Sunday, 31 October 2010

Day 305, on vich it is Hallowe'en! [evil laugh] [31.10.10]

Dag tre hundrede og fem. Har de har, it's Hallowe'en! And yes, you read it correctly, it's spelt Hallowe'en, not Halloween. Y'see, it's an abbreviation of 'Hallow's eve[ning]' or something like that, so there should be an apostrophe where the V should be, much like in ma'am. The two apostrophe-separated letters form a sound, in this case 'ee'. Cause yeah, I'm a grammar Nazi with added phonetics.

Firstly, I'd like to state that I really don't like Hallowe'en. It's a stupid holiday thing, to be honest. No one has any idea what they're celebrating, which is pretty funny, but then there's the whole dressing-up thing, which I hate. Sure, I'd love to dress up, but not as a goddamn ghost! Or a vampire, that's just silly. Or, for that matter, a zombie. It all just seems silly, and they scare the bejeebies out of me every time they turn up at my door screaming 'trick or treat' in their little squeaky barely-RP accents. Plus, I have to give them sweets. For what? Putting a white cloth over their head? The KKK did that and they never got any sweets. And I can't even get out of it; I don't remember one time when someone replied 'trick' to 'trick or treat'. I'm sure if anyone did they'd be shunned by the community and no doubt stabbed to a bloody pavement death by the youths involved.

And that, kids, is why I've never gone trick-or-treating. And why I'll spend the rest of my life as a lonely Hallowe'en-hating bachelor who lives in his swanky modern apartment with only my chairs for company.

Before you go to bed - or, if you're in the US, go out and demand sweets from that elderly couple down the road - I have a little story to tell.

Let me take you back fifty years, back to the days of the 60s, when people wore flowery trousers and such fashion atrocities. They had big hair and thought everyone should be peaceful and not kill each other. And let me also transport you to a small country in the Baltic named Denmark, a country of great prosperity and even greater bacon. In Denmark there happened to be - and there still does happen to be - a town named Aalborg, a wonderful town with wonderful facilities but rather boring people.

In Aalborg, on the 31st October 1960, there lived a man in a large, SPOOKY, grungey-yet-neat house on a hill. Well, OK, on a bit of a mound in the ground, 'cause they don't really have hills in Denmark. This modern-styled yet VERY SPOOKY house was sitting atop this hill, effortlessly blended into the landscape with faultless gardening but still a SPOOKY ATMOSPHERE surrounded it like a licorice mist.

Around the house the little blond Danish children ran in the fields and farms and pig-places, celebrating whatever the fuck they do for Hallowe'en in Denmark. They probably call it Pøggeltingenføjer or some shit like that. Anywho, Jens and Ana and Gelle and their similarly named child-friends were running round collecting licorice from the friendly Danish neighbours in honour of Pøggeltingenføjer. But, in his no-doubt haunted house, the designer Arne Jacobsen sits and watches the children with an air of disgust.

The kids are having a fun time, but that doesn't mean Arne can't. He can have all the fun he likes with his drawing board and rulers. He's having a ball of a time, in fact. He laughs his evil Danish vampire-like-but-not-a-vampire laugh and returns to his drawing board. He's drawing up architectural plans. He even decorated his house for Pøggeltingenføjer by placing a small plastic spider in a drawer of his beautiful chest of drawers. In fact, he was putting it there because it was cluttering up his house and making his Egg chair's form look blobby, but he felt like he was doing his bit and honouring the design Gods of Denmark.

The children knew better than to disturb Mr. Jacobsen, especially on the night of Pøggel-whatever because he always went uber-productive out of sheer disgust for everyone else in the world. However, there was a new kid in town. His name was Jens, funnily enough. Unfortunately there are already 58 other 8-year-olds called Jens in Aalborg, so we'll call him Jens S. (for his surname, Sørensen). Unfortunately there are another ten Jens Sørensens in the area, so we'll have to call him Jens Sø. 5th. There, sorted.

So Jens Sø. 5th walked innocently up to the dirt-free doorstep of the Jacobsen Manor, which, may I add, was still VERY SPOOKY and DAUNTING (oooOOoooOOO etc.). He ding-donged on the doorbell, which had a rather sweet sound, and Arne looked up from his drawing board from the first time that night. As far as he could tell, it was only him in the house. He'd got married in his youth, but somewhere between then and now he'd misplaced/forgotten his wife so it was just him now. Him and his chairs and his drawing board and his love of design. The others didn't speak much.

Arne walked up to the door, finding his feet after their first use in weeks. One foot in front of the other, Arne, yes, they work like the legs on chairs but they move. It's a difficult concept to grasp, but he tried his best. He opened his door and looked out upon the young Jens Sø. 5th.

"Waggle tanga bagoonie!" said Jens Sø. 5th. Please note that I've substituted the Danish words for 'trick or treat' with 'waggle tanga bagoonie' because I'm sure it sounds something like that. Either way, Jens Sø. 5th said that.

Arne Jacobsen looked upon the child with distaste. These little people sure were daring. No one had knocked on his door in ages. The small person was holding out a bucket full of Danish chocoloate bars (Chokojum, Jeg Elsker Chok, Hvad? Ja, Chockolate!, Fuck ja chokolate, chokoladerenenernernenenggle etc.), licorice and shit like that. Boy, did Arne feel sorry for mankind, messing about with food, of all things. He hadn't had a meal in months. Every now and then, he accidentally fell onto his kitchen table and encompassed a biscuit with his mouth. It was a shock every time it happened, but it kept him alive, his doctor said.

"Vell hello dere," Arne said to the child, exercising his little-used speech box. Then he had a brainwave. Maybe he didn't have to give some sort of foodstuff to the kid. Maybe he could use this child for something. Functionality and all that. "Vould you like to come in?" He beckoned the child in.

Jens Sø. 5th looked with scared, wide, bright-blue Danish eyes at Mr. Jacobsen. He wasn't sold on the whole going-into-a-demented-designer's-house thing. But then Arne said "Dere will... be..." and, believe it or not, he managed to squeeze out the word he'd never uttered before, "fun."

Now I suppose you think I'm assuming Jacobsen was some sort of evil, spooky-house dwelling weirdo. But not really. It wasn't that sort of fun. I love Arne Jacobsen and I'd never insinuate that he did that kinda fun with a kid. Instead, the kid got scared shitless and dropped dead on Arne's doorstep. And, strangely enough, the kid's skin just slipped right off and cut itself into functional square-foot pieces. And that's how it got to be used on Jacobsen's first prototype of his Swan Chair. Honest, that's how it happened. I was there and all, in spirit at least.

The end.

Well that was weird. Obviously, Jacobsen is still a great designer and it's not true and it's a Hallowe'en story yada yada yada so don't sue me, bro. Enjoy your evening! [evil laugh] [thunder crack]

~John [sound of bats screeching]

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Day 304, on which John reads The goddam Catcher in the Rye [30.10.10]

Dag tre hundrede og fire. Today was very productive actually; I got some new pictures up on my wall (specifically four Helvetica ones and the Dieter Rams quote one I made), so my room's looking spiffy as ever, and I even managed to churn out several chapters (callin' em chapters now, 'parts' sounds too odd) of Cronas 13, which felt great. I'm getting annoyingly ambitious with it - the current part is set in a massive abandoned city made of sandstone, on the beach of a lake. I can write it well now, but when it comes to building it next year I'll be screwed, haha.

OK, I'm going to attempt to talk for a bit about The Catcher in the Rye. I'm not going to review it, oh God no, but I'm going to waste this post discussing it the best I can. It's a labyrinth of themes and hidden meaning.

I started reading The Catcher in the Rye a few weeks ago, and since then it's dominated my reading (which I usually do in the evenings). Only today can I finally open to the as-yet unread Wallpaper* magazine issue from a few weeks ago that got totally forgotten. The Catcher in the Rye is something I read all the way though, non-stop, every night, and I've finally reached its end.

Everyone says it's a good book. Apparently it's one of the best 20 books in English ever written. TIME said so or something like that. There seems to be this genre of books - very few - that are considered 'classics', books that stand for meaning and importance rather than a fun read or a page-turner. Among these are Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies as well as The Catcher in the Rye. To me, it seems that it's a given that you must like and respect these books. You can't read The Catcher in the Rye then finish and say "that's a bad book", because there's meant to be so much meaning in it that you'd automatically like it.

Well, that's how it seems to me. So maybe it's inevitable that when I started reading The Catcher in the Rye, my original opinion was "this must be good", thus I must think it's a good book when I'm done. Well, I'm now done, and I guess it is a good book. It's not simply a beginning-middle-end novel, there's much more to it than that. It's not even a slice of a teenager's life like a Mike Leigh film, it's some sort of journey of self-discovery and interaction of the main character with others.

