#7. (The right) FONTS.

Most people don’t realise the power of using the appropriate fonts. Graphic designers and people who work with advertising and typography definitely get it. I’m no professional but I get it as well. People think I’m weird because I pay attention to the kinds of fonts used in Powerpoint presentations, Word documents, even in billboards and posters. Sometimes I tend to go as far as even criticising the use of Broadway on the club names in the Organizations section of last year’s ISB yearbook, the misuse of Trebuchet MS all over our yearbook last year, and, worst of all, the copious amounts of the dreaded Comic Sans MS on every slide of my Physics teacher’s slideshows last year. I mean, seriously, how old are we, five?

I love fonts. I love the right fonts. I like it when the right fonts are used at the right time, which, in me-speak means that Jokerman, Chiller and Broadway should never be used. Comic Sans MS should be limited to childrens’ presentations, and fonts like Courier New exist for a purpose, such as being the standard font for all film screenplays. Over the years my font philosophy has changed drastically, and it is currently at a less-is-more stage. This idea of parsimony can go a long way, though. One thing that the average, amateur wannabe graphic designer (like me) should notice is that all these funky fonts are not necessarily the way to go. There are fonts that are, though seemingly simple, have made a huge impact on graphic design over the past fifty or so years.

Take the font Helvetica for example. Designed by Max Miedinger in 1957 this font has been used virtually everywhere, including the New York Subway signs. When thinking about it, Helvetica seems like no more than another sans-serif typeface, the Mac counterpart of Windows’ Arial. However, when looking at the massive impact that Helvetica has made on style in general, people should realise that fonts are more important that most may think. Personally, I’m a Helvetica groupie!

Periodic Table of Typefaces.

Periodic Table of Typefaces.

That’s all the time I have. I should really update more often.

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#6. The limo scene at the end of the 7th episode of Gossip Girl’s first season

To the Gossip Girl-illiterate, I am referring to this scene, which is almost two years old. Oh crap, it’s almost two years old!

While playing the “POWAH!” playlist in my iTunes library, which consists of most of my powerpop and punk pop songs, the song “With Me” by Sum 41 came up. Now, that song is very memorable for me because every time  hear it, I automatically associate it with the above scene from the Gossip Girl episode, “Victor, Victrola”. The scene ends the episode with Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf intensely making out — and eventually having sex, though this is implied — at the back of a moving limousine. The chemistry, poetic editing and spot-on song choice make this my all-time favourite scene from a television series. Ever.

In the context of the rest of the first season of the show, this scene was significant because it caused a real plot twist and result in new tensions between characters. I mean, who would have expected that Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf would end up falling in love with each other, especially while Blair was in a supposedly perfect relationship with Nate Archibald, Chuck’s best friend?

Alright, fine, the whole idea of the-best-friend-and-the-boyfriend is truly superficial and clichéd, but the amount of chemistry between Chuck and Blair in that particular scene made it seem like the two were actually meant for each other. Though the premise of the show is completely fictional, though, I think that this scene serves as evidence that a few seconds can really make a huge difference and change the course of someone’s life story, possibly even forever.

Possibly another factor that made me love this so much was the way the scene was put together. The sequences leading up to this one, save for the tragedy in Nate’s family, consisted of character relationships seemingly falling into place: old lovers Rufus and Lily viewing a ceiling art projection together, Rufus’ daughter Jenny asking her mother to come home, and Jenny’s brother Dan post-de-virginity with the love of his life, Blair’s best friend Serena. The scene then cuts to a moving limo, where two unlikely characters come together. What happened at the back of that limousine eventually broke a balance that seemed to be coming to existence, and intentional or not, that interruption was depicted through the way the make-out scene was edited together: through vintage-style fragments of film.

The scene looked like an old film being projected on the screen wherein the projector-man didn’t do his job very well. I would assume that the intention for this was probably so that the editing at the end of the episode would match that of the beginning, but I could also see so much more in it. The scene comes in fragments, and the shots don’t flow cohesively. There is so much shot variety for that single moment that could have otherwise consisted of only one, maybe two to three shots. This editing made the segment visually poetic, and the intimacy and intensity shown in some shots were definitely plus points for the show’s mostly female viewing demographic.

However, I don’t think that the scene would have been complete without the song “With Me” by Sum 41. The way that this song was interlaced with the editing so perfectly. It was the perfect marriage of image, and this idea of the perfect pairing may have to do with the pairing of Chuck and Blair, the unlikely couple that seems to be just about made for each other. The lyrics match the scene as well: “I don’t want this moment / To ever end / When everything’s nothing / without you / I want you to know / With everything I won’t let this go / These words are my heart and soul”. It’s as if the song was written for the scene, and for that pairing between Blair and Chuck.

What’s important as well is that viewers of the show will always associate the song with that particular scene. I know I do, and I know other people who do as well. This scene was amazing and I hope I was able to justify my point.

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#5. “Opposition” by Kaneko Mitsuharu

12096_Mitsuharu_Kaneko

Mitsuharu Kaneko (1895–1975)

Opposition

In my youth
I was opposed to school.
And now, again,
I’m opposed to work.

