Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pass the tissues, we all got issues

Premier Issues is a website dedicated to showing the first issues of a wide range of magazines. There's a lot missing but it's still an interesting survey and worth a quick look. It's also a reminder of how many magazines start out, get a ton of attention, and then disappear. List was an amazing idea, for example—the entire magazine was made up of lists, and images to go with them. It was beautifully designed and I was excited about it ... and unless I'm mistaken there was only one issue ever. Here are some spreads:

Recycled inspiration

Bulletin Boards

Last Suppers on Death Row

Hair Wars

Between Two Ferns


See more Zach Galifianakis videos at Funny or Die

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day on a Bike

This is SE Racing's OM Flyer model. The OM stands for "Old Man," which was the nickname of Scot Breithaupt, the founder of SE Racing way back in the day. I'd rather have an old one, but if I could get it in black and chrome I would immediately sell my mountain bike and get the re-issue. It looks small but it's a 26" cruiser, which I need because my original Torker 2 is way too small.

Black Moth Super Rainbow Day on a Bike mp3

NW/NY 3: The Little Dun

This next installment in my NW/NY interview series is with renaissance woman Sarah Honda. I first met Sarah in Seattle in the early '90s, when she was an editor at The Flavor magazine, and I started working there. Sarah and I spent many late nights in the office, editing and organizing to the sounds of Mobb Deep and Raekwon. Her roommate at the University of Washington was this girl named Emily. Sarah introduced Emily and me at RKCNDY one night, and to make a long story short, we ended up getting married a couple years later.

Mobb Deep Give Up the Goods / Just Step mp3

Sarah moved to New York and worked at the legendary Payday Records before taking a job at Empire Management, handling the day to day careers of DJ Premier and Gang Starr, among others. We used to hang out and go to brunch a lot, and walk around the city—actually, she walks so fast, it's more like trotting around the city. It was really fun and a good way to see the sights. The way I see it, Sarah has been an ever-present force during two of the goldenest of golden eras of my life.

Three years ago, Sarah moved back to her hometown of Honolulu and started a fashion magazine called Smart. (They have a blog now can tell which posts are Sarah's because they have titles like "Protect Ya Neck-lace.") Sarah also produces the film festival there, has a radio show, promotes a bunch of club nights, and lives the fast life in fast cars.

This week she was in New York for her annual pilgrimage and I forced her to sit down and answer my questions.

Emily and Sarah at Wildwood Barbecue

How's your NYC trip been?
The trip has been amazing – I’ve seen everyone and done everything that I wanted to. Highlights: Takashi Murakami exhibit in BK. Grand Groove at APT with Chairman Mao. Hanging out with Andrea and Trevor Duncan Mao in Harlem. Seeing the Royal Tenenbaums house in Hamilton Heights. Going to Headqcourterz Studio and hanging out with Premier, Gordon, Phat Gary and Show. Derek Jeter/Brand Jordan party at Marquee. NERD show/Paper party at Santos Party House. Wo Hop with Max and Matt. Cheap Malaysian food at Sanur with Pei. The Wackness. Dark Knight. WXOU with Chen, Joey, Hua and Betty. Santogold, Diplo, A-Trak and the dancers at Summerstage. Pre-Fab homes, Dali and George Lois at MoMA. ego trip dinner at Lombardi’s. BBQ with Strath and Em. Momofuku with Darcie. Gelato (twice!) with Jeff Staple. Half hero and daily grain special at Olives, Ernie & Bert Ante Up video. Spice Market with Roya. K-Town grocery shopping with Jones. Beatminerz, Alchemist, Tony Touch, Dart, Crazy Legs, Eclipse, Lord Sear and more at APT (again). DJ Lindsey at The Hump.... And I didn’t even mention any shopping.

When we had dinner you mentioned that you feel settled into your life in Hawaii now. What was the hardest part about adjusting after living in New York for ten years?
I miss how fast people walk. Of course there is more to miss in New York, like sample sales, live music, amazing public transportation, museums, great restaurants and all my friends. And New York is where my dreams came true. But on the real, people in Hawaii walk super slow.

