Light Up the Sky

Of all the faces that mugged, vamped, and pouted to the camera at the peak of the music video era, what struck me about watching Eddie Van Halen so many years ago as a kid was his  content and easygoing smile as he effortlessly ripped through melodic riffs. It was purely joy at his craft and he’d be having a great time doing it whether you were watching him or not.

What are the things we spend our limited life on that spring that same feeling? How the rest of the world receives it is left to chance but the truth of our experience always reveals itself. Is it joy?

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In Memoriam: Neil Peart (1952-2019)

“At the end of the song, he throws his stick up high into the lights and catches it right before the final cymbal crash”  This was my introduction to the legend of Neil Peart.  Older kids, teenager family friends whose walls were plastered with posters of all the bands parents warned their kids about; Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, Ozzy Osborne. In 1980’s suburban Houston, there was still some concern that rock was a gateway to the temptations of the Devil.  (Spoiler alert: turns out that’s true, and it’s awesome).  But I loved drums and the mystique of this virtuoso planted a seed.

It wasn’t until middle school in the late 80s before I listened carefully to Rush and was hooked by drumming that stood as an equal alongside the guitar and vocals, just like I thought it should be.  Neil Peart’s fast fills and propulsive beat asserted a mastery through control, precision, and power; the holy triumvirate of virility to this adolescent looking for a glimpse into the adult world.  If his multi-tiered, impenetrable wall of percussion served as an easy target a la Spinal Tap, even a casual familiarity with Rush’s music reframed it as a testament to Peart’s dedication to a precision of sound.  Should a certain sound be needed even once, it would be worth devoting a place in the set for it.  There would be no substitute.

If punk is the epitome of musical impetuousness, Rush was the polar opposite: a sound that was borne of an assiduously calibrated instinct and repudiating the chaotic emotionality of intuition.  That was where I was at the time and Rush, through Peart’s intellectual approach and lyrics, met me there.

For the many miles ahead on your journey to a new universe, miles of smiles Mr. Peart.

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Transit Easter Eggs à la Montreal

There’s a school of thought that thinks of design as primarily a visual medium.

Haven’t many of us been seduced by the thin, sleek profile and attractive finish of a MacBook enough to lay down the bills to buy one?  The fit and finish are exquisite, yet the chintzy clatter from the keyboard come as a shock.  The taps from the keyboard made me wonder, is this is quality computer with a dinky keyboard or just a nice shell enveloping sub-par components?

The contrapositive is when a mundane experience is ennobled by unexpectedly thoughtful touches.  The morning commute can be the most forgettable part of every day but good design can leave subtle reminders that someone was thinking of you and wanted to make your experience more convenient, safer, or expressive.

During a trip to Montreal this summer I was struck by some very empathetic design elements in the transit system. Check out the slide show below.

Station doors

Picture 1 of 6

There's never any ambiguity about whether one should push or pull on a door in the Montreal transit system. Simply follow the arrows to push on the right side of the door, whether coming or going. And you'll never run into someone going in the opposite direction. (photo courtesy of wikipedia) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Portes_papillon_station_namur_metro_de_montreal.jpg#filelinks

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