Given my proclivity for anagrams, I couldn't resist the congruence of a certain superstar designer's surname and the slick art/design/fashion editorial platform that recently took a tour of his London home.
A space-age aesthetic dominates at casa Newson, an unlikely look for a period building but one entirely reflective of the superstar designer's streamlined visual language. The futuristic interior gives way to mock-Victorian details such as a wood-paneled library, one of several flourishes authored by Newson's wife, fashion stylist Charlotte Stockdale.
In Australian-born Newson's most celebrated work—cabins for Qantas Airways and the Ford O21C concept car, for example—his finely honed eye for materiality reigns supreme; here that is reflected in the marble that lines his bathroom, the massive wall of river rocks from Nova Scotia (a "big deal" to achieve, he confesses) and the composite linen that forms his giant dining table. His passion for metal is betrayed by a small display of unusual knives in the library: "I trained as a jeweler and a silversmith," he explains. "I love the way metal is worked, and certain techniques and processes are best illustrated in objects like knives, which are, essentially, tools. They display an incredible level of ingenuity and skill." After Taschen's recent publication of his complete catalog of designs, "Marc Newson. Works," Newson's next projects will be a private jet interior for a member of the Qatar royal family and a fountain pen for Hermès. "What holds my attention is variety," says the consummate aesthete.
Indeed, Newson touches on several of these projects in the short promo video that Dezeen produced on the occasion of "Marc Newson. Works" last fall.
But if you have about an hour to spare, it's well worth revisiting the 2008 episode of BBC's "Imagine" that covers all things Newson. We posted the first of five parts with links to the rest, but the going really gets good in Part 2, which starts with a shop visit to Aston Martin, followed by colorful commentary from collector Adam Lindemann, and ends with Newson's take on rapid prototyping when Alan Yentob asks about the Stratasys Prodigy—a prosumer-level 3D-printer that dates back to 2000—in the studio. And to compare/contrast with the Nowness short, Newson actually conducts a short tour of his Paris home in the third part, in which he expresses his ambivalence towards the the prototype of his wooden chair design for Cappellini (which turns up again in the Nowness clip).
Air quality aside, Beijing has a long history of bicycle culture, and the vagaries of globalization have inevitably brought what is euphemistically known as 'urban bicycle culture' to China's capital. Bike messengers in New York and San Francisco have long known the advantages of riding a fixed gear bicycle in dense, ever-congested city centers, and given their cultural cachet, it should come as no surprise that these oft-maligned suicide machines have caught on amongst Chinese youth, literally leaving the iconic Flying Pigeon in the dust.
I never had a chance to ride in China myself, but I hope to do so in the near future, especially after seeing John Prolly's travelogue as he tours the mainland with the folks from Mission Workshop and Factory Five. Which is a very long way of introducing Ines Brunn of Beijing fixie outpost Natooke, who I had e-mailed her about renting a bike last time I was in town (I didn't end up doing so). It turns out that Brunn is a German-via-U.S.-expat who holds a Masters in Physics... and, if you'll excuse the pun, a mastery of physics, given her acrobatic ability as a trick cyclist.
It looks like she's running a 1:1 gearing ratio, which means that her ride is essentially a unicycle with two wheels (see also: the previously-seen bicymple), though that doesn't detract from her skills in the least. Here's a continuously-shot alternate routine; check out the upside-down-reverse mount at 1:38 or so:
Apropos of the New York City Department of Transportation's recent announcement of fresh street signs courtesy of Pentagram, a short film by Robert Hooman documents the actual process of fabricating the signs. It's a fascinating inside look at the Maspeth Sign Shop, a 22-person operation that is responsible for signs throughout all five boroughs of the city.
Although there's no sign (so to speak) of the new designs in the video, it dates from about a month ago and was likely shot in the fall, so rest assured the fab shop in Queens is diligently cranking out the latest signage as we speak. (I assume they also produced the signs for the DOT's curbside haiku campaign from just over a year ago, a few of which recently drew criticism on Streetsblog.)
Just prior to the release of Rizzoli's "Cinelli: The Art and Design of the Bicycle" last October, Antonio Colombo sat for a rare interview on the occasion of the Milan edition of the 2012 Bicycle Film Festival. As the president of Cinelli since Columbus tubing bought it in 1978, Colombo has overseen the continued growth of Cino Cinelli's eponymous company—founded in 1948, upon his retirement from the pro race circuit—through the contemporary cycling boom.
