Wednesday 31 March 2010

2.0 or not 2.0?

Diagram of a Blog by Paula Scher (click on image for larger view)

My Google account was disabled last week. This came after trying to log in to Blogger and being prompted by Google to reset my password due to 'suspicious activity' on my account. I proceeded to cock up resetting my password, hence the disablement!

In the time between me emailing Google and my account being re-enabled, I made elaborate plans, both in my head and on paper, for my online presence. After all, I imagined never being able to post here again. I'd decided I was going to take down my website in readiness of starting an MA this September and planned going Word Press or even Indexhibit to document work produced by it. This wasn't a great emotional tie as my site has some pretty old work on it now and isn't really representative of what I do anymore. I'm not entirely sure what I do do now, but that's a different story and one that the MA will help to clarify, I hope.

Then Google got in touch and I regained access to Blogger again and all's fine and the same as ever and the plans have been shelved.

For now.

Anyway, last week blogging was on my mind quite a lot. The same day my account was temporarily snatched from my grasp, I'd spent a day at work mulling over some student blogs. The following day, when I got home, with half an hour to kill while cooking, I booted up my iMac and was bombarded with RSS updates in NewsFire; Johnson Banks had an interesting post about Photoshop the verb; there were a couple of things that took my fancy on Design Observer; I Love Typography's 'A few things I've learned about typography' beaconed; and Graphic Journey Blog was recounting the second part of a traveling/graphic design story, seducing me with photos of snow filled landscapes, constructivist classics, architecture and sculpture. With only 30 minutes to spare, there was no time to decide which one to read, and this, the same day that the new look Creative Review thudded onto my door mat and a neighbour kindly dropped off my copy of Eye that the postman couldn't get through my letterbox. I decided to drop the pixels for the smell of CMYK on coated stock.

The day after I killed some time at work surfing blogs while waiting for students to turn up to tutorials. I read about Brody's new role at the RCA on CR Blog and got hooked on the comments. I started getting itchy fingers and wanted to stick in my two pennies worth. I'm glad I didn't after I followed a link to Paula Scher's brilliant Diagram of a Blog (above). As I've just got rid of a 'friend' on Facebook for trolling, I'm glad I was stopped in my tracks.

So, what's all this about then. Well, today I've been talking to students about how design starts with writing. But I'm coming to realisation that, sometimes, just sometimes, writing gets in the way of designing. Divergent tactics are all too tempting. When I was doing my PGCE my bathroom had never been cleaner. Thank god that design blogs were in their infancy then and that the only one that I read regularly was Underconsideration's Speak Up. At least I had a clean toilet to show for my lack of an essay on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I pity some of my students and have suggested disconnecting their modems or blocking Facebook for the duration of writing their dissertations.

And as for me, well, there's a few projects that have been knocking around for a while that I must draw a line under. And the plans I had when I thought I was going to be permanently blocked from Blogger, there was some promise in there somewhere that has now been diminished through lack of urgency. So I might well have to uninstall NewsFire and declare a moratorium on Dublog. But not yet. In the words of the 1980s anti heroin adverts: Blogging, I can handle it.

I Love Typography
Graphic Journey Blog
Creative Review Redesign
Eye magazine
Speak Up
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Thursday 18 March 2010

The Prelude

Another one of Claire's great charity shop finds: a 1904 edition of Wordworth's The Prelude. Above: illustrated prelude page to The Prelude. Below: Gold leaf spine and embossed hardcase.

Steppin' out

Working from home one day and it gets to lunch time. So I grab my iPod, hat, jacket and a carrier bag and head up our local Co-op for some bread. And then a Google car passes me!

Saturday 6 March 2010

Very spacial

Claire and I were lucky enough to see the Jerry Dammers Spacial AKA Orchestra last night in Brighton at the start of their UK tour. The Sun Ra inspired (or Sun Ra tribute band as Dammers has called it), merged jazz, funk, reggae, ska and hip hop in a huge cosmic blender that led to a standing ovation at the end of a blistering two and a half hour set. Only 3 of Dammers own songs were covered, International Jetset (renamed Interspacial Jetset), Ghost Town and Man At C&A. All three took on a new power with an 18 piece orchestra behind them and it was great to see Rico Rodriquez on stage again as he joined them for the last two of these. The oldest person on stage Dammers announced, had to be helped to his feet for the trombone solos that sent shivers down my back - this Jamaican legend can still play. The orchestra consisted of a brass section, double bass and electric bass, guitar, vibraphone, flute, percussion, drums and a second keyboardist to compliment Dammers own distinctive style. Smatterings of vocals were provided by French chanteuse Francine Luce and poet Anthony Joseph. The carefully selected reggae covers that were reworked into jazz/dub frenzies and the Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra numbers that Dammers had rearranged created a heady mix and it really was one of those special performances. The stage was adorned throughout by mannequins dressed in space garb and Egyptian head wear, as were most of the band resplendent in masks and capes. A mock space craft hung precariously above the keyboard player and the backdrop VJing mixed abstract imagery and planetary visuals with footage of people dancing. The whole theatricality of the evening was planned down to a tee and even Adam West made an appearance on the screen above the stage during a jazz reworking of the Batman theme. At the end of the set the band, minus Dammers, exited the stage through the audience, still playing, and proceeded into the bar where they played for a further 20 minutes free styling acoustically as the audience joined them and danced around to the bemusement of The Dome staff. There wasn't a single person leaving the venue without a huge grin on their face.

Throughout Dammers was entertaining as compare, conductor and keyboard madman, turning from a touching story about his fathers death to Sun Ra nonsensical cosmic ramblings. These only added to the feeling of warmth and integrity of a man inspired and at his peak of ingenuity. Make no mistake, The Specials were a band of major importance for so many different reasons, and although I'm never personally comfortable with the idea of cash fueled nostalgia trips, their gigs last year did look pretty good from the times I've caught them on TV. However, we must thank Ra that Dammers opted out of this in protest at the commercial meanderings that were attached and the unwillingness of others in the band to update their old material or write new songs. For if Dammers had gone along with the reformation he may not have seen his Spacial AKA vision through and that would have been a great loss. If they are playing at a venue near you and you can get a ticket, it'll be the best £20 you'll spend all year, I guarantee.

For reviews of last years Barbican gigs and video clips go to:

Thursday 4 March 2010

Last word

This photo doesn't do it justice but when I opened The Guardian this morning I swear that Michael Foot had left a news print Hitler mustache on Thatcher. Apt.