Wednesday, 26 September 2012

RIP the MiniDisc

The Guardian has just published a punchy little piece charting the rise and fall of the ill-fated MiniDisc. I was always rather enamored by the product design behind the portable players. They were from an era when everything technical and portable was silver or, at a push, blue. They also featured slightly organic shapes with chamfered edges and waved cases. Many sported in-line remote controls with exciting arrays of buttons and knobs.

The MiniDisc was killed when Apple released its first iPod in 2001. The contender from California also embodied an entirely different school of design - it was a blank white canvas which reduced buttons to the bare minimum. Decoration was kept at bay. This would be the look for the naughties and the poor old MiniDisk was left to hang its head in shame.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

OMG! Documentary about Jodorowsky's 'Dune'

All movie fans love to imagine what the failed projects of legend would have been like - David Lynch's Empire Strikes Back, Vincent Ward's Alien 3 and Terry Gilliam's Watchmen. One of the greats is Jodorowsky's Dune. It has a particular appeal as so many of the creatives involved later went on to be serious movers and shakers in the sci-fi world. Notably Giger and Foss went on to work on Alien. It transpires there's a documentary being made about the ill-fated Dune project and below is a trailer. From this (and the reminiscences he penned as part of his introduction to 20th Century Foss), one can see that Jodorowski is an adorably bonkers fellow.

"I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new the mind!"


Monday, 24 September 2012

'Metropolis' magazine

Gold-dust-central Retronaut has just uploaded an amazing set of scans of a promo brochure for Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Not only is it full of photos and illustrations, the text provides a fascinating incite into the making of the film and movie promotion of the day.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Streets of Tokyo

Ace blogger and Storm-Trooper-costume-wearing good guy Danny Choo has just posted another amazing collection of photos profiling the streets of Tokyo. This might seem rather mundane at first glance, but I am always fascinated by such things. They are also a window into the real world which I have seen so often represented in Japanese anime.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Sir Hugh Spencer

“Sir Hugh Spencer, who was nothing beloved, was brought forth before the queen and all the lords and knights, and there before him in writing was rehearsed all his deeds, against the which he could give no manner of answer. And so he was then judged by plain sentence, first to be drawn on an hurdle with trumps and trumpets through all the city of Hereford, and after to be brought into the market-place, whereas all the people were assembled, and there to be tied on high upon a ladder that every man might see him ; and in the same place there to be made a great fire, and there his privy members cut from him, because they reputed him as an heretic and so deemed, and so to be brent in the fire before his face ; and then his heart to be drawn out of his body and cast into the fire, because he was a false traitor of heart, and that by his traitor’s counsel and exhortation the king had shamed his realm and brought it to great mischief, for he had caused to be beheaded the greatest lords of his realm, by whom the realm ought to have been sustained and defended ; and he had so induced the king that he would not see the queen his wife nor Edward his eldest son, and caused him to chase them out of the realm for fear of their lives ; and then his head to be stricken off and sent to London. And according to his judgment he was executed.”

[The Chronicles of Froissart translated by G.C. Macaulay (1895)]

Via Demonagerie

The image above is a crop from the upper portion of the larger work, below.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Starchaser: The Legend of Orin

In his comment on my last post izeColt referred to a movie with the cumbersome title of Starchaser: The Legend of Orin. It transpires this is an 80s feature-length sci-fi animation which had escaped my notice entirely. I watched it in the wee hours of last night and I was mildly impressed.

Starchaser (I can't shake the feeling that this might be the name of a beverage which follows a racy cocktail) gets a bad rap for being an out-and-out rip-off of Star Wars. This criticism is valid - it is indeed a blatant facsimile. The film suffers from a host of other issues, but the animation, plot structure and design of the movie are robust. The boy-becomes-hero yarn romps along at a fair pace and, although predictable with cookie-cutter characters, kept my (admittedly sleepy) interest throughout. There are also so odd sexual politics which make the movie slightly distasteful by today's standards. More importantly they make you wonder at what age group the film makers were pitching to (there are scenes in a brothel, for example).

