Posts tagged ‘retro’


Remarks on the typography of Star Wars

16.12.2015

Star Wars is in my feed in a big way. To get up to speed on the film series, I had to start with the memorable theme by John Williams.

Thanks, Bill and Paul.
   And who better to describe the plot than someone else in the science-fiction world, Doctor Who?

   Seriously though, I hope all friends who are big Star Wars fans enjoy Episode VII. It seems to be getting positive reviews, partly because it appeals to our sense of nostalgia. It hasn’t blown anyone away in the same manner as the 1977 original, but then Disney would be very foolhardy to stray for this sequel. If you are building a brand that was at its height 30 years ago, nostalgia isn’t a bad tool—just ask the team that came up with the 1994 Ford Mustang. J. J. Abrams—the creator of Felicity and What about Brian?, plus some other things—has apparently been a genius at getting just enough from the past.
   One item that is from Star Wars’ past is the opening title, or the crawl. I’ll be interested to learn if they’ve managed to re-create the typography of the original: they were unable to provide perfect matches for Episodes I through III because of the changes in technology and cuts of the typefaces that made it into the digital era. The main News Gothic type is far heavier in these later films. ITC Franklin Gothic was used for ‘A long time ago 
’ for I to III; this, too, was originally News Gothic, but re-releases have brought all six films into line to use the later graphic.
   However, it could be argued that even between Episodes V and VI there were changes: News Gothic Extra Condensed in caps for the subtitle for The Empire Strikes Back, switching to Univers for Return of the Jedi. (It seems even the most highly ranked fan wiki missed this.) And, of course, there was no equivalent in the original Star Wars—’A New Hope’ was added in 1981.
   Here’s how it looked in 1977:

And if you really wish to compare them, here are all six overlaid on each other:

   I wasn’t a huge fan in the 1970s: sci-fi was not my thing, and I only saw Star Wars for the first time in the 1980s on video cassette, but I did have a maths set, complete with Artoo Detoo eraser (I learned my multiplication table from a Star Wars-themed sheet) and the Return of the Jedi book of the film. But even for this casual viewer and appreciator, enough of that opening sunk in for me to know that things weren’t quite right for The Phantom Menace in 1999. I hope, for those typographically observant fans, that The Force Awakens gets things back on track.

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Posted in humour, marketing, TV, typography, UK, USA | No Comments »


Geely Vision: as fast as a Citroën 2CV flat out

23.01.2015

I was very interested to see this graphic on the Geely Instagram account today:

   Spot the issue? I commented (and I wonder if they will delete it): ‘I would be a bit worried if the Geely GC7 found 71·5 mph its “flat out” speed. That would make it only as fast as a CitroĂ«n 2CV!’
   That reference to the French 2CV (which I note the Germans called the Ente or, even more humorously, the Döschwo), is intentional. Not only is 71·5 mph the top speed of a CitroĂ«n 2CV, but here’s an advertisement from over 30 years ago (found here):

   This particular Geely (variously sold, with stylistic differences, as the Geely Vision and Gleagle GC7 and other identities over the years—and it’s related to the Emgrand EC7, Geely New Emgrand and Geely Emgrand Classic) reminds me of the E140 Toyota Corolla. However, as the company is about to embark on launching the wonderful GC9, a car styled under Peter Horbury dĂ©buting its new design language, this is the least appropriate time to remind people that some Chinese manufacturers have engaged in cloning vehicles. Geely’s been above board with original designs—unlike BYD, Zotye, Changcheng, Chery and others—and this is the last thing they want to be associated with.
   Please note this as a humorous tribute, guys—and redo it so that people don’t think the GC7’s top speed is 71·5 mph.

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Posted in cars, China, humour, internet, marketing, UK | No Comments »


National and Labour in the General Election, summarized for non-Kiwis

27.12.2014

Would this be the easiest way to explain how the two major parties were during the General Election this year to those overseas? First, National; second, Labour.

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Posted in humour, New Zealand, politics | 3 Comments »


Cuba’s automotive time warp

29.05.2014

My friend Stephen Smith filmed the following in Cuba, looking at the pre-1959 US cars that are still running (mostly on non-original engines) there. It’s also interesting for the odd non-US car that you see: various Ladas (the original Zhiguli shape), a Volkswagen Gol in one scene, and an Emgrand EC8. Steve and his wife Ilona Kauremszky have more travel stories at their website, www.mycompass.ca, and more videos at their YouTube channel.

