Monthly Archives: April 2011

Thought for Friday

Taking a break

A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.
John B. Priestly

The Lake District LMS advert

Lake District LMS advert

The good weather has come early and bright sunshine bathes the city in a warm glow. Everywhere thoughts are turning to the Easter Break. So just before I enjoy a well deserved holiday I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the way holidays in the UK were advertised in the past.

1951 holiday British Rai

1951 holiday ad British Rail

Enticing the great british public to the ‘joyful’ pleasures of a week or so away in one of our UK tourist hot spots has had something of a renaissance  in recent years with television ads for Scotland, Wales and various locations in the UK, most recently Yorkshire. But back in the 50s and 60s the ads may have been less sophisticated but they have an appeal all of their own.

Butlins 50s brochure

Butlin's brochure 1950

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Filed under Advertising, Thought for Friday

A box of old cameras No.3: Praktica Nova 1

Praktica Nova 1 camera

Praktica Nova 1 still looking good

Presented at the 1967 Leipzig Spring Fair, the Praktica nova 1 brought much needed updates to the nova series. Following the lead of the Prakticamat, the nova 1 replaced the two-range shutter speed dial with a modern non-rotating one, with regularly-spaced speeds. In addition, it introduced the PL system for secure and rapid loading.

This East German camera is different from the two earlier posts on this subject (the Kodak Deluxe and the Kodak Instamatic 50) in that this beauty was all mine and represents a turning point for me in so many ways. Back in the 70s I was offered a place on the pre-diploma design course at Warrington College of Art & Design but a 35mm SLR camera was a prerequisite of the course. As my grant back then (yes, we did receive state aid), only amounted to £16 (not a lot of state aid), I had to ask my parents for some help. Despite his serious reservations about the art and design course and the fact we were far from wealthy, my dad purchased the camera after seeing this model on offer in a local shop. You can imagine my delight in owning such a great piece of equipment and I did appreciate the trust placed in my career choice.

Nova One front view

Nova 1 front view showing the Domiplan lens

This was my first camera and photography (along with design) has been a part of my life ever since. I went on to master darkroom techniques including developing and printing in both black and white and colour. I moved on to shooting reversal film using mainly Kodak and Agfa products and now have a large number of old slides that I must digitize one of these days, once I find the best method, (any suggestions would be appreciated by the way).

Nova one back

Nova one back view showing part of the PL loading system

Now all the studio kit is digital, mainly Canon and Pentax, but I will always have a soft spot for my old Praktica Nova 1.


Filed under A box of old cameras, Photography

Thought for Friday

Android head. Hanson Robotics

Android head. Hanson Robotics

The Tanhauser Gate

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain… 

Bear with me on this one, OK?
It all started yesterday while listening to classic fm in the studio. Wagner’s Tannhäuser was playing and although my taste in classical music leans more toward Vaughan Williams than Richard Wagner I do have a soft spot for this piece.

Later at home I wanted to find out more about Tannhäuser, both the piece of music and the  knight and legend behind it. Wikipedia gave me the information I wanted but also led me in a strange sort of way to quote above. (See I told you to bear with me on this one).

The words are those spoken by the dying replicant, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), introspectively says the phrase, during a rain downpour, regarding his own death in the film Blade Runner by Ridley Scott.

Blade Runner poster by John Alvin

Blade Runner poster by John Alvin

Now this reminded me of a TED talk by David Hanson of Hanson Robotics and the incredible work they are doing in the field of androids. (Are you still with me?) To quote from TED: “David Hanson merges robotics and art to design life-like, social robots that can mimic human expression and emotion.”

Well if you made it this far, thank you, you are very patient with my wandering mind. But to close this post here’s another quote, this one from Hanson himself.

David Hanson

David Hanson and friend

“This moment is the Kitty Hawk of androids. We’re seeing the arrival of conversational robots that can walk in our world. It’s a golden age of invention.” David Hanson, in TIME


Filed under Media & Film, Robots, Technology, Thought for Friday

Yuri Gagarin – first human to fly into space (12 April 1961)

Yury Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin (1961)

Back in the early 1960s, like many children, I was very excited and inspired by the Space Race. The very idea of space rockets, space men and journeys to the moon and near planets looked both possible and wonderful. Yury Gagarin’s first manned space flight was the stuff of legend and fired my young imagination. The future of space travel looked truly bright back then, at least from the point of view of one small child.

