Friday, 31 December 2010

Day 365, the final post of the project. And what an amazing project it has been. [31.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede femogtres. Wow. That's it. That's the end of the entire project. It's finished, it's over, it's finito, it's that in every language. Three hundred and sixty five days of blogging in the evening about what I've been up to, what I've been creating, or my opinions on certain topics. And design, of course. I never expected it to pan out like this when I started, in fact I had little idea of what I'd talk about, blogging on a daily basis. I was not prepared for it at all, but as I've explained January suffered for that and it's been getting slowly better from then. Once I got into the flow, knowing what sort of content would be in the posts, I got into my style and it's been one consistent progression from there.

But let's not forget the posts which haven't been so good. The posts which, in all honesty, were shit. When I didn't have enough time, when I forgot to do a monthly letter, when I wasn't in a creative mood, when I was ill. Yesterday. Those times can't be forgotten, of course, and as much as I'd like to wipe them from the face of this blog, they remain testaments to how I blogged no matter what. I hate myself for those times when I could have blogged, but I just wasn't in the mood. There are so many, and so many excuses I've made for just that. But I guess you have to expect the highs and the lows in life, and I love how this 365 project has encapsulated that. I just wish I'd blogged better on the low days (though that post when I moaned on about things that pissed me off isn't bad). Good and bad, that's what makes this project realistic.

Gee, I'm getting so sentimental now. Gee whizz. OK, to sum up the year, here are ten of my highlights from this blog or just from my activities in the past year. In no particular order,


  1. I visited my homeland. I think its clear enough if you read at least five posts from this 365 project to tell that I'm obsessed with Denmark and Danish culture, and 2010 was the year my then-young obsession was fulfilled with a four-day trip to the king of all countries (metaphorically), Denmark. 2010 was the year I finally saw Copenhagen, walked its streets, enjoyed its culture, its design, its people, Tivoli, and so much more. I wish I could go back now... my parents are thinking of returning with my whole family at Easter next year, but I doubt it. I'll go back there one day. And stay.
  2. Photography went analogue. 2010 was the year I took photography seriously, the year I realised how crap all my photos were in the past. Thanks to Flickr and the genius of photographers like Caiti Anne, my mind was opened to the possibilities of photography as an art form, and the joys of an imperfect photo - just how much better a grainy, out-of-focus analogue photo can be than a heavily Photoshopped digital photo. In many ways, my analogue photography goes against what I consider to be my design style: perfection, crisp lines, clear shapes and simplicity. But I still love it, and I think it deserves to be said that in 2010 I started using my Canon A-1 film camera, and took photography seriously.
  3. Refining my style. I like to think of 2010 as the biggest, largest change and shift and refinement of my style of design, of MOCs, of photography, of writing, of being. My identity has changed beyond anything I can possible hope to pin down in one paragraph. When I look back on my posts at the start of the day I see myself as a totally different person. My style has changed for the simple reason that I've become aware of my style. I've become aware of myself, I've looked at myself objectively. And that has meant a lot of changes, because I've realised who I am and who I'd like to be and I'm trying to head towards the latter. And whilst I haven't quite arrived, I've certainly started my journey. 'Cause I'm a teenager and that's one of the points of teenagehood - though it's not something I actively started to do because it was a necessity. It just started happening and it's still going. Hopefully I won't have a Holden Caulfield experience as part of it...
  4. Design became big. It's amazing to think that at the start of the year I had no interest in design whatsoever. Well, I was a little interested in my JOHN Collection furniture and I had a slight interest in proper furniture design, such as Panton and Gerrit Rietveld's Red and Blue chair. It was more of something which humoured me, but at the time that interest was based around the JOHN Collection. Since then, my interest has bloomed into an obsession. In less than 12 months... less than ten months even. Less than ten months to turn a slight interest based on Lego furniture into an obsession which has become my ambition in life. Tell my January self that I'd want to be a designer by the end of the year and he's be surprised. Design has taken over my life, it's become my life, and I'm so glad for 2010 to be the time this journey was undertaken.
  5. I built better. I'm proud to say that 2010 was a year spent heavily engaged in the FOL (Fans of Lego) community on Flickr, I've made some great friends there, a couple of enemies, and a lot of great MOCs. Without being too self-indulgent, I must say I've enjoyed this year in the Lego community and I've made some MOCs than I'm still proud of a few months later, which is saying something. Notably the Ishøj House, the Kongsholmparken Café, Hope and Glory Towers (just about) and my Volvo Amazon. Not the Rødovre House, I look back on that in distaste now. It was also great to see everyone at STEAM back in October, I don't see you guys enough! Boo hoo!
  6. I acted a lot. This isn't something you guys hear a lot about and you probably won't hear much more about it next year, but it's been a massive thing for me this year, culminating in several performances in a performance of Alice in Wonderland at my local theatre group in July. And it was the best fun I've ever had, I hope to do a lot more next year. It was amazing. But enough reminiscing.
  7. I started managing my ideas. This process is still very much in its early stages, but I bought a Moleskine and I've started recording my ideas down onto paper, just sketches, so I can develop them properly like real designers do. I start with a concept sketch, develop details and keep doing so until I have something good. Whilst I haven't done the full process on anything yet, I've started getting down my ideas and now they won't fall out of my head again. You won't believe the amount of film and design ideas I've had that I've simply forgotten. I never knew quite how and where to get my ideas down, but my Moleskine is a start on this process.
  8. I've got opinions. I really look back with pride on my philosophical posts, because I love formulating opinions and creating my own identity and finding out what I believe and what I think of stuff. Notably my posts on death, my Fate Graphs, and those couple of posts on religion that pretty much covered my full opinions. I wish I could blog about philsophy more, but then I get all angry and will normally revert to something about death or how small we are and how insignificant we are. It's sad.
  9. 'That's so John'. My writing style has also developed, and I'm very proud of some of the posts I created this year, which people say 'that's so John' too. It's just my style. Totally and utterly. Some examples of this are my Hallowe'en story, and those posts on the new iLife, which I looked back on recently - and I think "how did I actually say that? That is so totally crazy even I'm shocked!' (in the iLife post I captioned one of the pictures with "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." hahahah what!?). And this is what I want to write more in the new year.
  10. I actually did it. Yeah, what I'm more proud of than anything else is that I actually finished this project. It's not totally complete, of course, but I don't give a fuck. I did it. I made it to the end with the vast majority of days posted on, I did it! I DID IT! And now I can finally stop!!
But of course this project would never have been possible without you. You guys, you awesome readers of this blog. Though you may be few in number and fewer in giving a damn, you still comment every now and then and you show your support. Harry, Matti, Tim, Zack and the occasional other person. Thanks guys, really really thank you.

Expect more posts here on JOHNSPACE in the new year, though hopefully fewer and with better content. Though not for a good week, I need a break from this blogging shizzle.

Happy new year, I wish you all a great 2011, and I'll see you after the jump. Thank you and, for the final time in this project, farvel.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Day 364, on which John watches 'Aftenshowet' [30.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede fireogtres. Wowzers, it's the penultimate day of the year! The penultimate day of this 365 project! The penultimate day of this regular torment that forces me to write three paragraphs of rubbish on this sit! The penultimate day of having to write a boring-ass introduction which totally ruins the flow and relevance and together-ness of the post. The penultimate day of italicising the Danish numbers I remember and write at the start of the intro. The penultimate day of this project. And I'm sad to see it go, but on the other hand I think it's about time it came to a nice neat finish. Hopefully tomorrow will see a big ol' post about big ol' things. We'll see. If I'm not in a good mood on the final day, it's screwed. Be happy!

Today I watched the half-hour episode of a Danish show on the channel DR1 called Aftenshowet - 'the evening show' - featuring one of my fave singers, the Kate Nash of Denmark that is Sys Bjerre. You can see the episode in its entirety here, and skip to the end to see Sys perform, but here is a brief summary of what the people are saying and what happens in this very special episode of Aftenshowet:

Hans: hej, my name is Hans and welcome to Aftenshowet. Blah blah blah.
Lady: hejsa, my name is some lady or something and here we have an old man.
Old man: yes.
Hans: we also have many other exciting things. It is christmas and it is snowing and I'm fucking freezing. Let's get a move on.

Hans: woops, watch your step there, lady. Careful of the baby.
Lady: Hans you idiot, shut up. We weren't meant to say anything.
Hans: Oh yes. Oh, bugger me. Soz luv.
Lady: That old man was in the new Klovn film. He acts a bit and says some words in the plot.
Hans: yes.

