21 December 2011

Combat Christmas chill

Gift ideas that come to mind as best fitted to combat the Christmas chill with: blankets from Iceland (by Vík Prjónsdóttir), matches and fairy tales.

Snow Blanket 
Shield of Wings (below)

20 December 2011

Bernadette's doubtful comforts

These two videos were both directed by the Berlin-based studio A Nice Idea Every Day. The first one is the official music video for 'Bernadette', a song of IAMX (album 'Volatile Times', 2011). The second one is the official music video for 'Doubtful Comforts', a song of Blue Roses (album 'Blue Roses', 2009).

19 December 2011

IKEA hacks

Apparently, roughly one tenth of Europeans has been conceived in an IKEA bed.
The mere fact that IKEA is so incredibly accessible to a regular joe, helped build a widely shared perception that an IKEA household appears generic and impersonal. It does, too: were you to purchase all your furniture, objects and accessories from Droog, your household would look impersonal and, yes, generic.

All above photographs showcase IKEA households, in our desire to inspire. You haven't seen those lovely elements in your catalogue, you say? That's because you haven't. The images above are of IKEA hacks: unique objects derived from the mass product. The key is to realize that an IKEA product can also be used as material (especially considering its price): it's a LEGO block of sorts. The mass product is there for you to personalize and repurpose: in the words of IKEA Hackers, you can »break into the IKEA code of furniture assembly.« If so, the sky's the limit where your IKEA household is concerned.


We're not all natural-born IKEA hackers with hammer and nail always at the ready. In the meantime, IKEA has become such a constant in our lives that a whole myriad of satellite businesses has developed in its orbit specializing in just that: creating options for you to personalize your IKEA furniture. A few suggestions:

Bemz is a Swedish company making custom designed fabric slipcovers for IKEA sofas, armchairs and other furniture. I recommend dressing up this sofa, and this bed.

Mykea is a Dutch company making custom designed stickers for IKEA furniture.
The possiblities are endless. There are even furniture makers offering to add custom-made doors to your IKEA cabinets (see REDO). 

18 December 2011

Christmas songlist for the laid-back, pagan and kinky

Gem's selection of Christmas croons:

Santa Baby, by Eartha Kitt

Baby, It's Cold Outside, by Sammy Davis Jr and Carmen McRae

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, by Annie Lennox

O Come O Come Emmanuel, by Belle & Sebastian

Winter Wonderland, by Radiohead
(you may want to move a minute ahead with this one)

In order to see the 25 best Christmas songs of all time as ranked by the professional musicians themselves, press here: as it turns out, the best Christmas song is, perhaps unsurprisingly, exactly the one that always scored the highest among the anti-Christmas anthems.

14 December 2011

2012 feature: Champagne

Who knew I'd ever fall for Dutch champagne? Head over heals, even. Zarb is a completely new champagne brand developed but a year ago by THEY (see at theyhaveawebsite.com). 'Zarb' means bizarre in French slang and Zarb is exactly how I want to travel to 2012.
I welcome any concept that makes champagne 'an everyday tradition, like brushing your teeth or losing your car keys'. The website kindly reassures us that Zarb champagne is best served everywhere, anywhere, here, now: may it be at our ex-partner's wedding, at confession or while riding a mermaid.
Napoleon said it all: in victory you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it.
The two bottles featured above are from Zarb's special art edition: the latter was designed by Tjep. and the former by La Bolleur. [Press here in order to see the other inspiring bottles from this edition.]
If interested in buying, you are best advised to do so on Thursdays. That is when Ivan is working, Zarb's 'employee of the month and fastest bottle picker'.


The 'Lucky Building' in New York City: "[a]nd who would want to crash a plane into such a friendly looking building...," indeed.
New York City skyline received this makeover from Tjep., a Dutch design studio formed by Frank Tjepkema.
(A while ago, Gem featured another Tjep.'s project.)
Note that dot: not 'Tjep', but Tjep. is the name of this studio with a dot on elegance, technology and poetry.

12 December 2011

Training table manners

De Tafelwip (loosely translated: 'the courtesy table') is a playful, if slightly scornful Dutch design by Marleen Jansen. If you are going to be so rude as to leave the table before everyone has finished dinner, you will cause the other diner to crash down.

11 December 2011

Bookshelf porn

You may be acquainted with individuals who read ebooks. You may even have befriended one or two such ereaders. Chances are that you yourself are such an ereader. We, however, still indulge in books in a trashy way.

