Seven things…

A few days ago, I was tagged by the lovely Raiha Buchanan, fellow Twitterer and blogger based in Stockholm, in a chain-letter style challenge to write seven facts about myself that I have not already revealed here — then I, in turn, get to choose seven others to do the same. Seeing as I seldom disclose anything more than basic personal specs and general unsensationalized opinion on-site, it comes as the perfect excuse to do something a bit different, especially seeing as I’m now very much obliged… And so, after two months of not having posted despite the initial plan promising otherwise, what follows below is a deviation from the usual — which I hope helps to shed a little light behind the anonymity that so easily surrounds us online.

1 I’ve moved house seventeen times, eight times of which were overseas. I moved to Cairo three months after I was born in Hampstead, London — then came Manama, London, New York, Cairo again, London again, and back to Cairo until I finally landed here in London once more. Contrary to popular belief, neither of my parents are diplomats, but the moves were due to my dad’s work throughout my childhood. The recent bout of chronic relocation, however, is entirely my own fault. And as much as I’d like to settle down in one place and feel what it is to have real roots in one place instead of a dozen, I certainly wouldn’t rule out moving again in the foreseeable future (and might already have a place in mind)…

2 Conventionality is not my forte, although that’s more general consensus than it is fact. The fact is I’ve never been through second grade in elementary school because I was mistakenly put in third grade a year early. I did tenth grade twice,  left high school twice, finished secondary education without having officially graduated, and left university two times over. I originally wanted to be an architect but studied for degrees in Law and International Relations. And after setting out in web design when I was fifteen, starting work as a graphic designer at eighteen and taking a couple of gap years since, it seems it’s taken me forever to realize that what I’ve loved to do part-time is precisely what I should be doing full-time.

3 I’m missing a ligament in my left knee. My anterior cruciate ligament, to be exact, which I tore during a school basketball game when I was fifteen. Because I couldn’t warm up to the prospect of sticking in reallocated tendons with metal screws, I decided not to have the routine reconstructive surgery and opted for physical therapy and life-long conditioning instead. So for a few months I had to wear a brace that looked a lot like this, only mine had tiny flecks of silver on it because at the time I thought it would make an otherwise embarrassing clunk of aircraft aluminium look slightly cooler. A year later, I returned to basketball and started long-distance running at my new school after I moved again to Cairo.

4 I shaved my head when I was eighteen. The reason I did it would require another post of its own, so I’ll spare you the tale of teenage angst. Suffice it to say it involved long hair, a pair of scissors, and a leg razor (until I remembered there was an electric clipper in the bathroom cupboard). I also have seven piercings, none of which would require indecent exposure to view in public. I’ve thought about tattoos, but have too big a fear of commitment to get something done that would require a laser (and more than £100) to remove — which pretty much sums up my personal character when it comes to taking risks with seemingly permanent consequences.

5 I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years, with the exception of seafood. I’ve also been (involuntarily) wheat-free for five. Admittedly I am one of those home-grown, pro-organic, green-thumbed, animal-loving, unprocessed, canvas-bag-toting types who dislikes parabens and will happily wash out and separate all recyclables. But I much rather practice without preaching, and also tend to avoid other associated stereotypes such as meat substitutes and communal living.

6 I often unintentionally collect things. Books, teas, magazine cut-outs, old photographs, photographs of nothing in particular, Chuck Taylors, hard drives, Moleskines, cardboard, tableware, JPEGs in duplicate, more links than I can realistically sift through before we colonize Mars. Things I used to collect: mixtapes, wine, magazines, old ticket stubs, unused SIM cards, PDFs I’d never get around to, domain names, foreign currency before the credit crunch became an entry on Wikipedia. And for the sake of conveniently moving house, at no point may the sum of all things exceed the interior dimensions of a 6-seater van (two suitcases, four medium boxes, a backpack and 10TB).

7 My favourite place is at the summit of Mt Sinai. I’ve done the night climb to watch the sunrise at least once every year (or whenever the available time-to-money ratio has permitted), and the sheer overpowering magnitude of absolute silence whilst up there is worth every effort. In general, I love places without the frills that turn every location into a five-star destination brochure. Other places that I love and enjoy include Hampstead Heath, Djurgården, Massanutten Mt, Jardin des Tuileries, the coral reefs of Dahab, and any place where there’s an evening spent in good company with memorable conversation and great music.

