Category Archives: design

Food for Thought This Friday

It’s 2008 and things are going well. I’ve got a good year to look forward to, what with Borgamo growing, a trip to Europe on the horizon and plenty of web design projects with which to further my education. Already I’ve been harnessing some power searches on the major engines, Google, Yahoo and Live Search, which have yielded tremendous results. Of course, I’m unwilling to give my secrets away [for free], but suffice it to say that knowledge of various search parameters and a little creative thinking can really let you see some interesting things. But let’s put that aside for a moment and take a look at my latest project for my cousin, Maureen Jeffery.

If you live in Ohio and are planning on getting hitched, you could certainly use a good Ohio wedding photographer. Maureen’s photographs are wonderful. She does black-and-white as well as color and the pictures are always beautiful. Her portraits in particular capture such personality that I have no hesitation in giving Maureen Jeffery the highest recommendation for wedding photography or as a photographer for any other occasion. My confidence in her talent persuaded me to help design a website for her, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Some moments are so transcendent that everyone who’s there is aware they’re experiencing something special; viewing Mount Everest, riding around on a purring elephant and attending Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS were a few of those moments. Thanks to Dan Russell, I’ve got another to add to my collection. Google tells me that the song was Wu Tang Clan’s “Triumph”. I tell you that Dan nailed it, rapping like the procrastinating mother on Christmas Eve and earning the mad respect of everyone lucky enough to be in the bar area of City Steam Brewery. Verse after verse rattled by and still Dan spat rhymes. Ten minutes later, the song ended and we all broke out in rapturous applause. It was truly magnificent. And lucky you! You get a thirty second slice of it: watch Dan Russell rap

I also saw “Juno” this past weekend, which was excellent. Here are a couple of songs to enjoy from the soundtrack:
Barry Louis Polisar – All I Want Is You
Kimya Dawson – Tire Swing

My Top 5 For 2007

After seeing numerous end-of-year lists around the web, I thought it fitting to sum up my Top 5 in each category of The Cookblog. And so, without further ado, here they are:

The Cookblog's Best of 2007

Art

These are the best web sites and artists that I discovered during the past year.

  1. Edward Gorey – I’ve posted about him before, but the maestro of macabre was my #1 artistic discovery of the past year. Meticulous pen sketches combined with a wickedly dark sense of humor make him my favorite by a country mile.
  2. Rockwell Kent – Moby Dick is a terrific book (at least the first few chapters), and these illustrations are great. They capture the majesty of the ocean, the madness of Captain Ahab and the calm of an evening anchorage in attractive woodcut style.
  3. Chema Madoz – There’s something about black& white photography that is just cool. The pictures on these sites juxtapose and re-imagine common elements in interesting ways, like a match set against a plank so that the grain of the wood looks like smoke. Check it out.
  4. BibliOdyssey – A really fascinating site packed with high-res illustrations of esoteric old books. The quality of the images and care with which they’re chosen really sets the site apart.
  5. OldBookIllustrations – I love old books and I love the types of illustrations on this site. On top of that, most are in the public domain, so I definitely plan on returning if I need fodder for any graphic design projects.

Food & Drink

These rate as the best beers I’ve discovered during 2007.

  1. 840 IPA – An absolute classic, this well-balanced but beautifully-hopped India Pale Ale is the standard by which I now measure all others.
  2. Ten Penny Ale – The perfect counterpoint to the hoppiness of an IPA, the malty, smoky Ten Penny is made in East Hartford and finds its way into the refrigerator more than any other beer.
  3. Chocolate Stout – A great beer for a change of pace, this goes particularly well mixed with Saranac’s Carmel Lager or Guinness.
  4. Racer 5 IPA – A tasty brew offered on tap at The Library, a bar near my brother’s apartment in Los Angeles. Nice and floral.
  5. Southampton IPA – A random discovery at the local package store, this IPA with an orange label is thoroughly drinkable and always welcome.