The animation, however, is quite striking. It's talked about as being one of the first computer animated movies. I suspect CGI models might have been animated but then rotoscoped over for the final cells. Some of the design is run of the mill 80s fantasy and sci-fi, but other bits, notably the princess's robot and Man Droids, are quite good. There are some interesting computer GUIs in the background of the final scenes too.

Have a go if you dare but be warned it's not up the standard of Transformers: The Movie.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Out and about #6

Continuing in the irregular series of 'what I've been up to' here's the latest installment...

On a recent trip through London I stopped to wander the tight lanes surrounding the church of St Giles in the Fields. This is the last surviving church on the route out of London that the condemned would take on their trip to the hanging ground at Tyburn. The men and women would have an opportunity to stop and have a final drink (a 'St Giles' Bowl') at The Angel pub. The surrounding area became an awful den of poverty by the 18th century. This 'rookery' was home to all manner of ner-do-wells and even spawned its own 'cant' (a language used by thieves, in this case St Giles Greek).

Earlier in the Summer I went on a narrow boat trip on the Cambridgeshire canals. Given the UK spends the majority of the year huddling under rainclouds it's easy to forget how beautiful the countryside can be in the sunshine. In the past goods would have crossed the country almost exclusively on narrow boats. These craft would be piloted by families. Compared to the conditions faced by their working class cousins in the cities, the lives of these men and women on the water would have been fairly decent. In good weather that is...

We sent off an old friend with a combined 'hen and stag' do recently in lieu of his forthcoming marriage. A group of us invaded the seaside town of Whitstable. Located on the East coast it was one of the first regions settled by the Romans when they invaded and quickly became famous for its fish (and particularly oysters). We ate oysters, devoured lobsters, drank, went bowling, drank some more and watched the sun go down. And there was much rejoicing.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tigress Reign trailer

Fashion designer and good friend Ada Zanditon has just posted this teaser trailer for her Spring/Summer 2013 collection. It looks like a wonderful Tarantino-esque romp with her characteristic high-production values and awesome styling (oh, and great clothes!).

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Military Odyssey 2012

Last weekend saw one of the highlights in the UK reenactment calendar - Military Odyssey. The Kent County Showground host this 'multi-period' event. I love the variety of the variety of such shows as one gets to see the breadth and depth of the reenactment community in all its (sometimes bizarre) glory.

Below are a few of the best shots I got from the weekend. Long-time readers (and more astute newcomers) will know that I am a member of the Hoplite Association. We reenact life in and around Greek in the 5th century BC.

You can see the full set of photos from the event on my Picasa account here.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The joys of airbrushing

I suspect I am not alone in discovering the amazing/dreaded airbrush via Giger. In his hands the tool was a magic wand capable of the most astonishing feats of photo-realism. I was a keen artist at a young age and, inspired by the look, read a great deal about airbrushes and the associated techniques. This was in the late 80s and early 90s which transpired to be the twilight of the airbrush's dominance.

In the late 90s digital would rise to become the weapon of choice. Digital, especially when combined with the now ubiquitous stylus, offers a similar toolset without all the faff and hassle of the airbrush. And much faff and hassle there is. Airbrushes are expensive, temperamental, dirty and noisy beasts. It takes a degree of patience, skill and wealth to persist with them. Consequently, they were often the mark of a truly professional designer or illustrator. Today airbrushes are predominantly used by the likes of modellers and muralists who have to work on a physical surface.

There are a hard-core of enthusiast artists who continue to use the tool for illustration. I stumbled across the video below showing one of them at work. The Frenchmen Hubert de Lartigue is a stunning portrait painter whose efforts remind us how great the airbrush can be. The video below is a great overview of the often complex techniques used to paint a portrait. The result typifies the airbrush's strengths - a kind of hyper-reality with a touch of real paintbrush strokes to remind you that you are, indeed, looking at a hand-crafted painting.

His work is wonderful, but I must confess I am not (nor, I suspect, will I ever be) ready to invest in an airbrush studio over and above my beloved iMac.