Summer 2016


This summer has been a busy one. Since I last wrote here, the British — or half of them anyway — decided to leave the EU; rhetoric concerning refugees became increasingly toxic; a spate of terror attacks has left communities all over the world reeling; and Trump has made hundreds of gaffes, none of which seem to have dented his popularity with the tens of thousands disenchanted with mainstream politics in America.

Closer to home, I have moved house twice, signed off the final final final version of The Secret Lives of Colour, which will be published on October 20th (and can now be pre-ordered from Amazon), and started researching in earnest books two and three (I know! More on that in the books section when I can). So, I have dispensed with the monthly version of this for the moment and done an extra-long summer version of the many fascinating and unexpected things that I’ve come across, and three things by me at the bottom.

The secret to getting laid more? Sharing household chores

Sharks apparently have individual personalities. (Is it wrong to hope that, if I ever meet one, it has anxiety and/or an eating disorder?) And why a rise in the number of great whites in the waters off California is a good thing

Put down your iPhone and turn off that audiobook: why multitasking is bad for you

A 3,000-year-old ball of thread has been discovered in the remains of a Bronze Age in the east of England

In Iceland, scientists discovered a way to turn carbon dioxide into solid rock

Why South Korean soldiers are taking ballet lessons

Have you ever wondered which country is the most rectangular? Wonder no longer

Does being surrounded by digital personal assistants make children rude?

The bullet journal, to use its own parlance, is “an analogue system for a digital age”. Basically a new way to make to-do lists; I’m a convert.

On a similar note: a calendar rubber stamp from my favourite stationery shop and is this the most beautiful pen in the world? (A: yes)

The letter the Stanford rape victim read to her attacker in court. (You’ve probably already read it, but it’s worth reading a second time.)

A fascinating and disturbing long read on Robert Heath, a neuroscientist who claimed to have found a “gay cure” and was subsequently written out of scientific history

When are running shorts more than running shorts? When the company making them is taking on Nike

Why Californian fathers are twice as likely to take paternity leave for sons than daughters

One reason to be grateful for crappy battery life. A robot made a bid for freedom from a lab in Russia; the escape was foiled when it’s battery died after the robot had gone just 50m

Sweden has a new museum: the Ikea museum. And, in other Ikea-related news: the secret to getting a jaded populace to read a political manifesto: disguise it as an Ikea catalogue

And, from me:

The love affair between fonts and cities in honour of the remastered Johnston100 typeface

A review of “On Trails” by Robert Moor

How architects are responding to increased incidents of flooding

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June 2016


Hello from a not-so-sunny London

I’m back after a glorious week in Scotland where it was 22 degrees every day (see photo above). I don’t normally do plugs for places I’ve visited here but I’m going to make an exception for Corrie House B&B, run by Barrie and Joan. They were charming, their breakfasts were the stuff of dreams and they looked after us so well that all I want to do is hop on a plane and go straight back.

Anyway, to resume normal service, here is my list of things that caught my eye this month:

Sin, sex and symbolism: on the cultural power of red shoes

Jane Little first took her turn as a bassist in an orchestra on February 4th 1945 at the age of 16. She continued to play until earlier this month—becoming the longest-serving orchestra musician. She died during a performance with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They were playing “There’s no Business Like Show Business”

Amazon is having an effect on book-cover designs: they’re becoming yellower

Regular readers will probably have clocked the fact that I am obsessed with podcasts and, well, I’ve discovered another favourite. Criminal is an off-beat true crime (another fixation) podcast hosted by the silken-voiced Phoebe Judge. To see what I mean listen to this episode

$20,000: what your “vintage” iPod could be worth

Turmeric milk latte has become the new matcha latte (if you’re curious — I know I am — here’s a recipe)

Dung beetles are incredible. Not only is it believed that they evolved to eat dinosaur poop, but now it seems they navigate by memorising celestial snapshots

On Ms Rodham Clinton

Scientists have found a way to make wood transparent

In Finland you can eat a Burger King burger in an in-store sauna

The allure, and expense, of smelling like old books

And, from me:

Erotic fiction after 50 Shades

How the West developed chromophobia

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May 2016

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Fresh for May: the best things I’ve read and seen online this month:

Ever wanted to know what other people do when they think no one is watching? Gay Talese’s gripping account of a motel-owner, who, after decades of spying on his guests, decided: “People are basically dishonest and unclean; they cheat and lie and are motivated by self-interest.”