Look, I'll give you the lowdown. It's told from the perspective of the teenager Holden Caulfield and we follow his journey as he is expelled from his school, Pencey Prep, and ventures out into NYC for a supposed journey of self-discovery. Whilst there's no mention of it on Wikipedia, many people have told me that The Catcher in the Rye is a true story, so that may explain why there's no formal structuring in the plot. You think that perhaps the novel will be leading up to when Holden's parents are told of his explusion (Wednesday, we're told), but it doesn't work out like that and everything just gets a bit messy.

The ending is very strange, not abrupt but unsatisfying. Well, abrupt too to be honest. Holden realises all his mistakes at some point, and the next thing we know he's changed his mind and he's going to go back home. Just like that, almost instantaneously. It's very strange that this happens without you noticing, it is also dissapointing. But I guess if that's how it happened in real life, then that's what you've got to write, right?

Probably the best bit of the book for me was the style in which it was written. Holden's 1940s teenager slang and tone of voice really transport you back and make the whole thing seem believable, and very realistic. He uses 'goddam' a lot (hence the title), and also 'sort of', so nothing is quite definite. There's also specialist vocabulary like 'flitty' (gay) or phoney (fake-seeming). Whilst these can be hard to translate at times, they really transport you into Holden's mind. There's a period about five chapters in when you think "Gah, this vocab is so annoying, if I read one more 'sort of', I'll be sick," but you get over it soon enough and you just don't notice it; you're inside Holden's mind.

So, Holden bounces off all these characters whilst revealing details about his past. There's the jocks and weirdos at his school, his girl friends, the odd tourist, his teachers, and his sister Phoebe who appears a lot as the voice of reason. We hear about Holden's dead brother Allie, plus a lot of his childhood and his opinions of various things. They build up a great character for him, but in the end it seems pointless because he doesn't change in any way or realise that he's going off the rails (remember, he's really just having a mental breakdown; he goes to a mental hospital at the end).

One thing to note is the meaning of the title, which I was curious about before I read the book. When asked by his sister what he'd like to be in the future, Holden refers to a song whose lyrics are "the children chase in the rye" or something like that. Holden wants to be someone who prevents the children in the rye field from falling off a cliff face, to be the catcher in the rye. Strange, right? I have no idea what it means, I really don't, and perhaps there is no meaning, but it's certainly odd. Of course, Holden is pretty much mad at that point, so we can't consider any of his ramblings as sane.

Ultimately, I feel that The Catcher in the Rye is a very interesting book, but most of its appeal simply comes from the reputation it's built up. The Wikipedia article mentions a review which noted that most of the appeal comes from the 'mystique', especially since the writer, J.D. Salinger, said barely anything about it. It's very mysterious in its origin and its meaning. So do I suggest that you read it? Hmm. If you want to read a book about teenage angst, a boy finding his identity (though I don't believe he finds it), and a mental breakdown as well, then you may want to read it. At least read it for the voice of Holden, but it's nothing something you can just skim-read and expect to make any sense. It takes a lot of thinking, and even now I'm confused as to its meaning.

So there we go, a literary discussion for you.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Day 303, on which John takes more photos, and yes - I'm aware there are very few people who care any more [29.10.10]

Dag tre hundrede og tre. Woah, I keep accidentally writing 'to hundrede' instead of 'tre hundrede' - ah well, I guess I have 65 more days to get used to the proper way of saying it. In other news, I got my BrickLink order today! Starring: a buttload of Maersk blue (very cheap for its kind), dark bley tiles and grey plates. Not very exciting, I'll admit, but it's a welcome boot to my collection. The Maersk blue stuff particularly are useful for an upcoming MOC of mine. I drained Simply Bricks of all their 1x4 tiles, haha!

I know you're fed up of my photos, but my dad got out his backdrop for the first time in years today and I couldn't resist taking as many photos as I could. Sure, there are a bunch with my sister in that I could show you, but that'd be odd and I know secretly that you'd prefer to see chairs than my sister. Plus, it'd be more legal.

First off, the Panton chair. My Panton chair. Beautiful red curves, a striking profile (as you can see here) and rather elegant. So like me, only my curves aren't red and they aren't really all that curvy. Dang, this is starting to sound odd. Let's move on.

What I love about the Panton chair is that it can look pretty round and fat from the front, but as soon as you turn it side-on it blows you away with a brilliant profile. The dress-like billowing base, the organic shapes of the seat, and the tongue-like backrest become very refined and bold. I think this change is because it's very wide to accomodate fat people, but you can't see this wideness from the side.

I wanted to show the Panton chair seat really floating in this photo - I took some portraits of my sister sitting in it and framing it like this, too, where the cantilevered design can really show off, and no base is visible. Also, I like the framing of this. Soft lighting thanks to my dad and some badass studio lights that've been hiding in our attic for years.

Obligatory rear end shot, complete with spiffy dramatic lighting. Well, I like it. There's a reflector just to the right of the chair which lights up the back of the backrest, which I think adds a nice highlight to the photo. Maybe a little too bright, though...

Another ass shot. From above this time. Om nom nom, I could just drool all over this thing.

My chair was signed by Verner Panton himself. Though somehow he's managed to sign it in extruded plastic, almost industrially. You don't think... that he didn't sign it himself? Is someone at Vitra signing it with a machine? Such outrage has never been encountered before on this blog!

Har de har har, I'm just joking. In actual fact I find the signature really annoying, ruining the shape. Sure, you can't see it from far off, but it ruins it close up. That's one of two perspectives ruined.

And now from the clean modern forms of the Panton chair to a totally different type of furniture, namely the No. 14 chair from Michael Thonet that I've mentioned here several times. It's just verging on old-fashioned style, but because it has an industrial significance it has some sort of function and so it's in my good books. Remember, it was the first popular and efficient steam-bent wooden chair? The most mass-produced one, too. This isn't fancy Victorian stuff, this is functional. 50 of these, disassembled, can fit in a one-metre-cube space. It's no wonder the king of functionalism, Dieter Rams, has a bunch in his house.

So yeah my parents somehow have one - from my grandparents I think - and it's in pretty bad shape. Great to photograph. It's rather beat up, a real contrast to the Panton chair, but in fact they have something in common: they both featured pioneering industrial processes for the time. The Panton chair was the first one-piece plastic chair (years were spent developing it) and No. 14 was the first steam-bent chair to be mass-produced (beforehand chairs had been glue-bent). So maybe they're not so different after all.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Day 301, on which John visits a dismal remnant of Britain's past [28.10.10]

Dag tre hundrede og én. Wowzies, it's day 301. So that means it's like 101 but with 200 extra. I bet Dinsey are lucky they didn't make a film called 301 Dalmations, 'cause the animators would've been pissed at having to animate hundreds of goddamn puppies. I'd be pissed if I landed that job, I really would. I'd also be pissed that, after years of learning to be an animator, I get stuck with a crappy Disney movie. Seriously, what choices are there for you if you train to be a traditional animator? The Simpsons or Family Guy, then Disney. That's all there is.

ps. The JOHNSPACE Crap Filter has been updated, to cover all posts up 'til yesterday. Please use it if you want to find specific content, I don't want my work to go unnoticed.

So, I visited a dismal remnant of Britain's past. A town on the south coast of England named Brighton. Yeah, you've heard of it. The Brighton pier and all that. Well, I've been there before but only when I was very young. I gave into my other pastimes and visited the ton of brigh today with my family. Did the whole pier thing, the beach too, and 'the lanes', which I'll explain later.

Firstly, the pier. Wow, is that a state or what? This is what I mean by the 'dismal remnant' of Britain's past. Back from the 50s when Brits visited the English countryside for their summer holidays. Back when they'd take their beachtowels and relax on the freezing cold shingle beaches or visit the amusement arcades and the piers. This may be a good setting for a film set in the 60s, but nowadays it's awful. Or at least, I think so. If you like saccharine nostalgia, then Brighton's your place.

Another attribute of Brighton is that there's 'the lanes' which are a series of thin streets on which can be found a plethora of 'alternative' shops. ie., those showing colourful jewellery or 60s stone-washed dresses etm. I'll be honest here (if I haven't been honest enough already) - I hate alternative shops. With a passion. They are totally not my thing. I didn't see one in Copenhagen, not one. There's no Claire's in Copenhagen. You'll find no one wearing rainbow-coloured outfits and dyed hair in Copenhagen. It's such a British style, a British tradition, and as you all know I'm no big fan of British traditions.

These two British traditions - the freezing, pier-based British beach resort and the 'alternative' shop - are what make Brighton a symbol of whatever it is. And I got a few good photos out of it, so maybe it's not all bad.


ps. Barbra Streisand.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Day 300, on which, well, it's day 300! There's no need for anything else in this title! [27.10.10]

Dag tre hundrede. Well, let's all throw out hands in the air and celebrate! (Then put our hands back down again, of course, they could get dirty up there) Day 300, wow, I'd like to say I'm surprised I got this far but I haven't really been too bothered about "I don't follow projects through boo hoo" since day 20, it's just become the norm for me. Wow, when I think about what it'd be like to be here at my computer at around 20:30 and realising I don't have to blog, my soul is set free. Or some such bullshit.

