29 December 2010

Ministry of Stories

The monster shop I posted about yesterday has a secret entrance.
What lies beyond the secret door is an official task force dedicated to their story-bound cause and going about their storytelling business.
I speak of the so-called Ministry of Stories: the official provider of children storytellers.
Otherwise known as
an official inspiration
for the nation
Aim: to lure children into storytelling.
It is the job of the Ministers to help children put their imagination into action: as a story, a song lyrics, a play script, a screenplay, a report for a newspaper, a blog post, a game, a poem, a graphic novel…
The foundation of the Ministry of Stories was initiated by Nick Hornby, inspired by the success of Dave Eggers’ 826 centres in the United States.
826 centres were a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, indeed. I’ve come across the Brooklyn Superhero Supply a few years ago. Still, I much prefer the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. The humour and the mood of the Ministry of Stories is decidedly harrypottery: and I love it all the more for that. The Ministry is fun, as there are
the Minister of Chalk and Brushes (responsible for the liason with schools);
the Minister of Monster Relations (responsible for the monster shop);
the Minister of the Street Over There (responsible for the liason with the communities);
the Minister of Twirly Lightbulbs and Furry Rugs (responsible for interior design of the Ministry);
the Minister of Lay-Bys and Rest Stops (responsible for directions and drawing of maps);
the Minister of Party Popper (responsible for events at the Ministry);
the Minister of Coins and Stamps (responsible for donations and sponsors);
the Minister 3:0 (responsible for online matters)
Are you interested to help? The Ministers seem very eager to lead the way.
And the children will surprise you. For even when they hate reading, they will come up with awsome and fantastic ideas for stories. If you can also give them the storytelling skill, you’ve got yourself a storytelling little monster.

27 December 2010

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

On 159 Hoxton Street in London there is a 'Hoxton Street Monster Supplies" store. The store has been there since 1818 and its loyal customers – the living, dead and undead - have continued to frequent it already for nearly 200 years.

According to the latest news, the store introduced new additions to the existing range of their Tinned Fears. Pursuant to the Monster Retail Act of 1827 (specifically Clause 14, Subsection 5, Revision (b)) the vendors are for the time being still prohibited from selling Fears in any other way than tinned. In total, there are now five Tinned Fears on offer: the Collywobbles, the Heebie Jeebies, the Vague Sense of Unease, Escalating Panic and Mortal Terror. Each has been tested and is guaranteed to enhance your mood according to the specification. Already the middle range, the 'Vague Sense of Unease', effectively destroys all feelings of ease, creating a rising yet uncertain sense of disquiet.

Please check the photographs below to find some of the other products on offer:

We were only dissapointed to find that the store refuses to accept not only credit cards and pre-decimal pound sterling, but also human sacrifice.


Intro: my London trip of last week.


A music video for 'Bloodbuzz Ohio', by The National. The song is from the 'High Violet' album, which is certainly among the very best albums of 2010.
Best track from this album: Conversation 16.

25 December 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

On September 21, 1897 an editorial 'Is There a Santa Claus' was published in The Sun of New York.
Virginia wrote:
"Dear Editor, I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says: "If you see it in THE SUN, it's so." Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?"
The Sun gave the following response:
"VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. [...] Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. [...] Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!"
Now back to you. Have you been tracking Santa through North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) yesterday night?
To all of you out there celebrating the birth of the sun, and to all of you out there celebrating the birth of the son:
ho bloody ho

[The photograph - 'Black Christmas' - is by Janne Lehtinen (2006)]

23 December 2010


These are from the series of photographs set in Greenland by Tiina Itkonen, a Finnish photographer.
"There are no roads that I could take to get away," said Tiina Itkonen.
"I follow my own paths. There are no trees: I can see the horizon far off in all directions. I am incapable of judging distances. I am not used to seeing this far."

Death of a samurai

A mesmerizing music video for Lovely Bloodflow, a song by Baths (from 'Cerulean', its debut album, 2010).