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Posted in cars, China, media, TV, USA | No Comments »


Sherlock Holmes, US-style

27.04.2014

There’s a good reason (other than time) I do not watch Elementary, though I did try about 10 minutes’ worth before giving up.
   The last time I watched the US make Sherlock Holmes, it was the above: The Return of Sherlock Holmes (though I believe it was 4:3). CBS updated Holmes to the modern day, and put in a female Watson.
   Nothing wrong with that premise. But the other one is slightly problematic: John Watson’s descendant, Jane Watson (Margaret Colin) ïŹnds a cryogenically frozen Sherlock Holmes (Australian actor Michael Pennington), defrosts him, and together they solve a series of murders.
   It was fun as a teenager in the wake of Moonlighting, Remington Steele and Back to the Future, but it doesn’t really stand up that well today.
   Interestingly, apart from one segment, it was ïŹlmed in Britain (you know this because Shane Rimmer—who is actually Canadian—and Connie Booth are in it). Britain stood in for the US.
   I wasn’t thrilled with two of the last three BBC Sherlocks—they simply weren’t as clever as the first six—but the series is still more enjoyable than most of the stuff on telly today.

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Thoughts from a thoroughly modern machine

25.01.2012

After I got back from India, my desktop computer went into meltdown. This was Nigel Dunn’s old machine, which I took over after he went to Australia, and it gave me excellent service for over two years.
   I wasn’t prepared to go and buy a brand-new machine, but having made the plunge, I’m glad I did. The installation went rather well and the only major problem was Wubi and Ubuntu, which, sadly, did not do what was promised. The installer failed, the boot sequence either revealed Linux code or a deep purple screen, and the time I spent downloading a few programs to sample was wasted (not to mention the two hours of trying to get Ubuntu to work). Shame: on principle, I really wanted to like it.
   Funnily enough, everything on the Microsoft end went quite well apart from Internet Explorer 9 (the same error I reported last year), which then seemed to have taken out Firefox 9 with the same error (solved by changing the compatibility mode to Windows XP). Eudora 7.1 had some funny changes and would not load this morning without fiddling with the shortcut, Windows 7 forgot to show me the hidden files despite my changing the setting thrice, and there were some other tiny issues not worth mentioning. But, I am operating in 64-bit land with a lot of RAM, DDR5s on the graphics’ card, and more computing power than I could have imagined when, in 1984, my father brought home a Commodore 64, disk drive, printer and monitor, having paid around NZ$100 more than I did on Tuesday.

I could have gone out and bought the computer last week, after the old machine died. But there’s the whole thing about New Year. The focus was family time, preparing food and pigging out for New Year’s Eve (January 22 this time around), and New Year’s Day is definitely not one for popping out and spending money.
   Which brings me to my next thought about how immigrant communities always keep traditions alive. You do have to wonder whether it’s still as big a deal “back home”: I was in Hong Kong briefly en route back to Wellington, and you didn’t really feel New Year in the air. There was the odd decoration here and there, but not what you’d imagine.
   It’s the Big Fat Greek Wedding syndrome: when the film was shown in Greece, many Greeks found it insulting, portraying their culture as behind the times and anachronistic, while they had moved on back in the old country. The reality was a lot more European, the complainants noted.
   And you see the same thing with the Chinese community. People who would never have given a toss about the traditions in the old country suddenly making them out to be sacrosanct in the new one. Maybe it’s motivated by a desire to transmit a sense of self to the next generation: in a multicultural society, you would hope that youngsters have the chance to pick and choose from the best traditions from both their heritage and their new nation, and carry them forward.

Windows XP VM

A retro note: I love Fontographer 3.5. So I put it on a virtual machine running XP. Fun times, courtesy of Conrad Johnston, who told me about Oracle VM Virtual Box.
   I also found a great viewer, XnView, to replace the very ancient ACDSee 3.1 that I had been using as a de facto file manager. (Subsequent versions were bloatware; XnView is freeware and does nearly the same thing.) I’ve ticked almost all the boxes when it comes to software.
   Because of the thoroughly modern set-up, I haven’t been able to put in a 3Âœ-inch floppy as threatened on Twitter. Fontographer was transferred on to a USB stick, though I have yet to play with it properly inside the virtual machine. Both the Windows 7 and virtual machines are, in typical fashion, Arial-free.
   Although I have seen VMs before, I am still getting a buzz out of the computer-within-a-computer phenomenon.

