Friday, June 29, 2007

Buster Keaton sings...

...and I feel a bit less sad.

(Buster Keaton singing "June Night" and "Casey Jones" from the film Buster Keaton Rides Again, 1965)

(Buster Keaton attempting a serenade in Pest from the West, 1939)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

sturm und drang

I have had a dreadful day, but went out in a squall and got intentionally soaked which made me feel better. And I bought chocolate. And now I'm making macaroni and cheese, and plan on doing some wallowing while reading the Guardian. A well-rounded plan, me thinks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Domo arigato, Monsieur Roboto

Images of sculptures by Stephane Halleux, sent to me by that most steampunk of young gentlemen, Maximum Humphries. If only designers in real life had a similar approach to product design.

Of course there's always Nemo Gould's Re:cycle.

Monday, June 25, 2007

from the PQ

I spent the first part of last week at the Industrial Palace for the Prague Quadrennial Exhibition, which was massive in size and scope, but strangely disappointing when it came to actual design.

11th International Exhibition of Scenography and Theatre Architecture(the exhibition hall in the Industrial Palace)

There was an overwhelming amount of stuff on show; some great, some good and some quite mediocre. Each country had its own themed exhibition space. New Zealand's was actually inflatable, which is no wonder as it was designed by this woman:

Yes, her hair does actually come to a point several inches above her head. I saw her in person and can attest to the fact that she does indeed style it like this every day.

There were some things I loved. Latvia's space had lightboxes with images of Monika Pormale's hyper-real performance spaces...

..and the Czech Republic entry was my absolute favorite. The Forman Brothers designed a self-contained fairground space with a sloth puppet operated by pulleys, a booth where disembodied hands painted your face, the world's tiniest ghost train (in which you had to pretend to be the size of an insect and were attacked by a bird), a band of musician bears you could operate yourself, and a heartbreaking little puppet lounge singer in a booth with her very own tiny band..

exit for the insect ghost train

handpainted sign for the musical bears

the face painting booth

The Forman Bros. were also responsible for the Mystery Boat, which could be animated via a series of levers, buttons and pulleys:

More pics from the exhibition (click pictures for larger images):

a costume from the student exhibition

Iceland's exhibition space

Bulgaria's little automata tent

a Quay-esque moving box in the student exhibition

a pleasing row of teabags

from the Russian students' exhibition

disconcerting Israeli puppets

costumes from Taiwan

tiny deck chairs

costume design for The Birds, schools exhibition

sketches from Ireland

around Prague with a fork

I was told Prague is a difficult place for vegetarians. I prepared myself for a week of fried cheese and halušky (spaetzel), but was pleasantly surprised. Amidst an ocean of pizza joints (the mind boggles at the Czech obsession with pizza) I found Country Life, an organic vegetarian oasis selling massive salads, home made soup, and lovely veggie dishes.

Coffee is (for the most part) very good and incredibly cheap, so much so that buying a cappuccino at the airport when I got home caused physical pain. I found an ice cream parlor with mountains of ice cream and sorbet topped with actual ingredients (sliced limes crowning a hillock of lime sorbet), and which didn't charge extra for sizeable waffle cones. It was next to the Sex Machines Museum, so perhaps it caters to a niche market..

I also stumbled on a very nice little restaraunt on top of Petrin Hill, with good food and a beautiful view of the city:

view of Prague from Petrin Hill

By far the best place I found (well, I can't claim credit.. Max took me there) was the Dobrá čajovna (the Good Tea Room) off Wenceclas Square. Feast your eyes on the tea menu, which offers teas "for drinking when you return from a walk in a park at twilight" and "to drink by the fireplace while puffing on a pipe." If they had had a library I would have moved in on the spot.

back from Bohemia

I have returned from Prague, land of exceedingly cheap cappuccinos, cascading mullets, men sporting tiny dogs in handbags, and lots and lots of sausage:

My hotel had its own two-lane black lit bowling alley in the basement and a traditional pizza oven, which meant that you could expect to be covered in a fine rain of ash every time you ventured into the courtyard. The toilet seats were as robust as m&m candy shells, and I could hear the people downstairs through the drain in my sink. This helpful sign explained the hotel's escape plan:

Thankfully, the escapist way was not required during my stay.

I learned this week that cobblestones can be as hard on the ankles as skiing. Witness the wonder that was my very swollen foot:

(excuse the poor quality of the video, as parties involved were slightly tipsy at the time)

To further test my kickers, I wandered around the Old Jewish Cemetery, Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. I saw some wondrous bric-a-brac shops in the Jewish Quarter (which were a bit like my grandparents' attic), a street orchestra playing 20s jazz, tiny frogs and abandoned houses in the rainy woods on Petrin Hill, nuns on holiday (one of my favorite things), and some very strange black light theatre. Oh, and I found some odd and lovely children's books by František Skála.

More from my travels (click on images for larger view):

Memento mori on the Charles Bridge

Young King Wenceslas and his grandmother, looking a bit like Maurice Sendak drawings

a kindly bear

a very cranky cherub

St. Sigmund being thrown down a well

Zombies, obviously

in case of H, break glass

from the Toy Museum

Existential musings in the Prague airport ladies room

Views from the top of St. Vitus Cathedral

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"All God's children need traveling shoes"

For the next week I will be knocking around Prague (see metro above), ostensibly to visit this.. but spending all my time in an exhibition hall would just be silly, wouldn't it?

I am leaving you at this point, Elizabeth. Pictures and stories to follow on my return.

Who killed Mrs De Ropp?

As a general rule I am not a big fan of television, but the late night insomniac wasteland occasionally throws up something interesting. Part of BBC4's Edwardian season, Who Killed Mrs De Ropp? was based on Saki/H.H. Munro's short stories The Lumber Room, The Storyteller, and Sredni Vashtar. It was lovely and macabre, with some interesting animation to boot.

It almost made up for not being able to sleep.. almost.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Yay, sleep! That's where I'm a Viking!"

"How do people go to sleep? I'm afraid I've lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the night-light. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things." -Dorothy Parker

"The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to." -F. Scott Fitzgerald

This American Life

Ahh, NPR, how I love thee. You can't fault an institution which brought the world Ira Glass and David Sedaris. Podcasts of This American Life have kept me sane today. I salute you, sirs.