Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pixel People

Englishman Arthur Mole and American counterpart John Thomas took these incredible pictures of thousands of soldiers returning to America after World War I forming icons of American history.

The pair were commissioned by the US government to take the photographs in camps across the US to raise morale among the troops and raise money by selling the shots to the public.

Human Statue of Liberty: 18,000 officers and men – just 17 at the base but, half a mile away at the top, there are 12,000 in the torch alone (circa 1918)

The Human American Eagle: 12,500 officers, nurses and men at Camp Gordon, Atlanta, Georgia (1918)

The Living Uncle Sam: 19,000 officers and men at Camp Lee, Virginia (13 January 1919)

Living Emblem of the United States Marines (circa 1919)

Later photo by Eugene Omar Goldbeck, Indoctrination Division, Air Training Command, Lackland Air Base, San Antonio, Texas (19 July 1947)

Unbelievable. As was the technique: in order to combat the obvious problem of perspective in getting so many soldiers in the picture, Mole would actually draw an outline on the lens and then direct the troops to place flags in certain positions while he looked through the camera.

More can be seen at the Hammer Gallery site.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sur le Plage

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, when he said the earth was round. They all laughed when Edison recorded sound. They all laughed in 2002 when Bertrand Delanoë unveiled plans for a temporary urban beach on the Right Bank expressway in central Paris - but haw-he-haw, mes amis - who's got the last laugh now?

The answer, of course, is the chic citizens of the city of light, as the Paris Plage gears up for its eighth successful summer.

The first Socialist mayor of Paris may receive more press nowadays for his bikes than his beach, but the Plage is still thriving. Four million Parisiens will flock to the Seine this summer for sand, deckchairs, palms and parasols.

Happily, Amsterdam also has its own Plage - open all summer - as well a huge roof terrace, a natural inland beach, and of course the actual beaches at Zandvoort and Bloemendaal aan Zee nearby.

Apparently we're also trying one in Blighty: it's in sunny Nottingham. Hmm, let me get back to you.

While the tone of the Plages is likely to be city grit rather than timeless elegance, they are a great trend – and with tourists making up just 15% of the clientele at the Paris Plage, one that clearly meets with local approval. Come on Boris, get involved.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Got a few days off

Sadly not going anywhere exotic - visitors in Amsterdam - but it means no posts. How will you get through the remainder of the week...

You could spend your Edwin's Raisin time on the excellent George and Lynne Explained instead. There.

Back on Monday!

Monday, July 20, 2009

American All Star

Far be it from me to comment on American domestic politics (in fact, I won't, I'll just dwell on the quirky "...And finally" stuff) but I think that Barack Obama's ceremonial pitch at the MLB All-star game last week merits a little mention.

In front of 46,760 fans at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Obama followed 80 years of presidential tradition by throwing the first pitch at the game. Unfortunately, a basketball ringer he may be; a pitcher he ain't.

Obama jogged to the pitcher's mound wearing a Chicago White Sox jacket – of course, his local team – and bit his lip in concentration as he wound up to pitch. Perhaps fearful of allowing the ball to bounce before it reached home plate, Obama launched the ball high into the sky and St Louis Cardinals player Albert Pujols was forced to strain forward to catch it at ankle height, sparing Mr. President's blushes. Obama celebrated by firmly pumping his fist, but really – who was he kidding?

The US media seem to have looked upon it kindly, and I know that we don't really do baseball here in the UK (or the Netherlands) - but does a catch like THIS suggest a decent pitch?

I THINK NOT. I'm not entirely sure about the geeky jeans and trainers either, but that's another story.

Be it nerves, lack of practice or some new throwing style that EVERYONE will be copying in a few years, Obama didn't shower himself in his usual glory this time. But then that's kind of reassuring - after all, the guy's only human.

Tayane Leão

I've just seen the 2009 Ford Supermodel of the World. Brazilian Tayane Leão beat over 5 million girls from 44 different countries to win the prestigious title and has been given a USD250,000 two-year contract with Ford, on top of the USD75,000 contract she signed when she won Ford Supermodel Brazil in November 2008.

And we can agree that Tayane is a worthy winner:

What do you think? Hot, right? Totally!

SHE IS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. Which, as we were told during Obummergate, may well be the age of consent in Brazil (and Italy for that matter), but which is bloody weird as far as Mr Christopher goes and makes for uncomfortable viewing. Yikes.

Go say ten Hail Marys.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gene Pool

This week's award for Wilful Blindness goes to Magdalena Kwiatkowska, a Polish lady who is suing an Egyptian hotel after claiming her 13-year-old daughter got pregnant using their swimming pool.


Kwiatkowska Junior came back from the family holiday expecting a baby, only mother is adamant that her daughter didn't meet any boys while she was there and so must have conceived as a result of "stray sperm" in the pool.

- Some Questions -
  • What made you conclude that "stray sperm" got into the swimming pool? How? Unless I'm missing out on something, and breast stroke really is what I hoped it was when I was 8, I reckon that the average man manages to contain himself when trundling around a big tiled ditch filled with water.

  • What sort of role do you envisage the swimming pool having in his child's life? Do you intend to pursue the pool for child support? Will it be invited round for Christmas? (Purely for the child's sake if nothing else) (you know how popular kids with pools are)

  • I'm no scientist, but bearing in mind that chlorine is three times as strong as bromine and six times as strong as iodine, how do you think sperm gets on in a swimming pool? I'm wiling to bet that it's not very happy. Probably not sufficiently potent to prowl around looking for young girls to fertilise. Probably dead after about five minutes?

  • On the other hand - you see that kid strutting around the hotel beaming and smoking a fat cigar? That's the pool boy. Go talk to him.

Off the wall

Daniel Rozin makes mirrors. But not just any old mirrors. Mechanical mirrors made of strange materials with video cameras, computers and motors on board. Mirrors that are literally mad (literally).

The Mirrors Mirror, below, is perhaps the most straightforward: different parts of the viewer's image are reflected by 768 small mirror tiles, with brighter tiles aimed at the upper body and darker tiles aimed lower down. And because the 24 columns of tiles form a concave surface, the image can only be seen by the reflected person. IT IS A SECRET MULTI-MIRROR MIRROR!

The reduced colour resolution over the pixellated tiles gives the mirror a posterised quality, like an old computer game with only a few shades of each colour available.

Next, the Shiny Balls Mirror. It comprises 921 hexagonal black-anodized aluminum tube extrusions, 921 chrome-plated plastic balls and 819 motors. It sounds messy, but the resulting image is a futuristic, crisp and clean contrasting facade of aluminum and chrome. And the viewer is reflected twice: once on each ball and then overall across the entire piece.

Awesome. Finally, the Weave Mirror. This mirror reflects a smoky image of the viewer using cameras and a gradual rotation in greyscale value on 768 motorized and laminated C-shaped rings assembled in the texture of a homespun basket. Of course it does. And, naturally, this dreamily intricate and complex sculpture is not wall-hung, but suspended from the ceiling.

Wunderbar. Yes please, one of each.

Daniel Rozin is an artist, educator, developer and Associate Arts Professor at NYU.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A letter to Downing Street

Dear Prime Minister,

I understand I am not the first to express dismay over your apparent lack of leadership during these troubled times. But compared to members of your cabinet and the opposition, I find your lack of visibility to be absolutely appalling.

If other politicans find the time to go out and reassure the public with their presence, why can't you? I have had first hand experience of this and have summarised my grievance in verse.

      I saw David Cameron
      Out buying gammon

      And Nicholas Clegg
      Buying butter and eggs

      When I'm in the park
      I chat with Ken Clarke

      And frequently pause
      To greet Edward Balls

      Hilary Benn
      I spot now and then

      And feel virtually plagued
      by William Hague

      Harriet Harman
      Now helps in the garden

      Even Hazel Blears
      Still often appears

      But, Gordon Brown
      I never see you in town

      But I've got a new tea set
      So please do come round

Now, as I have said many, many times before, I am 99.3% sure that these political sightings are correct. I don't know why so many ministers buy their groceries in my village, given that it is 200 miles from London – maybe it's the farmer's market or something, I don't know – but they do. Now this is the THIRD TIME I have written to you inviting you to tea and I will NOT BE STOOD UP AGAIN. This morning I saw Tessa Jowell buying a towel and she said such behaviour was typical of you, but I am giving you ONE LAST CHANCE.

I shall expect you at 3.00 o'clock tomorrow. Joining our table will be Vincent Cable.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Christopher

Protect yo'self, fool...

For anyone wondering what to get Mr Christopher for Christmas.

Scott! Scott! Over here!

As a devout follower of the world's #1 streetstyle blog, I was tickled by 'How to Get Shot by the Sartorialist', which I saw today on Model's Own.

Rigidly instructive as well as amusing, the chart describes a formulaic way for guys and gals to dress stylishly, observing the Sart's preference for classic European elegance with a dapper, unexpected quirk. As far as guys go, with recent Sart snaps including this and this, it's bang on the money. Take me to Mepa!

