Miles Davis Plays Ballad

I have been revisiting Miles Davis’s early work and loving his fine-ass ballad playing. Here are a few albums I am enjoying.

Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet

This album kicks off with the heart-rending rendition of “It Never Entered My Mind.” Miles played the mute trumpet as if he’s about to cry. “In Your Own Sweet Way” is another sensational standard with the Miles touch.

Steamin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet

Miles played a few bebop numbers including “Salt Peanuts” and “Well, You Needn’t,” in which he sounded less confidence than the ballads “When I Fall In Love” and “Something I Dreamed Last Night.”

Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet

Relaxing to some mid-tempos like “If I Were A Bell” and “If I Could Write A Book,” but the beautiful ballad is “You’re My Everything,” in which Miles told Garland to play some block chords.

‘Round About Midnight

Miles’s take on “‘Round About Midnight” didn’t sit well with Monk, but it was his admission to Columbia record. His muted tone cuts straight to the emotional core.

Somethin’ Else

This is a Cannonball Adderley’s album, but Miles stole the spotlight on “Autumn Leaves.” This is one of the finest ballad-playings period.

My Funny Valentine

Miles plays with title track without the muting device and his lyricism was still impressive. “All of You,” “Stella by Starlight,” and “I Thought About You” were beautifully played from the all-star band.


Portfolio Project

One of the challenges of working on the portfolio project [for my class on professional design practices] were choosing the works I would like to showcase. Instead of picking out 6 to 8 random pieces, I wanted to focus on a specific audience. After doing some research, I want to cater my portfolio for an interactive agency I had wanted to work at. Based in New York, Big Spaceship worked with clients in the entertainment industry including HBO, 20th Fox Century, Miramax and Ken Burns. In this portfolio project, I have carefully selected the pieces that show a variety of range, but still related to entertainment.

Sketches of Miles App

A prototype of a tablet app that would allow users (Miles Davis’s fans) to create their own sketches of Miles based on the records that they love. The app is straightforward with intuitive user interface to let users play around on their tablet. They could change the texts, draw their own sketches or import photos into the app. They could share their work with other fans as well as social media networks.

Vietjazz Brand Guidelines

Vietjazz is a recording company that connects and advances the two distinctive musical forces: Vietnamese music and jazz. I came up with the concept as music lover of both sides and wanted to married them into one. I designed the logo, stationery, applications (web site, app and album cover). I developed the responsive web site and all of its contents to provide the simplest standards and guidelines for the consistent use of the Vietjazz visual identity.

Go the Fuck to Sleep

As a father of two boys, I could related to Adam Mansbach’s Go the Fuck to Sleep. The inspiration came from Samuel L. Jackson’s narration of the book. I chose a straightforward san serif typeface to match up with Jackson’s expressive voice. The project turned to be a fun, experimental typography in motion.

Ao Dai Trang A Oi

Ao Trang is a non-profit organization that puts out a calendar each year featuring stunning photography of Vietnamese traditional white dress. In the past years, Ao Trang has donated over $136,000 to aid orphanages in Vietnam through direct delivery of practical supplies. The creative team at Ao Trang commissioned me to do a motion slideshow to showcase its photography. After browsing through its collection, which featured pure, modern Vietnamese’s beauty of the traditional white dress, I chose a musical piece that has the fusion of Vietnamese folk poetry and ambient futuristic sound. The combination of the images and musical score produced an organic, rich, and lyrical presentation.

Please Give Me

A special collaboration with photographer Justin Maxon to raise awareness of the victims of Agent Orange. The inspiration came from Thuy Tien’s soul-searching rendition of Trinh Cong Son’s “Xin Cho Toi.” The solo piano accompanying the painful but hopeful vocals sets the right tone for the message.

Film Rating Redesign

A graduate assignment to redesign the look and feel of the film rating system. The content, which based on MPAA rating system, stays the same. My job was to improve the visual information of the five major ratings: G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17. The new system uses visual progression to give viewers clear indication of each rating. I chose Adrian Frutiger’s Univers for its legibility.


Sommore – Chandelier Status

The Queen of Comedy is funny and filthy as fuck. She delivered an hour full of raw, entertaining materials ranging from sex, celebrity and more sex. Her advice on maintaining a relationship is to respect and say “please.” Even if you have to say, “Would you please stay the fuck out of my face.” If you have NetFlix, check her out.


Miles Davis’s Reading List

As a Miles freak, I spent time not only listening to his music, but also reading every book on Miles I could get my hand on. Miles is probably one of the jazz geniuses that got the most ink. So here’s the list that I have read and loved. If you’re into Miles, you might want to check out some of them.

