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Archive for September, 2012

Mr Williams & Mr. Lom

September 28, 2012 1 comment

A sad day yesterday as the death of two big names from my past were announced to the world….

Andy Williams (born 1927) was the voice of almost all my childhood Christmases. This album was one of the few records that my parents owned when were growing up and my sister and I knew every song word perfect well before we were teenagers…

His deep, soft tones transport me back every time I hear them, and a later CD version of this record is the only Christmas record I have ever bought…

I don’t know much about him as a person, but the obituaries I’ve read over the last couple of days paint a picture of a popular man, who started life in Showbiz very young and was universally held in high regard.

Herbert Lom was born in Prague in 1917 and as he was christened Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru, it’s maybe no surprise that he chose a more simple surname for his equity card.

Lom was of course most famous for his role as Chief Inspector Dreyfuss in the Pink Panther films, a character who became more and more exaggerated as his relationship with Peter Sellers’s hapless Inspector Clouseau developed over the 7 or 8 films they starred in together.

But it’s his vaguely foreign gangster Louis, in one of my favourite films of all time, The Ladykillers (1955) that will always give me a warm feeling. His first role acting alongside Peter Sellers (here playing a Cockney Spiv) Lom brought a sinister and dark edge to one of the best of the post war Ealing Comedies…

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Dismantling the Figure-Ground…

September 27, 2012 1 comment

My little A found these online the other day…

A series of comparative layout drawings of some of the worlds most famous cities (and some less so, Taramac, Florida anyone?) by the French artist Armelle Caron.

Caron hit upon this idea back in 2005 when she started looking at these cities in what is known as a figure-ground plan. This is a common urban design tool in which all the buildings and built form are coloured in (the figure) and the open space, streets, footpaths etc. are left blank (the ground). It’s generally considered a useful way of looking for patterns in the fabric of a city, patterns that might denote how a place developed or indicate strong routes, or simply highlights natural obstacles (rivers, mountains etc) which become more obvious in this type of analysis.

As well as being very intriguing and rather beautiful, Caron’s images highlight a number of interesting things. Firstly they demonstrate the huge variety of built form that can be found in our cities, from huge city blocks to tiny sheds, and the unbelievably complex relationships that develop over time between the built and the unbuilt…

At the same time however, the sorting and arranging of these random pieces of city into very deliberate and ordered lines, clearly demonstrates that on the whole, all our cities are made up of pretty consistent sized chunks of built form (in plan anyway) regardless of the culture in which it is historically placed.

The one aspect that suffers the most through this process is of course the open, white space. Take New York (in turquoise below)… Where is The East River, The Williamsburg Bridge, most of Roosevelt Island, Central Park?… all fundamentally important to the development of the city and all gone without trace…

Or maybe I think about these things too much, and it’s not meant as an academic exercise at all, instead to be taken at face value as a novel approach to creating interesting pictures…

Either way the images are very striking and the only complaint I have is that Ms. Caron didn’t seem to do one of my home city of London.

I’d be sorely tempted to give it a go myself… If only I had a spare couple of months.

A Couple of Old Queens…

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I picked up a copy of the new free Time Out this morning and apart from being surprised at just how many bands from the 80’s and 90’s are still doing the rounds (is ANYONE interested in seeing The Fields of the Nephilim, Space or The Farm!!) these two images sitting either side of the same page, amused me with their similarity of imagery and style…

Curly bouffant hair, eyes closed in concentration, respectfully aged skin, expensive looking clothes and big jewelry…

Methinks Mr. Hucknall didn’t really think this one through … unless his singing career is in such dire straights, that he’s considering an alternative one as a looky likey

Satellites for your Mantelpiece…

September 25, 2012 1 comment

Today’s “completely pointless but rather lovely nonetheless” objects come via Daily Icon, and I quote…