Games

I’ve played a lot of games this year, but only a few stack up against my high standards. They are:

  1. Carcassonne – Board games don’t get more classic than this. Every game is different and the social aspect makes it perfect for beginners
  2. Tichu – A favorite at work and probably the best card game in the world, combining bluffing, anticipation and cooperation. It’s only $7. Get it.
  3. Caylus – The opposite of Carcassonne, involving almost zero luck and total diplomacy, Caylus would be the chess of board games if chess wasn’t a board game.
  4. Foosball – The only non-board game here, there have been some epic shots and games over the past few months with my work colleagues. The laws of physics bow down before our deft control and puma-like reflexes, but we’re still easily beaten by the slow roller.
  5. Ticket to Ride: Europe – The chosen game at home, it’s good for two players and conjures up images of actually riding a train from Edinburgh to Athena. Also, my girlfriend and I can usual overcome our rage at losing after only a few minutes.

Literature

I haven’t had a chance to read as much as I would have liked, but these are the books that I enjoyed at least part of this past year.

  1. Morbo – Phil Ball has a wonderful turn of phrase and the intensely interesting subject of Spanish soccer comes alive with his words.
  2. Selected Verses of Ogden Nash – Perfect for reading to that special someone, the quirk and wit of Ogden Nash never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – That’s right, I’m a Harry Potter fan.
  4. The Stories of Paul Bowles – Imagine my delight when I found one of my favorite books at a library book sale for 1/4 cover price.
  5. The Devil Drives – A biography of Sir Richard Burton, it’s a gripping account of a man who lived in constant adventure, from India to Mecca to Ethiopia.

Music

There was some great music this year, and though I usually prefer individual tracks to full albums, these were great the whole way through.

  1. Radiohead – In Rainbows – One again, Radiohead has delivered a phenomenal album packed with electronic hooks and human feeling. By far the most played this year.
    Reckoner
  2. Feist – The Reminder – A great discovery, Feist has since come to prominence for her role in an iPod commercial, but the rest of the songs on her album are equally bouncy and catchy.
    I Feel It All
  3. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Vintage Spoon and no complaints from me. This is piano rock at its best.
    The Ghost of You Lingers
  4. The National – Boxer – One of the most genuine bands around today, The National’s “Fake Empire” is one of the songs of the year.
    Fake Empire
  5. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block – According to the Wikipedia, this was a 2006 album, but Rolling Stone put it in their best of 2007 list, so I am, too.
    Up Against the Wall

Soccer

I like to think I have a talent for spotting quality when it comes to soccer players, not that it’s difficult to tell that these five footballers are several cuts above the rest.

  1. Kaka – The Brazilian is the Zidane of this generation. His seemingly-effortless skill has been winning match after match for AC Milan, including the World Club Cup and the Champions League trophy
  2. Lionel Messi – The only player that can rival Kaka, Messi has been carrying one of the biggest and proudest clubs in the world on his shoulders. That he’s already made Ronaldinho dispensable is an indication of his importance to Barcelona.
  3. Christiano Ronaldo – Like the two players above him, he has dragged his team to victory even when they haven’t deserved it. If he can deliver European success to Manchester United, he’ll move higher up the list.
  4. Didier Drogba – His questionable temperament doesn’t take away from his qualities as a player. Powerful and intelligent on the field, he takes his team into a different class when he plays and is worth far more to Chelsea than the rubles they paid for him.
  5. Daniel Alves – A marauding right fullback who has been the impetus behind Sevilla’s recent success, Alves will surely earn a move to a major club soon, where he should establish himself as the best wingback in the world.

Travel

I haven’t taken too many exotic trips this year, but these places have been welcome breaks from the usual routine at home.

  1. Boston – An awesome trip up to watch the Red Sox earn a spot in the World Series still rates as one of the best days this year.
  2. Los Angeles, CA – A great visit with the family for Thanksgiving was the perfect way to spend those vacation days.
  3. Onset – Having returned there for every year since I was born, it’s impossible to underestimate its importance in my life.
  4. Danbury – Always a relaxing and comfortable place to visit, you never know who or what you’ll find at the casa de Angela, Kathleen and Connor, but it’s always a good time.
  5. New York – A weekend in NYC with John, Georgia and Co. was a ton of fun. My only regret is that it was the only one.

Web

I’ve seen a lot of websites in my 25 years on this planet, but these deserve special mention.

  1. Slightly Shady SEO – The best blog about SEO in my opinion. Gives away secrets that are worth plenty, which makes me wonder how much more he knows.
  2. Asobrain Games – A great place to play Carcassonne with no frills, no fuss and no fees.
  3. Strange Maps – Since maps are something of a hobby for me, this site is always full of interesting things.
  4. Coudal Partners – I’m still not sure what they do there, but their features, including Photoshop Layer Tennis and the Museum of Online Museums are worth regularly checking out.
  5. Smashing Magazine – With their fingers firmly on the pulse of web design, this site displays great examples for study and inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my picks and I hope that 2008 has as much good material to see, read, hear and blog about. If you’ve got something to say about any of my choices, go for it!

Radiohead – In Rainbows Cover Art

Since Radiohead released their most recent album, In Rainbows, over the internet a few days ago, most of the talk has been about the fact people can name their own price for it. Less publicized but just as interesting is the bonanza of cover art that fans have been coming up with until the official stuff is released. There’s even a kind of unofficial competition going on over at hicksdesign. I missed the boat on entering in my own design, but here it is:

In Rainbows Cover

As for the album itself, I love it. My favorite tracks so far are the first, “15 Step” and the seventh, “Reckoner”. I’d highly recommend you give it a listen (you can download it for free if you’re stingy), and if you have a critique of my cover art or a design of your own making, let’s see it!

A Big Lebowski Wedding

My friends know that I enjoy a White Russian as much as the next man, and they also know I enjoy The Big Lebowski. This past weekend’s union of Christy and Tyler Driscoll gave me a chance to combine both enjoyments into a single cathartic moment: “Another Caucasian, Gary.” Props to Dan for thinking up this stunt.

Here are some pictures from the wedding. First, we have Dan and Marta.

Dan and Marta

Next up is John and Georgia:

John and Georgia

Then we have Jesse and Sarah:

Jesse and Sarah

Followed by the newlyweds, Tyler and Christy:

Christy and Tyler

And finally, me and the lovely Angelina:

Brian and Angelina

It was a great day spent with friends celebrating a very smart match, if I do say so myself. Congratulations to the Driscolls and a big high five to everyone I saw this weekend.

7 Reasons I’m Excited For The Darjeeling Limited

1. Wes Anderson hasn’t made a bad film yet. Bottlerocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic are four of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Why? His musical, visual and dramatic sensibilities exactly match my own. His characters are more subtly flawed than anyone else’s. The actors he uses and reuses are perfectly-cast. If I had any movie-making talent, my movies would be like his movies.

2. This trailer. Welcome confirmation that this is indeed a Wes Anderson film, the trailer has everything one would expect to see: the beautiful symmetry of the shots, the hyper-conscious attention to framing, dry humor, deeply-flawed relationships between characters and slow-motion sequences. All of it adds up to an effect of very basic coolness, which is down to Anderson’s tremendous amount of work (he wrote, directed, edited, choreographed, etc. etc.).

3. All of the blog buzz. Hypeful, Untitled Records, Bamcat, Cinematical, Gorilla vs. Bear and Pete Ashton are clearly people who know their movies. From everything I’ve read, lots of other bloggers are as excited about the picture as I am.

The Darjeeling Limited poster

4. It’s set in India. I’ve got many connections to the country, which I’ve never visited despite traveling to neighboring Nepal on three separate occasions. My mother, brother and father have all been to India, my best friend in high school was Indian, my girlfriend is half-Indian, I created a Ticket to Ride: Hindoostan map and I love Indian food. No other country can boast as interesting a history or culture as India, so I’m nearly wetting myself just thinking of mileage that Anderson can get out of the setting.

5. I’ve already learned about two new songs that rock, both by the Kinks, just from the trailer. “Strangers” is an instant favorite, while “This Time Tomorrow” is another gem, and both of course fit perfectly into the trailer. I’m slightly disappointed that Mark Mothersbaugh doesn’t seem to be in the credits, since I thoroughly enjoyed his ear for a good melody in past movies, as well as his affection for the harpsichord, cello and electric organ. Still, none of those instruments has much place in a movie set in India, so I’m not too worried. I’m sure the entire soundtrack will be yet another one to savor.

