Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘music waves’ Category

Sunday Afternoon Links

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Been busy lately with work, side projects, and visiting friends, so here are a couple links to check out for now.

MapCrunch: Randomized Google Streetview images. It’s fun to select “Hide location” and guess with friends where in the world the view is from. We’ve spent probably hours doing this, tallying up points and starting to learn the differences between the features of the different Scandanavian countries, for example. You can think of it as a high-speed contest in the vein of Andrew Sullivan’s View from Your Window contest. But yes, it’s absolutely geeky.

Try this one:

MapCrunch - Random Google Streetview image

but does it float: A collection of art projects with a tendency towards the abstract. Great mix of photography, drawings, typography, computer-generated imagery, etc. It’s easy to lose a lot of time exploring this site because you can scroll down for as long as you’d like.

Graph of Cosmetic Surgical Procedures: This is how the number of different types of cosmetic surgery in America changed from 2000 to 2011. I find it interesting to note that the number of plastic surgeries dropped from 1.9 million in 2000 to 1.6 million in 2011 – a drop of 17%.

Other notes:

Planning to do the One Day Hike this year. Really excited about doing it but haven’t done much in the way of training yet – guess I need to toughen up my feet and my resolve.

I’m visiting a friend in Boulder, CO in May. I’d love any suggestions about what to see/do there, since it’ll be my first time there. We’re planning to do some hiking and sample many delicious microbrews.

And speaking of cool cities, I’ve also been getting to know Baltimore, MD a bit better and it’s a really fun, artistic place. Last night we grabbed a beer at the Brewer’s Art and struck up a conversation with a Texan girl who’d been living in Baltimore awhile before moving to DC. She happened to be back up there this weekend and we talked a bit about all the great (and more affordable) places to eat in Baltimore, the way the music scene has been changing in the last few years, and how she’s trying to convince all of her friends in DC to move to Baltimore.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard current and former Baltimore residents rave about how great of a place it is to live. Its proximity to DC means that there are even people who opt to live there and commute daily into DC – trading a shorter commute for lower cost of living, amongst other things. Job-wise, I’m not sure how attractive Baltimore is, however.

Another thing I find interesting about Baltimore is that there’s a group, Baltimore Green Currency, that is trying to spread a form of local currency called the Bnote. They report that over 130 local businesses currently accept Bnotes as payment. One of the bars we visited let you purchase Natty Bohs for 1 Bnote each; the equivalent of only 91 cents for a beer!

Written by Crystal Bae

February 26th, 2012 at 4:40 pm

First time in Austin, TX

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American flag and Texas flag

I spent this past weekend in Austin, Texas, filling up on lots of Tex-Mex and seeing more cowboy boots in two days than I usually see in a year. The temperature was in the high-80s and it was sunny, which was a little shock to the system in late October – I’d already been bracing myself for fall weather in DC. I’ve always heard good things about Austin and found it to be a pretty cool city. Although it has a higher population than DC proper, Austin is larger so things are more spread out. It also has a smaller surrounding metro area – less than a third the size of the Washington, DC metro area. This lack of density made parts of the city core feel somewhat empty at times. There are a few buses but not much other public transit to speak of. Didn’t see as many bicycles as I’d expected, either. I’d say most people drive.

Mechanical bull in an Austin barAustin has a lot of colorful murals, a constant schedule of events, and some interesting architecture (check out the Arthouse at the Jones Center, right in downtown). Muted tones under the hot Texan sun and fun art deco touches on buildings made up the unique aesthetic of the city. The bars are kind of quirky – we went to a dive bar with a huge jackalope replica that you could sit on and another place with a mechanical bull and an extensive list of shooters. South Congress Street has a row of boutiques and antique shops, including Uncommon Objects, the best antique store I’ve ever stepped inside. And the University of Texas at Austin has the largest college football campus I’ve seen in my life.

One highlight of our visit to Austin was seeing the incredible display of 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats flying out from the Congress Street Bridge to catch their dinner. We watched them from the bridge, but there’s also a park nearby where many Austinites and visitors gathered to watch the nightly ritual. Some others opted to take a tour boat, kayak, or paddle-bike on the river, which looked fun too.

Despite its slogan as the live music capital of the world, we unfortunately didn’t make the time to catch any shows. The streets (especially Sixth Street) are lively, though – you hear music streaming out from the bars onto the sidewalks. Since most of the bars have live music, it’d definitely be feasible to hear a band every night if you wanted to. Austin is also home to a couple of the most popular music festivals, including South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL). The Austin Film Festival was ongoing while we were in town, and the city has several beautiful historic theatres.

But really, if you need one reason other than the music to visit Austin, it’s the food. Austin is at the top of the heap when it comes to Tex-Mex and BBQ. Most Tex-Mex restaurants had veggie options; one taco joint on South Congress even had a vegan menu. We ate so well – and so much. Everything’s bigger in Texas.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 27th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: August 2011, Week 1

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1: Painting the roofs of buildings white is one strategy for reducing energy costs. In the summer, this allows more sunlight to reflect off of the roof (as opposed to a dark-colored roof) keeping it cooler inside the building.

2: Labor omnia vincit is a Latin phrase that is also Oklahoma’s state motto. It means “Labor conquers all” and appears in a work by Virgil in encouragement of Caesar’s back to the land policy (to promote farming as a profession). According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, almost 80% of Oklahoma’s land area is farmland.

3: As we know, there’s a great disparity in America in terms of transportation. Lack of good mass transit in the U.S. is one critical barrier to employment. A recent report on transportation states that for Americans in the lowest income bracket, approximately 42% of their annual income goes to paying for transportation. For middle-income Americans, that number is only 22%. And those lowest-income Americans tend to have the longest commutes – many of the poorest NYC residents have a commute of more than an hour each way. Transportation policy affects access to healthcare, to economic opportunity, and to affordable housing. (Source)

4: Via the Washington City Paper, here’s a great oral history of Fort Reno, an institution of local music: [Your Band] Played Here. For those who don’t know, Fort Reno is a park in the Tenleytown neighb DC that’s been putting on free summer concerts (punk, hardcore, indie rock, and other genres) on its outdoor stage on and off since 1968.

5: I haven’t had to search for housing in New York City before, so this is what I hear from friends living there: apparently it’s pretty common to hire a real estate broker to help you find a place to rent. No one I know has had to use a broker to find housing in DC, but then again the real estate market is much more competitive in NYC than in DC. For some of my friends, it’s taken three months just to find an apartment rental in New York.

6: The Guggenheim Lab is a traveling lab that is “part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space.” It’s in NYC until October 16th of this year, and we saw an interesting demonstration of edible water by a culinary performance group called a razor, a shiny knife (these are the same people that put on a 6-course brunch for 50 people on the L train).

Written by Crystal Bae

August 7th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: April 2011, Week 4

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24: Radiolab – one of my favorite radio shows with a focus on making science-heavy topics light enough for the general public to understand – is also very interesting for its production techniques. Radiolab has a unique sound design that layers and repeats clips of speech, strange noises, and timely pauses with the hosts’ commentary on topics ranging from overlooked day-to-day phenomena to more theoretical heights of philosophy. Speaking about the show’s sound design, Jad Abumrad is quoted in an interview: “The sounds should create a sense of subterranean movement. You know, like you’re hearing this surface narrative, but there’s some kind of turbulence in the depths deep below. That’s something that music can create, so I work really hard to create a bed of music that feels bottomless, but at the same time isn’t intrusive and manipulative.”

If you haven’t heard Radiolab yet, try this episode from March called “Help!” The part about the Russian ‘torpedo’ pill will make you cringe and say to yourself, “No way… really?” Questions aren’t always answered. But they’re certainly surfaced.

In the Hirshhorn

25: Ever wondered about the history of moving buildings? A brief history here.

26: The U.S. military’s been working with mobile app developers to find ways of implementing machine translation in situations where soldiers don’t have access to a live interpretors. Infantry units, for example, generally don’t have a human translator to help them. In PRI’s The World, a few of the demonstrated apps allowed a person to speak a phrase into the device and have it repeated back to them in the desired language. Some even have the ability to demonstrate proper body language, such as a hand gesture that may accompany a spoken phrase.

27: Rio Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame is considered Brazil’s top cop. Under his direction, the police force has managed to establish calm in the most crime-ridden of Rio de Janeiro’s many favelas (slums). A full 20% of Rio’s 9 million residents is housed in favelas; the largest, Rocinha, alone houses about a quarter million people. Beltrame’s approach to “pacifying” the favelas is highly resource-intensive – in one of the pacified favelas, the police-to-resident ratio is 1 officer for every 40 citizens – but effective: 

In four years under Beltrame’s control, police have “pacified” 14 slums, including Borel, the giant Complexo do Alemão, and the City of God—the flatland favela that inspired the eponymous drugs-and-thugs film. Dons of three competing crime factions are either in jail or dead. Nearly 1,000 rogue cops, including two former police chiefs, have been cashiered.” (Newsweek)

Barack Obama 'Hope' poster28: Street artist Shepard Fairey is probably someone you’ve heard of, at least in passing – he designed the famous Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster (at left) that was so prominent during the president’s election campaign. He started off with screenprinting, which has shaped his artistic style through necessary simplification of the colors and elements in his posters.

And Shepard Fairey’s been arrested 14 times, but takes a similarly freewheeling stance on these arrests. Fairey quotes Joe Strummer of The Clash in an interview: “Authority has no inherent wisdom.” (I have a photo of a piece in Philadelphia that definitely looks like Fairey’s style. Can anyone confirm?)

29: In the event of a flood, a colony of fire ants can cling to one another, forming a perfectly round raft that is so tightly woven that it forms air pockets which the ants can use to breathe. And this floating mass of ants can float for up to several weeks at a time.

30: According to my father, this dish is something of a delicacy in Korea: live octopus tentacles cut into pieces which are then dropped into a glass of soju (a clear Korean liquor) and taken as a shot (like a shot of liquor, not like a vaccine shot). The contact of the octopus legs with the soju makes the legs squirm around like crazy, which is what’s intended. I’m an adventurous eater, but I’m not sure I’d want to try it.

Written by Crystal Bae

May 1st, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: April 2011, Week 1

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01: In 1846, Tunisia became the first Arab state to abolish slavery. (“The Casbah Coalition,” Steve Coll in The New Yorker. Subscription required for full text.)

02: Went to Philadelphia for the weekend. A few things I learned from friends there:

  • That greenish tint that old copper statues take on is called a patina – the coloration is the effect of copper being exposed to the elements.
  • There are three categories of female voice registers, named after the parts of the body from which they are based: the head voice, the throat voice, and the chest voice. We were talking about this in terms of speech (pretty certain it’s also applied to singing). And they’re at least in some part socially constructed – females may tend to develop this ‘head voice’ due to accepted gender norms. Think of the high-pitched, nasal way girls and women speak at times and you’ll have some idea of what that sounds like. Men wouldn’t have what’s called a head voice, however – that’d be what’s known as a falsetto. The Italian term falsetto describes an artificially high imitation of this female head voice.
  • Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music) had a super wide range because she had incredibly tight vocal cords which allowed her to hit such high notes that she could break crystal. She later had a throat surgery in which a doctor accidentally sliced through part of her vocal cords, destroying her ability to cover the same musical register.
  • How to play the board game Risk. I’ve been missing out – it’s a fun mix of strategy and luck. A German pal notes that it goes by the same name in her language: Risiko.

Philly Wheatpaste

03: Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA and one of the richest men in the world, built the popular furniture empire from humble beginnings, selling imitations of high-end furniture built with cheaper material for affordable prices. He also allegedly supported a fascist group for some time, but not sure how true this is.

Ceviche is a dish in which fish is cooked using the acid of lemon juice. No heat is applied in this method of cooking.

04: A kost is an Indonesian boarding house. It’s described as similar to a private dorm.

05: In Ireland, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) is the one who makes the decisions, and the President of Ireland serves in more of a ceremonial (figurehead) role.

06: The nutria is a large rodent that looks much like a beaver, but much uglier and with a narrow tail. It’s a semi-aquatic animal that can be found living in sewage systems, so it’s considered a pest in many places. Because of this, some states have issued bounties on these rodents. Their fur is also used for clothing.

07: The feeling of muscle soreness a day or two after a workout is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Since this seems common, and most sites say it kicks in from 24-72 hours after the workout, I guess I no longer have to wonder why I feel sore two days later rather than the next day. DOMS isn’t prevented by stretching: stretching before physical activity is to reduce the risk of injury, not reduce soreness.

08: The H St NE corridor, or ‘the Atlas District,’ has really changed a lot in the past three years. The two blocks along the main strip are packed with small restaurants and bars, with 2.5 hour waits for the popular places like Granville Moore’s and the newly opened Toki Underground. I miss that free shuttle that stopped running recently. Before that, it used to be nothing more formal than a guy you’d call to pick you up in his small passenger car – sometimes fit 7 or 8 people in there at a time – to take you back to Union Station from the H St corridor. It’s a fun area, but probably better for a weeknight than the weekends. (Same as how Adams Morgan is much more bearable on weeknights.)

Written by Crystal Bae

April 9th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Screening of Jem Cohen’s film on Fugazi, Instrument (Feb 27, 2011)

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Takeaways from discussion after screening of Jem Cohen’s film on Fugazi, Instrument:

1 Everything is political. Don’t grow to believe your actions aren’t meaningful. You vote with your feet, as the expression goes. Recognize that political issues are relevant to your own life.

2 Don’t spend all your time praising others for the good work they’re doing, for fighting the good fight. Take that inspiration to go out there and do something.

3 Playing a show and asking people not to crowdsurf and slam dance isn’t “asking them not to dance,” it’s making sure no one gets hurt for coming to hear your music. It’s about a simple request: for people to act like human beings and just show some respect. The comparison Ian Mackaye drew was that this is akin to inviting people into your house and asking them not to stab the other guests.

Written by Crystal Bae

February 27th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Tip-thought-drop on musical circles

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Pockets of bands. You know: they’re linked together all over and support each others’ projects, run in the same circles. The members are the first to tell you “Matt’s got a new band” or “That’s Hugh’s new project and it’s a completely different sound.”

You run out to see them first purely as something to do that night, see some familiar faces and get sweaty or get transcendent. Get down or get lifted. You come back because there’s nothing to touch that feeling of communal bliss in waves of music, fields of feeling felt. It’s that – the best tracks, the greatest hits, or the exhausted misses. Or feeling milky soft in a trashed warehouse – there is basically no end to the number of ways you can write about it and yet some of us we try.

I love DC music. I love the never-ending act of community-building, because if we’re not all at ease living together than perhaps our work isn’t done. Acceptance can be built this way. Arms around strangers and the insistence that we create a community free of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and any form of discrimination. Insist that we examine our actions and thoughts daily to live more consciously. Others, too, believe it gets better and hate doesn’t have to be the baseline response to what we don’t yet know. Live not as a victim of a history you don’t claim, a history with a track record of exclusion. A message to those who’ve felt lost. Music as a giant reassuring hug.

Written by Crystal Bae

January 10th, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Wired Pop-up Store in NYC

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I had a chance to play around in the Wired store this weekend in NYC. Fun stuff to geek out about, free drinks, and unexpected interactivity. Yes, it’s still OK to be surprised by things, and it’s much better than acting (or are you acting?) jaded.

More photo fun.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 20th, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Recent pleasures

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It’s mid-December, and at this point every year I’m tempted to say, “Unbelievable, how quickly the year’s passed us by and how could it be over already and how we age at such a pace.” That doesn’t feel right with 2010, though. The year’s been light and fast and mostly joyous, sure, but more so it has been dense, exhausting, exciting. It’s snaked all over the place, lost its bounds, eaten its own tail. (I’m thinking Ouroburos.) What’s actually unbelievable is how much I’ve made of the year and how distant January seems… both of them, 2010’s sweetheart and 2011’s rising breath.

Of late, my own love melts in listening to Dustin Wong (you may be familiar with Baltimore’s Ponytail) and reading Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives (mostly on the long bus commute). I’m not waiting for anything, it’s all very close and dear.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 13th, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Black Prairie at Iota

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Black Prairie was great last night at Iota in Arlington. They’re a merry band consisting of three of the members of the Decemberists, so I wasn’t expecting such a pronounced bluegrass sound.

Maybe it isn’t a thorough characterization, but I see the Decemberists as holding close some folk vibes while being more a sea-faring, yarn-spinning sort of bunch. Their songs are sagas. My favorite Decemberists song is “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” which clocks in at almost 9 minutes, and in it Colin Meloy employs his conversational style of singing.

Black Prairie performs at Iota (excuse the camera-phone pic)

Black Prairie was rich instrumentals carried by the (to me unfamiliar) Dobro resonator guitar played by Chris Funk, and the roots requisites like the violin (Annalisa Tornfelt), guitar (Jon Neufeld), double bass (Nate Query), accordian (Jenny Conlee), and at some points also a banjo and a fiddle.

Further into the set, Tornfelt started playing a traditional Romanian instrument – it’s fairly small, played with a bow, and looks like it has two necks. I puzzled over it for awhile, then the Internet whispered that it’s probably the Stroh violin or something very much like that. Please also comment if you know anything more about the Strohn violin!

Black Prairie’s encore was probably the best thing about the show. They came off stage and played in the middle of the crowd. I know several people videotaped a song or two of the encore, so I’ll be checking online for those. After Black Prairie performed, my friend decided, “I like the Decemberists better without Meloy.”

Written by Crystal Bae

October 27th, 2010 at 6:19 am