- Just when you think there aren't any more possible readings of Star Wars, along comes Ryan Britt to postulate that everyone in Star Wars is illiterate. Fascinating and well reasoned article, says a lot about where we're going.
- And this seems a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away: vintage pics of NASA facilities. I bet Ken Adam studied these pics for days.
- Mid-century souvenir postcard envelopes from various Japanese vacation destinations. Nice.
- What's YOUR favourite magazine? magCulture wants to know, and it's for a bloody good cause.
- The Coppola family tree. There are a LOT of them.
- Spotted this at the end of Star Trek Into Darkness' credits: "No Animals Were Harmed" is a registered trademark! And the American Humane Association aren't too shy to threaten legal action if you misuse it.
- Dear Apple, let's talk about photos. Been using iPhoto a lot recently (having a baby will do that to you), and it really is a sluggish, out-of-date pile of arse. Desperately needs a massive update.
- The always intelligentfunny XKCD on why sensible passwords are sensible.
- 14 year-old discovers iPad Smart Cover magnets can shut off implanted defibrillators.
- Actual amazeballs: the Eyeball, packed with cameras and sensors, can be thrown into a room/cave/wherever. It instantly creates a digital panorama (complete with environmental warning) for rescue workers or explorers to map out a space. Like something from Minority Report.
- Want to get Tom Hanks to appear on your show? Send him a typewriter.
A collection of things.
… A little later, when I was studying at the Sorbonne, I discovered Truffaut and Godard. Being in Paris aged twenty was like being pickled in cinematic vinegar: at the end of it, I thought, "So now I'm a pickle, let's see where it goes."
— Walter Murch, Port #9
Love this. And it's true for whatever creative field you're throwing yourself into – immerse yourself in it completely and absorb as much as you can. Read, watch, look, visit, taste, discover. Go pickle yourself.
I've been a big fan of Port since it appeared on the shelves a couple of years ago (thanks to magCulture for bringing it to my attention in the first place), and although the first few issues were incredible in terms of content and design, I was a bit worried that it couldn't possibly keep up that level of quality. Or, worse still, that it'd fall back on the usual men's magazine tropes to boost sales (Cars! Boobs! Cars with boobs!).
But here we are, nine issues in, and it's still bloody gorgeous. The latest , guest edited by Daniel Day-Lewis (hyphenated Daniels are all the rage right now), is the film issue. And it's pretty much my dream magazine. Eschewing the usual news-and-reviews – content more suited to the web – Port #9 embraces the slow reading strengths of the format with articles on all aspects of film, past and present. Particular credit goes to the photography – elegantly illustrating conversations with the likes of PT Anderson, Thelma Schoonmaker and Walter Murch. Add to this articles on cameras, costume and production design, the whole thing feels like a magazine for grown ups without ever feeling dry or pretentious.
I'd be quite happy if every issue of Port was a film issue, but I'm sure they've got something even better up their sleeves for #10.
I wasn't sure about its value at first, but I am a complete Pinterest convert. Being a new parent helps – it gives me something engaging (but not too engaging) to do during those ridiculous wee small hours of the night, keeping me just enough awake. It'd be a shame if all those 3am discoveries never left the confines of my boards though, so I'm going to do a regular digest of all the lovely things I've found.
First up: Books. By far the busiest of my boards. New books, old books, imaginary books – there's just something rather relaxing about wading through a forest of covers. I'm a sucker for a two-colour design, so that Hemlock Grove cover is a particular favourite. The Fontana Modern Masters (edited by Mark Kermode's dad, don't you know) are just fantastic – I'm always picking them up in Dr B's office. More about the creation of the series' covers here. And David Pearson's The Old Man and the Sea cover makes me feel appropriately land-lubberish.
As I've said before though, the best way to really appreciate these is get your trousers on and saunter down to your local book emporium to check them out in the flesh. Look at them, feel them, sniff them.
- Unit Editions' excellent Wim Crouwel – A Graphic Odyssey is now free to download for for iPad.
