Friday, 30 September 2016

The all singing and all dancing book

I recently watched a Berkeley DVD (The Busby Berkeley Disc, Warner Home Video / Turner Entertainment) with twenty-one musical numbers from the films he created with those amazing dancing routines. At 163 minutes it beats having to sit through the original movies, now with very dated plotting and dialogue.

This title, published in 1973, is the perfect complement to the DVD. Essentially a book of 250 photos, movie stills and other related images, the first twenty-two pages has an illustrated essay of Berkeley's life. All his films, from 1930 to 1962, are included with production details, cast list and a description of the film, this I found particularly useful when watching the DVD and I wanted to know more about one of those amazing dance sequences and how he shot it.

* Incidentally Rhino Movie Music label issued, in 1995, a two disc CD set of the original tracks from the movies, it includes an informative forty-four page illustrated book (see the top photo).

Please Mr Postman

As the book's sub-title says: One hundred years of great design, 1850-1950. Very true because the two hundred examples that designer Leslie Carbarga has dug up are wonderfully exuberant examples of corporate stationary. These letterheads are from a time when companies were proud to have engravings of their huge factories or offices occupying a prominent place at the top of the sheet. Sear, Roebuck has two examples on page fifty-one with one of them showing their Chicago plant three or four blocks long. The Wrigley gum company, also in Chicago, has a splendid plant engraving with every window, traffic outside and wee folk on the sidewalk, predictably their cable address was Spearmint.

The contents are an interesting mix of companies: entertainment; printing; clothing; pharmaceuticals; tobacco; beverages; food; artists and designers. Oddly there is nothing representing railroads, steel companies and big industrial concerns. The format is to show the top of each letterhead but nicely the complete letterhead is shown where a company has a design that runs across the top and down the sheet, usually on the left-hand side. Another nice touch, I thought, was sometimes including the actual typed letter, where you can see the old fashioned way of including punctuation all over the place.

Cabarga writes a brief illustrated introduction to all these stationary examples and anyone interested in typography will find the book fascinating, if only trying to identify the huge number of typefaces throughout the pages. Color is used where it occurs on the originals and all of them are reproduced in a reasonable size.

I've had the book since it came out in 1992 and I still find it a worthwhile look through title.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Shrouded in mystery

Randi Steinberger came across these shrouded structures while she was driving around LA. Just a drive by wasn't enough to solve the mystery, she had to stop and see the signs attached to the colorful material: DANGER -- FUMIGATION, in English and Spanish. This is the way Los Angelenos get rid of termites by covering and sealing a house in striped material for three days, two for the sulfuryl fluoride gas to be pumped in and one day for it be vented and then wait for the city pest-control officer to say the bugs have been eradicated. The shrouds are nylon and vinyl material, mostly in bright stripes  which are supposed to be unique to each fumigating company, the ultimate practical advert

The sixty-nine one page photos in the landscape book reveal some quite fascinating compositions, especially the long shot ones that include the complete buildings and some of the surrounding trees or other houses in a street. They work because they look so unusual. I thought there were perhaps too many close-ups of the material and the metal clips that hold the joins together, these seem more technical shots that might be used by the fumigating businesses.

The book's production is first-class, a good matt art paper for the three hundred screen printing. The front six pages have an essay by DJ Waldie with personal reminiscences mixed in with some background detail about the companies that offer a fumigating service. Randi Steinberger has captured, with her photos, a quirky little bit of the City of the Angels.