unwieldy amount of information to consume and doesn't organize itself in a way that presents some grand conclusion of compiled data. It's just all the reports of strange sightings from three decades. That being said, it's still great to see all put into one spot.

Pick a decade and then find something nearby where you live. Here's one from 1950's in Brooklyn and one from Nashville - both perfectly enjoyable reports of strange activity.

Raindrop.io

For whatever reason, I'm compelled by the idea of using a third party service to catalog various ideas, web destinations and inspiration. I've used Dragdis for some time for that purpose with enjoyable results but recently switched over to Raindrop as the experience seemed to hide itself in the background a bit more.

The downside to both experiences is that they don't seem to have shareable collections - should I just be sticking with Delicious or, even better, native bookmarks? Are these services just fancy-pants displays for links?

Friday Videos - Jan 23rd, 2015

I really need to start making these lists even weirder. I mean, you've probably seen all these top hitters already, right? I should start deep digging and just make this a bizarre compilation. We'll see if I can manage that. In the meantime, here's some distracting entertainment: I tried but failed to find this on Youtube. It's really the cream of the crop this week.

Without.

The Without app has a rather sweet story behind it. You can read the whole thing here (which I recommend you do) but the gist is that developer Jeremy Schoenherr found himself in a long distance relationship and wanted a way to keep in touch with his lady without going through the traditional seemingly naggy routes. So, he made an app that allowed him to keep in quick contact without feeling like a heel.

Turns out, the concept works for people that are in relationships in the same town as well. So, he fleshed it out a bit and put it in the app store. Now anyone can try it out. I think the story behind it seems so pure and heartwarming, it's hard not to love.