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One of the best things about working in an office surrounded by books is the opportunity to discover things I'd never otherwise have come across. I've also realized that I much prefer reading books I know nothing about; I'm a sucker for a good bound galley. Here are my favorite books of the ones I discovered last year:

Minae Mizumura, A True Novel
Minae Mizumura's retelling of Wuthering Heights had me from the 165-page prologue, and I was alarmed when I realized that the advance reader's edition I had picked up housed only the first part of this two volume set. I immediately ran to the nearest bookstore so that I wouldn't find myself without. Set in post-war Japan, the book tells the story of a poor orphan boy who works his way up and his ongoing love for a woman always just out of reach.

Miklos Banffy, The Transylvanian Trilogy
A three-volume epic set in the waning days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Banffy's masterpiece both captures the fantasy in which the noble class lived and excoriates them for their inability to see what was coming. The way in which Banffy, himself a Hungarian nobleman, describes their lives and their pursuits swept me away, and the love affair at the center of the novel kept me rapt throughout. Reading this series of books led me to visit Romania to seek out Banffy's ancestral home (unfortunately sacked by the Nazi's), where I spent the better part of an afternoon wandering the ruins. I wish I could read this again for the first time.

Lawrence Osborne, The Forgiven
For fans of Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky and Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger, I offer you this. An automobile accident in the deserts of Morocco sets up a showdown between a western couple en route to a luxurious villa for a weekend-long party throws their

Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory
This one I can't reommend quite as unequivocally. The novel surprised me from its first paragraph and kept my attention through the first two parts; unfortunately, the third part did a slight 2666 shift into a procedural without quite the same effect. Still, a fascinating look at art and the relationship between a father and a son.

By eugene at 5:27 PM | Leave a comment | Tags:

I'm in the midst of planning a trip to India, and while looking at the 20+ hour flights connecting through various places scattered around the world, this article in the New Yorker makes me long for a better life. Unfortunately, you'll have to be a subscriber in order to read it in its entirety.

The image above is a shot of JPA design's Next generation business class seat. This thing's nicer than my apartment!  .

By eugene at 9:24 AM | Leave a comment | Tags:

Last week the Fodor's New York City guide app for Windows phone launched. It's the first project I've completed working within the Metro design language and the first project I've done for a Windows device. You can download it from the Windows Marketplace.

While the UI and UX systems place a number of constraints on the design, it was fun exploring a new paradigm and learning to design within its imposed structure. Working with Random House Digital and migration mobi, we decided to differentiate the app by highlighting Fodor's color-coded categories. We pushed to change app bar colors as users swiped through the different category panes, correlating those colors with the text.

We also decided to lead with image tiles representing the different categories in order to create a highly visual entry point into the app, and also to help orient users once they've made their way around the carousel of choices on the hub page.

For the background image we had originally planned to use an image of the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk shot with coarse bokeh. The tiles gained focus as the seeming subject of a narrow depth of field shot. Unfortunately, we couldn't license the original photo, and so went with an alternate image of bridges spanning the East River. Astute observers will notice that some of the tiled images come from a certain someone's Instagram feed.

More screens after the jump.

By eugene at 9:57 AM | 1 comment | Tags: , ,

A lot of years ago I attended a Thai film festival in New York where I caught I-san Special, an experimental film by Mingmongkol Sonakul. Almost the entire film takes place on a local overnight bus trip from Bangkok to a town in Thailand's northeast. A soap opera set in a luxury hotel plays on the radio; gradually the passengers assume the roles of the characters on the radio and play out their parts on the bus. Occasionally the bus stops for breaks and the travellers return to themselves. It's as if the bus weaves a spell around them and they become other people once they embark.

A similar magic surrounds Elevator Repair Service's Gatz (now on at the Public Theater). A man walks into a dishevelled office, sits at his desk, and struggles with his computer. In his rollodex he finds a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and begins to read. His officemates walk in and out, performing their daily duties. As he becomes more absorbed in the book, he assumes the role of Nick Carroway and his colleagues follow, filling out the various roles. Eight hours later (with a dinner break thrown in to stave off starvation) he reaches the final lines of the novel and bids the audience adieu.

Anchored by Scott Shepherd's performance as the narrator/Nick Carroway, the play is a fantastic reading of the novel (in spectacular, live-action 3D!), and I found myself discovering new aspects of the book, owing to the dramatization. Shepherd is outstanding in a role that never lets him leave the stage; he is eye of the storm, and a large part of play's success is due to his performance. If only the entire cast could ascend to his level, the evening would be transcendent.

Last night, I met some friends at the Type Director's Club for a talk by the Heads of State. It was an engaging presentation of their work and their philosophies on work, design, and illustration. As part of their talk they spoke of the time they set aside for each of them to do a personal project within the studio, unbounded by client constraints or desires.

One such project took on the fourth chapter of The Great Gatsby, wherein the narrator recites a litany of houseguests that attended Jay Gatsby's parties that summer. The partners decided to create businesscards or calling cards for each of the guests, which they then assembled into a limited edition poster. The results are glorious, and I finally got around to ordering one after the talk.

In other news, what about Baz Lurhmann? The Great Gatsby in 3D coming soon to a theater near you! With Amitabh Bachchan as Meyer Wolfshem!