Hans: here is the singer Sys Bjerre. Sys, what are you doing?
Sys: I am getting my fingernails painted to look like pink leopards. I like this.
Androgenous fingernail painter: yes.
Hans: that is remarkably shallow of you. What songs are you performing for us today?
Sys: 'Blah blah blah' and 'blah blah blah'. I like them.
Hans: that's cool, man. I do like your nails. Woman, can I have mine done like that?
Sys: I am not doing anything for Christmas. I live a sad life.
Hans: yes.

Lady: here is a chef. He used to be on TV. Hi chef.
Chef: hello. Care to buy a puffy potato thing? I made them myself and they are only 10 kroner.
Lady: nah, I don't trust anything you make, you dirty Swede.
Chef: please, I am lacking of money and I need my puffy potatoes sold. They are tasty.
Lady: no. Do you know how much I earn a year?
Chef: fifty million?
Other man: thirty million?
Chef: nah, clearly fifty.
Lady: no, a hundred million. You guys underestimate, you idiots.

Hans: I have found these two young girls. Hi.
Girl one: please Hans, can we leave?
Hans: no because I have sellotaped a microphone to your heads and you're coming home with me.
Girl two: boo hoo
Hans: how are you spending Christmas?
Girl one: with my grandparents. It says that in the graphic at the bottom.
Hans:  so it does. My mistake.

Lady: this is a girl. She is throwing a potato into a bucket of sawdust. Why are you doing this?
Girl: goo bee dada.
Lady: interesting. You keep doing that.
Girl: yes.

Lady: now I amn suddenly with this old man. His name is Mister Bjerre, but sadly is nor relation to Sys.
Old man: yes. I am an actor.
Lady: yes. Care for a puffy potato thing?
Old man: no, that manky TV chef made them.
Lady: apparently you are in the Klovn film.
Old man: yes.
Lady: here is a clip.
[boring-ass clip from Klovn]
Lady: I love how deliciously dull it is.
Old Man: that's exactly what I was going for.
Lady: clearly we are soulmates.

Hans: what a great show it has been tonight, Lady.
Lady: yes. I appreciated the old man and the snow particularly.
Hans: here is Sys Bjerre singing some song or other about something-or-other on a stage. Today she is wearing the latest in fashionable knobbly shoulder pads. Also notice some lady standing next to her who does nothing but hold her hand at the end.
Lady: I wish you'd hold my hand, Hans.
Hans: shut up and watch the music [storms off in hormonal rage]
Sys: [sings]

The End

Jeezus that was unfunny. Remind me to delete or rewrite this post at some point, because it's totally boring and about as funny as genocide. Of course, the show was very interesting and Sys Bjerre sang better than I thought she was going to, well done to all. Hans is not a perv and lady is not pregnant. It's a great show, thank you and goodnight.


Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Day 363, on which Will Smith's dog dies [29.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede treogtres. Productive day again today, I seem to be having a lot of them recently. I'm on a roll. At the moment I'm stuck trying to build an AMC Eagle (car) for the LUGNuts whateverth challenge. And it's a real nightmare. I've got a rough chassis, bonnet and roof combo sorted out and just about stable enough to be held by one hand without breaking into a total mess of crappy connections and bad brick maths. My current problem, apart from the inevitable 'it won't fit a fig', is that I can't fit any wheels in. Anywhere. Nowhere is there enough space, or the right space, or space in the right place to fit four wheels, let alone two. So I'm having a slight nightmare. But I won't resort to cutting a wheel in half and sticking it to the bottom of the car. NEVAR.

Fairytrail of New York
Imagine a world, just like ours, but deserted. No one left. The world is a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland, inhabited by weird diseased zombies and cars and nothing much else. In New York (WOAH never saw that coming), one man survives. Well, three main things survive. Will Smith. His dog. His six-pack. These are basically the main characters of I Am Legend, there are a couple of  'also-starred's such as Will Smith's gun, Will Smith's annoying-as-fuck daughter (yes his actual daughter. Yes, her. The one who plagues our radios with her awful song. Yes, the one you that makes you wish you had a pistol to point to your head in sorrow for your poor ears) and a bunch of zombies.

I wouldn't usually watch a zombie film. I normally hate the idea of zombies. They're up there with vampires and Frankenstein-style monsters. That kind of supernatural slash fantastical being that always shows up in the same type of film. Frankenstein-style monsters are usually in spooky gothic films that appear every five years or so, we all know what atrocities of filmmaking star vampires nowadays, and zombies are for all-out horror action films like 27 Days and they're also stars of many a mindless video game (sorry L4D fans). I originally thought I Am Legend was different, I thought it was a normal, realistic post-apocalyptic film, but not as boringly realistic as The Road, which is slit-your-wrists depressing. Then I saw a clip which featured the 'zombies' and I feared that I Am Legend was just another zombie film. It has a lot more style than your everyday freak flick, plus it has Will Smith in it, so it's badass and 27 Days isn't (just, no. No. No, Danny Boyle).

Now I finally got a chance to watch it, and badass it was not. Which, it turned out, was good. Will Smith didn't have any of his usual Samuel L. Jackson-esque lines. He wasn't a badass mo-fo. He never had it with those motherfuckin' zombies in that motherfuckin' city. He was surprisingly soft, acted very well and as a result much more interesting. Though we did have to see his six-pack a couple of times in the movie, he kept his usual boisterousness restrained. And why? Because he had no one to be boisterous to. That's the beauty of casting Will Smith in this movie; he's all on his own and that brings out some true acting skills. He can't be charming or a badass, 'cause he has no one to charm (apart from a few mannequins) and no one to be a badass to. And he's pretty amazing in I Am Legend, let me tell you that. The best performance I've seen from him yet. Yes, even better than The Pursuit of Happyness, which was an awful movie.

This superb performance (especially the 'What are you doing here!?' and dog death scenes) makes up for the fact he wangled the producers to give his daughter, Willow Smith, a small part in the film. Luckily she isn't in it for long (not long enough to whip her goddamn hair, thank goodness. I'd like to whip a bat into her face), so we're saved from that. OK, so you probably want a plot summary: Will Smith is a doctor who is living in the ruins of New York (duh) trying to find a cure for a disease which turns people into the boilerplate 'zombie', biting, pale and wanting to eat people or some such trait. You see, Emma Thompson (in a crazy one-scene role in this film) found a cure for cancer but it turned out to be a nasty virus and it's screwed up the world. These zombies come out at night (the light, it BUUUUUUUUURNS) and eat and stuff, but Will Smith keeps in the daytime, experimenting and shooting deer and basically having a nice-but-lonely time with his dog, Sam.

Will Smith doesn't even need a bed. All he needs is a bath and a dog for a good night's sleep. MEANINGS?!?!1/!?!1/1/11!?

I can't be bothered to do a full review here as I don't think I have it in me and I'll only slag off Willow Smith more (I WHIP MA HAIR BACK AN FORTH I WHIP MA HAIR BACK AN FORTH), so I'll sum it up here. I Am Legend is a top-rate film that isn't perfect, nor is it ground-breaking, but it's a solid, well-styled post-apocalyptic movie with a killer main performance by Will Smith (he made his daughter's name around his own (WILLow) so people find her when they google him). Sure, the CGI isn't as good as it could be, and some of the plot devices are not developed enough, but a lot of the plot devices are spot-on and the film kept me glued to my seat for two hours. It was well and truly gripping. And you can't tell me that a film which made me wish I couldn't blink to miss a scary bit isn't a good film. I strongly advise you to see it if you're into post-apoc or Will Smith or Will Smith's six-pack. It's a great example of all three.



Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Day 362, on which John gets hypam on his hands. It stings. [28.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede toogtres. Wahahaha I feel so awesome today, and I got a load done. Mainly developing film, which we'll get onto later. But now, more bullcrap. 'Cause - wait for it - I revised today. Yeah, I know right? John, revising? At last? No, not at last. Don't be all 'gotta do it this holiday' on me, shut up and go away. I don't need to revise that much, but what I do need to revise, I need to revise a lot. And I got some graphics work done, some medicine packaging I made a few weeks ago and that needs some refining. Next step, print it out, then put it together, then photograph it and I have a top-class packaging design piece for my portfolio. Wahey.

