15 October 2010

G17 Trailer Cobla la Principal d'Amsterdam

For Edition 17. Animation and deisgn of intro and outro.

Dag in de Branding - Promo Trailer

Design and animation of intro for Dag in de Branding, Festival for new music in The Hague, the Netherlands.

12 October 2010

Knitted Imprint.

The widows, sisters, lovers and mothers of men that have been lost during Peru's internal conflict between the Mao-inspired rebels of the Shining Path rebels and state forces in the 1980s and 90s have gotten together to knit a 'scarf of hope'. [BBC article:]

"Each one is knitting a message or epitaph to their loved one the size of an A4 sheet of page which will form part of an enormous scarf which, it is hoped, will reach a kilometre in length. 

It is being called the Scarf of Hope and it aims to be more than just a symbol of Peru's estimated 15,000 "disappeared" but a physical reminder that in the majority of cases their relatives live on without ever knowing how they died nor where to find their remains. 

"It's like a piece of memory," says Marina Garcia Burgos, a Lima-based photographer who was inspired to initiate the project with two colleagues while working in Ayacucho. "Each woman chooses the colour and the knit of her panel. As well as embroidering the loved one's name, some also sew on a piece of their clothing or a photograph."

It's a collective work of art with a great deal of emotional power behind it. It's probably one of the few truly sincere attempts at creating something guiness record worthy for a genuine, heartfelt purpose. In Peru, the indentification of the dead is often aided by the knit of the clothing the person wears. Almost like a secret code women plant on their men before they go into the world.

06 October 2010

Narrative Fantasy Art.

Stuck in Dragon Age. Funny how my interests keep twisting and turning from one area to another just-like-that. It's almost like I'm having a running conversation with myself while stoned. Last week I became absolutely obssessed with patterns and now I'm totally hooked on game art. Years ago, before art school, I wanted nothing more than to learn how to make elaborately rendered fantasy worlds. That was why I chose to major in Animation. The eventual idea was to end up developing narratives and making concept art for games.

Lately I've been thinking of doing that again. Creating worlds and characters are fun! I found the website of this funny Norwegian artist while looking up character art of GRR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire's Arya Stark. I love his plan view drawings for the board game "Mansions of Madness". I have still yet to meet anyone intelligent that didn't appreciate beautiful minatures (whether real or drawn). There's something about it that triggers the narrative instinct in us, and immedeatly weaves a cloud of story in our minds.

30 September 2010

Deco Fan Print.

More prints. Inspired by those turn of the century novels. A friend of mine from long days pasts back in time to my primary schoolgirl days contacted me and said they'd look nice on the dust jackets of books. Check out the new Penguin Classics covers :)

Creative Commons Licence

28 September 2010

Begonia Rex Print

Aftter days of digging around online for inspiration, I've decided to get down to it and make my own. There's a lot of lovely, cute stuff out there, but very few that strike a chord with me. My favourite prints are still from Erika Wakerly. Personalljavascript:void(0)y, I prefer prints that are more abstract, drawing inspiration from scientific illustrations of exotic flora and fauna and geometry.

Inspired by the Begonia Rex plant on my kitchen still.

Creative Commons Licence

27 September 2010

The Closing of the Western Mind.

The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason
Philip had this awesome book on his shelf dedicated to books solely against religion. I can't think something like this is happening again, but the religion this time is the school of rubbish economic development policies. In the hope to preserve their power and current status in the world, the paranoid economise engineer their own demise.  Here are a few reasons why:
Their Moon Shot and Ours, NYT.
China is doing moon shots. Yes, that’s plural. When I say “moon shots” I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers — from America — giving China the largest number in the world in one institute to launch its own stem cell/genetic engineering industry; and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities. In essence, China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars.
Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan.
And the UK cutting funds for science and axing the film council.

The moral? The good guys get shafted and the bad ones are allowed to do as they please. Because after the expensive mistakes they made, they surely must be billions of dollars the wiser to manage the economy better.

21 September 2010

Grow House Grow.

I found this collection of wallpapers inspired by female naturalist during the Victorian era. I think they are an interesting artistic tribute to the work of the scientists represented. I like the designs for their quirkiness, although I think it is the narrative behind the design that makes these wallpapers more than they are on the surface.

Mary Treat (1830-1923) was an American-born naturalist devoted to the understanding of carnivorous plants. Throughout her many years of autodidactic study, Treat made extensive contributions to the botanical world, published several books and was an outspoken correspondent to Charles Darwin.

Treat and Darwin’s recorded discourse extends over five years, and most notably involves the inner workings of the Utricularia plant's trap. Darwin believed insects wedged their heads into the traps, thus becoming stuck and then consumed. Treat's extensive research, fueled by her curiosity and vigor for experimentation, revealed that the Utricularia plant actually snapped shut when small hairs around the entrance of the trap were triggered. Treat so influenced Darwin's understanding on the subject that he references her several times in his Insectivorous Plants (1875).

