How to stay curious during social distancing. An odyssey

Siyana Ivanova

Siyana Ivanova

Visual Designer

What a time, right? Strange. Uncertain. Unknown. Unprecedented. We’re starting to run out of adjectives to describe what’s currently going on. A lot of people are worried about where this will take us, and I totally get why. But, I decided to not be one of them and focused my attention and energy on other things. Like most of us, I’m entering month two of WFH, or should I say LFH, short of Live From Home. Here is some data about my current situation: I’m living all by myself in my 50m2 ‘loft’ in a sunny attic, 10km west from Rotterdam. I’m spending an average of 22 hours a day at home, with some long walks in-between. Luckily, my balcony is on the sunny side, that’s 8 hours of vitamin D on the Sundays.

 

Luckily my mind is looking at the sunny side of it as well. One might think that being all alone in my small space, my days must pass by slowly, filled with boredom or maybe even loneliness. But I’m considering this time a big one for my personal growth. You know how much time I have to learn new stuff when I exclude hangovers and party at {insert friends name here}'s from my Saturday's agenda? What if I turn this learning time into entertainment as well and spend my days improving skills and staying curious?

 

It’s definitely an unprecedented time, also because it’s the first time that in the middle of a pandemic, we can still reach out to everyone we want to and hold digital cheers with friends and follow Spanish for beginners lessons on Zoom. We have the internet, the realm of free and fast communication, but there are so many other ways to use it. The internet is a gigantic collection of amazing pixels turned into stories and millions of bits of information. At our disposal whenever we feel like it. You know how much cool stuff is buried out there, waiting for you to find it? Well.. I did some digging. And I bet you’re going to dig this.

 

I have been spending my weeks learning a new language, watching brilliantly made videos explaining the mysteries from space, or the psychedelic-look obsession in the 60’s. I dug out some old Kurt Vonnegut’s books. Satiric sci-fi novels never disappoint. Watched a bunch of good movies. Even made a Letterboxd list, you can check it out here, satiric movies never disappoint either. Yes, I’ve been entertaining myself, and I wanted to share that with you, maybe some of it will entertainingly teach you something new.

 

 

I geeked out through the digital world and collected more than 40 links with interesting stuff to read, watch, listen, do, and most importantly think about for the upcoming few weekends. Enjoy!

 

Brilliantly explained stuff

A screenshot of a Kurzgesagt video.

 

Companies passionate about science and design always win a small place in my heart. I'm currently working on one of those. Companies passionate about science, design, and creating motion graphics that explain everything in less than 10 minutes for free? That's why I love the internet. When it comes to a solid scientific explanation, well told, well animated, with a fresh angle on the subject, Kurzgesagt is the place to be.

A small team puts around 1200 hours of researching and crafting every video, and then their iconic ducks take over and bring us on a journey. A journey like explaining time in no time. Or how beauty makes us happy - or why you should create your own purpose in this world, for just in case it turns out the world itself, does not have one, or at least not one for you.

 

 

Explained by Vox.

 

Mine too. Nothing gets me more curious and greedy for more info than a Vox. A Vox?  Vox is a news platform, but they tell stories differently. And the diversity of their stories and the way they tell them is impressive. They call this explanatory journalism, and it's pretty awesome. There are a lot of different Voxes. If you've never watched, listened, or read something by them, you are in for a treat! There is a podcast called Today Explained, Netflix documentaries, themed mini-series explaining The Mind, Sex and the Coronavirus, and hundreds of videos explaining music, the world, and basically everything. Those people definitely know how to tell a story.

 

Five minutes trivia

With the days being sunny, I spend a lot of time on my balcony. Not a lot of humans I see on the silent streets, but birds? Plenty. I don't know if they're flying around more than usual in search of scarce food or out of some kind of sincere spring joy. It's maybe because I started to pay more attention. I've seen pigeons doing it, 1 and a half meter from me trying to read. I've seen crows trying to be romantic, and seagulls eyeballing my freshly made lunch. There are plenty of green canaries, happily flying around and I kid you not, a pigeon spend a solid 10 minutes jumping exactly on every bulged end on a roof's tiles. 10 tiles in one direction, 10 tiles back. And repeat. Is that play? Exercise? Some necessary survival instinct for pigeons?

 

         

 

I find them very mysterious. They live where we live and they eat a lot of stuff we eat. They've been used as military and communication tool and people taught them to recognise different art movements or understand words. Pigeon superstition is a thing. They can play ping pong.