(It's the meat packing district. I had to look it up.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ode to Chefs

Gordon Ramsey
You really take my fancy!
To those who say you're a pansy:
I'll show them the back of my handsy

Ainsley Harriot
Fetch me a chariot!
Not sure how you should carry it.
Park it at the Marriott.

Antony Worrall Thompson
I have bought you a Brompton!
It's for you to cycle to jobs on
(I've got some route maps if you want them)

Gary Rhodes!
Put back on your clothes!
You can hardly suppose
That I want to see those!

Rick Stein,
Is that mine?!
You stole it you swine!
You do this all the time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Barack Obuma

Her name is Mayora Tavares, she is 16 and she comes from Brazil. And Barack Obama sure do love her tush.

In fairness, Sarkozy's checking out all that junk in her trunk too, and I'm sure all hell would have broken lose were Berlusconi in range.

Boys will be boys...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The London Fan Museum

Last night saw the 100,000th visitor to London's Fan Museum (below).

The Fan Museum features a collection of fans unparalleled in the western world, and is one of the capital's up and coming tourist attractions. Notable fans preserved in the museum include:
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has made no secret of his admiration for the Star Trek franchise and who even appeared in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. He cheerfully abdicated from the throne when told he could live in the museum and be encased next to John Barrowman (famously a fan of Deep Space Nine). Sadly, by the time the latter pulled out due to his Torchwood filming commitments, King Abdullah was already settling into his display cabinet. However, he is reported to be quite happy in the museum since receiving Star Quest: Conquest for the Wii last Christmas. King Abdullah hopes to receive an actual Wii on which to play the game this year.

  • Michael Soleta, the museum's newest resident. Soleta is a longtime Michael Jackson fan who flew directly from the Michael Jackson public memorial service in Los Angeles to London Luton airport to be transferred to the museum's entertainment gallery. As he leapt into an SUV outside the Staples Center on Tuesday, Soleta said: "I can't believe I'm actually going! This is going to be great!" Museum sources have since indicated that Soleta has settled in very well and will be available for public viewing from the end of August.

  • Matthew Simmons, who lives in a well-proportioned perspex tank in the museum's international wing. His case is fitted with a boot on a stick so that he may re-enact the flying kung-fu kick he received from Eric Cantona in 1995. He is draped from head to toe in the tricolour, and tickets may be bought at the museum's box office for his hourly performance of La Marseillaise, which was described by Time Out as "proud and saucy".

  • Chris Doyle, a singer and actor who was only transferred to the museum as a result of administrative confusion caused by the name of his 2002 smash hit film. However, upon his installation to the museum Doyle decided to stay and has since become very popular with visitors and staff, cracking jokes with museum-goers and running the museum's bridge nights.

  • That fat woman who thought she was married to TV and radio personality Mike Read and sent him faxes in the nude. She's right at back, near the toilets.
At a ceremony in the museum's Darwin Wing yesterday, Artistic Director Hélène Alexander said: "It is a tremendous honour to be at the helm of this great institution as we pass yet another milestone. However, none of this would be possible without the general public – without their love and support, we wouldn't be here. Put simply: this one's for the fans."

The London Fan Museum is open 365 days a year, from 0900-1800 between May and September, and from 0900-1700 during the rest of the year. Adults: £4.00; Concessions: £3.00; Children (under 7): Free; Over 7 and under 16: £3.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Surreal Service for the King of Pop

An estimated one billion people around the globe viewed Michael Jackson: A Tribute yesterday, a hybrid memorial service and showbusiness extravaganza that was as surreal as it was touching.
Among the 17,500 fans present were African-American entertainment powerbrokers including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy, Kobe Bryant, and the Revs Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Performances were given by Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Jermaine Jackson and, with an odd 'Clinton Cards'-style rendition of Human Nature, John Mayer.

Encased in a 14-carat gold-plated casket, MJ's body was carried into the stadium by the star's brothers all wearing a single, white, rhinestone glove. Queen Latifah's beatific tribute was warm, calm and heartfelt, and Stevie Wonder conveyed tremendous gravitas in his eulogy and solemn performance of They Won’t Go When I Go. The Rev Al Sharpton concluded a fiery, rousing speech by asserting: "Paris, Michael, Blanket — I want you to know there was nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with."

Jackson's three children had never before appeared in public and took to the stage in the finale. Eleven year old Paris, with surprising self-possession and dignity, sobbed: "I just wanted to say that, ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him so much," before collapsing into squealing tears. It was moving and frankly uncomfortable. As was the relentless grooming she received throughout at the hands of her aunts and uncles, frenziedly stroking away her hair and pressing her to speak up.

There were odder moments to come. AA Gill suggested this week that Michael Jackson was without peer as the worst judge of character in the history of mankind: "it was as if everyone he’d ever met had been chosen by Endemol." And there were certainly some grotesqueries on display yesterday.

But this is Hollywood. We expect over the top. We expect the Rev Al Sharpton to claim that MJ invented charity, sporting success and love; Brooke Shields to hysterically rhapsodise over the beauty, purity and life-giving properties of Michael's laugh (in short: "Michael's laugh was the laugh of a puppy laughing at a kitten reading a poem about happiness written by a sparrow"); and Usher to engage in a self-indulgent griefathon we should have seen coming with his opening statement: "You meant so much to us - especially me." It was all part of the Jacko hoopla.

Of course, the strangeness didn't stop at the stadium turnstiles. In the UK, the memorial service was broadcast on BBC Two (despite the corporation receiving more than 700 complaints about its 'excessive' news coverage after Jackson's death) and commentated on by Trevor Nelson and Paul Gambaccini.

Until two weeks ago I had no idea who Paul Gambaccini was. To be honest, I think I had him down as a minor character in The Sopranos or the inventor of Gino Ginelli. It turns out he's a seasoned broadcaster, but not one with an ear for self-editing. Gambaccini churned out some hopelessly bland sentiments on the night of MJ's death (my personal favourite: "He was a surprisingly tall man - over six feet in fact, even though I never met him myself. To think that such a tall man could be felled by something like this is really quite something.") and provided similarly waffley and condescending commentary last night.

All in all, it was a very strange affair: a macabre blend of glitzy spectacle and genuine emotion, watched by a sixth of the world's population. As soon as the service finished, the set was hurriedly dismantled as the venue was to be taken over by a circus. Of course it was. After all, this was Michael Jackson.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wimbledon 2009 Men's Final

Roger Federer became the first man to win 15 grand slam tournament singles titles with his victory on Wimbledon's Centre Court yesterday.

In a final that can safely be labelled 'epic', the 27-year-old Swiss defeated Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 over four hours and 16 minutes. Roddick broke Federer twice, and though Fed broke A-Rod just once, it brought him the title.

While it was certainly long, a classic final this was not. Sure, the 77 games played were the most in any grand-slam event final in history, but 74 of those games went with serve after powerful serve. This was an endurance contest; a slog; a laboured battering akin to two enormous sea lions taking turns to exhaustedly wallop each other. Both players looked punch-drunk by the end, though one looked markedly happier than the other.

Was it a fair outcome? Perhaps. Roddick arguably played better than Federer throughout the match, but as the 29 straight exchanges of serve in the fifth set show, it was a close thing. Simon Barnes noted that "[Federer] didn’t beat Roddick, he outlasted him," adding "Federer didn’t want it more than Roddick, don’t think that for a second, nobody could have wanted it more than Roddick." And yet Federer was able to close the deal, yet again.

Let me come clean: despite a wholehearted respect for his abilities, there's something about Federer I don't like. Relentlessly victorious, blandly smooth, effortlessly slick. Ever-so-slightly smug. Excessively polished. It's the smarmy blazers, the serene poise, the flawless play. Can you hold someone's omnipotence against them?

And then there's Roddick. Born through sheer bad luck into The Era of Fed, the 26-year-old American won the U.S. Open in 2003 and since then has lost four other grand slam finals (Wimbledon three times, and the U.S. Open) to Federer. One grand slam win is not a fair representation of this guy's career. One win gets you into the history books as a footnote, an anomaly. Even though he lost the final yesterday, Roddick set a record for number of games won in a Wimbledon final at 39. He's a better player than one slam.

Of course, there will be some who will spread their hands wide, shrug and quip "oh, the runner-up prize is only £425,000? What is poor Roddick to do!" (the implication being that as Andy Roddick has earnt some money anyway, he has no right to be disappointed! Do you see?).

Yes, it's true that Roddick has lots of money. He's married to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (left) and his house is doubtlessly the size of everything that I and everyone I have ever met has lived in put together. And you can't argue with results: if Federer beats you in four grand slam finals, it's because Federer is a better player and deserves to win. And I agree with that.

Yet who could deny that Roddick deserves more than one bauble on his record? Who could deny that Federer's monolithic, all-conquering reign has suffocated the talent and success of others? And who could deny that had things panned out fractionally differently yesterday, Roddick would have been a deserving champion?

