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Music

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Arnold McMayo

July 30, 2015

ArnoldMcMayo

Arnold McMayo – UncommonGoods Operations Team Lead

My hometown….
Port of Spain, Trinidad

I’m inspired by…
Success.

My favorite process in the UncommonGoods warehouse is…
Completing an order and getting it out the warehouse.

If any fictional character could be my best friend, I would choose….
John Wick.

Something that always relaxes me is…
Music.

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
Grace Before Meals in Brooklyn

My style is…
All about comfort.

An uncommon fact about me…
I won the ‘Wittiest Person’ in my graduating high school class.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Brian Hashemi

July 8, 2015

Brian Hashemi, Director of Marketing

My hometown is…
In Virginia somewhere. I didn’t really grow up in a “town”, it was really just the middle of the forest. Well, like a house in the middle of the forest. A house in a forest that was technically in a suburb of DC. My backyard flowed into a state park, so I could walk for miles back there without running into another house. It was great as a kid to be able to explore – I once found an old bootlegger’s hideout back there, a dilapidated building full of old, rusty stills. It was pretty much exactly like the house they find at the end of The Blair Witch Project. The place I grew up looked a lot like The Blair Witch Project.

I’m inspired by…
The fact that existence exists, because it doesn’t have to. There is something weird and profoundly mysterious about the idea that we are here at all. It’s really much weirder than we allow ourselves to think about.

I chose to go into marketing because…
Marketing chose me. I’ve felt my way through a series of jobs that I’ve found progressively more fulfilling, until finally landing at a company and role and team that I love.

If my 3rd grade teacher could see me now, he or she would say…
That I’m much bigger now? That my math and verbal skills have progressed (but my handwriting hasn’t really)? I don’t know, I think my 3rd grade teacher is dead. So I don’t really think she’d say anything.

The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen is…
Let’s see – I once saw some dogs eat a baby horse, that was pretty amazing. Oh, and ghosts; I’ve seen two ghosts. Well, one was sort of a spirit that visited me in a dream. The other was like a real, physical ghost (that I saw in a graveyard in Scotland). So yeah, I guess I’d say ghosts. I don’t know, was I supposed to say something more profound, or more poetic? Like, “The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen is the sun rising over Everest.” I have seen the sun rising over Everest – but I still say ghosts.

If I could travel back in time, I’d…
Stand very still, trying not to create any paradoxes that would destroy the universe, make my image disappear from photographs, or cause humans to follow an alternate evolutionary path resulting in us now all being lizard-tongued beasts.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
So much. I’ve been lucky enough to have been exposed to so many different sides of the business; it’s really been a thorough education. I’ve gotten the chance to take on many things that I don’t think I’d ever have gotten the opportunity to do at another company. I came in as an analyst, but have been given responsibility for everything from PR to project management at various times – I love learning the ins and outs of new things, and how to optimize different programs. I’ve also learned that I can have a viable, successful career without compromising something about myself.

An uncommon fact about me…
I am constantly replacing my bones with metal. I have metal rods in one arm and one leg, because of soccer injuries. I’m hoping that thousands of years from now, when alien archeologists unearth my skeleton, they’ll point to me as the missing link between organic humans and the cyborg overlords that subsequently took over the earth.

Would you rather… go without music for a year, or go without travel for a year?
I couldn’t go without music. I mean, how do people get anything done without Ke$ha blasting over their headphones on repeat? Music is an everyday thing, travel is a treat.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Richard Upchurch

March 12, 2015

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

As UncommonGoods photographer Emily and I made our way to visit Richard Upchurch’s studio, our cab driver quizzed us on some of the local neighborhood acronyms. “Do you know what Tribeca stands for?” he stared at us in his rear-view mirror. “Triangle below Canal Street,” we laughed. “What about Dumbo?” “Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” we said in unison. “Do you know why this neighborhood is called Red Hook?” he mused as we turned down a one-way street lined with rugged facades. We were stumped. “Because of all these brick buildings?” I guessed. “I don’t think so!” he teased. “But seriously, I’m not sure. Do you know?” he peered back in the mirror.

Out of guesses, I stared out the window at the jumble of modern and old-fashioned storefronts. With its scattered cobblestone streets and uncanny industrial vibe (a holdover from when it was a busy shipping center), I felt like I was back in my old Pittsburgh neighborhood. That is, until I saw the beautiful view of New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty directly across from the studio’s dome shaped doors. 

Richard Upchurch | UncommonGoods

Richard introduced himself with a comforting flair of southern hospitality. As soon as he learned about Emily’s Georgia roots, he started describing his favorite Georgia venues where he had previously performed as a touring musician, setting the stage for an afternoon with one of the best storytellers either of us had met in a long time. He walked us around his studio and described how Lil’ MibZoots, and Loopy Lou grew from blocks of wood into sound recording gadgets. He related the first days of his business brandnewnoise, and how it’s grown to become an influential internship provider for inner-city students. He gave us the inside scoop behind the bright green frog in the center of his workstation. (A project that involved a crazy collaboration with Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips!) We pointed to his old wooden thumb piano, among other oddities, and he elaborated with charming, sentimental tales. He pointed toward his favorite barbecue joint across the street, distinguishing all of the clandestine spots that make Red Hook so special. With each new story, he built the kind of environment that made us want to settle into rocking chairs, crack open beers, and chat about life. After meeting Richard, I am not surprised that he decided to set up shop in a neighborhood that’s so full of history, character, and unexpected treasures.

Whether you’re looking for creative inspiration, or just hoping to get a sneak peek into an artist’s everyday life, you’re in good company. Pull up your favorite chair, sit back, and enjoy our tour of Richard’s Brooklyn Studio.

