Watch Battered & Bruised Vintage Toys Get Mesmerizingly Restored to Near Mint Condition

They say that toys were once built to last. But though metal and wood didn't break quite so easily in the hands of children in the early 20th century as plastic does in the hands of their great- or great-great-grandchildren today, time still hasn't been especially kind to the playthings of yesteryear. Enter the toy restorer, who can return even the most faded, rusted, beaten-up specimens to a burnished, gleaming condition that would turn the head of even the most smartphone-addled youngster. At least the toy restorer behind the Youtube channel Rescue & Restore seems to possess skills of this kind, and in its channel's videos you can see them put to use.

Over the past two months, Rescue & Restore has taken on such projects as a 1960s Tonka Jeep, a 1930s Wyandotte airplane, a 1920s Dayton train, and other such miniatures as a piano, a cash register, and even a functional oven. Most of them start out looking like lost causes, and some barely resemble toys at all.

Fortunately, Rescue & Restore possesses all the specialized tools needed to not just disassemble and (to the amazement of many a commenter) reassemble everything, but to clean, resurface, and repaint each and every part, and in some cases fabricate new ones from scratch. Apart from the occasional explanatory subtitle, the "host" does all this work without a word.

Despite their simplicity, the videos of Rescue & Restore have drawn millions upon millions of views in a relatively short time. This suggests that the number of people dreaming of a better future for their closets full of long-disused toys might be large indeed, though we should never underestimate the appeal of seeing the old made new again — an experience whose audiovisual satisfaction seems to be heightened by high-resolution shots and clearly captured sounds of all the dremeling, sandblasting, and buffing involved.

Toys originally opened sixty, seventy, eighty Christmases ago have gone through a lot in their long lives, but after Rescue & Restore gets done with them, they could well find their way under the tree again this year.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Atlas of Space: Behold Brilliant Maps of Constellations, Asteroids, Planets & “Everything in the Solar System Bigger Than 10km”

A great deal remains to be learned about our solar system, but a great deal has already been learned about it as well. Yet huge amounts of data such as those produced by outer-space research so far can't do much for us unless we can interpret them. Luckily, the age of the internet has made possible unprecedentedly easy access to data as well as unprecedentedly easy distribution of interpretations of that data. Eleanor Lutz, a biology graduate student at the University of Washington and the creator of the science illustration blog Tabletop Whale, has taken advantage of both conditions to wow her ever-growing fan base with her maps of the realms beyond Earth.

"Atlas of Space, her latest project, is all about the solar system," writes Wired's Sara Harrison. "She plumbed the depths of publicly available data sets from agencies like NASA and the US Geological Survey and used them to create vivid maps of constellations, asteroids, and planets. In one image, luminescent bands of fuchsia and aquamarine asteroids swirl around the bright, white point of the Sun. In another, Earth seems to pulsate as an animation of Arctic sea ice shows how it extends down the continents during the winter and then retracts back to the poles in summer."

Lutz plans to release all the images she has created for her Atlas of Space over the next few weeks, along with instructions teaching readers how to create similar illustrations themselves. In her introductory post to the project, she promises "an animated map of the seasons on Earth, a map of Mars geology, and a map of everything in the solar system bigger than 10km."

Lutz also briefly describes her plans to write about everything from "working with Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) in Bash and Python" to "using the NASA HORIZONS orbital mechanics server and scraping internet data" to "updating vintage illustrations and painting in Photoshop." That last element has already made the project particularly eye-catching: you'll notice the Atlas of Space pages published so far, "An Orbit Map of the Solar System" and "A Topographic Map of Mercury," both possess a strong retro design sensibility, though each of a completely different kind. Levi Walter Yaggy would be proud — and no doubt astonished by just how much more information we've managed to gather about the solar system over the past 130 years.

via Wired

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

A New Photo Book Documents the Wonderful Homemade Cat Ladders of Switzerland

There are days when Calgon is not escape enough

Days when one longs to be a cat, specifically a free-ranging feline of Bern, Switzerland, as featured in graphic designer Brigitte Schuster’s forthcoming book, Swiss Cat Ladders...

Some American cats come and go freely through—dare we say—doggie doors, those small apertures cut into existing points of entry, most commonly the one leading from kitchen to Great Outdoors.

The citizens of Bern have aimed much higher, customizing their homes in alignment with both the feline commitment to independence and their fearlessness where heights are concerned.

As Schuster documents, there’s no one solution designed to take cats from upper residential windows and patios to the destinations of their choosing.

Some buildings boast sleek ramps that blend seamlessly into the existing exterior design.