- "Speed, fast talking, and what appears to be that wonderful element makeitupasyougoalongeum" – Terry Pratchett is not a Doctor Who fan. I'm mostly with him on this one. Would be nice to see some good old-fashioned story-telling on the show again. Matt Smith is doing a fantastic job with some rather dodgy material right now.
- Rutherford Chang has a unique vinyl collection: he only collects the Beatles first pressing of The White Album.
- What does JG Ballard look like? Great bit of Design Observering.
- Cities are the future of human evolution.
- Gary Hustwit talks to Port about making movies, meeting heroes and the possibilities of crowdfunding.
- Turn absolutely anything into a table. Would love to see crates and crates of these dropped into impoverished areas.
- You can't go wrong with fifteen solid minutes of disco Star Wars. HAd a right old boogie to it this morning. Put my son to sleep though :/
- Vitsœ have relaunched the 620 Chair Programme. I love Dieter Rams, but I've always thought this to be particularly hideous and clunky.
- Popular movie scenes matched to real life locations.
- Unbelievably addictive: guess the Google Street View location.
- A great collection of walled cities (including my own beloved York). I now have an urge to take the Benneworth-Gray dirigible for a sightseeing trip over the Netherlands.
Spotted (ha!) this little gem earlier: Roy Lichtenstein – How Modern Art Was Saved by Donald Duck. I'm not sure if the type is quite right for the Penguin style (a more keen-eyed sphenisciformicist would be able to tell you), but the cover does manage to reference Lichtenstein's signature style without the whole thing coming off as naff pastiche. I was struggling with incorporating Ben-Day dots in a design earlier this week – they're deceptively tricky things to get right. One false move and you've got yourself an 80s Athena pencil case.
Just for my own amusement, I'd like to see a companion piece: David Jones – How Mickey Mouse Grew Up a Cow.
Just got back from my weekly lap of the local Waterstones, soaking up all the new covers (it's important to see as much design in the flesh as possible, I say), and I spotted something that just seemed … wrong.
This is apparently a genre of fiction. I can imagine the sort of thing: Agatha Christie; Midsomer Murders; lots of fêtes and tweed and old service revolvers. None of it really my cup of tea (I bet there are plenty of those involved too), but all perfectly valid literature.
But why pigeon-hole like this? Just like record shops did when they existed back in the day, book shops are turning themselves into impenetrable labyrinths of sub-categories. They aren't really doing themselves any favours. How are you supposed to find anything? Fiction should be in one category and one category only: alphabetically by author. That's all we want. Is that so hard?
Recently discovered in a locker beneath some old gym clothes (a bit random, that), this first edition New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual is quite, quite superb. Designed by Massimo Vignelli at Unimark International (of lab coat aficionado fame) in 1970, it's barely aged a day – testament to just how influential the great man still is.
Every detail deserves closer scrutiny, so it's well worth visiting the Standards Manual site for shots of the whole thing. Or, for a more concentrated graphic burst, lovely chap Matt Coyne has put together this video flick-through. Get it on the biggest display you can find, prise you're eyes open with matchsticks and stick it on loop for a few hours.
Whilst having a ponderful wander around Art.sy* in my best cravat and beret, I stumbled upon this fantastic 1978 Chuck Close† painting that I hadn't seen before: Self Portrait / White Ink. Is it just me, or does that look an awful lot like one Daniel Kitson‡? Is there some long lost shared heritage between the two? Or do all men with beards and specs just end up looking the same? Really, the crux of the matter is this: should I grow a beard?
* If you're not familiar with Art.sy, you're missing out.
† If you're not familiar with the work of Chuck Close, you're missing out.
‡ If you're not familiar with the mirthful stylings of Daniel Kitson, you're missing out.
My boy is sleeping safe in bed
Without a tumour in his head.
No hepatitis, septicaemia.
No lymphoma, no leukaemia.
His heart is strong, his breathing sure.
The marrow in his bones is pure.
No ADD, MS, ME,
CF, MD or HIV.
We drove him safely to his school,
And back again. He swam the pool
Untroubled, laughing, loving it.
