Cinema 2012

The annual list of things I saw at the cinema. Quite a lot of superheroes this year: Avengers, Spidey, Batman, Charles Eames, etc.

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Whilst having a ponderful wander around* 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, 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.

Black and white

in the space of a few days, Steven Soderbergh watched Raiders of the Lost Ark three times … each time in black and white. And now so must I.

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Parental Lament

Want to know what being a parent is like? This poem by esteemed wordjockey Mike Reed for Dog Ear Magazine pretty much sums it up.

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In my memoirs, I'll recount how I made a stand and stormed out of my in-house job, leaving nothing but the lyrics to Monkey Wrench as a resignation letter. In reality I was set free by redundancy. The jump wasn't entirely voluntary, but I decided to embrace the shove and take it as an opportunity to go freelance. 

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Way back in the halcyon B*Witched-soundtracked days of 1998, I made a minuscule contribution to the art of of science fiction UI. I'd managed to score a few months of intern work at Revolution Software whilst they were developing their new game In Cold Blood, and was tasked with creating various incidental graphic elements and background details. 

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At the recent New Adventures in Web Design conference in Nottingham, all attendees were given a goodie bag full of an assortment of nice bits and bobs. One item stood out from the rest: a postcard. A pre-stamped, ready-to-send postcard, to write on and send to whoever you wished …

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CMYK Shuttles

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

Covered comics

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 realistically drawn cartoon animals).


“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

Sensible Software 1986–1999

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.

The 16 types of dads


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 its 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 …

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Marina City


Just to be a great big cliché, I bought an issue of Monocle to accompany me on a flight recently. Amongst all the unintentionally ridiculous articles (in their "things to improve your life" section, one of the suggestions was "buy your own island"), one piece really grabbed my attention: Life in the round, Hugo Macdonald's profile of Chicago's Marina City.

The 1964 building complex, with its iconic corn cob towers, was designed by Bertrand Goldberg to be a self-contained town – full of residential and commercial units (and a blues club), it's possible to live there and rarely set foot outside. This sort of 20th century architectural/urban planning idealism fascinates me – reading about this reminds me of the thinking behind the Barbican in London. You just can't beat a good concrete citadel.

Macdonald's piece, accompanied by David Robert Elliot's stunning photography, looks at the people who live there and the variety of ways the apartments have been remodelled over the years. Of course, Monocle being Monocle, you can't actually read the article unless you're a subscriber. There is however a book, Marina City: Bertrand Goldberg's Urban Vision, that looks rather good (and would be right at home next to David Heathcote's Barbican: Penthouse Over the City).

And so the obsession begins: Marina City goes straight to the top of my places-to-live wishlist. Just above that private island.