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Monthly Archives: October 2011


We had quite an eventful weekend in the Big Apple this weekend. A surprise snow storm wiped out most people’s Halloween plans. I hope you all had better luck. I remembered part way through this morning my intention to do a Halloween-themed Sketching Mechanism today so enjoy, demons and all (its Orange for Halloween)!
Making Christmas (dum dum dum dum)
My Paul Bunyan costume never came together and I don’t see myself trying to go out again tonight but who knows, at least I got a nice flannel and some bright orange suspenders out of the attempt. I also met a Minnesotan who gave me Bunyan advice being from his alma mater. Beyond that it was quite a relaxing, though somewhat unproductive, weekend. I finally baked my Oreo-stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies which I brought to the office today to share with everyone. They are a delicious, fattening, dessert which I highly recommend. Really fun to make as well (though they burned out the hand mixer I bought for the project!).

Found quite a good bit of brilliant inspirational content this weekend. First this fan-made unofficial opening title sequence for the new Adventures of Tintin film coming out from Spielberg.

I was a huge Tintin fan growing up and I’m excited to see if this film finally overcomes the dreaded uncanny valley in realistic animation so often bungled by films like Polar Express and Beowulf. This sequence is not only a fantastic example of beautiful vector art but also a brilliant exploration of the many tales of Tintin using a simple sphere in interesting ways.

For live action we have the work of the filmmakers of CANADA based in Barcelona who have created some beautiful videos like the one below (c/o Lost at E Minor). [I just realized CANADA is behind most of my favorite music videos from the past year and change erego they have a large effect on the music I listen to. Check out their Vimeo channel for other gems from El Guincho, Two Door Cinema Club and more]

I’ve always been a fan of dreams and this music video contains some truly universal dreamscapes that move with the music and dance. I love looking for Easter Eggs and themes in these types of videos (i.e. the reoccurring glitter on her hand indicating her many dreams). The dancers, costumes and sets are incredible and achieve via practical, real-world techniques, other-worldly affects. In this regard, their work reminds me a lot of Michel Gondry’s early music vidoes and I hope to see longer features from them in the future. I love this zero-CG approach to film making. A slightly stranger animated dream-like video can be seen here…it might not be for everyone though as it contains some very strange themes and messages about youth, intimacy and swimming pools. Still the gorgeous animation and original story are hard to beat, not to mention the great song it accompanies (I’m a big fan of the 80′s retro electro…retrolectro?).

Keeping with our dream theme; in stills lets take a look at the work of Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon. Some beautiful work from these two based in my very own Brooklyn. I should see if they have works on display anywhere nearby.

Borrwed Dreams

More inspiration to create some actually finished works. I think watercolor would be a great idea since you can create some very subtle and colorful works very quickly. They also seem to do a lot post-color using Photoshop mixed with real materials. Must look into this. Have a good week everyone and don’t eat too much candy. Remember, candy corn contains no actual corn!

EDIT (11-1-11): For more Halloween fare, check out this list of amazing(ly geeky) costumes with tech appeal. I can’t decide which is my favorite but tech-wise the camera is clearly the winner. Geek cred-wise I’m torn between Hypnotoad and Fallout guy (I think making a Pipboy iPhone app could be a super fun geeky open source project).

Nikon costume powered by real camera and laptop

Happy Halloween week everybody! I hope you all have great costumes lined up. I have a couple of ideas but still need to drop by the many Halloween shops that sprout up around this time of year to pick up a few items. Still no idea what I’ll actually be doing this weekend. The morning sketches today were fairly easy and I threw in some older stuff from last week as well. The large headed robotic character near the bottom is something I thought of last night and would like to further develop.

Sad Peacock

For some inspiration in motion I highly recommend the following music video done in one take with hundreds of real customized vinyl album covers. This makes me long for my meager record collection left in DC but I own neither turntable nor amplifier. Despite the awkward size of the medium there’s something amazing about their full bodied sound and the role that the album art plays in the music experience. This video seeks to explore the idea that those beautiful large album images, now lost in the iDistribution jumble, can cause us to hear the music that resides beneath that paper sleeve. I definitely feel that the simple soundtrack of this video is altered with each passing image though I recognize only a few.

For stills this week I’d like to share the work of Sam Weber. His work is very similar to last week’s but each image feels slightly more developed, the palette remains much the same however. His process leads to some beautiful images. It would seem most of these artists now spend most of the process working with real-world materials and then bring things into the virtual space to Photoshop in the final touches.

Lastly just an interesting Youtube video from Occupy going on downtown. I still haven’t visited but am now more interested than ever. True, some of the people there might not be the most representative of those who believe in Occupy’s ideals but the democratic system they’ve developed there is truly inspiring. I think it would be brilliant to digitize the system and work it into an universally functioning political body. Also there’s something truly moving about seeing so many people working together for something they believe in. The “human mic” is a bit silly but still very stirring.

The week began with a lively conference call between the tech teams in New York and London about multi-lingual website development strategies. A call that would end up infusing the whole week with language themes.

