Date Archives March 2012

‘Baby’s In Black’ – An Interview with Author Arne Bellstorf

Baby's In Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby’s in Black is a stunning graphic-novel written by the German author and graphic artist Arne Bellstorf. Set against the backdrop of The Beatles early gigs in Hamburg, it tells the tragic true-life story of the romance between the young photographer Astrid Kirchherr and the artist and musician Stuart Sutcliffe. Bellstorf’s book is based on a series of conversations he had with Kirchherr, and the story perfectly captures Kirchherr’s blossoming romance amid the exciting subculture of early 1960’s Hamburg.

It is a story which is told with beautiful restraint and tenderness, and it is easily one of the best graphic-novels that I’ve read in a very long time. I was fascinated to learn more about the book and so I asked Bellstorf a few questions.

Astrid and Stuart from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What are some of the challenges in telling somebody else’s story – particularly one as sensitive as Astrid Kirchherr’s?

Well, it’s a very tragic story, of course, and I normally wouldn’t have wanted to tell a biographical story like that. But after having met Astrid, I recognized that we actually shared a lot and that my approach to tell the story would correspond with her attitude. I was interested in the time, the youth culture in Hamburg and what it was like being young in the early Sixties. Astrid went to the same art school as I did, and I could relate to her life in many ways, despite all the things that were different back then. We both tend to think in pictures, she’s a very visual person, and she basically liked the idea of telling her story in little black and white panels. It was a kind of mutual confidence, I guess. I mean, the character in the book may be still something I invented, and in the end it’s a fictional work. I could only try to capture something of the real Astrid. We talked about what was important to her, aesthetically, and what influenced her – French existentialism, Jean Cocteau, Oscar Wilde, Cool Jazz – and what happened when Rock’n’Roll merged with all these things.

We also spoke about the time she spent with Stuart, the two years until his tragic death, this short but intense relationship, but I wanted to focus on the beginning of it all: Their first encounter, the whole love at first sight thing, the magic physical attraction going on between them. They got engaged after only a month without speaking the same language, and Stuart actually began a new life when he left the Beatles and his family in Liverpool to stay with Astrid in Hamburg. The end of the story is a delicate matter, and we never spoke too much about the time after Stuart’s death. That’s what makes it such an existential tale, it’s absurd ending. You can’t really speak about something that doesn’t make sense. I had to find a way to depict that, and I’m glad that Astrid liked the solution I came up with.

Picture of houses in Hamburg from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

How difficult was it to research? Was it a challenge to recreate 1960’s Hamburg?

Not really. I mean, I wanted to do a book about the Sixties anyway. I live in Hamburg, near Reeperbahn, and most of the places are just right outside my door and I know the area quite well. As far as clothing is concerned, I got a lot of help from Astrid. I also bought a few books with old photographs at second hand bookshops and flea markets, and I got the impression that the Sixties are quite well documented – except for the filthy underground clubs, of course. As for the Kaiserkeller for example I could only rely on what Astrid had told me and the reports that I found in numerous Beatles books.

Panel from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What inspires you?

When I was drawing I’d often listen to early sixties music, girl groups, R’n’B and all those North-American artists that inspired the Beatles. I find almost everything from the Sixties very inspiring, the music, the design, the movies – and I think that’s why I wanted to do this book, it’s the birthplace (and heyday) of pop culture, and you can’t understand youth culture in Europe without going back to the Fifties and Sixties – be it mass phenomenons or small subcultures. When you look at Astrid, the “exis” and their androgynous look, the black clothes, and their romantic, cool attitude, they seem closely related to movements like new romanticism and goth. So when it comes to inspiration, I like to look back at past decades, there’s so much to explore.

Panel from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What are you working on at the moment?

I did a lot of commissions recently, working for magazines and newspapers. Then I’m still traveling with Baby’s In Black, the book’s been published in several countries since it’s release in Germany. I do have a few ideas for another book, but the next thing I’ll release is a small collection of one-page comics, hopefully coming out this summer.

Many thanks to Arne for taking the time to answer our questions. Details on where to buy your copy of Baby’s In Black can be found on his website here.

Staggering floral photos by Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Arnold

Staggering floral photos by Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Arnold

Staggering floral photos by Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Arnold

Staggering floral photos by Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Arnold

Staggering floral photos by Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Arnold

Staggering floral photos by Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Arnold

I recently came across the photos of Nicholas Alan Cope and was STUNNED when I came across this collaboration he did with Dustin Arnold. The images are part of a series called Stamen, which reminds me of the look and feel of Ridley Scott’s epic fantasy film, Legend. I’m not quite sure how the collaborators capture these, but the images kind of seem likey were taken underwater, which is where the gloom and bits of detritus floating around may come from. I can’t possibly implore you more to check out the rest of this series, click here to see them all.

