Archive for the ‘magazines’ Category

Google’s plan for a future city is terrifying

October 20, 2017
Schmidt, Trudeau and pals set out their plans for a 12-acre site on Toronto's waterfront

Schmidt, Trudeau and pals set out their plans for a 12-acre future city on Toronto’s waterfront

We started thinking about all the things we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge

That has to be one of the scariest sentences I have ever heard. Why? Because it was said by Eric Schmidt, the billionaire chairman of Alphabet, the company set up to own Google.

This is the mega-tech company that sent its camera cars around around our roads – without anyone’s permission – and just happened to identify everyone’s open wifi while it was at it.

Google then ignored its own promise not to track people using the private windows in their browsers, and it has been found guilty of using its massive online power to force out smaller rivals by putting its own products first in search results. In simple words, that’s lying and cheating. No wonder the EU slapped Google with a €2.4bn fine.

Yet no-one except China, the US and the EU is big enough to stand up to the likes of Google/Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay and their pals. The Schmidt quote comes from a report in the FT on Thursday (‘Toronto offers Alphabet waterfront land to practise designs for cities of future’ by Leslie Hook). He was talking at a publicity event with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister.

The FT piece points out that there is a ‘political backlash against big tech in the US, where politicians are grappling with the growing influence of Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon’. However, these mega-techs just play the global field and look to wield their influence with individual countries such as Canada or the UK for their schemes.

My reaction to the FT story is no doubt influenced by my efforts to do something very simple with Apple this morning. This mega-tech set its stall out with the launch of the first Mac way back in 1984. It forced all software makers to adopt its interface or it would not give them access to developers’ kits – even those that already sold software for Apple’s micros. The result was that many of the thriving small software companies in Britain turned to PC technology, or give up.

The level of control is incredible. I booked an appointment at an Apple dealer in the Strand, London, to see if I could get my Macbook power supply cable repaired (and I note as I type this that WordPress tries to cap up the ‘b’ in Macbook, another example of Apple’s Ratking-like power). I walked in and handed over the broken power supply. (How can they get away with such shoddy products – in almost 40 years of owning computers, I have never had a power cable break.)

‘What’s the serial number of the Mac?’ they asked. I didn’t know, which meant that they couldn’t do anything! They then sent me over to the Apple shop in Covent Garden. It was like walking into a youth club full of ping-pong tables. I eventually found a rack of products and a new power lead was £79! I asked about getting it repaired and was sent to join a dozen-strong queue for the one person in the room who could (perhaps) answer the question.

I gave up. I decided to pay up. And, of course, I had to find someone who has the portable device to pay. And then wait again while they printed the receipt out. I left with a massively overpackaged product, having been frustrated in my attempt to repair ought in an inefficient shop staffed by 90% men. Clearly, Apple is a company at the forefront of the world’s waste problems and at the back of the field in attempts to encourage women into the workforce.

They and their mega-tech ilk want a world in which they can track you and everything you own. Their futuristic city (for a waterfront-living elite) will be very efficient with huge political clout. Alongside it will be a licence to take a cut of – in essence, tax – the world’s media use, of books, film, TV, software. And 3D printing technology will enable them to do the same for many other products too.

If George Orwell hadn’t had Stalin’s Russia to inspire him to come up with 1984 and Big Brother, then Google and Apple wold have done it for someone else today – or perhaps it is the mega-techs that are modelling themselves on that dystopian, fascist world.

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Maurice Rickards: ephemera and magazines

October 14, 2017
Maurice Rickards merged two images in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards merged two photographs in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards is one of the unsung heroes of graphic design. Although he wrote several books – and Michael Twyman completed his Encyclopedia of Ephemera – the godfather of modern-day ephemera is rarely written about. Even Wikipedia, that great hoover-upper of everybody else’s research and websites, has yet to acknowledge his existence. Only the Independent gave him an obituary (by Patrick ‘Book of Firsts‘ Robertson, a former chairman of the Ephemera Society who claims to own the largest private collection of vintage magazines in Britain).

