Loaf Tour Regrets

Jul 7, 2014

Tillamook Cheese TheftManteca, CA

Mysteriously, three promotional vintage Volkswagen buses owned by Tillamook Cheese have been stolen from a parking lot.  The tractor-trailer was found in flames, but the buses are missing.


“I sat there in the microbus, watching the cheese trailer burn. I knew the firefighters would show up soon, but a part of me wanted to be caught, to be released from this downward spiral of Night Train and meth, bath salts and bad ideas.

“Sugar Bear shook me, yelling to start the bus and drive. I did so, yelling and gunning the engine as we headed towards the river. But a part of me was filled with self-loathing. When did I become the kind of a man who ruins a Tillamook Loaf tour?”


Obsession Confession_ suzymae_ Featured

Beck: My Obsession Confession

Jul 7, 2014

It’s a magic birthday, 44, for my beloved most favorite artist today.  I pulled together a playlist of my personal faves, scoured Pinterest and Instagram hashtags to see what other fans are posting, and realized:  it’s time to spill my guts about this hidden sickness.

I’ve been obsessed with Beck Hansen, aka Beck, aka Bek David Campbell, for years now.   OK, “obsessed” probably only applies to my high school self, who, in the void of Pinterest, Tumblr, Google, and basic Internet access, cut out any mention of Beck from whatever printed material I could get my hands on, and painstakingly arranged these little papers under protective film, collected chronologically in a three-ring binder.  More attention was lavished on this pre-Web stalker-y paper-log (plog?) than any subject in school.

You can see the vintage site nav in the collage.  Surprised there's not a counter involved.

You can see the vintage site nav, including “guestbook” in the collage. Surprised there’s not a counter involved.

People knew I collected Beck memorabilia, and brought me little scraps of information.  One enabling friend printed out every page from the main Beck fansite, facing hella trouble for wasting all the printer ink.


My personal scrapbook, featuring a photo a friend took as I walked in late to school, eating a bag of Cracker Jack for breakfast.  Notice the determined note on the right to see Beck OR DIE, plus visual reference to Devil’s Haircut lyrics.

At fifteen, I was a continual delinquent tagger/ collage artist/ aspiring punk with ambitions to be a film director.  After a life-quakingly inspiring Beck show, I decided to hitchhike to LA from Las Vegas for an art show of Beck’s collage art.  I didn’t know who I would stay with, or how I’d eat, but I was determined to get there.  My bag was packed, my Doc Martens were laced, and I made it two blocks on foot before a grimy man in a white van pulled up to ask where I was headed.  Taking this as a sign, I continued walking to 7-11 for a Slurpee, and then went straight back home.  Delinquent, yes, not an idiot.


Bottom lower left, documentation of the art show I failed to attend. Seeing this photo made my cry, frustrated with my failed attempt to get in cars with strangers.

My family didn’t have money.  No cable TV.  No MTV.  I still haven’t seen all of Beck’s videos, but the ones I have seen… man, they’re good.  My youthful consumption of Beck’s artistry was purely radio plays and magazine scraps, until I turned 16, got a job, and bought up every Beck release in existence.  I’d hit the magazine racks at Tower Records to figure out which compact disc was worth my hard-earned $17 that week, while seeking printed intelligence on my imaginary LA musician boyfriend.  (You modern-day teenagers have it so easy, with your YouTubes and the Spotifys.  In my day, music was expensive!  And nearly impossible to steal!)


Everything went into the scrapbook. Packaging from expensive imports, pull quotes about Beck from other people, coverage of compilations he was featured in. #obsessed

Yes, the young me had a poster of Beck on the ceiling above my bed, but my obsession was spiritual, not (totally) sexual.   Beck’s weird yet intelligent melding of influences was brave and individual.  His collage of sound, abstracted, beautiful lyrics, and strange behaviors he was said to exhibit were signs of a True Artist.  The type of person I wanted to be.  The kind of person I wanted to attract and collaborate with.  Someone to understand.  One Seventeen article revealed Beck’s stomping ground to be Silver Lake, a neighborhood allegedly “ten minutes from LA’s downtown,” filled with celebrities and unfettered access to Manic Panic hair dye.  It sounded like an alternative dream.  Today, I live near Silver Lake, and even fifteen years later, expect to see Beck walking past me, lost in thought, blue eyes focused inward, on a new idea.