The LIFE notebook, unchanged since 1951

The LIFE notebook, unchanged since 1951

Over the weekend I took a little trip out to Abbott Kinney for a Pentax event at one of the finest design shops in all of Los Angeles, A+R. You can see more from that event by clicking here. Anytime we’re on that side of town though I have to stop by Tortoise General Store, a shop that specializes in Japanese goods. To say I’m like a kid in a candy shop there would be an understatement. I have to touch everything I see and attempt not to buy everything I lay my hands on.

This time around, my favorite purchase was a LIFE notebook that’s made in Japan. There are so many notebooks out there these days, but there’s something simple and beautiful about this one that grabbed my eye, especially because it hasn’t changed it’s design since 1951. I bought the grid paper version, B6, as I tend to think in grids a lot when designing for the web. I also love that the graph paper is cream colored with muted red lines. It’s a perfect contrast.

Tortoise has several buying options, both lined and graph paper, as well as two sizes to choose from. You can see all of the options by clicking here.

Rechner, a gesture based calculator app

Rechner, a gesture based calculator app

Technology is allowing us to push the boundaries of how we do common tasks like using a calculator, as evidenced by Rechner, a gesture based calculator app for the iPhone. Designed by Berger & Föhr, Rechner allows you to swipe left and right to add and subtract, swipe down to open a menu for options such as multiplication or division, and swipe up for equals. It seems almost counter-intuitive to the way we currently do math, with dedicated buttons for each of these tasks. But when you watch the video it’s actually quite remarkable how easy it is to use this app, and how you could potentially work faster on it. It’s great to see people experimenting like this, shifting paradigms of how we normally work.

The trailer for Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ prequel, ‘Prometheus’

The trailer for Ridley Scott's 'Alien' prequel, 'Prometheus'

The trailer for Ridley Scott's 'Alien' prequel, 'Prometheus'

The trailer for Ridley Scott's 'Alien' prequel, 'Prometheus'

The full trailer for Ridley Scott’s upcoming Alien prequel Prometheus was released yesterday, and man does it have me excited. It’s been a while since Scott made a film which really interested me, and I’m really glad that he’s dabbling back into sci-fi, which I think is his finest genre. Here’s the description of the film:

In the late 21st Century, a star map is discovered within the imagery of Aztec, Mesopotamian and Magdalenian civilizations. The crew of the spaceship Prometheus is sent on a scientific expedition to follow the map as part of a mission to find the origins of mankind. Exploring the advanced civilization of an extraterrestrial race, they soon discover a threat to humanity’s very existence.

I don’t know anything more about the film than what’s written above and what I’ve seen in the trailer. I really like not knowing anything about a film and being surprised by it all. From what I have seen, the film looks amazing. I’m excited fo Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbinder’s performances. The special effects look top notch, and most of all, I can’t wait to be scared.

Ten incredible Japanese houses

VISTA House by Apollo Architects & Associates

On The Corner by Eastern Design Office

Complex House by Tomohiro Hata Architect and Associates

Over the weekend, I came across this nice list compiled by the nice folks at Frame Publishers. As I scrolled through the wonky, urban houses I thought that so many were worth posting, I might as well post about the entire list. In describing the menagerie of houses, Lydia Parafianowicz says that Japanese houses are “quirky, modern and often unexpected.” I couldn’t say it better myself, except to add that some of the unexpected forms are thanks to Japanese architects’ skills to hone and articulate a kind of site-specific intuition.

Click here to see the full list.

‘People In Her Mind’ by Poor Moon

Poor Moon

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People In Her Mind is a beautiful new track from up-and-coming four-piece Poor Moon. Made up of Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott from Fleet Foxes, and brothers Ian and Peter Murray of The Christmas Cards – the band recently signed to Sub Pop Records, who will be releasing their debut EP next week.

If the EP sounds as good as People In Her Mind, then we’re in for a treat. Coming across like a more Zombies-influenced version of Wargo’s earlier band Crystal Skulls, this track is just a really sweet nugget of pop goodness. With a full album due this August, chances are that we’ll be hearing a lot more from Poor Moon this year. I for one can’t wait!

