Photo by Taras Grescoe
From author Taras Grescoe comes a nice little meditation on what make Japanese streets particularly great. Since my partner and son went to Japan a few months ago, I’ve heard many times about how wonderfully human-scale Japan is, and how its multiple modes of transportation absolutely blow away all of the lauded European cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen in terms of livability and transport.
There are no cars. Sure, drivers might pass through, but they don’t stick around: that’s because there’s no on-street parking. A simple reality, which explains why the streets in so many neighborhoods of Tokyo and other Japanese cities are a paradise for kids (and cats).
An art project was commissioned as part of the Apollo 12 program, which included pieces of art by notable contemporary artists, including a penis drawn by Andy Warhol. The tiny ceramic wafer was said to have be covertly attached to one of the lander’s legs and flown to the moon, though there is no (easy) way to determine if it made the trip, or if it is still in place.
The penis was famously covered by a thumb when the piece was covered in the New York Times. None of the drawings are particularly ground-breaking or even interesting, but they did have a tiny 13mm × 19mm of total space to work with.
This is a fun entry into a genre I sometimes think about as dumbsmart. It’s a collection of dumb ideas analyzed in a smart way. The book takes the idea of taking over the world (very, very loosely) and seriously analyzes what it would take to actually pull some of it off.
To be clear, all of the activities author Ryan North looks at are really more “vaguely supervillain-esque” than a series of instructions for how to actually take over the world. Chapters include Starting Your Own Country, How to Become Immortal, and How to Live Forever. The chapter Drilling to the Centre of the Planet to Hold the Earth’s Core Hostage is the closest he gets to actually taking over the world, but the task turns out to be essentially impossible, so he settles for digging a slightly shorter path between stock exchanges to make money by trading stocks a fraction of a fraction of a second faster that surface-based connections can.
Canadian Friends can get it here →
This book, assembled by Henry Dreyfuss and team for original publishing in 1972, is a really great design resource. It’s a fairly exhaustive collection of different visual symbols used in all sorts of industries. Think of it as a sort of Noun Project but in book form.
As well as being a reference for everything from nautical flags to hobo symbols, it also recounts how some symbols have changed over the years, such as this excellent grid of evolving Olympic symbols:
The back of the book contains a wonderful index of symbols from all sources organized by rough shape:
But perhaps my favourite part of the edition I bought is the exuberant introduction by one Buckminster Fuller, which he concludes with:
Henry Dreyfuss’ contribution to a new world technique of communication will catalyze a world preoccupation with its progressive evolution into a worldian language so powerfully generalizes as to swiftly throw into obsolescence the almost fatally lethal trends of humanity’s age-long entrapment in specializations and the limitations that specialization imposes upon human thinking. Thus humans can be liberated to use their own cosmically powerful faculties to communicate what needs to be done in local Universe, as humans are uniquely capable of doing – and uniquely advantaged to do – by the phenomenon love and the truthfully thinking mind.