A small gift to a niche of the internet

I discovered a Great Thing a couple of years ago: The Casio VL-1. It was totally up my alley – a combination synthesizer/calculator invented 40 (!) years ago. It pushed two practically-unrelated functions together to make one charmingly terrible device (maybe it was more impressive in 1979?). I adore things that make me wonder how they came to be – how someone had the notion to make such a device, how a corporation approved the creation and sale of the machine, how people must’ve also thought it was a great enough idea to buy it (me?). Brilliant.

I couldn’t help but gravitate toward eBay almost as soon as I learned of the VL-1’s existence. The one I bought showed up wrapped in somebody’s local newspaper, but without a manual. No big deal, I thought – these things would be easily available on the internet. I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right either: The only copies I could find were available by jumping through some hoops on some questionable websites, and yielded pretty miserable, almost unreadable scans of the manual, which naturally upset the designer in me.

I can’t really explain what took over me, but I got an urge to recreate the entire manual. I matched the typography, redrew the illustrations by measuring my own VL-1, and put it all together as a nice and shiny PDF. I did a slight bit of re-flowing of the text to avoid splitting some of the paragraphs like Casio did with the original, but otherwise it’s a faithful recreation*.

This recreation has been sitting on my hard drive for two years, so I figured I would gift it to the VL-1 owners of the internet. Maybe I was the only one who wanted a more legible copy than the existing scans, but if you do too, here is a link to the manual in all its glory. Happy calculating, internet!

*I wish I was smart enough to have amended the instructions to make the synthesiser sound like a duck or something, but alas it’s beyond my skillset!

Bozos

This is a post about the Bose SoundLink Micro. It’s a thing in my house. It sounds fine – better than a phone – so it is good to take on holiday. It is also waterproof, so when not on holiday, it lives in the bathroom. Every time I look at it though, I wince a little at the design:

It looks like the speaker grille on the front was designed by filling a text area with full stops and setting the text alignment to justify. I find it awkward how it follows the curve of the body of the device, until it doesn’t, and just reverts to a jaggedy edge. It’d solve all its problems if the lines followed the shape of the device, rather than just going in unevenly spaced horizontal lines:

Sometimes I wish reality was this easy to photoshop!

The New Future of Pop Music

Like most dorks of the internet, I have a small habit of buying domains without projects to go along with them. A great example of this is TheLivingJacksons.com; a domain I have been sitting on for more years than I care to admit.

There is half a reason for keeping this domain – around the time I bought it, I had decided that if I had a band, I would call it The Living Jacksons. Never mind the fact that I have no known musical skills – I can still just about beat-match records on a pair of SL-1200s, and I can drop the Rhumba rhythm on my Casio VL-1 to great effect, but beyond that, I’ve never even tried to learn an instrument. I figured, though, that an absence of musical skill doesn’t necessarily exclude a career in pop music, and decided I would put a stake in the ground and claim The Living Jacksons as my own idea by buying the domain.

If this all sounds like an incomplete thought, that’s because it was: I knew I had no musical talent, but I didn’t even consider that I didn’t have something to put on the website. The domain sat doing less than nothing, absorbing renewal money for years, until the penny finally dropped on what the shape of my band was. Introducing The Living Jacksons:

N.b. I’m a lot more handy playing the washing machine than ironing boards, but the publicist and I both agreed that bending over to unload a washer wouldn’t have conveyed the message we are looking to convey with this band!

So finally – I created some press images of the band, and put a website together, with marginally more than nothing on it. Still no music though.

More Pandas Than China

Lilly and I went on a summer holiday to Sardinia this year, and while we were there, we were astonished by the amount of Pandas everywhere. Of course, I’m not talking about the Chinese bears, but the Fiat manufactured in the 1980s and 90s.

It was almost as if Sardinia is where Italy sent its Pandas not to die but to just keep on living.

We were both charmed by these boxy little powerhouses, so it was a good cue to make Lilly a new piece of artwork for her birthday. I began researching the materials that were used to sell the car during its original run, but there was no escaping this being a car of the eighties:

As magnificent as those are, I was looking for something that spoke a bit more to how thirty years later, the cars were still so happy rattling through the dusty landscapes of the Mediterranean. The native Italian materials weren’t any more inspiring with their woefully stretched typography, but France proved to have some more playful typographic ideas for selling these little Fiats:

The only trouble is I had no idea what the French typography said, and online translation wasn’t being much help to me either. My first few attempts of running the full slogan ‘Les Voitures à Malices’ through the internet tried to tell me it meant ‘The Cars With Malice’ or ‘The Malicious Cars’, and I couldn’t imagine even the French would try and sell a car on the idea that it would harm you.

Instead I decided it must’ve been idiomatic, so I asked a French friend to help me (her response: ‘I’m so French it’s beyond belief’), who explained that it meant ‘cheeky, facetious, witty all at once’, and was like boite à malices, ‘a box with lots of stuff that would be fun for kids’; a box of tricks. That sounded perfect to me, so I had to get back into the other hard part, illustrating the car in a way that captured its humble boxiness.