We frequent libraries and bookstores, and we carefully plan our interiors to accomodate the beloved books. Over the years, we moved from one to another jurisdiction, house, job, lover. Old LPs, casettes, magazines, letters, dear gifts were more often than not lost along our way. Usually, it is only the books that make it. Each a story in its own right, they link us to our past.

And so it can hardly come as a surprise that our bookshelves are something between a shrine and a peep-show. Our books may seem accidental to an innocent bystander, but we who selected them know better. We indulge in scanning the libraries of people we know to get to know these people better.

We may have entered the sexy boudoirs of those who persuaded us to come up for a nightcap, but we hastily departed when we found their poor books or, even, no books at all. I know a man who fell under a spell of his (now) girlfriend, when he saw her bookshelves: she pins little green curtains on each individual shelf to keep books safe. How could one possibly resist that?
Photographs featured are all taken from Bookshelf Porn, a photo-blog showcasing only the best photographs of bookshelves: the ones that are nothing less than 'porn for book lovers'. Highly recommended. In the coming days, we will select and feature bookshelves we crave for.

Variations on normal

Foam sculptures

Nosing the smartphone while having a bath (featuring Wilcox himself)

A chair swing (featuring Wilcox being swung by his dad)

Honesty stamps

A measure-tape diary

There's a big chance that you've already come accross Dominic Wilcox. His war bowls are by now a classic on design blogs. He is, however, more an innovator than a designer. Wilcox's amazing blog, Variations on normal, is really a little factory of innovations. In his own words: his blog is "a place for the sketchbook thoughts, ideas, and inventions of me, Dominic Wilcox." It is hard to believe that this is a one-man factory: there seem to be no Oompa-Loompas there cheerfully slaving away.
For those of you that could honestly make use of that honesty stamp, it comes in eight variations:
I sincerely apologise for all the trouble I've caused.
In all my life I've never met anyone as beautiful as you.
All I ask for is one last chance.
I know in the past I've found it difficult to say these words but I LOVE YOU.
What do you mean I'm always too busy?
I swear on my mother's grave I'll never do that again.
You are by far the most talented person I know.
You're right, the key to a strong relationship is communication.
Very handy.

While some of his sketchbook innovations made it in the real world (see Wilcox's webshop), others may never come about. Unfortunately, because it is exactly the latter that are amusing to no end. We're shamelessly applying a handful of his sketchbook ideas in our daily routine.

09 December 2011


Herbert A. Millington
Chair – Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall, Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.

Chris L. Jensen

06 December 2011

Jazz noir

Amidst all the Britnies and Justins we have forgotten all about it. What makes for really good music? It's quite simple, really. A really good singer and a really good song.
But then there's a whole different brand of music. Which secret ingredient sets such music appart from really good music? We don't know. We only know how to recognise it: we find it irresistable. Play it again, Sam... A person dear to me finds 'Back It Up' to be such irresistable music.
Indeed, the song and the singer fit the bill. Caro Emerald, a Dutch conservatory trained jazz vocalist, is a really good singer. And the song, written by David Schreurs and Vince Degiorgio, is a really good song.
There is that rare chemistry there between the singer and the song, too: apparently, it took only one take. The song even has a cinematic quality to it. As you listen, Humphrey Bogarts are hiding at every corner.
And as for the secret ingredient... Ever since the single came out in 2009, the listeners do exactly as the song instructs: they back it up and do it again. Even the lyrics read as a manual for manic listeners:

Gimme some of that funky
The kind that the Duke used to play
And make it more swingy

And then give me some hornay
You know the bub-pu-pa bub-pu-pa-bay
Come on, give it to me
Hmmm hmmm

Slam that bass and make it sing
Give those strings that rip 'n zing
You know zactly what I came here for
Back it up and do it again

I believe this song is one of the most cleverly crafted songs I've come accross.
As one reviewer has put it: Caro finds her charm in a fairly obvious way; she takes the heart-pounding, smoky-lounged, crowd-whistling side of jazz and makes that the backbone of her music. In other words, Caro gave center stage to jazz I call 'jazz noir', vocal jazz from the movies that always feels like guilty pleasure... Hollywood jazz forever associated with bar noise, smoking, femme fatalles and men with hats. Hats off to Caro.

04 December 2011


A cloud umbrella

Pillows blanket

Back-to-nature speakers

A sea-wave sound chair, a rocking chair...