Later in the week, while working, we had an ongoing conversation about which language should a baby be exposed to, and even taught, beyond English. Someone suggested Chinese, which was then quickly broken down into Mandarin and Cantonese, with the observation that New York is apparently full of pre-schools that are run exclusively in Mandarin.

I suggested English, Mandarin and Spanish. The first, the almost de facto language of business, the second, spoken by the largest amount of people on Earth (and possibly the forthcoming language of business as well) and the third, spoken in the largest amount of countries.

I shared a recent article from the New York Times on how babies tell languages apart:

Recently, researchers at the University of Washington used measures of electrical brain responses to compare so-called monolingual infants, from homes in which one language was spoken, to bilingual infants exposed to two languages. Of course, since the subjects of the study, adorable in their infant-size EEG caps, ranged from 6 months to 12 months of age, they weren’t producing many words in any language.

Still, the researchers found that at 6 months, the monolingual infants could discriminate between phonetic sounds, whether they were uttered in the language they were used to hearing or in another language not spoken in their homes. By 10 to 12 months, however, monolingual babies were no longer detecting sounds in the second language, only in the language they usually heard.

The researchers suggested that this represents a process of “neural commitment,” in which the infant brain wires itself to understand one language and its sounds.

In contrast, the bilingual infants followed a different developmental trajectory. At 6 to 9 months, they did not detect differences in phonetic sounds in either language, but when they were older — 10 to 12 months — they were able to discriminate sounds in both.

“What the study demonstrates is that the variability in bilingual babies’ experience keeps them open,” said Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the study. “They do not show the perceptual narrowing as soon as monolingual babies do. It’s another piece of evidence that what you experience shapes the brain.”

The learning of language — and the effects on the brain of the language we hear — may begin even earlier than 6 months of age.

Then there is music, a kind of universal language, with it’s ability to contain complex math and human emotion all at once. Exposing babies to music could help facilitate the learning of foreign languages, particularly musical languages. There is a classic Radiolab program on that theme that is a must-listen.

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The truth however, is the internet has lead everyone to create hybrids of languages that are specific to the audiences begin engaged. I speak to my family in Spanglish, using words in whichever language would best carry the message. I send SMS messages to my friends in an even more fine-tuned version of English that is also peppered with the ubiquitous acronyms of the web, a kind of global English, Globlish.

From The Economist:

Bit by bit, English displaced French from diplomacy and German from science. The reason for this was America’s rise and the lasting bonds created by the British empire. But the elastic, forgiving nature of the language itself was another. English allows plenty of sub-variants, from Singlish in Singapore to Estglish in Estonia: the main words are familiar, but plenty of new ones dot the lexicon, along with idiosyncratic grammar and syntax.

But languages aren’t only restricted to the realm of words. Today programming languages are as relevant as any spoken language and we should get comfortable with the idea of comprehending and translating from Javascriptglish, HTML5glish, Unixglish, ObjectiveCglish, looking at a bit of code and understanding it like we are in The Matrix.

Which brings us to translation.

Let’s not forget about data. No matter which language we use to collect it, data is the principal language of the 21st Century. Vast amounts of data when presented visually transcend language to convey simple truths. All one has to do is visit Information is Beautiful to understand.

When we develop brands, websites and apps we are in essence creating a new language, a new collection of icons, glyphs and interconnected relationships to share a very specific message, each project a new world of communication.

So, what are you saying? Because the 80/20 rule applies here. People comprehend you 20% on what you say and 80% on how you say it.

 

The Thinking Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Fridays, covering the ideas The Mechanism is thinking and talking about with our peers and clients.

Play

Many Monday meetings means many Monday sketches (is there a synonym for doodle that starts with an ‘M’? Alliteration is key here).

How would a fish wear flip flops?

Many interesting finds to share from over the weekend. For our inspiring line art of the week I bring you the intriguing work of Andrew Zbihlyj. His inky works should be familiar to anyone who has read a major magazine in the past few years. What is truly interesting about his work is the combination of the unfinished pure black ink lying in direct contrast to the chosen sections of detail. The abstract ink hints at motion, form and structure while the detailed faces and characters within these monochrome microcosms give us reason to pause, linger and digest the work as a whole. I would love to see him attempt more colored, filled out works as opposed to these fantastic sparsely dense works.

House of Cards

On the tech side this great little tool will help you move into the CSS3 era with ease by simplifying and consolidating all those annoying new prefixes due to all the different browser standards/capabilities out there. It’s called PrefixFree and looks to be very hand. Smashing Magazine did a great little intro article.

And lastly, for our inspiring video of the weekend we have this beautiful animation for Twining’s Tea of all things. However the animation itself is simply gorgeous. It reminds me of those great United Airlines ads that looked to be paper-cut animation mixed with digital. However this takes 3D animation in a direction I thought was nigh impossible. The entire thing is almost a watercolor or pastel drawing. Simply amazing. I’m willing to bet some of the elements (the white caps on the waves, the birds and other subtle beautiful water effects) were done in 2D by hand and comped in. Regardless, this will take your breath away (watch in HD!).

