Friday, January 30, 2015

{recs}

I'm just going to springboard off of my last post about not knowing what music to listen to lately and tell you about a fairly geeky thing that I did this week that I'm simultaneously a little embarrassed of and kind of excited about. 

When I texted Jannaya and Robyn a few days ago asking for their top music recommendations they both, almost simultaneously, texted back, "Fun!" before sending me their top picks. And it was fun. When you're really into something, sharing it is fun. When I finish a good movie or a book or find an album that I just love, I'm pretty sure I tell at least twenty people about it. And on the flip side, having someone recommend something that they really love to me is...also fun. It's all fun, and fun is good. 

Sooooo...

I took to Twitter to find out if there was an app for that. An app kind of like Instagram, but solely for recommending music to your friends and having them recommend their choices to you. I know that there are apps like Songza and Grooveshark, but I wanted something more concise and personal - not a playlist compiled by a computer, but something where you recommend one thing at a time, as you're enjoying it. Something with a newsfeed that you could scroll through and see what your friends were listening to that day. A place where you could find other people who like what you like and be further introduced to new things. 

Rachel, from Big City Quiet, chimed in about how she'd be interested in the same thing but for books, and I thought, "Hey. Why not throw movies and TV in there too?" And a few people commented and retweeted and favourited and all that stuff that you do on Twitter, and I started daydreaming and feeling like this could be a good idea. I don't know; maybe it's not, but that's the thing about ideas: at some point you just have to throw it on the wall and see if it sticks. Like spaghetti. 

So that's how I found myself googling 'how to get somebody else to make me an app.' 

I found three websites. One which seemed like it was run by really old and/or boring people who didn't know how to make nice looking apps, one which was very promising but which wasn't taking any more ideas "indefinitely" due to the high volume of applications, and one which I really liked, called Applits. As far as I can tell, you can pay a lot of money to get them to make your app, or you can enter their monthly competition and if you win they'll make your app for free, plus you get 15% of the profits. 

That, I thought to myself, could work. 

So I drew up a very rough sketch and proposal and I named my app "Recs" and I entered the app contest. I felt like a ten-year-old, quite honestly, but I'm still so excited. Contests are so dang fun. 

And fun, as we have previously established, is good. 

Here is the thing. If you are interested at all in the idea, if you would like to someday download the Recs app and be my friend on there and share stuff with me and vice versa, you can vote for me(!!) by clicking the link below and signing in with your Facebook account (which is much faster and easier than making an Applits account, but you can do it that way too). Because if nobody votes for it, then it will not happen. Which is okay too, obviously. I'm pretty laid back about the whole thing. You can also see "screen shots" and the "logo" on the app page. (It's all very, very rough.)


Anyway. That is, as they say, that

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

{friend music library}


I've been in a huge musical ditch lately.

Part of the reason could be that my life pre-2014 was so over-saturated with it that I stopped even having to put any effort in outside of the various "jobs" I had. 24/7, I was researching and interviewing bands, reviewing CDs and spending multiple evenings a week at shows. I was discovering new music daily and I loved it. Then the heavy pendulum that is time and life circumstances swung definitively from one stage of life to another and suddenly, I'm here. And it's a drastic, high-contrast difference.

It should be noted that I'm not at all unhappy with this change. Those were fun years, but so are these ones. And this past year, especially, had to be different, for a billion reasons. I wouldn't trade it for anything. But this year coming up? I'm very much looking forward to sticking a toe back into the water - all things in moderation and all that. Not three shows a week, but not no shows a week. Not hours a day spent researching new bands, but not no hours a day spent in the living room entirely focused only on enjoying a new album.

All that to say that yesterday I found myself wanting to put on some music to soundtrack a quiet day at home and came up completely blank.

Thank goodness for friends.

Not all of my friends like the same kind of music as me or as each other. I have friends who like top 40s and friends who like indie and friends who like nu folk and friends who like 70s rock and country and bluegrass and so on. I like this about my friends. They're like a library.

So yesterday morning, I headed to the back corner of this proverbial library, where it's quietest and where the windows are all full of stained glass and suncatchers. This is where I imagine my friends Jannaya and Robyn would be, if they were books in a musical friend library. They're into music that is sometimes quirky, often softer, usually chill. They can be counted on to recommend artists from Iceland but also to know a few good local acts. They like smart music, because they're smart. And I like that about them.

So, anyway, they are who I texted yesterday when I needed something to listen to. And I got such good suggestions that I thought I'd share them with you in case you are in a similar slump. (Click on the links to hear the music.)

