Robert L. Peters

17 April 2012

Shared musings… God's Frozen People

Bob Roach is a designer colleague who often shares his thoughts and views on the GDC Listserv, an active “conversation” amongst several hundred mostly-Canadian (and seemingly mostly west-coast) folks who practice or are interested in graphic design. His “musings” today on the relationship between cold and what it means to be Canadian rang so true that I felt compelled to share. Thanks Bob.

“As you west coasters doubtless know, this historically warm and nearly non-existent winter we southern Ontarians have just ‘sprung’ from has left us all grateful to global warming for lower fuel bills, fewer fender-benders, and a taste of what life on the Pacific coast might feel like. Not surprisingly, real estate prices also rose dramatically (see?).

But maybe because of this unexpected reprieve from inclemency, I’ve begun to speculate and muse more about what ‘traditional’ Canadian winter weather really means to us from a cultural perspective. And even a personal creative one.

As a kid, freezing in low-tech gumboots, on my 2 mile walk uphill (both ways) to school, I used to fume about the injustice of being born in such an obviously-flawed climate. Who’s idea was it to make all of us Canadians, “God’s Frozen People,” anyhow? Why, if I ran the circus…

As I matured—er, that is… as I at least, aged—I began to reflect more about the less discussed benefits of living in a land where every year, we are forced to face the God-awful reality that the god of winter weather, at least judging from the package, clearly was not a benevolent god.

Or was he?

There’s something about seasonally delineated climatic switches that builds an awareness, connection and respect for some quality of our land that goes way beyond the weather-chats and charts that we all small-yak about when things drift out of the comfort of room temp zone.

There’s the visual transformative nature of winter. We sentimentalize it, but nonetheless it’s there, and very powerful in its scale and awesome, often terrifying beauty. But how many of us take the time to really study it for it’s full range of wonder and awe— and respect?

Digging deeper, we get into the whole transformative power that the “cold, lean months” impose upon our social and behavioural structure. As a species that did not evolve in these climes, we become keenly aware of the dependency and better survival odds we owe to such adaptions as community, sharing, safety and all the infrastructure we (and our ancestors) have invested to maintain these supports.

It might even be argued that the classic Canadian winter is one of the strongest influencing factors that forged and distinguishes us as a society with values markedly different from our southern neighbours. It’s hard not to be humbled by the collective power of community if you’ve ever had an engine fail while driving somewhere between Moosejaw and Saskatoon, mid-January, and looked up to see a plow, and a couple of good Samaritan drivers pull over to help. Not sure you could say that kind of feeling is as universal south of the 49th.

I guess I’ve come to view the Canadian winter as the introverted sociopath of seasons. On the surface, it’s inhospitable, cold, and unforgiving. But given the proper time, and mood— it can be dazzling in its generosity of spirit.

Anyhow, that’s my muse for today. If anything, it should teach you to never mix antifreeze with good Scotch.”

16 April 2012

Invading the Vintage

Milan, Italy

Franco Brambilla likes to mix nostalgia from the past with cute aliens and beings from Sci Fi movies. See lots more of his creations in this genre here

14 April 2012

Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style


“Improvising with materials close at hand, Seat Assignment consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on more than 70 different flights to date, constitute the raw material of the project.”

“While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory’s own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone. At the Dunedin Public Art gallery, the photos were framed in faux-historical frames and hung on a deep red wall reminiscent of the painting galleries in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Kudos to artist Nina Katchadourian who delights those who encounter her and her work in a myriad of ways (including music).

13 April 2012


12 April 2012

Poorly Drawn Lines…


Poorly Drawn Lines is updated every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It’s created by Reza Farazmand, who draws comics and writes things.

Thanks to my friend Bob Roach for the link.

10 April 2012

Physical Culture… back in the day.

New York, USA

Bernarr Macfadden started Physical Culture magazine in March of 1899, his first publishing venture (based on a personal interest in bodybuilding)—it quickly became the most successful of a variety of new publications about health, fitness, exercise, and physical development. Magazine content included serious information, fads, fiction, attractive models in scanty sporting costumes, and pages of advertising aimed at “the active and those who wished they were.”

Shown above are some of the illustrated covers from the 1910s… view hundreds of others here.

9 April 2012

Worry is the darkroom where negatives are developed.

8 April 2012

Happy Spring!

The above text is the opening paragraph of a speech that Sitting Bull (c. 1830-1890), the great Sioux leader and sharp-witted speaker, gave in 1885 at an Indian council at Powder River, describing his mistrust of the American people. Read the rest of his speech here… a telling moment in time, just over a year before Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and 1800 other Sioux and Cheyenne warriors wiped out an army led by General George Custer at Little Big Horn.

7 April 2012

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

—Oscar Wilde

6 April 2012

A salute | Frederick Fröbel (1782-1852)

Oberweißbach, Germany

Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel was a German pedagogue and a student of Pestalozzi, who laid the foundation for modern education based on the recognition that children have unique needs and capabilities. Fröbel developed the concept of the “kindergarten” (literally garden for children, coining the word now used in German and English) and developed the Froebel Gifts educational toys—these emphasized sensory exploration and manipulatives, and are credited as forerunners of abstract art, a source of inspiration to the Bauhaus movement, and a formative influence on Maria Montessori.

I attended kindergarten in Frankfurt, Germany as a child; like countless others in the fields of design, the elegant maple geometric “building blocks” derived from Froebelian toys that I was given to play with had a lasting effect on my sense of three-dimensional composition and perception of planar elements. (The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright also assimilated many influences into his architecture, and credited these learning tools with the geometric clarity that typified his work).

“From objects to pictures,
from pictures to symbols,

from symbols to ideas,
leads the ladder of knowledge.”

 ~ Friedrich Froebel 

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