In others, surefooted pussies must navigate ramshackle wooden affairs, some of which seem better suited to the hen house.

One cat ladder connects to a nearby tree.

Another started life as a drain spout.

Humans who prefer to outsource their cat ladders may elect to purchase a prefabricated spiral staircase online.

Pre-order Swiss Cat Ladders for 45 € using the order form at the bottom of this page. The text, which is in both German and English, includes diagrams to inspire those who would cater to their own cat’s desire for high flying independence.

All photographs © Brigitte Schuster

Via Colossal

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. And congratulations to her homeschooled senior, Milo Kotis, who graduates today! Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Iconic National Park Fonts: They’re Now Digitized & Free to Use

Fonts put in the service of the public good, like road signs, and street names, try to be invisible most of the time. They’re here to do their job and nothing else. But certain fonts accumulate something else, a sense of familiarity, a feeling of comfort and affection. That’s the thinking behind this recreation of America’s National Park font, which a team of five designers has created after much loving research.

Jeremy Shelhorn, the font studio’s founder, pinpoints exactly that kind of comfort:

Anyway I wasn’t fishing for some reason and was wandering around  following a deer trail turned into fisherman’s trail then back to another trail as sometime fisherman do.  I had trekked pretty far that day and wasn’t exactly lost, but I needed a little reassurance that I was heading the right direction when I came across one of those ubiquitous signs you see in a national park. You know the ones that have the text carved or “routed” into it. Entering Rocky Mountain National Park.

The font is “routed” into wooden signs and follows familiar rules: rounded serifs, simple angles. Shelhorn began to wonder:

...if it actually was a typeface or “font” that anyone could download and use? Do park rangers have this as a typeface on their computers to set in their word docs, pdfs and power point slides?...Turns out it isn’t a typeface at all but a system of paths, points and curves that a router follows.

The National Park Type Face was created by Shelhorn, his partner Andrea Herstowski, two students from the University of Kansas-- Chloe Hubler and Jenny O'Grady--and an actual NPS Ranger Miles Barger. It looks like the real thing and comes in three weights and one outline font. Research was done by taking pencil rubbings of various signs. And now you can download the fonts here.

Outside this font, Jeremy Shellhorn and associates work on other projects involving our National Parks (always under threat from big industry and rapacious capitalists). You can check their various work here.

Melbourne typographer Stephen Banham once described the cultural baggage that comes with Gil Sans:

Whenever I read text set in Gill Sans, I can’t help but hear the voice of an English narrator reading along with me.

With that in mind, what does the National Park font (download here) sound like to you? A friendly ranger? The sound of hiking boots on a trail? Birdsong? A babbling brook? The voice of nature itself? Let us know in the comments.

via Kottke

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

The Bauhaus Bookshelf: Download Original Bauhaus Books, Journals, Manifestos & Ads That Still Inspire Designers Worldwide

The Bauhaus, Barry Bergdoll writes in the New York Times of the German design school founded a century ago last month, "lasted just 14 years before the Nazis shut it down. And yet in that time it proved a magnet for much that was new and experimental in art, design and architecture — and for decades after, its legacy played an outsize role in changing the physical appearance of the daily world, in everything from book design to household lighting to lightweight furniture." Celebrations of the Bauhaus' centenary have taken many forms, including the documentary series Bauhaus World, the reimagining of modern corporate logos in the classic Bauhaus style, and now the free online resource Bauhaus Bookshelf.

Bauhaus Bookshelf creator Andrea Riegel calls the site "my modest contribution to #bauhaus100 and beyond: (almost) all Bauhaus books and journals in a virtual bookcase — with the possibility to download and take a closer look at the media and original sources, supplemented by short excerpts and contributions by Bauhaus people and contemporary witnesses or other content in context."

In other worlds, you'll find there not just the original Bauhaus manifesto, but sections on the series of "Bauhaus books" published by Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy; Bauhaus-associated creators and teachers like Paul Klee; Bauhaus advertising; the women of the Bauhaus (a subject previously featured here on Open Culture); and materials from the 1938 exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art that introduced the Bauhaus to the world.