Though much of Treat's work has been forgotten, four species of plants and animals bear her name, including the ant species Aphaenogaster treatiae. Look hard enough, and you might spy one of the little critters within her leafy carnivorous menagerie. 

Mary Ward (1827-1869) was born into to a renowned scientific family in Co. Offaly, Ireland, she was educated at home with her sisters and by the age of three had developed a penchant for collecting bugs. These insects became the subject of study for Mary, and with the help of a magnifying glass she began meticulously drawing and reproducing their details. By a stroke of luck, astronomer James South discovered the drawings, and was so impressed with her talent that he persuaded her father to invest in a microscope.

Owning her own microscope allowed her to transform her love of insects into full-blown, self-taught microscopy. She spent her time reading everything she could get her hands on regarding the subject, and became so skilled that her knowledge surpassed that of most experts. Over the years she wrote a series of books, of which A World of Wonders Revealed by the Microscope (1858) was reprinted eight times. It became a go-to student text in the field of microscopy, which considering her sex, is truly representative of her talent.

Further distinctions include her work as an illustrator for scientific publications, and her significant status as one of just three female recipients of the Royal Astronomical Society's newsletter (of the other two women, one was Queen Victoria).

True to her love of scale, this pattern blends late-Georgian silhouettes with over-sized insects; an entomologist's dream.
Visit Grow House Grow.

20 September 2010

There is Light on Earth.

Poverty is big business, and it's really quite amazing how designers have managed to put a gloss over the whole affair and market poverty as a pet project for the rest of us not in the majority. Artemide's new campaign features light sculptures by some of the world's top designers throwing light onto evocative portraits of some of the heroes in the world of aid and political turbulance.

It's a very catchy idea. Now if only the people with the most money had a bit more taste (see Inside the world's mos opulent private jets.), this campaign might just be more then just a very clever gimmick selling light fittings.

19 September 2010

Generous Gesture

While digging around for awesome fonts, I came across Generous Gesture. Another one of those fair trade outfits that provide decent work and decent pay for the underprivileged in Bangladesh. I'm skeptical as to how much these women are paid for every €129 shawl is sold, but they are very beautiful. I particularly like how the letters are stiched on. They would be a lot better though, if there were a wider variety of fonts to choose from.

16 September 2010

Natural Media.

Gosh, am I so behind the curve? I noticed while cycling to the gym a few days ago an imprint on the pavement advertising the location of the Gemeente Museum. These imprints are very popular in Holland, and are done by a company called Green Graffiti.

It's genius isn't it. You don't ever have to pay for advertising space, it's natural and oh-so-playful. Reminds me of that Art Attack show I used to watch when I was a kid where the guy goes out into nature and makes a really, really big piece of art with random materials. Like salt, sand, chipwood, etc.

The work at Curb is pretty amazing. There's something beautiful about taking such precise forms and implementing them in nature.

15 September 2010

Interactive Magazines.

I saw this today.

It might not look like much in terms of the differences between the layouts of magazines form print to digital, but one day we'll look back at those mag archives and wonder at how stale the experience had been before these arrived.

The magazines I regularly read are New Scientist, Wallpaper and the Economist. I think particularly for mags whoes sole function is to instill material desire (like Wallpaper) e-readers are fantastic. You get to see the glam in 3-D, like in The Elements, for the iPad. I can't help but wish such things were around while I was still studying high school science. For visual thinkers, words and static images just don't cut it. Digital animation can get to the point faster and clearer. As for political magazines, linking to interactive infographics can get the point across so much better, cross referencing alot easier.

I also have a particular love for Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I know it's great that because books usually don't have pictures in them, you're compelled into imagining your own. But sometimes, it's just nice to have pictures, and e-readers can link to the best fan art out there. Why not?

27 July 2010

Coming of age in Bumfuck nowhere.

While working on my novel today, I was reminded of Very Annie-Mary, a film I saw in 2003 in a small art house cinema in Christchurch. The concept of an Art-House cinema didn't exist in Singapore there. If you wanted art films, you had to go to the alliance francaise (which didn't necessarily show only French films- the last time I was there was to see an animated American remake of the Ramayana).

In it, Rachel Griffiths plays Anne-Mary, an introverted, repressed small town girl with a big voice, kept under the mysogynistic thumb of her father, Jack Pugh,  played by Jonathan Pryce. As the town baker, he delivers his loaves in a Luciano Pavarotti mask. Whenever his feet get cold, he uses Annie-Mary as a human sleeping bottle.