Above all it is health
And righteousness that I hate the most.
Theres nothing so cruel to man
As health and honesty.

Of course I’m opposed to the Japanese spirit
And duty and human feeling make me vomit.
I’m against any government anywhere
And show my bum to authors and artists circles.

When I’m asked for what I was born,
Without scruple, I’ll reply, To oppose.
When I’m in the east
I want to go to the west.

I fasten my coat at the left, my shoes right and left.
My hakama I wear back to front and I ride a horse facing its buttocks.
What everyone else hates I like
And my greatest hate of all is people feeling the same.

This I believe: to oppose
Is the only fine thing in life.
To oppose is to live.
To oppose is to get a grip on the very self.

Kaneko Mitsuharu
1895-1975

————–

Mitsuharu Kaneko’s poem, “Opposition”, is about rebellion from the norm. The poet, Mitsuharu Kaneko, had a reputation for his anti-establishmentarianism, and the poem reflects his ideal outlook on life. Each stanza in the poem introduces different situations that have been customary and natural to mainstream human society; the poet, however, states his disdain for aspects of society such as school and work. His opinion is summarised by the lines, “When I’m in the east, I want to go to the west”. These lines suggest his constant longing for what he isn’t already exposed to.

I believe that the key to understanding this poem is in the line, “to oppose is to live”. By opposing against the default lifestyles that have been defined by society as “normal”, a person is able to see the world and live life from a different perspective. The poet does have a point with the presence of this particular line. Over the years society has established what is considered as the “normal” way of life. Society established school, ethics, and what is known to modern man as “right” or “wrong”. The way the world works as it is now has to do mostly with what has been created by people of the past. To follow life’s “rules” can have someone’s mind easily bound in a box with thoughts limited to what is deemed as “normal”. However, these should not be considered as “normal”, rather, these should simply be thought of as common and “mainstream”.

“To oppose”, as suggested in this poem, would be to look at the “mainstream” aspects of life and to defy them. In this way a person would be able to explore different aspects of life in ways that are alternative and independent from the norm and possibly even open windows of opportunity that would have otherwise been impossible if a person chooses to remain constrained to limited thinking (take note that the poet grew up in early 20th century Japan, a rather conservative society). Therefore, a person is able “to live” at a higher level.

The final line of the poem poignantly ends with some introspective food for thought: “To oppose is to get a grip on the very self.” This extends the message of the poem to the reader, asking him or her not only to act independently but also to think independently. Overall, I believe that the poem asks the reader to live for independence and individualism on his or her own terms, rather than by the rules that external authorities have imposed upon them.

I like this poem because it’s fairly easy to understand and fairly easy to relate to. I understand what the poet is trying to convey because his ideals are very forward-thinking while down to earth at the same time. It’s highly comprehensible, which shows that a poem does not have to be overdosed on flowery language for it to be considered as a “good poem”. That’s probably another deviation that Mitsuharu applied to his poem. It’s straightforward in its free verse nature and I love that. This poem reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” in a sense that it makes me think back on certain decisions that I have made and wondered about the “what ifs” had I chosen another direction.

This poem reminds me how great the world really is.

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#4. YourSceneSucks.com

YourSceneSucks.com was, around this time last year, my go-to site for personal entertainment. It features 25 (as of last month) stereotypes of today’s “scenesters”, complete with a guide to each character’s stereotypical appearance, personality, playlist and links. The “scenesters” displayed on the site range from the “generic ’emo’ boy” and girl (screamo and skunk hair included) to crunkcore kids in their ostentatious hoodies and even Pitchfork-reading, anti-consumerist indie hipsters.

Though each “scenester” on the site is definitely a caricature of the actual characters they personify, the essence of each stereotype doesn’t deviate too much from actuality. The site overall is eventually humorous, especially to those who can either relate to a stereotype or can make a connection between one of the “scenesters” and someone they might know.

I love visiting YourSceneSucks.com because it satirises a growing population of this generation (and a few years older). Also, the featured playlists for each scenester are rather amusing, since I do enjoy listening to Say Anything/Chiodos/Taking Back Sunday/Motion City Soundtrack/System Of A Down/Breathe Carolina/3OH!3/Iron And Wine/Jose Gonzalez/HelloGoodbye/Cobra Starship/Boys Like Girls/Escape The Fate/Underoath/Saosin/The Used/Atreyu/Fall Out Boy/Panic! At The Disco/The Hush Sound/Regina Spektor/Peaches/Lady Sovereign/The Faint, even though I refuse to be thoroughly affiliated with any “scene”. I proudly listen to whatever music I choose — which, might I add, is a fair mix mainstream and alternative music. With my iTunes library on shuffle I could be listening to Air and press “next” and hear the Jonas Brothers. My wardrobe isn’t something to speak of in the same way, though. The only reason why I might say that it cannot be attributed to any stereotype is because my closet barely has anything (of value) in it.

However, I find this collage of sorts quite ironic; the formation of such “scenes”, which were probably supposed to exhibit a person’s individuality, in my opinion, is destroying the essence of individuality itself. Having a label allows little room for originality, and scenesters and hipsters alike end up like sheep in whatever social crowd they’re a part of. That’s probably the main idea that YourSceneSucks.com is trying to convey.

