Friday, August 21, 2020

typographic sponges

Recently, in my graphic design class, I did an exercise in typography.

Typography was something I had never really cared for. Until last year, I did not even know what it was about it. That said, using typefaces (or what people take for fonts) to convey something more than words is something interesting and even powerful, and I am only starting to embrace that.

The objective of the exercise is to use typography to express four qualities or characteristics of an household object.

Looking at the four representations above of the same word, what qualities or characteristics of a sponge come to mind?

Answers below.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

happy bastille day

Thirteen years ago, when I went to celebrate Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I never thought that it would be my last (to date).

Yet it was a memorable experience.

The day had been memorable so far, as I spent the morning with Alexandre and many others lined up along the Champs-Elysées to watch the military parade, during which I got a very quick glimpse of a Nicolas Sarkozy waving to the crowd from the presidential car as it passed by.

The evening brought a welcome opportunity to chill, after battling for a chance to see tanks drive by and fighter jets fly by.

I went to meet Chi-Yang and some of his friends on Champ de Mars, where an huge, festive picnic was taking place. In the distance, near Ecole Militaire, musicians such as Nelly Furtado, Stanislas, and Michel Polnareff took turns performing sets on a large stage that had been set up.

And then the fireworks came. As I snapped pictures, "La Valse d'Amélie", a track from the Amélie soundtrack, started playing and I got giddy. "I know that song!", I said excitedly, to anyone who would listen. Having arrived in France only five months before, I felt in that moment a little more French.

Friday, May 22, 2020

celebrating mbira

The mbira made it to the Google Doodle stage yesterday!

The feature was made to commemorate Zimbabwe Culture Week and it's just awesome news that this wonderful instrument got this level of attention.

Click on the image below to check out the Google Doodle, and to learn about — and even play — the mbira.

celebrating mbira

I became charmed after discovering the soft, melodic, and hypnotic sounds of the mbira during a world music introduction class in college.

Twenty something years later, I learning to play the instrument to remain charmed.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

why i love san francisco (2)

When you try to let go of the past and live in the present moment ... without success.

We all know that it's hard.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

why i love san francisco

Yes, I love Paris, but I love San Francisco too.

One of my favorite things to do when I return to the San Francisco Bay Area is to head to the Marin Headlands for breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It only makes sense; it was something that I loved doing when I was living in the area long ago. The bridge in its splendor. The immense body of water. The wide panorama of San Francisco. The high hills of the Headlands. It all offered a feast for the eyes and moments of serenity, far away from the traffic and hustle and bustle in the city.

As I was in the area earlier this month, I looked forward to keeping this tradition. This pilgrimage was going to be a bit different though this time. I wanted to reproduce the view on paper for the first time ever, so I brought along my pens and sketchbook.

I managed to make not one but two sketches, each from viewpoints only half a mile apart along Conzelman Road in Marin County. The first was from the Golden Gate Observation Deck, the second from the Golden Gate View Point. Part of the joy of the experience was sending my sketcher friend Anne just a photo of my first sketch with the view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background,  on WhatsApp. She was not expecting it ; she must have assumed that I was in Paris as usual! But no, I was far, far away.

Views of the Golden Gate Bridge

Before leaving, I discovered and scouted a third viewpoint, also on Conzelman Road but even closer to the famous bridge: Battery Spencer.

I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the mastery of love

Hands down one of the discoveries of the year, if it is not THE discovery ...

It's all in the title, of this book by Don Miguel Ruiz.

My favorite quotes are several in number, and they include the following two:

Love in action can only produce happiness. Fear in action can only produce suffering.

The whole world can love you, but that love will not make you happy. What will make you happy is the love coming out of you.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

my red nose (3)

Ever since picking up the red nose again, I opened my mind up to new places where I could take it to.

With each new place visited, I felt more comfortable with the nose in public. Naturally, I started dreaming up other uncomfortable situations. As a guide, I chose those situations where I did not completely give in to that thing that made me really uncomfortable. For example, consider the following question: When is a good time to leave the office for lunch wearing the red nose? Around 1pm, when most colleagues have already left for their break? Or just before noon, when the office space is pretty much still full? I will let you guess which situation is more uncomfortable. If you are having difficulty, here is a hint: my desk in the open space is the farthest from elevator area.

My adventures in discomfort included (in chronological order) :
  • a lunchtime walk from one end of a mall to another, in the business district where I work
  • a trip to the bookstore to buy some language learning material
  • a lunchtime visit to the cafe inside my work building (I queued up for a salad to go)
  • a trip to the open-air market where I usually buy fruits
  • a wait at the bus stop with other people
  • a stop at the supermarket to buy some groceries
  • a lunchtime visit to the cafeteria inside my work building (I sat down to eat in the middle of the dining room full of people)
  • a trip to the pharmacy to buy some prescribed medication
The idea behind the above adventures was to expose the red nose to as many people as possible while doing everyday things, such as waiting for the bus and shopping for groceries. I wanted to put myself out there, people often say. Myself in the red nose, of course.

The adventure at the bus stop was a breakthrough of sorts. I could not remember the last time I had felt as free in public. I played around with the red nose, putting it on and then off and then on again, receiving some strange looks in the process. But I couldn't care less about that, because in that moment, I was free. And with that same feeling of freedom, I boarded the bus when it arrived. Once I got off in my neighborhood, I greeted people whose paths I crossed with smiles and thumbs up. Such bliss I was in.

As I got the red nose more exposed, I got some unexpected reactions from familiar people, including the following.
  • A fruit seller at the farmer's market thought that I had caught a cold
  • A colleague thought that I had drunk a little too much and gone cuckoo
  • Several colleagues thought that I had lost a bet
  • A random lady told me : "C'est très beau"
And then one morning, after arriving at the office in costume, I decided to put the red nose to rest.

What happened?

What happened was that I discovered that I had become very self-conscious. That is to say, my mind was too occupied with the idea that I saw myself different from others when I wore the red nose. I felt like the red nose pushed me to channel too much of my attention inward, and that bothered me. Moreover, I got the impression that I was creating a distance with people, since wearing a red nose in public was something that people could not relate to and I was not really open to interactions that could make that more understandable. In other words, it was as if I was telling myself: "Yes, you stand out, but you are all alone." I felt even more alone than I was when behaving "normally" in public without talking to anyone.

Since the morning that I made this discovery, I have not worn the red nose, with no regrets.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

views of the outdoors from indoors in courbevoie

La Défense

Almost a year after publishing a blog post on outdoor sketching near my work building in Courbevoie, I did not expect to write a companion piece showing other sketches of the Courbevoisien outdoors, but this time from indoors.

Yet after finding myself with three such sketches, the opportunity to bring them all together and to share the fruits of the labor was too exciting to pass up.

I took my time on these sketches, which were done inside my work building over several days, at lunchtime or in the evening after work hours.

Immeuble en chantier, Courbevoie

Above is a building in construction along the train tracks joining Paris (terminus Saint-Lazare train station) to La Défense.

Boulevard de la Mission Marchand, Courbevoie

Above is the track for Tram 2a along Boulevard de la Mission Marchand. This tram line joins Paris (terminus Porte de Versailles) to La Défense.