Funnily enough, while listening to the BBC Radio's The Strand, a recent movie of Griffiths came up. Beautiful Kate is directed by Rachel Ward,  and set in the Australian outback. It is about impossible love, comming of age and family secrets. The interesting thing about the film is that Ward has set it in the present, with flashbacks tot he 80's; what she has attempted to recreate is an impossible romance for a cynical audience in a permissive society.

I love films set in the outback; I love minimalist films set in bumfuck no-where in general. They are always beautiful and exotic, infused with a sense of the Edenic utopia gone awry. The remind me of my childhood, where life was slow, the days were always warm and humid, nothing ever changed -not even the weather- and that little neighbourhood was all there was to life.

Another one I watched recently was Down in the Valley, where Edward Norton plays a delusional cowboy who falls in love with a teenage girl, played by Evan Rachel Wood (the "Queen" in True Blood).

I think about these films are that because there's less going on, a lot more attention is paid to simple details, like how the light would fall througha flower vase or how people say their words, and all those other little details that are in our lives, everday, that we fail to notice.

23 July 2010

From Africa to NY.

One of my favourite contemporary artists, Wangechi Mutu has an exhibition in Brussels till September, at a contemporary art space called WIELS, which is slightly off the main core of the city. I think the aesthetic and emotional response her work yields is throughly compelling; a mixture of sensuality dashed with repulsion.

Another African artist based in NY I also love is Julie Mehretu.

“Julie Mehretu’s abstract paintings explore the often unwieldy issues of mobility, social organization, political entanglement, and global competition. Most cities are built, dismantled, and rebuilt over time, yielding structures and spaces that reflect ongoing urban change. Mehretu’s paintings follow a similar course as she layers and, in her most recent works, erases information from her compositions, showing how each new level becomes a foundation for new iterations, stories, and identities. Embedded in her abstract images, are elements taken from architectural blue prints, maps, sports arenas, and commercial logos.”

02 June 2010

Milos Sadik

Long ago I used to do some modeling for this Brit-Serb Photog. He also commissioned me to design his site.www.milossadik.com
Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

City, Town, Village.

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30 May 2010

Fash & Fun.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

28 May 2010


Website for Singapore-Norwegian Television company, Earthtree. http://www.earthtree.com.sg/

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27 April 2010

Beyond Words

Writing has come a long way since the first scratches of abstracted images on stone. It has influenced the way we think by giving us the ability to record our thoughts visually, which has in turn, contributed to the collective memory of society over the millennia.

For most people, writing is separate from the plastic arts. The form of text has nothing to do with the content of the words that are written. It is reasonable to assume that since the words have meaning in themselves, independent of the way they are written or presented, then the method in which they are put down in ink or print, and finally viewed, is of negligible importance. Only that the words are legible and that the conditions for writing and reading them in are sufficiently conducive.

However, this isn’t always the case. Writing is a visual means for the structuring and communication of information and sellers of luxury notebooks have managed to exploit this to the extreme. In some circles, notebook keeping has become an art in the recording and presentation of visual-textual information. Linear narratives are the norm, but ideas, like puzzles of all sorts, can be expressed through disparate patches of coherent thought, with embellished texts, emoticons, detailed diagrams and what not, later then on to be linked together to form the final picture or solution.


There are many situations in which a non-linear method of the presentation of an idea or thought is preferable to a linear one. A large collection of information on a particular subject, for example, might be best expressed on a two-fold page spread that shows collections of data from different aspects that are important to its understanding. Many contemporary news journals employ this to great effect, taking advantage of the reader’s ability to link disparate information together. However, this form of information presentation is also easily exploited, as no untruth needs to be said if the author wishes the audience to infer a biased opinion.

In the 1920s, the German Dadaists combined in collages, disparate texts and pictures to make politically charged art. The value in the text consisted of both the definition of the word itself, for example, LOVE, and its typographic style, and of course the pictures that accompanied it. Textual information cannot be consumed out of context, be it on the printed page, or in the current social and political climate. The words “World Trade Center” have different connotations pre and post 9/11.
In the days before writing machines were invented, penmanship was of great importance. Good penmanship signified good upbringing, civility and class. For a few decades, graphology was even an accepted subject at institutes of higher learning. However, like astrology, there has been no scientific proof to back it up, only opinion. And mere opinion alone only ever ranges from the merely entertaining to the potentially harmful.

But since the advent of machine type, good penmanship has fallen into the fold and is now only of importance to parents with very young children who still believe good handwriting is a sign of intelligence, discipline and adequate neuromotor control.

Since the early 1800’s, Typography has steadfastly usurped penmanship over the visual meaning of words such that the form of the text implies information beyond the text itself. And ever since designers realized the power of designed text to affect our environment and our social and political consciousness, they have exploited it to great effect.


