Sunday, July 27, 2014

Five movies that make me want to make things

There are some movies that are so sumptuous, so beautiful, so nearly tactile that every time I watch them it makes me want to make things. I'm not talking about movies that are just shot beautifully or have amazing editing or directing (if so, Lawrence of Arabia and Godfather would totally be on this list). Here's a list of movies that make me want to create beautiful projects, in no particular order. What are some movies that do that to you?

1. Dracula

I love Eiko Ishioka's work, and in Dracula it's combined with amazing practical effects, that always make me want to create things that are totally unwieldy but absolutely sumptuous. The costumes, man, the costumes!

2. The Fall

Speaking of Eiko Ishioka, I reviewed The Fall when it first came out, and it's still just as wonderful and stunning and delightful as it was then. Every shot makes me want to create something colorful and wonderful and LOOK AT DARWIN'S COAT.  I mean, come on.

3. Marie Antoinette

And speaking of Coppalas, Marie Antoinette makes me want to make things out of silk and embroidery and chocolate and raspberries and... everything. Seriously, I cannot watch this movie and not want to work on some ridiculous purse or random bit of something over the top. Or baking. Let them eat cake indeed.

4. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman

Segueing into movies that make me want to cook, this was the first. The cooking sequences in this movie have to be seen to be believed, and if you want to learn something about real Chinese cuisine you should definitely watch this. It almost hurts how good the food looks in this movie.

5. Ratatouille

Of course this gets a place on my list. Ratatouille shows you how pro kitchens operate, explains how flavors work together to make beautiful new things, and shows exactly how the creative process in the kitchen feels. I only wish I was nearly as good as Remy at plating. (I can make amazing tasting meals but I just don't have time to plate properly.) Regardless, this movie nails it. Perfection.

Honorable mention: The complete works of Wes Anderson

Seriously, the man can do no wrong (and of course he's totally in with the Coppolas - you'll find them all over his movies). I have loved every single one of his films, and every one makes me want to make some piece of fashion or leatherworking. Thank you, Wes Anderson (and his production designers David Wasco, Nelson Lowry, Mark Friedberg and Adam Stackhausen).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

They used to do heirloom design right - Wards Airline Radio

My dad recently procured for me a 1937 Wards Airline Radio, model 62-476. This particular radio has a Bakelite body with a nice art-deco-y look. It has also been sitting in someone's attic for *years*.

Cute, right? I thought hey, at least it'll make a nice decoration. For one, it's missing an antenna, though the leads are available:

But I'm sure it wouldn't work. I wonder what it says on the bottom so I can look it up...

... WHAT. That's a full diagram of the parts inside? With part numbers for EVERYTHING? So it can be EASILY FIXED?!? WHAT IS THIS MAGIC.

I wonder what will happen if I plug it in and turn it on.

WHAT. Magic eye tube (green above the dial) isn't on, there's no antenna... but it's from 1937 and I can hear static. Just barely, but it's there! If I want I can try fixing it myself or take it to someone who knows something about old radios and they'll show me how. There's a friggin' parts list. And a diagram.

Now, imagine it's 2091 and someone tries to get your iPhone to work. Or your Kindle. Or your TV. Or... well, fill in the blank. Laughable, right? We used to think of things so differently. You didn't throw something out when it didn't work because it was cheaper to replace it; we fixed it. Even now it only *seems* cheaper to replace things because they are built somewhere where wages are much lower than here, with less strict environmental controls, and companies have learned to externalize every cost possible. Can you imagine a diagram of the parts of your Kindle?

I'd be glad to pay more for technology/appliances/stuff that can be fixed or upgraded part by part rather than replace the whole; I just don't know if anyone is willing to make something like that anymore. There's still small engine repair, but all our small appliance repair shops seem to have disappeared. There are places that'll fix your PC (until it's totally obsolete in a few years), but forget about your iPhone, take it to Apple and get a new one.

Can we bring design like this back? Can we bring back the small businesses needed to support this kind of design?  Man, I'd love to see it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

LED Zepplin... lamp.

So I'm not that excited about the lamp currently in our front hall, and I wanted to steampunk it up. I decided a while ago to make a zepplin lamp. It'll be lit with LED bulbs.. so.. it is technically a LED Zepplin.

I started with a three and a half foot dowel and many two foot lengths of 1/2" x 1/16" basswood. I glued and threaded the pieces together with brown fishing line (Power Pro!) to make ten 5 foot struts.

Close up of one of the joins in the basswood

I cut out end pieces from brass sheet and screwed them into the dowels, and then used machine screws and nuts to attach the struts to them.

I also cut a propeller out of the brass and used a longer screw and some wooden spools to make it look pretty good.

I used basket reed for the ribs, again gluing them and tying them with fishing line.

Close up of the join
This is where it's at right now, after adding the inital wiring for the lights inside.