What's that, you're expecting some sort of celebratory graphic? Fine.

There we go. Changed the background colour to black, moved the 'Day' a little bit. Changed '200' to '300'. Good as new. Now, if you don't mind, I have a movie to review...

I'll admit something to start us off. I've never seen a Coen brothers film before. They were always just off my film interests, not mainstream enough for me to get a chance to see any of their films. Sure, I'd see trailers of their films - O Brother, where art thou? and Burn after reading specifically have piqued my interest, but I could never get hold of them or find them in the cinema. That's partially my fault; I don't go to the cinema much. But still, I'd never seen any Coen brothers films. Gimme a slap on the wrist for that.

But, as luck would have it, those helpful gents at Channel 4 (I'm liking the new graphics, by the way guys) showed the Coen brothers' modern-day western No Country for Old Men a couple of days ago, late at night, and I recorded it on my digital recording device. I watched it yesterday and this morning off my digital recording and subsequent watching of recorded material device, and I must say it's an interesting film. Look; I'll take you through it.

Chigurh keeps looking up at the loops above the shopkeeper's head in this scene... we've seen him commit two murders already, it's an incredibly tense sequence. Will he throttle the shopkeeper!? Oh, the tension!
No Country for Old Men is based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, the author of The Road, so it was definitely going to be a good book to adapt. It's set in the 80s, in a very different version of the wild west: a Texas where drug deals and mass murderers rule the land and the law can do very little. There are no showdowns in front of clocktowers here; those hick towns in the middle of the desert have grown into large settlements thriving with business, but the landscape is still as bleak. Your stereotypical sheriff is anything but as powerful as the sheriffs in old westerns. Suffice to say, there's a lot of crime going on in the bleak wastelands of the southwest.

After being introduced to the brutal murderer Anton Chigurh (played brilliantly by Xavier Bardem), we start following Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), your average Texas worker. Moss is hunting in the wastes one day when he comes across a group of abandoned jeeps complete with dead Mexicans and a suitcase full of cash - $2 million to be exact. But does Llewelyn just leave it alone or hand it in to the sheriffs? No, no he doesn't. He decided to go awol and run off with the money. But oh dear, bad choice Mr. Moss, 'cause Chigurh is on his heels and he's catching. Thus begins a gripping cat-and-mouse chase between Chigurh and Moss, interspersed with the sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) following up the trail of murders. What happens next? You'll have to watch it to find out.

The face of a killer. Or an actor; your choice.
The first thing I noticed, which isn't immediately apparent from the start, is that there is no music in No Country for Old Men whatsoever. There's a light track in the ending credits, but from the start until then the soundtrack is nonexistent. You're thinking "oh, that sucks, it'll be so boring" but it makes the tension of the film oh so much more poignant. There's nothing lacking - the nonexistence of a soundtrack is not even important. The sounds and atmosphere of this brilliantly observed 80s Texas are enough to work. And, as one person on YouTube cleverly observed, it makes you focus on what's happening more. Which is needed because there's a lot going on in some scenes and not very much in others. You don't want to miss the scenes when there's a lot going on, especially with everyone talking in an inaudible Texas-accented muffle.

In terms of acting, I wouldn't say there's anything special in No Country for Old Men. Not that there needs to be, of course. Xavier Bardem is mesmerising as the murderer Anton Chigurh, though sometimes he almost looks too sane. Maybe a crazy twinkle in the eye wouldn't have gone amiss here and there. Some of his expressions, especially his smile, are spot-on. Others leave a lot to be desired.

You show 'em, Josh.
Then there's Josh Brolin, who does well enough, and the stereotypically cast Tommy Lee Jones who portrays a tired and stoïc sheriff very well. Though he's meant to be the backbone of the film, I sometimes felt that he let the script down, but he looks the part to say the least.

Next up, cinematography. No Country for Old Men has its low points in terms of cinematography, but they're few and far between. Most of the shots and wonderfully composed and really match the bleak atmosphere that the Coen brothers were hoping to achieve. The lighting is exquisite - especially indoors, and the montage of wide shots at the beginning of the film sets the scene perfectly.

The editing is the only aspect of the film which is too off-beat for me. I don't stick to mainstream cinema, don't get me wrong - I'd always prefer a good French film to Iron Man 2 or some ghastly blockbuster like that - but there's something not quite right about the editing of No Country for Old Men. It's long, it's indulgent, and at times it fits the pace of the film well, but elsewhere it seems to drag on a little too much, and it can be hard to understand what the editor wants us to think. Remember, the editor is like the narrator of the film. If he's cutting two scenes into each other, a back-and-forth effect, then it should be clear to see what he means by this. This is where lots of indie films fall down; the editors and directors simply aren't skilled enough or don't have enough objective thinking to see the film as it would look to the average, dumbass viewer.

The story is another part of the film that I was unimpressed with. Maybe I don't think deep enough into the plot, sure. Maybe I don't give it enough time to explain itself with me, sure. But it should still make some sort of sense to me. I felt like I had to overconcentrate on lots of scenes to try and make sense of them; try to insert meaning and understanding into the muffled lines everyone says. But, with the psychotic character of Chigurh, this is difficult. It's clear that the movie was based off a book because it includes lots of themes that require you to read it, and certain parts of it, several times. You have to make your own sense of it, but this is best done with a book. Trust me; I'm doing the exact same thing with The Catcher in the Rye at the moment. The ending is quite abrupt, and leaves a lot to be desired, but in a way I found it satisfying.

Though it has its flaws - flaws which I'm sure can be seen across the Coen brothers' films and are just part of their filmmaking - No Country for Old Men can be enjoyed just as a movie experience rather than a film which is trying to say something. The first hour and a half can be enjoyed just because they're gripping, brilliantly observed, and will have you on the edge of your seat. It's only when you encounter the last scene in the film that you say "hang on, was there meant to be some overarching meaning that I was meant to be picking up throughout the cinematic murders and heartstopping chase sequences?"

It's certainly broken me into the Coen brothers - next on the list, Fargo, which seems like a similar affair. So, to round off this flabby review, I'll have to give No Country for Old Men a number of Js. Because it's very well shot and the atmosphere created is wonderful, I'll give it four Js. But don't expect anything perfect.



Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Day 299, on which John shows off his ninth roll of film [26.10.10]

Dag to hundrede nioghalvfems. Woah, I've just realised that we're on day 299! Oh em actual gee. One more day to go until the fabled 300th day of the year. From then on, it's 65 more fun-filled days until we get to the end of the year. Contrary to what I said at day 200, I think I'm going to go for gold and blog through until day 365. Woop, good luck to me and all that.

Woah, wait up boy, before we check out some of my latest photos I've got something to advertise. If you haven't already seen this, the site is absoultely hilarious. The home of 'Emails from an asshole', the proprietor finds ads on the US Swapshop-cum-website Craigslist and torments the people who posted them. Hilarity ensues. This one in particular is brilliant.

Moving on, I have yet another bunch of photos to show off. No, I don't care if you don't want to see or read about them, just skim-read this post and move on. To be honest, it would've been worse if I didn't have anything to talk about.

Skylines I © me
Harking back from my Intersections set, this new venture into a project called Skylines utilises natural lines in a very different way. Forget markings on tennis courts, this is all about electricity cables. And, when I expand the set a bit, aeroplanes and birds too. It'll be all about finding compositions in the sky. For now, you just have this simple shot with some cables. Taken at half seven in the morning on the way to school; my hand was frozen as hell - I only had one glove. 'Cause I couldn't find the other one. It was my shutter hand as well. Guh.

Untitled © me
This next shot is from my school (when I got there and had unfrozen my hand), it's the spiral staircase which I'm pretty sure has featured in a photo of mine before - this one for sure. It's just such a unique feature to the building. And they said I wouldn't be able to find any more good photos when I went out to photograph stuff for a second time. Pah.

Untitled © me
This next shot was taken as soon as my hand had defrosted when I got into school. In the early hours of the morning as my class stumbles into school half-consciously, light streams in through the windows of our form room and casts a brilliant golden haze over everything. Well, I like it. This really doesn't show it off very well - I have some other photos, but this is all for now. It's hard to really show the light if the classroom's full of students and French posters on the walls. Maybe I might find a good shot one day.

Untitled © me
No, don't adjust your screens gentlemen, you have not seen this before. It is the same angle as this photo, but the lighting's different because it's at a different time of day and I did something different with the exposure and focus, I think. Either way, I prefer this one. The shape of the stairwell just glitters in the light. Though I've heard it's not good for you if you look at the sun through a camera. My eyesight's screwed up enough as it is, haha.

