Second weekend in a row in which I’ve deleted Twitter from my phone. It’s working for me. No longer feel addicted to it.
2017 was a good year for music. I ended up listening to more tunes than I had since 2013, if I can trust the data at last.fm. Tons of great records. A few really great ones. Here are my lists.
Favorite records of 2017:
- Mangaliso — Bongeziwe Mabandla
- Humanz — Gorillaz
- Damn — Kendrick Lamar
- Drunk — Thundercat
- La Confusion — Amadou & Miriam
- I Tell a Fly — Benjamin Clemintine
- Capacity — Big Thief
- Hug of Thunder — Broken Social Scene
- Chronology — Chronixx
- Ash — Ibeyi
- 4:44 — Jay Z
- Harmony of Difference — Kamasi Washington
- Sleep Well Beast — The National
- Africa Express Presents The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests — The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests
- In Mind — Real Estate
- Ctrl — SZA
- Antisocialites — VVaves
- Big Fish Theory — Vince Staples
And here’s a public playlist of my favorite tracks of 2017 on Apple Music.
I built the new website for CardStack this week, and it went up yesterday: http://cardstack.io. What Cardstack is doing is amazing, and their roadmap is seriously impressive. Ken and Chris are fantastic people and I owe them a great deal of gratitude for the work they've given me in the last year. I'm incredibly excited to keep building things with them and the group of talented people they've surrounded themselves with. More great stuff is coming! Head to the website to read the technical details. Actual products and applications will be announced soonish.
Ask Brooklyn Museum was officially released this month, moving out of its year-long beta phase. The reviews have started to roll in and they're positive so far. I'll try to keep a running list here: The New York Times, The Verge. It was a winner of two 2016 MUSE Awards: a Gold award for mobile applications, and the Jim Blackaby Memorial Award. I've also written a case study, going into fuller detail about the design of the app.
At the start of this year, I put my Instapaper use into overdrive. Instapaper has always been one of my favorite apps, and consistently one of my most used. Even so, I didn’t have much of a system for using it and it was taking the form of a teenager’s unkept bedroom. It needed some tidying up and a new plan for keeping it tidy. I found what works for me.
The first step was to go through the whole mess and archive/delete anything I wasn’t really going to read. There were a bunch of articles from years back I clearly was never going to read, and so I unceremoniously wiped them out. Next, I set up daily To Do reminders to read one article a day, any article at all. But on Saturdays, I read the longest article I had saved. On Mondays and Thursdays, I would read the oldest. Instapaper makes this easy with their convenient Sort feature on iOS.
My account currently has about 70 unread articles in it, and for some reason it seems to permanently hover around that number. Even though I’m constantly adding articles and the oldest article is only from a few months ago.
Lately, my focus on the internet has shifted. The social web 2.0 stuff has taken a back seat to plain old reading. I took a break from Instagram, Twitter, etc. and leaned hard into my RSS reader. I’ve been thinking more about the web as a publishing platform than a messaging forum. It seems like while most people are pushing for more and more micro-conversations, we’ve lost sight of a healthier, meatier web. A web of good reading and writing. By placing greater attention on instapaper and longer-form reading, the internet became a more nutritious place. Less snark and more information.
The next move for me is to find a way to write and publish more myself.
Third time seeing my favorite band.
I was really taken by the display of Greek coins. They seemed more real than our modern versions. That’s because of the inconsistency, irregularity, and imperfections. It was clear they were man-made, melted shapes of copper and iron. I’d love to have a pocket full of them to spend. Three-dimensional, with character and personality. Portraits, turtles, flowers, horses. Imperfection adds beauty. I’d love to see more unevenness in everything. More bends, cricks, cracks, flaws.
Breathtaking patterning. Impressive size. The painted patterns had a flow like an animated breeze, or trickling streams. Also with jagged points like teeth or plant needles and thorns. It was the beauty and danger of the jungle painted on a low ceiling made of large sheets of tree bark. Never realized before how patterning could so clearly represent the spirits in the world. They speak a kind of magic. It works on the deepest, most animalistic layer of our brains. And they’re pretty.
Midnight Ride of Paul Revere - Grant Wood
So fake and dreamy and amazing. Like a living diorama. It’s an idealized, almost comic, image. Cartoonish but darkly so. The moonlight is far too bright in the foreground, as if it were stage lighting. The forrest in the distance is made up of bubble trees; no attempt at realism, which makes it that much more comic. The painting is fun, first, but also creepy like a dark joke. We often romanticize the past like this. We even the edges and smooth out the narrative, which noticeably distorts the scene if you then look too close.
I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold - Charles Demuth
I first studied this painting in elementary school — I have a vague recollection of copying it in crayon. It’s much better in person. Rich in color with textured outlines. Textured flatness. It reminds me that we lose a lot of depth when we design everything with such strict lines and smooth, unblemished colors. Digital screens will long lack the tactile quality of this painting. Figure 5 is an example of an older thing which is still so much better than the newer things.
I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold feels as much like design as it does art. It’s probably the care taken with the painted type. The beautiful “5”, the gothic “WCW” and “CD”, the lettering on the shop window. It moves within your periphery when so large, fluid and exciting. Red yellow gray cream: an excellent and stirring palette. I aspire to this.
The Banks of the Bievre Near Bicetre - Henri Rousseau
Rousseau was a painting hobbyist. He wasn’t formally trained and I’m sure he didn’t start out painting thinking he’d be so revered 100 years later. One of his greatest traits was his determination. He was considered finished paintings which often still looked very juvenile. He didn’t care that he hadn’t yet learned to paint things correctly. He painted, considered it done, and moved on. Look at the trees in this painting: they're horribly conceived, deformed really, but the painting is still pretty and likable.
Allegory of the Planets and Continents - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Very active and living. I like imaging the world as allegorical people, imaging the workings of the universe as daily jobs performed by gods and spirits. It makes the world seem more both more magical and mechanical. But also more human, somehow. If you imagine everything in terms of human/godly work, it's much more relatable. Look up at the sun. Why not see Apollo in his chariot, surrounded by a swirl of horses and cherubs, doing his daily duty, trekking from East to West. I sometimes fall into the trap of removing myself from the world — not a super rare mistake, I know. Perhaps I — or we — could use more of this magical thinking in our lives. More spirits, elfs, cherubs, devils, gods. I don’t know. But I do know that this painting is beautiful, and it represents to me something we’ve lost.
Chamunda, the Horrific Destroyer of Evil
This statue is frightening in a way almost nothing else is. Terror in a waking dream. A nightmare come to life. It’s deeply, spiritually horrific. What a soul might look like as its being torn apart. It suggests a culture much more connected to do death. More aware of it. More involved in it. More respecting of it.
- Immediately felt at home inside. No surprise, I guess, but working in one museum demystifies all of them. Now that I know how they work, and what goes on in the back rooms, museums feel a little more down to earth.
- Paintings are just paintings. Strip them of their mythical status, and the artist behind them becomes real, normal, relatable. Throw yourself into them, and they come back to life.
- Statues are very moving when large and dramatic. The third dimension adds so much, offers highly varying feelings from different angles. It strums an emotional chord I'm still amateurish at feeling. The art of sculpture does not enjoy much respect in modern public spaces, which makes them seem like foreign objects to my American eyes. What would our American public spaces be like if our statues were more dramatic like these old Roman works? Are they? Do I not notice?