In the subtitled video interview, Colombo covers many of the same points that he mentioned at the Designers and Books Fair last fall, where he spoke as part of a panel on bicycles and design, concluding that "good design is good not only for the company that makes the product but [also for] the whole of society."
As for the book itself (Colombo kindly signed my copy after the talk), a pair of three-star reviews on Amazon note that the book—per its title—is largely focused on the current incarnation of the company, featuring high-resolution, full-bleed images of the company's innovations since 1979 at the expense of the technical nitty-gritty of, say, Cino's bivalent hub. This is a fair assessment, more a caveat emptor to fans looking for a full history of the company than a critique of the book itself. While it's not perfect—frankly, I was a little put off by the proportions of the text within the layout—it's certainly an outstanding visual compendium of the aspirational cycling brand (especially for those of you who are familiar with the work of Garrett Chow). It so happens that Cinelli has also posted a short promotional video of the book along with the interview..
The Internet is a pretty big place, a veritable universe of ideas and images, at once an inventory of just about everything that exists in the natural world and an ever-expanding cosmos in and of itself. Yet as a medium of representation, the 'net borrows much of its source material from real life, and I was duly captivated by this recent short film about the final frontier.
On the 40th anniversary of the famous 'Blue Marble' photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts' life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside—a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect.
Although I found the first half of the film to be absolutely riveting, I felt that it dragged a bit in the middle; nevertheless, the remarkable footage is poignant throughout. And if the broader takeaway message of "Overview" rings clear and true, even the less universal aspects of orbit bear further consideration. Commander Sunita "Sunny" Williams' 25-minute tour of the International Space Station makes for a felicitous companion piece to the Planetary Collective short, something like a home video... in space (Kottke calls it the "nerdiest episode of MTV Cribs").
Here's an interesting example of how cultural influences have led to the ubiquitous uptake of a product design. The country in question is Russia, and the product is the dashboard cam.
The Internet is awash in well-captured car crash footage, and in an earlier entry on the subject I wondered why much of it seemed to come from Russia. It's not that Russia has more auto accidents per capita, but simply that more citizens have always-on cameras to capture them. Russian expat and journalist Marina Galperina explains why: "Dash-cam footage," she writes, "is the only real way to substantiate your claims in [a Russian] court of law." Russian law is such that little stock is placed in eyewitness accounts, and a premium is placed on footage-as-proof. The gaming geek's mantra of "Video or it didn't happen" comes to mind.
On top of that, a subset of criminals figured out they could earn money by staging fixed accidents, intentionally allowing your side mirror to hit them or even backing into your car, and then extorting the driver on the spot. Dashboard cams preclude this. Yet the criminals still try: In this article by Cory Jones, a video compilation of would-be scam artists is shown. We won't embed it here because some of the footage is a bit violent.
Speaking of violence, Galperina points out that Russian websites have a higher tolerance for the stuff; whereas YouTube is pretty good about removing footage of people being decapitated by 18-wheelers, Russian video embedding sites don't blink. There's even a Russian LiveJournal account that documents the worst of the worst—fistfights, violent crashes and people who are alive one second and spectacularly dead the next—and while the content changes regularly, all I can say is viewer beware.
Sensationalism aside, one important point made by Galperina is that ubiquitous cameras don't just capture crashes; they record plenty of footage of Good Soviet Samaritans assisting each other in times of roadside disaster, particularly in the wilder nether regions where help is often hours away and citizens take up the slack. Sadly, there's no site I know of that's collecting those videos; no matter what culture you're from, it seems no one wants to watch people sacrifice their time to treat each other decently. The dashboard cam has become a form of protection for the Russian motorist, and a source of lurid rubbernecking for the global community.
I admit I'm not immune to the sensationalism. If you want to get a taste for some of the most insane driving experiences in Russia, where motorists are buzzed by helicopters and jet fighters, and need to dodge everything from falling trees to wild animals to collapsing power cable towers, here it is:
For those of you who aren't familiar with the work of Murray Moss, this 2008 Metropolis interview is a good place to start. But insofar as a lot has changed since then—Moss shuttered his eponymous emporium after an 18-year run this past February—we were interested to check out a recent conversation between the design doyen and SVA's Alice Twemlow, Chair of the Design Criticism MFA program.