So there you have it, the minutiae of an otherwise ordinary existence. And now next in line for the public dissection challenge, I’ve chosen three people whose posts on design, music, and other cultural miscellany continue to intrigue me on a daily basis: they are @inahill, @Goreki, and @H_C (in whose case a run-down of top 7 albums in a journal entry on would be fine as well!). The rules of the challenge are written out here more clearly than how I described them above… I look forward to reading, and good luck!

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Paint by numbers

Love thy neighbour

Sarah Badr © MMIX


Today, a new month begins along with what appears to be a veritable (20°C and sunny) summer in London, and I realize that two months have flown by since I last wrote let alone logged into what now appears to be a newly upgraded WordPress. April and May’s seemingly perpetual state of silence on-site marks the move to my seventeenth new home — nearly as many homes as I am old — and there hasn’t been enough time to unpack the boxes let alone post here properly with work, travel, interviews and portfolio reviews looming around the corner.  Internet access has also been touch and go for the most part of the last two volatile months, but I’ve been trying as best I can to supplement the gaps left here by posting links on Twitter instead for convenient and mobile reading — all of which can be followed @shbadr. But things are gradually settling down again as the spring season overdrive shifts gears for a while and I take a break to catch up on news, reviews and opinion pieces (one in particular about the reason I moved) that have been sitting in the draft box for far too long whilst I browse furniture catalogues and try to track down items in the massive upheaval of unopened cardboard…

I have also just turned twenty-four — a ripe three days since, in fact — and though arguably not marking any significant transformation overnight, I increasingly contemplate the long-coming advent of my ‘quarterlife crisis‘ and all it implies in the flurry of my changing circumstance and sobering aims and ambitions as life’s momentum necessitates that I grow old. To give you a little preview of what’s to come in what hopefully will not be an exhausted series of essays about adult disillusionment and lifestyle management for the Web 3.0-savvy, I must now declare that I have come to despise London as much as I did Cairo some five years ago, and it is very much a people-rooted sentiment rather than that of the presiding urban locale and its somewhat ancient façades. Having been forced to endure six months of torture in my previous abode (suffice it to say a handbook titled How to Deal with London Landlords and other Satanic Creatures from Hell is shortly forthcoming), I have learnt many things that I’d like to share with future unsuspecting London tenants, city-dwellers and twenty-somethings alike.

But I’ll save those lessons for what’s to come as  the hiatus is officially broken and regular posting resumes. Until then, many thanks to those who have continued to visit throughout this period of unbecoming muted activity, and I look forward to repaying the favour throughout the upcoming summer months and beyond.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Parallel posting (pieces at random)

Typographer’s bible (pieces at random)

Typographer’s bible

Many apologies for the rather erratic frequency in posting throughout this month and the last.  It comes as a result of two-timing (or four, rather) with other sites as a regular contributing writer. And alongside a likely impending move away from an increasingly weary London (all to be revealed soon), calibration of both overall work scheduling and correspondence has been far from finely tuned. So if the phrase ‘coming soon’ has cropped up here more often than usual about any given topic mentioned in passing, please bear with me until ‘soon’ eventually comes. I’ll also try to double-up whenever possible to compensate. In the meantime, here’s a little treat for fellow typophiles who can’t get enough of the eponymous online network and special features such as Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica. I had recommended a book for pre-order amongst other things in the Christmas gift round-up published back in December of last year. Surely enough, March is already here, and it’s time to celebrate the long-awaited first edition publication of The Typographic Desk Reference. To be honest, I’m more than a little excited about this, as I have a slightly if not bizarrely intense font fetish that has persisted since age five (though I suppose that would fit well with the job description).

It also helps if you have a thing for lovingly presented design reference and coffee-table art books. Published by Oak Knoll Books, it was written and designed by entrepreneur Theodore Rosendorf, who began his graphic design career with creating logos back in 1992. He is now the creative head of the Matador branding and communications company based in Decatur, Georgia. With clients as varied as Nintendo, CNN, the CDC and Coca-Cola, Rosendorf is obviously well-positioned to share his wisdom on the detailed world of kerning and foundaries. As such, the TDR has been broken down into the following sections for swift ease of use: ‘Terms (definitions of format, measurements, practice, standards, tools, and industry lingo), Glyphs (list of standard ISO and extended Latin characters, symbols, diacritics, marks, and various forms of typographic furniture), Anatomy & Form (letter stroke parts and the variations of impression and space used in Latin-based writing systems), and Classification & Specimens (historical line with examples of form from blackletter to contemporary sans serif types)’. These four will be preceded by a foreword written by designer and curator Ellen Lupton, who describes the book as ‘the ultimate tool for the type geek’.