22 April 2010


Panels from a styling sheet for a 2 minute video on how we will live in the year 2030. The concept behind this is that in an attempt to live greener lives, we live in denser, increasingly self sufficient cities, which place less burden on our strained ecology.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

09 April 2010

About Babelogica

Babelogica is a personal blog on design and media culture by Isabella Chen. The content is focused on how contemporary design affects the way we think, live and value the things that seem to matter to us. It is about how designers attempt to give structure and imbue value into our environments through their craft, but also about how design trends also arise from the ground up; be it there urban organization of developing metropolises, the adoption of trailer trash fashion trends by haute couture, etc.

Isabella Chen is a story artist, graphic designer and a writer on trends in society, with a focus on design, science and technology. She currently specializes in narrative design for both print and video.

This basically means she does research, writes articles and/or scripts, draws story-boards, and does layouts.

09 March 2010

Dresden Codak

Finally been introduced to Dresden Codak. It's the ultimate geek comic. The way I see it, it's a steampunk adventure story that draws from a multitude of theories about the natural world (regardless of whether they have been proven or not) some of them rather fantastical, and weaves stories using these elements. It's like the comic I've been looking for for years. It's not all science fiction, although it does have an element of that, and it's not SF in the vein of Star Wars of Battlestar Galactica. It's much less bombastic and not as epic, and there's a lot more focus on the geek side of things. It takes all the new funky discoveries you might read in WIRED or Discover and integrates it into the world. It's awesomeness.

03 March 2010

Donatella Versace and the Uncanny Valley

The world would be a far less horrific place if there was a cap on what sort of plastic surgery a person can get. I was watching the Versace story on the Bio channel when it occurred to me how Donatella V. has joined the ranks of plasticked out women and entered the Uncanny Valley.

It's prophetic I swear. Like something out of a bad Science Fiction movie where robots and humans eventually converge into the Uncanny valley, one in the attempt for naturalism, the other, for artificiality. Eventually Earth is overwhelmed by a race of sub-humans with repulsive faces from which you can not read anything from. With all emotion and feeling abolished from facial expression, we become a race where emotions are felt from a statistical analysis of events and actions from a person's past.

Seriously, can you imagine an entire drama with actors that have undergone so much plastic surgery you can't read their expressions anymore? Oh wait... no need to imagine there.

Fear not...


The closest thing we have to "fact" is "common opinion." Everything is an opinion. The way you dress is an expression of your opinion. Your religious beliefs are your opinion. The music you turn up loud is your opinion. For most people it's easier to just agree.

For me the hardest thing is to 'just' agree and that is what sparks creativity, the feeling that something can be better, the feeling that something's missing, the feeling that something's needed.

- Kanye West

Events Odyssey

Promotional material for an events company.
Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

24 February 2010

City Short: Rotterdam

Soon to be my new home! (Well sort of, I'll be in The Hague first) I like the words unplanned, organic, spontaneous and unexpected when describing a city.

Travel Offbeat and fiercely committed to the new, Rotterdam is home to a number of respected architects and designers. Here, designers Joep and Jeroen Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw from Demakersvan, architect Reinier de Graaf of OMA and architect Ben van Berkel of UNstudio talk about the city's redevelopment, its diversity and how it inspires their work.
Click to watch video: City Short: Rotterdam

23 February 2010

Budapest Tramlines

Okay I finally made something to submit to CSS Zen Garden. That place has been around forever and I've always wanted to do something. It's my little tribute to my time in Budapest.

20 February 2010

Right should always feel this Wrong.

To all the awesome, daring, crazy people I've known through romping around in this crazy jungle of sex, drugs, rock n' roll (or electronic music, or Wagner, or whatever). I can safely say I do not know anyone who has lived their lives like my parents did. In the wake of failed marriages, used hearts, alternative sexual arrangements, post-traumatic stress disorder, social humiliation, body modifications, synthetic mental enhancement, voluntarily physical torture, long term sleep deprivation, streaking naked and other such self-deprecating acts. Despite it all, or perhaps, because of it all, you give me a reason to believe that the life of insanity is a life that is infinitely rewarding.

The following is an extract from a Paul Arden interview.

Hermann Vaske
Why is it WRONG to be right?

Paul Arden
Being right is based upon knowledge and experience and is often provable. Knowledge comes from the past, so it's safe. It's also out of date.

It's the opposite of originality.

Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems.

And if you can prove you're right, you're set in concrete. You cannot move, with the times or with other people.

Being right is also boring. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas. You are rooted in your own rightness, which is arrogant. Arrogance is a very valuable tool, but only if used very sparingly. Worst of all, being right has a tone of morality about it. To be anything else sounds weak or fallible and people who are right would hate to be thought fallible.

So it's wrong to be right. Because people who are right are rooted in the past; rigid-minded; dull and smug. There's no talking to them. (nonononononononononononononononono)

Hermann Vaske
And why is it right to be WRONG?

Paul Arden
Start being wrong and suddenly anything is possible. The future opens up. Ideas are allowed back in. You are no longer trying to be infallible. Safety is out, excitement in.