Vostok 1 mission patch

Vostok 1 mission patch

Yury Gagarin was born in the village of Klushino near the town of Gzhatsk in the Smolensk Region on 9 March 1934. Gzhatsk was renamed Gagarin in 1968 in his honor. His parents, Aleksey and Anna, worked on a collective farm, and, though generally considered heavy manual laborers, were educated and intelligent people. Gagarin’s mother was a well-read woman; his father, a carpenter, preferred to be discreet about his skills to avoid Stalin’s purges against private proprietors. As his parents spent most of their time at work, Gagarin owed much of his upbringing to his elder sister.

On 12 April 1961, Gagarin became the first human to fly into space. At 9:07 am, he was launched into orbit aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Every move he made and every word he said that day was to become legendary and sacramental. When responding to the ground control if he was ready, he said, “Poekhali!” meaning “Let’s get going!/Off we go!” in Russian. During his flight, Gagarin famously whistled the tune of the traditional aviation hymn, “The Motherland Hears, The Motherland Knows.” The first report he sent to the ground control was, “The earth is blue. […] How wonderful. It is amazing.”
From Russiapedia

On 27 March 1968, while on a routine training flight from Chkalovsky Air Base, he and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died in a MiG-15UTI crash near the town of Kirzhach. The bodies of Gagarin and Seryogin were cremated and the ashes were buried in the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square.
From Wikipedia

Gagarin with newspaper

Gagarin with newspaper


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Thought for Friday

One of the greatest things in life is spending time in public places with the people you love. These spaces can better serve the people who live, work, and play in them. Candy Chang

I wish sticker

I wish this was sticker

Walking up from town today in the pleasant sunshine I couldn’t help but notice the number of shops along Bold Street (Liverpool) that had closed and were now empty, sadly Oddbins now among them. Then I came across this via Design Observer and thought it was a brilliant concept.

“Many cities are full of vacant storefronts and people who need things. … I made these fill-in-the-blank stickers to provide an easy tool to voice what we want, where we want it. Just fill them out and put them on abandoned buildings and beyond. It’s a fun, low-barrier tool for citizens to provide civic input on-site, and the responses reflect the hopes, dreams, and colorful imaginations of different neighborhoods.” Candy Chang, designer, artist, urban planner;

More I wish stickers

I wish stickers in action

Candy Chang is a public installation artist, designer, and urban planner who likes to make cities more comfortable for people. She co-founded Civic Center, an urban design studio in New Orleans where she combines architecture, graphic design, and urban planning to make thoughtful public spaces and communication tools for everyday issues of city life.

Candy Chang

Candy Chang

She’s passionate about redefining the ways we use public space to share information important to our neighborhoods and to our individual well-being.

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Filed under Architecture, Liverpool, Thought for Friday

Thought for Friday

“My basic idea is that the world has changed so much, what people need isn’t more data but a new mindset.”
Hans Rosling

Think Quarterly web page

Think Quarterly web page

A companion website to a book Google sent out to a small number of it’s customers, Think Quarterly is a well designed and interesting on-line site dedicated to information and how to handle it. (Well it would be). A number of articles may be of interest generally but the one that grabbed by attention was a piece by Hans Rosling.

This is a brief extract:

But even when people act within a fact-based worldview, they are used to talking with sterile figures. They are used to standing on a podium, clicking through slide shows in PowerPoint rather than interacting with their presentation. The problem is that companies have a strict separation between their IT department, where datasets are produced, and the design department, so hardly any presenters are proficient in both. Yet this is what we need. Getting people used to talking with animated data is, to my mind, a literacy project.

For more on Hans Rosling – this from Wikipedia:

Hans Rosling (born 27 July 1948) in Uppsala, Sweden is a Swedish medical doctor, academic, statistician and public speaker. He is Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system.

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Filed under Design, Technology, Thought for Friday