17 December 2010

Snow-wench (Snezena baba)

My morning flight to London was cancelled today. I should have known it would from the moment I woke up. Why? Because it snowed. And when it snows, your Dutchmen get very flustered. As soon as the snowflakes appear, a national emergency alarm sets over Holland.
Free drinks are offered at major train stations.
Traffic is completely halted.

Citizen stand in lines at stores to get as many provisions as they can afford to sustain them until the - thing - melts.
In the meantime, my fully paid hotel room in Kensington awaits me, empty...

What to do with all this snow? What do Russians do with all this snow?

They make snow-wenches (orig. снежная баба). What else?
(Note: All snow creations featured in this post are from Russia)


Remember those mixtapes? "I made a mixtape for you," he'd whisper, and then he'd run away in haste. This is about one of those. 'Mixtape', a cute short film by Luke Snellin (2009).

15 December 2010

The nest of 100 worries

An energetic video for 'Le Nid Des 100 Soucis' by Madjo, a classically trained French-Senegalese singeress and violinist (the song is from 'Trapdoor', her debut album, 2010).

14 December 2010

Stay In My Memory

Music is by Bim: 'Stay In My Memory' (from the 'Scatterheart' album, 2010).
Animation is by Katy Davis.

13 December 2010

Happy pagan holidays

Annie Lennox came back to us this year for Christmas with this pagan rendition of 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen'. The song appears in her newest album, A Christmas Cornucopia. Very wicca. We approve.

10 December 2010


A photo of our planet taken from a distance the commander of the International Space Station. If only we could also hear the captain's log...
If you haven't recognised the shape: it's Italy.
The commander, Mr Douglas Wheelock, shares more of his photos on Twitpic.

09 December 2010


This is a video of the seducive track 'Ma Benz' as performed by Brigitte.
Brigitte is a French duet formed in 2008 by Sylvie Hoarau and Aurélie Maggiori with an interesting blend of retro and folk. Sylvie Hoarau used to be the lead singer of Vendetta, one of the more interesting French bands.
The song is in fact a cover of 'Ma Benz' by NMT, which is all the more suprising if you actually know the original.

08 December 2010

Bad cover version

You're about to watch one of the most interesting videos there are. The song is 'Bad Cover Version' and the band is Pulp (2001). The video is clearly modelled on 'Do they know it's Christmas', a notorious studio session of jamming celebrities reaching out to us to give Christmas to Africa.
The difference is that this video here appears to be an endearing, if ironic tribute to Pulp and against all odds it features no stars. The singers - albeit honestly cooing their hearts out - are all fake. It's all rather like some strange pop stars maskenball.
Where does one find so many of these people? See if you can spot Robbie Williams, Liam Gallagher, Kylie Minogue, David Bowie, George Michael, Bono, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Jennifer Lopez, Paul McCartney, Craig David, Tom Jones, Björk, Kurt Cobain, Rod Stewart, Meat Loaf, Cher, Jason Kay, Jarvis Cocker, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Missy Elliott, Bob Geldof...

07 December 2010

Hey there, Toots!

This is Chloé Michelle Fischbach's hillarious impersonation of a Brooklyn man of Italian origin asking her on a date.
Check her YouTube channel for more improvisations (in particular her 'Girl from Washington Heights').
What I found particularly amazing is that she pulls off the Brooklyn man without any aid in costume or setting. She simply slips into her Brooklyn character, despite the fact that her origin is far from Italian and her gender very female. In fact, she leaves you awed again at the end when she slips back into her own self (if so).
Fischbach has apparently had no ambition so far to become an actress. Will she leave it at that, in front of her growing audience?

06 December 2010


'The World Is A Cigarette', by Agent Ribbon from Austin, Texas. The band consists of three women: the lead singer Natalie Ribbons, the drummer Lauren Ribbons and the violinist Naomi Ribbons.