My first couple of attempts looked too boyish, and like something from a video game. Definitely not the right flavour. Instead, a basic profile shot proved to be the winner, and when combined with a bit of the mountainous terrain of Sardinia and a little more of the French marketing materials, everything came together just right.

Of course, the most important thing in all of this is that Lilly loved the artwork, so we immediately put it up on the wall!

Another Post-it sketchbook is filled

Since I started making an effort to publish a new Post-it note every day, these books have been filling up a lot faster! I filled up my latest sketchbook in February, and it covers the time from Summer 2015 to now. It’s like watching my life flash before my eyes!

Lost In The Mail

“This isn’t what I expected when I said I was looking for a more fulfilling job”

PackagesPackagesPackagesPackagesPackagesPackages

A recent experience of having a letter go missing in the postal system inspired another looping factory gif. This one is simultaneously simpler and more complicated than the previous robot-laden ones – there’s a lot less happening in this one, but it’s also a seamless tile. That means this one loops in three dimensions – horizontally, vertically and in time.

A bit like my missing package!

US Presidential Election Diary 2016

US Presidential Election Diary 2016Where's The Beef?

The hardest part about drawing a new illustration on a Post-it note every single day is coming up with the idea. The horrors of the US presidential election campaign, though, provided plenty of low-hanging fruit. Join me as we look back across the past year-or-so in horror – it’s the scariest American invention since Halloween!

The Primaries

Bernie Bucket

16th November 2015:

Panic ensues in Rickmansland over whether Bernie is a Sanders or a Sanders. I remember back to my Year 9 English class, taught by a Mr. Sanders, who stipulated he was Sanders, and not like the KFC mascot. Unfortunately for me, sixteen years later I can’t remember which was which.

Trumpolini

8th December 2015:

If it wasn’t already obvious, the New-York-based reality television star has clarified that he will be campaigning for president on the platform of good old-fashioned fascism.

Imaginary

12 February 2016:

I wonder to myself, if this person is as powerful as he believes himself to be, then why does he have to prefix his twitter handle with the word ‘real’? Is it to differentiate himself from an imaginary Donald Trump? Who is actually a nice person? And not totally self-absorbed?

dump

24 February 2016:

It finally dawns on me: This is Biff from Back To The Future running for President of the United States! This man-child behaves like a cartoon high-school bully. Why doesn’t half of America seem to mind!?

Super Tuesday 2016

1st March 2016:

Super Tuesday is here, and the field is thinning out. Republicans are left choosing from a rotund vessel of chopped animal organs, a folding ironing board, and a pair of unwashed sports socks. Across the aisle, Democrats are forced to choose between an angry duck and a half-eaten sandwich. The two-party system works!

Down at 7/11

19th April 2016:

BBC News:

“It’s very close to my heart because I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down, and I saw the greatest people I’ve ever seen in action,” Mr Trump said.

"Again"

10th June 2016:

One way to make ‘again’ make sense

Grate

18th July 2016:

Wannabe-despot seeks running mate to aid in campaign to Make America Grate Again

The Campaign Proper

I'm With...

2nd August 2016:

The election in one drawing

WrongWrong

8th October 2016:

After the Billy Bush tape is unearthed, the humanoid with expired toothpaste for hair is forced to make an admission.

Locker-room Talk

10th October 2016:

I guess it wasn’t worth apologising for after all, it was just ‘Locker-room Talk’. I guess if you look at it this way…

Frump

12th October 2016:

The Republican candidate attempts to set things straight in the wake of the Billy Bush tape:
“Nobody has more respect for women than I do, nobody”

Debate Notepad

20th October 2016:

As my American voyager and I watch the final debate of the campaign, I wonder to myself what exactly Hillary is marking down behind her lectern?

Huge Vacuum

28th October 2016:

Mr Reality-TV has been attributing the creation of America’s enemies to the ‘huge vacuum’ that Obama and Clinton left behind in the middle east. ‘I wish someone would come and collect it’, the locals think to themselves.

Thank goodness it’s all over tomorrow. Let’s hope we wake up in a peaceful world on Wednesday!

Speakerbot III

Speakerbot III

This weekend’s project was an upgrade of sorts for Speakerbot, the little robot that lives beside my turntables.

He originally came to be because my speakers sat on different shelves that weren’t the same height in an old apartment. Of course the way to remedy that was to make a robot to bring one speaker up to the right height. Here was my original illustration of the idea:

120210 - Annoy

A couple of days later, he emerged from the cardboard

120211 - Speakerbot

Then he had a well-received lick of paint

120311 - Productive Day

About five years later, the cardboard was starting to get a little soft and wobbly, so this weekend I rebuilt him out of MDF. Who knew cardboard could be so human-like?

woodbot

An upgrade was done to his electricals, including some new switches on the light-matrix and a new meter that can just-about be hooked up to the music to display its current.

Press the button

He stands a lot firmer now, and will hopefully last longer than the cardboard incarnation did!

 
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