So the big new of today is that I developed my first ever film! Nope, not sent it off to the flids at Jessops to put through their big automatic Film Fucker-Upper machine, I did it myself. And boy, was that one crazy experience. Firstly, you have to transfer the long strip of film with your precious photos on it into a bigger spool and chuck that in a special bucket. Sounds easy; just pop open the film canister with a can opener and painstakingly pull the film onto the spool. Nah. Now try that in the dark. When you have no idea where anything is, you can't see a goddamn thing and you have to get it right. Because, kids, film is light-sensitive until developed so doing it in the light would mean insta-crap. Total obliteration of all your photos, no way back.

Luckily once I struggled the film into the bucket and clicked it light-tight, everything was easy. Well, maybe not easy, but you can do it in the light, which is a relief. Now you have your film in a bucket - a special bucket, remember - you can put some chemicals in to develop the film and make the exposure (photo) you took 'stick', ie. be permanent. There are three boring stages to this - the developer, the stop, and the fixer. The developer goes in the bucket for ages, you thrash it round like a naughty child, then pour it out and put the stop in. This is only in there for 20 seconds in which it halts everything the developer did in its 9 minutes, which is ironic. Finally, you chuck the fixer in (which does some other thing I'm not sure of) for two minutes. The fixer is a total bitch, it's called hypam and it stings like hell when you get it on you. I just managed to tip over the bottle onto my hands, and now they feel like... uh... they feel stingy. There, that's an accurate description.

Clips of my roll on a lightbox. My dad's got all the kit, squee!
It's so nerve-wracking to make sure you don't show the film to light and to maintain the right temperatures and volumes of chemicals, but it's well worth it in the end. I liken it to a rollercoaster ride. Or at least how I experience rollercoasters. Basically, you're scared shitless before you do it, during it you're still scared shitless but you're happy that you started it (still a little apprehensive), and the moment it ends you're super-proud of yourself. OK, maybe I wasn't scared shitless with developing film, but I was certainly apprehensive. And the moment you unravel your film to see your photos, perfectly developed there in little frames on the reel, is amazing. The moment you realise you didn't screw it up, that light in the 'dark' room didn't get to the film, you didn't cross-contaminate the chemicals... priceless.

© John Too, 2010
Here's the first photo I've uploaded of this roll. Not my best, I admit, but still pretty awesome. It's a bunch of broken table frames in my school grounds with the snow in the background. I'm not sure why they are there and why someone hasn't removed them already (they've been there for years), but they make for good photography. Yayayayayayayayayay.

More tomorrow folks,

Monday, 27 December 2010

Day 361, on which John becomes a man. A REAL MAN. [27.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede enogtres. Booyah readers, today I turned from a silly card-cutting kid into a REAL GODDAMN MAN. And why? Because I built an IKEA wardrobe, mofos. Hell to the yeah to the floor to the Sweden. OK, well maybe I didn't do it all on my own, and following instructions to put little screws in shitty corkboard pieces isn't exactly a man-building experience. Fair enough. But, 'cause I'm a guy and sometimes I can't stop myself, I enjoyed it and I feel really cool drilling stuff. And I don't usually pride myself in doing that, I don't give a damn how many muscles I have or if I have a cool car, to be honest. Those aren't my priorities in life. Sure, I'll get a car at some point to move stuff about, and sure, I'd like to have some sort of control over it, but it's not top-of-the-list for me. I won't be a 'man' if I get a big car with woofing speakers or whatever. If I have my way, I'd probably get an old eastern European car or Volvo if I can find one, haha. And as for muscles, I think it's safe to say I couldn't give less of a damn. And because I don't go around saying "yo, check out my muscles blah blah blah" leaking testosterone and punching strangers in the face as a greeting, it's OK. Or at least, that's how I like to justify it. I'm fine with my IKEA wardrobe, anywho.

I've started reading through the posts back in January. And oh boy, was I an idiot or what? I think I could've puked over just how much I whined on about snow and whether it was going to snow and what the goddamn MET Office said. I'm trying to keep a record of not puking and I haven't puked for a year or so (which is essential information for you, I'm sure), thus you'll have to believe me when I say I would have puked. January's full of snow references and extremely short paragraphs.

To be honest, I was just experimenting with the format. Not knowingly - it was a totally new thing for me, I'd never blogged properly and regularly before and it took a lot of getting used to. January was the testing ground of this project, it seems, the sandbox. When I found out how the posts were going to take their format, what was going to be in them, and how I was going to write them. My writing voice has evolved a lot over the past year, turning from what I thought was a strong 'improv-writing' style into something that I now consider to be more refined and more me. It's not brilliant, of course not, but I'm still young and I love that it's not totally refined yet. I'm still experimenting, in the sandbox of my life, so to speak. I mentioned this before; this way that kids and teenagers explore their styles and their personalities to pin them down for adulthood. Much like dæmons in the His Dark Materials trilogy, I think they are intended to be a metaphor for this.

It's something which has dominated my thoughts recently, this eventuality of my myriad of interests and styles compressing themselves down to one style and one main interest which I'll keep for the rest of my life. It's a scary thought, but also quite exciting - I can't wait to see what I end up doing, what my designs end up looking like, and if they're successful or not, and what I'm known for. I'm stuck in this stupid position right back here at 16, with everything ahead of me. And, as much as I'd love to time-travel 20 years into the future to meet myself, I don't want it to happen, this compression. Haha, I'm such a stereotype, just like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye who doesn't want to grow up. Sure, I want to grow up, but there are strings attached. Perfectly natural behaviour, I'm just a boring hypocrite. Move on.

January was just the start. I hate most of it, but that's natural. I have developed a lot throughout the year - and I had to start somewhere. Let's just be happy I started at all!

~Holden John

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Day 360, on which John stumbles back into normality [26.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede og tres. OK, let's try Day 360 again, since I got it wrong last time. Dang nabbit, I can't believe I got that wrong. Ah well. Ah, Boxing Day, the unappreciated younger brother of Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. A great day, when you can just sit in front of the TV and watch all the best bits that you recorded from the day before. Sadly, with younger sisters that means watching crap like Shrek 3, but I grinned and gritted my teeth through it and even indulged in watching yesterday's Strictly Come Dancing. Which I love to insult, but I secretly like for some reason - a reason I haven't pinned down yet. And, as if that weren't enough, there's a backlog of ER episodes to watch. An old TV series, sure, but one that hasn't lost its appeal in the year or so since it ended. Great stuff.

Suffice to say, I didn't do much today. But hey, what's wrong with that? It's Boxing Day, that's just the way people spend it.

OK, since I haven't been on my computer at all today and I have nothing new to show you, I took a photo of some of the stuff I got for Christmas and I may just blab on about it for another two paragraphs. That way, I may talk some interesting stuff (may) and I'll get this post done. One of these days I need to start looking back through this year's posts and collecting quotes and making funny posts summarising recurring topics. But now, back to shameless self indulgence.

From left to right, them bottom, or some such order:

  • Fifty Chairs that Changed the World book; a nice succint book detailing the best chairs of the past century and a couple from after 2000. And none made of crappy eco-friendly materials, or simply for the purpose of being sustainable. Sadly there's only one Jacobsen (the Series 7 chair), but I will admit that Jacobsen's chairs weren't all world-changing. The Panton chair's there, of course, even on the front cover. And several Eames pieces, a crazily large number of Aarnio chairs (I really need to look into him), Saarinen and some others too. A very good book, if a little too short on description.
  • Danish to English Dictionary; one of my best presents this year, I believe. You have no idea how hard it is to find a decent Danish dictionary - most of them are just phrasebooks, and a lot of the rest are not large enough or aren't in-depth enough. Luckily this one comes with explanation of verbs and adjectives and stuff like that, which will be very helpful. You can't see from this angle but it is in fact a very hefty tome. And has the words Dansk Ordbøger scrawled across the front. Just sayin'.
  • Lego sets; blah blah blah you guys don't want to hear about them, just the usual. I feel like I should have got one big set, like the Grand Emporium, but when I count my newly acquired money I may buy something big in the sales. May.
  • Film; this was totally unexpected! Three rolls of black and white 35mm film from my grandparents, one of the most useful small presents I've got. They usually buy me something big then include a little Lego set but I much prefer getting film than yet another City police motorcycle. Woot.
  • District 9 DVD; I've always wanted this. Now I can have a copy of the awesomeness all to myself.
  • Danish culture books; insta-expert!
  • Another Moleskine; I haven't finished my last one yet but it's always good to have the next one ready to move into. 
And there we go, that's my Christmas loot/haul/whatever. Everyone else was uploading theirs to Flickr and, whilst I don't usually do the whole my-real-life thing, mine's on Flickr too now. Enjoy.


ps. remind me at some point to buy myself a T-shirt reading 'Jacobsen is my homeboy'. Thanks.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Day 359, on which IT'S CHRISTMAS!! [25.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede nioghalvtreds. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww shit. I miscounted the number of days at some point, meaning that today was what I thought would be the 361st day of the year but it is actually the 359. Aw snappity snap, I'm such a bollock sometimes. Ah well, it's Christmas, so I won't ruin the festive spirit by going back and changing all the day numbers today. Let's leave that for another day in this godforsaken year.

