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Neighborhood Studio is the commercial trading arm of illustrator and designer Curtis Jinkins. The Austin-based creative has made a name for himself producing the kind of ultra-American imagery that us Brits just can’t seem to get the hang of. Drawing inspiration from traditional sign-writing, mid-century illustration and of course just good old-fashioned US culture (why is it that there’s so much vibrant design for hot dogs?) Curtis creates identities, posters and just-for-fun hand lettering that has earned him widespread respect amongst his design peers. Top stuff!

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Bright red telephone boxes, afternoon tea, bobbies with batons. Today even the most naive tourist knows this Mary Poppins vision of Britain is about as true to life as Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent. But what, then, does it mean to be British in 2012? That’s a question the London Festival of Photography has tried to answer with its headline show, “The Great British Public.” The exhibition brings together 13 photographers who have captured modern British life, from posh wingdings to a wind-lashed laundry day on Scotland’s Orkney Islands. “We wanted to celebrate Britain more than be depressed about it,” says curator Grace Pattison, noting her countrymen’s talent for grousing. “It’s about the quirkiness, irony, the humor of the British. It’s quite an uplifting show, really.”

Nothing jars more with the British sensibility than the idea of forced positivity. Yet Pattison is savvy enough to have built a ‘warts-and-all’ show that winks at its subject while patting it on the back. Some of the photographers have taken on traditions that still thrive in parts of the country. Chris Steele-Perkins captures the lives of the increasing number of Brits who live to be 100 and receive a congratulatory birthday card from the Queen. Arnhel de Serra (the only non-Brit in the show) has captured the action at countryside agricultural shows, where elderly ladies in tweed vie for top prizes in jam-making and flower arranging. Giulietta Verdon-Roe presents a different glimpse into rural life with her elegiac images of the northernmost Orkney Island, population 51 (plus a few thousand seaweed-eating sheep and one very tall lighthouse).

Other photographers focus on the new traditions being created. Photographer Ewen Spencer followed the rise of the Grime music scene (epitomized by black artist Dizzee Rascal), and the young people who hope to rap their way out of London’s poorest neighborhoods.

And then, of course, there is Britain’s ethnic diversity, often packed into small areas like the borough of Hackney in London, documented by Zed Nelson, or a street in the northern city of Birmingham, photographed by Liz Hingley, which hosts over 30 different places of worship including a mosque and a Hindu temple.

It’s impossible to talk about British photography without mentioning Martin Parr, whose seminal The Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton (1982-86) presented working class holiday-makers—they of the bulging, pink flesh and oily fish and chip wrappers—in all their vulgar glory. For the exhibition, Pattison preferred not to dwell on Parr’s 80s oeuvre (“It’s not the most exciting way to talk about Britain anymore.”). Rather, she chose an homage to Parr in the work of Peter Dench, who returned to the parts of New Brighton featured in The Last Resort and photographed them as they are today. Even now, the northern town near Liverpool provokes wry bemusement among the British: “It’s all quite gray and the scenery isn’t that exciting,” says Pattison. “It’s seaside life, but with a quite humorous look.”

One image of Parr’s does appear in the exhibition: a picture of an English bobby, standing in a red-brick town, hands on hips, while children hula hoop in the street. “At first glance, you think, ah, it’s a really traditional English scene,” says Pattison. “But it’s actually a historic museum in the Black Country [the industrial Midlands]. It’s actually just a mock street and he’s an actor dressed up as a policeman.”

Finally, the exhibition touches on the British at play, whether it be country and seaside escapes (Simon Roberts), a barbershop in London where locals hash out the day’s politics (Nick Cunard) or the beer-swilling excesses of English football fans (Homer Sykes).

Even with such a multifarious show, Pattison is worried the British public in question will find something to quibble about. “By calling it ‘The Great British Public’ we are potentially asking for criticism if people don’t feel like their view of Britain is in there,” she says. But in the year of the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Pattison is allowing herself to be Britishly optimistic. “Hopefully not too many people will say that,” she says with a laugh.

The London Festival of Photography’s exhibition The Great British Public will be on view from June 1 through June 24. More information is available here.