Really though, someone’s personality shouldn’t have to fit a certain genre; humans don’t necessarily have to look like the music they listen to. Individuality is named so for a reason and personalities shouldn’t have to fall in categories. If you find yourself easily identifying with one of the kids on the site, then there are at least a thousand yous out there, maybe a thousand in your own country, even, and you’re probably not as original or “cool” as you thought you were.

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#3. Cobra Starship

They say that kid has got soul.

Cobra-Starship-fr07Since it’s been a month since the first post, I decided to post yet again. I have a couple of videos loading, and right now I’m listening to a Youtube video of Cobra Starship playing a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. In the meantime, I decided to add Cobra Starship to my list of “interests”.

Now, despite my repetitive outbursts against hipster culture and despite my constant self-reassurance that I am over and done with my punk pop phase, I have to admit that I have a huge weakness for Cobra Starship. How much of this adoration can be attributed to my opinion that Gabe Saporta is a sexy beast, I’m not totally sure, but there I feel spellbound to their music every time I listen to them. I keep a mental list of bands that I can just “zone out” to. Muse is definitely on that list, as well as The Strokes, The Smiths, Iron and Wine, Stars… Fall Out Boy… Cobra Starship is definitely one of those musical acts that I can just listen to on repeat and not get sick of.

What I like so much about Cobra Starship — Gabe Saporta (vocals), Ryland Blackinton (guitar), Alex Suarez (bass), Nate Novarro (drums) and Victoria Asher (keytar) — is their music. Their original and somewhat obscene lyrics are coupled with catchy pop-punk and synth pop tunes, creating a sound that is uniquely Cobra Starship and, overall, a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. My ultimate favourite Cobra Starship songs are “The City Is At War”, “Prostitution Is The World’s Oldest Profession (And I, Dear Madame, Am A Professional)”, “Smile For The Paparazzi”, “The Church Of Hot Addiction”, “Bring It (Snakes On A Plane)” and their new single, “Good Girls Go Bad (feat. Leighton Meester)”.

Haters aside, indietronica/pop-punk hipsters aside, Cobra Starship is pretty damn badass.

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#2. The O.C.

the-ocThe O.C. was a television show that ran four seasons from 2003-2007. The show revolved around four teenagers living in Newport Beach, Orange County, California. It’s not quite 90210 and not quite Gossip Girl, but I remember this show being a rival of One Tree Hill while at its prime.

I could say that growing up, The O.C. is the best television series that I watched. For some people, that coming-of-age show would be Friends, Beverly Hills 90210 or One Tree Hill, but for me it has got to be this one. As a 12-year-old I couldn’t find anything not to love about the characters. They were so rich, stylish and f***ed up.

However, among all the things that I love about The O.C., the prime element of the show that hooked me in (and continues to enamour me today) is Seth Cohen, one of the main characters who was played by Adam Brody. Seth epitomised the archetype of the gawky, curly-haired Jewish geek. Obsessed with comic books and socially invisible, there is an awkward manner about Seth Cohen that I found extremely attractive. I’m not sure whether this was caused by the character itself or Adam Brody’s mere portrayal of the character, but my adoration for Seth Cohen eventually created a “Seth Cohen” type in my head. Nowadays, every time I see a guy that remotely reminds me of Seth Cohen’s character, my instant reflex would be to make that connection between the two. This was my reaction to Zachary Levy’s title character on the NBC show, Chuck. This was my reaction to Dan Humphrey of Gossip Girl and to Sid Jenkins of Skins. Though the similarities are much more remote in this case, but I used to compare Nick Jonas to Seth, even. It’s just that ever since watching The O.C., Seth Cohen has always been that ideal guy, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

Regardless of the show’s cancellation in 2007, I don’t think The O.C. will ever get old in my book. Four seasons seemed to be the perfect length; at least it didn’t end up overextending itself like how it is with One Tree Hill these days. If there was a show from this decade that I wouldn’t mind being remade as a movie or a series in ten years (provided, of course, that it would be a decent remake and not a run-of-the-mill rip-off of the original), it would definitely be The O.C.

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#1. Learning Japanese

Teaching oneself a language is hard. About two weeks ago, I started to teach myself Japanese. It’s difficult, exponentially harder than I expected. Learning Hiragana was fairly easy, since there were only a few characters to learn and everything was pretty much straightforward after the first 24 hours of headscratching.

It got a lot more difficult once I began to try to teach myself grammar lessons from a website. I’m still off lesson five, which is numbers — finally got some Kanji going on — but I’m afraid of moving on to lesson six. Verbs.

Conjugation is ridiculously confusing for me when it comes to Japanese. I have to move along soon, though. I must progress. I like teaching myself Japanese because I want to learn Japanese. I’m already fluent in two languages, and I doubt that another three will hurt. I’m thinking Spanish (did three years, must go on further), Japanese (doing it right now) and French (but not until I have a better grasp of Spanish). Those three languages are ones that I love to hear and see. I can’t wait to actually be able to understand them.

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