Jannaya recommends:

Low Roar, especially Nobody Loves Me Like You (whose EP you can download for free {legally and with the band's permission} here on Noisetrade)
Cat Power's Werewolf
Arum Ray's Warrented Queen
Milky Chance's Fairytale
Shapeshifter by Elephant (who also has a free EP on Noisetrade: download it here)
Hybrid by Elsiane
To A Poet by First Aid Kit

Robyn recommends:

John Mark McMillan ("His album The Medicine was the first one I heard, but Economy is really good and Borderland (newest) is awesome!")
the Oh Hellos (Through the Deep, Dark Valleywhich is also on Noisetrade)
Asgeir's In the Silence

I built myself a playlist based on these recommendations and have found quite a few gems. The favourites at first listen are Asgeir, Low Roar, and Elsiane, but I need to spend some more time with the list as a whole. Give a listen! Thanks, friends!

Friday, January 23, 2015

{one}

A crazy thing happened on Wednesday, January 21: Sullivan turned one.

This is not a crazy thing to anyone other than me, I think. If I were to take a poll of the lunch crowd on Scarth Street, I would probably find that 100% of people know that after a child has been out of the womb for 365 days, they technically "turn one". It's not crazy.

But it's crazy.

The night before his birthday, I did a little DIY 'spa night'. "Because," I reasoned, "one year ago, I was doing exactly the opposite of relaxing and pampering myself. I was in labour. So now: facials."

I gave myself two facials right in a row. I don't think you're supposed to do that, but my skin was so happy about it. It was much nicer than labour.

I was going to lay on the couch with my second face mask on and eat stuff and watch Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube, but when I opened my computer I couldn't help but click on my January 2014 folder first. I spent the rest of the night flipping through pictures and seriously choking up. Where did that year and that tiny little wrinkly baby go? How did he grow up so fast? What if the rest of his life goes this fast? And did I soak this year up enough? Did I take anything for granted?

I watched a whole year go by. I even looked back at the awkward belly selfies that never found their way to any kind of social media (in retrospect, my maternity style could maybe be described as 'too cheap to buy real maternity clothes, thank goodness for rubber bands and thrift store t-shirts'):


Then I came to the crazy-eyed "this baby is coming tonight!" hospital shot, followed by tearful us-meeting-him pictures. I flipped back and forth between these pictures again and again, glad to have such a perfect physical representation of how terrified but excited we were before he came, and how at peace and in love we were after.


It brought back all the fears and feelings and weird, Twilight-Zone fog that hung over that first week of his little life. The thankfulness that flooded my whole entire self when they put him on my chest and I saw that he was fine and that he was real and that he was perfect and that he was mine. The realization that this moment had finally come, and that it was nothing at all like I'd imagined it because I had no real point of reference here other than what I'd seen in sitcoms and what I'd heard from other moms - neither of which could actually even come close to preparing me for this kind of love or this kind of pain or this kind of responsibility.


And now it's a year later. It still feels very new, but also like he's always been here. He knows me now, can run across the room and give me a hug when I call him. He likes blueberries and mixing bowls and watching cars out the window and going for walks and bath time. Every evening he excitedly greets Barclay at the door as he gets home from work, which is something that I'd always pictured when I thought of having kids. He has two front teeth with an adorable gap and huge brown eyes. He still hates sleep, but he's getting better at it. And I'm not ready for him to get even one day older.


In honor of his birthday, we fed him his first cupcake (+blueberries) and then went and got take-out noodle boxes and ate them in the car by the lake while he slept in the back seat. We talked about that day, and this year, and the ones coming up. It felt like the right way to celebrate, even if the birthday boy was, you know, unconscious.

Because it wasn't just a birthday party, at least not the kind I've ever experienced. It was also the first anniversary of the day Barclay and I became parents. It was a celebration of survival, kind of. And it was a kick-off to another year. Another year full of change and goodness and hard things and sweet moments and learning and growing and figuring this kid out.

PS: Hey, Sullivan. In case future you reads this someday: You don't even know how much I love you. It's crazy. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

{oot and aboot}

Julia and Becky saved my life this week. They rescued me from my kitchen, which isn't exactly a dank, dark dungeon but which feels just the tiniest bit like one after a few months of winter, and took me out into the city - where there were people and real rays of sunlight! 

O my heart.

Julia took me to the Science Center. I don't know why I didn't see this before: the cure for the winter blahs is science, plain and simple. Also, seeing a place like that through the eyes of her two year old son was pretty cool. 


Julia even went on the gyro gym. Her son thought it was a medieval torture device or something and screamed at the guy running the thing until he let her go. I, the terrible aunt, just laughed at him and even went so far as to take his picture mid-meltdown. I got mad toddler skills.

