Minor Serendipity

January 23, 2008

Maia Hirasawa Buffeted by wind and the remains of yesterday’s snow, my breath visible as tiny crystallizing clouds, I was walking down Hornsgatan past exposed cliffs and Swedes making their day, back to my hotel on Långholmen when a beautiful voice drifted in, singing a song about Sweden. My iPod was set to shuffle, and while I’d heard the song before, I’d never paid attention to the lyrics until now. I shook my head a little bit, marveling at the tiny coincidence and kept walking, smiling.


January 23, 2008

I gots ten of them!

Crops for Green

January 23, 2008

Trio of biofuel articles this morning:

Via AP: Wrestling with environmental impact and food crop displacement in southeast Asia. In The Economist: Radically asymmetrical binding targets for emissions reduction, “carbon leakage” and cost in the EU. In the New York Times: Attempting to level the “other” carbon gap, tying biofuel subsidies to crops grown only in an environmentally friendly manner.


January 23, 2008

It’s not playing on this side of the pond yet, so I have to wait until I get back to San Francisco for a look. I do want to see it, though, despite numerous friends’ expressed hesitancy regarding J.J. Abrams. I liked Alias (the first few seasons, anyway), and Lost has been entertaining, if inconsistently good. Cloverfield makes a good trailer, and a good trailer does not bequeath good film—see Transformers, I Am Legend for recent evidence.

I’m going to see it with the expectation that it will suck, and that the handheld cinematography will pale next to the epic work in Children of Men. Deep down, maybe, I hope it won’t suck.


January 22, 2008

It hit me sometime after walking into a deserted replica of a midcentury military cafeteria, between handling a modern automatic rifle and its ancestor from WWI, and likely around the exhaustive display of killing hardware lined up in ordered blonde scandinavian cases. The prologue was a clinical comparison of the warring behaviors of chimpanzees and their tool-wielding genetic cousins. After stepping rapidly from Nordic and South American idols, their relationship to death, the textually dense displays waste no time gutting glorified depictions of battle. Its editorial patina diverges sharply from counterparts in the United States.

I was oddly reminded of The Wire: The descriptions’ writing was at once brilliantly thorough, in neutral voice, spending equal time detailing casualties as it did battles, kings and logistics of moving troops across Sweden, Russia and mainland Europe. After following the English version for half of the museum, I stopped reading and just wandered from room to room. The artifacts and dioramas carried the message too.

Maybe it wasn’t intended to be neutral at all. Maybe the result—my walking away being a bit more sickened by the idea of war—was what the creators meant all along.

Armémuseum - Riddargatan 13, Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden.

Coachella 2008 Lineup

January 21, 2008

This year’s roster is an electronic wet dream. Filling out the lineup are Justice, Chromeo, Midnight Juggernauts, Cut Copy, Dan Deacon, The Streets, Hot Chip, Architecture in Helsinki, Kavinsky, New Young Pony Club, the Teenagers, M.I.A. and Portishead!

I suppose in a way it’s good. This helps the too-often choice of deciding between shows at home (singer-songwriter or local indie vs out-of-town electro band) a bit easier, if they’re going to be playing at Coachella.

Scene for Scene

January 20, 2008

While wandering the grounds of Kew Gardens under an aluminum sky—literally, planes landing at Heathrow flew over with a regularity approaching seconds ticking—this track, newly acquired and not previously listened to, drifted across my earbuds. I might have possibly leapt a little when I heard the lyrics, retooled by the original vocalists in français! It’s been remixed a fair amount, but this version steals my lt3.

Listen to Klaxons’ excellent As Above, So Below (French Version).

You Can Never Be Too Shallow

January 19, 2008

Stephanie lent me her crushingly fabulous 50mm f1.4 lens today:

Sebastien Tellier

January 19, 2008

Sebastien First this epic pic:

Then links to poppy sweet tunes!

(via Asian Dan)

Edit: Bonus link: Justice 2008 US tour!

Modernism + Local

January 19, 2008

Being in Europe—or in the most immediate case—London, brings a raft of memories of previous visits. It began with disembarkment under a placid gray morning sky, being whisked away in a series of lorries to the LHR international terminus. Glancing around at the husk-eyed business travelers, Scandinavian tourists returning home, expats gleamed their Blackberries for instant reminders of what they’d missed in the last seven hours. I was swaddled in Gore-Tex, perched in an awkward way with a backpack full of kit and a hiking pack that claimed the rest of my belongings, my companion and mobile subset of home. Or house, rather—home being a more elusive concept, abstract and non-final.

From the window of the lorry I spied evidence of our profligate obsession with futurism, the modern international airport. What differed largely, standing out most at that point was the signage. The neurons were slowly adapting to the fact that between six hours of sleep in the last 48—three of those on a plane—it was in fact morning, and they’d soon have to deal with looking to right when crossing the street. The signage was Teutonic, wholly Swiss yet functionally British, using simple shapes to convey meaning in their babeled context.

Akzidenz Grotesk was everywhere. Was this a deliberate choice? Did the root designs predate 1950? Color mean graveness of meaning. Yellow for caution, red for stop and danger. The gray, rectilinear setting is punctuated by AIGA-approved glyphs, double-fat rounded red boxes, diagonal lines screaming caution. The neutrality of an airport’s inner workings visible from a passenger bus reminded me simultaneously of Köln, Beppu, and the underbelly of Disney World. Evidence of the British humanity that largely fed and oiled the beast was in the smaller signs: Engineering Surgery, NO PARKING, jet-fuel blackened elder signs probably rolled up from an earlier iteration of the airport. It was The Future, borne from the confluence of post-war UK smacking into the modernist movement, the Jet Age and more enlightened travelers tossing around a newly minted Europe.

There was no evidence of the previous day’s incident on the runway, except perhaps that we were being shuttled around in a bus instead of a plane nuzzling up to the actual terminal. Evidence came in the form of a newsprint sign, hand-lettered, barking about the seriousness of the questioning the pilot had undergone. At Paddington Station, it was a brief discontinuity between airport train and city bus, effecting commerce for the dual purpose of sustenance and acquisition of coins. Besides transport, the first thing I purchased in the UK was a pair of bananas, the second thing an imperial pint of Belgian beer.

On the bus I realized the durability of those images from my youth. How civil signage, brutalist architecture and sans-serif type laid the boundaries of what I’d later deem correct or beautiful.

Epiphanies are funny things, like a little child who sneaks up and taps you on the shoulder before squirreling away between the cloaks and legs of the crowd at a party. The memories that landed on the airport bus were of my mother, diesel and German supermarkets, Deutsche Bahn, trucks and Frankfurt. The time was 1983, living in pre-unified Germany as a child of six, with an Air Force captain, a nurse and my two-year-old sister. My parents were encouraging of my creative efforts, taking me to castles and cathedrals where I sketched gargoyles and arches, occasionally being posed for family “photo ops.” Even then, I hated being a tourist—or at least the visible impression of being one. I wanted to fade into the background and observe, fit in, absorb the local.

Soon I was again happily nesting in modern transport, propping up the wall of the double-decker bus with my belongings. The audacity and entitlement of the American expat who boarded the bus later contrasted with the beautiful mother of one, a Björk doppelgänger with her modern pram, swathed in inky black wool, the corners of her eyes slightly pickled, amused.