No seizure, stroke or fatal fit.
No aircraft engine yet has failed.
No train come lethally derailed.
He moves from trampoline to tree
To bicycle, to skate and ski,
Unharmed, unruffled, innocent.
No injury. No accident.
He sleeps. We sleep. Another day
Is passed in ease. We made more hay.
No horror here, no sudden shark.
No plunge into the depthless dark.
No slip from sunshine into sorrow.
But there’s always tomorrow.
The San Diego Air and Space Museum's archive on Flickr is jam-packed with beautiful photographs and illustrations from the Space Shuttle programme. It's hard to pick out any particular favourites, so I just decided to go for a good spread of colours. Ain't they lovely? It seems weird that these are now vehicles of the past, historical artefacts, obsolete ideas of the future.
A photograph is a universe of dots. The grain, the halide, the little silver things clumped in the emulsion. Once you get inside a dot, you gain access to hidden information, you slide inside the smallest event. This is what technology does. It peels back the shadows and redeems the dazed and rambling past. It makes reality come true.
— Don DeLillo, Underworld
The halftone sediment of the Secret Wars cover in that last post reminded me about the existence of 4CP, a massive time-leech of a blog by Half-Man Half-Static. Not content with scanning tons of old comics to get a good look at the dot patterns, he's also behind Comic Book Cartography (maps and diagrams are always my favourite bits of any comic) and masthead collection SUPERTYPE!
Covered is a simple blog with a basic premise: artists reinterpret covers of comics. And it's utterly brilliant. A lot of the work is a bit pants, or a bit too cutesy for my liking, but every now and then you get an absolute gem. Probably my favourite of the hundreds of submissions, Dan Scanlon's cover of Sol Brodsky's X-Men #1 always brings a chuckle to the heart. Just look at Iceman. Look at him there.
I also rather like Paul Bower's interesting take on Secret Wars #4 (a title from the dark days when Marvel comics were little more than toy catalogues). There's something particularly splendid about the Avengers being crushed under the weight of their own halftone patterns.
The rest: Henry Bonsu's Batman Year 100; Lasse Peuraniemi's wonderfully wet Peter Parker: Spider-Man #10; Steve Tillotson's Peanuts #2 and Robert Goodin's Walt Disney Comics and Stories #211 (yes, I'm a sucker for cartoon animals being drawn as realistically).
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. The bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.
— Anton Ego, Ratatouille
The lady wife-doctor and I went to see the documentary Eames: The Architect and the Painter at the pictures last night. Great film. Highly recommended. Of course, now all I want to do is buy a house and deck it out in as much Eames furniture as possible. Top of the list is this, the 1979 EC428 Operational Stool. It'd look perfect in my gargantuan studio modelled on the Eames' own 901 Washington Boulevard office.
When I was 14, I wrote a list for my parents: "100 reasons why it'd be a good idea for me to have an Amiga 1200". Although it didn't work immediately, my dogged dedication to the cause eventually wore them down, and before long I was able to chuck out my old grey Amstrad 464 and replace it with something much lovelier. That's the power of lists for you.
The Amiga – a kind of precursor to the modern Mac in terms of human-friendly home computing – was an incredible machine. As well being the platform for useful software such as Wordworth and Deluxe Paint (both of which were mentioned near the top of that list and were essential tools at university), it was home to some classic games. The best of these games came out of a handful of idiosyncratic British developers such as Psygnosis (Lemmings), Bullfrog (Syndicate, Theme Park), Team 17 (Alien Breed, Body Blows, Superfrog, Worms), Bitmap Brothers (Speedball), and Sensible Software (Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder).
Those who grew up with the Amiga have seen computing and gaming change in all sorts of massive, ridiculous ways, so a lot of this only exists in our flaky ephemeral memories now. Still, at least we have jobs and internet connections now, so at least we're able to do things we only dreamed of back then – such as fund a biography of Sensible Software using Kickstarter.
