Friday, 29 March 2013


LEGOLIZE IT MAN is the username of an amazing LEGO builder I've just discovered. He (and I'm presuming it's a 'he' as I can't find out much about him) is part of a growing community who make Yokoyama-inspired mecha from LEGO. Their SF3D/Maschinen Krieger creations are quite stunning and LIM (as I shall now dub him) is no exception.

What I really love about his work is that he takes an holistic approach and puts as much effort into the presentation, photography and graphic design of his pieces as he does their construction. His photos are lit and treated to ape the high-saturation and high-contrast toy photography of the late 70s and early 80s, replete with heavy shadows, paper cycloramas and spartan scatter terrain. He has created a vocabulary of beautiful logos, straplines and information blurbs for his 'packaging' shots evoking that same period with a dose of humour thrown in. Finally he presents his photos with mock celluloid borders with self-referential data stamps hidden in the details.

LIM is a true product of the early 21st century blending vintage Japanese WWII mecha with a Danish toy system and presenting his creations as out-of-place artifacts via uploads to flickr. What more could you possibly ask for?

Monday, 25 March 2013

Cyberpunk 1984 update

I had a glance today at the Gimme Bar album I've created for the Cyberpunk 1984 project and I am pleased to say I think it's coming on quite well. There's not a huge amount of material there but I am satisfied with the consistency of the quality.

I was pleased to be reminded of the film Liquid Sky - a work of astounding genius and terrifying misjudgement in equal measure which I was (un)lucky enough to see a couple of years ago. There also seems to be a lot of black in the palette generally especially when it comes to HUDs and screencaps. Often combined with this are fine rectilinear lines, perhaps denoting a preoccupation with the structure of things and some underlying electronic substrate.

Time to play Kavinsky very loudly I think...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Very NSFW - Goner by Aida Ruilova

Below is Goner directed by Aida Ruilova and featuring the Sinoia Caves track Evil Ball.

At first glance the film might appear to be vacant torture-porn relying on a plot twist as a saving grace. However, Ruilova is a classically trained musician turned video director who has some serious credentials under her belt. I think the director, who is female, is showing us a more personal journey into a woman's Lynchian nightmare world which challenges our notions of violence against women and self harm. A really important feature for me is the set decoration. The room in which the story unfolds is carefully constructed to instill a sense of unease. For example there are apparently no windows and the bed is strangely Lolita-like.

The lo-fi psychedelic graphics which appear early on are part of a growing trend of aesthetics. Folk like Lief Podhajsky, Neil Krug and Mike Bruce are eschewing the current (and frankly increasingly tired) trend for mid-80s retro-clones and instead mining a late 70s solarised look.

I can't find much about the project, other than it is dated 2010 and was part of an exhibition in a NY gallery (possibly Halloween-themed). Weirdly, the actress in the film is the model Sonja Kinski, daughter to Nastassja Kinski who I blogged about recently.

Barnbrook talks Bowie

Legendary graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook talks at length about his collaboration with Bowie on Heathen and The Next Day.

Jonathan Barnbrook: David Bowie is from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cutting edge military hardware

A friend of mine has just returned from Abu Dhabi. While there he slightly randomly ended up in the International Defense Fair - a showcase of cutting edge military technology. While not wishing to glamourise modern weaponry, I am fascinated by the aesthetics displayed by some of the gear. 

Drones, it seems, are all the rage and many of the systems were unmanned. This leads to large, uncluttered flat surfaces devoid of vision slots and other paraphernalia which might normally aid crew members. Indeed, there were some vehicles which were manned, but piloted via video systems so the on-board driver doesn't have to be seated at the front with a windshield. Freed from such constraints such carriers look more like smooth, angular torpedoes.

Most astonishingly some of the equipment seems to come straight out of James Cameron's Aliens. There were fully automated tripod-mounted machine guns, much like those used in the famous scene cut from the theatrical release. The unit can scan for targets using both normal light and infra red. There was also a portable banks of screens able to show the head-cam, gun-cam and vital functions of team members.

It's game over, man!

The automated sentry gun system

Cut-away showing a carrier where the diver sits in the mid-section and navigates using video

 The portable video rack showing head and gun-cam footage

Friday, 15 March 2013

OMG! Kunio Okawara VS threeA

Legendary mecha designer Kunio Okawara has teamed up with Ashley Wood's toy company threeA to produce B/3 BE THREE. Unlike Wood's earlier take on the Zaku mecha this time Okawara's design is remaining largely unchanged, but with a colourway and weathering we've come to expect from threeA.


 via Mecha Catalogue

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Daniel Danger

It's been a little while since I last blogged about an illustrator's work so I am pleased to share with you some of Daniel Danger's images.

Daniel's work evokes the anxious memories we all share. He draws those things which scared of as children - old houses, dark woods, giant silhouettes and glowing figures. I find his work very evocative of the American psyche too - the houses are the clapboard wooden constructions, the streets are wide and one gets the impression the nearest neigbours live miles away.

The towns he depicts are those of his native New England. Hence they remind me of the Lovecraft's ominous visions of the same area. Their rendering has the slight whimsical manner manner of Edward Gorey's engravings. I can almost imagine Hellboy charging about those dark, Victorian rooms and falling through the floor, as he is want to do.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

C'84: Fashion in The Terminator

James Cameron's 1984 movie The Terminator was a massive success and has spawned numerous sequels and imitations. It is relevant to the Cyberpunk 1984 project in numerous ways, not least of which because it both reflects and created fashion trends from the early 80s. The Terminator is interesting in terms of fashion because the two main male leads appear naked at the start of the film and arguably their first mission is to find clothes.
The hero's ensemble is reflective of early 80s fashion. Kyle Reese steals trousers from a homeless man and then trainers and an raincoat from a department store (and later he seems to find a t-shirt with cut-off arms). The trousers are elasticated and are marked with paint including smears of pop-cool flourescent pink and green. His trainers are distinctive black-and-silver Nike Vandals, and his raincoat is of the oversized variety often seen in menswear in this era. Thus he is the aspirational but acheivable male. It is interesting to note that the lead protagonist Connor MacLeod in the 1986 film Highlander wears much the same coat.

After his arrival the Terminator kills some ne'er-do-wells to acquire faded combats, boots and a denim jacket bedecked with studs and lengths of chain leaving no doubt as to his alignment. Thus he becomes an early 80s punk of the heavy metal variety. When his eye is damaged he dons sunglasses which serve to make him even more sinister. While Reese stays in his outfit for the duration of the film, the villain changes mid-way through into a tailored, short leather jacket. No reason is given for this, but it is presumed that his first disguise becomes so damaged he needs another to blend-in. This latter look was the one used on much of the film's promo material and became a standard trope for sci-fi and cyperpunk baddies.

By contrast Sarah Connor, the object of pursuit and protector-mother in waiting wears several outfits throughout the movie. Broadly she is the attainable girl-next-door, appearing in last half of the film in stonewashed jeans and a pink tie-dye t-shirt. Moreover, her wardrobe is sensible - at one point she appears 'glammed-up' ready for a date, but swiftly changes when her boyfriend stands her up. She is last seen pregnant and more feminine in a long maternity dress as she is driving into the desert.

One of the major themes of the movie is the nature of masculinity. Like Robocop, The Terminator posits that it is not possible to be a man simply by possessing a male body.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Classic Who: The Ark in Space

I've just finished watching the 1975 Doctor Who story The Ark in Space, with Tom Baker as the lead. I vaguely recalled seeing it as a rerun in the 80s and the image of giant insects crawling over the hull of a space station has remained with me. Despite getting some good reviews and being a favorite of Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat, I was a bit underwhelmed.

The story revolves around a colony of humans in hypersleep aboard an ark orbiting a post apocalyptic Earth. The Doctor and his companions trigger the wake-up process. A handful of the colonists emerge but then discover that an insectoid race called the Wirren has infested the craft and the creatures propose to use the dormant humans as breeding hosts. It's essentially a classic sci-fi 'spam in a can' movie. I was surprised to see how much similarity there is to Alien (released four years later) and plaudits must go to the writers for exploring the insect breeding cycle successfully. There are even scenes duplicated by the Scott masterpiece - people crawling through heating ducts and groping around in gloomy hangar-bays.

However, the story is let down by the usual Who missteps. Too little story spread over too much time, poor camera coverage coupled with woeful editing and some really bad alien costumes. All this serves to erode any of the horror the writing does such a promising job of setting-up. Sadly one is left with a lacklustre second-rate sci-fi drama.

The story ends by neatly setting up the next adventure - The Sontaran Experiment which I have on my playlist.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Ra's pyramid

I have previously blogged about my love of Patrick Tatopoulos' production design work on the Stargate movie. You can understand my excitement, then, when I randomly discovered the video below. It's footage of the miniature alien pyramid prop. An auctioneer is selling something vaguely described as a 'panel' with the video embedded in the auction page.

In the movie the pyramid is often seen from afar, and in warm light. The video below makes it clear that the thing is actually a lot more colourful in real life. Some of the rows of stele are red. You can also make out the heiroglyphs on the sides in all their detail. Although it's no doubt a case of 'step and repeat', a lot of work has gone into the miniature. I love the hybrid Egyptian design aesthetic used for Ra and his minions' props and costumes. It nearly articulates the movie's central idea that, in fact, Egyptians were copying the alien culture.

I think what is being offered at auction is one of the bits of the pyramid miniature's surface. If that's the case it must be fairly small - perhaps 6" tall at most. Rather tellingly, the ebay listing doesn't specify the size of the piece. I suspect there's a bit of smoke and mirrors going on to try and fleece some poor charlie out of £699.