Emily and Sarah blazing up Diamond Head past slow Hawaiians last summer

What do you like about living in Honolulu?
Surfing, shave ice and flip-flops 365 days a year!

What about Leonard's?!
And Leonard's.

What are you into lately?

Acai bowls

Alexandre Herchcovitch

Mexican loteria cards

Bliss Lau body jewelry
Boston Red Sox
Chie Mihara shoes
Not getting haircuts

What are your plans/power movements? What's next for Sarah K. Honda?
On-air radio personality. A girl can have another dream!

How come you never wear your Bone t-shirt any more?

You know what? I do wear my Bone t-shirt. Don’t doubt me kid!

Anything else you want to say?
Special shout out to Dan. Another thing I miss: the digs.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be there:

Any Last Words

I didn't plan on writing about the New Yorker cover that won't go away, but I came across some analysis from Pentagram's Paula Scher, guest-blogging at Design Observer, and thought I would link to it. Here's an excerpt, bold parts mine:
The problem with the Obama joke is not that it’s dangerous and tasteless. The problem is that it isn’t dangerous or tasteless enough. There’s nothing wrong with a joke, it’s how its executed. It’s just not that shocking, and it isn’t funny. It’s simply bad art direction. The cover is an illustration when it should have been a photograph. It’s a cartoonish illustration at that, not even a realistic painting. It's not what you said, it’s how you said it.

To be effective, this kind of political outrageousness has to appear to be absolutely real. You have to look at it and think, "Oh my God, I can’t believe it! Did they actually do that?" It has to be so tasteless that it becomes good. Lois achieved that with his cover for Esquire of Lieutenant Calley, then accused of leading the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, posing with a bunch of smiling Vietnamese children—an actual real photograph. In this portrait, Calley was a villain or an innocent, depending on your point of view. When it appeared on the newsstands, the cover was so shocking, so appalling, so unbelievable in its mere existence, you didn’t stop to think about whether or not it was offensive or tasteless. Other Lois covers such as his cover of Muhammad Ali or President Nixon work similarly.
Read the rest here.

Speaking of Esquire, the cover of its 75th-year anniversary issue will feature some new tekmology that animates the words "The 21st Century Begins Now." Having spent some time admiring and working for Visionaire, I'm all for pushing the boundaries of printing and publishing—with ink choices, varnish treatments, paper and other materials, die-cuts, 3D, foil stamps, lenticular, various bind-ins, on and on, forever. Here it sounds like they're basically slapping a web-like gadget on a printed magazine, with almost no thought other than that it will catch attention. It won't do the good things that the web does (or that the Kindle or iPhone or Texas Instruments calculator watch do, for that matter) – and I haven't seen it, but I'd be willing to wager it won't do the good things that a great magazine cover does. It will fail for similar reasons as the Obama cover above: it is neither here nor there; it's attention-getting without being particularly smart. And again, I haven't seen it yet, this is just a prediction – but I'll eat a paper-only issue of Esquire if I'm wrong. Or at the very least I'll re-subscribe for $8.

For more info, read an article about
Esquire's anniversary issue in the Times business section.

While we're talking about magazines, there was a good profile in the Times the other day on Condé Nast chairman Si Newhouse.

P.S. – Addendum for nerds – I always thought it was kind of weird how George Lois cropped Muhammad Ali's feet. It brings him forward toward the reader, but to me they are so cropped that they draw attention. Maybe that was the point: to draw attention to the cover line, The Passion of Muhammad Ali. It does fit very nicely in the crook of his ankle, and balanced in its distance from the bottom and right side.


Monday, July 21, 2008

It's My Thing

I don't think it's any big secret that I enjoy talking about myself. If there's any doubt, read below—read it all, really take it in—and then click through the archives of narcissism, organized into handy weekly sections in the links column at the right of your screen.