The Western women who join ISIS.

The game designers who created a game where players were randomly assigned a gender. Some of the men who had to play as women were not happy. (Not surprising really: the woman card isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.)

Colour palettes from the world’s most famous artists.

Just 13% of London’s blue plaques are dedicated to women. English Heritage have appealed to the public to nominate more.

The machine that lets you produce cheap and ecologically friendly protein in your kitchen. (The only catch is that the protein comes in the form of mealworms.)

A photographer invaded the privacy of some Planned Parenthood protesters.

Gorgeous images of the Munsell colour atlas from 1915.

Ivorian women in the world’s most beautiful hand-me-downs.

A Dutch company has created a modular housing system made from cardboard.

The New Yorker‘s ‘Purple Rain’ cover.

At a recent lecture Anish Kapoor, from around 1.50 in, talks about his plans for Vantablack. (Spoiler: the planned sculpture resembles a gargantuan, walk-in sex toy.)

An American court to spaghetti: ‘You are not a god‘.

And, from me:

Why 2016 will be the year of the podcast

And I talked to Monocle about three fascinating colours: ultramarine, vantablack and Scheele’s green

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The Secret Lives of Colour

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Here it is! The beautiful cover to “The Secret Lives of Colour”, which will be published by John Murray in October. For the princely sum of £20 you will learn about the brown that changed the way battles were fought, the white that was thought to protect against the plague and why the pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones insisted on giving a tube of paint a decent burial.

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Hello, April



For spring: an experiment in the form of a monthly design round-up with an odd smattering of opinions and news thrown in. If you like it—or if you think it’s terrible and want to offer suggestions—let me know on Twitter on in the comments below. Enjoy!

The death of Dame Zaha Hadid on March 31st has led to the publication of a thousand quick-fire tributes, condolences by contemporaries, rivals and critics as well as the unearthing of some thoughtful, long-form profiles. In pictures: ten of her best buildings

Are you a youngish man? Have you ever seen Mumford & Sons? The “bro”-liferation

How Batman’s physique has waxed and waned (pun definitely intended) over past 50 years

Tennis and the patriarchy

A great piece on a Harvard library protecting some of the world’s rarest colours (and some other wonderful libraries, just for fun)

Buzzfeed uses dreamy stock images to demonstrate the beauty of the German language

Maths can help make sense of the relationships between Game of Thrones’ protagonists

The Economist’s data team offers a scoop on the relationship between ice-cream consumption and literacy

Top tweet—is Canada trolling America?

You definitely don’t need this golden ratio cookie cutter, but…

And, from me:

The man who carves between heartbeats to create works so small they are practically invisible to the naked eye

On the origins and uses of Vantablack, the world’s blackest black

And, in Elle Decoration’s April issue, 35 pages of rainbow therapy

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Draw in Light

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I know, I know. It has been about a year since I updated this. Shame on me. Shame. But I saw the SS15 and Resort 15 lookbooks from Draw in Light and knew it would appeal.

Draw in Light are a British womenswear label specialising in cool, screen-printed silk clothes in pared-back shapes. Perfect for the summer that I plan on having, complete with white beaches, sandy toes and lashings of Aperol spritz….

Draw in Light 1 Draw in light 2 Draw in Light 4

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Lanvin SS15

Lanvin_005_2000_592x888So Lanvin got it really, really right for spring/summer 2015. Pure dishevelled Parisian insouciance, expressed through the mediums of dirty-looking hair and high-maintenance bleached whites. The only thing I’m not too sure about the heel shape below, they remind me of the mid-heel Kickers I used to wear at school (mine were navy, which totally violated school rules. I was such a rebel.) But you never know, they might be a grower…

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