The ghettoization of Art and Design that permeates our cultural institutions, commercial galleries and auction houses, eliminates the possibility of a tertium quid (third thing) which might be greater than the sum of its individual parts. Through Moss and now through Moss Bureau, design retailer and gallerist Murray Moss has dedicated his career to blurring distinctions between genres in an attempt to dismantle such departmental thinking. In conversation with Alice Twemlow, Murray will expound on his "apples to oranges" approach to curation through which, by pairing certain disparate works, he asks his audience to search, with fresh eyes, for new conclusions.
Moss was the final guest speaker in D-Crit's Fall 2012 lecture series, which wrapped up on Tuesday, and the media-savvy folks at the SVA have done well to post a video of the entire presentation. While his rollicking monotone certainly makes for pleasant Friday afternoon background listening, here are some highlights from the talk:
- At about the 24-minute mark, speaking of Moss's (the store, not the man) autobiographical raison d'être: "Why does everybody design a chair? People design a chair because a chair elevates us—every chair is a throne. Every chair separates us, brings us off the ground, and elevates us amongst our peers."
- A few minutes later (29:30), Moss shares the "theatrical metaphor": that customers are an audience, as in a movie theater, and explains that part of the store's allure was simply based on denying customers the freedom to touch the products at their leisure.
- In response to a question about the most valuable lesson from the retail space (46:40), Moss responds that "it's reinforced my understanding that the things don't matter"; rather, it's more about the people. "I have incredible access to people, to studios... I can talk to most anybody I want, in the subject that I love—which is a very wide subject—and what the f*ck am I going to do about that asset?"
- At about 53:50, he's prompted to make some discursive remarks on the role of the curator, eventually advising students to "express yourself entirely through that one thing."
- Shortly thereafter, he elaborates on his own curatorial practice (59:10): "I was invited to do a show at the V&A last year... on 3D printing. And I thought, 3D printing. I know nothing about 3D printing, and the technology terrifies me. But [since] I've been going for 50 years to the V&A... I decided [to pick] six or 12 of my favorite things [at the museum]. So I thought, I want to use the technology to illuminate the work at the V&A."
- Another question from an audience member (1:17:40) elicits a particularly passionate response: "I like museums and I hate museums... I hate the fact that the MoMA segregates the design from the other disciplines. I think it's stupid, I think it's irresponsible, and I don't care what anybody says: It's wrong. It's totally, totally shameful... it's a disservice...
"What would be the harm of taking that Rietveld chair and moving it over, 30 meters in front of that Mondrian? What's the big deal? Who's gonna die? Is somebody gonna go, 'I never knew that the Rietveld was a painting'?"
Two months ago, an aviation filming fanatic known on YouTube as cargospotter uploaded this footage of London Heathrow. By running the footage at high speed, he reveals how tightly the planes are packed together into a landing queue. It's also interesting to see how much the wind buffets each plane on its way in—they look like insects trying to navigate a breeze:
Now making the blog rounds is a similar-yet-different video probably destined to go viral. Filmmaker and Cal Arts grad Cy Kuckenbaker shot 4.5 hours' worth of airplanes landing at San Diego International, then composited the footage together to depict an air traffic controller's worst nightmare:
What a sweet gig: Best Made Company manufactures outdoor products at a former chandelier factory in TriBeCa. The guys who work there make axes, among other things, and as part of the testing process they head out into the woods with their creations in tow. What ensues is currently stirring deep envy in your indoor-bound correspondent: chopping wood, getting campfires going, cooking over open flame, knocking back a few beers... I won't spoil the video for you with unnecessarily lengthy descriptions, just take a break and give it a watch:
As if we haven't seen enough "Holy Crap!"-worthystuff from Japan lately, today's second tip from our forums was too good to pass up: a Keio University research team led by Professor Masahiko Inami have adapted optical camouflage technology to "make the backseat [of a passenger vehicle] look transparent from the driver's viewpoint."
The main feature of our system is, it makes things look as if you can really see through them, rather than giving an indirect view of what's behind. For example, with a system that shows things on a monitor, you can understand your car's position and where any obstacles are. But the point about our system is, it gives a sense of depth, by making things appear where they actually should be when you look back.