By eugene at 9:38 AM | Leave a comment | Tags: , , ,

May 9, 2012

UNIQLO Wake up

My new favorite alarm clock is by UNIQLO. I've been looking something beyond the iPhone alert sounds, and this alarm wakes one up to music "automatically created based on the weather, time, and day of the week" along with a voice describing the same in English or Chinese (but not Japanese, for some reason). The music was co-written by Cornelius and Yoko Kanno (hello, Cowboy Bebop!).

Last night, afraid that the dulcet chimes may not be enough to wake me, I cranked up the volume. This morning the alarm scared the bejesus out of me. After turning down the volume, I let the app play softly and I listend to the voice chant the date and time, and let me know that outside it was raining.

To learn more, watch a promotional video or download it from the iTunes store.

By eugene at 9:44 AM | Leave a comment | Tags: , ,

Prior to this film, I had seen Pina Bausch's dance group perform once. I left feeling somewhat disatisfied, but after seeing this film, I wish I had gone back to see more of Pina's work while she was still alive.

Wim Wenders has created a remarkable document of Pina's art and a beauiful portrait of her dancers. What's equally astounding is that he's made the best 3D movie I have ever seen. In the much touted Avatar, I was disappointed to find that Cameron adhered to traditional camera techniques to focus the audience's attention on the actors. Unfortunately, I often found the foreground action dull and longed to look at the background details; something I couldn't do due to the film's narrow depth of field casting the background into a blur.

Pina is unafraid of letting the viewer shift their gaze. Using deep focus in many of the sequences, Wenders allows each plane to be clear and distinct. If you're curious about the dancers in the background you can watch them as easily as those in the foreground. I've never seen a 3D film that felt so real.

Amazingly, the 3D is merely the icing on the cake. The selection of dances is wide-ranging, exploring both the depth of the choreography and the skill of the dancers. Being able to see their expressions adds dimension to the work, drawing the audience further into the choreography.

The film begins with a work that cycles through the four seasons as the company parades by. Wenders uses it as a motif that runs through the film, and at the end it calls to mind The Seventh Seal, a fitting tribute to the woman who brought such artistry into the world.

Learn more about the film on its official site.

By eugene at 8:24 PM | Leave a comment | Tags: , ,

February 8, 2012

The soundtrack of our lives

I've been casting about for things to listen to lately. Searching through my iTunes I found a playlist I created for a birthday party I threw last year. Listening to it again, I realized two of the songs appeared because of Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

One was a song I first heard in college, U2's "Ultraviolet" (sorry, Karen). It was never my favorite song from Achtung Baby, but in the film the song is a revelation. The director smash cuts to the back of a woman's head framed against clear blue skies, her hair wild in the wind. On the soundtrack, the song begins with first drumbeats of the song (eschewing the slow 45 second intro on the album). After finishing the film I went back and watched this scene over and over again; the sense of freedom it conveys is astonishing. There's much to recommend the film beyond this sequence, but it's the one sequence that has stuck with me most. There's a clip of this scene on YouTube that I was tempted to link to, but it's really much better in context (instead the link above is a live version with Bono singing into a glowing steering wheel).

The second is "Don't Kiss Me Goodbye," by Ultra Orange & Emanuelle, a band I had never heard of before (and tied to the first song by the appearance of "Ultra" in the bandname). There's not as much to say about this. The ringing guitars and the ennui conveyed in the lead singer's accented voice as she sings the title is irresistable to me.

For those curious about the full list of songs, I've included it in the extended portion of this post. I had wanted to write liner notes for the mix, but never quite got around to it. Maybe I'll make it the subject of a future post, if I find the time.

By eugene at 11:41 PM | 3 comments | Tags: ,

January 4, 2012

Rome to Istanbul

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2012 brings renewed happiness and success to the three or four readers of this blog. :-) I'm also hoping that I will revive some projects in the new year (like this blog). So, to get us started, here are a series of photographs I made last fall.

Last year, I spent two weeks in Croatia. Towards the end of the trip, I had an extra day in Dubrovnik. I take a day trip to Montenegro or to Bosnia Hercegovina. I chose Montenegro, but still wanted to visit Mostar to see the old bridge there. This year, that curiosity grew until it overflowed the bounds of Bosnia and swept up the entire former Yugoslavia with it. I decided to return to the region.

I also became curious to see how Christianity would give way to Islam as one travelled east, and so I decided to begin my travels in Rome and end them in Istanbul. The shfits weren't as gradual as I had originally imagined; in fact, religious observations seemed to hopscotch throughout the area, influencing some more than others, but always influencing events in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Here are the photos I posted, from Rome to Istanbul.

By eugene at 9:46 AM | Leave a comment | Tags:

August 24, 2011

This is my jam

I got the the swag, and it's pumpin' out my ovaries.

By eugene at 11:04 PM | Leave a comment | Tags: ,

Next week marks the end of Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty at the Met. If you haven't gone, go. It's a beautiful exhibit, superbly installed. The rooms complement the theatricality the clothes deserve. One patron felt that the entire museum had come together for the show, putting the exhibition in various historical rooms already in the museum's collection.

The exhibition catalog, photographed by Solve Sundsbo, is a worthy companion to the show. Using models painted to look like mannequins (and furthering the effect in post-production), the photographs both manage to capture the drape and look of the clothes on actual people without taking the focus away from the clothes themselves. Sundsbo hasn't completely erased every aspect of the models' appearance, however. Where the white paint has rubbed off, he allows the skin to peek through, offering the appearance of weathered mannequins until you realize what he has actually done. In all, it perfectly compliments McQueen's vision and work.

By eugene at 7:11 PM | 1 comment | Tags: , ,