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.
April 17, 2014
July 10, 2012
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.
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!
May 9, 2012
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.
February 11, 2012
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.
February 8, 2012
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.
January 4, 2012
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.
August 24, 2011
I got the the swag, and it's pumpin' out my ovaries.
July 28, 2011
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.
January 9, 2011
Somehow, I never got around to posting my favorite apps of 2010, but if I had, Instagram would top the list. Nominally a photo filtering app, the true nature and strength of Instagram is its ability to instantly share photos of anything with anyone, and its committed community. In some ways it's like a simpler, much better designed version of flickr.
For a long time, I eschewed photo filtering apps and deleted this at first thinking it was the same. It wasn't until the second time I downloaded it that I saw the strength of its community of members and of the photos they were sharing. As I tapped around the "popular" page and sought people to follow, I glimpsed into lives around the world as they were lived.
Since then, I've been documenting New York through Instagram obsessively. At first, I was concerned it was keeping me from shooting otherwise, but I have since realized that if it weren't for Instagram I wouldn't be shooting at all. It's forced me to get out and shoot New York to present it to the people who follow me; I feel I have an obligation to them. And I've found that shooting with the iPhone gives a measure of invisibility that some of my other cameras don't quite afford.
Amazingly, the app has managed to garner quite a following even though it is available only as an app on the iPhone. A website version is, I believe, planned, but has yet to emerge. You can download the app here. And I can be found under user name "eugkuo".