Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Day 335, on which John treks home [30.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede femogtredive. It's the last day of the month. Which means I have one entire month to go until the end of the project. One twelfth of the year to go. In a way, I'm sad, because this project has created some great posts on this blog. It's made my imagination thrive, fed my obsession with design and has kept me busy every evening. It's not been all bad. But it's has its lows, let's not get cocky. Lows and highs, that's how it works. One month to go. Low or high? Only time will tell.

OK, long story short today I spent two hours trekking out in the snowy wastelands that were what my hometown, a dull London suburb, became today. It snowed heavily though the night and non-stop in the day. So there I am, no coat, thinking "I'll just go to school". No chance; no bus, no trains, nothing. I tried to walk there with a couple of friends, but halfway on our exciting journey we gave up, bought some chocolate and trekked back home. The scenic route, naturally. I saw my primary school again, we went past it. It's amazing how little it's changed, and how much I've changed. There are still little kids rushing into the gate, excited about the snow day. Ah, my childhood years. (which is ironic because technically I'm still in my childhood years)

Anywho I got home soaking wet, had a shower, then went back out to throw snowballs at aforementioned friends. Blah blah blah took some photos went home here we are. Moving on.

There's this competition running on Flickr. Called the 'Brick architecture' contest. "That's one for John," I hear you say. Why yes, yes it is. I was very excited when I heard about it - a chance to win a prize and make another modernist Lego house. Experiment with a bit more architecture. And get this - the theme of the contest is 'townhouses'. So it's a no brainer. Easy peasy stuff.

Except it wasn't that easy. Two months in, I was still at a loss for what to build. My architecture inspiration had left me, replaced by a sudden urge to write something powerful and a bit of Kjærholm/Saarinen fanboyhood. So I sat there, wondering what I could drag out from my Moleskine to build, especially as the contest is ending in the new year. Luckily, today inspiration hit me. The idea I was going to go for - if I could afford the parts - was a massive freestanding sculpture-like house, but it wasn't very 'towny' (much like buses ahahahaha injoke). So, after watching an inparticularly dull episode of Homes Under the Hammer (I was bored, daytime TV was my only saviour. So much for saving me), I had the idea - making a terraced house, or a semi-detached house, to be copied dozens of times across a newly developing suburb like Ishøj. But the problem comes with this: there are dozens of houses like that, so how do I make each house owner feel like their house is personalised to them? It needs to feel like their very own, unique house. Which means flexible spaces and maybe even flexible exterior architecture.

So it'll take some work to pin down the concept as specifically as I'd like, but it should look good when finished. And require no more Bricklink orders. And be finished by the new year.

One more month, John. One more month. Just keep telling yourself that.


Monday, 29 November 2010

Day 334, on which I just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you. [29.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede fireogtredive. Gah, it's a sad day today. But I'll get onto that later. For now, here's some light music. *squeaky helium voice singing, eg. Justin Bieber*. Hurr durr, didja get my joke? Light helium? Ah, don't worry. Now, it seems we're going to end the year the same way we started it - waiting around for snow to come and fall on us. They said it would snow last weekend, but oh no - we couldn't have it. Anywho, I won't bore you with the no-snow-yet-grr-I-want-it-to-snow details, if you wanna see them go back to January this year. They're pretty dull.

Today, I regret to inform the uninformed of the death of the comedy genius Leslie Nielsen. You'll know him from his role as the doctor in Airplane!, plus his roles in the Police Squad TV series and the Naked Gun trilogy (Naked Gun, Naked Gun 2 1/2, Naked Gun 33 1/3, haha). He was a brilliant actor but I guess all things come to an end and so he died yesterday at the age of 82 from pneumonia. He's made some brilliant movies, truly he has.

And I don't blow the horn of every actor who dies - if someone stupid like Brad Pitt died, I wouldn't be so bothered. Patrick Swayze's death was just about on my botheredness scale, 'cause Ghost was a damn good movie and apparently he pulled some moves in Saturday Night Fever. But Leslie Nielsen has always been a part of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker partnership which has created Airplane!, The Naked Gun and Police Squad, and he's the key part of all of those movies.

Surely you can't be serious.
In memory of him I figured I'd watch Airplane!, which I bought off iTunes aeons ago. It's still funny now, very funny. Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker had this brilliant sense of humour which can be sodl to so many different countries, so many years in the future, and still have the same desired effect. Some of the jokes seem a little corny now (only because they were original back then and have been copied ad nauseam since ), and the effects are pretty crappy (fake punches and all that), but the slapstick and wordplay is still as current and as funny as it ever was. And so what if they have the racist 70s black stereotype, the two guys speaking 'jive', some fo' sho' nonsense? It's funny, if you can take it.

So, Mr. Nielsen. I'd just like to tell you good luck. We're all counting on you.


ps. Stop calling me Shirley! Ahahahahahaha so many Airplane! quotes.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Day 333, on which John has a nasty taste of matte emulsion in his mouth [28.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede treogtredive. Lots of threes, guys. Three three three. Day 333. And to honour the occasion of stupidly matching numbers (which we all know must be important in some way), I've decided to take some quotes from day 111 and day 222 to create some sort of retarded pastiche of a sentence. Sadly, I didn't blog on Day 222 so I'm going to use the next post, Day 226. Please note alternating word groupings are from Day 111 and Day 226 respectively:
I've checked back, and it seems that I have indeed posted three times [-] out of Copenhagen to a small suburb called Ishøj. [-] Today's wonderfully appropriate picture [-] was barely a village, barren and [-] on my toes. [-] When you saw someone from behind, [-] I know you're all sick of furniture. So yah, I now [-] leave the best 'til last, but this was the worst. We [-] always seem to pick really complicated projects to do, which means [-] the museum had large metal bolted doors as if it was preserving the pieces of art inside, things which are being kept safe. [-] Gasp.
My my my, that made a whole load of sense, didn't it? Whee, maybe I should try that more often. By which I mean that I really shouldn't. Yeah, sarcasm really doesn't show on the internet. OK, before we start a few paragraphs on a consistent topic, I feel I must explain the post title to you: I painted my cellar today in preparation for the darkroom revamp, and painting for three hours straight in a windowless room was probably not the best idea. I can still taste the matte emulsion in my mouth now. Mmm, Crown matte white paint. Tasty.

OK, today I got very bored (seems to be a recurring theme of this weekend, I need to do more stuff fo sho) and decided to finally watch that TV programme Misfits which everyone is so wild about. People keep coming up to me, saying "you so need to watch Misfits!" and I have to sadly reply "I haven't yet, I should do," but I hadn't until today. It popped up on YouTube (via 4OD) and I watched it. And I was impressed, very. I always thought it was going to be another crappy, badly-made superhero thing, but it was a perfectly balanced cross between Skins and Heroes.

The plot is that there are a bunch of antisocial teenagers who are doind community service one day when they get hit by lightning in some freak massive-hail-storm (reminded me of The Day after Tomorrow in that respect) and all gain some sort of character-appropriate superhuman power. The shy guy can become invisible, the guy who regrets the mistakes he's made in the past gets the power to turn back time, the girl who is always judged can hear others' thoughts about her, and the slutty girl gets the power to make anyone why touches her 'fall in lust with her' (I quote the programme description here, it says it best). Strange, eh? Add in the fact they're all antisocial, spend their days in a run-down community centre on a council estate in London and a bunch more stuff and you have an intruiging programme. I watched three whole episodes this afternoon, I was so sucked in. It didn't help that I watched the last episode of the series first, but I guess that's just bad luck.

So, if you're up with a 'superhero' programme with one hell of a twist, I recommend Misfits. It's by no means my fave programme, but it's certainly very well made and the programme-makers could have made it a total disaster and they didn't. They saved it from being a farcical mess of special effects and swearing. It's saved from being The Inbetweeners but with superpowers, thank goodness. They actual control the language they use in Misfits, funnily enough. So go watch it, if you're interested.


Saturday, 27 November 2010

Day 332, on which John gets technical [27.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede toogtredive. So now that I have nothing better to do on Saturdays apart from laugh at the people who still have to do the crappy musical my drama group is doing this term and wait around for the lady in charge to reply to my goddamn email about directing next term's play, I figured I'd put myself to good use. That 'good use' consisted of clearing out my cellar in preparation for transforming it into a darkroom so I can process and develop and print my own photos.

Don't get me wrong, this was a premeditated decision. My dad used to have a darkroom in the cellar but with the advent of digital photography all the chemicals and flasks and slides and enlargement machines were put away to be replaced by one tiny little SD card and a computer. Which, as efficient and cheap and high+quality as it is, is no fun at all. So we cleared up the cellar, got out all the equipment and sorted it all out. Of course, since it's ten years since they've last been used, the chemicals and pretty out of date. So they'll need replacing. So will a lot of the equipment, since it's either dirty or lost. And the biggest problem of all? Oh yeah, I don't have any black-and-white film to develop. Dang.

