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Posts Tagged ‘design

“The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise”*…

 

The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification turns ten in 2016. Created by artist Julian Montague [bio here], the book attempts to bring clarity to a world littered with shopping carts far away from their birth stores. Written in the voice of a character who takes the project as seriously as a birder would take a birding guide, the book is as complex as it is wry…

A winner of the 2006 award for Oddest Book Title of the Year [c.f. this earlier visit to that list], Montague’s guide received a decent amount of media attention when it came out. But, published in the rudimentary years of social media, it missed out on a chance for the level of virality it may have achieved today. So far, there are few, if any, efforts to add to Montague’s research. Perhaps it’s too good. Perhaps it’s too insane…

See for yourself at “A Look Back at the Greatest (and Only) Stray Shopping Cart Identification Guide Ever Made.”

* Benjamin Franklin

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As we return our baskets to the queue, we might recall that it was on this date in 1904 that “CQD” (Morse code  – · – ·    – – · –    – · ·) became the official distress signal to be used by Marconi wireless radio operators. A few years later, judging that “CQD” was too easily mistaken for the general call “CQ” in conditions of poor reception, the signal was changed to the now-ubiquitous “SOS” (· · · – – – · · · ).

In 1912, RMS Titanic radio operator Jack Phillips initially sent “CQD”, which was still commonly used by British ships.  Harold Bride, the junior radio operator, jokingly suggested using the new code, “SOS”.  Thinking it might be the only time he would get to use it, Phillips began to alternate between the two.

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Written by LW

February 1, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I use a whole lot of half-assed semicolons; there was one of them just now; that was a semicolon after ‘semicolons,’ and another one after ‘now'”*…

 

What’s a novel without its words? Just punctuation. But when you take those lines of commas, periods, exclamation points, and quotes, then arrange them in a big spiral, you can still tell something of the character of the original work: the endlessly curious and expository quality of Ishmael’s narrative in Moby Dick, for example, or the titular wonder of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Between the Words by Chicago-based designer Nicholas Rougeux is a series of posters that takes the text of classic novels like Pride and Prejudice, Huckleberry Finn, The Christmas Carol, Peter Pan, The Time Machine, and more, then strips them of all their words until they are mere swirling vortices of punctuation. The project was inspired by Stefanie Posavec’s Writing without Words data visualizations, which colorfully chart the structure—but not the actual prose—of many classic novels…

See the charted novels in larger, zoomable form at “Between the Words“; more background at “8 Classic Novels Reduced To Their Punctuation.”

* Ursula K. Le Guin

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As we eat shoots and leaves, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Barbara Wertheim Tuchman; she was born on this date in 1912.  A historian, Tuchman wrote two books (The Guns of August and Stilwell and the American Experience in China) that won Pulitzer Prizes, and several others that could/probably should have: e.g., The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890–1914, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, and The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.)

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“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding”*…

 

On the heels of last Sunday’s look at the NYPL Labs’ extraordinary interactive version of the Green Books, another visit to the Library, which has taken advantage of it’s enormous public domain collection to enable one to compare the photos from the 1911 Fifth Avenue from Start to Finish collection with 2015’s Google Street View.   The work of Bert Spaan, it illuminates one of the Big Apple’s most storied thoroughfares:

Fifth Avenue, the street that became the social and cultural spine of New York’s elite, first appeared on the Commissioners’ Map of 1811. At that time, it was merely a country road to Yorkville (then just a tiny self-contained village), but in the proposed grid plan it would be a grand boulevard. As the City grew and prospered Fifth Avenue became synonymous with fashionable life, the site of mansions, cultural and social institutions, and restaurants and shops catering to the elite. In 1907, alarmed at the approach of factories, the leading merchants and residents formed the Fifth Avenue Association. The Save New York Committee became a bulwark against the wrong kind of development. Perhaps inspired by this contemporary movement, photographer Burton Welles used a wide-angled view camera in 1911 to document this most important street from Washington Square, north to East 93rd Street.

Take a stroll at “Street View, Then & Now: New York City’s Fifth Avenue.”

* John Updike

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As we spread the news, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that three armed men entered the Bank of America’s World Trade Center location, disarmed two Brink’s guards delivering money to a currency exchange center there, then fled with with $1.6 million.  The heist was the brainchild of former mob boss Ralph Guarino. Given the heightened security on the heels of the 1993 WTC bombings, he needed help from a long-time employee of the facility, who handed over his ID badge and informed Guarino of the next expected delivery of cash to the bank; three hired goons were dispatched to carry out the robbery on that day.  The three entered the bank via passenger elevator early in the morning, tying up employees and stuffing cash into duffel bags as planned.  Luckily for law enforcement, the theives were not very discreet; only one of the the trio bothered to cover his head, so the other two were readily identifiable on security cam footage.  They were apprehended quickly following the robbery, leading to the capture of Guarino, who chose becoming an FBI informant over jail time.