A Solid Rocket Booster falling back to earth

A Solid Rocket Booster falling back to earth

A Solid Rocket Booster falling back to earth

Continuing the idea of sound design a bit further from the previous post about Leg Bound, is “a movie from the point of view of the Solid Rocket Booster with sound mixing and enhancement done by the folks at Skywalker Sound.” You know how there’s no sound in space because it’s a vacuum? Well whatever the hell the cameras and recording devices are picking up on this video is something pretty strange and fantastic. I found the sounds to be rather soothing, you know, once the rocket has been detached and all that. It might not be the most engaging thing to watch, it takes about 8 minutes for the rocket booster to fall back to Earth, but strap on some headphones and take a listen to something you’ve never heard before.

Found through Kottke

Leg Bound, a video collaboration between Sam Spreckley and Urkelle

Leg Bound, a video collaboration between Sam Spreckley and Urkelle

Leg Bound, a video collaboration between Sam Spreckley and Urkelle

Leg Bound, a video collaboration between Sam Spreckley and Urkelle

Visual artist Sam Spreckley sent me a link to his newest video creation, a collaboration with Urkelle which might get your skin crawling. The video is titled Leg Bound, an intricately created mixture of bugs and 8mm film. Sam provided the visuals while Urkelle created the sound design. Sound design is such an interesting field, the way that it can change the emotion and feeling of a piece of video, and what Steve and Urkelle has done is a thing of beauty… if you can get past the bugs.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Sam’s work you can click here to see our previous post.

Curators, attribution, and the contemporary world of blogging

Curators, attribution, and the contemporary world of blogging

The last couple of weeks have been quite interesting in the world of blogging. It all started with Maria Popova’s release of the Curator’s Code, a set of guidelines and icons which allows bloggers to properly cite their sources. To say the creation of this idea was controversial would be an understatement. You had people chiming in from all different sects of the Internet, mostly being quiet critical of what Maria suggested. I thought the idea was really well thought out, though perhaps too complicated. The idea suggests that you add odd characters into your stories to suggest attribution or a hat tip was difficult, and enforcing that your audience understand what they mean, even more so. Even so, her heart was in the right place and I completely understand why she put the effort into the Curator’s Code.

What ended up being most interesting though was how my own mind was changed during the past two weeks. I bookmarked the posts of two bloggers that affected me most. The first was Marco Arment’s I’m not a “curator”, the second was Matt Langer’s Stop Calling it Curation. You should read both of their articles and then come back here.

So what I realized was a couple of things. When Maria created the Curator’s Code she did so for the creative side of blogging, not the tech side. As someone who tends to straddle the edge of both, I saw most of the criticism about the Curator’s Code coming from tech bloggers. The thing is, there isn’t a whole lot of undiscovered talent in the tech world, especially compared to the world of art, design, fashion, food, etc. There is an endless stream of new designers and illustrators out there just waiting for their work to be seen, and you tend to feel like an explorer when you find new talent. To be something special in a world of app makers and start-ups you probably have a high profile angel investor backing you who’s already talking you up to Tech Crunch. I think there’s a huge difference between the two fields, but that may be a post for another time.

The other thing I learned was that we’re not doing anything wrong. Since the start of this blog I’ve always tried to put an effort into sourcing where I found my posts. It’s a simple courtesy to the blogs I respect, and it takes me no time at all to do it. I don’t need a fancy symbol to do what I do.

I also realized that I don’t care if people “steal” from us or not. There are blogs like NotCot.org and Booooooom that do a shitty job of saying where they found their posts, either not mentioned at all or their links are completely buried. Even if they did do a good job of sourcing their content, would it matter? Would it drive thousands of new people to my own site? Would my pageviews go up so much that I could have my own Scrooge McDuck-esque Money Bin to swim around in? Probably not. After 5 years of running this site I’m not even sure I’d want it. The success of TFIB has been a slow burn of people who come back to the site to read what we do, in our own way and our own voice.

In the grand scheme of things, after 5 years of blogging, I couldn’t be happier with where we’re at. My goal has always been to showcase the talents of creative people, and I can happily say that we’ve done a damn good job at it. And that’s what we’ll continue to do. We know we have a unique voice on the web, and we’re going to continue to use it in the only way we know how.

Honestly I can’t wait to share the redesigned site with you all. It’s going to be a lot different, but in ways that I think are much better. I’ll be sharing a lot more links throughout the day, but more as passing thoughts, with features scattered throughout and in-between. It’ll be different, but I think it’ll be for the better.