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Kool Ade

Old school, retro picks

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Gift Shop of Horrors

Before you plan your summer vacation, pay a visit to Crap Souvenirs, a photo blog that delights in commemorative kitsch. "This site is meant to serve as a collection point, or perhaps a refuge, for the tackiest of mementos," notes editor Doug Lansky, who solicits snapshots from around the globe, adds witty descriptions, and invites readers to vote for their favorites. Among the early hits are a bottle opener featuring the face of Pope John Paul II, a stuffed camel whose flashing red eyes almost make you forget that its flank is embroidered with "EGYBT" (oops!), and a Mount Rushmore oil lamp that would appall and frighten even the most grizzled Antiques Roadshow appraiser.

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Typewriter Rescue

Miss the old-timey clackety-clack and sturdy buttons of manual typewriters but not about to abandon the digital world? Check out the USB Typewriter, described by Philadelphia-based inventor Jack Zylkin as "a new and groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence." Originally conceived as a kit to teach basic electronics, the retro-modern creation allows you to use a manual typewriter as a keyboard for any USB-capable computer, including an iPad, with the addition of newfangled keyboard functions such as Ctrl, Esc, and arrow keys.

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Omni

Before the digital revolution there was Omni. The strangely enchanting popular science magazine was created by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, which explains the touches of sex and flashy graphic design amidst the science news and science fiction. Omni folded in 1998 after a two-decade run, but The Mind's Eye: The Art of Omni, due out in June from powerHouse Books, will serve up the publication's vintage science fiction imagery. Meanwhile, an Omni reboot is already underway online, where the search for lost images and kindred sprits will continue.

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Honest Logos

What if a logo revealed the true nature of a company, as opposed to the image it aspires to present to the world? Such is the parallel universe imagined by Swedish graphic designer Viktor Hertz, who has created a series of "honest logos" for megabrands ranging from Apple (the text below the silvery fruit becomes "Appearance Costs") to YouTube ("CatVideos"). Some may have a future as guerrilla public health campaigns, aimed at too-frequent customers of McDonald's ("McDiabetes"), Camel ("Cancer"), or Marlboro ("Moneywaster").

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Write On

Do you know what the handwriting of your closest friends looks like? Probably not. "We are at a moment when handwriting seems to be about to vanish from our lives altogether," writes Phillip Hensher in The Missing Ink, recently released in paperback (Faber & Faber). "It has stopped being a necessary and inevitable intermediary between people—a means by which individuals communicate with each other, putting a little bit of their personality into the form of their message as they press the ink-bearing point on to the paper."

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Everyday Design

Why do some objects delight, while others frustrate? What is "good design," and what does your brain have to do with it? Find out in the pages of The Design of Everyday Things by Dan Norman. First published in 1988, the beloved book has been revised and expanded for a new edition out this month from MIT Press.

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Scrabble Typography Returns

Andrew Clifford Capener's fontastic version of Scrabble is back! The California designer set out to reinvent the beloved board game in a way that would excite people about typography. His concept was to replace the familiar bleached-wood, monofont letter tiles with rich walnut versions in a variety of typefaces. An additional design tweak: all of the game components would be magnetized, an innovation that anyone who has lost that lone "Z" or "K" can appreciate. A licensee of Hasbro is back on board with a second (limited) edition, which includes new fonts and Bauhaus-inspired game components.

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Old Sport

And now for something completely different: Baz Luhrmann's 21st century take on The Great Gatsby, recently released on DVD, gets a "supercut." Editors at Tribeca Film scouted the latest cinematic adaptation of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel to find all of the utterances of the "old sport" that peppers Gatsby's speech, turned up at least 43 (for the record, we counted 45 in the book), and strung them together into this mesmerizing video. "After a while, the 'old sports' start to tell their own twisted tale of lost love, delusion, and desperation--or something," say the editors. "Enjoy! Just don't turn this into a drinking game." Bottoms up, old sport.

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Interaction of Color

One of the most influential art books ever written gets a 21st century update thanks to Yale University Press, which has released an iPad app version of Josef Albers's Interaction of Color. First published fifty years ago, the classic tome is an essential guide to thinking creatively about color. The app includes the full text along with more than 125 of the original color studies, including the “flaps” and moving pieces that have made them so captivating to generations of students. After experimenting with color and finding solutions to Albers's famous problems, you can play with the new color palette tool and watch interviews with leading designers and artists explaining how they use color in their work.

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Men at Lunch

You've seen it: that credulity-straining image of iron workers taking a lunch break on a steel beam dangling hundreds of feet above Manhattan. A new documentary zooms in on the iconic 1932 photo, known as "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper," and its calmly snacking subjects. "There's the wider context -- the glory of the skyscraper age and the building of the iconic Manhattan skyline -- and secondly the parallel story of the European immigrants who arrived in New York during the roaring twenties and were living there during the Great Depression," says Seán Ó Cualáin, who directed Men at Lunch. "Finally the mystery surrounding the photograph had to be investigated and told. Was it a fake? Who took the photograph? And, who might the men be?" Find out this fall when the film arrives in U.S. theaters.

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