I still have to cover the frame with rice paper mache, and make the gondola. I have a good start on the net that will go over the top and attach to the gondolla:

Waxed linen thread net
I'll hopefully update after this weekend with a much more complete LED Zepplin!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Good logo design tips

I've designed quite a few logos over the years, but I can't say I've seen the rules about logo design put better than this.

A few highlights:
  • "Logo designs become iconic and memorable: they're not created that way."
  • "Don't use more than two fonts"
  • "A logo design represents a business's professionalism and poor visual jokes don't work. Use fonts which sum up the 'brand mood'. "
  • "As soon as a client begins suggesting things like, 'Let's make that text a bit bigger, and try this typeface', your mark becomes diluted. It's your job as the designer to make this clear from the start." (Good luck with this one.)
  • And, of course, a link to LogoThief, which is just brilliant.
Original at CreativeBloq

Monday, July 07, 2014

Thought of the day: Sheeple

I think I'm tired of the word "sheeple." I hear it from those on every side of every issue, to deride those that disagree with them. The thought is that if someone disagrees, they must be being led by "things they were told," by sinister forces on the other side. Usually this is followed by a call to "do research and wake up!"

The problem I have with it is, many people who disagree *have* done some research, but sometimes they put inordinate weight on anecdote and unverified claims (and many times the person using the "sheeple" term is the one who has fallen victim to this.) It also instantly dismisses any opinion other than one's own, and makes me tune out because it makes me think you aren't amenable to discussion.

Now, I'm just as vocal in my opinions as anyone else, and it is human nature to believe that everything you think is correct. For example, I can't think of an idea that I hold that is wrong, even though it is necessarily true that I am not right about everything.

If you want to really analyze someone's argument, you should see if they (or you) are committing logical fallacies. I personally am vulnerable to the slippery slope argument in certain contexts, as well as the no true scotsman.

In the end, don't worry about being a sheep, a guard dog, or even a wolf.  Be a honey badger.

Honey badger still don't care.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Save our cheese!

In case you haven't heard, the FDA has ruled that artisan cheesemakers in the US can no longer age cheese on wooden boards (a necessary part of the cheesemaking process for many types of cheese.)  Forbes has a great piece on it:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese shoparmigiano-reggianould prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.
This will effect local cheesemakers; in some early reports it was talked about how the wonderful, global award winning, local Marieke Gouda was aged on wood boards, for instance. It will cost jobs locally - almost any small producer of cheese will be affected.  And forget finding parmigiano-reggiano at the grocery store - if this is applied to all cheese you won't be able to get pretty much any cheese from Europe (or Canada for that matter).

There is a petition on to review this poorly thought out, job-killing rule. Please sign it and help stop this... inanity.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Maleficent, Ursula, and disappointment

OK, so I've had a couple of days to digest why I was so disappointed by Maleficent. Obviously, *SPOILERS* follow.

I think it had to do with two things:

1) They pulled back from the awesome woman wronged story to make Mal a good guy. Seriously, you could still have had her like Aurora (which would be a consequence of that spell of hers) but still have her not turn into a stereotypical good guy.  And that's a absolute disaster because...

The real tragedy is I will never get to see this.
Image by Jirka Väätäinen
I'm probably never going to get to see "Ursula", which in my mind is a Shakespearean tragedy about a woman overlooked for the throne because of her gender, which instead goes to her younger brother Triton (which was mostly in the original Disney script for the Little Mermaid...) even though she is more naturally talented. Her anger festers for years over this injustice until fortune puts Triton's daughter in her path, and she sees a way to take back what is rightfully hers.  The movie can follow the same story as the original just tell it from Ursula's perspective.  But no, Disney would probably make my favorite wronged sister into a good guy.. somehow. Bah.

2) Maleficent never turned into an awesome black and purple dragon. WAY TO RUIN FANTASMIC.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Another retro-futuristic postcard: The Cosmo

I've finished another postcard in my "Merrill of the Future Past" series, and I put it up on Zazzle as well if anyone is interested. This time it's the Cosmo Theater (apparently they build a huge new addition in the next hundred years or so).

Next up? I think Chips, then maybe the old City Hall.  Any other ideas/suggestions?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Star Wars Holiday Special in Van's shoe commercial

My mind has been officially blown. The "new" (yes, it came out on May the 4th, but WHY WASN'T THIS BEAMED DIRECTLY INTO MY BRAIN) Star Wars commercial for Van's Star Wars shoes stars LUMPY. His name is conveniently not said, but if that doesn't look exactly like a teenage version of Chewbacca's son from the infamous Holiday Special I'll eat my hat.

I guess this means that Disney is willing to acknowledge the Star Wars Holiday Special's existence.  Maybe we'll all get a real DVD/BluRay release of it... well, ok, mostly we just want the cartoon.

So is the Holiday Special canon now?