So What

While there are a handful of books on Miles’s life, Szwed’s is one of the most well-researched and thoughtful biography. Highly recommended if you want to read about the trumpeter’s story.

It’s About That Time

Cook uses Miles’s albums to write about his music and life. It’s a fascinating read.


Miles’s autobiography is simply hilarious. The book is filled profanity and braggadocio.

The Last Miles

Cole spent almost 450 pages covering every track from The Man With The Horn all the way up to Doo-Bop. A critical read on Miles’s late records.

Miles Beyond

Tingen’s insightful read on Miles Davis’s electric journey from 1967-1991.

Running the Voodoo Down

Freeman’s detailed analysis of the Prince of Darkness’s fusion albums including Bitches Brew, On the Corner and Doo-Bop.

The Blue Moment

Williams’s close study of Miles Davis’s monumental record and the music that record after.

Clawing at the Limits of Cool

Griffin and Washington’s draws an enlightening comparison between the musical innovation of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Kind of Blue

Kahn documented the recording sessions of one of the most influential jazz albums.

Flyboy in the Buttermilk

This is not a book on Miles, but Tate’s pieces on Electric Miles are must read.


JavaScript Training with HOTT

I just finished a three-day intensive JavaScript training with HOTT (Hands On Technology Transfer, Inc.). The class only had four students; therefore, the interaction with the instructor was great.

The instructor was very knowledgeable and he has the ability to explain the concept clearly and made the programming language easy to digest. Even though he had a cold and lost his voice a bit, he plowed through all the course materials and gave us the important components of JavaScript.

What I got the most out of the course was the ability to recognize and read the codes. There were loads of information in three days to soak in, but I had learned what I needed to know about JavaScript to continue to explore on my own. The training turned out to be worthwhile.


Six Simple Typographic Rules

Six simple typographic rules I use as basic guidelines for setting type.

  1. Read the content first.
  2. Start with the body text.
  3. Choose no more than two typefaces.
  4. Apply grids and modular scales that honor content.
  5. Use hanging punctuation to not disrupt the text alignment.
  6. Allow generous white space.

Jan Tschichold on Good Lettering


Good lettering demands three things: — (1) Good letters. A beautiful letter form must be selected which is appropriate to the purpose it is to serve and to the lettering technique to be used. — (2) Good design in all details. This calls for well balanced and sensitive letter spacing and word spacing which takes the letter spacing into account. — (3) A good layout. An harmonious and logical arrangement of lines is essential.

The intro of Jan Tschichold’s Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering has useful guides on letter spacing of capitals and lowercases.


The Art of Floating

Unlike Thirsty, Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s dark, disturbing, straightforward debut, The Art of Floating is poignant, witty and unconventional. Like Tarantino’s nonlinear art direction, the stories unfolds in an imaginative, interrupted flow. The novel has 171 chapters. A long chapter could be a few pages and a short chapter could be a sentence. In other word, Bair O’Keeffe’s idiosyncratic approach should be noted for creative writing and fictional storytelling. In addition, one of her gifted skills were the ability to pen erotic scenes so damn well and hilarious too (check chapter 90). As hinted through the main character Sia, Bair O’Keeffe is conscious of the sophomore slump, but The Art of Floating reassured that the novelist has stepped up her game.


Six Timeless Typefaces From Adrian Frutiger

Frutiger on Méridien (1957):

The most important thing about Méridien for me was its even rhythm. However, the overall impression wasn’t supposed to be rigid, but lively and organic and therefore reader-friendly.

Frutiger on Univers (1957):

Univers, however, would have been unthinkable without a constant width skeleton, it was only the concept of a systematic widths that made the many varieties possible.

Frutiger on Egyptienne (1958):

[Egyptienne’s] a useful text face, as the baseline is very good, distinctive and stable under any exposure.

Frutiger on Frutiger (1976):

My masterpiece is Univers, but my favourite typeface—if I’m being honest—is the original Frutiger.

Frutiger on Centennial (1986):

Centennial is one of my most professional typefaces; it was created on the back of 25 years’ experience of type design, with absolute logic—and feeling, naturally.

Frutiger on Avenir (1988):

Univers was a striking idea, as was Frutiger, but in Avenir there’s a harmony that’s much more subtle than in the others…My personality is stamped upon it.


Highlights From Computers in Libraries 2014

  • Responsive web design still came up many times at the conference.
  • Many libraries are using WordPress for their web site.
  • For its web site redesign project, the UNC library team is consisted of 4 web developers and 20 plus content contributors.
  • The MacEvan library contracted out $50,000 to build an iOS app.
  • The Cornell team for its library project is consisted of 6 UX designers, 9 web developers and a handful of contributors

I wish we have a team or a budget like the libraries mentioned above.