Category Archives: Documentary

“Stuff Happened Anyway”: Paula Scher on design

Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica subtly did more than examine the ubiquitous font. Most of us would like to be designers in the same way we’d like to be athletes or musicians and we’re interested in those who do it well. Hustwit tapped into that need and let several prominent figures from that world have free rein to discuss what they see and how they see it. Elegant Paula Scher and twitchy Erik Spiekermann come off well, others sound like prats best avoided.

Scher has looked at information design and presentation with the artist’s eye, quite different from, say, an Edward Tufte. Her perspective, driven by artistic and marketing concerns, are at once intriguing and disturbing. She stretches and distorts to make larger points such as claiming that Helvetica was the font of the Vietnam and Iraq wars. It’s not a literal accusation, only that it is the kind of calming gloss that corporations and governments use to disguise their little murders. But, she also cops to fabricating the data she’s (re)presenting to make her point. I admire a lot of her work; it is bold, brash, and political. I don’t know whether I would enjoy living, working, or studying in something so shouty. Nevertheless, I’ve got my autosearches configured to let me know if she’s ever speaking within a couple of hours of LA.

Several of her other lectures are on the web and worth a look. Scher sounds like the canonical good seatmate on a long flight. I doubt she travels coach, though.

Hustwit’s films Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized. are available for affordable digital download from his website, $5.99/ea.

Paula Scher y la tipografía

Watch this video on YouTube.

Paula Scher: Do What You've Never Done Before

Watch this video on YouTube.

Paula Scher – New York Design

Watch this video on YouTube.

ARTIST SERIES: Paula Scher from Hillman Curtis on Vimeo.

Illuminated Manuscripts: SFSO explains ‘Eroica’

The San Francisco Symphony set a high standard for musical education with ‘Keeping Score,’ an interactive immersion into great music and composers. Each episode features  performance excerpts, scrolling score with annotations, and a wealth of historical context. There’s also a lot of MTT.  All done with the technology and bandwidth available in 2006 and still unequaled.   Click the image and dive headlong into the Eroica.

Ludwig_van_Beethoven__Eroica___San_Francisco_Symphony_Keeping_Score

Image (c) 2006 San Francisco Symphony

Then try Mahler, Berlioz, Ives, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Copland, and Tchaikovsky.

Backyard Treasures: Western Museum of Flight’s speaker series

Who knew that The Western Museum of Flight has a speaker series and that the Peninsula Seniors have made many of these talks available for all to see? I routinely search for things like this and last night stumbled across these by accident. Aircraft buffs owe both organizations a big vote of thanks. And, there are plenty more gems where these came from.

A-12 Spy Plane

Watch this video on YouTube.

SR-71 Pilot Maury Rosenberg

Watch this video on YouTube.

The J-58 made simple(r)

I got a copy of the SR-71 Pilot’s Manual as soon as it became available in the early 1990s. It’s a throwback to the days of slide rules and handmade graphics and utterly fascinating. There is a lot of material on the Pratt and Whitney J-58 engine and the Lockheed inlets that powered the Blackbird beyond Mach 3 yet I have never been able to fully understand why and how that system did what it did. Thankfully, Blackbird enthusiast Tech Adams explains it all in his delightful video – The Mighty J58 – The SR-71’s Secret Powerhouse.

The Mighty J58 – The SR-71's Secret Powerhouse

Watch this video on YouTube.

Genius without compromise – Perelman and the shape of the universe

An absorbing and slightly frustrating look at famed mathematician and now recluse, Grigori Perelman. His solution of the Poincare conjecture earned him a Fields Medal and a Clay Millennium prize – both of which he declined on principle.

Superb insights on the man and his impact from other leading lights in the field and frustrating given the large amounts of irrelevant stock footage of random happenings at assorted universities.

Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber’s controversial New Yorker article on the politics underlying the purest of pure math, ‘Manifold Destiny’ makes for equally fascinating reading.

Grigori Perelman documentary

Watch this video on YouTube.

(In Russian with English captions)