... giving out the sound of waves and providing you with the illusion of a beach...

All above featured products were designed by Studio Joon&Jung from Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The designers, Joonsoo Kim, Jungyou Choi and Hyunwook Lee, are originally Korean and graduates from the Design Academy Eindhoven. Their unique blend of Dutch and Korean approaches to design makes up for a delightfully unexpected portfolio. It is becoming more apparent by the day that also in design Asia is the new frontier.

29 November 2011

Dillard and Fullerton's Traveling Circus

A tune that might just as well have been from the 1920s. It isn't, though. 'Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn' was created a year ago by Evelyn Evelyn.
Evelyn Evelyn is a cirque-cum-cabaret band of two twin sisters, who were conjoined at birth. They make original compositions on piano, ukulele, guitar and accordion. Prior to forming Evelyn Evelyn, they traveled with the Dillard & Fullerton's Illusive Traveling Show.

Have you seen my sister Evelyn?
Dang she's gone and wandered off again.
I've been looking high and low,
Where oh where'd my sister go?

Now relax and put all those recurring Fellini images to rest. You will be relieved to learn that beneath the smoke and mirrors the twins are not real. They are fictional characters acted out by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley.

Is my floozy sister with the doctor,
Or the drummer,
Or the dentist or the handyman?
Did that ho-bag quit her job and run off
with that dickhead Mike,
To Indio, Guantanamo,
Or Panama or Disneyland.
Is she studying Kabbalah?
Did she win a million dollars?
Or is she dead in a ditch somewhere?

The endearing music video was directed by Hoku Uchiyama (lead animation by Adam Bolt). Betty Boop era cartoon characters are finger-drawn onto the frosted store window: the entire animation is running on frost. Sort of an animated 'Harold and His Purple Crayon': only much, much crazier.

Who framed Willy Moon

baby girl who's playing seek
all them things that you do to me

what I got to oh so near
things you do to send me there

"What the hell was that?" were my precise thoughts as I finished watching this video. For the performer, the song and the music video each appear other-wordly. Is it because the song, delivered on 21st century keyboards and urban beats, at the same time resonates with early 1950s Motown? Or is it due to the rockabilly singer who arrives onto the stage more a Toon than a man?
I'm referring here to the cartoon characters generally (and Jessica Rabbit specifically) starring alongside Bob Hoskins in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'. (If you are not familiar with the velvety stage performance by Jessica Rabbit, press here.)
Note how the performer comes up and departs as in a cartoon. Watch him being shot at by the instruments at 1:11. "Hit me now," he invites and the shooting ensues. "Enough," he commands moments later, and the shooting ceases.
Around this time, the song and the lyrics intensify, bringing before you the blue velvet stages of David Lynch. 'Dance music dark enough to block the sun at high noon", as some reviewers described it.

hey pretty baby it's me and you
I'll be your house and only you (...)

hey when the people comes around
just kick me down in a hole in the ground

The moonish 'toonish performer is Willy Moon (21), an indie songwriter and singer from New Zealand, who bought a one-way ticket to London when 18. Part in Berlin and part in London is where he wrote and recorded 'I Wanna Be Your Man', his debut single.
“It took a long time to record because I’m doing it all on my own and I had to work out how to use the recording software,” he explained.
Made on a budget of £150, this minimalistic music video stands out: it's simple, inventive, playful (if a bit eerie), surprising and completely blended with the style of the performer and the mood of the song.
And it's nice and short, just like they used to make 'em.
An unexpected pleasure, this find.

28 November 2011

Be God

Dance, dance where the saints all come to play
And the angels dyed their feathers cool, cool decay
And if you're judging by the shoes you'll think God is gay

Saul Williams is an American poet turned hip hop artist. The track here featured is 'Dance' from Williams' latest album (Volcanic Sunlight, 2011).
The music video was directed by Cédric Blaisbois.
This is disco inferno at its best. Abba gone all macabre on you.
Lyrics matter here: this song is also a poem. It is being narrated to you by the one who's inviting you for a dance.

Dance, dance where the streets are paved with gold
And the angels and the gods do what they're told
Hey, hey, everybody, come and dance with me
Leave your fears at the door carved from the tree

You must know by now which tree he's referring to.

You wanna kiss
You wanna get into
What the preachers and the teachers
Told you not to do
If only for tonight, sweetheart
Be God

You must know by now who you're dancing with, too.

