Developing a concept

The addition of ‘escape the jungle’ to my blog’s main menu is taking shape. I plan to add a few sub menus to cater for all the things in life that help me to escape the jungle – to be less chimp and more rational being. Less anxious and more free.

So far I have art, design, productivity and psychology.

Within these categories I will post my favorite stuff. There will be subcategories too I guess…sport goes somewhere. This is the stuff I love and enjoy. The stuff that makes my life better.

Happy Sunday chimps.

New Years purge

We are purging our cupboards on the first day of the year. Although it wasn’t planned for this exact day, the timing feels extremely cathartic and right.

We will send our old clothes to one of the multitude of needy causes nearby. Africa does not struggle when it comes to charities and needy folk, unfortunately.

The purge is also spreading to my man cave/office which is chock full of my stuff….this includes all the coolest stuff (posters, guitars, Hifi amps and speakers) and all the junk I have collected over the years (old battery chargers anyone?)

If you are looking for something to do to start the new year right, I’d highly recommend a purge.

Happy New Years chimps!

Design impacts Art & Design impacts Health. Therefore Health = Art.

Odd title, let me explain.

In reading about the impact of design and space on our wellbeing, I have come more and more to believe in well designed homes as a source of wellbeing. Conversely poorly designed homes are bad for our long term health. Certain spaces will create stress or isolation, and others will create relaxation and communion. Healthy spaces should account for all stimuli entering the brain through all the senses.

So far so good. I imagine, dear reader, that you are with me on this…or at least you are willing to entertain the notion that a room full of comfy couches, mellow music, warm lighting and sweet lavender smells is better for our health than a damp, dark basement with odours of rat poo.

But this is where my mind makes a weird connection, so as Samuel L Jackson famously said about the dinosaurs: “hold on to your butts”.

I recently came across this quartz article which looks at the impact of headphones on media and pop music: link I found myself nodding to the words throughout the article. Media has become a certain way (mainly bass heavy music or intimate chats in the form of podcasts) because of its main mode of consumption – headphones which have tiny speakers and offer a private signal direct to your brain. The design of the headphones affects the media in exactly the same way the design of your house affects your wellbeing.

Think of wellbeing as a piece of amorphous art you need to try and shape with whatever you have at your disposal. Just like the music that is shaped by the arenas, churches or headphones in which it is played. Life is a song. Life is art. I’m sure those are old, cheesy sayings but they suddenly make a lot of sense to me.

Christmas is upon us like a tidal wave now. I have started to crank some soulful Christmas carols and hang some sweet smelling decorations for my family’s wellbeing and communion if nothing else.

Happy Friday chimps.

Hifi Inventory 1 – Amplifiers

1. Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amp. A beautiful addition to your desktop. It suits the Apple aesthetic and it will crank any headphones you can throw at it. Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.

2. Onkyo TX8270 Stereo amp / network receiver. This is what powers our TV setup. It is a bit of an overkill at the moment considering the majority of our TV watching these days consists of “Pippa Pig”, “Puffin Rock” and “Llama Llama”. But I digress – this thing will give you any music you can think of, from Spotify Connect to Tidal to TuneIn radio, it will stream from the net. Then there is the DSD option, Bluetooth…basically anything you can think of. And it’s powerful enough for most speakers. Onkyo | TX-8270

3. Denon DM41 mini Hifi. This is a beauty for bookshelf or desktop in a small room. CDs and other inputs and Bluetooth make it very flexible – it sounds amazing too. Highly recommended. Denon D-M41DAB review | What Hi-Fi?

4. HRT MicroStreamer. This thing is a portable Amp and DAC to improve the sound from your laptop or cellphone. It certainly sounds good hooked up to the Asgard, but I am not sure if it is any better than the laptop’s internal system. Either way. Hifi marketing works on me. HRT microStreamer review | What Hi-Fi?