Rickards trained as a photographer but collecting the fleeting printed objects of everyday life – particularly posters – was his joy and he appears to have made a living from his Fitzrovia basement studio as an illustrator, photographer and magazine designer. It was his enthusiasm that led to the creation of the Ephemera Society, its offshoot in the US and the Centre for Ephemera Studies at Reading University under the direction of Professor Twyman.

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

I never met the man, but came to some idea of his approach to design through the pages of Man About Town under the editorship of John Taylor in the 1950s (before it was bought up by Michael Heseltine’s Cornmarket). Later, when researching books about British magazine design and Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster, I discovered his books on posters.

The spring 1956 poster-like cover of Man About Town is credited to Rickards, as is autumn 1958, so he was probably working as a freelance designer on the magazine in those years. I particularly like the latter example, which is described as being inspired by the squiggle shape that he came across.

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

The autumn/winter i959 issue at the top of this post was the last Man About Town under Taylor and perhaps that is why it gives a big showing to Rickards’ work. He had done several earlier covers designs but this one gives an opportunity for his ‘crackpotography’ ideas, along with a five-page article.  The text reproduces some of his ‘eccentricities’ in ‘Rickards’s howdoneit’, an article based on his book, Off-Beat Photography (The Studio, 1959), about image manipulation. In Man About Town‘s inimitable style, the magazine  describes that the woman sitting on Rickards’s head cover is easily explained:

It is not that we used a particularly small girl; it is merely that Rickards himself has such a big head.

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards shows Rickards with an axe in his head on the dust jacket

In the article, the captions explain how each photograph was composed and how shadows were added using an airbrush or avoided. A man shown balancing on a glass using just one finger needed 50 or 60 exposures before Rickards got it right. A skull and Luger photo was for a book, named as Skeleton Island. In fact, this looks to have become A Twist of Sand (1960) by Geoffrey Jenkins and was made into a film eight years later starring Richard Johnson and Honor Blackman. The cover used a variant of the photo, without the gun.

Another photograph of what looks like the aftermath of a massive road accident  harks back to a poster campaign he did right at the start of his career in 1953 – Lives Matter. Three posters were commissioned by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, showing a woman collapsed over a telephone, a one-legged boy on crutches, and a little girl in the arms of a policeman. According to Patrick Robertson’s obituary, such was the horror they generated that they were banned by various local authorities, were defaced on hoardings and prompted ‘harsh letters’ to editors and MPs.

 

 

Punch magazine’s horn of plenty

September 28, 2017
Morten Morland cartoon from The Times newspaper showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a Punch-style horn of plenty

Morten Morland cartoon from The Times newspaper showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a Punch-style horn of plenty

The Times this week ran a Morten Morland cartoon showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a horn of plenty – a cornucopia. This is a reference to an idea that goes back a couple of thousand years to Greek mythology. But it is a classical allusion that was very much kept alive by Richard ‘Dicky’ Doyle with his famous Punch magazine cover design that developed from 1844.

The horn of plenty from the left side of an 1847 Punch cover

The horn of plenty from the left side of an 1847 Punch cover

Buyers of Punch – just 6,000 of them each week in the satirical magazine’s early days – are the sort of people who will have had a classical education and so would be aware of the idea of a goat’s horn or horn-shaped basket overflowing with produce. It’s associated with Zeus, Hades, Hercules and Gaia.

In the case of McDonnell, he’s spouting forth a stream of policies at the Labour party conference; for Dicky Doyle in 1842, it was a cornucopia of fun, wit and entertainment.

The Punch cover is often described as never-changing, but that it not the case. The earliest issues from July 1841 showed a Punch and Judy stall. That idea stayed in place until the 20-year-old Doyle’s Mr Punch and his dog design took hold in April 1844. And there were several versions of that, though the main elements, full of classical references, stayed constant.