Anywho, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! I hope Old Father Jacobsen graced your stockings and socks and places for placing prezzies with many a modernist gift for less than £10 per unit. I certainly got a lot from 'Jacobsen', though I think we all know who he really is. The Danes can delude themselves with Old Father Jacobsen delivering prezzies in the night but we all know that it's really Santa who does the delivering. Y'know, Father Christmas. Ol' Saint Nick. Blah blah blah. That kinda guy. Big beard, big belly, bigger reputation. And no, not Brian Blessed. You seriously think he can fit through a doorway, let alone a chimney? Pfft. Pffffffffffft. Pee eff eff eff tee.

I am so crazy tonight. 'Cause I've finally caught the festive bug and it's hit me hard. Like malaria, only it hurts less and people don't give you as many presents when you have malaria. So what did I get this Christmas? Well, a whole load of awesome stuff. Apart from three Lego sets (both Hoth battle sets and the PoP Ostrich one; yeah I'm full of fleshies at the moment), a book about the 50 greatest chairs (with the Panton chair on the front, naturally), District 9 on doovde (which I've been meaning to buy), some more black and white film from my grandparents (totally unexpected and totally helpful), a new Moleskine (oh I didn't see that coming hurr durr), and a bunch of money thingies. What're they called? Oh yeah, pounds. Poonds.

Many people probably think I'm a hypocrite right now. A true, strong-opinioned atheist loving and enjoying Christmas. I'm enjoying their celebrations, their festivities, their special event about their special guy. And I don't even believe in his dad, let alone him. But I think it's time for those people to wake up and smell the gravy, because times have changed and Christmas is no longer synonymous with the baby Jeebus and his friends. It's been commercialised, globalised and sucked of all its festive glory. And so I can enjoy it as much as I like, thank you, because there's no shame in enjoying Christmas and not going to the special ceremony or whatever anymore. It's sad, yes, that this tradition and historical backgrouynd to the event has faded and is on its way out, but this is the change of society and it's still a whole load of fun.

So I hope you guys all had great fun today; I know I certainly did! Merry non-religious Christmas to you all, (Arnemas?) and I hope you have a good Boxing Day too!


Friday, 24 December 2010

Day 360, on which John prepares for Christmas [24.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede og tres. Well waddaya know, it's Christmas Eve already. It just snuck up on me like Michael Jackson sneaks (ah sorry, sneaked) up to little children in the streets; light on its feet and with a festive spring in its step. Or at least that's how I expect Mr. Jackson would've sneaked up on his little friends. Something like that. Oh yeah, changing the subject, sorry about yesterday. Some of us have social lives. I don't, but when I do this blog has to take a back seat - and yeah yeah yeah, I know I said I wouldn't miss any more but it was only Christmas Eve Eve and I was really busy so shaddup. OK, panic over.

Now, 'cause I'm going to leave the Danish Christmas story 'til tomorrow when it'll be more appropriate and I may be a little less than sane (or less so than I usually am, HAHAHAHAHAHA), I thought I'd go back to my KLOK project and chart a little bit about the stuff I did for it. Because I can't just forget it all, it took me long enough.

This is a screenshot (can't be bothered to cut it out or anything) of the presentation of our product, named KLOK. I was also in charge of the branding, or at least part of it, so I put some time and effort into that as well. Gee, I'm so generous. And so self-indulgent. Maybe it's just self-indulgence and not generosity. Either way, I did it. And I enjoyed it.

As you can see there's a website for the KLOK. I wanted to keep it very simple and bold, much like the KLOK's actual design (which I can't show you for fear of it being stolen, which I'm more wary than ever of now). Of course, I used Helvetica - Helvetica Neue Ultralight, a very indulgent and elegent weight of the modernist icon that many people would know as being used here and there in M&S's branding. They're a strange bunch, sometimes they used Helvetica Ultralight and sometimes it's another Ultralight font. I keep saying they should decide but to be honest it's barely recognisable. So yeah, I used Helvetica. The photo on the right depicts a video screen in Charing Cross train station. Because the KLOK is best recognised by its dynamic mechanism, the screen would show a simplified version of the KLOK's face, displaying the current time and thus being useful. Something like that.

OK I've got to go now and lay out my stocking for Old Father Jacobsen to come and fill with modernist presents overnight. HURR DURR.


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Day 358, on which John... wait, where the heck did the day go? [22.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede otteoghalvtreds. The title says it all. First day of the holiday, I guess I'd better do someth- aw crap, where'd it go? It just went so fast. I managed to get a couple of hours' graphics work done in the evening, though, which was really helpful for my christmas presents, but now I'm seeing everything in vectors, which is kinda offputting. I also saw the Woody Allen film Match Point, which was a very strangely directed film whose moral intentions were rather mixed. Plus, it was cringe-makingly stereotypical of the British upper class and the main character was acted atrociously. Despite all this, I still liked the film, somehow. Something about the inevitability of a total mess and breakdown of the main character as is set up right from the start, and the way it moves very quickly through the could've-been boring bits.

OK, today I thought I'd show you the development sketches for the Rødovre Townhouse. I drew them up in my Moleskine a few weeks ago and I think it's really interesting to see how the project has developed and what factors have contributed to those developments. Also, it's the first time I've uploaded a scan of my Moleskine - my inner thoughts - so it deserves discussion.

Here's the page from my Moleskine. I'm about 80% of the way through it now, I'm slowly running out of pages and it looks like I might finish it along with 2010, which will be nice and neat and tidy. I'm also pretty sure my parents are getting me a new one this Christmas, so I ought to finish this one before I break open the second. My sketches usually start with one big, 3D, main sketch in the top-right and then a bunch of other angles and details around the edges as my thoughts progress on the subject. Cross-sections are almost always included.

The Rødovre Townhouse started simply as an architectural feature: alternating concrete pillars and windows vertically across the face of the house. That and the northern terraced house idea were my two starting points for this sketch. And yes, I know my drawing skills aren't fantastic, but you can see what shapes I'm aiming for and I don't need a ruler for that. I then developed the design with a nice cross-section through the house - you can see that the cross-section was an important way of showing the house's details and angles, such as the angled windows looking down to the basement, so that's one of the reasons why I created the house in Lego sliced through.

One big change from the sketches to the final model is the roof. I was originally going to have windows running as skylights across the entire width of the roof, and I begun this on the model, but then I ran out of slope bricks and window pieces. That was my panic, that I sat on for a week. Then I decided it wasn't worth a BrickLink order and that the shape would be bolder without so many skylights, and just left the one that I had the pieces to create and built a normal roof across the rest of the top of the building.

The big window that there are a few sketches of there was something I really wanted to incorporate into the design, but when I tried it above the door in Lego the rules of Lego maths meant I couldn't fit in it without a gap - and even if I could've, it would've been very unstable. Trust me guys, I tried. Also in those sketches is a balcony in the main living area, a third floor accessible by the spiral staircase. Sadly I didn't have the parts to make the house tall enough to include it... it really would've helped to fit in a few more bedrooms and leave space for a bathroom downstairs, but I guess that's just the way it works out.

So there we go, for the first time I've shown you a Moleskine sketch of mine. Be prepared for a few more early next year because when I finish my Moleskine I'll scan most of it. Woop.


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Day 357, on which John finally breaks up from school [21.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede syvoghalvtreds. Yup, you read correctly - I'm off school, at long unholy last. It's been one heckuva term, that's for sure. And I'm tireder than a worn tire in a tire factory. And yes, 'tireder' is now a word. This evening is one of those times when I'm just too tired to do anything productive, so I just sit around fiddling. I tried to build a mech, and I had a bunch of pieces but I couldn't get started on anything so I gave up. I didn't even bother carrying on with the buttload of stuff I need to do on Illustrator, because I know I'll do a half-assed job this evening. Even You, Me and Everyone We Know songs don't sound as good. It'll be a good few days before I get myself out of this rut, that's for sure. And my internet connection is screwing with me. Dang.

