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August 2008

My Aim Is True


So it wasn't my imagination. When I was stopping to take a quick leak on my way through Schiphol Airport yesterday morning, I spotted this little thing that looked like a fly in the urinal, except it clearly wasn't a fly. It sort of seemed like something stuck to the bowl, so I found myself trying to wash it away. I fell right into their nefarious social-engineering trap! What a chump.

Stop men from peeing on the floor. Authorities at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam have etched the image of a black housefly into each urinal. It seems that men usually do not pay much attention to where they aim, which can create a bit of a mess. But if you give them a target, they can't help but try to hit it. Similar designs have been implemented in urinals around the world, including mini soccer goals, bulls-eyes, and urine video games (seriously). Do they work? Since the bugs were etched into the airport urinals, spillage has decreased by 80 percent.

[From Good, via BoingBoing.]

Actually, it's a pretty brilliant idea, and really not sinister at all. I have to admit that when I first realized it wasn't a fly or a speck of dirt in the bowl, my immediate instinct was that it was some kind of viral ad campaign, since I’ve been getting more and more pissed off [heh.] about how hard it is to escape ads in public spaces. I’m really pleased this was an intentional attempt to get dudes to do the right thing. (Note to other airports/places with public restrooms: Please don't try to do this with ads. The urinal cakes with ads in them are horrifying enough. Thanks.)


I love it when my iPod — always in shuffle mode — randomly throws together a perfect mini-theme. Just now I got Song Against Sex by Neutral Milk Hotel, followed by Sexcrime (1984) by the Eurythmics. Even better, they were both capped off by Salt-N-Pepa's Push It.

Prick up your what now?

Joe Orton

I’ve just finished the original book, and am now finally watching the filmed version of Prick Up Your Ears, the biography of playwright Joe Orton. I had a nagging sensation while reading the book that there was a lot about Orton that reminded me of an ex of mine with whom I had one of my more melodramatic relationships. Twice.

Gary Oldman as Joe Orton

Watching the film now, I’m convinced that Orton -- and particularly Gary Oldman's performance as Orton — fed into this guy's personal mythology, and certainly his kit bag of posturing and affectations. He was, like Orton, a guy from a fucked-up working class background who picked himself up by his bootstraps using a fistful of natural intelligence and talent. Like Orton, he was also sexy as fuck and kind of a smug, self-satisfied cock. I don't recall him ever mentioning Orton — I guess by the time we'd met he'd moved on to other literary obsessions. Actually, it would be more in character if he'd decided that Orton wasn't much to think about from a literary standpoint, no matter how much he played up the same kind of romantic rebel schtick.

Read about Reading

Baseline #55If you can find yourself a copy of the current issue of Baseline (number 55, Summer 2008) you'll find a nice little profile of the stuff that goes on at the Typography Department at Reading.

[Baseline's website doesn't seem to do permalinks, so here's the excerpt. Find the article, though: it has more stuff and pretty pictures, too.]

The department has the longest established record of any university devoted to research into typography and information design. The staff summarise their interests as ‘design for reading’. Approximately fifty percent of the department’s activity is devoted to research and post-graduate work, so it is not surprising therefore that it has been awarded the top rating for research quality on two occasions (1992 and 2001) in the British universities’ Research Assessment Exercise.

The range of taught masters courses includes MAs in Book Design (course tutor Paul Luna); Information Design (course tutors Paul Stiff and Rob Waller); and Typeface Design (course tutor Gerry Leonidas); and an MA (Res) in Typography and Graphic Communication (course tutor Mary Dyson).

Reading is unique in having rich collections of historic lettering, printing and design. These include the archive of the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection; a collection of more than 20,000 items of printed ephemera; and several archives of twentieth century designers.

Research centres

The department also has two research centres. The Centre for Ephemera Studies is based upon the collection of printed ephemera which reflect everyday life in the past. More recently, Rob Waller has joined the department after twenty years in practice, and established the Simplification Centre. The primary aim of this is to conduct research on information design and make this accessible to organisations which communicate with the public on complex matters. One of the department’s impressive range of recent and currently funded research projects are described below (see issue 55 for the full article).


Walking home late at night, not a great mood and feeling a bit down, it was a treat to stumble across a stack of shockingly nice art books in the pile of ripped-open trash bags abandoned outside the local charity shop. I grabbed them before they were destroyed by the inevitable rain that would come before the long weekend was over, and then later found more treasure: odd scraps tucked in the pages from people who'd owned or read these in the past. I love these serendipitous little glimpses into other lives.

Inside Surreality: Localizer 1.2:

Found 1

Inside Toni Frissell: Photographs 1933–1967:

Found 2

Put a sock in it

Did you ever want to sleep with someone not just because they were good-looking, but just because it would get them to shut the fuck up for a while and stop making you want to stick knitting needles in your eyes? But then you don't really get the chance to sleep with them so they keep talking and it's just like endless nonsensensical noise coming out of their head?

Yeah, I’m obviously too polite for my own good sometimes.

Growing pains

Now that I’m "back on the market" and "fresh meat" and assorted other euphemisms for single and generally prone to sluttiness, I’m discovering something new about myself. Or perhaps it's something new about how other guys respond to me. I seem to have cruised into this phase of my life where I’m the age that young guys who are into older guys are into me. It's not bad, and I say that as someone who's often into older guys as well. In fact, I’m finding that I’m more attracted to younger guys than I would have guessed, at least if they're clever and a bit wise for their years. Lately I’ve been finding myself in the company of more cute, interesting guys in their 20s than I did when I was in my 20s. I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts, if I can.

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