But hopefully when I've got the film and the equipment I'll be able to start developing my own film. Sure, it's costly, but it creates some awesome stuff. And it's full of technical details and chemicals and specialised equipment, which makes me feel really cool when I use it. I dunno what it is about technical stuff but I always feel really good when I use it or do something technical. Like, really suave and cool. But that's probably just because I'm a guy.

OK, moving off-topic un petit peu (a bit), here is a house that some other guy on Flickr made. Notice anything familiar in it? Anything that reminds you of a house I built? Perhaps the Danish influence? Perhaps the Danish name? Perhaps it's the two intersecting planes and the house structure underneath? Either way, it's inspired by my Kongsholmparken Café. Which I don't mind in the slightest. Not at all. But what I do mind is that he didn't give me credit. That I mind, a lot. I don't care if he even copied mine directly, if he gives credit. What I hate is when they blatantly copy or get inspiration from me then don't mention it and pass it off as it being all their own creation. Then I get annoyed.

And on that note, I must go. Bai.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Day 331, on which John has a free evening [26.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede enogtredive. It's one entire month until Boxing Day, d'you know that? One whole month to go. Or, one month minus one day until Christmas day itself. I can't wait. Because do you know what Christmas means? Presents, of course. Sure, my presents may not benefit you in the slightest slash at all, but here's the great thing about it: I have a present for you all. It'll be big. It'll be the biggest goddamn present you'll get this Christmas. You won't physically receive it, but you'll get it if you check my Flickr.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I hereby announce that my Christmas present to you all - one year in the making - is the third JOHN Collection catalogue, or JCiii as I've been abbreviating it. It'll be big, bigger than JCii - it tops 18 pages in all, and those pages and packed with new, modernist LEGO furniture. The format is quite different this time, for instead of being sorted by what sort of furniture the pieces are, they're grouped into specific rooms - bathroom, bedroom or home office for example. This is a much more professional and logical way of doing it, and makes the catalogue seem more like a normal, IKEA catalogue rather than simply a display of my design skills.

JCiii will officially be named "The JOHN Collection 2011" to make it seem modern and as up-to-date as possible. Plus, the stuff I've built over this year will be current and usable for the entirety of next year. I'm making stuff now to provide LEGO houses with brand spanking new furniture for next year. I think it's quite a clever format, and I'll hopefully be using this format for the foreseeable future (for however long I still do the JOHN Collection for).

Now, since I know you're interested, here's a list of some of the stuff you can expect to see in the catalogue, to be released around Christmas (but not necessarily before):

  • HOME OFFICE; this department is quite a tricky department to define, but the general idea is that it includes all the furniture that I made for office use that looked a bit too soft or homey for a harsh, work-a-lot office. Home office has a much more relaxed feel to it. It includes bit, individual desks whereas office desks seem to be more utilitarian.
  • OFFICE; this department speaks for itself. Hat stands, desks, meeting tables, shelving, computers, everything you'd find in your average office. Nice stuff in this department, in fact I believe it is the most full department and I had to move a lot of pieces over and distribute them in other departments.
  • LIVING ROOM; sofas and coffee tables and stuff like that. I need to do a lot more on this department, it's not finished yet.
  • BEDROOM; similarly this department is far from finished as I don't seem to have any inspiration for building beds. There are a couple of pieces that are really nice that sparsely populate the bedroom department at the moment, though. Every department has its gems.
  • BATHROOM; this is not even started. I don't know why, it's just totally empty. I have no inspiration to build baths or sinks or anything like that. Total bummer, I may have to remove it entirely from the catalogue. Gasp!
  • KITCHEN; this one's coming along alright. It needs a fully-lit scene, though, which I haven't done yet. Will have to get a move on with that.
  • OUTDOORS; this one also needs a fully lit scene. Which I haven't done. But it has enough pieces in it, that's for sure. A couple more and the scene done and it'll be perfecto, and finished. I'm really going for a cosy-indoors-furniture-outside vibe.
  • INDUSTRIAL; this is my name for all the furniture I designed for a specific use, outside the everyday home. For example, pieces from my MOCs appear here, like from my Neo-Futuron scene a week or so ago. A bit of a mish-mash of stuff, but should have a good fully-lit scene, which is next in line for me to do.
That's all I'll discuss today, for it's late, I'm tired and the other departments will make good blogging topics for another day when I have no idea what to blog about.

My free evening? Spent playing Half-Life II. I play it, I enjoy it, then I get deadly annoyed with it and quit in a huff. Grr.


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Day 330, on which John mentions someone other than Jacobsen [25.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og tredive. Did some more lino printing today, and didn't manage to cut myself again which really helped. In fact, I managed to cut out the entire Helvetica lowercase 'a' into lino and started printing it in different formations and combinations and compositions to make it look real nice. It came out quite well, actually - though now I'm desperate to get the 'a' over and done with and get started on some proper text to print. I'm going to print them in white over a photo to produce a really great rough effect artwork. Should be pretty cool when it's finished.

OK, I have more design to discuss with you. After much perusing of the Fritz Hansen website, I have seen a buttload more photos of Jacobsen stuff but one particular piece from another Danish designer called Poul Kjærholm (Porl Kyeah-holm) has caught my eye. Bascially, Kjærholm was a contemporary of Jacobsen and made a lot of chairs and tables using the simple materials of metal and wood. Much like Jacobsen. He's just like Jacobsen but with a slightly different style - more traditional and 'soft', I seem to find. Lots of thick woven fabrics and wicker stuff too. Very countryside-y. Jacobsen's work was much more strict and urban. There's much more control and flatness in Jacobsen's stuff, though remember 'flatness' is not always a bad thing. I myself much prefer seemingly 'flat' textures to a rough mixture of deep textures.

© Fritz Hansen
But nonetheless, I like Kjærholm's work and here you can see one of Fritz Hansen's photos showcasing a lot of his stuff. The leg design you see on the chair on the left is a massive trademark of Kjærholm's work, it's like Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chair but a bit more modern and much more Danish. The Barcelona chair had a lot of luxury and traditional influence (that was the brief), but this chair (accurately named PK22) is much more modernist with a very wide, constrained look to it. Another aspect of Kjærholm's designs is his tables, and the fact that they have legs pointing out from different angles on the ends of each edge:

PK61a, © Fritz Hansen

In the above picture you can see what I'm talking about. It's surely an interesting leg technique and the angles of it allow a very stable support system underneath the tabletop, but I don't like how it looks. It's too unnatural for me. They all look out of place, unruly. I'd much rather have some order in the table. Plus it looks unstable, and as much as people like using looks-unstable-but-actually-isn't furniture, in this case I'd be very wary of it. Pop something heavy on the corners and it may topple. Plus, a granite tabletop? On a low, coffee table? Yuck, no. Way too much texture and weight. Very heavy looking, and literally heavy too. Let's keep it to wood and metal, Poul.

© Fritz Hansen
And thus we finally move onto the focus of this post, the PK80. The PK80, which you can see on the left of this photo here in red, is something totally different. It really merges several categories of furniture without fully replacing the need for any of them. It's a footstool, because it's at that height, it's a table, because it has a large, flat top, it's a bed, because it's human-sized and is soft, and it's also a seat for waiting rooms or airports because it allows people to seat themselves anywhere around it and is just about comfortable enough for a short sit down on it, nothing relax-there-forever comfortable like the Egg. It's quite an old concept; Kjærholm simply reinvented it in the best way anyone could have. Modernist, Danish, and with a hint of steel. So simple, yet so useful. In the first photo of this post you can see the PK80 being sued as a table. It's not that stable since it's squishy and soft, but it works. Works very well. It's just an all-round great concept. And so what if Kjærholm wasn't the first to do it, he did it bloody well when he did.


ps. Jacobsen is still better than Kjærholm. Arne holds a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Day 329, on which John finally gets to hear his beloved Jacobsen [24.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede niogtyve. Well, today I found (at long last) the website for the Danish designer distributors, Fritz Hansen. They distribute most of the best Danish furniture, from Kjærholm to Henningsen and even my favouritest designer of all time ever ever ever ever ever, Arne 'He da man' Jacobsen. In fact, if you visit this page on the Fritz Hansen site, you will be able to watch video about his work. The video entitled 'Arne Jacobsen - Selected works' even includes a bunch of old video clips of Jacobsen, him talking about his architecture and design. It's good to put a voice to a face.

Jacobsen (left) with client (right)
Plus, there's this fantastic clip of Jacobsen talking to a client, poring over designs, as people fit out the modernist house around them, and they're both standing there puffing away on their massive pipes. Haha, I guess it was normal back then but it's funny to see him there with his pipe as per usual. Did he ever not have it on him?

