Books are amazing

I have two separate book related stories here.

First up is The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Probably the best book I’ve ever read. I read it a couple of years ago and it’s still pretty fresh and I still can’t bring myself to send my cheap paperback version to the charity shop. All the other literary flotsam and jetsam has long gone, but this one lurks broodily on the bookshelf.

So when I saw that the Guardian/Observer was encouraging a national book swap, it was the first book that sprang to mind. I would simply love for someone else to read this book anew or re-read it again. The swap works like this – affix a sticker to the front of the book informing the finder it’s now their book and a sticker on the inside lets the recipient know that I loved it.

Simple. Now, where to leave it?

The second book related story is cool too, in its own way.

Regular visitors to this blog will know of my obsession with British Sea Power and I was delighted to see that their one time manager and brother to two of the band has written a book of the early days of the band called ‘Do it for your mum’. Not available on Amazon or Waterstones just yet, I bought it directly from the publisher (or the author) online.

It was a joy yesterday, then, to see a brown cardboard package (always the best kind of package I think) on the kitchen work surface when I got home from work.

Tucked snugly inside the packaging was the book: crisp and fresh, smelling pristine – the ink and paper an old school treat for jaded nostrils.

These are the little pleasures in life, I think. After a hard day: a promising package.

Forgetful of what has been ordered and then, remembering.

The icing on the cake: the book had been sent from a certain R.Wilkinson. The author. Something deeply satisfying to know that the proud author might have packed the book himself and taken it to his local West Country post office. And a final note of satisfaction: each book numbered. Mine happens to be 0218.

Smashing.

Nostromo

I make no apology for sheer geekiness of this post – it just bubbled up from some deep nerd chasm within my psyche!

Nostromo is the name of the space craft from Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie. I’ve been fascinated by every aspect of this movie since before it opened in 1979 and the production design made a huge impression on me when my obsession was art and design in every single form.

The ship itself is one of the major stars of the movie along with the incredible Alien itself designed, of course, by HR Giger. Alien was one of the first movies to portray space travel not as the clinical and precise vision we’d seen elsewhere but grungy and grim, worn at the edges and industrial. Ron Cobb was the principal production designer for the spaceships and he did an incredible job at creating the vision for a space tug boat that hauls huge payloads around the galaxy whilst the crews sleeps.

Cobb designed both interior and exterior in exquisite detail using traditional methods (it actually looks like he used magic marker on most of his production drawings) and these informed the visual identity of the spaceship that actually appeared in the final movie.

The movie was made in a time when a lot of the effects were physical ones and the spaceships were actually built in ‘miniature’ sizes and shot although these miniatures were actually quite large. The Nostromo model was about six feet long and weighed around 500 pounds. These miniatures were lovingly crafted bt model makers who cannibalised model kits to create the detail on the ship – apparently their favourite kits used or  ‘bashed’ on Nostromo were a WW2 Sherman tank and Darth Vaders’s TIE fighter.

What amazes me is that they actually built a full size landing gear leg for Nostromo – it must have appeared on film for all of five minutes in the final movie. Ridley Scott was a notorious stickler for detail and accuracy and I’ve no doubt that he’s behind the beautiful attention to detail that pervades this entire movie from the opening credits right through to the final nail biting minutes.

It’s easy to see why CGI is a used these days – the sheer cost and time involved in creating old school effects must be an impossibility in this day and age. I do have to say when you watch a movie that’s put together with craft, passion and love it’s visible a mile off.

WTC

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of 9/11. You won’t thank me for telling you that as by now you’ll have seen enough commemorative material to last until the next tenth anniversary.

For me, 9/11 still manages to shock and move me like it did ten years ago. The visceral power of the images and emotion of the stories of that fateful day has not been lost over the past decade. The pain is still raw in New York and this translates across the Atlantic quite readily – I’ve been searching for a suitable post to mark the anniversary and I think I’ve found it.

Pentagram are a world-famous design company and they produce specially printed materials to promote themselves and these are always pretty special. Here’s what they created to commemorate the tenth 9/11 anniversary, it’s stunning.

Starting in 1978, Judith Turner began photographing the twin towers of the recently completed World Trade Center.

Turner, whose iconic images helped to establish the reputations of the generation of postwar modernist architects that included Richard Meier, Charles Gwathmey and Peter Eisenman, was taken with the structural simplicity and abstract beauty of architect Minoru Yamasaki’s masterwork. Turner returned to the World Trade Center repeatedly over the next decade, conducting a personal project to document the towers’ elemental forms against the sky and in the surface reflections of surrounding buildings.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center, 23 of these images have been published for the first time in Pentagram Papers 41: WTC. The suite of images is accompanied by a preface by legendary tightrope artist Philippe Petit. (On August 7, 1974, Petit walked a high wire illegally stretched between the twin towers, a feat chronicled in his book To Reach the Clouds, the basis of the 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary Man on Wire, as well as an upcoming feature film, The Walk.)

The Pentagram Papers series has been privately published since 1974 for the firm’s friends and colleagues. For this special edition, a limited number of copies are available for $20 each, with all proceeds to be donated to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Contact info@pentagram.com for details.

Footnote: Although I visited New York a couple of times before 9/11, I never went up WTC. Both times I went, work colleagues implored me to do it ‘because we live her and never have the time’. Both times I ran out of time and never went to the top. I visited New York a few weeks after 9/11 and surveying the hole in the ground that was Ground Zero, wished I’d found the time to go to the top of the magnificent towers.

Quick iPhone Post

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I need to find a quicker way to get my posts up on the blog. I’ve downloaded WordPress for iPhone so let’s see if it helps. Apologies for the mundane pic – its the current view from my window in sunny Crossgates, Leeds.