24 April 2008

Ghostly Swim

I know, I know, I know. After a few days there will be dozens of blogs written about this. But I have to. I found out about Ghostly Swim initially through a Twitter of Sanithna's (I was much less cool before I met him, I think). It's a free album of beautiful electronic music brought to you by one of my favorite record labels (Ghostly International) and one of my favorite things on television ([adult swim]).

Keep in mind: this isn't this type of music:

It's dynamic and surprising; I have listened to it twice today and it's very quickly grown on me. The album art is nice, too. It reminds me of late 2004, when I started really listening to this kind of stuff. I only recognized four or five of the artists on here too, which is really exciting.

Check it out and let me know your favorite; I think mine so far is Squirmy Sign Language by Ben Benjamin.

13 April 2008

I weep for our infrastructure.

But even if we did have it in the U.S., would that help anything? not sure. maybe.

What I'm talking about is mobile technology. I've had to think about it a lot lately, and well, it's no secret that we're far behind the rest of the world when it comes down to it. Actually, all I had to Google (for support) after writing that sentence just now was "mobile technology america behind" and got to this wonderful bit. And that was the same point I was going to make.

(Let me back up for a minute. I am writing this while Oceans Thirteen plays on my television dubbed in Japanese. Know what that means? I am in Tokyo! Those who know me (even those who don't, perhaps) will know that I have been longing for this time for ages.) *

So, back to what I was going to share. Today I was frustrated and tired after being stuck in Warp Zone (which some like to call Meiji Dori), and instead of finding the store I wanted (Laforet), I wandered into a five-story, circular building with the same internal architecture as the the Guggenheim. I think I was drawn to it because there was a lot of stuff happening in there - computers, lights, flashy larger-than-life images of well-dressed models holding cool devices, etc.

4 or 5 floors, Guggenheim-style.

The guy working the first floor was very proficient in English (and he liked to practice, I think), and he was telling me all about this structure. Apparently it is owned by KDDI, which is mobile carrier and ISP in Japan. It's called the KDDI Designing Studio, and each floor does something different. In order:

1. Live Lounge - free Internet on four computers (one of them ONLY runs Second Life, which was amusing) and a huge center-floor Sony Ericcson display

2. au Design Park - the newest concept models are displayed here (including the very rectangular and very flat flip phone styles I have seen on Gizmodo), space station-style:


Why can't the U.S. catch the hell up with the rest of the world?

KDDI Designing Studio

3. KDDI Portal Living - new experimental technology is demonstrated (you can try it out too); right now includes a broadcasting service and a Sony /au music collaboration (I think au is a handset manufacturer)

4. Lismo Forest - this was a surreal, storybook-like forest setting, featuring LISMO (an online music service run by KDDI)'s mascot:


5. Wired Café 360° - must have missed this one... the pamphlet I took calls it an "urban escape," while my English-speaking friend stressed that I could get a beer there.

This Designing Studio was awesome. Yes, we have all heard about "creating an experience for the consumer" a million times. Well, duh. I had quite the nice time walking through it and touching the shiny phones devices (also: on the walls going up the spiral was a nicely-designed and laid-out history of mobile handset design).

I'm sure that in the minds of people who live here and are familiar with these brands, they all live together. I am trying to think of a relevant U.S. example (help me out if you can think of one), but I'm pretty sure there is a competition problem – in addition to an infrastructure problem – in North America. Carriers are – from what I have seen – obsessed with taking over the user interface of their devices (among other things). I think I had an LG VX450 before Verizon started doing that, because I remember very pretty dandelion wallpaper with purple trim and very intuitive UI in 2004. Well, when I got a RAZR two years later (for very few months, please forgive me), the UI was terrible. And it was RED and I couldn't get it to NOT be red. Because of this, there were two separate components in my mind: Motorola (handset) and Verizon (carrier & user experience). Not "one, single, streamlined" mobile experience. This entire KDDI Designing Studio felt cohesive, and I mostly had no clue that there were at least four brands working together in this space until I did some research. I wonder when something similar can happen in the U.S. (if ever). I would love it.

(I would also love to hear thoughts on this, please share! I just kind of started typing without a real point or end opinion on how things can change.)

* If you want to read more about my trip (including photos), check out my Tumblr page. Oyasumi nasai (good night)!

08 April 2008

Color turning into sound turning into color

I was of course excited to get an e-mail from the lovely Dylan Trees with the subject "Synaesthese-tastic" last month. The article he pointed me towards was fascinating; it tells the story of an artist/musician whose life was changed by a cybernetics expert he met in art school. Cybernetics, Wikipedia says,
...is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of complex systems, especially communication processes, control mechanisms and feedback principles. Cybernetics is closely related to control theory and systems theory.
For this to start making sense: I should point out that the artist, Neil Harbisson, has achromatopsia – complete congenital colour blindness (he sees the entire world in black and white).

Upon a visit to Harbisson's art school, Adam Montandon (the cybernetics expert) heard about his condition and decided to work on helping Harbisson be able to paint in color (all of his work up to this time had been in black and white). He developed a machine called an Eyeborg that converts colors into sounds. When Eyeborg's mechanics are explained, it makes sense, but at first I had no clue how a device like this could even work. Well, different colors reflect light at different frequencies, right? This is how the thing looks:

When Harbison looks at a color through the lens, the sound frequency of the color is calculated and fed back to him as a specific noise that corresponds with that color's light reflection frequency. After a buffer period of learning which sound correspond to which color, Harbison is able to paint in the colors that the Eyeborg is "seeing." Pretty awesome, yeah?

He has an exhibit of city street scenes approaching in London; he's also working on the coolest-sounding project ever:
representing each capital city in Europe as a square made up of two triangles of different colours. In Monaco, it was azure and salmon pink; in Bratislava it was yellow and turquoise; and in Andorra it was dark green and fuchsia.
I would love to see that. Pretty awesome technology and concepts. One of the comments on this article presented a good idea to go along with it: "It would be very interesting to hear the sounds that he heard while viewing the individual paintings. Something the gallery should organise, perhaps." What if those ridiculous telephone-looking things that people walk around museums with actually played the sounds as one walked by each painting, as opposed to telling the story behind it (which could be reserved for the introductory plaque at the beginning of the exhibit)?

EDIT | Something amazing happened. Montandon (the creator of this amazing technology) commented on this entry, leaving a link to more information on his blog. Thanks Adam! I look forward to reading more.

04 April 2008

25 Project

I've been reading 25 Project for a few months and it's quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs (read: when I am drowning in work, one of the only ones I read). Beginning on her 25th birthday (in November 2007), Michelle of Crowded Teeth ("online store /clothing line") decided to create one art project a day for a year. Each month has a different theme, and the end result will be 25 hand-made books and an art show. Here are my favorites from each month /theme:

November : Patterns

December : Characters

January : Fonts & Typography

February : Scenes from daily life

March : Photography

Adorable and imaginative, right? 25 Project is guaranteed to make you smile.
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