That's right, the verysame technology that's being developed for a real-life version of sci-fi/fantasy trope of an invisibility cloak or cloaking device—for a rather more mundane interior application: as a sort of full-size rear-view mirror for auto interiors. And if the actual physics of the technology is surprisingly straightforward—"video from the rear cameras is projected onto the backseat using a half-mirror—it's more than just a glorified augmented reality periscope:
The screen is made of a special material called a recursive reflector. Optically, it has an interesting characteristic because it reflects light back in the direction of incidence. When we thought of applying it to automobiles, the advantage was, it gives a clear image in daylight, rather than in a dark place like this.
I was especially interested to learn that they're looking to develop the technology for an entire auto interior, affording a full 360° of reverse-cloaking transparency, a sort of virtual X-Ray vision that will do away with blind spots once and for all. "Currently, the system shows one point clearly. But from now on, we'd like to keep increasing the number of viewpoints. We plan to enable the system to be easily used by anyone."
Inami and his team optimistically estimate that it's a mere five years away from commercial availability. But not everyone is so enthusiastic about it: in response to wallflower's original post, Lmo writes,
Another "safety feature" crutch for people that really shouldn't be behind the wheel of an automobile. If you think about it, all that is needed is driver awareness. An acronym is taught to commercial vehicle student drivers: G.O.A.L Get Out And Look
Know what's around you before you get into the vehicle. No optical camo required.
Woke up this morning and this video had a million more hits than it did yesterday, so I had to find out more. Just a few days ago, a gent from Brisbane named Ray Liehm posted this:
Liehm was a bystander at Australia's Supanova Pop Culture Expo, and the brilliant costume above delighted YouTube viewers and used car salesmen alike, to the tune of three million plus at press time.
So what's the story behind it? Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubeman, as he's officially known, is actually one half of a couple; together with his blue companion, they are the official mascots of the Gold Coast Roller Derby League, a bunch of bad-ass broads with names like Nikki Nitro who "hit hard, skate harder, turn left & do it again" at tracks in the Queensland area.
We certainly couldn't pass this one up: Red Bull continues to put its deep pockets to good use with their latest viral endeavor, the Red Bull Kluge. Its name, of course, refers to a German loanword meaning "a witty, yet inelegant solution that succeeds in performing a particular task," an ipso facto descriptor for the ever-popular Rube Goldberg machine.
Of course, in this case, machine is a relative term: Red Bull enlisted a dozen of the biggest names in extreme sports (and one from traditional sports), as well as LA's Syyn Labs (of OK Go RBM fame), to create a coherent medley of tried-and-true ad hoc mechanisms and delicately choreographed athletic feats. And even though the triggers, pulleys and plywood ramps are accompanied by exceptional human beings—Sean MacCormac (Skydiving), Joey Brezinski (Skateboard), Rickie Fowler (Golf), Danny MacAskill (BMX), Ryan Sheckler (Skateboard), Drew Bezanson (BMX), Bryce Menzies (Off-Road Truck), Rhys Millen (Auto), Robbie Maddison (Motocross), Lolo Jones (Track & Field), Pat Moore (Snowboard)—the design of the Kluge preserves the organic cause-and-effect chain of events that epitomize the Rube Goldberg machine.
The six-minute final edit took four hours to film... and the structures themselves took over 100 builders a total of 3,400+ hours over the course of 17 days of construction, to say nothing of the months of planning. Without further ado:
I've been reading through so much disaster coverage, I need something a little lighter to turn my attention towards.
We've written about RC-related camerawork before, but it always concerned a camera connected to an RC vehicle. But this time the RC vehicles are the subject of the cinematography. Several days ago British videogame developer Criterion Games released their latest Need for Speed installment, and it's hard not to be impressed by the attendant RC-car trailer:
It was shot by Brandon Laatsch and YouTube sensation Freddie Wong, they of the 3.7 million subscribers and 736 million hits. The making-of video is below, and it's amusingly heavy on the geeking-out:
Earlier this week, forum member phil_ posted a discussion called "Better by Design," referring to a UK television show from the turn of the millenium, writing that "I'm sure most of you have seen at least one of the episodes from this series aired on channel 4, 12 years ago now!"
I was around 12yo at the time and it clearly had some impact on me! So basically I've been searching for the rest of the episodes the past few days... does anyone on here have access or links to the series, it would be greatly appreciated!
Ross McS responded with a link to a atantalizing list of the nine episodes that aired over the course of two short seasons in 1998 and 2000, as well as a short description of the program:
Better by Design presents a uniquely revealing insight into the design process as Richard Seymour and Dick Powell take on nine 'design challenges' to improve everyday products—from the kitchen bin and burglar alarm to the shopping trolley and razor. Produced by leading independent production company, TV6, the programmes reflect Seymour Powell's determination to change manufacturers' perceptions of design from a 'bolt on' after the product has been engineered to an integral part of the process and to improve the design standards of the things we use every day.