A pigeon called G.I. Joe is credited for saving people's lives.

All and all, they are mysterious creatures but also wildly underrated. 

Screenshots from Vox's video The 116 images NASA wants aliens to see

Screenshots from Vox's video The 116 images NASA wants aliens to see

Imagine the human race has gone extinct. No more humans, maybe no more planet Earth. Will someone, somewhere, in this never-ending space know that once, we habituated this blue planet? And that we saw in colour, that we knew a little less than 10 planets in our solar system and that we had oceans filled with dolphins and fish? If they are smarter than us, then probably, yes. A few years ago, the one and only planet Earth released a Golden Record. Into space. Family albums, catchy tunes, and greetings from all over the world collected by NASA and send on an endless journey through space and time. Waiting to be found and played.  Want to hear everything that's recorded on the Golden Record? It's a whopping 5 hours of world music mashed with random sounds.

Pop Cult

Have you ever wondered... ¡What happened to all the Bob Ross paintings!? That dude painted a lot of canvas on and off camera and he was very fast at it. One brush stroke and there you have it - A happy little tree. So are those paintings exhibited somewhere? Can I admire them from somewhere? Can I buy one at an art auction? Are there many people who own a Bob Ross? The answer is: No. Seriously? Yes. So what happened to all those paintings and where are they right now?

 

 

 

 

Combine typography, arcade and a genius design system and all my designerd hormones go on steroids. See how Vox deconstructed the 8-bit arcade game fonts.

 

Ever heard of the Monomyth? It's not exactly pop culture, I'll say it's quite the opposite. You might not know what Monomyth is, but does The Hero's Journey right a bell? It did for Josef Campbell. When he wrote a book about it and that way officially termed it. Okay...how is this pop culture? Fair enough. Think Harry Potter. Think Marty McFly. Luke Skywalker. Frodo. It turns out, all those famous characters follow exactly the same journey, that boils down to 12 steps. 

Stage 2 Call to Adventure

The art of directing

Opinion ahead, but according to me, any perfect story can be ruined with bad direction, and any bad story can be fixed with proper directing. Good story and good directing? Yes please. There are so many talented movie directors telling so many well-told stories, so for the sake of time and sanity, I will focus on only two of them.

 

 

There are movie directors that use an incredible amount of special effects to tell a story. Yes, directors like Michael Bay tend to use a lot of those in movies, but exploding helicopters and sweaty girls fixing cars is not officially a story according to my definition. Some movie directors use visual effects like CGI to give a remarkable authentic feel to a scene and even to the whole story. Did you know that the biographical movie about Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg The Social Network has more visual effects than Godzilla? Check out this high tech face swap.

But without the exploding helicopters and gigantic monsters destroying cities, where and how are all those visual effects being applied? It's all in the details. David Fincher, the Copperfield of directors, has directed dramas and mysteries filled with plot twists like Seven, The Game and Fight Club, horror & sci-fi movies like Alien3 and even the biography movie The Social Network. And even though his movie genres are very broad, they all have Fincher's signature unconventional look and feel. 

4 of David Fincher's movies

Like I said, It's all in the details. I might be a little biased on this subject since Fight Club is my favourite movie, which makes David Fincher one of my top favourite directors of all time. But there is so much magic in his movies. What's not to like?

 

Comedy is one genre that does not fit the Fincheresque dark color graded scenes and dramatic camera movements. Comedy, in general, is often not associated with good directing or acting or even good storytelling. Yes, there are a lot of terrible comedies, being made for the sake of basic level entertainment. No art needed when there is entertainment. Right? Luckily, not everyone is thinking like this. Edgar Wright is doing a fantastic job when it comes to visual comedy. Check this out. He's also the master of exciting transition. Never a dull moment.

Scene transition diagram

By the way, how cool would it be to learn directing from people like Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee or David Lynch? Sounds like a dream, being able to learn from the best. From the source. It's actually pure reality. MasterClass is a platform where those people are teaching you their craft. you can learn singing from Christina Aguilera, producing like Timbaland and tennis from Serena Williams. It's not free, like Kurzgesagt or Vox but definitely worth it.

13 Directing Masterclass

The Big Ideas behind Art

There are a lot of art movements that fascinate me. The foundation of an art movement is often even more interesting than the art produced by the artists who joined or created the movement. Usually, it's the created art piece that ends in a museum, but behind every incredible art there is a big idea, every movement started with someone's rebellious thoughts and the need to change the status quo.