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As 2011 draws to a close, Framework looks back on an eventful, tumultuous year, documented by the photojournalists of the Los Angeles Times.

It was a year marked by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan; the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East, with rebel uprisings and hard-fought battles resulting in the fall of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, and the capture and death of Libya’s Moammar Kadafi; and the humanitarian crisis of continued famine in Africa.

2011 also saw the somber 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001; the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement; the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London and their subsequent Southland visit; and the involuntary manslaughter trial, conviction and sentencing of Michael Jackson’s personal physician.

Carmageddon in Los Angeles, anticipated with dire predictions of monumental gridlock, turned out to be not so disruptive after all.

Almost nine years after the invasion of Iraq, the war was declared officially over with the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops and their return home — in time for the holidays, no less.

As always, the worlds of entertainment, sports and celebrity are part of the gallery, adding a light, colorful touch to a memorable year.

Enjoy the look back with us, and have a wonderful 2012.

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www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cXDgFwE13g My friends always make fun of me because I have “bad” taste in music. When they want a show or movie or game recommendation, I’m their man, but for music? They stay away as they probably don’t want to listen to video game soundtracks or rap from other countries. My latest questionable music choice [...]

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24 hours ago, I said my final farewell to my dog and got in the car, ready to begin my adventure. Now I’m sitting in my dormitory which is located right here, having enjoyed a relatively pleasant trip with little to no mishaps, aside from a few unidentified objects in some of the meals on the plane. I’m looking forward to getting on with being an aggressive go-getter in the rough world of Tokyo business, or as an observer might describe it, ‘yelling English words at confused students for an hour’.

Unfortunately I had neglected to remember how difficult actually arriving in Japan can be. Believe me, if you come unprepared (as I have done each and every time) you will have a pretty horrible first day. So here are a few undesirable situations that I have found myself in upon setting foot in Japan. Bear in mind each time I came from England and I stayed in Tokyo, so this advice may be less useful if you’re coming from the US or Australia or the moon or wherever.

Tokyo Is Hotter Than The Sun

Whilst not scientifically accurate, the above statement is I believe effective in describing at least how it feels. Tokyo is, from about the middle of April until as late as September, unbearably humid. I don’t mean ‘pop on some sun cream and those sleek new sunglasses’ warm, I mean ‘not only lipstick/hair gel but clothes and small children will melt into puddles’ warm. Stepping off the plane, I immediately realized I probably shouldn’t have worn jeans on the flight. I definitely shouldn’t have worn a cotton shirt and a jumper. The mittens and cowboy hat were definitely overdoing it.

The problem isn’t actually the temperature, which I would imagine to non Brits is probably not that unbelievable, it’s the humidity. It’s so difficult to breathe because the air feels so heavy. You begin to sweat and then your clothes stick to you, and then you stick to other people.  It’s been known to spiral out of control.

I’m not saying don’t bring warm clothes if you are going to stay into September. At the end of the heat comes a pretty cold winter. But do some research not only into the heat but into the humidity. As I understand it, the higher the percentage is the worse it feels. I’m writing this in 69% humidity (according to BBC Weather) and it feels like I’m wearing a wetsuit filled with warm butter. Also, make good friends with an air conditioning unit near you.

Escaping Narita Airport

If you like winding passages that go underground and meet up at random places, with information desks scattered throughout that provide a service I would struggle to describe as ‘informative’, then you’ll just love your time at Narita Airport. The truth is it’s not that bad, and I’ve witnessed airports with worse designs in my time, but when you first step off the plane you will be greeted by an immigration queue, which can take some time to get through. I’ve never waited more than about 15 minutes before, but this time I was stuck there for 45 minutes, as there were only two people processing about 100 upset looking foreigners. Giving your fingerprints is fun though, because it means you can commit and get away with crimes as long as you only use your four other fingers.

The other problem is getting from the airport to Tokyo. As far as I can tell, there are four billion train services that leave the station, and only about four platforms. In other words once you buy a ticket, you’ll be watching train after train go past, hoping you’ve not just watched your train disappearing into the darkness of the tunnel. They all go to more or less the same place, too, but you have to pay more depending on how nice the seats feel. Although it’s the most expensive, I totally recommend the Keisei Skyliner. It’s 2000 yen give or take, but it’s so fast and so relaxing that it justifies itself. Whatever you do, don’t take the regular JR line. It takes between two hours and forever, and in the summer you’ll be experiencing that delicious unbreathable air for the entire trip.