6. It’s been far too long since the last Wes Anderson movie. The Life Aquatic, widely considered to be Anderson’s weakest movie (if it can be called that), was released on 2004. It’s been three years, which is plenty long to endure the endless string of cookie-cutter crap that Hollywood churns out year after year. A Wes Anderson movie is not only a breath of fresh air, it’s a treasure.

7. It involves trains. Railroads have held my interest for a while now, playing a part in some of my favorite pastimes including Edward Gorey, Ticket to Ride, and Railroad Tycoon. The movie trailer has a particularly good line in “What’s going on? / I don’t know, I think the train’s lost. / How can a train be lost? It’s on rails.” How true.

What is a Triskelion?

I spent a goodly part of my summer vacation perusing wine bottles and admiring the artwork thereupon. Naturally, my thoughts turned to what kind of label I’d design. I’m not big on modern art, and a picturesque villa scene is a bit trite, so I started to think of more unusual symbols. Of course, my thoughts eventually turned to the Isle of Mann flag, emblazoned with what research has taught me is a triskelion.

triskelion
Apparently, other people have also enjoyed the peculiar symbol, since it is used by the Sicilians and Britans other than the Manx. Defined as “a symbolic figure consisting of three legs, arms, or branches radiating from a common center,” there is plenty of room for artistic license. Grape vines, wine necks, and the curly locks of cherubs could all play into a wine label design. As soon as I come up with a prototype, I’ll submit it for approval.

Introduction to Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey came to my attention through the Stumble button, which is a little web browser extension that works something like a TV remote for the internet. You choose your favorite topics, click the button, and are whisked to random web sites that the system believes you will like. Fortunately, it’s right almost all the time, and I’ve taken a great liking to the art of Edward Gorey.

Gashleycrumb Intro

Best-known for his Gashlycrumb Tinies, a series of drawings depicting the imminent death of Edwardian-era children, Gorey manages to infuse humor, if not lightheartedness, into the dark themes of his art. It’s strangely compelling, recalling high collars and shadowy parlors. I think it would be an excellent theme for a Halloween party, and I’ll be sure to remember that come October.

Film Review: The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski is currently my favorite movie. A story about a middle-aged slacker, the film paints a picture of Jeffrey Lebowski, aka “The Dude”, a man who wants nothing more than to bowl and drink White Russians.

The Big Lebowski

His peaceful existence is shattered when his house is broken into and his rug urinated upon. This leads him through a series of fantastic adventures that see him drugged, beaten and visited by God at the bowling alley bar.

It’s an A+ flick best enjoyed with a White Russian in hand.

Leonardo Da Vinci Site

While looking at the Webby Awards, which are given out annually in lots of categories, I came across this Leonardo Da Vinci site with lots of great stuff. It’s got images of sketches, paintings, and inventions, plus a thorough and expansive history of everything Da Vinci.

Skull

Besides all of the great information, the site has a terrific design that really demonstrates the breadth of Leonardo’s interests and talents. I like to fancy myself as something of a Renaissance Man, and seeing what he did is wonderful inspiration. I think it’s safe to say that there will never be another human as widely gifted as Leonardo Da Vinci.

My First Dumpster Wine Rack

I enjoy transforming things into wine racks. This first started when I discovered several closet doors in a dumpster in Onset, MA. They were perfectly fine, and as I looked at them, I realized that a few notches in the slats would cradle a wine bottle very nicely.

Those fancy wine racks from Create & Barrel are nice, but I like that I make my own and they work just as well. Plus, it’s fun to reappropriate furniture creatively. You should try it.

Here’s my first wine rack. It holds something like 16 bottles, which is why it’s now gathering dust in a closet (ironic, eh?).

wine rack

Now, I keep my wine in a wine rack that I made out of an old dresser. It holds about 24 bottles, and is far more sturdy than its predecessor. Plus, there’s a little cubby in the top where I can keep my bottle opener. I’ve also installed some slats on the “ceiling” of the wine rack where I can hang about 6 wine glasses. It’s very convenient.