5. Musical Fidelity A1 stereo Amp – this one I got second hand from a wheeler dealer who sold me on the sound by hooking it up to an insane set of speakers. I couldn’t afford the speakers but the old map was doable. It’s (supposedly) a Class A amp which means a better build and sound. I need to get some speakers to really test it. Musical Fidelity A1 › Introduction

Hifi Inventory

Hifi equipment seems to grow in the corners of my house like a sort of ‘metal and wires’ fungus. It drives my wife crazy, but I can’t get enough of it. You see, setting up Hifi systems is strangely soothing to my mind. It gives me an escape from the jungle of life, and of course it gives me music.

To keep track of this (expensive) habit, I am starting a new section under the menu and widgets section (top right of the chimpwithcans.com webpage). “Hifi Inventory” will keep track of what I have and what I lust after. Maybe it will help me keep track of spending too!

What do you collect? Is it creating more of a jungle in your life? Or is it somehow helping you escape?

Designers on Instagram

Good design can help you escape your own personal jungle. These are some of the cool people I follow on Instagram for design stuff:

Studio Dylan Thomaz: @studio.dylan.thomaz – interior design in Cape Town SA with a focus on happiness through design.

Tone Alexander Design Studio: @tonealexander – Interiors and gardens designed locally here in Cape Town.

Fern & Roby: @fernandroby – Industrial design and Audio (speakers and turntables mainly) and beautiful furniture made in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

Happy Tuesday Chimps.

Making it interesting

Check out this passage from a book I am reading:

The eardrum is connected to three tiny, loosely hinged bones inside the middle ear. Each bone is delicate and exquisitely shaped. One looks like a hammer and is called by its Latin name, malleus. The next, the incus, looks like an anvil. And the third, the stapes, looks like a stirrup. When the eardrum vibrates, these bones vibrate in tune with its movement and with the movement of the air.

Three bones make all the sound you hear in your head! This sort of thing blows my mind, and yet I gave up biology at 15.

Maybe if my biology teacher had linked it all to music I would have paid attention.

Footage

I received a video yesterday from my dad. He was fronting a full on soul band. A blues brothers style suit on, he was singing on stage playing his Stratocaster next to my sister who played saxophone.

It made me think that not many families have such cool footage. It reminded me that my family roots are creative, bold, and musical.

It was such a great video to receive and I was so proud of them. Thanks dad.

Room design

I change the set up of my house quite frequently. It’s not something I thought I would become interested in, but interior design can impact your health, your mood, your daily movement.

The latest casualty is our bedroom. There is a small flight of stairs leading into the room. It used to be that as soon as you walked down the three or four stairs, our bedside table got in your way, then our bed got in your way. You had to make a hard left turn to get anywhere else in the room.

Now the bed and table are the other side of the room, freeing up the entry. The “Flow” of the room (ha! I’m writing about “room flow”) is so much better now that you can walk down the stairs and just keep on going. If you like you can keep going all the way through the room, unimpeded to the garden. It’s amazing how much difference this one change has made.

I also rigged up a sweet Hifi system in the bedroom using an old amp with Denon speakers and a chromecast. Check out the photos on the @chimpwithcans Instagram page if you like.

I can just feel the different vibe in the room. There is a “flow” as you arrive, and the music makes you want to stay.

Audio and Winning

The Raptors won the first game of the NBA finals yesterday. It’s the easiest thing in the world to recognise. Their goal was to be the biggest, fittest, most organised, efficient, accurate team that scores the most points and concedes the least. They won.

I think the NBA is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but it is not in my interests to try and make it as a pro baller. I’m only 6’1, already in my 30’s and I live in Africa – also I have never played a real game of basketball in my life – to name just a few hurdles i have. I wouldn’t win that game.

So how do you win at audio? More art than sport, there is scope to make your own rules and your own goals. Here’s my suggested list of things to do to feel like you are getting the most you can from your listening:

  • Read about music as you listen to it
  • Understand the equipment which you listen to
  • Play an instrument, even if you do it badly
  • Record yourself
  • Choose your own music, rather than letting the app, radio or the TV decide
  • Create a physical space and ritual dedicated to listening
  • Write about your audio experiences