They Speak Japanese In Japan

Despite having just graduated with a degree in Japanese and having lived here for a total of 2 and a bit years already, I still got caught out. The airport, for all of it’s nonsense, is actually pretty good with signposting things, and at the very least English, Korean and Chinese speakers won’t have too many problems. The other end of the train journey is a different story, however. As I find it impossible to sleep during a flight (which I believe makes me a good candidate to become a pilot) I was incredibly tired when I arrived, and although I managed to bumble out sentences like ‘where am I?’ and ‘What do you mean this train goes to the centre of the earth, I just wanted the Keisei Skyliner?!’ it was a bit overwhelming for me, and I’m supposed to be able to understand this nonsense.

I don’t think there’s much you can do to prepare for this other than consciously remind yourself that you are going to struggle to communicate. Speak clearly, avoid using overly complex language, and try to get your message across in a friendly manner. In other words, do the exact opposite of any one of my Youtube videos.

The Time Difference Sucks

I think this will affect different people in different ways. I am not one of those people who has to hear from family and friends every 30 seconds in order to relax and know they are doing fine. But it is a fact of life that, if you live in Asia and your contacts do not, that one of you will be waking up early or staying up late to get in contact. I think the invention of things like Skype and Facebook have made this a bit easier and made the world feel a little smaller, but it is difficult sometimes. If you’re coming to live in Japan for any amount of time, it will be more challenging than moving around in Europe or to America. Even with decent language skills you are still going to find things difficult and the safety net of immediately contact your family or friends if you have a rubbish day isn’t going to be there. Unless you enjoy waking people up at 3 in the morning.

Something that’s linked to this, and the last point I’m going to make, is distance. Although you can now get to Japan from Britain in less than a day (with time to get lost in both airports to spare!) it’s still not cheap to just hop on a plane. I personally would struggle to recommend Japan to a person wanting a week long holiday, unless they really liked flying, simply because 12 hours in a plane twice in one week isn’t really good for anyone. I personally don’t see myself heading back to England for at least a year, possibly two or three. That’s why, this morning, I had to say goodbye to my dog for the last time. I was determined not to make it a really sad moment, we just took a photo, I said goodbye, then I said it in sign language as my dog is deaf as a post, and then I went on my way. I will post that photo here, but that’ll be it. I don’t really want to dwell on it too much.

So if you are moving out to Japan, bear in mind you may not be able to get back for big events. I don’t want to put people off, but it is something to consider.

So in conclusion, what have we learned? Well I really hope I haven’t put anyone off coming to Japan – that wasn’t my aim at all. I just want to improve your first 24 hours, because I have yet to get it right and I’ve been trying since 2006. If you have any questions about anything in this post (including my dog, you softies) leave a comment and I’ll try to be useful. I guess all we really did learn is that ‘Mike gets grumpy when he traipses across Tokyo carrying a huge suitcase in the boiling heat’. Not the most profound thing, but I’m glad everyone knows.

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[Video Link] Ron Gutman, founder and CEO of HealthTap, gave a short TED talk about smiles as predictors of longevity.

I started my journey in California with a UC Berkley 30-year longitudinal study that examined the photos of students in an old yearbook and tried to measure their success and well-being throughout their life. By measuring their student smiles, researchers were able to predict how fulfilling and long-lasting a subject's marriage will be, how well she would score on standardized tests of well-being and how inspiring she would be to others. In another yearbook, I stumbled upon Barry Obama's picture. When I first saw his picture, I thought that these superpowers came from his super collar. But now I know it was all in his smile.

Another aha! moment came from a 2010 Wayne State University research project that looked into pre-1950s baseball cards of Major League players. The researchers found that the span of a players smile could actually predict the span of his life. Players who didn't smile in their pictures lived an average of only 72.9 years, where players with beaming smiles lived an average of almost 80 years.

Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling

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