And 100 years after its founding, the world is still thinking about the Bauhaus, which, in Bergdoll's words, "produced one of the most powerful expressions of a view that design was everything. It served, in a way, as the embassy of modernist design. But its success has often led to a reductionism in our understanding of the rich nexus of artistic movements that crisscrossed at the school itself, as well as the diverse developments it helped inspire." For a better understanding of the Bauhaus, perhaps we must go back to the Bauhaus itself, not just in the sense of looking at the art, craft, design, and buildings its teachers and students produced, but the documents it issued on its mission and ideals. Whether in its English or German versions, Riegel's Bauhaus Bookshelf serves as an intellectually and aesthetically stimulating place to find them.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

A Brief History of IDEO: A Short Documentary Takes You Inside the Design Firm That Changed the Way We Think about Design

The design firm IDEO was founded in 1991, which may not sound like an especially long time ago, but consider it in technological terms: what kind of devices were we using in 1991? How did they look and feel? Chances are not just that the phone and computer you now carry around bear no resemblance to the ones you would have carried around — not that most of them could be carried around — 28 years ago, but that your furniture and household appliances have changed as well. And think, too, of your everyday experiences with shopping, medical care, and government services: some have transformed, usually for the better, and if others haven't, it's probably not a good thing that they've stayed the same.

IDEO has worked on the design of products and services in all those fields and others, and has indeed done much to redefine the field of design itself. The company's founders and employees tell the story in their own words in the short documentary video IDEO and a Story of Design above, which focuses on IDEO's achievements in changing the way we think about design (exemplified by the time they redesigned the humble shopping cart on Nightline).

And though IDEO as a corporate entity has only existed since the early 1990s, it has deeper roots in the history of design, appearing as it did as a merger of four existing firms, David Kelley Design, ID Two, Matrix Product Design in California, and Moggridge Associates in London. Kelley, who's also a professor at Stanford, appears in the video not only to remember IDEO's founding, but also to talk about its future.

So does Tim Brown, who after nineteen years as IDEO's CEO announced last week that he will step down, passing the position on to former global managing director Sandy Speicher. When IDEO enters a world, Speicher says in the video, "we bring our creative lens, imagining how we can make that world better. I'm careful about words like 'solution' or 'the answer,' because these are people-based systems." That remark, as well as the others made by the variety of IDEO people — in a variety of accents befitting a now-global firm with nine locations around the world — provide a glimpse into IDEO's mutually inseparable corporate culture and its conception of design. And if all their talk about reinvention, responsiveness, and asking the big questions sounds a bit high-flown, most of it may come down to an old saying that holds up in every domain just as well today as it did in 1991: There's always room for improvement.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

David Bowie Songs Reimagined as Pulp Fiction Book Covers: Space Oddity, Heroes, Life on Mars & More

In the last year, screenwriter Todd Alcott’s hobby has blown up into a legit side career.

This Etsy seller isn’t peddling kombucha SCOBYs, letter pressing new baby announcements, or repurposing old barns for use as cutting boards.

No, Alcott’s crafty fortunes fall squarely at the intersection of pulp fiction and rock and roll, with classic song titles, lyrics, and other cunning references replacing the cover text of pre-existing vintage paperbacks.

David Bowie’s lifelong fascination with space travel, tortured anti heroes, and outrageous fashion make him a natural fit with Alcott’s ongoing project, which has lavished similar attention on such luminaries as Bob Dylan, RadioheadTalking Heads, and Elvis Costello.

As Alcott, who conceives of his mash ups as tributes to his long time musical favorites, told Open Culture:

Bowie dressed as an androgynous alien, went out onstage and told his audience "You're not alone, give me your hands," I can't think of a more encompassing gesture to a misfit. No matter how weird you were in your community, you would always find someone like you at a Bowie concert. During a time of my life when I felt incredibly isolated and alone, (Bowie was one of) the key artists who made me feel like I was part of a bigger world, an artistic continuum.

Meanwhile, Alcott is tending to another continuum by posthumously pairing such late greats as Bowie and Queen’s Freddie Mercury (“co-author” of the deep sea-themed Under Pressure cover, above) with the sort of adventurous, occasionally steamy reading material that were among the hallmarks of their 1950s' boyhoods.

Many of these items have found their way to used book and thrift stores, where, tattered and worn, they provide a vast trove for someone like Alcott, who browses with his favorite acts’ catalogues deeply imprinted on his mental hard drive.

It must’ve been a grand day when he happened across the above 1970s sci fi cover. A few deft tweaks, and Life on Mars, a nonexistent “new adventure from the author of Space Oddity," was born.

(Hardcore fans, take note of the doctored publisher in the upper left corner)

Heroes, which takes its inspiration from the 1981 X-Men comic Days of Future Past, is crammed full of such Easter eggs. Can you spot them all?

What a fitting tribute to the Starman’s enduring hold on the public’s imagination.

Browse Todd Alcott’s Bowie-themed pulp fiction collection in his Etsy shop.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City April 15 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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