Interesting and/or cool stuff I've come across from art, design, technology, photography, movies I've watched and liked and, occasionally, my thoughts.

Penny Dreadfuls & Murder Broadsides

A fun read on the history of Penny Dreadfuls - cheap, easy to read, mostly pulpy fiction - and Murder Broadsides - one-sided sheets printed and sold in time for executions, recounting the crimes of the condemned.

From the article:

Enter the penny dreadful, typically eight or sixteen pages, printed on cheap paper, taking its serialized story cues from gothic thrillers of the previous century. Most of the stories are now forgotten, but one notable exception is everyone’s favorite homicidal barber, Sweeney Todd.

All with a generous sprinkling of type nerdery, as you'd expect from I love Typography. Come for the macabre, stay for the type. Go read Penny Dreadfuls & Murder Broadsides on ILT.

Image credit British Newspaper Archive via ILT.

Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955)

Noted, January 2021

Collected bits and pieces I've noticed this month.

There were quite a lot of high profile rebrands recently, good and... no good.
The good: Burger King
Not sure: CIA and KIA
The no good: GM

More good: Midi, the hugely important audio technology from 1981 has now reached version 2.0 and Pentagram created a very cool new brand to go with it.

The new amazon app icon is not a white square with a single color logo and it's already the butt of hipster Hitler jokes. Because, internet.

This post on hyphenation on the web by Richard Clagnut is almost two years old now, unfortunately pretty much nothing here can actually be used. A bit more control over hyphenation without reaching for Javascript qould be nice is all I'm saying.

"Why I’ve tracked every single piece of clothing I’ve worn for three years" Olof Hoverfält. Yes, Olof did data science on his wardrobe. via Boing Boing

Michael McWatters writes about the shadow-death of InVision Studio and, to some extent, InVision itself.

If you're into watch faces, Arun Venkatesan has written about some of the classic styles behind Apple Watch faces.

Redesigning sugar

A fascinating story in New Yorker magazine on redesigning sugar. There's currently two competing approaches to reducing the harmful effects of sugar while keeping the taste benefits as well as the important role sugar plays in baking—artificial sweeteners fail to deliver the crumbling important in certain types of pastries.

One approach is mixing sugar with indigestible, but effectively harmless additives like silica, or changing the make-up of the sugar molecules just enough change how it's metabolised:

"Each silica grain is less than a fiftieth the diameter of human hair—invisible to the eye and undetectable on the tongue. DouxMatok’s production process embeds them throughout each sugar crystal, like blueberries in a muffin. /... / The atoms in a sucrose molecule are usually stacked in a well-ordered lattice, but when this structure becomes what scientists call “amorphous,” its atoms frozen in random chaos, it dissolves on the tongue much more quickly. Incredo’s exponentially more soluble structure rapidly saturates your taste buds, delivering an intense hit of sweetness."

The other is finding a different enough kind of sugar that the human body doesn't quite know how to approach:

"Allulose caramelizes, it fluffs, it stabilizes, and it delivers both mouthfeel and crumb structure in baked goods. “It behaves like a sugar because it is one,” Carr said. Yet, despite the fact that this rare sugar behaves almost exactly like sucrose in the kitchen, it remains sufficiently alien to pass through the human intestine without being digested or fermented."

There might just be another way by simply gradually reducing the amount of it, much like it's been gradually increased for tens of years:

Hampton mentioned that, before he came to Tate & Lyle, he worked at PepsiCo, where he managed to cut salt levels in British potato chips by half during a five-year period, without anyone noticing. “Can you do it with sugar as well? That’d be interesting,” he said.

Dina Litovsky's photo series of the Amish on vacation.

Font Detectives

Glenn Fleishman in a fascinating story for Wired that involves the Prime minister of Pakistan, Justin Timberlake, a rabbi and typography.

The prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Sharif, provided an exculpatory document that had been typeset in Calibri—a Microsoft font that was only released for general distribution nearly a year after the document had allegedly been signed and dated. While Sharif’s supporters waged a Wikipedia war over the Calibri entry, type designer Thomas Phinney quietly dropped some history lessons about the typeface on Quora, and found himself caught in a maelstrom of global reporting. Phinney said that because Calibri has been in use for several years, people have forgotten that it’s a relatively new font.

Greg Girard’s photos from inside the infamous (since demolished) Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong.

Huge, 3×1m pen and ink drawing by Manabu Ikeda, titled Rebirth, finished after almost 3.5 years.

via This is Colossal

The New York Times special about the supertall buildings of NYC, the people who live in them, the people who build them and what happens in, on, and around them. Oh, and some spectacular views.

After Tohoku

For Retrace Our Steps French photographers Carlos Ayesta and Guillaume Bressio took residents of Namie, now a ghost town like many others in the region, back to their old settings as if the 2011 Tohoku earthquake never happened.

Onomatopoeic Japanese Chockolate

This is zaku zaku, japanese for the crunching sound that stepping on ice might make. It’s one of a set of chocolates designed to represent japanese words for certain textures, by studio Nendo for the Maison et Objet design show in Paris. Go see the rest of them on Nendo’s site because they’re all fantastic.

The physics behind the ollie

Rodeny Mullen invented the flatground ollie in 1982 based on Alan “Ollie” Gelfands no-handed airs on vert. For the uninitiated it looks like magic, the board seemingly glued to the skaters' feet. For the initiated, it feels like magic — successfully popping your first ollie is an endorphin cocktail rivaling the best.

Aathis Batia goes all sciency for Wired and shows the forces at work while popping an ollie.