27 November 2011


'A Handy Tip for the Easily Distracted', a vignette created by Miranda July that didn't make it in the final cut of The Future (which premiered at Sundance 2011). Now go and take your hostages for tomorrow: for distractions are on the attack more on Mondays than on any other days in the week.
For those of you who are not familiar with Miranda July: Gem has featured her a few times before. Our radar has also caught her in a recent UK performance. We would have loved to outbid the audience.

26 November 2011


You will be amazed to learn that this music short was made on a tiny budget of £160 in an abandoned house in East London. The eerie track is 'House', by Cool Fun. Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, a lady macabre from Wales.
Deliciously eerie: a gem and a personal favourite.

17 November 2011

Other Lives

The official music videos for 'Tamer Animals' and 'For 12', by an American indie band Other Lives. In order to watch 'For 12' in a higher resolution and interactively, try here.
The word is that 'Other Lives' will tour with Radiohead.

04 November 2011

Cottage Town

'Cottage Town' by Ontwerpduo: a mini village in your potplant. "Ordinary plants," is written by Ontwerpduo, "will be turned into huge trees or fields."
The constructions are also water resistant.

27 October 2011


A bed is a book. Open at twilight. Cover yourself with the page. Read yourself into sleep. Write yourself out.
This 'writtenafterwards' futon book bed was designed by Yusuke Suzuki.
writtenafterwards is a Japanese fashion and culture label.

13 October 2011


"While Waterloo was no doubt Napoleon’s most crushing defeat, it was not his most embarrassing.

In 1807, Napoleon was in high spirits having signed the Peace of Tilsit, a landmark treaty between France, Russia, and Prussia. To celebrate, he suggested that the Imperial Court should enjoy an afternoon’s rabbit shooting.

It was organised by his trusted chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier, who was so keen to impress Napoleon that he bought thousands of rabbits to ensure that the Imperial Court had plenty of game to keep them occupied.

The party arrived, the shoot commenced, and the game-keepers released the quarry. But disaster struck. Berthier had bought tame, not wild, rabbits, who mistakenly thought they were about to be fed rather than killed.

Rather than fleeing for their life, they spotted a tiny little man in a big hat and mistook him for their keeper bringing them food. The hungry rabbits stormed towards Napoleon at their top speed of 35 mph.

The shooting party – now in shambolic disarray – could do nothing to stop them. Napoleon was left with no other option but to run, beating the starving animals off with his bare hands. But the rabbits did not relent and drove the Emperor back to his carriage while his underlings thrashed vainly at them with horsewhips.

According to contemporary accounts of the fiasco, the Emperor of France sped off in his coach, comprehensively beaten and covered in shame."

(Source: The Book of General Ignorance, by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson)

F. Try Harder.

This is from a little bookie of test solutions that had to be (solutions, not the bookie), regrettably, awarded with an F. These F students may be low on accuracy, but they are high on creativity and humour (at times, admittedly, unintentionally).
F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers, by Richard Benson.

Some of my favourites:

Q: What was Sir Isaac Newton famous for?
A: He invented gravity.
(The answer comes even with a hand-drawn apple nicely fallen to the floor, for the first time ever.)

Q: Define enzyme.
A: Superhero of the cell.
Q: Now coenzyme.
A: Enzyme's sidekick.
(No drawings, regrettably.)

There are many other F tests on the web (like the two below).

A-tests may earn better, but them F-tests... they break a leg... They make it to the stage. I only wish I had kept some of mine...

07 October 2011


Our language, our souls' only treasure,
We stuffed in the suitcase
Next to the family album,
And off we went to tilt it at the windmills
Beating the chilly Dutch air.

(Ferida Duraković)

06 October 2011


Hope to meet him at least when I cross over, though one can never be sure what we'll cross over to now that he's gone there.

03 September 2011


1. What was the name of the country in the south of Europe that fell apart in 1991?
a) Yugoslovakia,
b) Yugoslavia,
c) Slovenakia.

2. What was the name of the inhabitants of that country?
a) The Yugoslavs,
b) the Mungoslavs,
c) the Slavoyugs.

3. Where do these people, whose country has disappeared, live now?
a) They are no longer alive,
b) They are barely alive,
c) They have moved to another country.

4. What should people who have moved to another country do?
a) They should integrate,
b) They should disintegrate,
c) They should move to yet another country.

09 August 2011


At the lake Bâlea, atop the Făgăraș Mountains
Carpatians, Romania