The first project from new games publisher ROM, the book looks pretty damn lovely – credit to designer Darren Wall. If you throw enough money at it, you get a heavyweight vinyl LP of the songs from their games (War from Cannon Fodder is a classic). It'd be a shame to see this period of British creativity and innovation (and the weird geeky humour that came along with it) get swept aside and forgotten, so books like this are important. With any luck, the success of this project (at time of writing, it's just £4,000 away from its funding goal) will lead to similar titles that we can wave at our grandchildren while we explain to them how things used to be better, back in the day.
UPDATE: They've reached their funding goal! Good work, everyone.
Thanks to @WeMakeMags for the scan of this classic Life in Hell strip. I'm still undecided as to which of these types of dad I'll be most suited for. I'll probably aim for Fun, but come across as a delicate blend of Snooze and Goofy.
For those of you unfamiliar with Life in Hell, it's the rather smashing strip with which Matt Groening made his name. Entirely written and drawn by him, there's a lot more of him in it than in The Simpsons or Futurama – he is a master of daftness. It's endearingly doodly, in a good old-fashioned pen-and-paper way. Plus it was used to sell Apples, way back in the 80s.
A good place to start is The Huge Book of Hell, although as he's recently retired the strip for good, it's possible that an online archive of all the strips will appear at some point soon.
I don't know how well it'll play to those unfamiliar with the original 2000AD comic, but Dredd is a great movie. Not perfect, but one that dares to do it's own ultra-violent thing, and doesn't aim to be for everyone. I could say more, but Antonia Quirke's review for the Financial Times hits the nail on the head:
[Dredd is] a film made with love for the simple, cool and assured cult genre classics such as Rollerball, Robocop and Escape from New York. If people go to an action film these days expecting pace and continuous pleasure from computer drawings, what they’ve been getting is plotting that’s completely tortuous. Condense for me, do, what happened in The Dark Knight Rises. Or in the recent Bourne reboot, which had to resort to a Mission: Impossible-style finale in order to shake off – like so many fleas – its story’s sinuous insanity. Dredd acts like an answer to this kind of pretentious plotting.
… Although the three leads are unimprovable (especially the fatalistic Headey, with her Jacobeanishly green teeth), the great pivotal decision was to have Dredd himself played by a normal human being. He may be based on a character from a comic strip, but if you allow Dredd to be more Dirty Harry than Terminator then everything else slots into place. Make him a muscle-bound, cartoonish Vin Diesel or even Chris Hemsworth (as Thor) and then it follows that his motorbike must be huge and the guns must be even more huge, along with the explosions and everything else: it messes badly with the sense of scale.
Crucially Dredd has something absent from all recent action and science fiction films: sadness. How desperately The Dark Knight craved sadness! How deeply The Bourne Legacy wanted to be as sad as the moment in The Bourne Identity when Clive Owen died in that wintry, crow-filled French field. The slow-mo moments in Dredd – imagined by the screenwriter Alex Garland and realised by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle – aspire to the bluesy melancholy of the sequence when Joanna Cassidy as the doomed replicant Zhora goes crashing through the glass in Blade Runner: a moment that set the tone for all our hopes for science fiction on screen.
Yep, that's pretty much it. I'd never really thought about the importance of sadness in science fiction before, but she makes a good point. It's one of the things that modern classic Moon – a big favourite around these parts – does so well. And it's good to see some recognition for Clive Owen's small but vital contribution to the Bourne saga.
I really hope Dredd does enough at the box office to warrant a Dredd 2. It makes a nice change to see a film that is both self-contained and deserving of a sequel – unlike recent films (The Hunger Games, Prometheus) that are so desperate for franchisery that they don't have proper endings, they just stop, leaving the plot just sitting there for a couple of years like so much stale popcorn.
Although it'd make sense to keep the perfectly-cast Karl Urban in the role (with this and Lord of the Rings, he really has the whole helmet-and-frowning market cornered), it'd be interesting to see different versions, just as different artists and writers re-interpret Dredd in the comics every week. I'd love to see Michael Biehn, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Duncan Jones take a shot at it.