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Archives: July 2005

Gem of the Week: Wood iPods

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We don’t know who this guy is, but we salute you! He made a fully functional fourth-generation iPod out of African Paduak wood, and we have to say, it’s beautiful. And so of-the-moment chic! If you want to know more about how he made it, more details here.

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Subway Series

The subway system has been on our minds for obvious reasons lately, and we recently stumbled across two interesting collections of metro miscellany. The first is more provincial in its focus —a look at all the art that decorates our fair city’s subway system (we’re a little embarrassed at how few of the works we actually recognize, but hello, cab addiction. Also, Brooklyn actively antagonizes us every time we try to cross the East River.)

The other is a compendium of international subway logos, which is, among other things, a fascinating glimpse at the many ways in which to draw the letter “M.”

We are, as in many pursuits, torn between fashion and function. Japan certainly has the most graphically appealing logos: We love the colorful matrix of dots that denotes Hiroshima’s public transit; ditto the tuning-fork-bisecting-a-circle that is Osaka and the mod green umbrella of Tokyo. But removed from context, it’s impossible to know what these symbols represent.

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There are too many tired and dull logos to count, with two of the worst offenders being our own PATH train and the San Francisco BART system. Black and blue, ew. And a surprising number of logos that are indistinguishable from the Safeway sign.

The best ones favor modern and bright designs, clean lines, and are immediately recognizable as metro signs no matter where you are in the world. Cheers to London, Mexico City, and Helsinki!

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When Marketing Goes Terribly Awry…

An anonymous Unbeige reader tips us off to the ad that ate Billboard magazine’s website:

If that image isn’t scary enough, trust us, there’s actually another banner ad below the fold and an animated square in the middle column. And if you manually type billboard.com into your browser instead of clicking our link, you get the background wallpaper plus ad in all its full-screen glory. We of all people understand the sustainability that comes from banner ads—and we love the Butterscotch Stallion, too, though maybe not as much as this girl—but really. All of this is totally distracting us from why we’re really there: The SBC-sponsored featured artist Babyface. We’ll get to that just as soon as we finish reading “Backstreet Boys Offering Free Tour Tickets.” Hmm, perhaps there’s a method behind this distraction madness after all…

The New York Times is Such a Spoilsport

There’s more doom and gloom in today’s issue of the Times than your average Gina Kolata headline: We first recoiled at this Thursday Styles teaser: The promise that strength training speeds metabolism, allowing a person to lose weight effortlessly, is wrong. (While this has nothing to do with design, it is still disheartening.)

Then, Home & Garden kills off midcentury modern, neuters branded designers, and calls New Yorkers “chaste”. In another piece, furniture refurbisher Matthew Haly sniffs, “I’ve never paid more than $50 for any piece.” But while he disdains the Chelsea Flea Market, he coyly fails to mention where he does find said bargains. Rude.

We’re not even going to get into the Styles opener—which profiles people who are making major cash selling the equivalent of iron-on tees—except to say we do agree with Guy Trebay’s opening salvo (though we also thought briefly it might be a review of our bosses’ speaking engagement last night): NEVER underestimate the power of a martini when drafting a business plan. At least we can say amen to that.

Hello Kitty, Chinatsu, Izumi and Fujiko!

A reminder that this weekend is your last chance to catch a glimpse of elephants in underpants and all other sorts of other painfully adorable imagery at the Japan Society Gallery exhibit Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture. The exhibit

explores the culture of postwar Japan through its arts and popular visual media. Focusing on the phenomenally influential subcultures of otaku (roughly translated as “pop cult fanaticism”) and its relationships to Japan’s artistic vanguard, Takashi Murakami explores the historical influences that shape Japanese contemporary art and its distinct graphic idioms.

We got enough of Sanrio living in the Bay Area, and we can’t say we’re too into manga, but we can’t resist the utter cuteness of the two below:

Splat!

In New York, the alacrity with which storefronts change ownership and completely overhaul interiors can be disconcerting (anybody else think we could apply some of that elbow grease to our city’s more vexing projects?), so we were glad to see that Williamsburg’s relatively new hipster destination, Barcade, had such a lengthy and well-documented gestation period. (We’re also relieved to finally identify the mystery bar that we overheard being described on the subway this weekend as a magical land of 25 beers and Frogger.)

In nine months, the bar went from this

to this:

to this:

and successfully married the 15-year-old boy mentality to its desire to attract a more mature crowd:

We also appreciate that the enterprising young lads who built the bar from scratch aren’t just fly-by-night retroists. These boys are clearly living the dream:

Bye Bye For Now

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There’s no easy way to say this, so we’ll just write it. We’re going to a place without internets. For a week. We planned it before this whole blog thing happened, before our world shifted, our priorities changed. We hope you understand. You’ll be in good hands in our short absence, but we’ll be jonesing as hard for you as you, in an ideal world, might be for us. See you on the flipside on the first.

Periodically Yours

Within this blogger beats the heart of a reformed sceince nerd (oh boy, were we proud to recall the definition of “isotope” during a recent trivia smackdown) so you can bet the words “Click here for a slideshow about the periodic table” were music to our ears.

Over on Slate, writer Jon Lackman writes that the periodic table we all knew, loved/hated, memorized, and stuffed into countless three-ringed binders has undergone a makeover, courtesy of Oxford ecologist Philip Stewart. Out with the blocks and the footnotes, in with the swirly color-coded “chemical galaxy.” (Click to enlarge.)

Lackman is pretty worked up about the whole thing:

In the eyes of some, the old table is tired and dull-looking. For others, it is precisely the table’s minimalism that has given maximum freedom to the imagination. If that plain gray square in the middle, adorned simply with the letters “Au” and the number “79,” could represent gold, then what exotica might lurk behind “Rb” (rubidium) or “Mo” (molybdenum)?

We’re not thrilled about this new development either, and we already foresee a huge drawback: We hear students are using the “Internet” more than ever, and the new design is nearly impossible to read on our dinky monitor. Plus, look at the generational divide it’s already creating. We referred to the Internet as a strange and unknowable phenomenon! It’s only a matter of time before we start referring to the new design as “newfangled.” Thanks a lot, Stewart!

Lesbians To The Rescue If By Rescue You Mean Quilting

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As if John Waters and the red-hot poker weren’t enough, the crafty kids at Printed Matter are getting into sewing. This Saturday, they’re having a quilt-a-thon. Run by LTTR, an artist-hipster-type collective, and titled an army of lovers cannot fail (some political reference), it’s an invitation for people (“regardless of skill”) to go and sew quilts together this Saturday between 2 and 5 at Printed Matter. So we’re reading, reading, press release, blah blah, community, etc, and then we get to this:

an army of lovers cannot fail brings these 70s values into the 21st century using images of human and rabbit sexual scenarios

It never occurred to us that it was the rabbit-boning that made everyone (our parents) so elusive about the 70′s, but a lot of things are starting to make sense in the clear light of retrospect. Thumper, we’re so sorry.

And then, as if hot rabbit girl-on-girl quilting isn’t enough, the kids are also running three Radical Read-Ins, suggesting the idle public

spend time with your nose in the crack of a book

Whoever’s writing the press releases over there, we want to be your bff. Badly.

We’ll Have That Redesign Chicken-Fried To Go, Please

We’ve always been card-carrying, flag-waving Texas Monthly fans (which is, in our esteem, currently a better magazine than New York, though that bias could stem from our hometown’s proximity to the Mason-Dixon line) but we’ve been immersing ourselves in past issues lately for reasons that will become apparent on the mothership tomorrow. In fact, we’re so smitten with the look of the current issue that we decided to do some research into the redesign TM unveiled about a year ago.

Behold the 28-year-old creative director: Scott Dadich joined the art team back in 2000 (Yes, at age 23; yes, we’re jealous.) and as he’s risen in the ranks, the magazine’s just gotten purtier and purtier. TM, of course, has a long history of being incredibly good-looking (former AD DJ Stout is now a partner at Pentagram), but in Dadich’s hands, the book has really become something to behold.

The redesign brought more color, a playful use of parentheticals, L-shaped brackets in the gutters of edit pages to distinguish from ads, and a cool typeface, Sentinel, that was custom-made to be “distinctly Texas.” What that means, we’re not sure, but we believe it when we look at the display type that crimps where the lines of a letter meet. Just look at this “t” and try not to think of the notches in a longhorn, the curve of a saddle or spurs, and other stereotypical Tex-cessories!

Oh, and the photography’s also pretty top-notch, too. Here’s Dadich to PDN a few years back:

“The work the photographers were turning in was not that good,” says Dadich of his first year on the job. “I had several heated conversations with photographers who shot for the magazine for a long time. I put the photographers on notice that predictable and safe wasn’t going to be good enough… I’m looking for pictures that don’t default to a shooting standard of mythic Texas. We needed to go 180 degrees.”

“I have a specific goal and agenda for every piece. The photos tell a parallel story that goes to the emotional core. They build a mood, an alternate take. I want the readers to turn their head a little bit and ask, ‘What’s going on here?’”

Check and check. If you don’t stop to gawk at the queasy grotesquerie that accompanies this month’s article on chicken-fried everything, well, then, you’re made of heartier stock than we are.

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