Thankfully, Sanjy009 dug up a couple episodes on that massive trove of digitized moving-image treasures known as YouTube—if you've got a few 25-minute blocks to spare this weekend, we recommend watching Seymour and Powell tackle the shopping cart and razorblade.
In an earlier post I'd alluded to the design philosophies of Ayse Birsel, which included living life to the fullest both inside and outside of the studio. Industrial designer Birsel, who hails from NYC by way of Turkey, is part of Herman Miller's Why Design video series. In her installment, "Your life is your most important project," she describes part of what she had transmitted to us wide-eyed Pratt ID students so many years ago. At less than four minutes it's a pale shade of the richness of her three-hour design classes, but hopefully it will give you a taste:
For his latest project, the "Spun Metal Planter," the Los Angeles-based designer has produced a video about the manufacturing process that imparts the vessel with its distinctive shape and indeed its inspiration.
The trumpet-like shape of this Spun Metal Planter resulted from a manufacturing mistake that happened when we were cutting a metal blank size for a recent wastebasket prototype. The blank was too big, so the spinner ran out of room when forming the lip of the wastebasket and the result was this flared out form—which we loved. The one-off accident became a succulent planter on our porch, and quickly got a lot of interest from visiting friends. At their urging, we did a run of 25 planters and made a short film of the process. If you look at the grain of the aluminum carefully, you can see how spinning the form in the air rather than on the wooden mold results in a completely different finish on the flared neck.
The process itself is something like using a lathe as a potter's wheel, albeit with metal instead of clay. Other applications include a range of axially symmetric objects, from rocket nose cones to candleholders and, of course, wastebaskets.
I'll never forget the pleasure of studying industrial design under Ayse Birsel, who was the first to tell us wide-eyed students that design is about more than the academics of it. "Part of your homework," she said, "is to take long walks through the city, go out with your friends, go to parties, see new things, and enjoy life." In later years I also had the pleasure of freelancing out of her then-studio on Broadway, which I remember as always being filled with sunlight and music.
Birsel is one of the featured designers in Herman Miller's awesome "Why Design" video series, and her entry, titled "Your Life is Your Most Important Project," reminded me of this. The tone of the series is similar to Birsel's philosophy in that it gets the thoughts of important designers on life both inside and outside of the studio. But we'll have to wait for a bit to see Ayse's; the series, which features interviews with a new designer every Monday, kicks off today with Yves Behar's equally great "Surfing is like improvisational jazz." Enjoy:
Earlier this week, we wrote about the FLIZ, an admittedly outlandish concept for what we billed as 'the Flintstones bike.' Reactions varied between backhanded and forehanded critique: the unconventional hunchbacked frame unanimously raised questions of safety and comfort, while many commenters rejected the concept on principle, deriding the designers for stripping the bicycle of its essence. (Ironically enough, those who defended the project praised the fact that the designers were willing to explore the concept at all.)
Still, the FLIZ team wouldn't have entered the project in the James Dyson Awards if they were afraid of constructive criticism, and I imagine that the judges will share some of these concerns. After all, the concept has nothing on the Treadmill Bike, which "offers a sure grip while protecting your feet from dirt and other contaminants commonly found on the earth's surface":
It's that time of year again: when savvy citydwellers return to the comfort and convenience of their apartments and pick up where they left off before the perennial August slump. (I realize that not all of us—myself included—can afford to take a month-long holiday, but I, for one, felt like a true New Yorker when I realized that I'd skipped down for more sylvan environs for three weekends in a row.)
But why come back at all? Why do we feel bound to these inconceivably dense networks of assumed responsibilities and overstimulation? There are certainly advantages to settling en masse, living and working with and among our fellow urbanites... but what if there was an alternative? What if we could get off the grid for good? A possibility of escaping forever and never looking back?
Idealistic, for sure, but it's an ideal worth exploring, and Dutch architect Ton Matton is the man for the job. After he graduated from Delft Technical University, Matton spent much of the 90's at Rotterdam's Schie 2.0 office, an urban and environmental design studio, establishing himself as a proponent of autarkic (self-sufficient) and otherwise experimental architecture and urban planning. His more recent independent projects include everything from a bus filled with flora (a mobile nature reserve) to cutting the electricity to Wismar University, where he teaches, for a 24-hour period in December of 2009.