You are in the unknown.

You're pushing the frontiers out, extending the imagination into places it's never been. There's no way of knowing what can happen, but there's more chance of it being amazing than if you try to be right.

No one can be be blamed if it doesn't work. Blame belongs to moral situations and being wrong steps outside morality. Also, blame is an attempt to back out of responsibility and what else is responsibility but the ability to respond? People respond much faster to temptation and excitement and other aspects of wrongness, than they do to people being right.

Of course, being wrong is a risk. Risks are a measure of people. People who won't take them are trying to preserve what they have. People who do take them often end up by having more.
Being wrong isn't in the future, or in the past.
Being wrong isn't anywhere but being here. NOW.

Paul Arden was creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi in their most creative years in the eighties.

17 February 2010

Revenge Is... Deconstructionist Architecture.

Whatever that was supposed to mean. No one really knows what "deconstructionist" anything is, I think that it cannot be understood in any concrete terms is an inherent value in the word itself. It's quite alright when they're just words that mean nothing, but another problem altogether when they manifest themselves in three dimensions.

I personally have no problems with outrageous modern architecture, I quite love them in fact. It makes the urban landscape much more exciting. For sure, there are plenty of failed experiments, but to get from one successful peak or design to another requires a few failures. Unsuccessful variations on a theme that worked well. It's alright as long as architectural frivolity happens primarily in the developed world. Post-modern design and all it's non-functionality is eye-candy or intellectual wank, luxuries for the rich.

The Telegraph has an article on this: "Architecture should please the public, not spite them". It starts of as a rant against Daniel Libeskin's extension to the Dresden Military History Museum.

I actually like spaces like that in places like museums. People that hang around in modern museums usually have some time to kill, and contemporary art work doesn't always want to display itself on a wall perpendicular to the ground. Also, crazy architecture gives room for elements of surprise and surreality when you're in a space. The transition of walking from a traditionally built environment to a modern one can also be novel and stimulation. Spaces like that are not ideal of living or working in, but as a temporary escape from reality, they can be interesting experiences.

The comments at the end of the article are hilarious. One guy says, commenting on the Dresden Museum, "So he's of Polish origin, is he? Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold, and after 70 years it must be well chilled."

15 February 2010

Melbourne Southern Star

The Ferris wheel has got to be up there on the list of useless things in the world just asking to be re-imagined into something better. Things don't have to be useful to exist, but the Ferris wheel isn't even fun. One can suppose it's value comes from the provision of a unique city skyline... whoops, I think not! I suppose it's become a sort of symbol for major cities around the world, with names that bring out the inherent wishes and hopes of the people living in the city. The Singapore Flyer, the Melbourne Southern Star, the London Eye: for an increasingly paranoid city of pedophiles and junkies.

That said, they are structures that stir the imagination. Carriages that suspend you in the air and go about in a circular motion, without the intention to achieve anything. Perhaps it's elliptical structure is used to break the monotony of modernist steel blocks that rule the skyline of most modern cities. Being something different, it calls out at people to imagine it in ever more different ways.

Behold, the Melbourne Southern Star, re-imagined...

we came up with the following reuse strategy; a greek windmill inspired sci-fi future with a ‘wind driven, solar sail energy collecting wheel, as a hub for a new fleet of flying steam powered trams’ to alleviate congestion in a newly greened Melbourne. Click on the images to view the full scale versions.
 Via BuroNorth.

12 February 2010

HBO's Autistic Slaughterhouse Architect

Half a decade ago I picked up "Thinking in Pictures" from the book exchange tray outside the University Mini-mart. It was more like a supermarket trolley than a tray really, and as a place meant for discarded books, it had a quite a lot of decent books in it. The book is the personal biography of Temple Grandin, who is an autistic slaughterhouse architect. I'm not really surprised someone finally made a movie about her life, although the combination of "autistic" and "slaughterhouse architect" did make me think that it was possibly one of the weirdest memoirs out there, and that it was such a niche topic the book was not about to become a best-seller anytime. But there you have it, HBO has made "Temple Grandin", the biopic of a slaughterhouse architect.

On retrospect, it does have the makings of a film with great popular appeal. It is two things that a certain type of person (e.g. the Social Liberal) would find compelling in a story. The humane treatment of animals and the understanding of people that are significantly different from the rest of us. Like some of the reviews say it, it's a cross between "Fast Food Nation" and "Rain Man". Throw in the feminist element and it's one hell of a lefty hit.

The biography is really refreshingly written too. Temple Grandin's autism puts her on an extreme end of the visual-logical segment of the intelligence matrix, and this way of thinking is expressed in her style of writing. I feel like I really got a sense of how she thought through the way she strung sentences together. She is also shocking self-aware at times, and I remember thinking occasionally, while reading the book, that the way she wrote was so straight forward and honest that it was unmistakably different. It was like entering another world, but one that actually exists and is a part in all of us. Only that it can't be reached because our brains are wired differently.  

