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Archive for May, 2012

Smoke on the Water

May 29, 2012 3 comments

What with one thing and another, I completely forgot to put this photo up on my blog yesterday…

We were both woken up yesterday morning at about 3.45am by a repeating alarm coming from the other side of the river: very loud and rather worrying. So after opening the curtains and seeing a huge pall of smoke drifting across our development, accompanied by an acrid smell of burning plastic, I got up, got dressed and walked to the river bank to see if it was anything we should be getting worried about.

As it turned out, the fire was in a building next to a large chemical store over on the Greenwich Peninsular, which by law has to have an alarm. Some one told And at work, that the siren was an old one left over from the war, although I’m not sure which one (the Cold one maybe) but it certainly had a dated wailing, up and down sound that was very distracting so early in the morning…

Anyway 12 engines and 60 firefighters soon arrived and by 7.00am I had fallen back to sleep and the fire was under control…

But as you can just about tell from my photo, the sky looking due east at 4.20am yesterday morning was a pretty impressive sight. In fact so much so, we might have to get up this early again another day and go for a walk along the Thames at dawn…

Ron Cobb’s Semiotic Standards for Alien…

May 25, 2012 7 comments

With the new Alien film Prometheus coming up in the next few weeks, I watched the first film again recently to remind myself of the story and came across these forgotten gems, referred to on one of the extras spread across the rather excellent fluorescent green, nine dvd box set…

It is a series of signs designed by the graphic artist Ron Cobb (although this sheet is a digitised version based on his hand drawn originals). Ron Cobb was the man responsible for imagining and designing all the human technology in the first and second Alien films. HR Giger of course was famously responsible for the monster itself, and Ridley Scott apparently kept the two men apart so that their particular visions would not become compromised or tainted by the others ideas…

These signs were intended for “all commercial trans-stellar and heavy element transport craft” and are wonderful examples of graphic design. Conceived when the film was in pre-production sometime during the mid/ late 1970’s, they have a graphic simplicity and an almost contemporary feel that would not look out of place in todays CGI-tastic adventures.

In fact thinking about it (and yes I know it’s not heavily CGI’d) one of my most favourite recent Sci Fi films, Duncan Jones’s low-key and very stylish directorial debut Moon from a few years back has similar looking graphics, creating a retro feel that undoubtedly references back to the 1970’s and Ron Cobb’s designs (although confusingly of course, both these films are set many years in the future, so explain that one away..)

Anyway, next time you watch Alien, keep an eye out for Ron’s brilliant little graphics. They are clearly there to see all over the Nostromo; above doorways, arranged in groups around control panels, sometimes glimpsed in the distance through the steam and the panic, looking for all the world as if they’d been there forever… which should mean they should also be evident on the new ship Prometheus? (fingers crossed)

Ron Cobb worked on many classic films during his career, including Star Wars, Total Recall and Back to the Future (I believe the time travelling DeLorean was basically his idea) but I’ll leave you with some fine sketches that he did for interiors of the Nostromo and the original felt tip pen artwork for the crew patches and the signage…

Robert Moog

May 23, 2012 1 comment

With a smart little synthesiser app on their title page (that actually allows you to record four tracks of “music”) Google tells me its Robert Moogs 78th birthday today..

Now being a bit of an electronic music fan, Mr Moog’s  instruments have played a huge part in the sound of my musical back catalogue: from the Progness of Yes, Genesis, and Floyd, through the squeaks and wobbles of Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, to the masterly sequencing of Giorgio Moroder and the electronic stylings of Travelogue era Human League, right through to today and Etienne Jaumet’s timeless Nightworks EP, I have always loved the sound of analogue oscillators, sequencers and modulators…

So happy birthday Mr Moog and thank you very much indeed for many thousands of hours of listening pleasure, created (I know not how) by these extraordinary machines…

The Moog logo is also a timelss and lovely thing..

 

Donna Summer – RIP

May 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve just learnt of the sad and very untimely death at 63 of Donna Summer.

The online headlines are calling her the Queen of Disco, but I think she should be more rightly dubbed The Voice of House

I have to admit that I’m not really up to speed with what she’s done for the last 20 years, but in 1976, she helped create one of the greatest records ever made, and that’s more than enough for me…

World of Wong…

May 15, 2012 2 comments

My very good friend Wong sent me this link the other day…

World of Wong is a project of his that I hope will see his amazing work reach a deservedly wider audience…  I think you’ll agree he’s off to a flying start with that logo…

So tell your friends and keep clicking back to see his site grow in intensity and brilliance…

The image below is a sneak preview which I hope he won’t mind. He gave me this drawing of a giant fuck-off robot suit a while back. He sits on the book shelf watching over me & Little A, and we love him…

More robots please Wong…

Expedition 31 – Space Ships on Trains in Kazakhstan..

May 15, 2012 Leave a comment

I saw this rather intriguing image in someone else’s newspaper on my way home last night…

It showed an old 1960’s diesel train pulling what looked like a huge rocket through the middle of nowhere. I liked the juxtaposition of the old, the new and the emptiness and I went to find out more…

It turns out that the rocket is a Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft and is being carried by train to the Baikonur launch pad in the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan, from where it will take off on its short journey to the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket is moved to the launch pad area a couple of days prior to take off so that it can be fulled up and prepared for its journey…

The whole event goes by the name “Expedition 31” and the take off was scheduled for 9.05am this morning (Tuesday 15th May) with a crew of both Russian and US astronauts aiming to spend the next few months in orbit. It’s not clear from the reports I’ve read, but I think the rocket will also pick up and bring some astronauts who are already up in space, back home.