Well, believe it or not, I actually run out of opinions and riveting self-analysis occasionally—so it was with great pleasure that I received some pointed questions to answer from Christine Wong—designer, illustrator, renegade crafter extraordinaire, and the editorial force behind the excellent blog Wonting—as part of her "Five Whats" interview series. Click here to learn what I had for breakfast and other amazing things about me.

P.S. – She posted some images of pages from my black books, and here are a few more. Since I moved to New York I've been taping stuff into these big sketch books from Pearl Paint, as a way to collect design inspiration and ideas in one place. There are ten books so far—I'll start posting some images from them every week as the circus of self-focus continues.

In the House

Emily and I have both been working a lot and/or had family in town, and haven't had a chance lately to get out and walk around the city together—so it was really nice to kick off the weekend with a leisurely brunch at Jones (always uncrowded in the summer) and some quick art and design appreciation for as long as we could handle cutting the 100º concrete.

On the way from the subway to Jones we stopped by Posteritati, one of the best purveyors of vintage movie posters in the city. They have a searchable online database. Go nuts here.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the venerable Madame Paulette, the best cleaner and tailor in the city, at least if you take the Met's word for it (Paulette handles all that stuff for the Costume Institute).

The cost is a little prohibitive for day-to-day stuff, but if you ever need some serious cleaning or tailoring, that's the spot. You know when a vinyl-covered bench in a bar gets torn, and they fix it with electrical tape, but then the tape gets gross and they remove it—and then there's that sticky black stuff on the vinyl? Madame Paulette had to be called into action because Emily got that on a cream-colored skirt Thursday night.

After that we slouched toward MoMA for the pre-fab preview. It was so hot out, I couldn't believe it. On the way we checked out this installation of big painted bronze figures (including Hello, Kitty) by Tom Sachs, in the courtyard of Lever House. They all have fountains coming out of their eyes.

Here's a photo by Genevieve Hanson of Sachs sitting on one of his works in progress, from a recent article in The New York Times.

Lever House is a really beautiful building, I want to spend some more time there. More about that later.

Then it was on to MoMA for the new show, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. Definitely check out the website, there's a ton of information, video, and more pictures there.

The exhibition is in two parts, with renderings, models, and material studies on the sixth floor, and actual pre-fab houses set up in the empty lot between 53rd and 54th streets. To me it seemed like there were some notable exclusions, but in terms of being a cross-section of the most cutting-edge/avant-garde developments in the history and future of pre-fab, it was a great show.

This little metal house was pretty amazing. I can't see spending much time inside it, but the amount of functionality they fit into a tiny space is crazy. There's a bed, a table that seats four and doubles as a desk, a kitchen, and a bathroom—and a little deck with room enough for a few chairs. The whole thing is solar powered.

I liked this one the most. The main thing that interests me about pre-fab houses is the idea of getting the most usability/livability out of the least amount of space possible. There are of course many other interesting things about pre-fabrication, but that's just what I'm into—I guess it appeals to the organizational freak in me. This house is aesthetically attractive, highly functional, and relatively small—but not so small that it would feel cramped. In the picture below you can see there's a stairway leading up to a roof deck. It would be pretty sweet to have a place like this in the San Juans or the North Cascades.

One last point though. Obviously the focus of a show at the MoMA should not be How to Make Pre-Fab Attractive to Mainstream America, and that's not even necessarily the focus of architects working on these types of houses. Regardless, relating the work to my own potential needs, I came away with a feeling that overall there's still a lot to be done toward making pre-fab houses relaxing and comfortable as real homes. Any casual reader of this run-on sentence of a blog knows I am a huge proponent of minimal, modern design—but at what point do you feel like you're living in an office? Fairly subtle moves with color and material would go a long way toward finding a balance between design and real human experience.

Seriously though, I just made all that stuff up, I don't really know what I'm talking about.

The show is up through October 20th. Go check it out and tell me what you think.

After MoMA, we went home, cranked the air conditioner and watched Superbad on Starz in a prone position. Then we drank some micheladas and BBQ'd in the backyard. There were tons of fireflies and our burgers and wieners were delicious, The End.