The surrealists

One art movement with very drastic, for it's times, beliefs is Surrealism. With surrealism, it's almost always about the idea behind it. Techniques like dislocation, juxtaposition and transformation are used to create dream-like worlds where a lot of the known does not exist, but mystic figures and mysterious object rule the surreality. Here is Surrealism explained by the Dali museum.

 

Speaking of surrealism, did you know that Dali took a bunch of selfies with the visitors of the museum? Speaking of Dali, did you know that you can admire his work in 3D

 

    

 

And meanwhile, the surrealists are obsessed with the unconsciousness, dreams and transformation, other art movements are absorbed by exactly the opposite - the world as it is. Good old, picturesque realism. What is the case of Realism and how has it survived so long and stayed so pure?

Spaced

Spaced astronauts

Want to know how it feels to be an astronaut? It's actually very relatable. Not the whole part, not the part where you go to space. But definitely the part after that, when you return back, and the government puts you in quarantine, in case of moon germs.

A bunch of people has spent many days, even years, looking at our planet through their window. They surely must know what isolation means. Here are some tips on how to stay sane and healthy.

If they can do it, without gravity or climate or ordering food online, what's your excuse? Consider yourself an astronaut in the making and this period will be a wonderful time of training for such a noble pursuit.

 

 

When we talk space, we talk about Mars. Right? Mars is cool. Mars is orange. The Moon is so 20th century ago. We got a bit bored with this grey globe we see daily. The tension is over. People have walked on it, in small steps. Giant leaps for us. They took selfies. They took poo as well. And then they left it there.

Apollo 11 moon poop

Yes, I agree, we have to go back and take our human poop, not only for research purposes but also out some respect for the Moon. It's our planet's best friend. Circling around, helping with some chores, like the tides. Let's not litter it. Realising this made me also wonder, Why haven't we been on the moon since the Apollo's?

Moon discovery phases

Yes, our Moon can be a hostile environment, and the missing gravity is not making things easier either. It does not mean that we cannot build a moon base, if we felt like it.

 

 

Pluto's status hasn't been set in stone since the day it was discovered. Poor planet. Eeeh... poor dwarf planet. That's a whole different thing. And meanwhile, earthlings are still discussing Pluto's right or no right to be a planet, a small uncrewed spaceship is voyaging around it. Its mission? Taking majestic pictures of mainly Pluto.

Pluto’s Brilliant ‘Heart’ ©NASA.gov

Fiction

I don't know if you're much of a reader. But I guess if you made it this far, you probably are. So let's talk books. There are a lot of stories that are either unbearably slow or not very appealing to a millennial like me. Some novels take me months to finish. Others I can read and re-read and re-read and it will still be the same week. I've never read the same book 3 times in one week, but what I'm saying is– it's totally possible. Being able to relate or build empathy to at least one character is key to getting me hooked. I've read The Catcher in The Rye so many times that Holden Caulfield, the main character, feels like a good friend of mine. With that being said, here is my top 3 contemporary classics that feel like written today and you can probably finish in one day.

Fiction Top 3

The Catcher in the Rye, Slaughterhouse Five and The Rules of Attraction

Not much of a reader? How about those very well made motion graphics inspired by books:

 

 

My way of meditation

I'm not the kind of person that can sit on the ground, cross-legged, and pay attention to my respiratory system. I'm too aware of actually doing the whole thing and at the same time thinking about a breath that will happen anyway, even if I don't count it. Breaths are always there, and that's what makes them a good anchor to being in the now. It just doesn't work for me, that's all. That does not mean that I don't meditate. I do it often and for quite long periods. One way I'm totally in the present and cleaning my mind and ordering my thoughts is by... cleaning my house. Marie Kondo-ing my drawers. It's also a good physical exercise. Clean house, clean mind. I'm glad even the Buddhists agree on it.

 

 

Drawing can be a very good meditation. A very creative but at the same time relaxing exercise. So I started following a drawing course in Spanish on Domestika, combining learning Spanish with learning to draw creatively. Domestika, Udemy, Skillshare are the perfect platforms to learn a new creative skill. But if you already have a skill in mind, I bet there are plenty of free youtube tutorials to get you started.

 

 

You made it till the end, nice! Also, I hope this post sparked some curiosity. As a designer, I know that there is no creativity without curiosity. But there is no curiosity without the lust of the mind to wander and discover new stuff, connect new dots. My take on this? Stay home but stay curious. Our world is one filled with great mysteries and full of interesting little things.

Siyana Ivanova

Siyana Ivanova

Visual Designer

Siyana

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