Saturday, 17 April 2010

Hebrew typographic art

Design Sponge recently featured the website of an Israeli-American artist who goes by the name Alef Betty who makes Hebrew typographic posters.

I'm often dismayed by how impossible it is to find an elegant typeface for Hebrew. I love the near-perfect logic and lilting melody of Hebrew, but I usually find the actual written language horrifyingly ugly. I suppose Hebrew is disadvantaged by being a sibling of Arabic, which has breathtaking, beautiful, flowing curves, and a vibrant tradition of calligraphy.

So I'm very surprised by how great these posters look. The artist hasn't designed new typefaces specially for the work, but has used very typical, canonical fonts. I guess it must be the composition of the pieces that draws out the unique charm of each typeface. The example above uses a very traditional typeface called Frank Ruhl, which I'm pretty sure I've seen dozens of times before, even with my limited experience of Hebrew. I usually find the lumpy, bumpy flourishes obtrusive, more like blemishes than flourishes. But here, with the letters milling about on the page like fish in an aquarium, they look animated and charming.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Best election debate ever!

My boyfriend and I got very giddy and hyper last night about Nick Clegg. I'm an exciteable enough person that this is no great surprise, but my boyfriend isn't easily excited about politicians. He never even got on the Obama bandwagon. We were particularly happy about his qualitative approach where the other parties are purely quantitative - for example, he highlighted the importance of spending money on the right military technology, rather than simply guaranteeing to spend a certain amount of money.

It's a long time since I've a politician make so much sense, and it's wonderful to see that based on the polls that have been carried out so far, the public seems to agree. This shows the fallacy of Cameron's apparent belief that reason is completely unimportant in political speeches. It's very promising stuff that gives me a smidgeon of hope that two months from now, reading about British politics won't consistently make me feel depressed.

I do have a couple of frivolous points that are bugging me. The set design was bloody awful. It looked like the debate was being carried out inside a half-finished lego building floating in a space nebula. Also, doesn't Brown have the weirdest body language? He looks really twisted and bent, and he tries to do the Blairite open-arms thing but he's too tense so he just looks like he's reaching out to shake someone.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

You are feeling very sleepy

From the day I was born, I have been a big fan of mysterious moving objects and well-proportioned shapes. So naturally, there's something about Weesee that enthralls me.

wee see - collection one from Rolyn Barthelman on Vimeo.

Weesee is supposed to be intended for babies, but it blatantly exists for ex-hippie, artsy adults, zonked out of their heads on sleep deprivation, who want something trippy to watch because you're not supposed to take LSD when you have a baby. Okay, that's a bit harsh. It's really for concerned parents who want to manage the terrifyingly unpredictable moods of their baby in a manner that is completely guilt-free, because it just happens to also be a way of turning your child into an artistic genius.

Personally, I'm many years away from the opportune moment at which to incubate a genetic hybrid of myself and some appealing male. From this safe distance, I'm completely baffled by the way that a parent's all-consuming love can be so easily combined with a paranoid control of every detail of another individual's life, right down to the level of fundamental psychological manipulation. But as an ex-hippie, artsy young adult, I'm likely to buy this kind of nonsense when I too am a proper grown-up. Especially since I don't do drugs and am therefore dependent on real-life weirdness to keep things exciting.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tea can treat allergies

It turns out that tea, particularly Assam, contains something called Methylated Catechins that suppresses the production of histamines. This means they can reduce allergic reactions! The Japanese National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science has even created a new strain of Assam that contains even more Methylated Catechins than usual, to combat the horrific hayfever they suffer in Japan (the strain is called Benifuki, in case you were wondering). Nobody yet seems to be able to say how effective this is in actually reducing symptoms, but I do like the idea that a nice, refreshing cup of Assam on a sunny spring day can guard against the airborne attacks of flowers, so beautiful yet so evil.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Scratch and sniff

Why does this toothbrush have a Scratch-n-sniff panel on it? Surely everyone already knows that brushing your teeth makes your mouth smell minty? If anybody out there needs scented packaging to be convinced of the value of brushing their teeth, or would be convinced to change their behaviour by a little, smelly sticker, then there is something wrong with this world.

I hate toothbrush manufacturers. The best toothbrushes I have ever owned consisted of a clean lined, plastic handle, in a pleasant white or blueish colour, and a small oval of soft bristles. At no point have I ever used a simple toothbrush like this and thought, 'If only the handle was bendier,' or, 'Sure, my teeth are clean - but what about my tongue?' or, 'Oh no! Due to the lack of a rubberised gripping surface the toothbrush has propelled itself out of my mouth and crashed into my mirror, sending shards of glass flying everywhere and blinding me for life!' I feel like I'm all alone in a world where toothbrushes have to be technologised into massive, vibrating lumps of multicoloured rubber with three different types of bristles on a head far larger than can comfortably fit in the human cheek. Aren't toothbrushes an insult to the core principles of design?

As far as I'm concerned, Aquafresh can shove their pointless pseudo-technology firmly into a place where scratching and sniffing will never yield a minty smell.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Awesome video games

Somehow I stumbled upon the world of independent computer games yesterday. I spent a few hours playing unusual platform games before chundering everywaah and taking myself to bed with a stomach virus. I don't think the games caused the virus, though, so you should definitely give these a go.

Closure is a dark, slightly scary game about some sort of nightmare world where the ground beneath you ceases to exist if it isn't illuminated. Using orbs of light and moving orb-holders you have to find your way out of a series of dimly lit rooms. It's an addictive puzzle game that grants you the intelligence to figure things out for yourself, rather than include one of those tedious introductory levels where some inexplicable dismembered voice from beyond the fourth wall patronisingly tells you how to walk. It's challenging without being impossible, and quite pretty despite being a simple flash platform game.

Rocketbirds revolution is a preposterously slick-looking cartoon game that seems to be based on the premise, 'What if Metal Gear Solid was a platform game about a chicken Rambo and Communist albatrosses.' The first stage is available for free, and the rest of the game is $10. I'll be saving that for after exams. Aside from looking really cool, it also has an amazing soundtrack. This makes it as cool as any action game or movie I've seen, but also ... it's about a chicken called 'Hard Boiled.'

Meat boy is a fun flash game that takes all of the elements of platform games from the early 1990s, but rearranges them around a cube of meat, a girl made of band-aids, and an evil genius foetus in a jar wearing a tuxedo. As you skid around the levels you leave a trail of blood behind you. Is it wrong that I think that's more adorable than gruesome? The flash game is a bit too simple and not quite pretty enough, but the team behind it are currently working on a much prettier, high-definition remake (called Super Meat Boy, of course) for Xbox Live Arcade, Wii, PC and eventually, Mac. Weirdly, the programmer on the team is really opinionated against the iPhone and insists that Meat Boy wouldn't work on the iPhone platform, even though the gameplay consists solely of skidding around and jumping off walls, which could easily be achieved by tilting the device and pressing a 'jump' button. I guess some people just really like to use four buttons where one would do.

Oh, how I love the shiny

I've been laid up with a 24-hour stomach virus, and I thought it would be a good idea to disinfect the bathroom before the cleaning lady comes so that neither she nor any of the other students who use that bathroom have to catch my horrible disease. This is only about the fifth time I've cleaned a bathroom and clearly it hasn't lost its novelty yet. I get a kind of manic pleasure knowing that 99.9% of germs are being cleansed away. And then there's the shiny aura of clean, white porcelain glistening back at me as if to say 'thankyou, kind lady!'. I'm welling up with actual joy about this. It's not even hysteria caused by the fever, I felt this the last four times I cleaned a bathroom. Am I crazy?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Facebook status-tics

I recently made the decision to hide someone from my facebook news feed. This is not a decision I take lightly. I decided to carry out a careful statistical analysis of all their facebook statuses from the past two weeks to make sure that a sufficiently large proportion of their facebook statuses annoy me for them to be worthy of exclusion from my news feed. This, I'm sure you agree, is what any sane person would do.

I defined as annoying anything that related to death, mafia wars (excluding notifications from the app) any complaints of any sort, and quotes, which includes movies, songs, tv, stand up comedians, old jokes, or any viral copy-paste statuses. Almost three-quarters of the facebook user's statuses were annoying by this definition.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Manchu chinese women were basically punks

I'm really excited by this article in the V&A museum's online journal. The writer of the article is studying the same MA course that I'm going to do next year, so it's fun for me to see what kind of interesting things people have written on that course in the past.

The article is about 'horse hoof' shoes worn by Manchu Chinese women. They were designed to make the feet look bigger and the wearer taller, and were intended as the antithesis of Han Chinese footbinding practices.

A particular design issue that arose in this context was how Manchu women could perform their femininity while wearing 'a long Daoist robe.' The design of their shoes was closely related to their mode of dress through movement. Han Chinese women were supposed to walk discreetly, while the Manchu 'qipao' and high-soled, noisy shoes made their wearers more conspicuous when they were walking. Some courtesans' and wealthy women's shoes were ornamented with jewels and bells in order to draw still further attention to them when walking.

I love the image of these brash, Manchu women who used to be nomadic hunters stomping around Chinese villages making a lot of jingle-jangle noises. It kind of reminds me of how I feel when I'm wearing my knee-high, PVC, 10-inch platform-heeled boots. I don't wear them very often, but when I do I feel very aware of the need to lift my legs properly and stride around like Lara Croft. It's awesome.