RGG Price’s History of Punch (Collins, 1957) states the frieze at the bottom was based on Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne.  What appear to be the words ‘Exhaustive wit’ exude from the horn on the right, and ‘fun’ on the left. It is ‘satire’ that is raised up towards the heavens on the right among a multitude of mischievous imps, fairies and cherubs.

The cover of Punch magazine's almanac of 1842 by Halbot K Browne ('Phiz')

The cover of Punch magazine’s almanac of 1842 by Halbot K Browne (‘Phiz’)

This 1842 almanac cover is initialled HKB – Halbot K Browne – ‘Phiz’. He was one of five artists who did early covers for Punch (the others being Archibald Henning, William Harvey, John Gilbert and Kenny Meadows).

The engraver is also credited, Ebenezer Landells. He was one of the founders in 1841 of Punch, and acted as art editor, along with the journalist Henry Mayhew and William Last as printer.  This almanac sold very well and may have saved the magazine from closure, because sales had been running at 6,000 a week whereas they needed to sell 10,000.

However, the financial problems led Last to pull out in favour of working with Herbert Ingram on Illustrated London News. Landells had to sell his share to Bradbury & Evans, the publishers. Bradbury & Evans replaced Landells with Joseph Swain and gained complete control in December 1842. Swain was not credited on the covers.

Although Doyle’s design won out in 1844, it took five years to settle down into the image that lasted until 1956, when one-off colour covers by the likes of Ronald Searle became the norm. In particular, the detail of Mr Punch in the bottom frieze was altered in response to criticism that it was crude, a drawing of a British lion replaces the Punch stall on the easel and the circus typeface for the title was turned to wood, in a mockery of  the German illustration style of artists such as Alfred Rethel.

How Kitchener inspired the nation for Dunkirk

August 4, 2017
Picture Post for the week of 1 June 1940

Kitchener leads the nation again in the week of Dunkirk from the cover of Picture Post (1 June 1940)

Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk has certainly brought the legend of the ‘Little Ships’ armada that rescued so many Allied troops back into the world’s imagination. In 1940, the media that the British will have turned to was BBC radio and Picture Post magazine.

And the image that editor Stefan Lorant chose to put on his magazine’s front cover the week of Dunkirk was Alfred Leete’s Your Country Needs You. It was a cover that will have gone to press before May 29, when the evacuation was announced to the British public. But then Lorant may well have known what was happening to the British Expeditionary Force through his contact with Churchill.

Boat owners certainly responded to the call – making up the bulk in number of the 860 vessels that were involved.  Some 200 of the small craft that epitomised the Dunkirk spirit were sunk. However, by the time the operation ended on June 4, 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops had been saved. Another 220,000 troops were rescued  from other French ports.

The presence of this force was undoubtedly a factor in forcing Hitler to rethink his invasion plans, but the war was not going well for Britain – its allies were dropping like nine pins – and Lorant must have been in more fear for his life than most people in Britain. Lorant was a Hungarian Jew who had been imprisoned by Hitler for his work on weekly papers in Germany. In Britain, he promoted the work of many other Continental exiles, including Walter Trier, who drew the Lilliput covers for 20 years, the photographer Bill Brandt and the photomontages of John Heartfield, probably best remembered for his Elephants Might Fly reaction to the Munich agreement (15 October 1938).

Lorant had lambasted the Nazi regime in his book, I Was Hitler’s Prisoner, which was turned into a BBC Radio play; in the pages of Weekly Illustrated, which he had launched for Odhams in 1934; in the delectible Lilliput, which he founded, as well as Picture Post. So he must have been well up on Hitler’s hit list.

