Turns out that ants aren't the industrious little model workers we all thought they were. NYTimes has an intriguing article discussing the work habits of ants; and an equally interesting photo gallery. Images are by Alex Wild, you should take the time to look at his amazing work. Dr Dornhaus, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona studied 300 hours of research after painting each ant with their own specific colour code. By tracking each ant she discovered most ants will spend most of the time standing around and doing nothing. Or worse, pulling a George Costanza and scurry around pretending to work. Meanwhile, the rest of the ants pull up the slack. Not even with the division of labour helps things much either. Even specialised ants who should be good at their job don't seem to be any better than the other ants when doing their task. And the other ants don't seem to notice either.
Way back in the olden days (2003) I was obsessed by the aesthetics of human evolution. Couldn't get it out of my head and looked for it everywhere I went to the point of distraction. The American Museum of Natural History in New York was a total nerdgasm for me when I stumbled upon their stunning dioramas in the Hall of Human Origins. I spent way too long in there looking at the progression of nude proto-humans in their natural environment. I wanted to get behind the glass and hang out with these people and maybe go foraging with them. The problem with it being the olden days was my digital camera (bless it's heart) had a massive resolution of 640 x 480 and could only take 100 photos. And it needed a few battery refills to get up to there. Despite this, I took enough photos to satiate my hunger.
This gorilla was in the hall of great habitats, but he's majestic enough to include it in here. And he's a gorilla, which is kinda evolutionary like. The mix between painted background and plastic plants really make a convincing scene; both in photo ad at the museum.
And the replica of the cave at Lascaux was heaven. I tried thinking of ways I could either replicate this or steal it and ship it back home. I couldn't believe that they'd gone to so much trouble to recreate the first known art gallery/performance space. All for me.
I wanted to bring this out last year, but mum lent it to someone a few days before pesach and instead I've had to wait a whole year before showing off this beauty. We've had it for years, or at least long enough for me to remember it from childhood. The illustrative typography and drawings are quite something and I've hopefully picked out the best spreads and details. It's clearly aimed at kids, with a few naive children looking earnest and well behaved throughout the book.
For some reason, the Didone really complements the hebrew font, despite their obvious historical differences. I'm not talking about the difference in language; more that Bodoni/Didone modern faces were a brave leap from their historical forebears and the hebrew script is a a faithful echo. The urgency in the hebrew is much more emotive than the english, but they balance each other quite well. Full marks to the original designer for giving the didone the perfect amount breathing space on the page. In most cases the hebrew side leaps off the page with thick lashings of black while the english seems to be a calm restraint - perhaps to make it easier and less threatening for kids to understand. Only now do I realise that the left side is english and the right is hebrew throughout the book. Making it easy for kids not only to follow, but to keep parents convinced that the good little children can learn hebrew by osmosis.
Bodoni aside, there's some really wonderful expressive typography throughout. They're mostly chapter/page headings and really serve to balance the strong vertical emphasis. They've even gone and used the long forgotten long s; they get full marks for trying to bring that back although I wonder how many kids tripped up on this (I know I still do).
Loving these crazy as hell drawings as well. Nothing like a bit of forward thinking messianic belief to pave the way for children to be sitting on a lion and playing with birds and a giraffe. What's with all the animals being african? The reason I think Passover is the big festival on the jewish calender is it really gets to show off and flex the biblical god's muscles. Killing the first born, splitting the sea, all the plagues, he really gets to wave his smiting stick around.
Check out the trippy get up going on here. Here's this kid just calmly accepting the presence of a star-traveller who's turned their door into a portal just so he can come and get a free glass of wine. If you're not big on your jewish mythology, this guy is Eliyahu (or Elijah if you want his lame name) who is coming to decide on whether or not there should be 4 or 5 glasses of wine. By leaving one out for him we're leaving the decision up to him, but if he does come and decide to be a guest get ready for the end of day; fun times.
I should have the rest of this stuff up on flickr by the end of the week.
Leading on from This is a mental public health issue from a week back I was happy to find Boing Boing/Offworld interviewing Jane McGonigal during the Games Developers Conference. Intriguingly, Jane is taking what she's learnt from organising ARGs and broadening the scope of games and the effects they can have. The first video (the interview is split into two parts) discusses her newest game Top Secret Dance Off, which taps into the positive emotions we get from dancing with people and harnesses it into a quirky social game. The way the game/site has been structured is designed to make people happy - the blip of happiness you get from humiliation - and seems to set the stage as an extension of the issues that I brought up/continued with regarding Jonathan Blow's critiques of the games industry and the psychology behind games. Although they work in different spaces it's great to see this sort of needed exploration of games and their powers.
I've spent the morning listening/watching all I could find on her and one of the cooler things she's arguing for is an inversion of games and reality. While games have been trying to emulate reality - better graphics, more immersion etc - she thinks it's high time that reality should be more game like. Clear cut objectives, feedback, elements of play; these are all missing from day to day life. She makes a fair point for her case; click through the presentation if you've got the time and the inclination.