Also, who knew how much thought had to go into designing slaughterhouses. A knowledge of the animal, and animal crowd behaviour, and the designs that can affect them psychologically for better or for worse. In this case, as in a lot of other cases to do with living spaces, the form definitely affects the function. 

10 February 2010

Extapolating into the Future.

This is an old one. We all know we'll always get it wrong when it comes to technological progress. We're always stuck way behind the curve when predicting new gadgets that would consume our lives like a steamy romance always in need of an upgrade. Whatever that was supposed to mean. Politics however will always be the same shit in a different pig, in a different pen. Or any other combination on the matrix.

09 February 2010

Female is What is Good for Us.

China Smack has a whole gravy train of Transsexuals lined up in the latest post. I read the title but was almost convinced that they were women by the end of it. I'm not the best when it comes to figuring out the genders of individuals that don't fall strictly on either side anyway, and I'm not bothered by it really. I think it's a skill that is developed naturally only if you re in constant danger of taking home a lady boy against your knowledge.

Perhaps it's because I live in sex-is-cheap-and-sometimes-free Asia that I get the feeling there's a hell lot more transsexuals over here than across the Pacific, or maybe it's more accepted here as a personal lifestyle choice. Or even as an economic one.

I read some research awhile back done in India on gender ratios of new births depending on castes. The lowest caste had a skewed ratio of a non-negligible amount of females to males. In a tough economic situation, it makes more sense to be female, and if the gods won't do their duty, I don't think anyone sees a fault in helping nature along its desired course. Perhaps in some implicit manner, this affects individuals not born in that lower lot anyway.

Then, there's also the case for population control. Post-op lady-boys are quite unlikely to give birth. We often view such human choices as artificial and as a construct of society. But I like to view human choice as something that is developed on a canvas with millions of years of evolution behind it. We think it's artificial, but it's not. There is something, a kind of collective knowledge, that compels certain trends.


08 February 2010

The Ocean Sea Effect

Colors Lab is making calls for entries on "The Sea". Most of the submission are contemplative and undoubtedly tinged with a sense of magic realism. Stories and images of the sea always seem to convey a sense of another world that is almost part of ours, but not quite.

Years ago, I picked up a gorgeous book titled "Ocean Sea", by Alessandro Baricco. It was one of those books you had to read slowly and feel as you sank your teeth into it, only to find that the bite was elusive but nonetheless present. The only way you know you had bitten into it was the linger aftertaste. In his words, it was just like the seashore. 'Neither land nor sea. It's a place that does not exist.'

At the end of the novel, there is an index of all the paintings made by one of the characters, the Artist Plasson, who is on a metaphysical quest to find where the sea begins and how to capture the her essence on canvas. He spends a good few years of his life standing where the ocean meets the land, with his paints and easels, trying to achieve this. An entry from this index of paintings might read:
Untitled 01
36" by 42"
Oil on Canvas
Description: Un-primed, covered in blue save the corner on the bottom right. There is a bright red spot suspended off center.
It goes on, pages and pages describing the paintings the Artist has made, it works because by the end you really want to answer how the artist has captured such an elusive thing as the ocean. The novel also has another memorable (and highly original!) character, the Professor Bartleboom, who is penning "The Encyclopaedia of Limits", whose quest is to find where the ocean ends...

In the real world, Hiroshi Sugimoto has managed to capture this elusive concept of our relationship with the sea in photographs. In these photographs, it's all about the horizon, how it moves, how it changes, and when it disappears.

Is most famous piece is "Boden Sea" taken on the Lake of Constance, which is more famously known as "No Line on the Horizon", the cover for a U2 album of the same name.
In an interview, he said,
"That's the effect of seascapes," he said, before explaining that a view of a boatless ocean is one of the only things left in the world that we can experience in the same way that our primitive ancestors would have experienced millenniums ago. "The works are really connected to the very deep roots of the human mind,"

05 February 2010

Underwater Sculptures

Jason de Caires  has managed to combine childhood fantasy and ecological awareness into one monumental installation located under the shallow waters surrounding Cancun, Mexico.

I believe childhood fantasies, the sort we read about in books when we were little children eventually seep into the creations of architects, designers and artists years later. But by then, it is no longer mere fantasy. The dream worlds that are created, which can be inspired by anything from Hans Christian Anderson to Star Wars are now infused with a sense of society. They need to say something, particularly about the geographic or social environment we live in.

Architects create environmentally integrated glass towers that turn green in summer, pale in winter and create their own sources of energy. Environmental designers dream up facades that respond to anything, from human interaction to current weather conditions with light, sounds and other sensory stimulation. All these and more have been in some way or other inspired by the technological fantasies we had as children.

