My oh my. It’s that time already? Seems like it was just yesterday we were trampling old women and clothselining one another for some electronic gizmo. And yet here we are! Christmas time again! Well last year, to do my part in spreading the holiday cheer, I whipped up a few holiday cards for your viewing, emailing, printing, and/or mailing pleasure. I’ve decided to continue that tradition and create a new batch for this, Xmas 2006. I only managed to make 4 this year, but added to last year’s 6 that makes a solid ten. See below for the whole collection, and a very merry to you and yours.

12.17. filed under: !. design. personal. 7

Some bits from the history of scissors

Quote, “The obvious is so commonplace that when waved in front of our noses we often don’t give it a moment’s thought or even realize it’s there. We take certain objects so for granted that we probably never stop to ask ourselves how they first figured in the life of man. This is the case with scissors: do they date back one century, two centuries or twenty? Our stainless steel kitchen scissors were probably bought from a market stall around the corner, but when did the first scissors come into the world? Attempting to track down the name of a crackpot inventor would certainly be of no avail; as in many similar cases, scissors were not invented in a flash of creative genius, but rather evolved, step by step, alongside many other tools destined to cut, separate and pierce, undergoing modifications of design, material and decoration from the first, primitive examples — or at least from the first examples revealed by archeology and literature — to the scissors of today.” - From Scissors by Massimiliano Mandel.

12.16. filed under: !. books. design. history. 1

It may surprise you to learn, good reader, that in our splintered, chaotic and perhaps irreducibly complex world there yet remains something pure. In my research, relentlessly poking every facet of human experience, I have identified something so widespread and yet simultaneously so unlikely as to be truly worthy of the overused adjective- extraordinary.

12.12. filed under: !. life. observations. play. 5

While searching out some relevant linkage for the term “pantheistic solipsism” I came up pretty well flat. One hit, however, made me laugh. There was an entry for it on a site called “all science fair” which bills itself as the Science Fair Project Encyclopedia… I started thinking about some kid doing research for his tired old sputtering volcano and coming across (who knows how) the idea for “pantheistic solipsism” and deciding, “Hey, that sounds like a great science fair project!” What are the odds? I imagined the kid standing there with some poster board diorama with scribbly marker text and a few taped up photos and I just had to laugh. Made me wonder what other unlikely bits of science project fare might be listed in the Science Fair Project Encyclopedia… I laughed heartily, then, of course, I had to fire up ye olde photoshoppe. See below. 

12.07. filed under: !. play. science. 14

Prior to the 17th Century there wasn’t much in the way of organized fire control in Europe. Neighborhood night watches were organized by the residents of an area and they would essentially stay awake and keep an eye out for leaping flames. In the late 17th century this was to change, after The Great Fire of London in 1666 wiped out tens of thousands of homes, the first fire engines (hand pumps) appeared, and by the beginning of the 18th Century fire brigades, in the modern sense, were being created…

12.03. filed under: !. design. history. 4

Infinite Thirst

Or: The Misadventures of Yorick’s Skull, Part 1.

The skull of Yorick, deceased jester to a fictional court, rolls into a bar, occipital bone over frontal, until it comes to rest at the base of a bar stool. It stares upward and though sans-mandible calls out to the barkeep none the less, “What Ho goodman Carl!” The words are slightly slurred, whether for lack of larynx and lips or because this isn’t the first stop on the skull’s boozey itinerary it’s hard to say. The bartender, Dave, turns to see who’s calling him “Carl” (not being versed in Elizabethan slang) and sees no one.

12.02. filed under: !. fiction. 6

Reintroducing: Hella Basu

Picked up a 1980 design annual today put out by the venerable (but soon after to fold) U.K printing house Penrose. In it I found many amusing bits about then state-of-the-art computer graphics technology, articles of interest to the design dork with a historical bent, purty pictures, etc. The most striking bit by far, however, was a feature on a calligrapher by the name of Hella Basu. Beautiful work which put me in mind of everyone’s current fave Marian Bantjes, except Basu was born in 1924. A subsequent internet search for information on her work came up empty. Judging by the samples in the feature that’s a real shame. It’s my pleasure then to reintroduce her here, on the web, with the following 10 pieces culled from the Penrose annual.

11.29. filed under: art. !. design. history. people. 8

Night of the Ground Stars

Or: urban shoe-gazing finds a purpose

Electric light, Concrete, and Chewing Gum, what have they in common? Though, admittedly, both concrete and chewing gum can ultimately trace their roots to antiquity, all three of these items, in something akin to their modern form, entered the American stage in the 1870’s.

Edison invented the first commercially successful incandescent lamp around 1879. At the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 David O. Saylor exhibited the first American made portland cement, though it was not until 1891 that the first concrete street in the United States was paved. Thomas Adams opened the first chewing gum factory in 1870, and a year later Adams’ chicle based New York Gum went on sale in drug stores for a penny apiece. By the beginning of the 20th century all three of these items had become popular and were on their way to being staples of American life.

11.27. filed under: !. history. ideas. observations. play. 5

“It is only possible to succeed at second-rate pursuits - like becoming a millionaire or a prime minister, winning a war, seducing a beautiful woman, flying through the stratosphere or landing on the moon. First-rate pursuits - involving, as they must, trying to understand what life is about and trying to convey that understanding - inevitably result in a sense of failure. A Napoleon, a Churchill, a Roosevelt can feel themselves to be successful, but never a Socrates, a Pascal, a Blake. Understanding is ever unattainable. Therein lies the inevitability of failure in embarking upon its quest, which is none the less the only one worthy of serious attention.”
-Malcolm Muggeridge.

11.26. filed under: !. life. observations. personal. 13

The Picture Frame

Or: the humble boundary between Art and reality

Recently I went on the hunt for some reference on picture frames and a trip to the Strand rewarded me with The Art of the Picture Frame by Jacob Simon. It was created to accompany an exhibition of the same name held at the National Portrait Gallery (UK) in 1996. Looking through the book It dawned on me instantly that I actually had no idea whatsoever what the history of the picture frame was, or indeed, why frames were invented in the first place. Since I picked up the book I’ve been intending to do a post on the origins of the frame. A concise summation of the info contained within the book, however, would be prohibitively difficult so instead I’ve decided to simply share some of the frames themselves and offer, instead of a summation, some related links. See below.

11.07. filed under: art. !. history. 5

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