The next day, Becky texted and asked if she could take me on a picnic at the Floral Conservatory, which is this sweet greenhouse that me and my friends escape to every once in a while to pretend like we don't live in Saskatchewan. You walk in, take off all your winter layers, and bask in the humidity and heat. You bring a book or a snack or a coffee or a picnic lunch. You don't look up; you pretend that you are not surrounded by glass. You pretend that the air outside the Glass That Does Not Exist couldn't give you frost bite in less that five minutes. It's a coping mechanism. 

Anyway. Long story that isn't really a story, or at least not a very fascinating story anyway, short, we went. And we ditched our coats and ate Brie and crackers and meat and Dunkaroos and juice and Sullivan ran around loving his life until he fell and skinned his forehead. Until that exact moment, it was the perfect afternoon. 


I'm back in my kitchen now, Sullivan is literally running around me in circles as I write this, but we're headed to the museum tomorrow, and maybe to the art gallery later this week? Winter: I'm going to win this round. Or at least I'm going down swinging. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

{the comments section of an imogen heap video}

I read the comments section of a YouTube video again. Judgy McJudge me all you want; I don't even care. (I'm so nonconformist right now.)

A friend posted this amazing video on my Facebook feed this morning, about Imogen Heap's Mi.Mu gloves. If you haven't seen it, here:



So basically, wow. Gesture-controled music. Fade, pitch, panning, everything that you can do on a computer, on your hands! I was watching this with my mouth open, imagining how cool it would be to see these in action in a concert setting. Especially controlled by Imogen, who is such a musical genius. Can't handle her.

So I went searching around YouTube for a more in-depth look at the gloves, maybe a demonstration, and I found this (a full-length song that she wrote using the gloves):



and this, too (a really thorough explanation of how the gloves work):
    

I highly, highly recommend watching all three (though the end of the third one is just a less polished version of the song she performs in the second).

You know when you find something that just blows your mind, and you want to turn to the person beside you and go, "Did you see that?!"

But then you're alone. So, so alone. Do you take your laptop across the street and knock on the neighbours' doors? Or do you scroll down and find community in the likeminded people of the Internet gracing the comments section with their classy presence?

Well. I scrolled down. I wanted to hear what others thought about this thing. I assumed the comment section would be fairly united. This is a pretty sweet invention, and so well executed. And how could anyone hate on Imogen Heap? How?

I will tell you how.

The earliest comments, posted shortly after the video itself, were generally the type I expected. They were like this:

Then, within the past year, there was a shift in the comments. Like, a very, very marked shift. From people with legitimate names like Peter and Reuben to people who called themselves things like ROCKGLAMGRRRL19. From people who commented on the music and the technology and how beautiful and genius the whole thing was to people who commented on...the way Imogen breathes.



I was confused, at first. (Imogen Heap? A Speech Therapist? Have you ever listened to Aha? That song is speech therapy.) So I conducted an investigation (Google) whereupon I discovered that the culprit here was none other than teen pop sensation Ariana Grande.

Because of course it was.

I found that Imogen Heap has been working on this project for ages, but very recently Ariana has decided to incorporate the gloves into her show. Hence, the legion of Grande fans coming over to see what all the fuss is about. And they? Are not so impressed with these silly little gloves.


A young man named Tyler Mix wasn't even looking at the gloves. He was looking at Heap's fingers, which he deemed 'ridiculously long'. Even if her harmonies are amazing, her fingers are still, like, Angelina long. (I, too, had always thought the two were incompatible traits in human beings.)

And then there were those who just didn't get it. At all. Like, not even a little.

Dear Bigstudwithaguitar (if that's your real name), yeah but no. Immi is no stranger to theremin. She owns at theremin. This is reminiscent of a theremin, sure, but were you listening at all during the 13 minutes that she was explaining the gloves? You can't just click on random YouTube videos, listen to three seconds of them and then throw out your judgements. And you thumbs-upped your own comment, didn't you?

But the person I really feel sorry for in all of this is Dylan Fleck, who has no dream to fallow. 

The YouTube comments are a great place to go when you're feeling disillusioned with life, I find. It's like going to a quiet spot along a lake, or talking to a trusted friend, except how it's not at all like either of those things. 

Dear Dylan: You need a quiet lake or a trusted friend. Everyone else is only here to critique Imogen's breathing.

And now for a comment from some creepy guy named Babe Stache:

Yeah we did Babe lol 

(I want to teach a seminar about how 'lol' is not the same thing as a question mark or exclamation point.)

Cue token comments section 'funny' guy:

The thing is, Imogen Heap would totally play a barbecue. And it would sound awesome. Remember Closing In? The percussion in that song is her 'playing' carpet tubes with CD cases. So yeah, Jim. She could play a barbecue, Jim. Bet you can't even cook a burger on one, Jim.

Good graish, I'm all worked up over this. I got 99 problems and Ariana Grande is one.

(That was a relevant joke, but if you don't get it I respect you for it.)