It's hard not to be charmed, if not inspired, by the Avant/Garde Diaries' recent profile of Matton, in which he explains his 'bird suburb' and 'climate machine,' among other concepts:
About ten years ago, Ton Matton stumbled upon a deserted schoolhouse in Wendorf, Germany, close to the Baltic coast, and quickly repurposed it as his "Werkstatt Wendorf," a place for experiments and unbounded thinking. A Dutch-born urban planner by trade, Ton moved to the countryside to break free from an everyday grind designing suburbs and performing uninspiring jobs. He now seeks inspiration from neighbors that are completely different than him, explores the area's Communist past, and lives a life predicated on the rhythms of nature. In the individualist mold of Henry David Thoreau, Ton questions social conventions and works out inventive solutions for new ways of living. "Am I an urbanist? Am I an architect? Am I an artist?" he asks. "I don't know [and] it doesn't matter anyhow." Ton provides insight into a life few are willing to commit to, and demonstrates the possibility of creating an alternative economy based on utility, creativity, and respect for people and the planet.
"It's not about being self-sufficient, but about producing something which is not related to money... it's just the beauty of a product." -Ton Matton
For those of you who aren't hip to the streetwear scene, "SUPER" is Retrosuperfuture's flagship line of sunglasses. Milan-based brothers David and Simon Beckerman launched the company in 2007, a new venture for the publishers of an independent fashion and music magazine, to fill a space in the high-end eyewear market. The minimal acetate frames are made in Italy with Zeiss lenses start at roughly €99 and are built to last (though I'm sure many of you share my habit of losing or breaking shades on a regular basis).
They've recently produced a manufacturing video in what has become a grand tradition over the past couple years. The clip traces a pair of sunglasses' journey from cellulose powder to finished product:
I can't complain about the production value, but I do wish there was a stronger sense of continuity—i.e., this is what goes in, this is what comes out—but the edit paints the process in short, quick strokes.
Another day, another anniversary: earlier this week, we saw an excellent animated short from LEGO, on the occasion of their 80th Anniversary. "Moulton Bicycle Company - Made in England" is a video profile of the Bradford-Upon-Avon frame manufacturers, who have hit the half-century mark as of this year. As the title of the film suggests, the storied company—best known for pioneering bicycle suspensions and popularizing 'small-wheeled bicycles'—continues to produce the so-called 'space frame,' lovingly documented throughout the video, by hand in England.
But we'd be remiss not to at least gloss the history of the British company. In the interest of providing a bit of context...
I'm sure that, like me, the vast majority of our readers grew up playing with LEGOs without a second thought about the origin of the beloved building toy. It so happens that 2012 marks the 80th anniversary of the Danish company, and they've produced an animated history of the company, which hit the web over the weekend.
The LEGO Group can look back onto an impressive success story: in 1932 Ole Kirk Christiansen founded a production company for wooden toys in the Danish city of Billund. His central idea was, "Only the best is good enough." The motto stayed, but other than that, a lot changed. The company has moved from the originally small workshop back in 1932, to become the third largest producer of play materials in the world. It is currently represented in more than 130 countries with approx. 10,000 employees. The name "LEGO" comes from the two Danish words "leg" and "godt," which translates to "play well"...
The triumph of the LEGO Group started almost fifteen years after the foundation of the company, when Ole Kirk Christiansen discovered that plastic was the ideal material for toy production. At the end of the 1940s, the first bricks hit the market, which resemble the modern classic of today. In 1958 Christiansen perfected the LEGO brick with the familiar knobs-and-tubes-connecting-system, which is what the now 3120 different LEGO elements are still based on. LEGO bricks can be combined in an endless variety of combinations in continuously new ways. For six bricks of the same color with 2×4 studs alone, there are 915 million combination possibilities. The imagination has therefore no boundaries.
The 17-minute short, narrated by founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen's grandson Kjeld, is dense with LEGO's backstory, yet easy to watch as the animated Christiansen family perseveres through trials and tribulations over the years to build a successful company (IDers might also be interested to see the accurately depicted mid-century machinery).