03 December 2010

Janelle Monáe

Without any hesitation, I proclaim that Janelle Monáe is the top emerging artist of 2010. Her single 'Tightrope' (featuring also Outkast's Big Boi) will probably be placed on any list of top new tracks of 2010. The music video for 'Tightrope', if you haven't seen it yet, is a must. It is quite possibly the best video of 2010. Monáe's stage persona wears a black suit, string tie and saddle shoes and moves faster than James Brown. Apparently, Miss Monáe is a believer in, and a proponent of, time travel and she dates only androids.

02 December 2010

Frederik Roijé

Holy Homes (2007)

Breed Retreat (2010) - an architectural hen house to breed and retreat

Frederik Roijé is a young Dutch designer (his website includes a webshop). He first caught my interest a while ago with his 'Spineless Lamps', showcased and distributed through Droog.
I've been looking to buy that holy home for birds for some time now. Main obstacles: EUR 215 a piece, coupled with a socialistic upbringing.

Spineless Lamps (2003)

30 November 2010

At 9:03

This life-size dollhouse stands in Canada, alone, in the middle of a field, far removed from any urban settlement. It seems to be a preserved snapshot of the day it was abandoned. The clock is eerily stopped at 9:03, the chairs are pushed against the table, the clothes and toys lie, forgotten, where they fell in the haste of departure...
This is an art project of Heather Benning, who created the life-size 'Dollhouse' in Saskatchewan, Canada. She found a ruined farmhouse

and staged it as on the day of abandonment. She cut away one entire wall of the 2-stories high farmhouse. She restored its interior with the 1960s flair (while leaving the exterior intact). At the very end, she protected the interior she created with a glass panel. Finally, she stopped the clock at 9:03.
Heather Benning herself grew up on a farm not unlike the one she chose for her art project. As a child, she used to play in such abandoned farms. She would stage the ruins for her childhood games.

"I wanted to show the passage of time...," Benning explains. "I was able to show what it looked like before it was left, but then what it looks now, you know, 35 years later..."
It is the stopping of the clock that does it for me.
Very Miss Havisham.

Scenes from the suburban wars

I always get excited about the 'storytelling' songs. They are so rare.
The song is 'Suburbs' by Arcade Fire, an indie rock band from Quebec. This is the title song from Arcade Fire's third album (Suburbs, 2010). Press here for lyrics.
The video, directed by Spike Jonze, is but a preview of 'Scenes From The Suburbs' - a short film yet to be released by Arcade Fire before the end of this year.
The story line is intriguing and it may very well be a SF peep into (not so distant) future of suburban wars. I'll reserve my comments until the full film is released.
Another project of Arcade Fire not to be missed is their interactive music video for 'We used to Wait' (another track from their Suburbs album, this one directed by Chris Milk). This video will enable you to bring your own personal childhood into the visuals of the film. Provided that you have not, like I, crawled from the place far beyond the seven oceans (still to be explored to full lenghts by Google Map). While there are other similar interactive projects online (notably 'Cuckoo' by Lissie, where the visuals change with the concrete weather at your current location: it will snow if you are watching from Moscow, but not if you are watching from San Francisco), they are more a gag than a tool and they rarely reach you on a more personal, emotional level.
On a separate note, I wish the previews of full feature movies were more like this one: a project that feels complete, stirs your interest, yet doesn't reveal the plot. Then again, why DON'T they ever make previews of full feature movies in the form of a music video anyway? It certainly beats the commercials format that prompts us to go and get popcorn and coke.

28 November 2010

Get a grip

Title: Ducks

Title: Grip

Perhaps you've noticed already: for the time being I've abandoned the weekly themes. It became too limiting. I may still spin a week theme now and then, but generally I'll be posting random finds: a selection of those that not only catch my interest, but prompt a reaction.
I chose to open my newly found freedom with these photos of Marijke van Warmerdam, a Dutch multimedia artist. I spend most of my time living atop the same unbearably levelled Dutch landscape. It seems impossible for me to live (on it) without that warped perspective and imagination.

Title: A-side

Title: B-side

15 November 2010


A performance of 'Dance Dance Dance' in an L.A. park by Lykke Li and backed up by an indie band Bon Iver.

12 November 2010

One of the most dangerous guys out there

'Limit to Your Love' is a single by James Blake; a third release from this London based electronic composer (in his early 20s). This is the first single from his still eagerly expected debut album.
"Singing next to just a few handpicked sounds (a simple piano melody, a couple of drums, and a rattling sub bass) he turns Feist's jaunty original into something tense and brooding. His approach is so minimal that it's almost cocky: after each verse, he lets the song go silent for three, maybe four seconds, creating this incredible tension where you really crave the next sound. And for all the careful craft, there's still warmth - even soul- to this track, and it's that combo that makes Blake one of the most dangerous guys out there."
(from Pitchfork)

The Lucid Dream

The Lucid Dream is a bubble lamp designed by Eric Klaverbeek, a Dutch designer extraordinaire. It is obvious what inspired Klaverbeek: the blowing of bubbles. Klaverbeek literally hand-blew the lamp. In the short film posted above, Klaverbeek presented his work method applied to develop this beatiful product. What's more, Klaverbeek developed other inventive products, to name but a few below:

the eye jewellery project (see also video)

3-D curtains (made on assignment)

10 November 2010

A blow

A beautiful, beautiful Hermès installation created by the one and only Tokujin Yoshioka. Each time, this blows me away. It's just like Hogwarts!

09 November 2010


A dandelion turns into a dandelight at the magic hands of Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn, who took hundreds of real dandelion seeds and connected them, one by one, to little LED lamps. If eager for more, check Drift's website. You can also purchase a dandelight here.

08 November 2010

Let's bounce off to work

An awarded video by Goldfrapp for their track Happiness. This is a hommage to the bouncing scene from the musical 'Small Town Girl' (1953). Just like the movie scene, the Goldfrapp video is also shot in a single take.

05 November 2010

My High 5ves: Best of the Graduation Galleries

I've selected three of this year's graduation projects from Eindhoven Design Academy. Their work not only held my gaze, but it made me enthusiastic, too. There were some other designs that caught my eye, but the work of these three decidedly stood out.

My first choice is the 'dekenbank' designed by Romboud Maris.

This 'woollen blanket sofa' is but a few woollen blankets draped over a wooden frame. I love this idea for its simplicity and flexibility. I can absolutely see this sofa individualised with my own personal choice of materials. In addition, it solves the problem for those, who can get to discarded materials, but not to any money. This is a social design that restores dignity to poor living. If I was scouting for Ikea designers, this would be my first choice.

My second choice are lego clothes designed by Borre Akkersdijk.

In this 'kant en klaar collectie' (transl. ready-made collection) Akkersdijk created stuffed fabric blocks that can be sewn together to create comfortable and warm tops, coats, trousers and even dresses. Again, this design provides the user with an opportunity to customize and individualize the final product. A simple idea, yet countless variations are possible.

My third choice is a 'motion cabinet' designed by Niels Hoebers as a work-set for stop-motion animators.

Hoebers created this work-set during and after he had his internship at an animation film production studio in Poland. In order to see the work-set in stop-motion (!), please press here.
Someone should best tell Yuri Norstein about this.

On a final note, there is one more graduate project that I would like to mention: the strap with clips by Manon van Hoeckel.

This was a graduate project of Sint Lucas College of Applied Design and as such did not appear in the Graduation Galleries (reserved for the Design Academy Eindhoven). A surprisingly simple solution for carrying folders, books, maps and/or magazines.

04 November 2010

My High 5ves: Arnhemse Meisjes and the best of the rest

'Arnhemse Meisjes' is a collective of nine recently graduated product designers (all girls) from Arnhem:

Below is my selection of the best of the rest that was showcased in the hall of indie designers in Klokgebouw. Ontwerpduo and Nieuwe Heren are missing, as I've already posted about them last week.

Olav Slingerland:

Chris Ruhe, 'Only doors' collection:


Tom Frencken:

Michiel Cornelissen: