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07 JULY, 2011

Built to Last: The Illustrated Secrets of Mankind’s Greatest Structures

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What gargoyles and mosques have to do with King Edward I and the secrets of Ancient Rome.

Castles. Cathedrals. Mosques. Those are some of humanity’s greatest feats of architecture, design and civic engineering, but how exactly were they built and what makes them stand the test of time? That’s excatly what Caldecott Medal-winning artist and prolific how-things-work author David Macaulay explores in Built to Last — a fascinating illustrated volume of insight into the how and why of mankind’s greatest structures. It combines three of Macauley’s most beloved construction books — Cathedral (1981), Castle (1982), and Mosque (2003) — into a single tome full of never-before-seen full-color drawings and new material.

A reference model for the ribs of the vaulting on the roof truss

Laying out the drawing of the roof trusses

A quick reference model for the roof trusses

An early sketch of the flying buttresses and one gargoyle

Sketch for the kitchen scene while making dinner fit for a king

Macaulay modeling for the drawing of King Edward I. Note the headband and royal Tin Tin watch

Whether the three building types in this book were built to last or simply to impress, they were certainly constructed with determination and care. And without the lessons they offer, our past would be more remote and therefore less useful as we stumble into an uncertain future.” ~ David Macaulay

Combining rigorous research, poetic illustration and the captivating human stories behind these architectural marvels, Built to Last is equal parts illuminating and inspirational, brimming with a kind of visceral curiosity that makes Macaulay’s timeless drawings spring to life.

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06 JULY, 2011

Fuzz & Fur: Japan’s Peculiar Subculture of Fur-Suit Mascots

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What ancient Japanese castles have to do with costumed gadget-sellers and the legacy of anime.

It’s no secret I have a soft spot for children’s books, especially ones with a grownup spin. So I love Fuzz & Fur: Japan’s Costumed Characters — a quirky compendium of Japanese fur-suit mascots by Tokyo-based designer and illustrator duo Edward and John Harrison. The costumes, known as kigurumi in Japan, have been used to promote anything from bridges and castles to water purification plants to the police to, most notably, prefectures.

Illustrator Jun Miura eventually coined a new word, Yuru-kyara, to classify this new breed of characters — from Yuru, which means “loose” or “weak,” and kyara, the word for “character,” to describe the mascots as somewhat imperfect or non-serious, an eerie intersection of the age-old Japanese love of anime and contemporary marketing tactics.

Fuzz & Fur features photographs of over 100 kigurumi, each profiled with text that explains the mascot’s origins, its likes and dislikes, and its unique personality.

Arukuma

A kigurumi into kigurumi, this green bear loves to collect hats. Each one reflects one of Nagano’s many specialities, his collection includes a chestnut, persimmon, mushroom, lettuce, soba and wine. Arukuma, quite possibly the cutest kigurumi is the mascot for East Japan Railway and wants tourists to explore the beautiful outdoors of Nagano. His name combines the words 'aruku' ('walk') and 'kuma' ('bear').

Hikonyan

The mascot for Hikone Castle is probably the most famous yuru-kyara EVER. People travel to the castle not to see the beautiful grounds or explore the castle, but to meet the samurai cat Hikonyan, who visits the castle four times a week. His name combines Hikone and nyan, the Japanese onomatopoeia for a cat’s meow. The cute cat wears a 'kabuto' (samurai helmet) with huge horns similar to the one Ii Naokatsu wore in battle. Ii Naokatsu was a Japanese daimyo during the Edo period who completed the construction of the castle and also said to have escaped being struck by lightning thanks to a beckoning cat.

Ikubee

'Ikubee' is 'lets go' in the dialect of Aomori and the name of The Aomori Destination Campaign’s mascot. The large blue fairy supposedly travelled all over Japan before finally settling down in his favorite prefecture. He’s modelled on the letter ‘A’ which of course stands for Aomori. He’s the colour blue because the first kanji in Aomori means blue and on his head is an apple blossom illustrating the flower symbol of the prefecture.

Sasebo Burger Boy

After WWII the American Navy took over parts of the base in Sasebo, Nagasaki. Soon after, enterprising Sasebo citizens started making and selling burgers to cater to the appetites of the American sailors stationed there. With its long tradition of homemade burgers Sasebo has become famous all over Japan. Takashi Yanase the king of characters famed for creating Anpanman designed the mascot.

Kunio

Even the ski resorts in Japan get in on the kigurumi action. Kunio a seasoned skier is the mascot for Kunizakai Kougen snow park a resort in Takashima, Shiga. Kunio started working in one of the restaurants but was quickly promoted to become the mascot for the resort. His interests include, snowboarding, ice cream and girls (in that order).

Fuzz & Fur comes from — naturally — my friends at Mark Batty Publisher and does for kigurumi what Drainspotting did for Japan’s peculiar culture of storm drain graffiti.

Images and captions by Edward Harrison

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06 JULY, 2011

Remembering Louis Armstrong: Satchmo, the Documentary

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Celebrating the life, wizardry and legacy of one of the greatest musicians that ever lived.

Dipper. Satchmo. Pops. The great Louis Armstrong, with his creative cornet and trumpet mastery, his distinctively gravelly voice and his remarkable stage charisma, not only revolutionized the American public’s relationship with jazz, but was also one of the first African-American entertainers equally revered by black and white audiences in a severely racially divided country. He codified the art of jazz improvisation and shaped the course of musical creativity for generations to come, his influence permeating a multitude of genres, eras, styles and subcultures.

To commemorate his legacy, we’re revisiting Satchmo — the terrific 2000 documentary on Armstrong’s life and legacy. Titled after the icon’s nickname, short for Satchelmouth, the film is available on DVD and, with questionable legality, in eight parts on YouTube, gathered here for your convenience — enjoy.

Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no more music in them.” ~ Louis Armstrong

For more on the man and the icon, Terry Teachout’s Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong is everything one could hope for and then some.

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05 JULY, 2011

Spomenik: Eerie Retrofuturistic Monuments of the Eastern Bloc

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The ghosts of communism, or what alien architecture has to do with societal memory and Serbia’s mountains.

Having grown up in the former Eastern Bloc, I vividly remember the bizarre and beautiful monuments commissioned by the communist leaders of the 1960s and 70s, which remained as retrofuturistic remnants after the fall of communism, like the undying ghosts of an era most sought to forget but would always remember. These are the subject of Spomenik — a peculiar book by contemporary Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers, who took a laborious trek across former Yugoslavia and The Balkans to photograph the strikingly beautiful yet odd structures tucked away in the region’s mountains. The results are haunting and eerily powerful, evoking a felt sense of a fold in the space-time fabric of sociopolitical reality.

Kempenaers did not set out as a documentary photographer, but first and foremost as an artist seeking to create a new image. An image so powerful that it engulfs the viewer. He allows the viewer to enjoy the melancholy beauty of the Spomeniks, but in so doing, forces us to take a position on a social issue.” ~ Willem Jan Neutelings

Podgaric

Kruševo

Kozara

Petrova Gora

Kosmaj

Kadinjaca

Niš

Tjentište

Korenica

Jasenovac

Ilirska Bistrica

Tjentište

What’s most fascinating about the structures in Spomenik is that, up until the 1980s, they attracted millions of visitors, yet today they stand unknown by the younger generations and neglected by the older, their symbolism a fading flashbulb memory in the collective mind of their host cultures.

via MetaFilter | Images via Crack Two

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