“Designed for Papafoxtrot London, Postlerferguson have selected the 5 most iconic unmanned spacecraft circling the earth and transformed them into Papafoxtrot’s iconic design language. The satellites are made out of polished maple and laser etched stainless steel with matte white and gloss red touches”

And not much more need be said…

Ampeg Dan Armstrong Acrylic guitar…

September 24, 2012 3 comments

We ended up at home in time to watch a Later with Jools Holland “best of” show on Friday night, and the sight and sound of Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters playing that most excellent of guitars, the Ampeg Dan Armstrong Plexiglass has been in my head ever since…

My guitar buying days were back in the early 1990’s when, after lots of magazine buying, reading and talking to friends, I opted for a rather fine Japanese Silver Series Squire Telecaster, stylish and affordable. What I really wanted though (but couldn’t afford) was either a Gibson Semi-Acoustic (as wielded by Steve Howe and Geordie) or this truly innovative transparent wonder…

Dan Armstrong was a well respected American guitar maker and session musician when he was hired by the Ampeg Company in 1968 to improve their line of guitars. The idea to use solid acrylic (or Lucite in the US) was an unusual one, as timber was generally thought to give greater depth and sustain.

Armstrong’s contention however was that the electrics within the guitar, along with any outboard effects would be able to create a much better and faithful sound if the vibration of the instrument was limited only to the strings, with the body being as inert as possible. Acrylic fitted the bill perfectly, not only for stability but also for its striking looks (enhanced by a very fetching formica scratch plate no less) and the guitar was an immediate success…

As a piece of design it seems to perfectly catch the spirit of the early 1970’s, with its sensuous curves, and its combination of the modern and the kitsch (both in technological and material terms). It certainly doesn’t look like it was conceived over 40 years ago.

The guitar and a virtually identical bass version, were made for only a very short period of time (1969 to 1971) as Ampeg and Armstrong fell out over money, and this has resulted in a relative scarcity of original versions. It is because of this (and their sound of course) that they can command a large price tag, which these days can be anything from about £2500 upwards (although the bass’s are a bit cheaper…)

Along with Dave Grohl, famous players have included Ronnie Wood, Geezer Butler on bass from Sabbath, Greg Ginn from Black Flag and John Frusciante from the Chili Peppers…

One more thing of possible interest to people like me, is that Dave Grohl’s guitar appears to have the four Black Flag stripes on the body (much like Greg Ginn’s above).. What I don’t know is if this is a homage thing on Dave’s part, or is actually the same guitar…

Answers on a postcard please…

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

There is a new exhibition on over the river in Greenwich at the Royal Observatory that looks like it will be well worth going to see…

Featuring the winning entries in the annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, the website promises images spanning the wonders found in our own atmosphere right through to the unimaginable mysteries of deep space.

The ones that really grab my attention however are those of the Northern Lights… For some time now, I’ve had a growing urge, almost a need to go and experience them for myself and seeing these images of huge open spaces, crystal clear skies and unbelievably beautiful displays of colour and exuberance, only confirms and strengthens that desire…

Other than getting it organised and paying for it, the most challenging thing will be persuading my Little A that a holiday to the cold wastes of Norway in December staring up at the night sky in hope, will be as enjoyable as a week exploring an unknown city or soaking up the sun on a beach in July…

(The images accompanying this post are all borrowed from Flickr and the name of photographer can found by hovering over the image)

The Space Hairdresser & The Cowboy..

September 18, 2012 1 comment

I love the Thick of It and I’m very happy that it’s back on TV.

The second episode was on over the weekend and is a joy from beginning to end, proving yet again that it is the sweariest most bestly written show ever…

Malcolm Tucker is back on stinging form and although struggling slightly to come to terms with only being responsible for a shadow government… doesn’t seem to have let it kerb his misanthropy any…

And if proof were needed that it has some of the cleverest writing around, just check out this short clip..

Planet of the teddy bears… I agree with Ollie, it is indeed a fantastic analogy…

 

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