Interestingly (and I didn’t know this till last night), NASA which officially retired its shuttle fleet  last year, has relied exclusively on Russian Soyuz craft for transporting personnel to the ISS since late 2009. The trip to the station takes two days from launch to docking, as the rocket has to chase the space station around its earth orbit, whereas the return to Earth takes less than 3.5 hours.

There are a lot more photos on NASA’s flickr site here

Marilyn Monroe @ The Getty Images Gallery

May 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Me & And popped into the current Marilyn Monroe exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery over the weekend. It’s not a huge exhibition but it does feature some rather wonderful photos and some of the dresses that she wore during her turbulent and somewhat tragic life…

The little black one at the right of this photo is the one she wore in Some Like it Hot, and the red one is from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes…. How much more Iconic can you get?

Now, being neither a huge Marilyn fan nor a gay man, I went along out of a general cultural interest more than anything else, but do you know what?.. I definitely got a strange, buzzy feeling from standing so close to the actual dresses that Marilyn actually wore…

Even from the photos you could tell there was something special about this woman; an aura, an attitude, something difficult to define maybe, but having now spent three quarters of an hour in a room with only the faintest echoes of her presence, I would have to say that I’m a believer…

All the images from the exhibition are here but the one I’ve screen grabbed above was my favourite. Taken in 1954 when she was 28 years old and at the height of her fame, it shows her in a less formal way than the usual images we see of her. And as And said when we were looking at it, you would be hard pushed to believe that an image more than 55 years old, could appear so utterly contemporary and undated…

Sadly she would be dead less than 8 years after this photo was taken, and it seems that much of the simple person smiling so beautifully for the camera here, has been lost to the various conspiracy theories that surround her death…

Truly an amazing woman…

RIP Maurice Sendak and MCA

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m sad this morning, as I learned that Maurice Sendak died last night at the age of 83.

I’ve been a huge fan of his work all my life and have written about him several times in the pages of this blog. I read in the paper that a final story is due for publication later this year, and I shall keep my eyes open for that. If it’s only half as good as Where The Wild Things Are, it’ll still be worth having.

NB: this is not actually me in the photo above by the way, but ask my mum and she’ll tell you that this is exactly what I looked like circa 1970… spooky and rather disconcerting (not me, the resemblance)

Writing of Sendak’s death reminds me that Adam Yauch, or more usually MCA of the Beastie Boys also passed away a few days ago… This is both a sad and sobering thing as, give or take a few months, MCA was the same age as me… and that’s no age to have to pack it all in…

Intergalactic was always my favourite video, and was also directed by MCA under hs Nathanial Hornblower pseudonym. It contains the geniusness of the jerky stepping and pointing moves through a very urban Tokyo (?), the safety gear and flourescent strips, the Tokusatu/ daikaiju or classic Japanese giant monster fight references and of course, the tune itself…

I would suggest that their influence is bigger than most people realise…

Jim Morrison predicts Techno….

May 2, 2012 3 comments

How’s this for prescience….

This is apparently from a 1970 American TV music show, and demonstrates how easy it can be to predict the future, especially if you’ve done as much Acid as Mr. Mojo Risin allegedly had.

Sadly Jim was only around for another year or so after these prophetic words (he died at 27) so he never got to see how right on the money he was and how much beautiful music electronics, tapes and machines have made over the last 40 years…

Realtime Construction Clock

May 2, 2012 5 comments

FOURTH UPDATE

As at November 2013, I’m still looking, but I can’t find the whole thing online anymore.. I have found this 10 minute extract, which should give you a taste….

THIRD UPDATE…

As of May 2013 (and possibly much earlier I haven’t checked in a while) The Russian Esquire site no longer works.. Sorry about that, you’ll just have to make do with the extract on the app site…

SECOND UPDATE…

Success… Try this this site.  It belongs to Russian Esquire Magazine which seems to be hosting the clock. I got it from the artists own blog, so hopefully it’s safe… It’s not full screen like the previous one though, but at least it’s in real time. Press the fourth tab across the top for London time (I’m not sure what the others read, other the fifth one is Moscow and the last one is probably Tokyo)

UPDATE…

Would you believe it, 3 hours after I posted this, the link to the realtime video has stopped working.. it now leads to a rather strange music video.. So I’ve had to substitute a new link that takes you to the clock creators’ website, where you can buy it as a $30 app or watch a 3 minute extract..

Bugger.. I’ll have to keep an eye on it and see if I can find the link to the realtime site… or if anyone comes across it, please let me know…

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My friend Dan sent me this link yesterday to one of the best sites I’ve seen in ages…

It’s a real time clock being made by a group of guys in safety hats with wooden planks, steel bolts and step ladders on some rough ground in what looks like Berlin.

It runs for the full 24 hours, so click on it at any time, day or night and there they are, constructing the numbers: lit up at night and stripped to the waist in the afternoon…

I especially like the way they all move off to the side once the time is finished so it’s all nice and tidy. Then if the next time requires only a small modification, one person comes out after quite a long wait and moves a single plank. As and when more digits need to change however, they all rush out quite soon after the previous time and hurriedly start rearranging the planks…

Genius, totally brilliant. Like all excellent things, it’s simple, very effective and mesmerising…

(I haven’t watched it long enough to see where the join is yet. I’m sad, but not that sad.. actually I probably am, and I’m sure I’ll find it soon…)

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