Friday, April 27, 2012

Free Universal Toy Construction Kit

This Universal Construction Kit created by F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab, makes all brick toys (and not so brick toys) compatible. We're talking Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles (Bristle Blocks), Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob and the ability to connect each brand to any other brand.

And its free. Of course there's a catch. You need a 3D printer to produce the collection of 80 parts. Even so. Holy shnikees.

Happiness bomb.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hef comes out swinging for women in GOP war

It may seem hard to believe but Playboy founder and pajama enthusiast Hugh Hefner actually likes women. According to Politico, Hef published a rare editorial in the magazine's May issue, condemning the Republican war on women and attempting to stoke what he called a "new sexual revolution":
"If these zealots have their way, our hard-won sexual liberation — women’s rights, reproductive rights and rights to privacy — lie in peril. We won’t let that happen."
This undoubtedly will be criticised as self-serving; if women are shamed into keeping their legs together, Hefner is less likely to get laid (let's not dwell on logistics or visuals). But having lived through the glorious decade(s) these comparatively whippersnapper politicians laud as some kind of lost golden age – and considering he started publishing the magazine in 1953 – Hef is in a unique position to call bullshit.  I have a fondness for Playboy; maybe it's because I grew up in Chicago in the 70s, when sexual liberation reached the suburbs and The Playboy Club seemed so glamorous (my dad was a member).

I appreciate the magazine is responsible for a lot of damage when it comes to sexism and objectifying women. And although many feminists will regard his editorial as suspect, Hefner has undeniably had a unique insight into womens' sexuality during the past six decades – our sexual liberation was absolutely in Playboy Enterprises' best interest.

The magazine reaches an audience that has little crossover with... say... Jezebel, and its readership is more likely to listen to Hef than a feminist movement that might come off as unapproachable or has been misrepresented by its enemies. Without strong women, Playboy is nothing: Hef started his empire on a $1000 loan from his mother and his daughter ran the company from 1982-2009. 

 I'm pleased to see Hefner add his voice and influence to the cause. Men are less likely to gaslight other men and as ridiculous as Hefner has become, it's a lot harder for old rich white men to rubbish another old rich white man's opinion as 'hysteria'.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wordless Diagrams

There is something appealing about diagrams without language. You've entered a realm of mystical symbology. Like when Ikea got rid of all the words in their instructions.

That's why I'm lusting over Wordless Diagrams by award-winning illustrator and graphic designer Nigel Holmes. The universalness of the messages are like big language-transcending hugs to humanity. Inside this whimsical picture-book are practical guides to complex tasks such as how to program your VCR, or how to kiss hello in different countries. These graphic explanations are uncomplicated and easy to understand (though I wouldn't recommend attempting the diagram for performing a facelift, unless of course there was some sort of zombie apocalypse spy ring scenario.  In that case, please, save the world).

Listen to an interview with the author on NPR and don't forget to visit Holmes' website which is wordless too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fancy Dress - Pin-up of the Month

The Gorgonist is Robin Kaplan, a Pacific Northwest Illustrator, who runs a self-proclaimed monstrously charming sketchblog.

Some of the imagery has an Erte-like ephemera or composition similar to vintage Leonetto Cappiello art deco prints. However, drawing subjects run the gamut of sweet, plucky, strawberry-shortcake reminiscent science fiction (pictured above) to steampunk enguenues, anything from Alice's Robotic Tea Party to a Victorian Lady with a delicately coiffed centipede. Bless her geeky, little heart.

Super bonuses for you: Homages to Doctor Who (with companions) and Firefly (wipes tear).

The whimsical prints can be purchased at her Etsy Shop and io9 has review of her Sci-fi based art at Fancy girls dress up as Droids, Daleks, and Death Stars.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

You Scream, I Scream, we all scream for The Scream

"The Scream?" the doorman asks. I nod. "Straight through and up the stairs to your left."
"No screaming," says another doorman, pointing to the infant strapped to my chest.
I check my bag and go through three security checkpoints before finally entering a dark room containing more security than punters and one £50m pastel glowing sinuously from the far wall.

I have a two-minute audience with Edvard Munch's The Scream, the third version he created of four (not counting his woodcuts, known as The Cry) and the only one in private hands. It is making its way to auction at Sotheby's in New York next month by way of a limited London showing. It is also the only one to actually leave Norway: the other three, all in Oslo museums, are not insurable to lend due to the potential for theft, which only adds to the appeal. (One of them was simply lifted off the wall and walked out, apparently.)

Originally created for Norwegian shipbuilder Thomas Olsen, this version is pastel on board and features a prose poem by Munch painted on the original frame. It also has a variation: of the two figures on the bridge, which are either approaching or retreating from the central figure, one is leaning against the bridge's handrail, forehead in hand. It changes the reading of the piece, which Munch himself never revealed.

Behind me the experts are educating. One is pontificating on the "flowing lines", which I can't help but think is the kickoff to a pickup, and another -- a man in his late 50s with longish grey hair, square frames and a tendency to pat his rear end, as all the men here seem to do -- explains the origin of this painting to a dim but excruciatingly well-dressed American woman, who apparently couldn't be arsed to read the exact same text outside the gallery, despite the fact it was on a display 30 feet high. If this broad has £50m to drop on a painting there in no justice.

Nobody says how the pastels really just look like Crayola, that the piece is much bloodier than any of the reproductions suggest, or that the face, which is mostly unworked board peaking through, is ghostly and washed out in comparison to the rest of the saturated colouring and therefore that much more haunting and sad. They also don't comment on how small it is. The smaller version of the inflatable scream my other bought me during my mid-twenties breakdown is surprisingly comparable in size.

What they also don't say is how much more impressive it is in person, or more pointedly, how disappointing other masterworks are up close: the Mona Lisa is impossible to get to as it hides behind Plexiglas and flash-popping tourists, who not only seem oblivious to the fact that each flash is physically damaging the paint but also are taking pictures of a painting they could easily buy reproductions of in the Louvre's many gift shops. At MoMa they click-click flash-flashed around van Gogh's Starry Night as though proud of themselves for recognising at least one masterwork, as if that damn painting isn't a screen saver for dorm room walls. The ubiquitousness of Leonado da Vinci or Vincent van Gogh -- and their merchandising -- makes their work underwhelming up close, but the opposite is true of Munch. Inflatable Screams, key chains, postcards, prints, finger puppets, and Simpsons parodies aside (I am guilty of buying all of these), the violence and horror in his work -- which prompted a ban by the Nazis, if you can stomach that particular irony -- make his pieces that much more immediate and striking.

Hopefully a museum not in Norway will buy The Scream next month and not some rich bastard who will squirrel it away on a yacht or some such shit. Not that there's anything wrong with visiting Oslo, of course. But.

And if anyone has a copy of The Mystery of The Scream board game, please let me know. I'm dying to play it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Closet in Sketches

My Closet in Sketches is an adult picture book, an illustrated journal if you will, with delightful hand-drawn doodles, which also happens to be the blog of fashion illustrator, Lauren Friedman. 

I dunno. I kinda dig, you know, fashion sketches. Kat McLeod blew my mind apart with her mixed media, paper doll-like art, which graced the page of and absolutely glittering cocktail book.

But Friedman's art is completely different. The smudgy water-colored shoes and impressions of bracelets and bangles make a statement about how empathic these pretty things make us feel. And her post about a wet, hot American Spring makes me feel good in a Liz Phair sort of way.

Judge for yourself.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Play to Win

NYLON magazine ran Diane Vadino's article, "Play to Win," (zip to page 170) a short, playful, fashiony article featuring Rue (Amandla Stenberg), Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman), Glimmer (Leven Rambin) and Foxface (Jackie Emerson), all minor characters in the Hunger Games movie.

Yes, I saw the Hunger Games at 12:00 AM the day of its release. Yes, I saw it without any (lame) friends who may have been worried about being groggy the next day at work. Yes, I bought myself an excruciating amount of exorbitantly priced popcorn. Yes, the theatre was packed. And no, no, no, I did not regret one minute. Especially not when some young lads in the balcony (thank you, Uptown theatre) began chanting "Peeta! Peeta!" before hand.

First, Amandla Stenberg (Rue) is dressed adorably throughout the 4-page spread. Second, there is a reason Nylon is focusing on the ladies, and it's not because of the typical female reasons.

A friend (I'm looking at you mlle kitty) asked me what the fuss was about. And it's this: Harry Potter was dark, and the characters did anything to defeat evil, for justice, for freedom, perhaps just because they had the courage to do it. Spoiler: Everything works out in the end. Everybody gets a family; gets a good job; gets the girl. Even Draco gets a girl.

In the Twilight series, the world is dark, and heck, why not, because the world is hyper-romantic and the main characters do anything for love. Love conquers all right? If you love someone enough you can make it work, no? You can change the world. You can even change yourself.

Well, in the Hunger Games, the world is dark, and the characters will do anything to ... eat. The sappy, doe-eye, idealistic characters are ... all men. Depression and disappointment and bad luck means starvation, and perhaps a brutal death, while the affluent one percent cheers your demise. Attempts to escape mean punishment and humiliation and silence. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, it does. It sounds like real life.

Here is a dash of realism that Vadino did not overlook. "The stakes of victory are not the triumph of good  over evil, but, for most of them, the sad remaining years of a life interrupted ... The Hunger Games is the right match for the cash-strapped wartime during which it was created."

Okay, also the lead character, Katniss, is a steel-hearted, huntress who can shoot a deer through the eye.


Monday, April 9, 2012

DC Comic Mimomicro Card Readers

Mimoco began making drool-worthy 'mimomicro' portable data drives in 2005. My hands still shake when I realise I never got these paws on the Princess Lei USB drive.

The Boston-based geniuses have now opened a line of superhero based gadgets after collaberating with DC Comics. Each device has a built-in keychain, a flip out USB port, an LED light so you know its working.

If you can hear me God, forgive me for Princess Lei mishap only if I get my hands on Wonder Woman.

You. want. this. don't you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

In the Tower

You still have a chance to catch at the National Gallery of Art exhibit, "In the Tower" by Mel Bochner. The show is a retrospective of 43 thesaurus-inspired works from the last 45 years.

Give me a minute ... (squeeeeee!). Okay. I'm done.

Explore the transistion of the bomb (bad) to the bomb (good) and other language evolutions painted as conceptual art using words as a medium.
A schedule of art talks can be found here.

Did you know he used to compose portraits to his friends composed of synonyms describing them? Best. present. ever.

Get off your duff, it's only through April 29th.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Enlightened Bracketologist

Various so-called friends have ridiculed me for my list addiction. So I've documented my top ten favorite movie kissing scenes. And my top ten favorite dance scenes (Footloose makes both lists BTW). I've always had trouble picking a favorite.

Welcome to the land of The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything, by Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir, is a book that uses NCAA Tournament-style brackets to answer life's difficult questions. You know like what's the best American craft beer? Or your boss's most annoying habit? Maybe not deep questions but probing ones.

Bracketology parses people, places, and things into discrete one-on-one matchups then pits them in an intellectual knock out tournament. At the end we are the winner by understanding what we we prefer. Simple.

Try making your own bracket system to help you make the best life choices ... like what to do with an hour of leisure time. You're probably ready to throw in the Towel with your office pool bracket anyhow.