Sexually damaged:  Beck-ish boys & girls will forever be my type.  Although my love for Beck was mostly spiritual, admit: the man is delicious. 

Beck continues to release fabulous records and push boundaries of the music industry.  Waking Light is a heartbreaking return to recorded music, after disruptive releases like Song Reader, a collection of sheet music, and collaborating with Lincoln for Hello Again, an immersive orchestral online experience.  But my favorite Beck releases are found at Beck.com, where Beck’s unique aesthetic rules.  Visual artists he loves are housed in the Colorspace Gallery.   Record Club is just documentation of Beck and other world-class artists fucking around, reinterpreting selected records of Beck’s choosing.  Such as Yanni.


A friend gave me the eyes in this collage. “I only cut out the eyes because they were so beautiful, then I realized you needed them.” I love teenage rationale.

I hear Beck’s music, I see his art, and it takes me to a familiar, recognizable yet consistently evolving space.   There’s nothing to decipher.  Everything’s there.  Emotions and stories.  Reassembling the world around you into a form that fits.  A vision, an aesthetic, a work ethic.  Being An Artist.  My favorite Beck songs are wild and ethereal, untamed and lucid. Here, I’ll share a playlist.  But on one condition.  Keep my little obsessive secret to yourself.



Considering accessibility

Jun 6, 2014

Accessibility-72andSunny-SuzyMae-Strategy copyWe met working at 72andSunny, a fast-growing advertising agency making the coolest work in culture today.  Ken Lin, Max Miner, Roberto Salas, John Angelopulos and I needed to make a website more than accessible to people with impairments– hearing, visual, or physical disabilities.  It had to push the boundaries of what accessibility could do, be compatible with common hardware, serving the needs of people with disabilities who use screen readers, magnifiers, and closed-caption tools.


Going straight for experience, we blindfolded ourselves to understand what using a cell phone feels like with no vision, quickly discovering the most obvious difference.   Without the benefit of sight, navigating a touchscreen interface with a screen reader is much easier than using keyboard.

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In your hand, the tactile sensation of a finger dragging across a flat surface, signaled by ascending and descending tones, is simple to understand and memorize, compared to manually searching through code.  Screen readers that use keyboards require lots of listening, patience, and practice to decipher even the most basic websites.


A friend from Chicago, Andy Slater, joined us on a Hangout to share his experiences using technology.  Legally blind, Andy has retinitis pigmentosa, which makes his eyes extremely sensitive to light, but allows a limited range of vision.  Trying out blindfolded tasks on a cell phone is much easier than needing to use screen readers 100% of your time online.


Andy’s insight helped us understand what designers consistently miss when creating websites for a general population.  Sidebars can obscure information when a screen is magnified, so consider notifications about content.  Make accessibility tools easy to trigger on and off, especially on cell phones.    Even small, obvious things like the need for hearing-only games make a difference.


Building simplicity and elegance into the website’s means rethinking the standard code that screen readers access.  Use short, descriptive lists, instead of long pieces of text.  Add search options.  Recognize screen readers and activate accessibility mode immediately.  Senior UX designer Max Miner used his in-depth experience in accessible sites to lay down a strong, highly functional architecture that kept every design on point.


Creatively, the site came together with a powerful creative message from Max, Roberto, John, and Ken, supported by creative directors Chi and Gui, plus strategy director Bryan Smith, creators of the innovative Art, Copy, & Code site for Google.

Working as a strategist on this team goes down in history as a project that keeps me proud to work in advertising.  Combining expert information, qualitative research, and first-hand experience to help develop a digital product that’s well crafted, beautiful, and functional, plus highly accessible was a win.

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These deep research projects that I love so much help me realize, no matter how much we know, or think we know, there’s always more to improve upon and learn.