Well, it turns out I lost that design competition I was so bent on winning last week. The winning team had a full working prototype, two in fact, and their product was super-sustainable. They may as well have renamed it 'sustainable product' because that's all it was about. So I lost out to a sustainable product. SO my product wasn't as sustainable as theirs. Yes, I'm not going to say I wasn't annoyed, for I was. But what can I do about it? Nothing. Just sit there, smile, say well done, and suppose that if the entire competition is focused on finding the most sustainable product, it wasn't really designed for me. What with my utter hatred of all things sustainable and that.

Even still, I'd hoped that good design would shine out over products that are good just because they're a neat idea. I guess not. It seems that not even my mentioning of Jacobsen and his elegant work with Danmarks Nationalbank won them over. Not even showing them I know my design history. Showing them I know where design's coming from, and by heck do I respect it. In fact, I much prefer some of the 40s and 50s modernist designs than some of the gimmicky crap that eco-designers turn out today. The world's bent on being eco-friendly, and it's killing design. Every now and then, there's a good 21st century design I see and I like. For example, Maarten van Severen's furniture never ceases to impress me with its simplicity and flat texture. But sometimes I wish we had the Eameses back. Or Jacobsen somehow overcame his no doubt charcoaled lungs and excessive eating and didn't die in 1972. Or if Gerrit Rietveld just happened to design another few chairs like the Red and Blue chair. But sadly they didn't. So perhaps we should keep looking forwards and hope that some more great designers come our way.



Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Day 328, on which John (attempts to) shoot Nazi zombies, because that's not an outdated horror stereotype [23.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede otteogtyve. So today, I played Call of Duty: Black Ops 'cause a friend invited me to. I was expecting something like the controls of Half-Life 2 but a bit more violent, but to be honest it was massively different. The entire mood and atmosphere of the game is different. Instead of the light, pick-up-what-you-want, futuristic guns, shoot-endless-sand-mutant-insects mood of Half Life 2, Black Ops is very serious and is all about killing people in the most realistic way possible. Which is probably the reason why today's youth is so messed up. Either that or general social degeneration.

To tell the truth, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed running round at a frustratingly realistic place and jumping up at the realistic height and not five metres or whatever the hell Gordon Freeman can do. I enjoyed shooting my teammates because they were there and because they make such gullible targets. I enjoyed getting kicked off the server as a result of that. I enjoyed hiding in a corner of a room and hoping no one finds me there. I enjoyed shooting crazily ahead of me (or thereabouts) when I saw an enemy.

And, most of all, I enjoyed shooting Nazi zombies. Yes, you heard right, the game has an entire mode with maps and weapons and everything based around shooting Nazi zombies. There's nothing like an outdated horror stereotype to cheer up my evening, woop.

Nah, I enjoyed playing Black Ops. Sure, it wouldn't be something I'd buy for myself, but for those two hours in which I played it, I did enjoy it. Great fun. Little too much history and realism in it for me (like the kazillions of guns and Vietnam maps), but I'm a sci-fi man as I hope we all know. So, I'll stick to my sci-fi Half-Life 2 where reality bypasses abound and all those hardcore button-mashing CoD fans can take their Black Ops and have some fun. I'll have mine. Shooting endless numbers of sand mutant insects. Because that's not a waste of time.


ps. Contrary to popular belief, Black Ops is in fact not just Barack Obama and Samuel L. Jackson playing that well-known game where you have to get the bones out of the guy's body without buzzing the sides of the openings. In fact, I don't think Samuel L. Jackson features in it at all. Though he'd sure fit: "I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHERFUCKIN' NAZI ZOMBIES IN THIS MOTHERFUCKIN' HAUNTED HOUSE!"

Monday, 22 November 2010

Day 327, on which nothing important happens in John's life, so no change there [22.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede syvogtyve. Spickety span, Spannicky spit. Today I'll start by writing a dit. Less like a song, more like a poem; written by John though you don't even know 'im. There's nothing to say 'cause his day was so bland, blahdy blahdy blahy blahdy blahnd. So yeah, that dit went downhill pretty quick. In four lines, to be exact. Fun fun fun.

In other news, I'm photographing the latest JOHN Collection III scene as we speak. Well not exactly as we speak, 'cause we're talking, and I'm waiting for the battery to charge. After it does, I'll be snapping away. This fully-lit scene is for the 'Garage' department, which may sound silly but it's a whole new take on a garage. And it just so happens to be the biggest goddamn garage you've ever seen, so it's easier to fit the furniture in.

OK, nothing important happened today in my boring-ass life (yes, adding the suffix '-ass' to a word is now deemed socially acceptable), so I guess I'll have to search for other topics to natter on about in my way. OK, remember that play I wanted to write? Not the January thing, the other thing that I talked about for two posts? Well, now it's evolved into a play-in-a-book, so a novel that is in script format just 'cause it fits the story more. In fact, I'd much rather write in novel script format, because it removes any of the formalities and complexities of writing "Jens said thoughtfully", where you can just write: "JENS: (thoughtfully) ..." So much easier, gads.

The plot has evolved into something which I can't quite grasp yet. Some sprawling mess of settings, scenes, lines, and the main character who is not very developed in my mind but should be by the time I get round to writing this play. I've already decided that the play, its locations, will be set in Denmark. No big thing to change because they're all normal places; offices and shops. And the reason I set it in Denmark? Well, it could easily be any other foreign country. Any other country, at all. The idea is to show the main character go through this experience (which I can't quite describe to you, you'll have to be patient), which almost anyone could go through. But, instead of setting it in London with a guy named Dave, I'm going to set it in another country. I don't want the audience being distracted by thinking "Oh, London, that's the capital of England, my gran lives there, I went on a school trip there once" when London is mentioned. It should be a normal human settlement, but nothing that brings up any memories and inspiration etc. in the audience. The same with the name of the main character; if it's Dave then the audience's minds could go off on a tangent about that guy in their old school called Dave who was a real git, or that time when their aunt mistook them for someone called Dave. Too many damn relations, references, etc. Of course, I can't set it in a town called Zarquillika with a dude named Heebeedijeebus, that'd be silly, so I'll write what I know. Denmark.

I'm gonna take those photos and hit the sack for tonight, guys. More discussion on this play tomorrow.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

Day 326, on which John watches some arty short films [21.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede énogtyve. Woah woah woah, big news today: some crap about the X Factor! Haha, I don't give a damn, I just found it via the Yahoo! homepage. Sometimes I feel sorry for the writers at Yahoo!, 'cause Google has pretty much nommed away their audience and they're doing it for the few people who still live in the nineties. Which, unfortunately for Yahoo!, makes up a very small part of the internet-using populace. They're the baggy shirt-wearing, IE toolbar-using, five fonts in the same goddamn word-using maniacs who are found in the deepest depths of America when the time zone is so far behind it's 1998. And yes, this is the truth. I watched it on the TV therefore it must be true.

ps. I built a massive set for the JOHN Collection today. Not entirely finished, but the general look of it was there. Just need to chuck some furniture in (that's what it's for, of course), sort of the lighting and take some photos. Then, one set down and three more to go. Then compile into a catalogue, then put up on Flickr. Before Christmas. Somehow.

Remember when I was talking about Jesper Just's videos? Well, I've recently discovered the great short films of Scott Foley, who is no professional filmmaker, just some dude in college who takes great video shots and chucks some incredible music and wonderful typography into his vids, making them near-perfect. This sort of video is the kind that lots of photographers on Flickr try to do, but never do well. Scott Foley's work is spot-on, very professional looking (though sometimes not quite) and always well edited. See:

Where The Rainbow Ends. from Scott Foley on Vimeo.

I just LOVE this video. Really, really love it. There's something about the dialogue at the start and the way it merges into the music that is just brilliant. Foley has a whole bunch of videos like this, all with their own style and fitting music, but I feel like something is lacking. Namely, a plotline. Sure, the visuals are great, and the music's also good, but where's the story? You don't need dialogue for the story, so you can keep your kick-ass tracks, Mr. Foley. This is one thing that Brickfilmers back in my old community of Brickfilming on YouTube neglected. Plot? Nah. A story that makes sense? Nah. Flowing, natural dialogue? Nah. Just have a Jedi killing battle droids.

So, to second what I said in my Jesper Just post, I need to make videos like this. I have to. They're the perfect meeting point of great Flickr photography style and filmmaking. Just add in a vaguely meaningful storyline and hey presto, you've got an amazing video.

One day, I'll make one. One day.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

Day 325, on which John gets the Source Code [20.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede femogtyve. Yeesh, a crappy day today. Woke up late, doodled some Moleskine stuff (including a really good uppercase slab-serif E, I was really proud of myself), didn't feel in the mood for getting on with JOHN Collection III, which is really lagging behind now, so I just played Half-Life 2 for the rest of the day. Goddammit Nova Prospekt is a long level. Really annoying. So many Combines, so many headcrabs, so many spooky dark corridors! I am so fed up with it at the moment. SO FED UP.

OK, today I have a movie trailer for you. Woah, the last time I did that was... what, last year? With D9 and Inception? Something like that. Anywho, I present to you Source Code, the second film from the director of Moon, Duncan Jones. The general plot idea is that Jake Gyllenhaal is an army general dude who gets implanted into the mind of a guy eight minutes before he dies in a train a'splosion to find out who the bomber is. He experiences the a'splosion loads of times, à la Groundhog Day, and meanwhile falls in love with the man's wife who's also on the train and tries to change history yada yada yada.

If you want my immediate opinion: it's rubbish. The titles in the trailer show that it's being marketed as your everyday mainstream thriller. Kinda like Déja-vu or Vantage Point. That brand of average thriller/vaguely sci-fi movie. Nothing particularly special. Which is rubbish, 'cause coming from Duncan Jones, this film needs to be amazing. It needs to be mindblowingly good. It needs to top Moon. But it won't. I can tell you that right now, right before I've seen the film or any proper trailers. I don't need to see the film. If they're marketing it like this, then it's going to be average. Good, of course, but nowhere near as good as Moon.

Hopefully the plot will be as twisty-turny as the trailer suggests, and seeing how Jake's dilemma is fixed may at least provide some suspense. It just like a movie which I've seen before. Not exactly that, of course, but all the different plot details and scenes and concepts I've seen before somewhere. Duncan Jones has just mashed them together into a meh film that'll do quite well but won't be remembered three years later. A film that lacks the indie experimentalism of Moon, and has a lot less character, but is not necessarily bad. Sigh.


Friday, 19 November 2010

Day 324, on which John mourns for the internet [19.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede fireogtyve. Well lookie here, it's my birthday plus one month. I can't believe I've been 16 for a whole month, it hasn't really sunk in yet to say the least. I also can't believe it's not butter, but that's a totally different matter. Well, I know what you want to hear about. You want to hear how my design presentation went. Yeah, you do. 'Cause you care about me and all. Nah, I know you don't give a flying fuck but that's all I have to write in this intro aside from something about butter so lemme talk.

It went really well, the presentation bit, but they sure tore into us in the Q&A afterwards. "Is is sustainable?" they ask. Well shut up you judges, it's kinda sustainable but - this may be a new concept to you - being a sustainable product should not be the product's USP (unique selling point). Bit of freedom of design there for you. And, Mr. Headteacher, the inner mechanisms of the clock do work, you just can't get your brain around them. That is all.

Please please please watch the following video. Though it may be six minutes long a bit slow and flabby at times, it's essential watching for every user of the internet. Why? Because it explains ACTA. What's ACTA? ACTA is a policy currently being discussed in secret which will soon be presented to the US and EU courts and may well be put into place. But how does it influence us? Well, it basically means anything you download from the internet will be monitored and if that download is someone else's creative property, your ISP will shut down your internet connection and you might get sued or put in jail if the owner of the file follows you up. The idea is to stop people pirating movies and music, but in fact this will ruin the entire internet as we know it. Just watch:

One of my friends put this on his Facebook and added the comment: "This policy will destroy the internet", and he is more right than he could ever imagine. If, by some freak chance, ACTA gets put through and will be enforced, the internet is fucked. No other way of saying it, sorry lads. The point of the internet is to share, but if we can't even share anything, what's the point? The video mentions that if you email a news article to a friend, that's an ACTA offense. Two problems here: a) you're not using the news article to pass it off as your own, simply linking to it, no downloading and b) it is a human rights offense to read people's emails. The ISPs should be taken down if they even try to look at people's private emails. Sure, it's not on the list of human rights, but it is practically a human right.

But there are several reasons why ACTA may not be put through:

  • The courts and governments may not accept it. The US is more likely to, but considering the number of people in the EU parliament, it's near impossible for it to get accepted.
  • The ISPs would be under enormous pressure to uphold the policy
  • The entire world would be a legal nightmare with people suing other people for every little thing
  • Creatives, who ACTA should really help, will in fact not be helped as they lose the right to take existing songs/movies and adapt them or download them as research or remake them with credit.
  • It's a human rights offense, as aforementioned
  • It's very similar to 1984, and we all know how that ended.
So even though it will probably not be put through, I think it's important to note that there are still assholes out there having very powerful meetings, seriously considering doing this to us. It's not a concept, it's something which is being talked about and negotiated as we speak. If they do implement it, I will be one of the 1.5 billion internet users who is now at the mercy of the music and film industry (who are backing ACTA). But we can fight back. My friend suggested DOS'ing government websites. If we all upload 10 viruses or useless files to a government website, that's potentially 15 billion DOSs to the site, thus it will crash and burn. If blamming the government 'til they give in doesn't work, we can always just create a new internet. It sounds crazy, but if one guy did it before, 1.5 billion people sure as hell can do it again. The cleverest people in the world use the internet, even Tim Berners-Lee does, and we can just set up a new internet and get people to download a program which will browse it and start all over again. Because we are the internet, we are one, and we will never let anyone take away our right to share. Never.


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Day 323, on which John does some more clock stuff [18.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede treogtyve. Well, today we were meant to do a presentation of our (mine and the rest of my group's) product to a star-studded panel of judges, including the headmaster and heat of ADT. Yeah, not so star-studded, but star-studded relative to the school, So how'd it go? It went- oh wait, we didn't do it! Nope. You heard right. After so much work and me getting all stressy and getting the measurements of the packaging pyramid shape wrong, then working non-stop through three periods and lunch, butterflies and all (which for some reason, I like), we got told to get out 'cause we're doing it tomorrow.

Dammit. Pretty much from when we were turned away to when I got home (a couple of hours), I was on a total high. Like when you take drugs (I wouldn't know but it's this general thing) then slowly get back to normal. I was all hyped up with my design and everything, so it took a while to shake all the inspiration from my system. Before it was all out, I'd had a bunch of new ideas, and I've managed to fulfill one of those tonight with the extra time we have been given. The rest will just have to go away, for I can only do so much in one evening.

Here's un petit screenshot of the thing I was up to tonight. Our clock design (the product we've chosen, my idea I'll have you know) is your basic clock shape but to differentiate it from every other clock out there (the modernist design is not enough sadly), I designed a kickass box. The box is a two-gradient pyramid, as you can see to the left here. I built it in real life, too, when it's dark shiny black, but for the purpose of this packaging information sheet everything's delightfully greyscale. The two-gradient pyrmaid fits the clock perfectly, for I designed the model of the packaging around the sizes of clock we'd decided on. You take off the safety seal sticker, take the tab out of the slots which you can see on the left here, and the top gradient pyramid will open with a hinge on one side. Inside is the clock plus two small leaflets which are the instructions and product information.

It's very much inspired by Apple packaging, because it's very tight around the product (barely any space for the leaflets, which is really annoying to design) and is basically a kit for the product you're buying, complete with little leaflets. There was also going to be a sticker set or some sort of poster or sheet of info about the other sizes of the clock, but I can't be bothered any more. This is more than enough. The biggest competitor group to mine hasn't even made any packaging, so I shouldn't go over the top. However, they have built a full scale working model of their product. Which we can't do, 'cause ours is a clock, complete with specially designed mechanisms. It's going to be a close call, that's for sure.

And even if we don't get through (winner in the school gets entered into the national competition), this stuff would be perfect for my portfolio, which is in need of updating.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Day 322, on which John gets busy with it [17.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede toogtyve. Sorry, guys, sorry sorry sorry. I keep missing days, not something I'd like to do, but I think I'm becoming complacent with it all. Now, 322 days in, I guess it just doesn't seem all that important, but I need to keep telling myself that it is important, that I didn't blog for hundreds of other days just to abandon it here at the last hurdle. There've been so many hurdles before, why is this last goddamn hurdle so frustrating? Look - just there - I got a feeling that I'm too tired and should just give up and not blog for tonight. Well, fuck you, inner self. Let's see this through to the end. Tiredness or otherwise. Final hurdle or otherwise. An inspirational team-talk to myself would help here, but look, I'm tired - I'm no miracle-worker.

Well, the reason I've been busy is because I've been working hard at this design competition I was chosen to enter at my school. It's a nation-wide competition and the nice lads at my school's DT department identified me as being an 'exceptional DT student' ('bout time too, haha) and I was entered in this competition. The brief? To design a product, any product, under £10 retail price, to be sold in the London Design Museum gift shop. This is a pretty wide brief, for sure, and luckily I had three other guys to form a group and we worked together at this.

Our final product? Well, I can't really tell you much about it at the moment, 'cause it's meant to be secretive and all - we wouldn't want those other treacherous groups stealing our ideas - but I can tell you it's a clock. A very special modernist clock. Modernist, yes, modernist - I was in charge of the design so I had to go modernist. And Scandinavian (purity of form, remember?). But, a clock requires a lot more effort to interpret the function of a product. It's not simply a table, which has a flat top and possible storage space hanging underneath. It's depicting time. But what is time? What can we quantify it to? The clocks we use quantify time to two clear variables: minute and hour. So innovative (I hate that I'm saying that word), non-traditional clock designs should seek to interpret and present these two variables in the simplest, more ergonomic way possible. That's really all it is.

I'll explain how I interpreted this concept another day (no telling and all), but until we end today's post I'd like to show you a wonderful modern timepiece, 200 Series by Uniform Wares. This simplistic, funtional watch is just darn beautiful. Could do with a little more refining, but that's just me and my Danishness.

Series 200 © Uniform Wares
This thing is great. No numbers, which is really nice to see after so many goddamn Roman numerals, plus a one-tone wrist strap and some great negative space on the face. So many people wear massive shiny silver beasts of watches on their wrists, which I think are awful. Where's the design appeal in wearing something that was designed to show off as much shiny expensive metal as possible? That has more dials that you'd ever hope to use, especially when the dials just distract you from the hands? Once again, it's our consumer culture that's made the big and shiny desirable. No longer is design valued for being ergonomic and aesthetic, like back in Dieter Rams' days. Nope, nowadays people like designs that show off your bling. That have a whopping great logo on them. Even paper that's watermarked with a famous logo. This is, in the simplest way I can say it, excess. Too much. Overdesign. Overcomplicated products. Distracting patterns, logos, text, dials, buttons, etc etc etc that are not needed. Dieter Rams and the Bauhaus movement didn't turn around the entire history of design in the 1920s just for people to return to finding overcomplicated, bling-adorned products desirable 90 years later. It's just another way of adding in frills and this and that, just like in the Victorian times when chair legs were filled up with different shaped blobs, shapes and whatnot. Goddamn consumerism.

God knows why I got picked for this project... I've no interest in design, ahahaha.


Monday, 15 November 2010

Day 320, on which John updates the background, for the first time in forever [15.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og tyve. Well, what a day today. Both an ordthodontist's appointment and the regular dentist afterwards. Double fun for my mouth. It was probed more than a drug mule's bowels, goddammit. No? Maybe that metaphor didn't go down so well? Much like all those drugs in that drug mule. OK, that joke went down pretty badly too. But what else is double probed? Someone with an exceptionally probable interior? It just doesn't have the same ring to it, you see.

Well, today marks a bit of an important date in this 365 project. For the first time since the start of the year (or february, at least, when I refined it), I've changed the background. The idea has always been that it would begin as the simple background it was, then would be slowly added to and adapted throughout the year. That didn't quite work out. We had the red star which announced the 365 project was in progress, and I'd intended to add a Danish postal stamp or some such graphic after I'd gone to Denmark but I just liked the background on its own.

However, everything needs to change at some point. Simple fact of life, folks. So, whilst I'm not going to take up the scrapbook idea I had at the start of the year, I'm still going to give you guys something new in terms of graphics on this wonderful blog. Haha, I said this blog was wonderful. I churn out some whopping great lies sometimes.

New banner, simplified text. No red star either, 'cause I had to start this from scratch
So I wanted to merge the banner (which covers the top width of this content section) and the background (which is the rest of the page) to create some sort of continuous image. I was flicking through my images and came across my sea horizon photo from Brighton. An ingenious idea and an hour of annoying Illustrator business later, we have the page layout that you see here (or at least, that you would see here for now. It'll change). Unfortunately the page background repeats vertically so I'm going to have to sort something out in terms of the divide between the end of the background and the start when it repeats again. I'm thinking some sort of gradient, but one that doesn't impede on the photo so you won't notice it at the top. However I do it, I don't think I can remove the sides of the image repeating further down the page. I don't know how. If you know how, let me know! Please!

Hopefully this will be the first of many seasonal images to adorn the JOHNSPACE header and background. This first one is looking a bit grainy and I may touch it up a little, but for now it'll do. Plus, I updated the Facebook logo and everything. Woop.


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Day 319, on which John holds in his cynicism, just about [14.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og nitten. Well, sorry about the missed post yesterday guys, but as you'll read later, I actually went somewhere this saturday. It's annoying to miss a post, especially this close to the end of this year, but in a way it makes me feel good that there's something happening in my life. That's one of the reasons why I'm not continuing next year. That and the fact that this 365 has wasted hours of my year so far and drains creativity from me when I didn't have enough to drain in the first place. Don't force creativity is the often-used rule, but if I'm writing once every night, it's often hard to find something to blag about.

Oh yeah, before we carry on, I'd like to link you to the photos of the Neo-Futuron diorama which I've been whining about for the past 8 months. It's finally finished. At long last. So here's a link, right here. Please go check it out and fave or comment or whatever. Appreciate it.

This thing was a total bitch to photograph, seriously
Yesterday evening I went out. Yeah - I know - it's pretty unusual for me, but it's good to do something different for once, haha. Since it was one of my friend's birthday, he invited me and some other dudes (yeah I say dude now that makes me cool) along to a concert. No, not one of those Mozart things that Radio 3 listeners attend in their posh frocks and spectacles. This was a proper, rock-music-concert.

OK, you're thinking "Shut up John, there's nothing to be dramatic about in a concert, you underexperienced twat". Yeah, maybe I am an underexperienced twat. And yes, it was the first concert I'd attended. But I don't try and make out I'm a big music fan. I like a bit of music here and there, and occasionally get a bit obsessed with some of it (Arcade Fire, of course), but in general I'm no hardcore music fan. I don't sit on my bed with my guitar twanging it all night long (no euphemism there, honest), wanting to be the next [famous guitar player's name here]. It's not a way of life to me. It's not like film. It's music. So I have a totally different opinion of it.

But hey, this friend invited me and, though wary at first, thought I may as well take it for the experience. Up at the O2, in the centre of London, listening to some music at a concert like a proper music fan guy. Oh yeah, it was some band called Paramore, for the record. Had I heard of them? Yes. Do I like their stuff? Hell no. Sure it was good when everyone was there raving and headbanging and doing whatnot, but if you actually stopped to listen and ask "what are they saying?" and "where's the tune?", then you're not going to like the answers.

Here's something you should know about me: I'm an objective jerk. Even when I'm trying to get into something, experience something like the thousands of other people in the O2 arena, I can't help being objective about everything. Like all the people going music-nuts, waving their hands and headbanging and jumping all over the place like some sort of goddamn pentecostal.

But it was great, the experience. I was preparing a whole shitload of cynical things to say on this blog all the way through the concert, and if it wasn't for my getting home late, I would've had time to blog and you would have heard my immediate reaction and all the cynical comments. Seriously, I was backchatting everything that Hayley Williams gal was saying. "This is the biggest gig we've ever played. Ever." She says. Ever.

Then the crazy music would end and the stage would go dark. I'd breathe a little and talk to myself and see how much less I could hear. Then the stage would go purple (with an amazing lighting rig, no doubt) and the band would play some guitar riff that sounds exactly like the start of every other song on their three albums, and the crowd would go apeshit. Literally, it was amazing to see everyone go crazier than they did for the lat song.

Maybe I should have researched Paramore a little beforehand. Heard a few of their songs. That would probably have helped. But ah well, B.o.B played beforehand as the supporting act and he was pretty good. Yeah, I liked him. Good stuff.

Also every girl in the room had dyed her hair red or pink. It was like a massive hair dye explosion around us. Clearly, they were all copying their hero, Hayley Williams. I think she was on the stage, but pretty much everyone else looked like her so I can't be sure. She seemed like someone who would've been left out at school or not in the mainstream click, but now she's found some courage and belonging in her style and the whole Paramore thang. Well, that's what I perceive at least. I'm probably wrong, but I had to think something when they were playing.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not usually a cynical git. I don't mean to be. I don't say this stuff out loud. I'm a nice guy, honest. I know pretty much everyone else would think of me as a tosser after this post, but that's just the way I am. And the thousands of other people in the O2 enjoyed it, so I'm not saying that no one should like it. It's just my objectivity that gets in the way. And I did enjoy some of the Paramore stuff. Great atmosphere.

/end cynicism.

Sorry for all that, guys. I just had to get it out.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Day 317, on which John returns to Brighton... IN HIS MIND [12.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og sytten. Whoops, I accidentally misspelled 'dag' as 'fag', which as wel all know is an altogether different thing. So let's not make that mistake again, please. I may be a Danefag, but the word fag doesn't even occur in their language. What have I been up to, is what you want to know, and it also moves on the topic of conversation quite handily. Well, I was buttonmashing my way through Half-Life 2 up until about ten minutes ago, but the duties of having a relaxing evening called and I was dragged away from my newly required buggy. Jeez, if I don't get inspired to build by that, there's no hope.

Well, back to more photos that I haven't shown you. Today I'm taking a trip to Brighton... IN MY MIND!

A moody shot of some lighthouse as I looked out from Brighton beach. Nice and high-contrasty, and it's practically SOOC (straight out of camera). The only editing I did is making the photo more magenta because the assholes at Jessops scanned 'em in with a green tint (the inverse colour of the film, which is naturally magenta), and they're all grainy too. Silly people. Anywho, I like this shot. Woo.

A funny sign, also a bit of a short DoF experiment. I like the blurry Brighton seafront behind it, though with me being me and all, it's off-kilter. Stupid John. Dommel mig. Ah well, maybe next time I'll get it straight on. It's too off-kilter to straighten out without losing the resolution. Argh.

No idea why I took this shot or why I uploaded it or why it's here. There's just something about it. Maybe it's my shoes. Maybe it's just how frickin' cool they are. Jus' look at them. Mmmmmm, leather. But enough about my shoes, I guess. You don't want to hear about them. You want to hear about my trousers. Ahaha, I know you don't care about either.

And finally, a shot that isn't from Brighton but I still like it. A bunch of fairy lights in my garden, which were just made for bokeh (out of focus lights like you can see here). The background's a little busy, but I think I managed to capture the DoF well. I took about seven of these shots, but they didn't come out all that well. Either underexposed or with motion blur because of a long exposure speed. Ah well. You win some and you lose some. Clearly I lost quite a few in this roll.

Find all these photos on John Too as per usual.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Day 316, on which Helvetica takes its revenge [11.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og seksten. Well, it's remembrance day. I'd like to say I did something important in memory of all the soldiers who died for our 'great' country etc, but I didn't. To be honest, I forgot. Well, allow me this much: I had my parent's evening (slash parent-teacher interviews of whatever you Americans call it) just now so let's just say I have other things to worry about. And maybe I shouldn't worry and just be happy that no one said everything bad. But did Mr. Art-teacher say I was great at art? Nuh-uh. As is his wont, I was 'good at art' but nothing special. I hate that I never get the kind of praise from art as I do from DT (design). Maybe it's because I'm not expressive enough. Maybe it's because I'm Scandinavian.

Ah, the title of this post. I suppose I should explain. Well, here's the info: today I decided to totally ignore my photography GCSE and do some lino printing. Lino printing, folks, is when you cut a shape into a piece of lino (plasticky board thing) and then put ink on it and print. So, whilst making up some crazy excuse for how it relates to photography, I set up myself to print a lowercase Helvetica A on a piece of A5 lino. Because it would be interesting to see this smooth, crisp shape reduced to something rough and textured by cutting it by hand out of lino. But be warned: cutting the lino requires a lino cutting tool (duh) and I managed to slice it into my fingers not once but twice. Twice. Do you have any goddamn idea how much it hurts to slice it into your finger? Like a papercut but ten times worse. Plus it bled everywhere. Urgh. Even on my new bag.

But enough about me. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA that's such a dumbass lie.

Here's a previously non-uploaded photo from my latest roll. I just had to get this guy's permission to make sure I could upload his arm to the interwebs. Now I have it, here is his arm. With a buttload of wristbands etc. Only he can tell you exactly what they mean slash what they're for, but I can say for sure that they made this shot great. SOOC (straight out of camera), as well. No editing involved.

Plus a boring shot of my school. Nothing special here, but I quite liked the film-like look to this. The colours and tones could never occur like that naturally in a digital photo. So thank you very much, silver globules on the celluloid of my film, for reacting and forming and doing your thing to create these tones. SOOC, of course. But those goddamn fences! Get the hell out of my shot!

A couple more photos are up here on John Too.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Day 315, on which John thinks hembakat är bäst [10.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og femten. Pretty good day today, watched Forrest Gump with my film club in an ekstra-speshul after school screening! Booyah! Plus there were digestives and brownies, so much fun was had. And, as well all know, it's impossible to say a bad word about Forrest Gump. What's that? Tom Hanks made a bad movie? I'm sorry sir, but you seem to be talking tripe. On a more interesting note, it's curious to see the similarities between Forrest and Lennie in Of Mice and Men. However, the two have their differences, but no doubt the script of Forrest Gump was Of Mice and Men-inspired. Whoever the scriptwriter was must have read it. They're American, of course.

OK, this book is old news for sure, but I really love it and for some reason it's a baking book I want to buy. Not for the recipes, though I'm sure there are some great Swedish recipes in there. Here's the backstory: it's a Swedish baking book by the glorious people at IKEA, named Hambakat är Bäst (Homemade is best), photographed by the suitably Swedish Carl Kleiner and styled by Evelina Bratell.

Available in English as well, folks.
Every recipe's ingredients are laid out and organised and made to look all neat and nice. Not doubt it's also the right amount of each ingredient that is present in each shot. The great thing about these photos is that each recipe has its own layout, a composition that could only be made of those amounts of those exact ingredients. Each recipe therefore has its own character and makes a unique shape.

This is one of my favourites, Ruts hästskor, which from what I can tell is some kind of biscuit. I just love that all the ingredients and trimmed and sliced as if they simply fabrics, but of course we all know how difficult it is to fit flour to a triangular shape, let alone pour syrup or whatever that is in a straight-ish line. The diagonal composition of this one is really striking, and yet the shapes create an inferred rectangle shape. Clever stuff, Mr. and Mrs. Swedish.

It's not even important what this will make. All you know is that it has chocolate and nuts in it, and you want to eat it.


ps. that last dish is called Schwartzwaldtåta, and it looks like this:

So yeah, I was right. I do want to eat it. And I do want to buy this book. Maybe. Price tag depending.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Day 314, on which John thinks with his balls [9.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og fjorten. Woo, Moleskining is fun. So is shooting Combines in Half-Life 2. Ah, about that; I've finally moved onto the next part of the story and the plotline is moving on faster than before. Good good good, no more mindless action and monsters etc. Even Alex is back, for two scenes. She gives you the Gravity Gun then leaves. Silly woman, I don't need no Gravity Gun. Actually, I don't like it. Too clunky. In a virtual-clunky way. I'll just stick to my SMG, that's served me well.

OK, we're continuing our patchy review season with a review of my current favourite TV programme, the comedy How Not To Live Your Life. Starting out on BBC3 a few years ago, the programme, directed, written by and starring the genius Dan Clark. Now the show is in its third series and it kicked off with a double-bill last night.

The show has four main characters. Firstly, there's Don (played by Dan Clark), the hapless idiot and protagonist in the programme. He's the lovable twit, who always thinks he's being cool or romantic, but is actually far from it. He narrates the programme and also intersperses the scenes with montages documenting '7 excuses Don could give for being late' or '12 answers to the Pub Quiz questions', etc. They were the defining parts of the first series, but now they've taken a back seat. Which, in a way, is good. It means the show is moving on.

Oh, also, there are three other main characters. The rather nice (heh heh) Sam, who is a student lodger in Don's house (which he inherited from his gran), who replaced Don's childhood sweetheart Abby last series; Mrs Treatchers who is some old woman who is annoying and for some reason is still in the programme; and finally Eddie Singh (played by David Armand), who is Mrs Treatcher's carer and Don's too. 'Cause Don's a lazy bastard who doesn't do anything.

I must admit I loved the end of the last series (2) of How Not To Live Your Life. For once, it got away from its formulaic Sam-gets-a-new-boyfriend format and ended in something interesting and dramatic. Don stood up for Eddie and was actual a decent guy for once, and was about to get it off with Sam. But then, Abby from series 1 texts him (that's how the kids do it these days) and says she's back from Australia. But what now!? Sam or Abby?

And that's where Series 2 left off. Now we have Series 3, I was eagerly awaiting what the next progression would be in the plot. Would Don and Sam get together? Would this be the only show I watch and talk this mindless sitcom stuff about? Well, no and hopefully. Before you know it, the snazzy new title sequence is over and there's Sam with some new boyfriend. And how does Mr. Clark explain this? Well, apparently he accidentally called Sam Abby and before you know it she's out the door. This is a pretty bad get-out, but I suppose the show has to return to its usual format. It's a shame, I'd hoped it was going to progress and get a few more dimensions. But sadly not.

As for the humour, Dan Clark's still topping that department. Lots of funny new stuff along with references to previous series: Don's trademark line 'think with your balls' (hence the title) plus a little 'throon' reference which only long-time HNTLYL fans will get. As I mentioned beforehand, there are fewer montages, but the  formulaic format of previous series seems to have loosened its grip on series 3 and the first episode is a great mix of crazy plotlines. Plus, Sam's new boyfriend stays on for two episodes, which is good. But Don and Sam should get together! ARGH!

What I always loved about HNTLYL was the subltle social commentary: in every episode there's a new social stereotype, be it the boring university lecturer, the uptight charity boss or the nerdy biology student. Dan's got them all covered, with my fave being the character briefly shown at the end of Series 2, the dick. Haha, there's no other way to describe him. A total jock, an obnoxious middle-aged man who drinks too much lager and plays dirty games with his friends. Whose only idea of a stag-do is drinking each other's urine. That episode in particular was so well observed.

But sadly it looks like, three series in, HNTLYL is still not getting that much publicity or popularity. And why? Well, it's broadcast on monday evenings at 10:30 on BBC3. It's no primetime TV show, and I hate Dan Clark for it. Apparently there's an episode featuring S&M later in the series. Why!? Why is that even necessary? It's no wonder the show has a limited audience. But ah well, there's always iPlayer for those who are hardcore fans.

Bring on the series, is all I can say. And jolly good work, all of you, haha.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Day 313, on which John gives a proper review of The Suburbs [8.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og tretten. Well, the big news in the Flickrsphere today. Eric Sophie, aka. Legomaster, is an AFOL on Brickshelf whom I'd never heard of before. Apparently some people had. Anywho, this article pops up online somewhere and Dano got his grubby paws on it. Speaking of paws, I smell paedobear...

The general gist of the article is as follows:
A Jersey City man who operated an after-school, LEGOs-oriented activity for children at a city charter school has been arrested on charges he fondled three young girls in Jersey City and Hoboken, officials said yesterday.
So yeah, maybe not so funny. Maybe serious, actually. But it still merits a 'heh' to think that this guy is just your average Lego builder, and yet he's in the news for this. Freaky stuff. And an even more ironic thing is that he has this dedicated Brickshelf folder for newspaper articles about him. But don't think I'm just blaming him for the lulz. If he's innocent, then good for him. If he's not, then, well, let's leave that point alone. Who are we, the Flickr peeps, to judge anyhow?

OK, onto Arcade Fire. Last post about them, honest. I figured I'd write a quick review of their 'The Suburbs' album because it's review season after all, right?

Well, let me start by saying The Suburbs is an album that is massively different to any of the albums I've bought before (so basically, better than Mika - The Boy Who Knew Too Much and that Queen one) because it's a complete, beginning-middle-end experience. The songs all tie into each other, refer to each other, blend into each other yet are all individual and great songs on their own. For example, the end of Empty Room is the start of City with no Children, thus blending the song transition and making you wonder whether the song actually changed. And yet it did, and yet the songs are distinct from each other. ps. City with no Children is one of the best songs in the album, please listen.

Of course, this album has to be taken with a large pinch of salt. It's an indy album, there's no doubting that. There's no consistent genre of music. It's a massive mashup of generally experimental music. Don't expect norm all verses and all that. And, for that reason, I understand why people may not like it. It's not normal. It's not mainstream. But, if you're willing to be that little bit tolerant, then it's amazing. A couple of the songs aren't that good, but the rest of the album makes up for it. At £7 for 16 songs, probably 12 of them good and the others just alright, it's very much worth it. If you can bear indy music, buy buy buy!


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Day 312, on which John plays Half-Life 2 [7.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og tolv. Gar, I be havin' Sunday-evening-itis. The whole 'dammit, the weekend's right around the corner, life sucks' thing. But I know you don't want to hear about that. You want to hear about what I did today. Well, apart from playing Half-Life 2, very little. A buttload of homework, plus I listened to 'The Suburbs' a lot. The Sprawl II is now one of the top songs on there for me. It's so ABBA-ish, I could just see Benny Andersen playing the piano for it. D'aww.

OK, enough about my strange ABBA/Arcade Fire fantasies. We all know they won't happen, the two women in ABBA have run off to live in windmills in the middle of the Swedish countryside or something like that. Benny's too busy growing his beard and Björn's too busy buying more glasses for his head.

OK, Half-Life 2. It's the third Valve game I've bought, because I've heard a lot of good things about it, and the last two Valve games (Portal and Team Fortress 2) have been very much worth it. Half-Life 2 is one of those cult games that you'll hear about no matter where you go. There are references everywhere, even in Portal (in the final song, GLaDOS mentions Black Mesa). So do I buy the first Half-Life game? Nah, that was made in 1998 and from what I can infer from the YouTube series 'Freeman's Mind' it's pretty samey. Whereas Half-Life 2 looks much more rich and varied. Also the graphics are better.

So I started playing it this evening. Right from the start, you're thrown into an incredibly rich world, with all the details you could ask for in a virtual environment. Faultless AIs, brilliant speeches from the people, great backdrops, freaking scary Combine soldiers and so much more. You walk round the world yourself but somehow you manage to follow the path the gamemakers have set out for you. You can talk to almost anyone (not Combines, they just zap you), and they'll talk realistically with full-movement mouths that I really didn't expect.

Then you meet up with Barney, then Alex, and you follow her through the world to some doctor's laboratory. It's amazingly done, it's a whole narrative that you can walk around and interact with. Then there's the action scenes at the start - for example, the Combine invade a building and everyone's screaming "get to the roof! Get to the roof!", so you get to the roof, but every time you look behind you, you can see the Combine killing the people. Scary stuff.

After a brief rooftop chase, you get to the doctor's lab and proceed to take part in a great conversation between the doc, Alex and Barney. You get reintroduced to your HEV suit, do a teleport thing that doesn't really work out and is brilliantly animated, and they you're off to some other doc's lab. Barney throws you your trusty crowbar and, before you know it, you're smashing crates and whacking Combines and generally having fun in the environment.

You walk into some underground pathways and encounter Combines torturing a man, then kill them, then pick up their guns. Now you have a gun! Wahoo! But sadly, for me this is where the game began to show its few faults. You encounter a few more Combines and, satisfyingly, blow their freaky heads to bits with their late counterpart's gun. That's fun. Then, after a few more scenes, you're just in any other game. There's an almost endless queue of Combine soldiers waiting to pounce on you and shoot the hell out of you. It's really dull and samey. Just another sewer, another few mutant tongue things, couple of Combine soldiers to shoot, move on. You don't run out of ammo, either. It totally ruins the initial joy of being able to blow the heads off some of those freaky dudes that kept zapping you previously. Plus I don't like the mutant tongue things. YUCK.

Well, that's where I am at the moment. I stopped playing for this evening because I'd had enough of being tongued by mutant tongue things. Maybe the next stage in the game will bring some new gameplay, and more of Alex. She seemed nice.


Saturday, 6 November 2010

Day 311, on which John's ceases to avoid fireworks and just enjoys them for once [6.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og elleve. It seems that, no matter how much I whined and blahed on about how I hated fireworks yesterday, I went to a fireworks display this evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. Contradiction much? Or is it just my constant scathing hatred of everything that disguises my actual love of having a good time with your friends whilst watching a fireworks display? One of the two. So yeah,  I met a bunch of my friends there and we watchd fireworks go 'kaboom' and 'phweeeeeeeeee' in the air, sometimes two at a time (Oh mah gawd, DOUBLE FIREWORK! Double firework all the waaaay!), sometimes none. The announcer guy kept counting down from ten, but nothing happened at the end. Well, maybe it did, behind us, but no-one looked behind them. For all we knew, there could've been a massive banner reading 'FUCK YOU ALL' behind us.

It wasn't actually that cold, which was good. But then again, it may well have been freezing, but I was wearing three pairs of socks (plus shoes, naturally) so I felt very little. My feet looked like the Michelin man, for God's sake, that's how many socks there were wrapped around them. So, cosily encased my my multitude of clothing and with no piano teacher in sight (sorry Tim, couldn't help it), I watched some fireworks being catapulted into the sky from Katy Perry's chest somewhere in the distance. They exploded and did the usual fireworkey things that fireworks tend to do. I did notice that there was a lot of smoke coming from the firing place, though. Either the people were having one massive cigarette or it was just smokey. But you can always tell who the firework launchers are because they cough a lot and get some sort of lung infection and subsequently die.

I always thought they launched the fireworks from artillery grids like you get on military helicopters. Apparently not. Either way, they don't launch them all individually as a guy runs round with a box of matches. Apparently, as my friend pointed out to me, they press an Enter button and that launches them. Beats me how that works, but Enter buttons can do a lot of stuff. I once pressed one and sent an email.

There was also a lot of mud and people and lightsabres, for some reason. And yes, I spell lightsabres like that. Screw you, Lucasfilm. English spellings for the linguawin. Yeah, people flailing ligthsabres round like Goddamn non-light sabres. And kids shouting 'fireworks! Fireworks! Fireworks!' constantly. Oh no wait, that was my friends. Ahaha.

Well, that's all the exciting (sarcasm) news I have for you today, gents. Oh, one more thing: I bought the Arcade Fire 'The Suburbs' album, because I'm that obsessed. A great, great album. Only £7 for 16 very good songs. Now I have Rococo stuck in my head!


Friday, 5 November 2010

Day 310, on which John manages to avoid fireworks [5.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og ti. Friday, mofos! That means I can sleep in tomorrow and relax myself to a relaxed state this evening. Which I did; I played Team Fortress II for the first time in ages (I don't play computer games much, remember) and I bought Half-Life 2 off Steam. I'm told it's a good game, but it looks quite bloody and 'vulgar', if you know what I mean. Exploding mutants et al. But hey, apparently it's good enough for the story and the graphics. Plus I get to use a gravity gun. It's not all bad.

Well, it's fireworks night here in the Kingdom of Unitedness. That's the UK to you and me. Which means everyone goes out somewhere and watches some exploding chemical things in the air or has the same experience, on a smaller scale, in their back gardens.

OK, my opinion on fireworks night differs from that of Hallowe'en. Fireworks night is a pretty good occasion. No one really cares what it stands for etc, but there certainly is some sort of history and meaning to it which people just don't give much of a damn. They give more of a damn about it than about Hallowe'en's history, which to many people is nonexistent.

But, in all honesty, fireworks night is about fireworks. About clasping your hands over your ears and shouting 'it's too loud!' and/or getting the shit scared out of you when a firework does that little boomy thing it does. I wasn't at a fireworks display of any type today, though. I'm not sure why, it just didn't work out. Apparently there was one in Blackheath, but I just wasn't in the mood for it. So I joined the legions of Steam-playing, piano-lesson-having peoples who did not see some fireworks tonight.

And to be honest, I don't really care. The masses out on Blackheath can take their exploding chemical things in the air and their God-awful catherine wheels. I mean, who was Catherine? And why the hell did she make such a whiney noise as to have catherine wheels named after her?

And I now leave you to Google her. Goodnight.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Day 309, on which John discovers Arcade Fire [4.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og ni. Sorry about yesterday, guys, I don't quite know what happened to me. Just missed it. I've been on a blogging decline recently (I blew all my blogging inspiration on the Jacobsen Hallowe'en tale, haha), and I was really not in the mood either. So that's why I missed yesterday. But it's only one day, right? And besides, even if I miss these days, I'll still have blogged for the vast majority of the year. It was never the plan to blog every day no matter what.

OK, I have a few songs to show you today. I don't usually blah on about music, but I've got nothing better to do and these particular songs seem to be dominating my evenings of late. Let me introduce you to the band Arcade Fire, from Montreal, Canada. They've got three albums, yada yada yada.

Anywho, this is the sort of music that I'd categorise as 'the stuff they play on BBC Radio 6', because when I was doing work experience in the summer, they played Radio 6 non-stop and it was pretty much indy stuff like this. Also a lot of Manic Street Preachers, specifically 'It's not war, just the end of love' which they played every three minutes and twenty-eight seconds. Which, to prevent you from having to look it up on iTunes, is the length of the song.

This is probably the one song of theirs you'll recognise from somewhere, 'Wake up'. I won't act like I know a lot about music, because I don't (I dropped music last year), but I can tell you that I love this song and that it is on the Hoppípolla-level of awesome. It's going on my currently small list of 'very good music', which consists of Hoppípolla, Hurt and One (by Johnny Cash) and now this.

Next up, 'City with no children' from Arcade Fire's latest album, The Suburbs. Yeah, I sound like a real music-knowing dude. Listening to my Radio 6 music and telling you which album each of the songs are from. So this one is also very good, my fave from what I've heard of the third album. Melikey.

This one I don't like as much as the others, but I felt I needed to represent all three albums and this is from the second one, Neon Bible. The rest of the songs on Neon Bible are a bit grungy and depressing, but this one just about manages to be upbeat.

So there we are. John's musical tastes of the moment. And now he's referring to himself in 3rd person. Strange.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Day 307, on which John looks at some ideograms [2.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og syv. Welcome to November, lads. After the wait-is-it-November-it's-too-early-to-tell feeling of the 1st, we've now moved swiftly onto the 2nd and I can safely say it's November. Also, I have some more grammar Nazism to amuse you with. Well, not really grammar Nazism, but something about grammar. Whilst reading The Catcher in the Rye, I picked up the term I'd've, and I kinda like it. Why say 'I'd have' when you can combine the three words (I, would, have) into I'd've? You can apply it to the other persons: you'd've, he'd've, they'd've, we'd've, etc. The only one it doesn't work on is it'd've, but no one uses that anyway so we won't need to worry about that. Well, that's how we say it, right? Hmm, may need a bit more thought.

OK, I was just browsing the Behance network and came across this cute little graphics set on Typography Served, by Design has no Name. It's inspired me to try some 'ideograms', ie. graphical logo-like pictures which are meant to represent things. The great thing about ideograms is that you make them in a set like fonts, so they've got to be related to each other yet still individual. So, they are really like characters in a font.

Better yet, you're trying to apply not just shapes but a visual style across the ideogram set. For example, here is a small set of tree ideograms from the set I mentioned above:

I really like these, they're bold and simplistic but with a hint of detail and a bti of a retro feel to them as well. I also like how the background is slightly textured, so give it that old-fashioned feel. I have a couple of textured backgrounds I could try on my own ideograms. It's not really the functional side of ideograms, but I don't think I'd want to make something that was functional (eg. a road signage system with park and museum ideograms etc), I just like the idea of making a stylised system of graphics.

I also like the use of overlayed shapes which bring out a darker shade of that colour. It'd be hard to keep consistent, because I'd want to keep a strict colour palette. So, would I have the main colours then tones a touch lighter or a touch darker than them? That'd mean twice as many colours in the palette. Which means it'd get complicated. My original experiments have left me with seven main colours for this first ideogram set: black, white, a light grey, and a bleached blue, red, orange (kinda tan when bleached) and green. It's a very light colour set, not bold at all, but that's what I going for.

Hmm, ideograms may be my next best thing. Who knows?


Monday, 1 November 2010

Day 306, on which John finally finishes the Neo-Futuron scene [1.11.10]

Dag tre hundrede og seks. Well, I have momentous news to share with you all. Remember that Neo-Futuron project? The one that was meant to start with this scene, then go into a short video, then emerge out the other side into a fully-fledged storyline. Well, that went a bit off-track because it was way too big a workload for me (and shush about Cronas 13 being a massive project), so I was left with two MOCs left that I wanted to get finished just in memory of what could have been. One of those was this small scene, and the other was a fully-lit scene which I've been calling my 'Neo-Futuron project' since. The earliest records of building it I can find date back to April, so it's been a WIP for 8 months. Which is pretty long.

Today a Bricklink order arrived in the post full of 2x2 white tiles, and the proverbial 'Neo Futuron project' is finally, finally, finished. At long last, is all I could say. And now it's done and ready to photograph. I'll tell you now; it's not particularly good. It's just that it required a lot of white tiles, which I didn't have, so after several Bricklink orders it's complete. Eight months later, all that needs doing is photographing it.

Moving swiftly on, it's the first of November, which means it's time for my monthly letter. OK, it's getting pretty complicated now, so please bear in mind: in this letter I talk to my future self (+1 month) and my past self (-1 month). You can see last month's letter here.

Dear myself,
Oh October John, you silly person. School didn't turn out that bad. Just tough for those few weeks. And, doubtless, this week too, but while I'm at the start of it I can be naïve and not think about how awful it will turn out. Besides, I finished my Pygmalion essay in the end, and got full marks for it. So up yours, history.

Out of curiosity, what book are you reading, future John? I'm pretty sure October John was reading yet another Asimov (Through a Glass, Clearly, if I recall correctly), and now I've started my programme of reading proper, classic literature. After my mixed reactions to The Catcher in the Rye, I've decided to give American literature a break and have started Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, which sadly isn't as raunchy as its title suggests.

No Hoppípolla for me now, oh no, I got over that a few weeks ago. At the moment it's all Barbra Streisand. No, not Barbra Streisand songs, but a song called Barbra Streisand, by some peeps named Duck Sauce. Will probably get tired of that too.

OK, quickly onto my responses from last month. Well, half term was swell, I must say. The funny thing is, I don't think I've mentioned it on this blog until now; I guess some people were just assuming I was doing all that stuff on a school day, which is funny. OK, that June thing. This unspoken happening which occurred in June, and I keep refering to. Well, fuck that. No chance now. I'm over it, it's over itself, metaphorically speaking. Let's wipe up the crumbs and get on with our lives. Which means less confusion for you confuzzled readers. Progress with JCiii is steady, now I have my Bricklink order I can make two more scenes, so the workload is slowly thinning for that. I should hopefully finish it in time. Hopefully. As for the Neo-Futuron project, see above; I managed to finish it right on my deadline! Ha ha, what irony. The play-in-January? Still in progress, haven't written anything yet but a story is slowly coming to me. Maybe I should do it for NaNoWriMo. I kinda haven't thought about that yet and it's just started, guh. Finally, the Brickspace pages and finished and I will get some new earphones ASAP.

There, that was easy. Now for our questions for next month. Well, I guess I'd better start with the inevitable: how's Cronas 13? How's JCiii? How's the play-in-January? Any replacement for the June-thing yet (haha you thought I'd leave that alone)? New earphones, please? Christmas must be so close to you, on the 1st December, I almost drool when I think about it so close. And, one final thing: don't panic! Just 'cause I know you will be at some point. Jeez, we should get a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or better yet our own TV chat show. It could work out, you know. We could help sort out the benign problems of all those God-awful idiots that appear on Jeremy Kyle whilst secretly laughing at them.

Until then, we'll have to just laugh at them on Jeremy Kyle's show. Before we take over his TV spot, of course.
Much love,

That's all for now, folks!