The Olympics may be over, but additional analysis and commentary is sure to follow for the next couple weeks as the events linger in our memories of Summer 2012. I, for one, was curious to learn about a couple of older bike-bound fellows who turned up with nary a chance to podium. Chen Guanming and Peter Deary each have some 20 years on road race winner Alexander Vinokourov, an elder statesman of the sport at 38 years old, and their combined age comes in at five times that of Jason Kenny, who won gold for the host country in a breathtaking contest for individual sprint.
Of course, their stories could not be more different. Chen's tale is almost too good to be true (if the BBC clip didn't include shots of his passport, I'd be even more skeptical): "In two years Chen Guan Ming has travelled about 60,000km through 16 countries, overcoming floods, war zones, mountain passes and temperatures of -30°C," hoping to "spread the Olympic spirit." The Guardian reports that,
Chen said he had been inspired in 2008 by the London mayor, Boris Johnson, accepting the Olympic flag inside the Bird's nest stadium in Beijing during the closing ceremony, he told the BBC, which showed footage of his passport full of visas for various countries along his route.
He was denied a visa to Burma so cycled through the mountains of Tibet instead, he said.
Doug Mills for the New York Times
Deary's story, on the other hand, is essentially the inverse of the Chinese folk hero. Where Chen's epic journey took him halfway across the world, the pace car pilot (known as a derny) all but defines the mundane opening laps of the Keirin race. The New York Times reports:
The keirin originated in Japan, where fans bet on the races, and was added to the Olympics in 2000. It is a dynamic event run at blazing speed with many crashes. But its early stages are much more pedestrian.
The derny driver leads the riders for the first five and a half laps of the race; they may not pass him. Then he pulls off the track, and the riders sprint to the finish for the final two and a half laps, about 600 meters.
Deary's appearance is somewhat discordant in an Olympics celebrating fit bodies and high technology. His cycle looks more like the one ridden by the Wicked Witch of the West than a track racer's sleek model. His pedaling speed is glacial. His attire is all black, with a decidedly nonaerodynamic helmet. But most remarked upon is his demeanor: absolutely expressionless.
The former cycling coach from Manchester notes that consistency is key: "Deary manually controls the bike's speed, following a strict regimen, increasing it by a few more miles per hour each lap, beginning about 15 m.p.h., and eventually hitting 30."
Of course, there's enough glory to go around, and the human side of the Olympics—as opposed to the superhuman feats of the athletes themselves—is precisely why we find these events so interesting. There's certainly an element of irony to pairing of the two wildly disparate tales, but the event that brings them together remains remarkably unironic in its significance. (The BBC has more on the tireless individuals who operated behind-the-scenes to the games running smoothly.)
One of my favorite parts of basketball games is the player introductions, which are essentially laser light shows to get the home crowd pumped up for the opening minutes of the game. I imagine that this video, which was played at the London Velopark before track cycling events over the past five days, is intended to have the same effect (except that the heats themselves are over in a matter of minutes).
Commissioned by LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the uninitiated), digital experience specialists Crystal CG created the Tron-inspired animation, featuring original music from the UK's own Chemical Brothers.
Crystal has created a three minute animated sequence for the song's promotional video to match its heart-pounding rhythms. Played in the Velodrome before every session the video shows the Velodrome as never before, literally pulsating with excitement.
"We've created sweeping contours and sleek surfaces as the backdrop for an intense, futuristic cycling 'duel' as two animated riders power round the track," said Darren Groucutt, creative director at Crystal. "It truly brings the Velodrome to life."
The sport has enjoyed growing popularity in the UK in particular, and the home team enjoyed the support of a full house in the 6,000-person capacity velodrome throughout the five days of track cycling events, which ended yesterday. Indeed, Great Britain absolutely dominated the 250m circuit, winning gold in seven of the ten events to complement Bradley Wiggins' gold in the road time trial. (After defending his Olympic title in individual pursuit and earning his third track cycling gold the last time around in Beijing, Wiggins turned his attention to road cycling, becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France just a few weeks prior to the London Olympics.)
If you're not excited about tonight's Opening Ceremonies, this beautifully crafted animated short by Passion Pictures' Pete Candeland will get you in the mood. "Stadium UK" will be used for the BBC's Olympic coverage and depicts athletes employing the London landscape as their training grounds.
Granted this has nothing to do with design, but this is a visually freaking amazing thing to see. Eighty-eight members of a female skydiving team known as the Pearls of Russia jumped out of a plane, and this is what happened:
According to the YouTube description, the 88-woman "flower" now holds the world's record.