Walter Trier's cover for first Lilliput magazine in 1937

Walter Trier’s cover for first Lilliput magazine in 1937

Soon after Lorant went to America in mid-1940, Picture Post‘s two most important cameramen – Felix Man and Kurt Hutton, both German emigres – were interned on the Isle of Man. The magazine set about negotiating for their release, but their fates will not have assuaged Lorant’s fears and he emigrated to the US. As Lorant told his deputy Tom Wilkinson, who went on to become editor of Picture Post:

‘You British citizens will be all right – all you’ll lose is the freedom to say what you think. But we bloody foreigners will be handed over … I’ve been Hitler’s prisoner once in Munich, I’m not waiting for him to catch up with me a second time.’

The Kitchener-covered Picture Post issue was larger than usual and was focused on Britain’s leaders, with 32 pages devoted to government members. Lorant was a big fan of Churchill. The section starts with photographs comparing a ‘grimly determined’ Churchill in 1914 with him ‘grimly determined again’ in 1940.

Back in February 1939, Lorant had sent Wickham Steed, a former editor of The Times, and cameraman Felix Man to Chartwell and interview Winston Churchill at his home. As David Marcou writes in his thesis, ‘All the Best’:

‘Churchill – the man the Tories didn‘t trust – was no more than a backbencher under the Chamberlain administration. He‘d held no office since being Chancellor of the Exchequer under Stanley Baldwin a decade before. Steed concluded his profile: “His abiding care is the safety of Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth. Should some great emergency arise … his qualities and experience might then be national assets; and the true greatness, which he has often seemed to miss by a hair‘s breadth, might, by common consent, be his.” In its introduction, Picture Post added its own prophetic comment: At 64, the greatest moment of his life has still to come.’

Picture Post covered the German offensive with a dramatic story―’Blitzkrieg’ in the June 8 issue.

‘The lightning war smites Europe. It blisters its way between the Allied Armies, cleaving them in two. It carves out a charred road to the English Channel. It scorches the Belgian Army and stuns the Belgian King into surrender.’

Alongside the words is a full-page photo of a man with a girl lying nearby, which tells the story of what war was doing to innocents. The picture caption reads:

We dedicate this picture to the Fuhrer. We dedicate this picture to the ‘moderate’ Goering. We dedicate this picture to those of our own politicians who promised us that Germany would never be allowed to attain air-parity with Britain; that they had secured peace for our time; that they were abundantly confident of victory … It shows a Dutch father wounded all over, but forgetful of what he is suffering. The dead girl on the corner is his daughter.

It’s no wonder that Lorant decided to put the Atlantic ocean between himself and Hitler. However, he had burned his bridges well before. As I point out in A History of British Magazine Design, Tom Hopkinson identifies the seven pages of ‘Back to the Middle Ages’ (26 November 1938) as ‘the finest example of the use of photographs for political effect’. He describes how Lorant drew up the pages to hit back at ‘This bloody Hitler. These bloody pogroms!’

Immediate launches mindfulness magazine, ‘In the Moment’

June 24, 2017
Immediate Media launched In the Moment with a July 2017 cover date to cater for women interested in mindfulness

Immediate Media launched In the Moment magazine with a July 2017 cover date to cater for women interested in mindfulness

Immediate Media, the Radio Times and Top Gear publisher, has launched a new monthly magazine, In the Moment. The title aims ‘to help women make the most of every day with mindfulness, creativity and wellbeing’.

The title went on sale on 22nd June, with a 116-page first issue. The focus is on ‘positive’ features and stories with a ‘light-hearted approach’ to inspire readers.

The plan is for each issue to carry Take a Moment, an eight-page, handbag sized mini-magazine, with a ‘soothing’ drink recipe, short story and puzzle. The first issue included a choice of ready-to-frame prints and card templates for pocket-sized greeting boxes.

Cath Potter, Immediate publishing director, said interest in mindfulness had ‘grown enormously’ in the past five years with people ‘crying out for ways to slow down and tune out’. She added: ‘We want to find space within our busy lives to notice things and remember to enjoy them. In The Moment recognises that being more mindful doesn’t need to be heavy-going, and that it needs to fit within your lifestyle.’