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The Uncommon Life

Gift Lab: Boombox Touch Speaker

July 2, 2014

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Product: Boombox Touch Speaker, a portable speaker that’s cord free and will blast out your tunes by simply setting a smartphone on top of it.

Research: 
I love to jam out (preferably to Motown, MJ, or the Rent soundtrack ) while taking my morning showers, prepping dinner, or cleaning my apartment. And although I could play music out loud with my iPhone, it’s never quite loud enough. As a temporary solution, I used to walk around with my iPhone in my back pocket and wear headphones in my apartment, but that quickly became a nuisance. So I decided to search for a convenient speaker that I could use with my iPhone. I wanted something that I could easily bring from room to room without a hassle of setting up or constant plugging and unplugging.

Then I discovered the Boombox Touch Speaker while browsing UncommonGoods at work. I have to admit when I heard that this speaker could play music if I just simply placed my iPhone on top of it, I was definitely skeptical. Trust me, I’m usually a glass-half-full type of gal, but I felt like this little tech discovery was too good to be true. The description claimed that there was no need to set up Bluetooth and no cords were needed. For such a great price, what exactly is the catch? Poor sound quality? Needing to download a $3 smartphone app? Will it break easily?

Skeptical and hopeful at the same time, I’ve decided to test it out on my own to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Hypothesis: 
I was sure that the product would work, but definitely with a couple of setbacks. I was expecting to hear a bit of static or that the music wouldn’t be as loud as I would want it to be. (And super loud Billie Jean is always better than I-could-kinda-hear-you Billie Jean.)

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Experiment: 
I planned to test out the Boombox Touch Speaker at my neighborhood park for a nice little lazy Sunday. Nothing at the time sounded better than flipping through fashion magazines, snacking on guacamole and chips, and chit chatting with my good friend, Christina, while listening to a few Motown favorites in the background.

When I got the speaker I was immediately surprised by three things: the size, the weight, and the feel. I expected it to be bigger because in my mind “big sound equals big speakers.” But I guess we’re not living in the ‘80s anymore and this doesn’t necessarily need to happen anymore. It was nice to know that I could pop it into my tote bag and still have room for other gadgets and gizmos.

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

The weight was lighter than I expected as well, even after seeing its small size – I thought it would still be a bit heavier than it was. That was a relief because it would have been a hassle if I had a heavy speaker weighing down on my shoulder during my commute or if I had to complete errands. I hate being slowed down!

The last thing I noticed was the feel of the entire speaker. It’s surprisingly soft, smooth, and easy to hold and carry around. I could place it on my nightstand, fireplace mantel, kitchen counters, or on the shelf in my bathroom. I love that it’s so versatile and doesn’t necessarily need a specific spot to live in my home. So far, I was definitely impressed. (But still skeptical!) I was ready to test the speaker! Off to the park we go.

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The next step was simply to just turn on the speaker. I turned it on from the switch in the back, and a blue light popped up. I was happy I didn’t need to charge it or place batteries in.  I was like a kid opening up her birthday gifts. I wanted the toy to work – no time for other nonsense!

In the photo below I was so excited that the speaker weighed less than the bag of tortilla chips I was holding!

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Now, for the moment I’ve been waiting for! Without reading directions, I placed my iPhone on top of the speaker… and….I didn’t hear one sound come out of the speaker. I knew it! Too good to be true! I turned the switch back on and then off. Tried again. And again. And again. Nothing.

But right when I turned the phone around, I heard good ol’ Marvin Gaye crooning loud and clear, literally. The sound quality was amazing. Success! It was a lot louder than I expected it to be and I actually had to turn down the music through the volume control on my iPhone. (Although, I’m sure others at the park wouldn’t have had any objections to Marvin being a part of their Sunday!)

Boombox Touch Speaker | UncommonGoods

Boombox Touch Speaker | Gift Lab | UncommonGoods

Conclusion: 
I’m glad I was very skeptical of the Boombox Touch Speaker because I feel if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been as eager to test it out. I’m 100% happy with it, and would recommend it to any music lover. (AKA: everyone!) My only tip is to make sure that your phone is facing the right way. For the iPhone, make sure the top of the phone sits closest to the speaker, its screen facing up. (Seen in the photo above.)

Now I am able to listen to loud music at home in any room (headphone free!). Also, it’s always a fun to bring out  and show off to my friends on any of our rooftop parties or afternoon picnics. I honestly had three people ask me in absolute awe “How is that even possible?” And just as the description advises to do here, I shrugged and said, “It’s magic.”

Watch me test out the speaker and bust a couple of moves in the video below. Happy grooving!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeff Davis

May 6, 2014

Inside the Artist's Studio with Jeff Davis | UncommonGoods
I had been cruising around Philly listening to XPN for a couple days. Lou Reed had just passed away. It was a very appropriate time to visit Jeff Davis in the Vinylux studio, a business created in celebration of everyone’s favorite music.

Jeff began collecting vintage records in 2002 to re-purpose into home decor and fashion accessories, the production of which looks similar to most of what I have seen in other studios: work tables, hand-tools, storage space. However, over time, Jeff realized there were machines and tools he required for his designs that did not exist — a vacuum to clean vinyl splinters, a machine to melt a record into a smooth bowl in a matter of seconds — so he took to creating them himself. Most artists show off their finished products, but in Jeff’s case some of his most impressive designs are his machines.

It wasn’t a surprise that a trip to Jeff’s studio would be incredibly exciting for me — all that vinyl and someone to talk to about my favorite albums — but it was a surprise to learn about the business savvy of one of our oldest vendors, to meet an entrepreneur who cares deeply for the safety of his employees, and see such an exciting company sprouting from a city I called home for so many years. Meet Jeff Davis, small business owner, expert at reincarnating old vinyl, and, in my opinion, example of what it means to be living the dream.

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