Entries for May 2008

May 30, 2008

Blogs, Bloggers, and Blogeurs

I’m not one of those bloggers that just links to stuff I like on other blogs, but after 2+ years of relying on exactly those kinds of sites for traffic, I figure it’s about time I return some love. So I’ve finally added a blogroll in the sidebar of the home page, listing some of my favorite blogs. I thought a blogroll would be a good opportunity to highlight some underrated bloggers, but then I realized that most of the sites I read are already pretty popular. So I tried to order them roughly from least-to-most likely that you’re already reading them.

So what are the most underrated blogs that you read? Who are the bloggers whose blogs most reflect their personal creative vision? I call those people blogeurs, after the auteur theory of film, which holds that a movie reflects the director’s personal vision as though he or she were the primary author. Make a recommendation in the comments, but keep it to one link only — any more and you risk triggering my comment spam filter.

Here are some lesser-known highlights from my new blogroll. They aren’t all necessarily everyday must reads, but I like them:

Animation Backgrounds:
Musician Rob Richards has a hobby. He digitally removes the animation cells from cartoons, revealing the background art beneath. The result is an often surreal empty house, forest, construction site, etc. He also stitches together frames from panned shots, showing the entire panoramic painted background in its entirety. Animation fans may also like Rob’s other blogs which focus just as much on the cels as the backgrounds.

The New York Public Library:
Yes, the library has a blog. It’s a group blog, actually, by several of the library’s curators, highlighting items from the library’s collection as they relate to contemporary topics. I think each blogger is meant to be covering a specific subject, but I find some overlap. There’s also an interesting blog at the NYPL Labs, which “provides a window into the overall digital experience of The New York Public Library.” It’s as easy to lose time browsing through the archives of these sites as it is browsing the library itself.

Ponoko Blog:
I first read about the Ponoko Store in Wired magazine. It’s a fabrication-on-demand service that will laser-cut your design in a variety of flat materials (wood, plastic, etc) and send you the pieces for assembly. I’ve been trying to come up with a good design for a product that could be made out of flat pieces, and I have something in mind that I may work on soon. In the meantime, I’ve been reading their blog for inspiration, which is all about laser-cutting, fabrication-on-demand, and anything that can be made out of flat pieces of material. It seems that a lot of people are making 3-D art from 2-D pieces.

The Everywhere Girl:
Several years ago, this girl who is not a professional model participated in a photo shoot. The photographer Douglas Menuez licensed the photos as “Royalty Free” stock, meaning that once a person pays to use it, they are allowed to use it as much as they want without paying further royalties (a business model I don’t recommend, incidentally). As a result, this girl’s face has been widely used wherever a “hip college girl” was needed. People noticed. Now she has a blog that’s partly an ongoing documentation of places people have spotted her face (most recently on the wall at a restaurant in Phoenix) and partly a look into her life.

David Horvitz:
I like the way David Horvitz thinks. He’s some combination of photographer, performance artist, conceptual artist, and something I can’t quite put my finger on. His series Things For Sale I Will Mail You is a good place to start in exploring his site. I think this is a guy to keep an eye on.

As long as I’m linking to things, here are a couple sites that aren’t blogs but deserve appreciation. They’re both apparel sites by people I know and I think they deserve a plug. It’s t-shirt season, so maybe you’ll find something you like:

Unhappy Animals:
If I were ten years younger and female, I would totally be wearing these shirts. Since I’m not, I simply admire their creativity. They feature unhappy animals like the lactose-intolerant mouse (“The heart wants what the heart wants, even if it’s going to leave you clutching your tummy curled in pain”) and the fish who swims in a bowl of its own tears, its sadness the only thing keeping it alive. Nice.

Ciara Elend:
Ciara block-prints by hand every one of her high-end t-shirts, using linoleum blocks that she hand-carves, and the results are fantastic. She also sells more moderately-priced shirts, but I think it’s her “couture” line that really shines (I don’t know where she gets the shirt material, but they seriously feel great). I especially like the “Bad Apples” design. A lot of work has gone into making sure these are high quality products.

And that’s it for the outbound links. Let me know what underrated blogeurs you like that I should be reading (reminder: one link per comment please). I’ll occasionally update the blogroll as my own list changes.

May 20, 2008

A tree grows in Brooklyn Bridge Park

While wandering around DUMBO last week during the New York Photo Festival, I took this picture of a tree near the Manhattan Bridge in the north end of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since I posted an earlier picture of a tree and a bridge, I figured I’d post this one, too. Maybe I should start a series. Click to enlarge.

Manhattan Bridge

May 17, 2008

60 Seconds in the Life of Commuters

Part 32 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

May 8, 2008

How bold can Darth Vader be?

The above word-cartoon is the end result of that quote rolling around in my head for weeks. I’m not sure how successful it ended up being, but I know there’s a font pun to be made somehow with that line.

I started out trying to literally depict that scene from Star Wars using letterforms, intending to use bold letters for Vader and light letters for Princess Leia. I loved the idea of the @ sign filling in for Leia’s hair bun. But after a few attempts I concluded that I’m no LIDA when it comes to making art from letters. I just couldn’t get the fabric to look like fabric without making the entire thing out of parentheses and tildes of various sizes. And that kind of misses the point. The letter “M” sort of did what I wanted, but not really. It’s too rigid.

Then I wondered if maybe I needed to stop trying to depict the scene from the movie, and just draw Darth Vader alone, made out of bold type. In many ways it’s the most visually striking of the attempts, but I felt like I overlapped the letterforms so much in his helmet that they were becoming mere shapes rather than letters. But here’s how that ended up:

So ultimately I decided to just use different fonts and weights to write their names (seen at the top of this post). But just floating in the frame without a sense of place, I’m not convinced that works, either. And it’s less amazing than pictures made of letters.

May 5, 2008

Idea: Measuring cups that look like tiny pots

Someone who manufactures pots and pans should make a matching set of measuring cups that look just like the pots they make but smaller. And with some creative design tweaks, teaspoons and tablespoons could be made that look like tiny frying pans.

Or, the items could be designed the other way around. They could make pots and pans that look like enormous measuring cups, complete with “1/4 Cup” and “1/2 Cup” written in oversize lettering. And then when you buy the set, you get the matching measuring cups included.

May 1, 2008

Googlyi: An iGoogle Theme

[Update: Googlyi is now an officially listed theme on iGoogle.]

This week, Google debuted a new series of iGoogle themes created by “world-class artists and innovators.” Somehow they managed to miss me when they sent out invitations asking people to create a theme, but I decided to create my own theme anyway.

I present: Googlyi, an animated iGoogle theme.

That’s right. Not only does it change throughout the day, but those googly eyes watch you while you work and generally creep you out.

I’m going to submit it to Google for inclusion in their gallery, but in the meantime you can preview it here [update: use the official listing instead]. Let me know if anything doesn’t work for you throughout the day so I can fix it before I submit.

Note: I think you need to be signed in to Google to see the preview.