To those who expected me to Tweet doom and gloom from my computing experience last night, I’m sorry I disappointed you. My posts about technology, whether written on this blog or on Twitter, are not to do with some belief in a computing industry conspiracy, as someone thought. The reason: to show that even this oh-so-logical profession is as human as the next. Never, ever feel daunted because of someone’s profession: we are all human, and we are all fallible. Sometimes I like reminding all of us of that: in fact, the more self-righteous the mob, the more I seem to enjoy bringing them down to a more realistic level, where the rest of us live. We’re all a lot more equal in intellect than some would like to think, and that assessment goes right to the top of the political world.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, internet, technology, typography | 7 Comments »


And now, Ben Heck makes an ‘Atari’ Xbox 360 ‘1977 edition’

21.03.2011

A while back, I came across Benjamin J. Heckendorn (a.k.a. Ben Heck) and his Commodore 64 laptop. This is a quite a fascinating machine, considering the actual “portable” 64 Executive was a heavy beast that could kill if hurled at you. While Ben took the 64’s odd colour, keyboard and 64C’s motherboard, his is structured more like a modern laptop with a fold-down screen.
   Looks like Ben’s at it again with his Xbox 360 1977 Edition, thanks to Element14:

Ben Heck and his Xbox 360 1977 Edition

   This is on The Ben Heck Show, a bi-weekly online TV series.
   According to Element14: ‘In this episode, Ben works on a custom mod for Atari to create an Xbox 360 portable laptop with the look and feel of a 1970s Atari console to help support the debut of new games based on iconic titles, including Yar’s Revenge and Star Raiders.’
   As those of us observing trends know, the late 1970s are chic again, and have been for a few years.
   I remember this when one of our university interns remarked to me at the close of the last decade that she thought the Ford Taunus II was cool because it was so boxy. Give things long enough, and their omission from everyday ĂŠsthetics—because those of us who lived through them tried to rid society of all memory of them—actually sparks interest in a new generation.
   Ben’s 1977 Xbox has wood panelling and metal switches, though, as with the 64 laptop, it combines some modern ĂŠsthetics with the “classic” look.
   Atari’s pretty happy, too. ‘Ben clearly had a lot of fun and it’s great to see how the classic, retro Atari design is incorporated,’ says Lee Jacobson, SVP of Licensing and Digital Publishing, Atari. ‘The system completely exceeded our expectations and we’re sure that any Atari enthusiast would be thrilled to use this unique system.’

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Posted in design, humour, internet, media, technology, TV, USA | 2 Comments »


Christchurch in happier times

25.02.2011

Christchurch, as it once was. These are some of the images that appeared on my old Vox blog (or, what is left of that).


The Cathedral, as shot from my room at the Millennium Hotel


The Holiday Inn


The ceiling of the Isaac Theatre


Taxis and a tram



Gloucester Street


Manchester Street


New Regent Street Mall

   Christchurch was home to a lot of lovely classic cars. Right now, it really doesn’t matter if they survived—more important are the people and the families. These were nice mementos of earlier visits:


Iso Fidia, one of 146 of this type made


Volvo 1800S


1959 MGA, by Latimer Park

   Christchurch, you will be great again. You will outshine the beauty I saw on my last journey, because Cantabrians are among the strongest people in the nation.

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Hannah Gordon and Robert Vaughn, four decades on in Hustle

19.02.2011

This is the sort of thing that would normally wind up on my Tumblr, but it’s a tad hard to do two images without a bit of clever HTML programming.
   Whomever did the casting for Hustle was very clever with the final episode of the season. To play Robert Vaughn’s old flame, actress Hannah Gordon was cast as Susan. The idea: Susan had left Vaughn’s Albert Stroller character 30 years ago, tired of his grifting, and later found out she was pregnant to him. Their daughter wanted to meet her biological father, and eventually, mother and daughter depart the UK to head back to the US. Stroller misses them both.
   There was a very familiar feel to this and it didn’t take me long to work it out. Gordon has played opposite Vaughn before, as his ex-wife, in Gerry Anderson’s The Protectors. In ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’, she and their son depart the UK for the US, and Harry Rule—Vaughn’s character in that series—does not see them off properly.
   It’s us oldies—or at least those of us in middle age who saw the earlier show (on a re-run, I might quickly add)—who might make the connection. Here are the shots, nearly 40 years apart, of Gordon and Vaughn playing couples:
Hannah Gordon and Robert Vaughn in The Protectors
Hannah Gordon and Robert Vaughn in Hustle
   I realize this isn’t the first time we have seen two actors playing opposite each other romantically—Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles come to mind—but this might be one of the longer gaps. I couldn’t find any news on this from the BBC, so I imagine the casting choice was one for the anoraks.

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Posted in interests, TV, UK | 1 Comment »


Not quite a remake, but similar

11.02.2011

I saw the premiĂšre episode of No Ordinary Family, plus a bit of the second, and I couldn’t help but think of this:

   Some folks fly to a strange place, have a plane crash, come back with special powers. One of them is an attractive blonde woman.
   Where it differs is that one of them looks suspiciously like a really young version of Dr Alan Quartermaine Sr on General Hospital.

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Posted in humour, interests, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »