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Archive for January, 2009

The Nchiwe Map


There are still some finishing touches to be done on the Pangaea Expedition site before it is ready for prime time. But in the mean time, I’ve finally completed the Nchiwe Map. It depicts the settlements of the Nchiwe civilization some 75 thousand years ago. Creating it was one thing. Exporting it to a 90×60 cm image was another matter. It was a real test in patience. Now I’m investigating which services are best suited to sell it as a poster. Lulu seems to offer the best quality prints at 300 dpi. That’s a 10800×7200 pixel image (77 mega-pixels). I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about the site. But while they may be great for books, the whole process of purchasing posters seems rather complex and not always very clear. Another problem is the fact that they offer the posters in three different formats. But for some reason, they don’t share the same aspect ratio. So if the buyer doesn’t choose the intended format, he’ll get a trimmed version instead. In the case of the Nchiwe map, choosing a smaller format means bye bye New Zealand (Aotearoa on the map). And Lulu doesn’t offer the publisher the option of only selling one particular format instead of all three.

The other alternative is Cafe Press. Their shop is more polished and clearer to use. At least you know exactly what you’re purchasing. My only doubt is the quality. While they do except 300 dpi images, they seem to prefer 200 dpi ones. Does this mean that they are printing it at max 200dpi or are they rightly assuming that for photo enlargements, up-scaling it beyond 200 is useless? I guess I’ll just have to purchase my poster and do a quality check before I actually start selling them.

Update: Looks like my choice has been made for me. I just got a mail from Lulu. They will soon no longer be offering posters for sale.

The Mayoka House

The Mayoka House

Lately, passive buildings have been getting a lot of press. The technology behind it has finally reached the point where such buildings are insulated so well, extra heating is hardly necessary. A notable example is the zero emmision Prinsess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica.  But with insulation also comes isolation from the outside world.

But isolation is generally excepted here in Europe as a good quality to have for your building. A house should protect you not only from the elements, but nature in general, such as wild animals and insects. It must keep out sounds and smells. It should afford privacy from nosy neighbors. In other words, the perfect home should keep everything out with the exception of invited guests and sunlight. So much so that we simply take this for granted.

Returning to Malawi was therefore a revelation. I had forgotten what it was like to live in an open house. You notice the difference the moment you step inside. Most of the places I stayed at in Malawi where mostly built with one goal: to protect you from the rain. People here live most of their lives outside anyway. Cooking, eating, washing, socializing, it’s all done outside. It not only makes you feel healthier, constantly being exposed to the elements probably also builds your resistance. In that sense, we are quite spoilt here in the west. I came to this conclusion when I realized I could, live, work and do my groceries without having to spend more then three minutes outside in a single day. The rest is all spent inside, isolated from the rest of the world.

The Mayoka House

The Mayoka House

Living in an open house on the other hand is like living in a tent, only with a bit more room and comfort. Even though you are inside, you can sense the changes in the weather. You can hear everything around the house loud and clear, as if you weren’t surrounded by four walls. Mayoka Village, a hostel where I stayed went even a step further. Taking a shower was a real sensation. You could do so while enjoying the view of the bay. You could even hold face to face conversations with passerby’s without fear of exposing the rest of your body. Basically, you’re half inside, half outside.

And it was inspiring. With that in mind, I’ve created the Mayoka house. It has no windows and no doors that can be opened and closed. Everything is left exposed. It simply functions as a placeholder in our lives. A sort of marker that states this is sort of the space where we live around. The layout itself is very basic. It has bed, a table, a built in shelf and a washing area that is a bit more protected to offer its occupants some privacy. But even in this enclosed area, one can always maintain complete contact with the outside world.

In other words, it’s not a space to live in, but more to live around.

Esencia de una seducción

A scene from Quizás Quizás Quizás

At first I thought it was a music video. Turns out however, it was actually made as a commercial for Loewe (perfume). But what ever it was intended for, it’s well made. It’s a strange mix of animation and live action depicting the antics of a diva staying in a nostalgic 1930’s era hotel. And to top it all of, a very fitting soundtrack sets the proper mood.
You can view a higher resolution version over here, but it has also made its way to YouTube. Enjoy.

Get It On!

I have been wondering for a while now why my condoms have been disappearing for no reason at all. This however explains everything. And the worst part of it all: if this is just an indication of how they spend their time, my fear is that their sex life is a lot more exciting then mine.

The 747 Hostel


From the country that brought us ice hotels, Sweden will soon introduce a hostel housed inside of a decommissioned Boeing 747-200. Personally, I’ve found airplanes to be one of the least comfortable places to sleep in. Only on the rare occasion when I was able to secure a whole isle for myself, have I enjoyed quality sleep high up in the skies. And my fear is that even this option may soon be a  thing of the past. I’ve started to notice that to cut costs, more and more airlines are implementing arm rests that can’t be folded up and out of the way.

So in future, the only chance one may have of ever sleeping comfortably again in an aircraft, may be either in the expensive  luxury suites onboard the new Airbus 380’s. Or in The Jumbo Hostel.  With 25 rooms and 85 actual beds, the only downside would be that unlike the a380’s, this one will be staying put.

The History of Visual Communication

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

From cave drawings to computer design. The History of Visual Communication sums up several thousand years of design with a few nice examples. It doesn’t focus on art history itself, but in fact how graphic design has evolved as a way of communication and how it has been influenced by its time and technology at had.

There are some nice examples such as the evolution of alphabets, the printing press, poster design, cartography and so and on and on. It’s probably impossible to classify everything, but it’s a good place to start if one is looking for some inspiration from the past.

Popeye in the Public Domain

popeye-a-date-to-skateI never thought I’d actually witness this in my own lifetime, but one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century has finally fallen into the public domain. Or at least it has in Europe. As of the first of January, anyone who wishes can use the Popeye character, create new variations, publish the results and make money off of it without having to ask permission or pay royalties. In other words, Olive is from now on going to have to share her man with the rest of the world.
That’s because copyrights in the EU are only valid for seventy years after the death of the author. It used to be 70 years in the US as well, but companies such as Disney have successfully lobbied for longer terms. So currently, copyrights in the United States are protected for 95 years after death. But even that is probably not enough for Disney and they are most likely doing everything they can to prolong it even further. The prospect of Mickey Mouse falling into the public domain could mean a huge potential loss in profits for them. Disney is still safe for now, but they will be looking closely as to what happens to Popeye.

And coming back to Popeye: while his character may be in the public domain, the use of Popeye still remains a legal mess. That’s because the Popeye trademarks are still enforced. While copyrights protect bodies of creative work (e.g. books, paintings, music, comics), trademarks protect brands (e.g. company & product names, logos, colors) so that they can be perceived by the public as distinct identities within the marketplace.
It means that it is ok to print Popeye on a t-shirt, but not on a can of spinach, That’s because the latter has already been registered. With the amount of merchandizing that has happened in the past around the Popeye brand, it, may not be easy to find out what can pass and what could get you into legal trouble.

To make matters more complicated, the distinction between copyright and trademark is also quite confusing in this case. Popeye can interchangeably be used as a creative work or as a trademark. As I understand it, if you were to decorate cars for money with Popeye figures, it would probably fall under the copyright law. If you were to do the exact same thing, but go one step further and market these vehicles as Popeye Cars, it would be considered a trademark. But the line of distinction between both cases is so thin, it’s open to interpretation. Slippery ice if you ask me. Companies such as Disney can afford an army of lawyers and use Blutos tactics to get their way. If you do find yourself in such a situation, having a can of spinach at hand might not be such a bad idea.

And from Popeye to Punch-Drunk-Love

On a less serious note, I was a huge fan of Popeye during my childhood years. I even ate my spinach hoping to be as strong as him. I still remember when I was five; my father told me a Popeye movie was being made. I was wildly enthusiastic about this news. At least until I discovered we were moving to Upper Volta and would never get to see the movie. My world came crashing down. I didn’t want to leave. But for some reason, my parents felt it wasn’t a strong enough reason to stay in Belgium. So we left. No Popeye movie for me.

I did finally see it, many years later. And if I remember correctly, it was in the Dutch Club in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Every Saturday afternoon, they’d show a children’s movie for us kids. The film, as it turned out, was terrible. Even though it featured Robin Williams as Popeye, it just seemed long and winding and everything but fun. Nothing like the cartoons.

The film did however give us this wonderfully odd little song by Shelley Duvall: “He needs me“. The song was used again in Punch-Drunk-Love, a quirky song for a really quirky film. This movie on the other hand, I can only highly recommend.

T-shirts with the god Shiva print