Maybe more tomorrow. Probably not. Woot 300! I can't wait! Squeeeeeeeeeeee!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Day 298, on which John introduces the Kongsholmparken Café [25.10.10]

Dag to hundrede otteoghalvfems. Well hey, Monday. And here I am, listening to Jonathan Coulton songs. I'm not that obsessed, please don't get me wrong, but I love them anyway. I'm currently listening to IKEA, because it's about IKEA, of course. Though I'll admit I sung along to Code Monkey and I Feel Fantastic on Saturday. But that's best left to the history books.

Woot, here is the follow-up to the Ishøj House... finally revealed... may I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, the Kongsholmparken Café!

Here is the classic two angles, from two opposite corners of the sadly square base. This one wasn't thought out as much as the Ishøj House, which is why it's not on a naturally shaped base. The Kongsholmparken Café started off with the roof shape, then I tried to integrate some windows below, and the base came last. It's not stable, at all, which is saying something considering I think of the Ishøj House as relatively stable.

The architectural concept behind this build was one of secludedness. I wanted to create a mid-forest meeting place, a small and cosy café where people could enjoy the scenery whilst not being in the middle of a massive concreted area. It's meant to be right up close to the grass, the trees, and nature itself. It's nestled in there, with a flat roof to keep it low (it's Danish, don't forget). There's also a little bit of 'plane interaction' which is an outshot of the Ishøj House. The idea being that the shape of the building is a result of two flat planes interacting (the mathematical kind, not the flying kind). Whilst this may seem a bit 'arty farty' but I've got to justify myself somehow.

Plus - and now this is what I was trying to achieve when building - the dark grey plane is there to offer a clear divide between the outside and the grounds of the café. The hikers walk in off the hill (see the guy in the hoodie), and they can't see much of the café stuff because it's hidden behind the dark grey panel. People in the café can look out, sure, but the main thing is that others have to reveal it for themselves. It's a secluded space within the woods rather than just a forest clearing.

Here are a couple of views of the details in the scene. Up top you can see the interior. There's a TV on the right there because I wanted the café to be a social place as well as a place for people coming on their own. It's not just for tourists and eco-friendly types (it's far from eco-friendly, it's made of concrete), it's for townfolk and/or businessmen who want to have a coffee and check their emails in their lunchbreak. They just pop into the café - which isn't hard to get to since Kongsholmparken is pretty small - grab a coffee and read the newspaper in the bar for a while. The tables outside offer a more social meeting area, and in the outdoors as well. That's not really for the locals; that's for big groups or hikers or tourists. Those dressed for the outdoors. See bottom-left panel for the stereotype.

Oh and there's a panel of the windows that opens up so people can shuffle in sideways. Doors weren't really on my list of priorities.

And finally, here are the details of the Kongsholmparken Café. Up top is the furniture - not my best, I'll be the first to admit, but it does the job and it's all meant to be wood to reflect the trees outside. Very natural and soft, to offset the harsh lines of the concrete exterior. Yet with sharp angles and simple shapes, they're still modern. Just about.

In the middle panel you can see the bits 'n' bobs from the building. There's a red bike, because everyone in Denmark cycles everywhere (especially in the woods, that'd be a nice outing, stopping halfway in the café). Also, it's a reference to the Ishøj House, which featured the same bike. Considering that Björn, the dude in the Ishøj House, is also in the café serving coffee, we can assume it's his bike and he's cycled into the park where he works. Spiffy, right?

Oh and on the bottom panel you can see the minifigs, which are meant to be simplified stereotypes of the sort of people who'd use the café. From the left, Björn the café worker, the shutter-happy overdressed tourist, the trendy androgenous young person with matching satchel, and the old-yet-fashionable middle-aged man complete with receding hairline and professional walking stick. All with smiley faces which pierce your soul.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Day 297, on which John makes another house [24.10.10]

Dag to hundrede syvoghalvfems. Yeesh, I have party-host hangover. I had it last weekend as well, admittedly, even though I wasn't the host for that one, but it's even worse when you're the host cause you have to clear everything up. Nonetheless, I've amassed £130 in present money (I want that BrickLink order so much), so it's not all doom and gloom.

My Panton chair made its premiere appearance in my living room last night, and had a good reception too! My friends were walking past the door, spotted it and said "Hey, what's that? It's awesome?" Conversation about it and/or conducted whilst sitting in it was prominent throughout the night, so it went down really well. It's amazing how you can just plonk it there and let people talk about and interact with it.

Also, I managed to curb the trend of all parties, ever, and keep people out of the kitchen. My parents kept saying "you can't keep people out of the kitchen, all parties happen in the kitchen" but I demanded "No!", 'cause kitchens are so utlitarian and functional, not to mention uncomfortable and not intended for social situations (yes, that's right, I'm applying interior design and ethics to how to hold a party). So I managed to manufacture the layout and keep everyone in more comfortable rooms. And all was good. And my Panton chair was enjoyed.

A hiker in Kongsholmparken enjoys a coffe and pølse (sausage) in my Kongsholmparken Café

Now, to try and make some use of my current bad mood and extreme tiredness, I figured I'd show you a sneak preview of my latest venture into Lego architecture. The follow-up to the Ishøj House, this house is set out very similarly, but unlike what I said yesterday, I've totally given up on making it a different style to the Ishøj House. The architecture itself is different, but the layout and a lot of the details are similar. So I said "screw it," and I've included a few specific details from the Ishøj House to keep a link there. Also, I've decided to put this house in Kongsholmparken, which is a small park a bit north of Ishøj, in Denmark of course. The house is in fact a café placed in the middle of the park, in the woods. Stay tuned for full pics tomorrow...


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Day 296, on which John rounds up his Apple reviews [23.10.10]

Dag to hundrede seksoghalvfems. Lo and behold, it's a new day. Yay and all that crap. Now, I'll be honest, I have something to do this evening so this post is going to be short and sharp, and posted early (as those of you in GMT would know). So I figured I'd quickly round up my review of Apple's new product releases - now three days ago - say farewell and get on with more pressing matters.

The final product 'released' back three days ago by Apple was a series of sneak previews of their all-new operating system, Mac OS X Lion (hereafter referred to as Lion). Much like Windows, Mac releases their new operating systems every few years, but unlike Windows they have awesome names. Whilst Windows relase 'vista' and '7', Mac release 'snow leopard' and 'lion', which sounds much cooler. All Mac OSs are named after big cats, the best names being 'OS Lynx' and 'OS Tiger' from a few years back.

I'm currently running the second-latest Mac OS, OS X Leopard. Since then, there's been a small upgrade pack called Snow Leopard which includes a couple of extra features and some bug fixes, but I left that one alone since it wasn't worth the £50 it costs. But, at long last, we've heard the first news of the latest all-new Mac OS, called Mac OS X Lion. It's got a bunch of new features...

First up on this list of features (because no doubt there'll be others) is a new application that comes with the OS package called the Mac App Store. Apparently Mr. Jobs wanted to integrate lots of iPad features into OS X, to make it a much more enjoyable and graphics-based experience. Part of the iPad integration is this app store, but for Mac apps, which is a great idea. Mac apps are way too hard to find, and the app listings on the Apple site are a nightmare to navigate. Maybe this Mac App Store will open up Mac apps to a wider audience, and create a vibrant range of new Mac apps. My hopes are for it to be a lot like Valve's Steam games portal.

Then we have a new desktop feature called Launch Pad, which presents all your apps in an iPad format, displayed in a grid across your screen with way too much spacing. Sure, it's reminiscent of the iPad, but I feel like it needs a big more Mac-ness, otherwise it seems stuck onto the OS. Different ways of ordering the apps could be useful, plus an option to disable apps from appearing in Launch Pad. One of my friends, when I showed him this, said "but I have way too many apps... it'd still be hard to find them all", and I so totally agree. The Applications folder is useless for apps, but a bit more user-friendliness with buttons and options could potentially make Launch Pad great. We'll have to see how it actually works. The folders (above) look like a good idea, though.

Next up we have yet another desktop feature called Mission Control. And it seems to be almost as bad as its name. Apparently it collates everything you're doing on your Mac to serve as one giant F11 key (F11 is 'see all windows'). You've got the Dashboard (a space to arrange widgets, much like the Windows Vista sidebar), Exposé (showing all windows at one time) and Spaces (having more than one desktop so you can arrange apps across different spaces). I do like the feature which shows windows of the same app next to each other (top-right in the picture above shows two Safari windows grouped), much like Windows 7 I'll have to admit, but otherwise it just seems like an extension on Exposé. Plus, I don't understand why iPhoto is at the top in a little preview image and the other apps are big in the centre. Minimised perhaps? It's not explained. It's a useful feature, but I think it should just be the next stage for Exposé.

Well, that's all we've got of Lion so far. Apple say it'll be released in Summer 2011, so it's just under a year until it gets released. Sigh. I hope the future brings more features, creating a real forward step for Mac OS X. I'd like to see something really different, and much more ergonomic, rather than a few extra features to the old OS. We'll see.


Friday, 22 October 2010

Day 295, on which John reviews iLife [22.10.10]

Dag to hundrede femoghalvfems. I've started building again today, after a bit of a gap left by I-don't-know-what. It's a small modernist building, using similar shapes and in a similar presentation to the Ishøj House but it's not meant to be similar. It's on a baseplate, has grass, trees and decking like the Ishøj House, and in terms of structural elements it's similar, but it's still different. And I don't think it's as good as the Ishøj House, either, because it's not so much of a complete form. It's more of an experiment. We'll have to see how it pans out.

Also, I'm now off on half term. How did I forget to mention that? Guh, ah well. Should be fun. Lots of building, plus a freaking huge Bricklink order.

Since it's review season here on JOHNSPACE, I figured I'd complete my review of the latest Apple product releases by casting my ever-critical eye over iLife '11, the umpteenth version of Apple's iLife software package.

Looks 90s to me. Blurgh.
I've been an avid user of iLife for four years now, so ever since I got my MacBook Pro way back in 2006, when I was a very different kid. iLife '06 was a great package, and I really have appreciated every single feature of it. iLife always contains the same three applications: iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand.

I've been using iMovie from '06 and I will happily say that it's the best movie editing application you can buy for under £80. It's got a timeline, a nice load of functions to allow you to have some control over your movie, plus it looks professional.

Then it took a turn for the worst in 2008, when iMovie '08 announced that it wouldn't actually be including a timeline. My exact words were "what the actual fuck, Apple?", for the timeline is the key piece of any non-liner video editing software. Even Windows Movie Maker has it, for God's sake. But no, Apple said "screw the timeline" and only used clip-by-clip individual editing. Sure, iMovie '08 looked purdy, but so does the Juicy Salif lemon juicer but that doesn't work for toffee. Luckily, Apple regained some of my respect for them in 2009 when iMovie '09 brought in a timeline. However, due to the moronic screen layout of iMovie, it has to cross several lines, like text. Which defeats the whole point of the timeline, but I'll leave that alone for now.

Smells like fail.
The most notable change in iMovie '11 is that it's now become "video editing for sentimental morons who have no taste", and I suppose the only thing preventing Apple from renaming it so is because the name may be too long to fit on the packaging. Even still, that's what it should be called. Look, mom, you can make your own trailer credits. Oh, of course, that's not corny in any way. Not clichéd. No, in fact that's very classy and only the poshest, most professional dickheads use it in their videos. You can even have a title sequence in the style of Indiana Jones.

iMovie '11 is a sorry excuse for iMovie. What was a once-great entry-level video editing application is now a poor man's Movie Maker. There, I said it. It's Movie Maker, but with better-made titles. You can even apply an effect which overlays sports channel graphics! Sure, sentimental American 'soccer moms' will love this to ruin the videos of their family's summer holidays. Their friends, when the video is forced into their faces via hand and/or round robin email, will smile and say "that's clever," but their souls are burning inside because they secretly know it's shit.

So basically iMovie has reached new lows. Moving on...

iPhoto has always been a big favourite of mine, and is the only iLife application I have which is more up-to-date than the iLife '06 package. I managed to get iPhoto '08 off my friend, and Events make it so useful. Since then, iPhoto has been going from strength to strength. A slick interface, easy management of photos and clear ties to MobileMe internet services have made it a winner for me.

Now we have iPhoto '11, and there's a couple of new features I must address. Firstly, you can view your photos in full-screen. Big woop. Then there's the ties with Facebook, which I am very excited to see 'cause it means you can tie in your Faces (which is when you organise photos by who's in them) to your friends on the ol' Book of Faces (see below). Plus you can browse Facebook photo albums like iPhoto Events. Which is all swell. I'm not a big fan of the new, simplistic application layour, but it's taking iPhoto in a bit of a different direction - more towards it being a button-based iPhone app, rather than a traditional gallery management software. The fullscreen function seems a bit too much for me.

Demented woman in the middle (because Apple needs to show a wide range of retarded and non-retarded people using their software) and that Chinese biologist from Sunshine on the right. A star-studded cast.

Then there's some email options, yada yada yada, and all seems goody goody. Until we get to the new way of customising photo albums, which you design on iPhoto and send off to be printed out and mailed to you. HAH. I say design there, but it's anything but. It's about as much designing as if you had an interior designer, called Nicole for the sake of detail, round your house and she offers you a selection of three swatches. ie., it's going to look the same no matter what you do. Even if you deliberately try to pick garish colours, it'll come out all stone-washed and spiffy. Basically, it'll look how Apple wants it to look. Screw you for thinking you had any choice.

Note the 'happy' photos of the family on the front of the album, when in fact there's a lot of family issues, domestic violence and a possible divorce via dad-in-drag looming over the horizon.
This here is the new photo album builder environment. Now come on lads, this is poor. Do you think we're so thick as to need the swatches arranged in 3D as if on a shelf? Arranged so you could 'believe' it's actually on a shelf put there lovingly by your interior designer Nicole so you, the tasteless consumer, can pick any one and feel classy. Fuck feeling classy, is what I say. How about more customisation and not patronising the user? All this 3D stuff makes me feel sick.

So apart from that pretty awful low point, iPhoto is looking good. I'm all for more Facebook integration in the future. Consider it, Mr. Jobs.

I won't review GarageBand '11 because I very rarely use my version, GarageBand '06 so it'd be a waste of time for me to act like I know something about it. I'll leave the criticisms to people who can criticise with reason.

See you dudes tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Day 294, on which, somehow, the MacBook Air gets slimmer [21.10.10]

Dag to hundrede fireoghalvfems. I had a pretty good day today: a double period of art in which I did nothing but take photos and trace a massive Helvetica lowercase A was a highlight to be sure. I spent about twenty minutes tracing the A (over a lightbox) with a charcoal pen thing, then I blew off the excess charcoal dust and the whole thing smudged! I did manage to get a few other copies that came out alright, though. My mission is to cut out the lowercase A onto A5 lino then do some printing with it, dare I say David Carson-esque. That takes effort and a whole lot of ink and lino, so it's best left to another day.

Apple just released a couple of new products last night, and since it's become the norm to review them as soon as possible on this blog, I'll do just that. Here goes.

The central product in this newest wave of updates and releases is the all-new, updated, MacBook Air. Now, I'll admit, I was no fan of the old MacBook Air. It was gimmicky and it didn't have enough USB ports. Plus, it wasn't particularly powerful and everyone was pissed 'cause it didn't have flash memory or something like that. People who bought it bought it 'cause it was thin, and for nothing else. Not because of OS X, or its aluminium casing etc. The gist of it was "I've got a MacBook Air. Now I can boast to my friends about how thin it is. Also, it can fit in an envelope. I often use this feature."

But it seems the peeps at Apple have heard the cries of Apple fans across the world, and lo and behold our wishes were granted with the new MacBook Air last night. It's super thin - and I mean, super-thin, at 12mm at its largest base thickness (at the front). The screen itself is under a millimetre thin, which is just insane. I'll admit I exclaimed when I saw just how thin it is.

So great. It's thin. But it's always been thin. What's new? Well, it has a camera (see my post about the new iPod Touch for my thoughts on cameras in Apple products), so whoopee. One clever part of that is that it has a FaceTime camera, so you can chat to people's iPhones and iPod Touches on your MacBook Air. Which is a nifty feature, fo' sho'. Useful for outside-to-office FaceTime calls, or vice-versa. Maybe there could be some way to merge the FaceTime on your iPhone and the FaceTime on your MacBook Air? Like, the same profile or something? Just a thought, Mr. Jobs.

This cut-through of the MacBook Air base is proof of what's been obsessing the Apple tech department for the past year. It's amazing: I'd say 60% of the base is made up of batteries and battery casing. It's mostly battery. The harddrive and everything else are squished up the top, but they're almost tiny compared to these four massive batteries that power the Air. As a result, it has up to 7 hours of battery and 30 days of standby time if, for some moronic reason, you totally forget about your MacBook Air for a whole month. And - in relation to the comment at the start - it does have that flash memory thing. No more USB ports, though, but screw USB ports. Who needs silly USBs when you four freakin' huge batteries?

Apparently Apple is intending to redesign the entire MacBook range as MacBook Airs, creating lots of different versions of the Air instead of offering it as a gimmicky, lighter alternative to the more powerful MacBook and MacBook Pro. I agree with this reasoning, because I did think the Air seemed too much like a single, unique product when in fact it should have its own versions like the MacBook. I suggest, eventually, when the Air is powerful enough and has a few more USB ports, replacing the MacBook. This would mean the lightness and simplicity of the Air could be the cheaper option for a MacBook, whilst professionals and those of us with a little more cash could invest in the hardcore MacBook Pro which has more power and ports. Until then, I fear the MacBook Air may just get swept up in the gimmickyness which I despised from the first generation. With two versions now (11-inch and 13-inch), it's certainly getting there, so perhaps I should just wait and see what Apple makes of it.


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Day 293, on which John makes a stupid decision [20.10.10]

Dag to hundrede treoghalvfems. Birthday aftermath is pretty awesome actually, 'cause you get a bunch of 'happy belated birthday' remarks and you still have your Panton chair. Which I now say "night night" to every evening. Bwahaha, OK, I'm mad. Agreed. Double agreed with cherries and a cheesecake. Yuck, I don't even like cheesecake. But I like cheese. ESPECIALLY DANISH CHEESE.

So, where was I? Ah yes, that's right. I'm a totally nutter. Because I think I've decided to take part in NaNoWriMo next month. What's that? 'Nanowima'? No, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, though it's international. The idea is as follows: you start on the 1st November and have to write a novel (50,000+ words) before the end of the month. Much discussion is on the NaNoWriMo ensues, you follow others' progress, keep updating your word count, and perhaps visit some of the 'Write-ins' when you write with other NaNoWriMo-ians. Something like that, anyway.

Spiffy banner, woop
Yes, I'm a freaking maniac. I am out of my stupid mind. And thus, I am going to make a stupid decision. As well as keeping up this blog every day, and doing my GCSE work, I have a moronic notion that if I can get things together, I can do this NaNoWriMo thing. I want to do it, I really do. But every neuron of common sense in my brain tells me not to do it. Ah well, screw those boring neurons. I'm going to attempt it at least. My profile on the website is here, please follow if you're trying it too.

So what to write? That's the question that everyone needs to answer sometime before the 1st November. I have two options, well, three. The first is Cronas 13, which I'm pretty psyched about. It's not really a novel, though, and I doubt it'll hit 50,000 words (I'd be worried if it did, it's not meant to be such a lengthy tome). Plus, I've already started it and part of the fun of NaNoWriMo is starting from nothing and completing the month with a fully fledged novel.

Our second option is that I twist the rules a bit and use NaNoWriMo as a chance to write my epic play, the one about a man coming to terms with his place and meaning in the universe (y'know, that really light, frothy topic AHAHAHAHA). I'd love to actually write it, if I did it well, and whilst it's not a novel like the challenge specifies, it may well hit 50,000 words in the script. I could still count it (Celtx, my scriptwriting app, has a word count), so it would still work in theory... but am I ready to write it? That's another matter. Can I do it well? It's not a story I can just churn out, regardless of the quality. It's got to be top-notch. Higher-than-top-notch, if possible.

Our third option, ladies and gents, is thus: write a totally new story. Not a script, not an internet drama story thang, but a proper, block-text, 50,000-word novel. It's a much more menacing prospect than the other two, but it's more appropriate to the challenge. The only problem is that my mind is totally blank in terms of novel ideas; I have a few other screenplay concepts, but not novels. They wouldn't work as novels. So I'm stumped if I choose this option.

Three options. Which do I choose? I have no idea at the moment. Comments with advice would be helpful, if you're offering.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Day 292, on which it's John's birthday!! [19.10.10]

Dag to hundrede tooghalvfems. Big woop, it's my birthday! So let's all celebrate etc, cause I'm officially 16 years old! Apparently I can now play the lottery (and therefore constantly lose the lottery ahahahaha it's not like anyone ever wins), choose my own doctor (always handy) and have legal sex with my nonexistent girlfriend. I love the way people always say "I can have sex now!" like every time they tried before they were 16, they physically couldn't do it. Ahaha. I can also (just checked Facebook for my buttload of wall posts wishing me a happy birthday) get a moped license. Which is kinda silly, 'cause I can do exactly the same thing if I run around saying 'Brrrrrrrrrhhhhm, brrrrrrhhhhhm,' and moving my hands like they're on an accelerator of a moped; without a license. I could do that since I was six. So there.

Anyway, I had a pretty good day today. Better than last year fo' sho', 'cause last year was a bit of a sad birthday. Not sure on exactly why, just a build-up of things. But this year I'm happy to say I've tried to have the best day I could. No homework, which helped the evening. Lots of people shouting 'happy birthday' to me at school (I'm an attention whore get over it), so it was a really great. Woot.

In terms of presents, apart from some money, my main present was that of a classic, red, Panton chair. It arrived a few days ago - quite obviously, much to the dismay of my parents who wanted to keep it as a surprise though I'd asked for it - from Mr. John Lewis and now I have it all to my own. Om nom nom, red curves. It looks a little fat from front-on, admittedly, but if you get it from side-on or from behind, it'll knock you out with its looks. It's quite comfortable too, but that's a minor aspect of the design (bear in mind my previous favourite design was Gerrit Rietveld's Red & Blue Chair). I took a few photos of it, just to get my first impressions, and they'll start appearing on John Too in the next few days. It certainly isn't the last you'll see of the Panton chair - it's so photogenic, it's worth a million photos. And I'll have to try my own version of the famous Panton chair fashion shoot. Expect less feminine poses from me, though, haha.

Oh the curves. Oh the Danishness.
Obligatory rear shot.
So, sixteen. I guess I should say something about this being a new chapter in my life. Actually, I'm a bit disappointed. Disappointed I can't say "I'm only 15" when I show someone my MOCs, photographs, or designs. Moot founded 4Chan when he was 15, so I've missed that point. I don't want to work through school then try at success when I get out. I want to get success now, 'cause then I have a bigger headstart for later on. Start early, have more time to get better. The more time you have to get better, the more you get better. But oh no, I'm sixteen and I'm still a normal guy. Which is nice, in a way, but I wanted a big break sometime. Yes, I'm a fame whore. Did I mention that? I'm not some sort of obsessive, clawing at any chance of showing myself off, but I'd like to do something big, that gets recognised. Ah well, that'll be for another day.

Now let's step out of the box. Out of the normality of everyday life. Exactly what am I celebrating here? The fact that sixteen of our human-defined time periods have passed since I, like seven billion other people on this Earth, was brought into the world. It's a pretty silly celebration, really. By saying "happy birthday", people could just as well be saying "you're a bit more developed in your individual human timeline which gradually leads up to your death". Haha, that was a bit of a morbid twist.

So yay, roughly 74 years until it's my stop and it's time to get off the Routemaster bus of life. Only there's nothing at the bus stop. And it's not a request stop, either. So 74 years to prove myself and try and make my life worth something.

On a lighter note, this birthday has been awesome. Expect more Panton chair pics, it's lovely! The day has to end now. Adieu!


Monday, 18 October 2010

Day 291, on which John gets graphics happy [18.10.10]

Dag to hundrede énoghalvfems. Yeesh, bad day today. Let's skip over that topic, though. It's life, I guess. But listening to Jonathan Coulton's songs always makes up for it - Code Monkey and Re: Your Brains are particularly enjoyable, but I'm sampling some of the others as well, cause I might as well listen to them all. First of May is odd, but hilarious.

So I've been doing a bunch of website graphics since I just finished off the Brickspace redesign visuals at the weekend, and now I'm designing a website for my school's art department. I've been meaning to do it for ages, it's really my fault for delaying it so long. Ah well. The Brickspace visuals now just need to be cleaned up and plonked into a Pages document, then to a PDF, annotated and all, then I'll send it off to the Brickspace staff to sample and give me feedback. Several feedback loops later, it'll be finalised and I'll have to start on the coding, but that's a worry for another day. Also, I'll be finished with this 365 project by then so I'll have a lot more time. Woot.

However, I have a sneaky preview, yeah I know you're excited, of the new Brickspace design. Unlike the page design, the colour and font palette is pretty much finalised because that's one thing I get total control of. Here it is, at long last:

Stylish, eh? Well, I think so. In terms of colours, we have six main options:

  • A bold, full-yellow (in CMYK) to really bring details out. Used on certain page elements, such as the button, but isn't particularly recurrent in the design. Just a highlight colour, really. Never used right next to the pale yellow colour, since the two are so similar.
  • Pale yellow which is the colour accent across the entire website. It's in the background, used as text on white in some occasions, and is the border colour for all images and all text input boxes. It's essential that it's a bold yellow, but not a bright yellow. Something which isn't faded and wimpy, but still not full yellow. Yellow is a bloody difficult to work with.
  • White. Used in a load of places as background for the page body, or any text really.
  • Light grey, around 30% if I remember correctly. This isn't used much, I'll admit, but it's very useful if I just want to chuck in some light text which won't stick out like a sore thumb. May have to be a bit darker in the final version, since it doesn't show up sometimes on account of its lightness.
  • Black. Used for text throughout, and logograms in places. Never used for background because that'd looky too dark and grimy.
In terms of fonts, there's only two:
  • Helvetica. Because, as you all know, it's awesome. Here I'm using the 70s updated version of it, called Helvetica Neue (Helvetica New) which I have a whole bunch of weights for. I've gone off Helvetica Neue plain recently, so I've used the bold weight everywhere that I've used Helvetica. I feel it's needed, Helvetica Neue regular looks a bit too thin. I don't know how to work with it yet. Helvetica text sizes (which aren't accurate to screen size, just to the visuals I was working on) are 30pt, 20pt, and 10pt.
  • Chaparral Pro, which is a rather elegant yet functional modern-looking serif font. I usually wouldn't use a serif font at all, but I wanted to have something regal-looking for the body text on the site, where I knew Helvetica regular would looks a bit blobby. Add a bit of intricacy and detail into the site, especially since the actual page design is very bold and simplistic. This is in 10pt and 8pt sizes, so it's not for titles.
Ignore the font and colour applications below the fonts, because they're for the page layout and design consistency which is a story for another day. The three logograms are as follows:
  • The thumbs-up logogram, which is courtesy of Wingdings might I add, is the rating system for creations on the new Brickspace. Click the thumbs-up and you've 'Liked' the creation, so it gets +1 points. Yippee.
  • The next is the Pilcrow, which is a symbol in editing and layout, but here it's used as the ratings system for Opinions articles, which will be integrated into the main site. As to how it works and what it means, that's top secret, heh.
  • Then there's the star (Helvetica Neue asterisk), which is only a slight rip-off of the Wallpaper* star logo. That's the ratings system for Brickfilms, should be easy enough to work out.
And that's all for today, folks. Until tomorrow - which is my birthday, as it happens - adieu!


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Day 290, on which John gets free money, f'yeah! [17.10.10]

Dag to hundrede og halvfems. As you may or may not recall, it's my birthday next tuesday so today I got the first of my prezzies, which came in the form of a load of money from my grandparents, plus a cute little Lego minifig torch which I will be using in a future MOC. Sadly the money must be moved off of me, because it's going towards my big present of a Panton chair! YIPPEE! A red, brand new, as-ever beautiful Panton chair, designed by the Dane Verner Panton. All for my own. On tuesday, that is. Until then I sshall have to wait in anticipation.

But enough birthday crap. We'd better get onto the body of this post. I'd like to continue with my play idea.

So far we have a middle-class man as a protagonist, probably around 4 other characters so the viewer doesn't get confused, and two or three sets. I was thinking that, since we're going to have a rotating set with two sides, I may be able to incorporate a third set. In the interval, one of the halves of the set could be taken off and replaced with another set, so that there's still one scene (for example, the protagonist's apartment) but the other scene changes from one half to the next. Like, a modular scene of sorts.

Oh boy am I going to have fun with the cliffhanger at the end of the first half. Give 'em something to chat about in the interval. That's something I'm quite interested in experimenting with; the fact that all the viewers can go get a drink and chat about the first half of the play in the interval. How can I manipulate that? They may overthink some parts of the plot, which I can blow out of the water at the start of the second half. Maybe the protagonist is about to kill himself at the end of the first half. Then what? The audience will be confused in the interval, trying to think of the ways the script can pick up the story again, and reach some sort of ending if the main character is dead. But is he dead?

But I'm really tapdancing around the main thing here: the plot. What do I want to say with this play? I'm pretty decided on this, too. Since I'll have 2/3 sets and 5 characters, it's going to have to be a concept study. A character study, perhaps. One thing that has been in my mind recently (mostly because of teenage angst) is where humans are in the universe, and how life is too short to do anything. Perhaps the play could be about an everyday man coming to terms with his place in the universe, going through some seriously huge emotional changes and trying to accept that he can't do everything he wants to do, and that his body's just a ticking clock until he's no longer there. He'll try to do things, go out places, break out of his life. Realise that all the things he's doing for the first time he won't be able to do for the first time ever again. Do everything, do it now, or you'll never be able to do it again. Pension plans are for settling you into the twilight years of your life... but you only have one life! Why should you spend the end of your life doing nothing!? We can't waste our valuable years!

So yeah, I get slight lapses of sanity which result in that sort of reasoning. So, there's this ordinary guy, and something, a big event of some sort, jolts his normal reasoning and he starts to realise just how short and pointless life is. One big, freakin' emotional journey and coming-to-terms-with-life experience later, he's kinda OK with it all. The audience clap, leave, and go do something decent with their lives. That's my mission.

This is a pretty big undertaking, right?


Saturday, 16 October 2010

Day 289, on which John apologises for yesterday [16.10.10]

Dag to hundrede niogfirs. Well, sorry about yesterday guys. It was a bit of a squeeze, getting home, eating dinner, then popping off to my drama club thing and back again just in time for midnight. So, obviously, I couldn't write the post on time. Ah well. And also, today's post is a bit early because I must attend a social event this evening. Also I bought an awesome jacket this morning. Very cool. But I'm guessing no one really cares about that.

Since I'm still at a blogging low point, here's a quick overview of one of my most recent Lego tablescraps for you to skim-read. Also, I'm 11 days off the big 300! No more hundred-day anniversaries to celebrate after that; it's right on until 365! Yippee!

So this latest meh is called 'Quadbike tablescrap', and it basically started out as a small APC inspired by the ever-awesome Chris (IronSniper)'s work. Perhaps a ground vehicle for some unknown faction of mine, to be flanked by troops on the front line. That kinda thing.

It all started out with the wheel/axel technique, which makes use of the few legal connection points on the small steering wheel part. You stick the steering wheel in a tyre (which is quite loose, be aware), then stick the back side of a pickaxe's blade in the centre and you have a bar-diameter connection point to work with. Unfortunately, the pickaxe piece is bulky at the best of times, so it's hard to work with. Nonetheless, I managed to clip a minifig hand on the end, then stick the other side of the minifig hands into a 3L Technic circle-axle which became the foundations of the vehicle's main body.

I'll admit, the body is way too high for minifig height and that's only the start of a number of problems I have with this MOC. The underside is too blocky, too bulky, and the light bit sticks out like a sore thumb. Plus, there's no space on the back so it doesn't even do what it's meant to do: carry troops into battle.

So basically it's a fail. Whoopee.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Day 287, on which John herd you liek mudkips [14.10.10]

Dag to hundrede syvogfirs. So I herd you liek mudkips... at which, no matter what, you must reply "I lurve mudkips!" then run off and rape a cuddly toy of a mudkips Pokémon. Why? Because it's a meme, and you must respect the rules of the internet. And because it's funny. But enough tiddle-taddle in internet memes, I have a TV show to review today. Cause it's review season, remember?

So I always used to watch this programme on BBC1 called 'Film 2010'. It was awesome, it was the BBC's premier film review programme. And it was presented by Jonathan Ross, who by the way I think is awesome. Ross clearly knew a lot about film, so he was ideal for the job. His insights were always interesting and almost always correct (apart from his one vice, which was for comic book movies).

Unfortunately, at the start of the year some asshole at BBC Radio decided to keep something appropriate in Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's radio show. Sure, I'm not saying what they did wasn't wrong, but it was made much worse by the fact it was broadcast, when in fact someone in the show's editing suite could have easily edited it out. It wasn't live. So it was partially the editor's fault. Anywho, JoRo is out of the BBC and so he did a little montage at the end of the last series of Film 2010, which had been running for about a decade (called Film 2000, Film 2001, etc). Very sad stuff.

Now they've reinvented it for the new season and it's got Claudia Winkleman, of Strictly Come Dancing fame, as the main presenter. Basically she makes some crappy jokes, presents it well enough, and leaves all the actual reviewing to some other guy who isn't such a good presenter and I think his name is Clive. They make an unusual and generally unsuccessful pair, and I guess someone at the Beeb realised that because they chucked in three other useless presenters to make it even worse.

These consist of a reviewer for Empire magazine, who sure knows his stuff but asks useless questions in interviews and his sections are really corny. In fact, the whole show is corny. Then there's some lady who's there to cover all the old films (ie. everything made before 2009), and she's not bad. And then, bringing up the rear of the sorry state of a presenting crew the BBC has brought in for this show, there's a young blogger. He's not bad; I guess he's just like me in that he is a blogger and into films, but in his top 5 countdown of best scenes with the moon (which is a stupid idea in itself) he didn't include the flying bicycle scene from E.T. or anything from Moon, which is just dumb. And, when Claudia (looking particularly orange in this episode) read out a tweet saying just that (it's live for some stupid reason) and her and Clive just looked at each other, said 'ah' then nothing. No 'well, that's good but...' nor any 'we'll remember that last time'. Stupid programmers.

And, since it's live, it gets dull and there are often moments on unrest when people don't know what to say etc. Plus, a live interview with some film stars (including Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, oh yes please) went awfully because they couldn't edit it. The stars just kept laughing at each other. Total nightmare to watch.

So basically I want Jonathan Ross back. No offense, Claudia.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Day 286, quand John pense sur le théâtre [13.10.10]

Dag to hundrede seksogfirs. You're probably guessing that I am not in the mood for blogging tonight. You're right. I'm overtired, fed up with learning French for tomorrow's oral exam, and I just wore myself out doing some graphics for the new Brickspace. Hah, you thought that was dead. Not quite yet. After I was talking to Harry about it last night, it inspired me again and I got some more pages done. Next to do; finish all the pages, explain everything, then send it off to Zack and Dr Sinister. Then done.

OK, theatre. Quickly done.

So, since I'm hoping to direct some play or other at some point in the far-off future, I had to start thinking about what sort of play it would be and what it would be about. I'll admit; thinking about theatre is pretty annoying for me. I see everything in cinematography, with camera angles, lighting and editing. With theatre, you've got no frame to work with. No way of getting up close to characters. Of seeing from another angle. It's flat, it's dull and it's hard to work with. And scene changes are a bitch; they can't be quick.

The only way we can make them swift (not quick, but swift) is by having some sort of rotating set. With two different sets on either side, so we can move it round and get to the other scene, pronto. This is also useful because it will purposefully restrict the possibilities of the script. I'd naturally set the play in loads of locations, with dramatic lighting, vast expanses and the outdoors. But it's theatre, so that means no buttload of sets. Sure, I could do a minimalist thing and not have any sets and only one flexible, dynamic open space. But I come from film, and I want to set a scene. With furniture. With windows. With clothes. With backstory. So it looks like I'll need a big set. And, because I want swift scene changes, I will probably have two or three sets, arranged around a central pivot point with the floor so the behind-the-scenes gents can rotate it.

So that leaves us with the setting. Which has to be inside. That's OK. That's a good place to start a script, in fact. Two indoor settings. A small apartment, the abode of the protagonist, and something else. A shop he runs downstairs? His workplace? The gym he goes to down the road? Having such fixed locations means that the play becomes more about a concept, and the characters, rather than dynamic, everywhere plot. There's no room for stuff about the environment, or people going on adventures. It's either a character study or it's a concept study.

Now what? Who could our protagonist be? I'm going to make him male, because they say 'write what you know' and I won't venture into the depths of the female psyche because somewhere along the line I'll get it wrong and the woman will too masculine in her thinking. What age? Adult, I'll say. That way they can get around a lot more and do a lot more. It frees them up. If it's a teen or a kid then they need the obligatory parents and siblings. If it's an adult, he could have a girlfriend/wife or the odd friend coming round to move the plot on. It's all freed up with adults. What about an old man, though? That would be interesting, that's for sure, but then dialogue is slow and so is movement. So it's either a play about a bunch of old blokes discussing something, or it's a very slow, dull version of something else. So an adult, but not a pensioner. What class? I'm going to say middle class, because I'll be writing what I know. I don't want to write about a lower-class poor guy, because it'll be very biased and I have no right to assume the lives of others. It'd be too snobby. And it'd probably just get dragged into the poverty thing, and all hope of a unique plot will be lost. As for an upper class gent, that can get stereotypical quite easily. Posh accent, bowtie, posh friends. Do not want. If my guy's middle class, I can do what I want with him without worrying about him being poor or being a posh toff. Flexibility is the name of the game.

But what's the plot? I have an idea at the moment, but I'll have to tell you another day for it's getting late. Hopefully this has been informative. If not, sorry for taking your time. You can have it back in the afterlife*.


*Ahahahaha, there's no such thing as the afterlife. Sucker!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Day 285, on which John goes to sleep [12.10.10]

Dag to hundrede femogfirs. Tuesdays suck from now on. Cause I woke up today all happy and jolly, got out of bed, took the bus to school, said hi to my friends, then at the start of the first lesson I sneezed a giant sneeze and BOOM, a cold began. Started with sniffles, is now at DefCon-4 with a running nose and generally feeling like shit. So yay for me. Not an interesting post today either, sorry.

So, sleep. I've been having lots of photography ideas recently, because it's my latest obsession, and my new idea is about sleep. Sleep is a very complicated concept; it's the one part of our lives that is so private that even we don't see it. It's a large fear to everyone to have someone watching you while you sleep. It's what you'd hate. Someone standing over you and watching everything. Because we all sleep at the same time, sleep has become ingrained in our psyche as a time to relax and not worry about predators (in cavemen time, nowadays more like weirdos).

Plus, you don't know what you're doing when you're asleep. When awake, you watch and control your every move. When asleep, all that control you once had is gone and you're just left with your default functions (breathing etc) and a wandering mind. You can't even control what you think - you're off with the fairies, as it were. So who knows what you look like when you're asleep? You don't. No one does.

That's where my idea for a photography project comes in. Why not take photos - or videos - of yourself when you're asleep? That's a spooky thought. A freaky thought. What if you put up those photos or videos, project 'em big, put them in a gallery? Your deepest privacy is being violated, shown out to all. How will people react? How will you react, seeing people watch you sleep? How will you react when you see the footage of yourself sleeping? Seeing you snore, or talk in your sleep, or shuffle around? This is the stuff even your own body doesn't want you to see!

And that's what the photos/videos/exhibition will be based on. Something like that. Just an idea - something I'd like to at least try out with myself. Set up a camera in my bedroom to take photos every hour throughout the night. Or video it, then record me reacting to the video. Because that's key in the concept; how the person themselves reacts to how they sleep. Whether they feel violated, whether seeing themselves sleep changes their view on sleep and philosophical issues. A before-and-after type of thing.

Maybe I'll try that someday. I hope so; it's thought out enough. Until then, I'm off to sleep. And not be watched.


Monday, 11 October 2010

Day 284, on which John WHAARGARBLE [11.10.10]

Dag to hundrede fierogfirs. You can tell I'm in a silly mood tonight, I'm just kinda nuts. Send a totally nonsensical Flickrmail to a guy I know on Flickr. Well, I don't know him all that well. I'll probably know even less now I sent him a stupid FM. But ah well, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing and whatevs.

OK, here's a post about Maersk. Because I have a sudden craving for Maersk, and when you have a sudden craving for Maersk, you've got to satisfy it (/loose Llamas with Hats reference). Anyway, the deal is that Maersk 'microspace' creations have been slowly building up on Flickr, most notably this little affair from Peter Reid (who I met at STEAM and who is a very nice guy):

Note the laffs induced by changing the Maersk sticker to "Maersk Spaceland" from "Maersk Sealand", which is the name that is given to all of Maersk's container ship dealings. Bear in mind I know all this because my dad is a shipbroker, which means he works in arranging cargos and ships etm. That's how I originally found Maersk, realised it was Danish, then Danegasmed (technical term) and have been obsessed with it ever since.

Funnily enough, a strange coincidence means that Cronas 13 actually has a link to Maersk. Not ripped off of Peter Reid, honest - I wrote it a year back when I first started the story. The company which René and his crew works for is Maersk Intragalactic, a futuristic version of the current Maersk group. And there will hopefully be a short informational video from Maersk which will act as a prologue to the Cronas 13 story, Moon-esque. Should be good, if I get around to doing it.

The Maersk logo is fitting for a futuristic corporation, since it's just got one word and you can easily take out the logogram and paste it all over. Simplicity is the key here: light blue squircle (square with rounded edges) with a white seven-point star in the centre. Looks friendly, but with a bit of work you could turn that logo around into the menacing face of a galactic corporation.

Maersk fun facts:

  • The seven-point star is some sort of Scandinavian symbol of the sea, no doubt from Norse mythology. I saw a concept for a dock in the shape of a seven-point star by BIG once, they mentioned something about its significance.
  • People complain to me that Denmark is meaningless because there are so few people there - 5 million to be exact. Less than the population of south London, where I live. The truth is, there are loads of Danes really, they're just all out across the world working on Maersk ships. There's even a bunch of Maersk ship-born babies. They're all called Maersk (a proper Danish name, I'll have you know). In fact, they're either called Maersk Jensen or Maersk Andersen.
  • My dad said that if I sent an email to Maersk asking for some Maersk merchandise, they'd send me some. Like, a Maersk T-shirt. You have no idea how much I crave one of those - it would be so cool. Like, the height of cool. I'd prefer one without the text, just the logogram. And I'd love it like it were my own. GIMME ONE, MAERSK!
And with one final Maersk, the post doth endeth.