Before the final, Roddick said: "I know how tough it is, but you know I’m excited about this one. I didn’t know if I was ever going to get to play a final at Wimbledon again, and I’m certainly thankful to have that opportunity." Well, you're most welcome Andy. Sorry it didn't work out. 2010 anyone?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Down by the sea

Beautiful classic beach photos on the Sartorialist today (above). Black and white seaside shots always remind me of George Hoyningen-Huene's serenly stylish Divers photograph (below), which I first saw on the Penguin 2000 cover of The Great Gatsby.

It beautifully evokes the modernism and stark elegance of the Jazz Age. Sadly I doubt that the same will be said of me at Zandvoort this weekend, but I'm going to hold that pose all day just in case.

_____ Rope Wallet

I got an awful lot out of the following product description on the Urban Outfitters site:

"Nautical doesn't even begin to describe this purse."

'Nautical' quite literally does begin both the name and description of this purse.

Maybe what they mean is: "It's like, really nautical! Like not just a BIT nautical, but like totally nautical? Do you know what I mean? Like really, really, REALLY nautical" rather than "'Nautical' is not even a word I would use to describe it."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Straight Outta Oldham

A middle-aged couple from Oldham have been bombarded with calls from fans asking to speak to US rap artist Soulja Boy.

Soulja Boy: as seen leaving the Costcutter

For over a month, Gerry Matley and his wife Catriona Howard Smith have been getting about 60 calls a day from fans hoping to talk to the 18-year-old star. As reported by the BBC, the rapper included the ex-directory number in his latest hit, Kiss Me Thru The Phone.

"We just tell them that he doesn't live in Oldham," 52-year-old Ms Howard Smith said. "They have asked if I am his girlfriend but I think I am a bit too old. They insist that we must know him in some way, we have to be 'special' to him. Some of them are devastated when we have to tell them that he doesn't live in Oldham."

If the number is dialled with the American international code in front, fans hear a recorded message from the rapper. Ms Howard Smith noted, "we just hope the fuss will die down soon - we can't even change our number because Gerry needs it for work."

Mr Matley, 54, added: "I mean, with my looks and my accent, I fit the perfect profile for a rapper from Oldham."

MJ Unseen Footage

Sources have revealed that MJ's last tour rehearsal at Staples Center on Wednesday, the eve of his death, was recorded in multi-camera, high-definition video and multi-track audio, and may be released as a CD/DVD set. "We have a live album in the can," stated an official from AEG Live.

UPDATE on 03/07/09: Video footage from this rehearsal has now been released by AEG Live - see it here.

Randy Phillips, president of AEG Live, also told Sky News that he was "discussing with the family" the possibility of mounting the show in some form. Phillips stated: "I would imagine it could be done as a tribute with the family, with the brothers performing, some sisters, and the stars that were influenced by him. The world needs to see this production. It would have been, which is the tragedy here, one of the most amazing shows ever."

There have also been reports that shortly before he died, MJ made an elaborate music video production, currently known as 'Dome Project'. Shooting for the project lasted from 1-9 June, with Jackson on the set most days. The production comprised four sets, including a cemetery (recalling the famous Thriller video), jungle and building site where a dance scene was shot. Now in post-production, Dome Project is expected to be completed by 15 July.

Funeral plans are yet to be confirmed by the family, though it has been suggested that it may be held at the Neverland Ranch north of Los Angeles this weekend. It is also widely reported that MJ may lie in state for a public viewing at the ranch on Friday.

MJ in rehearsals for the London shows, 23 June 2009

Michael Jackon set for Number One

According to mid-week reports, Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror is on course to be UK #1 this weekend.

Man in the Mirror was was only a moderate hit in the UK when it was released in spring 1988, peaking at #21 and becoming the only single from Bad not to reach the UK top 20 on first release.

However, just two days after MJ's death, the song charted at number 11 in the official UK Singles Chart, and also made number one on the official UK Download Chart. It is expected to head a UK top 10 next week that also includes Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Thriller and Beat It.

MJ albums also dominate the Amazon UK bestseller chart (see right), with 14 of the top 20 positions taken by MJ releases.

Man in the Mirror was the finale on the Dangerous World Tour (which I was lucky enough to see in August 1992), accompanied by a stuntman dressed as MJ flying out of the arena with a jetpack.

So why are the public turning to Man in the Mirror in the days following MJ's death? It's an oversized, heartfelt self-help anthem that is both introspective and outward-looking. While its sentiments may be dismissed as vague and corny by some, others will view its simplistic, positive message as emblematic of MJ's childlike idealism. Above all, it reminds us that MJ was a man who wanted to change - however layered with irony that notion has now become - and that behind the spectacle and glamour was a real person. It is to that vulnerable person that the bewildered public are paying their respects.
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