Sad times for great magazines in uncaring Time Inc hands

June 23, 2017
Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan

Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan – but are now half

Had an email yesterday morning from the editor of one of the biggest Time Inc UK weeklies asking for a correction to my listings – I had mistakenly said the title had closed. No problem I thought, but the request seemed a bit odd until I saw this Press Gazette headline later in the day – ‘UK magazine giant Time Inc puts 111 journalists at risk of redundancy‘.

Time Inc wants to group editorial staff on some of its biggest titles into one central ‘hub’, says Press Gazette. Really bad move – the result will be to blandise the titles and diminish their identity. No doubt it will also be the harbinger of more cuts to come. Central subbing units tend to be ideal targets for ‘outsourcing’ or moving to the far corners of the country.

The magazine titles involved include Woman & Home (£4.30; sales 319,000; 36% subs; about 10% multi-packed), Marie Clare (£3.99; 153,000 sales; 20% subs; 15% frees) and Look (90,000 fortnightly; 3% subs; 11% frees). Digital circulation adds about 1,000 to each figure. That’s two very different monthlies and a fortnightly all expected to be put together by the same people. I’m surprised the French owners of the Marie Clare name haven’t objected.

The company wants to cut 300 staff globally.

I felt it was bad news when the IPC owners sold the company to US-based Time Inc, and particularly when they dropped the IPC name. The moment you become a bracketed subsidiary of a company that ends in ‘Inc’, it never ends well (is it Time Inc (UK) or Time (UK) Inc? Should there be a Ltd at the end of that too?). So it has proved. The US owners have done nothing but sell off titles and have even sold their Blue Fin headquarters building in Borough, London, to lease it back. hardly the actions of a company in it for the long term.

In a recent post, I identified Country Life as a title that would be better off in other hands, rather than the business park in Farnborough that it gives as its address nowadays.

It’s a sad day that once-great names such as Newnes, AC Pearson, Odhams, Amalgamated, Fleetway and IPC – the ‘Ministry of Magazines’ of the 1970s – have been reduced to a ‘garage sale’ of brands in the hands of uncaring American masters.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

 

 

De Niro can play Sherlock Holmes in Joe Allen’s Exeter Street building

June 11, 2017
Haité's view of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its massive rooftop sign on the right

Haite’s sketch of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its huge rooftop sign on the right

Former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St in 2015

The former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St, without the rooftop sign. Exeter St runs to the right

The glossy monthly Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947

Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947. Another former occupant was Health & Strength in 1910

Joe Allen’s, an American-style bar and restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, is moving from its present site in Exeter Street round the corner into Burleigh Street. I’ve been going there since the 1980s, which I worked for Redwood Publishing in Long Acre, and had one of my favourite meals there – blackened blue fish!

A few years ago when researching my book on magazine design, I learnt that the offices of Tit-Bits and The Strand magazines were on the corner of  Exeter and Burleigh streets in the 1890s, under their founder George Newnes. The southern-most part of Burleigh Street is shown on Haité’s famous Strand cover. The building is still there and later housed Queen magazine. I suspect the Joe Allen premises were the printing works for the magazines.

Joe Allen says its site has been acquired by the actor Robert De Niro,  who plans to open a boutique hotel, The Wellington, in its place. He’s a part owner of the Nobu chain of restaurants and two other hotels. Newspaper reports suggest he is planning to retain the façades of the historic properties on the block that will be knocked through for the development.

If he is looking for a celebrity theme, it could well be Sherlock Holmes, most of whose stories first appeared in The Strand. The site has as much claim to being the spiritual home of the famous detective as any other (221B Baker Street was a fictional address).


