Smallblog

by David DeSandro

Already

There is something magical when I come across a blog or tumblr or site, and it uses Masonry. Before I saw it, I didn’t know the thing existed. But now here it is, and somehow I’m already a small part of it.

Favorite music 2013

This year was all about X chromosomes. Female-fronted acts came out with some stellar albums.

Personally, I’m discovering my taste is being ever more focused on pop music. It’s possibly spurred by less free time. I’ve lost my patience for twelve minute experiential soundscapes. Give me a melody. And if the chorus crescendoes into a bridge? I’m sold.

Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob

Tegan & Sara - Heartthrob

Power pop at its catchiest. Every track on this album is a heavy hitter, deserving of its own musical interlude in the next Joseph Gordon Levitt movie. My only regret is that I’m not a 15 year old girl who can get away with belting these songs into her hairbrush.

Patterns – Dangerous Intentions

Patterns - Dangerous Intentions

At first listen, Patterns has the making of yet another 80’s nostalgia act. Most acts of the sub-genre are content with employing the synth-pop cliché like a crutch. But Patterns use it as a platform to set up lead vocalist Michelle Gonzalez to sizzle and pop like hot peppers on a skillet. Woman can sing.

Thanks to Talbs for his initial recommendation on this one.

Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time

For about a month I had this song stuck in my head. Jangly power chord riffs, female vocals, catchy chorus. I had the memory of the song, but couldn’t verify its lyrics, let alone its origin. The song was so infectious that I bugged my co-workers for 20 minutes to help me identify it, shamelessly singing the one melody over and over. They were of no help.

But to my luck, I was able to resolve the mystery as I listened through Night Time, My Time. Even better, the true song and rest of the album live up to the ideal I kept in my head for so long.

2013 stuff done

With Isotope v2 beta out, I got a lot of stuff done this year.

(I apologize for the braggy tone of this post. I’m lucky that this year was a good year. I’d like to capture how it happened.)

Looking back, I’m interested how this year was more productive, considering my full-time job is appropriately demanding, and this year was the oldest I’ve ever been. I have several ideas why.

  • Work was not crazy. I was able to keep regular hours.

  • I worked on side projects in smaller time segments – 1, 2, maybe 3 hours. I didn’t stay up late into the night, tinkering. I didn’t get burnt out from long work sessions. When I began a period of work, I felt capable of working for a smaller time frame and leaving things as-is when I felt I had enough.

  • My projects had clear goals. I had a decent vision of each before I began.

  • I purposely ignored the Isotope and Masonry issue trackers. These were inputs that didn’t directly impact the projects.

  • I worked on one project at a time. I didn’t start a new project until completing the current one.

I think I can generalize these reasons as comprising good balance of being on and off. I was able to turn on and work because I was able to shut off and not work.

I find it interesting that these projects (except for the Bower talk) didn’t have any hard deadlines.


Shipping Isotope v2 is a big deal for me as it is a culmination of all the projects. Every project on the list above was a necessary stepping stone towards landing the new version.

Plenty of more work is left to be addressed, but the projects are conceivably done for now. This provides a new opportunity. For the first time in years, I can focus my attention on something other than a layout library. If 2014 has any of 2013’s good fortune, that may just happen.

You And The Night

Movies hold just as precious a spot in the heart of Anthony Gonzalez as music does. His move to Los Angeles several years ago was partly motivated to enable opportunities in Hollywood. So when it was announced that M83 would be scoring a big budget, post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, it sounded like a slam dunk.

That didn’t happen. Within the Hollywood machine, the soundtrack to Oblivion sounded much like any other big budget action adventure flick. It’s a decent soundtrack in of itself, but you can hardly call it an M83 album.

Now, with barely any announcement, we have the second M83 soundtrack in 2013. It’s respective film, You And The Night, is the complete opposite of Oblivion – an independent French drama about an orgy (seriously did not make that up). Likewise, the results are just as different. This is the M83 soundtrack we’ve been waiting for.

You And The Night is M83 doing what M83 does best. It features all qualities missing from Oblivion – ambient atmospherics, escalating synth drones, mysterious vocals, and simplistic piano ballads – clichés Gonzalez can’t help but indulge.

Given the short turnaround between the two films, it begs asking just how separate these two soundtracks are. Was You And The Night made in response to the disappointment of Oblivion, or was it made out of former film itself? You And The Night features two female vocalists, echoing the same haunting melody, almost mirroring the plot of Oblivion. Tom Cruise’s character is haunted by two female presences – his lover at home, and a woman in a dream.

Most likely, it’s just a coincidence. The two soundtracks act as two halves to the same whole – one a façade, the other a wish come true.

No more squares

I love you, Instagram. You got everybody taking pictures with their phones. That’s a great thing.

I love you, Vine. Looks like you’re getting people taking videos. That’s a great thing too.

But sweet Jimminy, no more squares.

No more squares.

No more squares.

I’m looking at you designers. I realize using a square format for capturing images makes a lot of things easy. The viewport fits in the screen with more space for buttons. Gallery layout is obvious. But this shortcut will eventually lead to a dead end. Galleries will feel homogeneous and flaccid. Compose screens will feel rote and immature.

Rectangular formats have an innate motion and dynamism provided by their orientation. A wide image makes your eyes move horizontally. A tall image makes your eyes vertically. Square images are just there. They are. Sure, this absence of movement can be a refreshing characteristic. Like a sip of water to cleanse the palate. But to have all the photos square? It’s like a tofu-only meal.

Square images are Wes Anderson films. Every shot is sterilized and centered and right there. It feels cute and captured, but never captivating, never human. An orientation tells a simple story. How did the photographer hold her camera? Square images are taken, end of story.

A square is an avatar. It is an icon. It is not a photo. It is not a story.