This week has been full of news and digital action, so much so we are still processing all of it (while waiting for the interminable iOS5 update to finish, it seems there is some turbulence in the iCloud). And, we are working hard executing milestone deadlines today, including some intense presentation prep from Dave (follow us on Twitter @themechanism for more on #MobileMojo in the coming days).

So instead of the normal fare here is a short TED Talk about technological magic.

 

The Thinking Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Fridays, covering the ideas The Mechanism is thinking and talking about with our peers and clients.

Brief morning meeting this lovely Monday (where did this sudden heat wave come from?). Injured a finger on my left, dominant, hand over the weekend but I can still draw and type fine thank god.

Strange creatures abound

Some really interesting stuff coming out of Siggraph 2010 it seems. Some of the texturing papers, like the polished chrome one in this trailer, are simply amazing. Won’t be long before we’re seeing these technologies (more realistic hair anyone?) in Pixar and Dreamworks films, slowly followed by the gaming industry.

An interesting, and inspiring, link from over the weekend: this mesmerizing music video for the song “Look” by Sebastian Tellier (possibly NSFW). I’m still undecided as to if this is 3D, 2D or a mix. It could possibly be layered 2D animation but parts definitely feel very 3D ramp rendered.

And lastly a truly original exploration of the power of line in 3D space using wire. Gavin Worth takes Calderesque wire sculpture to a whole other, though granted 2-dimensional, level. I feel like this would be great practice for any sketch artist. It’s almost like amazing real life vector art. I especially like how the work takes on the texture of its environment (here a lightly patterned white wall). Simultaneously, the figures illustrate just how much information our brains fill in, giving these flat pieces  an extremely strong illusion of depth. Click here for more.

Nude in Profile

For those of us passionate about technology and art, for those of us who thrive creatively because of technology and art, for those of us that continue to pursue education and make a living because of technology and art, the day began with much discussion about iPhones, iOS, Android, Google, Facebook, Siri, Amazon, Kindles, this one is better, that one is awesome, where is the iPhone 5 that I so wanted, this system is better than that system, my patents can beat up your patents, all in a frenzy of strong opinions.

Then as the day ends, all that passion, all those opinions, get shaken to the core with an incredibly profound sense of sadness. It’s surprising, shocking even, how truly, deeply sad we feel.

At this moment this is all I know for sure.

When I wrote my university applications and essays on a Mac I didn’t know who Steve Jobs was, all I knew was that this device, this computer, it gave me the keys to the American Dream.

The American Dream looks very different now, feels very different now. We use technology and art to help us endure the vicissitudes of surviving our daily lives.

Last night I sat in a small room waiting for a board meeting to start. A board meeting for an organization I volunteer my time and energy towards, spending countless hours in front of Macs creating things out of nothing to help a dear friend fulfill his vision of an exceptional concert series.

While waiting I had a quick Skype chat with one of my oldest friends, a friend who knew me when I was a child and now lives on the other side of the world. It was 1:30am where he lives and we commiserated about insomnia and made plans to connect soon again.

After he said good bye I looked at my iPad, the technology I was going to use to talk about music and art, and stared at my iPhone. My New Jersey friend walked into the room and I told him how I just had a casual conversation with my Saudi Arabia friend like it was nothing, like geography, time and space weren’t an obstacle at all.

Your tools may be different than mine, your technology may be different than mine, and if we pause for long enough to notice, they are awe-inspiring

It is that feeling, that awe, that I think about when I think of Steve Jobs.

He led many brilliant people to create tools that helped me get an education, get a career. That help me keep up with my family, connect with my friends, derive joy from the things I love.

For that I am grateful.

 

The Thinking Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Fridays, covering the ideas The Mechanism is thinking and talking about with our peers and clients. This special edition of The Thinking Mechanism is cross-posted from my blog SmarterCreativity.com.

The sketching was a bit slow this morning since I had trouble falling asleep last night. However the sea theme is largely based on this strange dream I had Saturday night. All I remember is it revolving around a strangely shaped rock with sea life growing all over it (see the “Sea Chunk”) and there was strange amphibious man/god throwing it about at me. I tried putting the scan on a texture to give it a bit more life. Enjoy.

The first meeting of Dwarves and Mermen

Another relaxing but exhausting weekend. I feel like my life may actually settle into a rhythm in the coming month. I’ve been thinking about Halloween and what I could dress as. A favorite Halloween memory of mine was a group of my female friends dressing as the Adobe creative suite; they wore all black with large square icons hung around their necks for Ps, Ai, etc. Recently one of them told me someone they met thought they were dressed as the Elements! Ha! Though that did get me thinking if any elements share the same abbreviations with Creative Suite…any how I think I’ll either go as Paul Bunion (or some other fairy tale character) or a steampunk gentleman. That’s why I got my beard going after all!