Esoteric Solutions

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Math isn’t my strong suit and I left it behind in school as soon as it became a viable option. This also meant that the goal I entered high school with — to go into Computer Science and make games — seemed lost and that some type of art making was my future.

When I was presented with math, real math, it tended to look like this to me…

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It’s not to say that I wasn’t interested. I’ll blame some of my quite literal failings on a particular teacher for whom math was like breathing but empathy was an alien concept. But the parts of math that not surprisingly always piqued my interest were those that had a visual component. When geometry could be visualized and even constructed and held I was captivated. Even the shapes and forms of complex equations appealed to me visually — just not in some sort of Beautiful Mind synesthetic floating solutions kind of way.

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Foolish Houses

foolish_house_geh_600Foolish House, Ontario Beach Park in 1910, George Eastman House Collection

I forget now how I came to this image of the “Foolish House” taken by Charles C. Zoller. It struck me of course for its jumble of wild letters with short words popping out (bug, zip) and phrases (“we will get you yet”, “wait for the parade”). But what was this place? I saw the same photo pop up on a few other websites but they didn’t provide any further backstory.

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Another image of the Foolish House seemingly after the price had skyrocketed from 5¢ to 10¢ but I suppose now you got a souvenir ring for parting with your dime.

A bit more searching and more about Ontario Beach Park emerged…
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Notre-Dame du Haut

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I remember, at a very young age, I saw the building in the photo above. It was in a Time-Life book and I had no idea who Le Corbusier was and very little concept of what architecture meant. But that building, with its mushroom-cap roof and seemingly randomly cut windows, transfixed me. Something sparked for me as a kid. I felt some sort of connection with the shapes and forms drawn into life by Le Corbusier 1955.

ronchamp_herve_contactsLucien Hervé – Contact sheets of images taken at Ronchamp

Yesterday, I saw the building again in this image…

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Found Photo: Ooh! Ugh!!

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This photo is another mystery from the junk shop. Its only clue is a date in each corner (I cropped it out): 1960. My assumption is that this is kids art, although it appears as if it was displayed in the school’s boiler room!

I tried CSIing the image in order to ascertain just what in the heck the character on the right side is doing to the main character’s arm. I couldn’t get much more than a blur. My best guess is that he is sick and she is a nurse administering treatment via needle. But what is wrong with her nose?

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Centripetal Yearbook – Toledo’s Class of 1944

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There is always something intriguing about finding someone else’s high school yearbook. No matter what the year, there are common curiosities that make just about any of these bound generational time capsules fascinating.

Obviously all those faces locked in time are a huge draw. Whether it’s the 1980’s and I can recognize versions of myself and my high school classmates or it’s a 1940’s Catholic school in Toledo, Ohio and the faces all seem so much older than they were. It’s basic, people are interesting.

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All these kids in high school at the height of World War II… cheering their teams, putting on plays, editing their yearbook, hoping to capture themselves as they are. All of the nicknames… Nobby, Dizzy, Babs, Chick, Bugs, Big Jim, Duff, Bull, Sharpy, Blackie, Lulu, Rufus, Pinkie, Katty, Doc, Butch, Dimples, and Squirrel and the sad rare kid with no nickname — their photo feeling that much more wistful.

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Instant Collections: Cheques

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One of my favourite things to find at the junk shop are little bundles of letters, notes, and documents. These bundles can often form an instant collection around the life of their previous owner or maker.

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Today I came home with a bundle of cancelled cheques from the account of a F.P. Anderson with transactions spanning the late 1920’s and early 30’s. I find these things fascinating. The writing, the cost of things, the design of the cheques themselves, the variety of cancellation perforations, and the endorsement stamps on the reverse. They are simply packed with archival curiosities.

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Not surprisingly, it’s also the story of Mr. Anderson — someone completely unknown to me — told for these few distant years through the outgoing sums of his Iowa savings account. How much did he spend on a radio? Did he just buy a new car? Those frequent payments to “self”. It’s a sort of casual anthropology I engage in.

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Alexander Anderson Type Scraps

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From the New York Public Library’s collection of the scrapbooks of 19th-century illustrator Alexander Anderson.

Just some of the thousands of images created by Alexander Anderson and preserved incredibly in multiple 100-page scrapbooks. Just amazing. Each page of every volume is just stunning on its own. I pulled out these few type and logo related images in particular because it feels like such an interesting comparison to contemporary portfolios and also such a primary source for the current trend in type and branding work that mimics this aesthetic.

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Found Photo: Group Photo

Group Photo

Click here to see a large version of the photo.

I have no idea who these people are, where this was taken, or when. It is a mystery. The letters “Au” is all that remains of what may have been a clue, ripped off from the large chunk that is missing on the right side. My best guess is that they are staff of an hotel, estate, or… who knows. All of the women are wearing a similar uniform: pleated long, dark skirt, white blouse and tie, but for one woman whose skirt is flat-front (not pleated), and wearing a presumably coloured blouse with a ruffle. Perhaps she is the head of house, front counter staff, a manager, owner… I don’t know, but it’s fun to guess.