Which means today's post won't be very good at all. Annoying, I know, especially this close to the end of the project, but that's just the way it has to be.

Today I thought I'd chat for a little bit about that clock idea I was so obsessed with a few weeks ago. Remember that one? That kept me up late into the night? It was for a competition up at the Design Museum in London and my group lost at the first round and I was pissed and ranted on about the stupidity of eco-friendly yet ugly and unfunctional design prevailing over good, solid, Scandinavian design. Well that group that beat us got into the top ten in the country, which just goes to show how dumb that contest was and how much they'd be nattering on to use about the goddamn environment if we did get through that first round. I don't care much more now; if the contest was for eco-design they I want no part of it. Bloody environment.

© John 2010. Do not use without permission
Here's a board I created for our project, named KLOK. KLOK was to be a modernist clock concept inspired by Scandinavian design and packaged stylishly (and, may I add, efficiently) and the evening before the presentation I had a total inspiration drive and created this sheet, which is meant to be in grayscale. It shows the system of opening the packaging, how the packaging would appear on the shelf, and what comes inside each box.

The KLOK's shape is pretty basic - it's just a squashed cylinder for the clock face, and behind that a smaller cylinder. For the packaging (which I designed, might I add) I wanted to try something different and abstract, and the easiest place to start was to encase the KLOK as tightly as possible in the packaging, so much so that in this final design the walls of the box squeeze in on the KLOK and hold it in place. The front is square, and round the back this geometric shape tapers to a point, a two-angled square-based pyramid. Sure, it may be an odd shape, but what else is going to get our product noticed? Plus, as you can see in the top-left packaging, they stack pretty easily and the angles on the back allow for them to be put almost upright for presentation. Not so crazy after all.

One thing I've noticed recently is that I love systems. I love step-by-steps, things which need a certain order of actions to do something; if you remember my spaceship door lock opening obsession in the summer, that's what it was. Steps to do something. I just LOVE making systems, but I never know when I am. This is one example of this; opening the packaging is a system. You turn it on its face (nice and flat and stable on a tabletop now), remove the safety sticker over a tab on one side of the pyramid then slip the tab out of its slots and the top half of the box (hollow, by the way, I couldn't work out how to draw that in the diagram) opens on one hinged side. You have to take apart the box to get the KLOK out, it's that well packed, and whilst this may remove the use of the box (what? Can't use it again? AHAHAHAHA UP YOURS ECO-FANATICS), it just goes to show how well packed the KLOK is and it's nice and flat so you can use it for flat things (not recycling, of course, pfft).

Also inside the box is two small zig-zag leaflets that contain information about the KLOK. They're squeezed in the corners of the box where there is a gap between the circular form of the KLOK and the square form of the box (I always wanted to make a triangular pyramid box but I just couldn't draw it). Many thanks to the lads at Apple for inspiring this; it's like an iPod with a bunch of leaflets squeezed into the packaging. One leaflet holds the product information (materials, dimensions, care, manufacturing details) and the other is the instruction booklet. Together, they're all you need.

And, after all this effort and thought, it still didn't win. I was going to make the leaflets and print 'em out to scale and everything... luckily I didn't, because it turned out that KLOK's hopes of winning, with its innovative design but foolhardy unrecyclability, were pretty slim. Ah well, I'm over that now. So I can show you all my hard work, at last.


Monday, 20 December 2010

Day 356, on which John considers his architecture [20.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede seksoghalvtreds. I figured that sometime soon, I should get started on doing an overview or summary of the year. There are so many good posts, so many good quotes, I'd love to compile them into a stylish PDF, some neato graphics, or at least a few posts overviewing my quotes on certain recurring topics. Or is that just shameless self indulgence? Ah fuck it, I've been self indulgent enough this year, I deserve to honour the ending of this godforsaken project. Give it a fond farewell.

OK, the Rødovre House has made me drastically rethink my architecture. It needs to be simplified to the point of oversimplification, or a point just a bit before that. I was walking home from the bus stop today and saw a Big Yellow Self Storage store. And it was disgusting. It was a vile, putrid ulcer of architecture on the face of the Earth. Jacobsen didn't work his substantially sized Danish ass off throughout his life so that people could 'design' characterless chunks of bricks and plonk them wherever they may fall. It's a sorry state we're in at the moment.

My friend today was ranting on about how theoretical physicists were no good to humanity (yeah, he does that), and I asked him whether designers were good to humanity. And he said "yes, they create beautiful things to help us live". And I love that quote. I really do; it defines exactly what design is about for me. That perfect balance between raw functionality and beautiful form. That precarious balance which can result in great success; the Panton chair, Jacobsen's work - and utter failure; today's ugly eco-friendly designs.

And that's exactly the same in architecture. Something I've been thinking of a lot recently is creating a simple shape for buildings so that people inside them will know exactly where they are in the building at any point because the building has one bold shape. For example, a building could be built around massive concrete flat doughnut shape, slicing through the building at an angle. In some places it could be used as a staircase to move people between floors, and in other places it is an external feature extending beyond the windows. Either way, every room interacts with that doughnut disc in some way so the people inside know where they are. If the disc is high up (through the ceiling or at the floor if they're in a top floor), they know they're at the front of the building or vice-versa. Thus they can place rooms at points around that core shape and relate rooms' positions to each other and navigate the building easier. Also, the building's exterior is instantly recognisable.

It's functional. And, hopefully, beautiful. And I'm not alone in this opinion; there are hundreds of top-quality architects out there who are redefining the living spaces we take so much for granted at the moment. You may be perfectly happy in your house but in fact it could be improved by some simple architecture. Next time I stop by that Big Yellow Self Storage building, I'll mourn for modern architecture, but then I'll just walk on. Because I know that things could change. Not everywhere, of course, but sometimes a decent architect's agency will get a project like that and they'll make it great. And I may have something beautiful to look at on the way home from the bus stop. And if I don't, I'll make sure I design something beautiful when I get out of this damn education system.

For the greater good? Nah. For Jacobsen.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Day 355, on which John talks more Rødovre stuff [19.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede femoghalvtreds. Today was pretty awesome; 'cause it mainly consisted of me having lunch with my family - including my sixth month old cousin, who was suitably baby-like to keep us laughing for five hours straight. It's funny how much my sisters enjoyed holding his little hands and feeding him his shitty baby slop, when I'd rather not. I still like babies, sure, more than most guys I suppose - but I just don't have that maternal instinct that seems to be evident in most girls. They just want to say 'awww, look at his ikkle wikkle hands!' when I'm more interested in why he does what he does and how he picks up mannerisms from his parents. That old genetics interest of mine. But I guess I'm just a boring sod.

OK, back onto more details of the Rødovre Townhouse. Oh, I guess I'd better explain the name. You see, each of my houses is intended for a Danish location: the Ishøj House in the barren seaside town of Ishøj, and the Kongsholmparken Café for the green Kongsholmparken, a park near Ishøj. I wanted to continue my east-Sjælland houses, but somewhere a bit more urban. That's quite hard to find, especially outside of Copenhagen, in Denmark. Copenhagen is the only city. But I didn't want to put it in Copenhagen like some boring know-nothing-about-Denmark loser. I scouted around the Ishøj area and a bit further inland of Kongsholmparken and Brøndby I found the sizable town of Rødovre. It doesn't have any tightly-packed terraced houses, but there's a lot of open space that could be ideal to place forty identical terraced houses for the nonexistent masses of new residents. It had the space, it's near enough Ishøj for Björn to travel there from his home in Ishøj and it had an accent in its name. Not totally ideal, but the best I could find with ten minutes on Google Maps.

These four shots show the interior of the townhouse; without furniture. I thought it was important to show the interior bare as these are the bare bones of the building that will be in every copy of the house down the street, and it's the foundations for each homeowner to place their furnishings around and to fashion to their tastes. The top floor has a large open-plan area that the owners can divide (or not divide) to their tastes. Having an open-plan layout really accentuates the space and can make living in the building easier, too. I was surprised how much furniture I could fit in that top floor; it's a welcome change from the cramped Ishøj House and tinsy winsy Kongsholmparken Café.

Downstairs, there is a true flexible living space with walls that can be moved along channels in the floor to rearrange the layout of that bottom floor. Something I learnt from a documentary about Le Corbusier. This is where the homeowners can truly personalise their house, and create whatever sized rooms they like. There is a bank of windows across the ceiling at the front of the house and a door leading to a staircase running up to the garden at the back. It's important to keep this space as light and open as possible, which is why I didn't include so many walls and why I was adamant to include the bank of windows. I don't want it to be a gloomy basement. The inclusion of the stylish spiral staircase means that there's much more space than there would be with a normal, straight staircase, and more space means more possibilities.

Here you can see the flexible walls in the bottom floor in use: they can slide along two channels, or be moved onto the same channel. When I was arranging the rooms I placed tiles along the empty parts of the channels to cover up the gap, but in some cases that wasn't possible (damn Lego not having a 1x1 dark tan tile), so that's why you can see the channel revealed here. I'd still like to think that in the real version of the house there would be some sort of modular channel covering system that is stored in a drawer somewhere, or maybe a covering that snaps into place in the absense of a wall but can be pushed open when the wall is slid through the channel. Wouldn't be so hard to implement, the only problem would be getting the walls to turn corners in the channel... something like garage door, perhaps?

Oh yeah and the top photo there shows the door opening mechanism for the door/window that leads out to the garden. I was originally going to have it open outwards like a skylight that covered most of the steps, but then I realised that doing so would mean having dirty outdoor steps indoors, and it ruined (even more) the look of the back of the house. So it now opens inwards and only leaves one step indoors.

This final photo shows, as is my usual, all the furniture for the interior of the Rødovre Townhouse. Sadly I couldn't use pieces from the JOHN Collection III as it would mean revealing them to you, so I created all but one of these from scratch! Yeah, I know - the things I do for you, pfft. The only JCiii piece is that dressing table on the bottom-right, which I couldn't resist including because it fitted the downstairs colour scheme perfectly (downstairs colour scheme, by the way, is lighter than the upstairs one because I don't want it to look gloomy). My favourite piece from this has to be the long black drawer unit, which I love because it's so modular and modern-looking. Plus I got to use the 2x2 black jumper I have in it, which fitted like a sock (or some equally fitting thing). I struggled with the leg technique originally, because it was impossible to achieve what I wanted at only one stud's height and three plate's depth, but I kinda like the current leg technique.

Overall, I'd say I was quite proud of this townhouse. Whilst it is probably better than my other two houses simply because of scale and detail, there is something about it that I don't like. Something about it that makes me feel like I don't really want to put my name to it. Like it's a drop from my usual quality. It doesn't have a very bold shape, it's not particularly Danish, and it doesn't fit the location that well. It doesn't blend with the location, it simply sits there and the location is taken as 'flat urban place', not 'middle of the park' or 'barren cliffside' as with Kongsholmparken Café and the Ishøj House, respectively. So I'm not very proud of it. But it's still a large investment of bother and time, so I'd still like it to win. Please?


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Day 354, on which John unleashes the Rødovre Townhouse [17.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede fireoghalvtreds. Well, today was one helluva turnaround. From leaving my townhouse unfinished last night, I got up this morning ready to build, build and build some more. And build I did; in fact I finished the house, gave it a location, took photos, then uploaded them and now this post will give you a [hopefully] interesting insight into why what's in the house is in it and why the house looks like it looks.

Oh, by the way, before we carry on, I've been thinking about rather dark things. Death, mainly. And I thought; if someone dies when they're young, how can you be sure what they'd like their funeral to be like and how they'd be remembered? So, in the eventuality of some ungodly circumstance which causes my death, here are my plans: firstly, no boring funeral music. Just Arcade Fire, then when that runs out, Capital to get people in the mood. As for my burial, I'd like the following: place my body in a courageous position like I'm on top of a plinth, then cut off Justin Bieber's head and place it in my outstretched hand, dangling over the edge of aforementioned plinth (still in the coffin, remember) and place a Danish flag in my other hand, made to look like it's fluttering. Then, underneath this beautiful scene, some crappy wrapping paper can be stretched on which must be sharpied, to the letter: "VICTORY." then a small note underneath: "FUCK YOU JESUS".

That should do me good for the afterlife.

OK, ladies and gentlemen, I present the Rødovre Townhouse. Yeah, I know I said I wasn't going to build for this contest, but when I saw my work copied last weekend I got in a funk about it and I did a 'ragebuild', which resulted, a week later, in this thing. I don't think it's perfect, really. It's not quite perfect, it's a bit too rough a bit too complex at the back. It lacks a simple shape, but I guess if I'm trying something that big, then keeping a simple shape is very hard. I originally wanted to have backwards slanted windows (like on the right side of the second pic) all across the roof, but I didn't have enough roof slopes or windows so I had to make do with a nice flat plane, which in a way has simplified the design. In a way.

The idea is that there is a tough, flat face to look out onto the street, but the back is much more luxurious and personal. There's a balcony, a garden and a staircase leading down to the basement (why is it that I always think of it as leading out from the basement?). I would've liked to have done more with the garden, but I couldn't really do much more and I just wanted to get it done and photographed.

The front of the house has an alternating concrete-window texture, which was one of the original ideas of the build. The people inside can see out onto the street with an array of windows, but they also feel seperate from the street and don't feel like the street is looking back in, which can be quite disconcerting. Note, also, the angled windows at the ground, which lead light down into the bottom floor. They were a bitch to put in, that's for sure.

More details tomorrow!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Day 353, on which John is on a building spree [17.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede treoghalvtreds. Woah, what a busy day today. The end of a long and eventful week, topped off this evening by a massive building spree. You know that Brick Architect Competition entry? Well, I'm back at it and I'm attacking it like there's no tomorrow. Several redesigns later, and a massive lack of dark grey and light grey parts in my collection later, it's almost done.

I'm currently in the process of moving the entire building from one baseplate, which was too big for the building and too small in some dimensions, to a custom baseplate. And believe you me, moving this beast of a house is hard work. I have to take it apart into pieces, remembering which piece goes where, then build the foundations all over again, making sure to get the stud measurements right, then plonk everything else back on top in the right formation. Tough stuff.

This is the first time I've tried something on the scale of this townhouse. Or rather, on the scale of the intricacy of this townhouse, because I think the Ishøj House base was larger than this. This one has a full cross-section of its two floors, because it's a terraced house and you wouldn't usually see the end walls unless it was at the end of the street. The interior is probably 1.5x the Ishøj House's interior (both floors combined), but they're much more complex. There's a spiral staircase, sliding walls, opening doors and much more to marvel at.

The only problem I've found is that there are no room divisions on the top floor! This is going to be a definite bummer when I'm arranging the furniture, for I'll need to fit a kitchen in there somewhere... downstairs the bedrooms, study and possibly a toilet will be located but I can't fit any more in there and to be honest it would be way too gloomy for a kitchen down there. So I'm currently thinking some sort of open-plan linving area. Just thinking. Tomorrow I'll have to make it, somehow.

Sorry 'bout the crappy post today guys,

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Day 352, like the circles that you find, in the windmills of your mind [16.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede tooghalvtreds. Well, I missed a post yesterday. Like I said I was never going to again. But I did. And I don't even have an excuse. I was just busy doing some graphic design for my school (will show you that someday), then homework, then replying to a crazily long Flickrmail I was sent. Crazily long but also a lot of fun to reply to. I still haven't finished it, I had to copy it to a text document so I didn't lose all that I'd written so far.

OK, as for the title: last night I had the song 'Windmills of your mind' stuck in my head, on constant loop. Very, very annoying. I'd heard it in some BT TV ad in between watching Grand Designs (goddammit, I love that programme), and I was instantly in love. Such a great, creepy mood to it. So I've decided to make another short film to that song, somehow. It's going to be really hard to make, lots of different locations, plus I need a person to be the main character whose mind-windmills the circles are like. It'd probably end up being me, but I want to try and avoid that. I've had enough of starring in my own videos. Trust me, you guys luckily haven't seen my old YouTube channel. Now there's a sight.

Here's a photo from my Flickr photostream (the second one, John Too). I really like it, it's got a super-short DoF 'cause I shot it through a magnifying glass, haha. I think you can see the rim of the magnifying glass in the top-left, which is a shame, but it's worth it just for that focus. And besides, you never realised that rim was there before I told you, didja?

The subject we're meant to be talking about is typography. Because, as you can see, I've been trying to design my own font. And it's seriously slow to do. Of course. I started with the E, which set a whole bunch of tricky parameters, then I did the L (took a while) and now I'm struggling through the F. I'm drawing them freehand in my Moleskine because apparently that's how you're meant to do it, and I really enjoy doing it manually. There's something really rewarding about it. And apparently it helps when you draw the curves, though I tried an O and it came out shit because I couldn't draw the curves consistently. Figures.

Anyway I think I've reduced typography down to four main points of consideration:

Creating a consistent style. This involves knowing exactly what your font is for, because typography isn't just about drawing nice letters. They've got to have a purpose, and that purpose has to be very, very well thought out. For example, I once saw a font based around the Fallingwater house architecture. You can base a font on anything, so long as that anything gives off a mood and an emotion. For example, Helvetica; strong, reliable, modern, elegant, stable. Futura; sharp, abstract, unique, bold, rounded, post-modern. That kind of thing.

Setting the font. ie. creating a set of rules to bind the characters together. Handwriting is inconsistent, and has no rules. You could write letters in any way and they'd fit into your handwriting. Typography isn't so simple. You've got to consider rules: for example what the balancing and finishing serifs look like and how they differ from each other, line weights, interaction points between lines and curves (eg. rounded joints or ink traps), what lobes look like, the x-height (height of the lowercase letters) and other key heights on the font. Part of the skill of typography is keeping these rules evident throughout the font.

Maintaining the colour. Colour is one of the trickiest concepts in graphic design, and it's totally unique to typography. It doesn't mean colours like blue or red; because that sort of colour is not considered in typography the word colour is used for something different.

I'll try to explain it to you. Let's say you've designed the capital E, as above. You want to design the F next. So you would adapt the E to create the F, for you're certainly not going to start from scratch. You'd remove the bottom leg and its serifs, sure. But that's not all you have to do. Oh no, this is where it gets tricky. By removing the bottom leg you leave a gaping hole in the design and the F will therefore seem emptier than the E. This is partially the black:white ratio and partially the overall balance of the design. No bottom leg means that the E will seem thicker and bolder than the F, and so is said to have a 'darker colour' because its impact on the page is greater. Putting the E and its bottom legless counterpart F next to each other would create an uneven colour, because one would be darker than the other. A font needs to have a consistent colour and you need to be aware that you set the colour the moment you draw that first letter.

Here we see some letters from the font Futura, mentioned above. The E is on the left, in grey and we see that the designer has changed the F slightly by squishing it to become thinner than the F. Squishing the F increases the black:white ratio so it is roughly similar to that of the E, and thus the two are at even colour. Other good ways of evening F colour are lowering the middle arm to fill up the empty space at the bottom, and increasing the size of the base serifs on the stem to fill up the space and make the letter more stable-looking.

On the right we can see an example of even colour in circular letterforms. The O is nearly a perfect circle with a consistent line width, but in adapting the O to form a G we're altering the colour. For example, we are adding some weight into the centre of the bowl (inside circle), and we also have an opening in the outside wall. To fix this, the designer of Futura has kept the left side of the G's bowl the same as the O, but has moved the right side into the centre. This offsets the lighter colour and form we may get when we open up the O to form the G.

Bear in mind that you have to do this to every single letter so they have the same colour as every other letter in the font. Time consuming is an understatement.

Kerning and leading. This is the most boring and the most fiddly part of font designing, and it also takes up the most time. It's closely related to colour and relates to the impact of the fonts on the paper and the ratio between black and white on the page, the colour of the font. Kerning is all about working out how much space should go in between certain letters. You can't just specify one space width (as in a monospaced font), because then you'd have big problems. For example, setting a width for OQ may be OK for OQ, but if you apply that to the space between JL it'll be way too small. JL has two verticals next to each other, which take up a lot of space, so more space (or kerning) is needed between the letters to stop it looking too congested.

Similarly, if you have LJ, you'd need to reduce the kerning a lot because L has a wide open right half and J has a wide open left half, thus the area between them would be very empty with standard OQ kerning. You'd need to change the kerning to be much shorter. Normally we'd call this character spacing, but kerning also accommodates for exceptions such as AV. A can fit into V and vice versa, so the space between them can be a bit shorter... but not too short to be congested! This directly affects your character design, because as much as you may like to make a Q with a massive swash coming from the bottom of the bowl, if you're typing QJ or QM then your swash is going to be tricky for kerning. You could fit it under other characters, but you'd have to then change those characters for their colour would be adapted by the swash underneath. Yeah, bummer, I know.

Leading - the fancy word for line spacing pronounced 'ledding' - is just like this but hopefully not as complex. Once again, this affects your character designs because Q and J could have really long terminals/swashes that mess up leading by whacking into the line beneath. Similarly, accents on top of blocky letters like Î and Ü are a problem because they may interfere with the line above.

Kerning and leading are the two most annoying parts of typography, and most type design programs can do it automatically nowadays - but beware, they're not always perfect, and poor kerning shows. It really does. The number of times I've seen a poorly kerned font, it's saddening. For example, the stylish sans-serif I downloaded from the internet named 'Hit the Road' has a wonderful R-form but the kerning in some of its letter pairs is disgraceful. Sure, get the computer to do it, but then check over afterwards. I find if I blur my eyes I can see bad colour and kerning better.

So yeah, that's what I've been up to. E, L and now F. Still working on the base serifs of F, they're tricky. Tricky colour, too.


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Day 350, on which it snows IN JOHN'S MIND [14.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede og halvtreds. Mmkay, only fifteen more days of the year. ONLY FIFTEEN MORE DAYS OF THE YEAR! Mah gawsh, that's quite startling actually. Today I realised something big: I really enjoy doing this blog. It gives me something creative, expressive and above all non-academic to do in the evenings. What with GCSEs and all, schoolwork is just gonna go over-the-top (I refuse to abbreviate that here on JOHNSPACE, it's kind of a tradition) and I'll have no way out, no way to say "actually, I didn't do schoolwork all evening". And now that's gone. But I was thinking; I should try some other sort of project. Not a one-a-day project, but still a regular thing which continues throughout the whole year. Like, maybe a Moleskine sketch over a double-page spread every week? A photo every month? A short story or script every month? I'd like to improve my Moleskine sketches, and certainly do more creative writing (this doesn't count, yeah?)... we'll see. I need to have some way to format my year. Then it'll all go to shit.

Today I have some quality (doubtable, I know) photos for you back from when it was snowing. Which is why this post title ends in "IN JOHN'S MIND", a running not-funny gag here on JOHNSPACE. Wow, i seem to be talking about this blog objectively a lot today. Funny.

First up is this tastefully composed photo of a footprint in the snow. Ra-ther nice. However, I'm not too happy with the composition and I really wish I could go back and alter this photo and take it a bit more to the right; then the footprint would lie on the right vertical and bottom horizontal lines of the rule of thirds (draw a noughts-and-crosses grid over the photo and elements in the photo should touch the four intersections), but I guess that's not chronologically possible. Note to self: make sure shots are perfect before you take the photo. PERFECT.

Oops, forgot to say: all photos are from John Too, my second Flickr account. Dang, I'm like Bruce Forsyth, forgetting stuff. Seriously, he totally forgets to introduce the band on Strictly, people should take bets on how far into the show he gets before he remembers to introduce them. Silly Brucey.

Next up is an equally tasteful photo of a parking signpost. I think I got the rule of thirds near spot-on here. But what I really love about this shot is the snow in the bottom-left. I have a bunch more photos of it, but until my friend gives me the go-ahead to upload the pics of him I can't show you. They all look wonderful; like a winter wonderland. Oh, and you see that green-tinted building on the left? Jessops. They fucked it up. Too much anti-magenta, stupid people. Ah well, I'm over them now. No more Jessops for me.

Next up, a shot of a lamp-post and telegraph pole. Not much interesting; there's a much better, closer crop of this shot in Snowfall, funnily enough. I shot Snowfall after I took these photos, so I must have just subconsciously revisited it. Hah, it's funny how my subconscious works, for it certainly doesn't work logically. Or maybe it does. Too logically for my comprehension. I love how people's subconsciouses (subconscii?) are like totally different minds, acting differently and surprising you and confusing you yet they're actually just deeper into your mind that you are.

A shot taken in the dark, where my camera fared quite well. And so did Jessops in their processing skills (or lack thereof). Woop woop, good stuff, a bit off-kilter though. That seems to be a recurring theme with me. By the way, this is by my local train station, and those speakers also featured in Snowfall. Which just goes to show I always take photos of the same stuff.