The heist is unpacked in detail in the 2003 book Made Men.

 source

 

Written by LW

January 14, 2016 at 1:01 am

“It’s kind of pretty”*…

 

Fans of Quentin Tarantino might have noticed that items branded “Red Apple” have appeared in every one of his films since Pulp Fiction.  For The Hateful Eight, he turned to designer Ross MacDonald

Much of the action in Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie The Hateful Eight takes place in an 1870 Wyoming trading post called Minnie’s Haberdashery.  While you’re viewing it – either in glorious 70mm or regular format – look past the cracking dialog, flying bullets and spraying blood.  There – in the background, on the shelves, and occasionally in the character’s hands – you may glimpse a few cans and packages and other general store stuff.  For a few months last winter, I was lucky enough to help create a few of those things…

The story– and beautiful examples of the work– at “Hateful Eight & Red Apple.”

[TotH to J.J. Sedelmaier]

* John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell), The Hateful Eight

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As we roll our own, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that MGM released The Shop Around the Corner, the romantic comedy by Ernst Lubitsch.  While it did reasonably good business in it run, it has become classic, landing on most “100 Best” lists, scoring a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and earning a berth in the National Film Registry.  But perhaps its highest accolade came from Lubitsch himself: the creator of Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka, and To Be Or Not To Be called The Shop Around the Corner “the best picture I ever made in my life.”

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Written by LW

January 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema!”*…

 

Indiewire‘s list of  “The 50 Best Opening Credit Sequences Of All Time“– each with a video of the sequence, and followed by a bonus “starter list” of other candidates that might have made the cut… because after all, the point of lists like these is the arguments they provoke.

* Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge

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As we settle into our seats, we might spare a thought for Archibald Alexander Leach; he died on this date in 1986.  Known by his stage name, Cary Grant, he became one of the greatest stars in Hollywood history, the epitome of the “leading man,” famous for roles both comedic (e.g., Holiday, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story) and dramatic (Grant was Hitchcock’s favorite actor, for reasons obvious in Suspicion, North By Northwest, To Catch a Thief, and Notorious).

Living for much of his career “above the title,” Grant was the first actor of note to “go independent”– to refuse to sign a studio contract– which gave him control over roles and collaborators and a bigger piece of the action; he was one of the first actors to earn a percentage of his pictures’ gross revenues.

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Written by LW

November 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The exploring of the Solar System… constitutes the beginning, much more than the end, of history”*…

 

Solar System Interactive,” from Jeroen Gommers, is a simple– and simply beautiful– tool for understanding the relative orbits of the planets (and lest we forsake Pluto, the dwarf planets) the circle the Sun…

In a simplified graphical presentation the planets are seen orbiting the sun at a relatively high speed. The user is encouraged to grab any one of these planets, drag it around the sun manually and experience the orbit periods of the other planets as they are driven along their orbit at relative speeds, uncovering the “interplanetary clockwork.”

Click here to give it a whirl.

* Carl Sagan

As we watch ’em go round, we might send synthetic birthday greetings to Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow; he was born on this date in 1905.  A chemist and physicist, Snow taught at his alma mater, Cambridge, before joining the British Civil Service, where he had a distinguished career as a technical adviser and administrator.  He is probably better remembered these days for his writing (e.g., a biography of Anthony Trollope; the sequence of novels known as Strangers and Brothers).  But he is surely best remembered for his 1959 Rede Lecture, “Two Cultures” (subsequently published as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution).  Snow argued that the breakdown of communication between the “two cultures” of modern society – the sciences and the humanities – was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems.

A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: ‘Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?’

I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question – such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, ‘Can you read?’ – not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their Neolithic ancestors would have had…

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Written by LW

October 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There’s an old saying about those who forget history. I don’t remember it, but it’s good.”*…

 

Matan Stauber‘s “Histography” is, if not the most complete timeline ever, certainly close…

“Histography” is interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015.
The site draws historical events from Wikipedia and self-updates daily with new recorded events.
The interface allows for users to view between decades to millions of years.
The viewer can choose to watch a variety of events which have happened in a particular period or to target a specific event in time. For example you can look at the past century within the categories of war and inventions.

* Stephen Colbert

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As we remember, with Churchill that, “The farther backward [we] can look, the farther forward [we] are likely to see,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1609 that “Three Blind Mice” was first published.  Appearing in Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie, a book edited by Thomas Ravenscroft (who may also have authored the rhyme, though there’a case to be made that it dates back to the days of Queen Mary, and refers to her punishment of “The Oxford Martyrs“).

The original lyrics were:

Three Blinde Mice,

Three Blinde Mice,

Dame Iulian,

Dame Iulian,

the Miller and his merry olde Wife,

she scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife.

The lyrics as we’ve come to know them appeared in the mid-19th century in a children’s anthology collected by James Orchard Halliwell.

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Written by LW

October 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

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