While creating his sculptures, de Caires has had to consider the physics of what is effectively, a foreign world. Our experience of the underwater world is very different and skewed from the reality on land. Our senses, designed to receive sensory information through air are now being made to process this information through a different medium, one we have not been accustomed to for millions of years.

In his artist statement, de Caires has pointed out the optical distortions that come from seeing in a watery medium. These distortions, on top of the refractions that result from the heavier density of water, also include current and turbulence.

In his way, Jason de Caires has created his own magic reality that has augmented both reality and fantasy in the analogue world. His statues are contemplative pieces that make us think about the way we experience reality through our senses, and also of our place in the natural world. They also go several steps further by not just simply being objects to be viewed at but also as work that is being directly interacted with over time. Slowly, they are being transformed into home bases for coral reef, and by natural extension, also turning into an environment for the lives of other aquatic fauna.

This Country was not Built by Men in Suits.

Shot by one of my favorite Photographers, Ryan McGinley for Levi's, via The Fashionisto.

This campaign seems especially relevant, maybe somewhat poignant, considering the great financial crash and the current disillusionment we have with wealth generated out of thin air. There is a collective yearning, perhaps, for the values we used to hold for work that had something to show for it.

Could this be a new dawn for artisans, engineers, craftsmen and the like? Or is that far too romantic a notion.

Hedi Silmane and Hare Krishna.

I was reading a portion in The Life of Pi about Hinduism, and about being lost in spirituality and in the moment when I looked up at my wall and saw this.

I know you must be thinking "What the hell?" The thing is, I've had this pin-up on my wall for ages. It's purpose is to announce to the random nerds I shack up with that I'm a total design nerd (bk ref. Snoop) , and that I like esoteric things like smoke rising in a black void.

There have been times when I was totally fucked off my head with lack of sleep or otherwise and staring at this one (there are 2 other similar pin-ups) thinking, man I should have something more interesting up there. I mean, this is boring! But I always still stare long at it anyway, trying to see if something will out.

Then it happened. I was reading about Hare Krishnas and I looked up and I saw why this photo was chosen for the pin-up.

(It's a face of a girl with thick sensual lips blowing smoke).

29 January 2010

iPad, Where Style is Substance.

My Twitter feed is going crazy with iPad updates. Everyone can't stop talking about it. I guess people really love the same old thing in a brand new package. It gives the impression that one is in the know and right on the cutting-edge, without the risk of being laughed at later for having caught the wrong train.

What is the iPad, really? A web browser? A news reader? Some have even suggested that given its name, one can assume that it was a new line of female sanitary products. You can hear Stephen Fry waxing lyrical about it on the Guardian talking about mixed nuts, the liberal arts, capitalism and how Apple covers them all, and more.

Personally, I'm just dying to own it. Sure, it's Apple, it'll be sexy, user-friendly, and unlike your girlfriend, it will probably shiver to your touch.

Market research has shown that if you had to choose between spending money on an experience and on a product, you should spend it on the experience for optimal happiness value. Apple has probably taken this into account long ago and designed all their products to ensure users experience high joy to minimal frustration. With the iPad, they have probably gone further. Ten gazillion Science Fiction movies can't be wrong, what we want is information that is portable in an interface that makes it easily digestible. iPad is lightweight, and has a good screen size. You can read it while having coffee at breakfast or share smutty PDFs with your lover in bed. Or, like Gwendolyn from The Importance of Being Ernest,  you can now deign to travel without your blog, for one should always have something sensational to read on the MRT.

I have already heard complains about it's size. That's it's really an iPhone, but bigger (and we all know that  bigger does not necessarily mean better). I beg to differ.

As an Apple fan, the one thing I am not crazy about is the iPhone. It's good fun, but I'm one of those annoying people that would call a spade a spade and use a phone as a phone. It's main plus is the ability to surf the web while you're on the go, but it takes awhile to load, the screen is limiting and the typing interface is too frustrating for my verbose Facebook status updates. (And I hate cryptic status updates! If I'm reporting on my devastating breakup, I will aim for the most detail to solicit maximum sympathy, so there.) I see the iPhone as a time sucker and an indiscriminate distraction at lectures. Great when you don't have to pay attention, devastating when you do (particularly when exam tips are being dished out).

The iPad would solve this problem. Screen size is a wonderful thing, and in this age, valuable digital real estate. While I would love to wax lyrical about the erogenous sensibility of the iPad, and the huge possibilities for third-party coupling and plug-ins, my main joy is that it's really great value just for the extra screen space when it comes to having portable information because the hand-helds just don't cut it.

But more than anything, the iPad is the thing of the future. The product we see in our Sci-Fi movies that we covet. A bunch of old things we love in a brand new sleek package that we would like to show of.

26 January 2010

The Design of Symbols

Have you ever thought about the Design of Numbers? I know I never did, until I read The Book of Nothing, by John D. Barrow. A few pages into the book, you suddenly realize how the design of Arabic numerals, and particularly, the invention of the sign "0", has taken us to where we are in this day in our understanding of the world. 

We have attempted to comprehend our reality for millennia through symbols. Whether they were numbers, words or even musical notes and pictographs. They allow the application of logic to a world that is often chaotic, where the default is randomness and chance.   

This invention has taken us far as a species. The graphic representation of things has managed to reduce the world into a manageable scale, helping us understand everything, from the density of space, to the (mis) management of financial markets.

Good symbols are ones that give an accurate reduction of reality, optimizing the noise to information ratio and opening the window for new ways of seeing and managing the world.

There are many other varieties of symbols apart from words and number: road signs, smiles, skylines, corporate logos, the profile of buildings, etc. We exist in a cultural pot filled with them and can not function optimally without their understanding. Our world is an interface for living, and they are there to help as navigate it.

A friend who now works for a big tech company designing user interfaces for their interactive digital products (and iPhone is an example), told me a bizarre story of how symbol illiteracy, or the fact that they did not take this into account, ruined an project. What had happened was somebody in their research lab had decided to put Virtual Reality and the Internet together with social welfare and terminally ill patients, and give them the ability to communicate with the outside world.

This was back in the 80's when most people were only used to DOS prompts and Pac Man. You can imagine a VR garden where you could make 3D models of plants with good-bye notes tagged onto them wasn't something most people would be able to do easily. Even now I still find programs that deal with 3D objects a bit of a challenge to navigate. The experiment failed because these people fell into plenty of technical problems and spent their last days trouble shooting their virtual garden. But I guess, at least it took their mind of things.

Who knows where we will go from here as a greater mass of people learn rapidly developing and changing logical frameworks that put symbols together, in both the physical and digital environment. New frameworks will be invented, our environment will be altered; and I guess there is always the dream of our crystallization eventually becoming one big neural network like they imagine it in Science Fiction.

22 January 2010

Natural vs. Man-made

Look what I found via Pasta and Vinegar this morning :-D.

The evolution of Natural objects vs. Man-made objects. Man-made objects tend to converge and natural objects cannot actively learn from one another and adopt/inherit interesting strategies unrelated in their biological recipes to be passed on. 

21 January 2010

They Didn't Mean It.

To everyone who ever had a mediocre to terrible relationship with their parents, this is for you.

This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

20 January 2010

Avatar's Plot: Fail, or Fail Safe?

I bet you felt something was vaguely familiar with Avatar's plot, I know I did. But you have to admit there are many ways to achieve some form of narrative originality, and Avatar is like a very well made collage. A combination of elements from Sci-Fi and Fantasy, epic romance and a current hot topic: ecological collapse. All of it packaged in technology that has existed for over a decade but is now finally entering the mainstream.

The best thing about Avatar however is the image system of Pandora. How everything connects into some kind of neurological network that is the consciousness of the entire planet. Also, we know the main point of watching movies like this is not really the experimental story telling (we might be too overwhelmed trying to comprehend a new world and a novel narrative in just about 3 hours, I think. The main point is the glorious setting and the myriad of new and interesting creatures and things in it. As pointed out by Carol K Yoon in this NYT article: Luminous 3D jungle is Biologist's Dream. If you're into Natural History, you could also dive into her book, Naming Nature.

19 January 2010

Two Favourite Fonts.

I am obsessed with information. Particularly, how information is presented and assimilated. The actual value inherent in the body of information is important, but that is only a small part of it; otherwise technical manuals and excel spreadsheet would be sufficient to present this.

Fonts are important because they say something about the content of a page or the value of a product. I'm a bit of a typophile and I absolutely love elegant, subtle fonts that say a lot with very little. It's amazing how, with fonts, small changes in a corner, variations in the weight of a stroke etc. can affect so much.

There is a documentary on the font "Helvetica".  The following is a quote from Kevin Kelly's blog.
It traces the history of how Helvetica was invented, how it became a default font on most computers, how that popularity catapulted it towards ubiquity in our environment, and what it means that we can find it everywhere, even though we aren't aware of it. Along the way, we are educated in what fonts do, and how they work. Using interviews with the most renowned typographers living today, this film illuminates the world of fonts -- a world we rely on more and more -- and the universe of typography and design.
My all time favourite is "Gotham" by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. It's the font chosen to be inscribed on the Freedom Tower, and it's the most elegant sans-serif, imho. The extra kerning (space between the letters) makes it look extra sexy. There is a good article on the NYT about it, "Chiseled with a New York Accent."

 The other one I love is Mrs. Eaves. It's 'English', 'rather posh', and 'Tea at three'. Or perhaps, 'Cake or Death".