Monday, 13 December 2010

Day 349, on which John enters the world of black and white [13.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede niogfyrre. OK, big photography-based post today because I can't think of what else to talk about and it's late and I'm tired from copious amounts of maths homework (goddamn quadratic should learn to go solve themselves, and inequalities and stay unequal for all I care). So sorry in advance. A bad start to the week, that's for sure. It's just so annoyingly busy nowadays what with school and all. And, on top of that, we have an own-clothes day on thursday and I need to make two posters and find some way to dress up like that guy from Countdown. I've never watched the show, personally, so that's gonna be hard. David Dickinson or someone like that. Basically, big glasses, an old jacket and a combover. Shouldn't be too tough. But before Thursday? Sometimes I wonder if I purposefully make life hard for myself.

OK, black and white. Because I want to develop my own film, I've had to use black and white 35mm film, because developing colour film is way too complicated and way too [much more] expensive for me. So I'm using Ilford ASA400 film, black and white. And to tell you the truth I'd much rather be shooting on colour. I take photos a lot for the light that shines on the subject, a big part of which is the colour of the light. And I can't show that. So I'm restricted. I also can't show any early-morning or early-evening light, because that requires colour.

But in a way, restriction is a good thing. The whole reason I use a 50mm lens, without zoom, is to restrict myself. Is to reduce my photography back to the bare basics: not a fancy sensor touching up the image as it receives it and a 16x digital zoom lens and a whopping great LCD screen; just light, through the shortest lens possible, falling onto an emulsion where silver particles do their thing and create the rawest of images. Of course, if I wanted to take this further I'd buy a Diana or Holga, which is just a plastic case plus (plastic) lens plus film, but that's a bit too messy for me. I like the control I can achieve with my Canon A-1. Lots of dials and settings. But all analogue, no exposure compensation, red-eye removal or special lighting or experience settings. It was the first camera to feature a programme mode, so it's the very basics of camera do-it-for-you-ery. And I love it for that.

And now I have a black and white film in it. I think I got some good shots today, at school, but in a way I feel as if they'd be better in colour. Though it certainly is an experience to work with black and white film, because it means I had to think a lot more before I took the photo. And I took more photos of the same thing than I thought I would, because - when I'm developing it myself - I can choose which photos to print, so it's more cost-effective. And it also means that I have more chance of getting the shot I want if I took it twice or thrice (I refuse to say 'three times').

OK, enough discussion. I'll have a bunch of my latest photos up tomorrow; until then, this has been John, writing for JOHNSPACE. G'night.


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Day 347, on which John goes over the top, part XVIII [12.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede syvogfyrre. Today was a busy, busy day. Firstly, some guy on Flickr posted a Lego house design... that was almost identical to my Ishøj House. And yes, I know that nothing is original on the internet, and that I shouldn't keep on whining about how someone copied my stuff without credit, but suffice to say it pissed me off big time. Luckily he's removed the photos now, which I guess is a good thing, but I've had just about enough. So, in a fit of rage and strange coincidental architecture inspiration, I got to work on the Brick Architect Contest entry I said I was never going to do.

It's one beast of a house, that's for sure. It's sliced through the side so you can see in, and it's inset into the ground so I had to build a big steady base all around it. And it's eating up my parts like Anne Widdicombe eats up Labour MPs. I don't even know if I can finish it to my satisfaction... all my architecture has one powerful form but with my amount of parts (windows and dark grey slopes in particular) I don't think that will be possible. It's just too big. Too complicated. Too many goddamn windows.

I could buy some bricks, if they'll arrive in time, but it'd mean finding another BrickLink store and I don't like doing that. It's either Simply Bricks or Lego Pick-a-Brick. Simply Bricks doesn't have the slopes, and PaB is just too expensive. But maybe I'll have to swallow my pride and regurgitate my wallet if I want to get this done well.

Today I've been thinking. Which is never a good thing with me. But just think; at the moment I'm interested in photography, graphic design, interior design and architecture. Surely at some point in my education - very soon - I'll have to funnel those interests and just pick one. Only one, whilst I'm still passionate about the others. Or will I be? It's scary to think that maybe there's some part of biological or sociological adulthood that means you have to adopt one main passion or skill and work at that for the rest of your life. Of course, Jacobsen was both an architect and a designer, but his main passion was architecture and he didn't treat his furniture with as much attention (as hard as it is to believe). The education system forces students to specialise in one thing, because then they can cover that one thing completely and in enough depth to do a degree.

Sure, that's the normal and most efficient way of doing it, but for people like me it could mean that I end up doing one thing and ignoring the others. Nothing to do with the Tories, just the way education works. It's sad to think that I'm rapidly approaching this funnel at which I must choose from my interests. And it's even sadder to think that in ten years' time I may be happy as larry being just a furniture designer. And because I did a degree in interior/product/furniture design, I can never be an architect or even a graphic designer. The social system is designed to create people who are incredibly skilled in one area, so where are the exceptions? Struggling to persuade clients that they can do more than they're qualified to do, is where they are. So what can I do to break this system?

Nothing. Just stay true to my passions and struggle through, is all I can think of. Sadly.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Day 346, on which John is Livin' Th' Dream [11.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede seksogfyrre. Today was a pretty slow day. Tried to do some stuff, it didn't work out, so I did some stuff that would work out, and it did. A bunch of packaging designs, not for anything in particular, but I'll hopefully include it in my portfolio and show it to you guys later. I'm quite proud of it, it's a bunch of boxes to store penicillin bottles for use in the developing world. Not that 'for use in the developing world' is any specification for the design, it just explains why the penicillin is stored in boxes and I also designed a box to store those boxes. Like those boxes you get by the tills in newsagents, which decant collectible toys, only for triangular boxes storing penicillin! It's the first time I've tried something so complex and well thought-out, and it's nearly finished. Just need to make the packaging again, because at the moment it's a bit rough. Then photographs, then I show you!

OK, my current musical obsession is the American alternative band, You, Me & Everyone We Know. From now on I'll call them YMAEWK, because that's simpler, though can I just note: their name is awesome. Great name. So it was a good first impression when someone on Flickr suggested them to me after I told them about my obsession with Arcade Fire (or at least, my obsession with Arcade Fire's latest album plus 'Wake Up'). So I got onto Spotify to check 'em out, listened to their first and only album ('Some things don't wash out', September 2010) and then listened to it again. And again. And again. And again. And lo and behold, a new obsession dawned. I left it a few days, listened to it a bit here and there, but today I couldn't resist the urge, so I bought it off iTunes and I'm very happy.

YMAEWK is not like Arcade Fire. I'd just like to get that sorted. YMAEWK has a very consistent genre and sound of songs, whereas Arcade Fire are totally nuts and just sing whatever comes to mind, be it indie, rock or even 80s pop like in 'Sprawl II', my fave of theirs. So I don't like YMAEWK's album as much, sorry to say. But that still doesn't mean I don't like it a lot, because I love Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs'.

YMAEWK's album, 'Some things just don't wash out', contains 11 songs of which I'd say at least 7 were very good, two others are good and the other two are simply decent. They aren't bad songs, not at all, because the folks in that band are super-talented. They're just not as awesome, they don't have such a memorable tune. So let me guide you through the songs of theirs which I love:

This song is my all-time fave of theirs, 'A bigger point of pride'. You can get a very good feel of what the album's like and what sort of music they make by this song, but it's also incredibly catchy. Strangely, it's not one of the most popular of the album on iTunes. Maybe iTunes and I have different tastes. The album starts of very strong, and I love that there's a big song 'Shock and awe' then the smaller, one-minute song 'I'm losing weight for you' directly afterwards that ties in, they flow right together. It's a really nice way of starting off an album, and creating two songs which are strong on their own but work better when played in the right order. Sadly, that's about as tied together as it gets and the rest of the album is just a collection of the songs they've made. The final song, 'Moon, roll me away' is quite sad and is a nice soft end to the album, if they intended it that way.

This song, 'Bootstraps' is probably the second best in my opinion and, I suppose, is what everyone else would consider YMAEWK's best song. It's really really good, has a good structure, and best of all is very catchy. I can't comment much on the music itself because I don't know enough about music, but I can say that I love this song too. According to my Flickr informant, YMAEWK sound great live - and I can really understand that. And I agree. The songs feel a bit flat coming from my headphones, digitally, and to hear them live would give a load more depth to them. But would I go to one of their concerts? Hmm, I don't know. Probably not, unless I found another YMAEWK fan. Until then I'm happy enough listening to them digitally.

But it's still a good album. Not perfect, of course, but very little is when compared to 'The Suburbs'. Still, check out YMAEWK. They've got some brilliant music. And that cool name too, haha.