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

£1,750 for a copy of Oz magazine

May 13, 2017
This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

Prices for copies of Oz just go up and up. February was the magazine’s 50th anniversary and the buyers came out for several issues. Pick of the bunch was a copy of the first Oz that sold for £1,750, with 23 bids. A first issue of Oz went in 2012 for just over £1,000. The starting price this time was £400 and five bidders fought it out. A nice thing about it was the provenance. As the seller, sarahnegotiator, explained:

Published in 48 issues between 1967 and 1973, Oz Magazine was a revolutionary anti-establishment underground publishing phenomenon that triggered outrage, numerous police raids and the longest obscenity trial in British legal history. Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, here is a unique opportunity to purchase an extremely rare copy of the very first issue of London Oz.
Owned by the current seller since it was bought at King’s Cross Station in 1967, the magazine is complete, and apart from some minor creasing and light wear on the cover corners, is in good condition throughout.

Another first issue of Oz sold for £1,000. The starting price was £500 and the seller gave a very limited description. One potential bidder, quite rightly, wanted to know more:

Q: Would you be so kind as to tell me a bit more about the condition? Are there any pen marks or rips? Has anything been cut out? Are there any creases or dog ears? How would you rate it: Mint, VGC, Good, Fair? I’m a collector so quality is very important.
A: I would say that the condition of the magazine is between Mint and Very Good Condition. There are no dog eared corners or creases to any of the pages, no pen marks, no tears, the staples and the fold-out calendar of Feb ’67 are still attached. There are a couple of very small stains on the front cover and overall the pages are very slightly yellowed with age. Thanks for your interest and please get in touch again if you need more information. Best regards and happy bidding,

I’m always wary of terms such as ‘mint’ – but the fact that the seller fills in the details shows that it clearly is not mint in any sense that a collector would understand (stains on the  cover?!).

Another issue, Oz No.11 from April 1968, The Sticker Issue, fetched £363. The seller here, silvantage925, also sold seven other issues of Oz. The description was very good , with photographs to back it up:

The magazine is complete, with no missing pages. There are some minor rips to pages, towards the back of the magazine, including the back page. Stickers are in good shape though. Please see photos.
Magazine does not display any major signs of discolouration or distress other than what has previously been mentioned.
Please check photographs and keep the condition in mind when bidding. I always try and be as honest and descriptive as I can, any flaws etc will always be photographed and added to description.

Four other issues have sold this year fetching prices of £200-£276 on eBay.

 

What’s gone wrong at Arsenal – by the manager

May 11, 2017
What's gone wrong at Highbury - what every Arsenal fan wants to know

What’s gone wrong at Highbury – what every Arsenal fan now wants to know

 

But this article is by manager Billy Wright and dates from 1966

But this article is by manager Billy Wright and dates from 1966

‘What’s gone wrong at Highbury’ – by the manager. That’s the article that so many Arsenal fans want to read, but Arsène Wenger, today’s manager, is not as forthcoming at Billy Wright was in May 1966.

In this article for weekly listings magazine London Life, reporter Rodney Burbeck ‘took a tape recorder to Highbury, put some blunt questions to Mr Wright and invited him to answer the critics’.

Not that his answers did him much good. Wright, who had been in the hot seat since 1962, lost the job to Bertie Mee the next month. Gooners regard Wright as a great player but the worst manager of modern times, with a win rate of 38%.

Wenger, by contrast, has been in the chair since October 1996 and is regarded as the club’s greatest manager, having won 57% of his 1,120 games in charge, with 19 top four finishes, 3 League cups and 6 FA cups.

See also – Arsenal legend Eddie Hapgood – and son

Rathborne’s Dr Who portrait was worth the wait

May 3, 2017
Ray Rathborne's Radio Times cover of Jon Pertwee as Dr Who

Ray Rathborne’s Radio Times cover of Jon Pertwee as Dr Who

Ian Jack has done a fine obituary for The Guardian of Ray Rathborne, the photographer who took this striking, eye-popping portrait of Jon Pertwee, who had just taken on the eponymous role in Dr Who in 1970.

Jack notes that Rathborne ‘was driven by a search for perfection that occasionally tested the patience of those who worked with him’. I know the feeling, but when you get results like this, it was clearly worth the wait.