Happy New Year 2015

I can’t believe that 2014 is done. It has been one hell of a year; I got married, started teaching, and really started taking my career seriously. Each one of these are worth going into in great depth… but I won’t.

Thanks for being awesome and catching up! How are you guys?

Web Design

CSS Guidelines

css guidelines

CSS Guidelines: High-level advice and guidelines for writing sane, manageable, scalable CSS. Pretty great advice here for those constructing well documented collaborative stylesheets.


Jodorowskys Dune

Jodorowskys Dune is a new documentary by Frank Pavich about the singular vision, of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, to make Dune into a film. From the trailer the visuals for the 1975 movie would have been breathtaking. This looks like an amazing story. Opens today in select theaters in NY and LA.

Design Film

Designing for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Designing for The Grand Budapest Hotel (Creative Review) is a fascinating look at the incredible and whimsical work of Annie Atkins, a Dublin based designer. (via The Fox is Black)

Grand Budapest Hotel Collage


Drakkar Noir

When I was in high-school I longed to be sophisticated in the way that all pubescent boys longed to be sophisticated – looking sophisticated to girls. Back in high-school my tools of appearing sophisticated ranged from:

  1. Reading Thoreau’s Walden to look independent and well read, because it was mentioned once on My-So-Called-Life, but hating every page.
  2. Listening to the Pixies which said “here’s a guy who’s part of the counter culture”, when all I wanted to do was listen to Paula Abdul.
  3. Writing for the literary magazine, because I had things to say.
  4. Dying my hair blue, because here’s a guy who looks like a dork, but is inside a punk rocker.
  5. Writing angsty, understanding to feminist ideals, poetry.

In short I was a complete poser. I was trying to please everyone else, because I never truly felt at home in my own skin. I thought what I liked was stupid and so I co-opted the popular alternative lifestyle of the time. Something akin to Jordan Catalano meets Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip. The unfortunate truth is, these two personalities were both completely unconvincing on me. I was that dork who didn’t want to be a dork.

These days, that may be difficult for modern-day dorks to understand, but before the popular culture accepted dorks, they mercilessly hunted us down and mocked us. We were the awkward trailblazers that eventually grew up to run every major corporation and conglomerate. Turned out, while being awkward wasn’t, being smart was pretty cool.

So when unpacking a box of things I had stored before going away to college, I was greeted with a familiar smell – Drakkar Noir. The little black bottle had been sophisticatedly stewing for 17 years awaiting it’s triumphant return to the teenager it had once defined. True to its tough and rugged scent, nothing had changed with the black matte bottle. 17 years and… nothing had changed. It smelled exactly the same as it I remembered.

It, unlike my younger self, was so blindly sure of itself – it remained the same, impenetrable to the years. It was an instant reminder of all my missteps. Hell, it was an instant reminder of the missteps of a generation of pimple-faced boys who simply wanted to be loved and thought a new smell might just be the ticket. So, to all the (now) men who once nervously visited a drug store and had an employee open a glass case to purchase a bottle of Drakkar Noir, instead of condoms, I raise my glass of Malbec* and solute you. All us dorks salute you – smelling all the sweeter.

*It is actually Pinot Noir, but the similarity was too much, even for a blog post.


Massimo and Lella Vignelli Talk Design

One of my favorite graphic design teams Massimo and Lella Vignelli talk about creativity, design, and social responsibility. One of my favorite things about Massimo is that he only uses around 5 typefaces – that’s it. The typefaces of his entire career can be summed up with the same precision as his work.


30 Fantastic Websites To Lose Yourself In

30 Fantastic Websites To Lose Yourself In is a great list by The Fox is Black. My favorites from the list are NoisliColourcodeHow Many People Are In Space Right Now?Monocle Ipsum, and Quotes and Accents.


Learn to love solitude,

Russian AF.

Music and Becoming a Patron of the Arts

I listen to a lot of music. Still. Even though I haven’t recorded a Tracks Up The Tree in years, I curate and collect music as if another show is just around the corner. (In reality Josiah and I haven’t really ended the show. It still goes on, it just hasn’t been recorded for a while.)

Otto A. Totland's Pinô

In my searches for music, I inadvertently ran into the music of Otto A. Totland one lone and wintry night. His music is like listening to a pianist explore the keys while he thinks no one is listening. It is as if the music is too precious to share, the recordings keep all the artifacts of the playing – with foot steps, the rustling of clothing, the depression of piano keys. His music, late on that wintry February night, was a revelation for me and I ran through my trusted music selling services to find where I could get a high quality FLAC copy of the album.

FLAC you might ask? But Ben, who uses Flac files? And why use them? Can’t we just use the Apple iTunes Music Store and get to bed?

Well Shirley, (I am assuming your name is Shirley – if it isn’t – I’m really not in touch with my audience anymore.) you see I have encoded my entire iTunes collection 3 times in my life (MP3, 128kbps AAC, & 256kbps VBR AAC) and at this point I am paranoid about my music collection. Every CD I buy gets ripped to FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Compression) or ALAC (That is Apple Lossless Audio Compression Shirley) and then I make a AAC (Advanced Audio Codec like the iTunes Store) which I put on my iPhone (this is like a music player that also receives phone calls). The time consuming process is really the ripping of the audio, once I have that on my computer as FLAC, I can transcode it to any audio format and audio quality my heart desires. When I have created my iPhone compatible AAC file, I archive the FLAC files onto Blu-ray discs. (Fancy right Shirley?!) If I can get a FLAC file off-the-bat it saves me the process of buying and ripping CDs to get my music fix.

In searching for the FLAC audio or CD of Pinô, I came across a recommendation on mentioning a music service for independent record labels. After heading to the site I was greeted with a huge page of independent record labels which I could subscribe to. Each monthly subscription, varying in price from $10-$15, secures you a spot to receive everything the record label releases during that month. It is very “of the moment” and there is no back catalog for you to download. When you subscribe is when your music starts rolling in and you only get what is released that month or any back catalog the label decides to release.

So hoping I would get Otto A. Totland’s masterpiece Pinô – I subscribed to the M+6 drip pool. The M+6 pool is a conglomeration of 6 independent record labels; Morr Music, Altin Vilage & Mine, Miasmah, Shelter Press, Immune, Sonic Pieces, and Roots Strata. While I had only really heard about Morr Music, who represent Múm, Lali Puna, and Ms. John Soda among others, there is tons of music and artists I had never heard about from the other labels. Webpage

After about a month, I can say the experience has been great! The M+6 pool is always interesting. I’m not into all the music that is released. Some of it sounds more like an audio sketch than a cohesive piece of music, but everything has been fun to listen to for the most part. The awesome music far exceeds the music I am luke-warm on. I also promptly subscribed to Ghostly International drip as I was curious to get ahold of the new Com Truise album and the new Tycho album releasing mid-March.

So now I am a patron of the arts, blindly supporting record labels who make music the masses may not care to explore and it feels great. It is like the Columbia House Music Club for hipsters who want to be closer to the cutting edge rather than the mass market. I totally recommend it to any of you who love music and want to listen to interesting things they might not have the time to discover on their own. For me it is $10-$15 well spent.

A quick aside. When I was writing this, listening to Pinô by Otto A. Totland, Funtime Julia actually came into my office and asked

“What are you playing? This is the most beautiful music I have ever heard. I realized I am relaxed instead of anxious about going to work today.”