Now I just wish I’d been closer to Atlanta’s (context) gallery to be able to attend the book release party on 20th March… The Typographic Desk Reference now available to order from Oak Knoll and Amazon, US$45.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Arabesque (pieces at random)


With the exception of this morning (norovirus woes throughout the night),  I’ve taken to regularly posting a couple of news stories and a single music video to my Facebook feed as I begin to tackle the day’s work ahead over breakfast. Several people tell me they frequently tune in, though more for the music, and I’ve been contemplating whether it might be easier to just present the videos on a page of their own. I’ve been an avid fan of music videos for as long as I can remember (the Jacksons, Ace of Base, Metallica — all introduced to me on-screen), and despite there being several ‘channels’ online with great collections, production information is not always as comprehensive as should be, and not all players are made for convenient embedding elsewhere. So in my poor state last night I had no option but to follow through — and all 165 videos posted to date (with the exception of those removed from YouTube since 2007) are now up on the new Ampersound site.

The current domain is set to change once the IP points in the right direction, so take note of the new address when updated. Still much progress to be made, but have a browse through and let me know what you think.  It’ll be added to daily, alongside extra additions taken from this site and my bookmarked collection not yet tapped into. And on another though related topic, Express Checkout was also refurbished recently. It’s about time, too, seeing as my foray into the blogosphere actually began there and not here. Admittedly this tangled web of sites is starting to become a bit difficult to cover overhead alongside my writing articles for other non-affiliated sites. So the video library will eventually be incorporated into this site, and from there everything is likely to become a new section featured on one or two of the domains currently in main use. In any case, I’ll follow up on all that soon, whenever there’s another chance (hopefully without the involvement of projectile vomiting next time).

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Sticky logistics (pieces at random)

Sticky logistics

Many apologies for the recent random disruptions in operation. I had received e-mails last week about several on-site issues resulting from the host having difficulties with universal caching earlier. But luckily that issue has since been resolved, with the premier of coming as more than adequate conciliation. Of course there has also been yesterday’s sudden disappearance of the UI — or change, rather — as maintenance finally went full-throttle. The feedback received since the previous update seemed to be just as split as I was on the decision. I figured the indecisiveness indicated that by now it was beyond overdue: the gradient grays were not at all helping to curb the claustrophobia. So here it is, lots of white space with sparse linear noise. The silhouettes will more or less be up for the time being. With deadlines approaching, there isn’t much time for well-calculated construction as yet. But consider this a trial-run to verify whether shifting content-focus makes lengthy reading and image-viewing more of a comfortable task to tackle outside the confines of the feed reader. Things may continue to alter throughout the upcoming few weeks until a single stylesheet settles the matter. So if loading appears faulty until then, this will most likely be the reason why.

Just thought I’d throw that in to clear up the confusion, as the title and image above suggest that this post wasn’t initially meant to be an update. The banter of the day narrows in on something that has kept these pages and indeed other areas of daily activity afloat. I like to think of it as the Band-Aid for modern living, fit for the organized though slightly frazzled multi-tasker whose work inevitably becomes steeped in mounds of paper despite all the paperless alternatives gadgetry offers today. The Post-it Note is certainly one of those inventions that is the quintessential brandname-namebrand: Hoover, Kleenex, Cola — any type of object referred to by the name on the tin rather than the term in the dictionary. To think that a small square of paper with non-abrasive adhesive could become such a fundamental part of what we instinctively expect to see in offices, classrooms, and on desktops worldwide is something of an incredible feat. One can only dream of designing an item that is so solidly welded to the culture or activity whose purpose it serves, that it essentially never goes out of demand. In the spirit of Objectified, I owe it to Dr. Spencer Silver to give him an honourable mention here, as without him, Arthur Fry would never have conceived the adhesive application on paper and the Post-it would never have been patented by 3M to launch in 1977.

Today, made available both under the original brand umbrella and in other extraneous generic forms, there’s no shortage of colours, sizes and applications for the household sticky-note. Brooklyn-based artist Rebecca Murtaugh is well-known for using them in installation art pieces, often requiring hundreds of dollars’ worth to cover walls and furniture for a neon mosaic effect isolating the contours of objects through two-dimensional texture. In the virtual world, Jack Cheng’s popular StickyScreen homepage alternative to 3M’s Post-it Digital Notes is a great project providing some space to jot down a brief itemized to-do list for constant reminder every time you open your browser. Even further on the multimedia front, award-winning illustrator Jeff Chiba Stearns animated his entire journey to become a filmmaker on 2,300 Post-its, set to a score by Genevieve Vincent (watch Yellow Sticky Notes below). And its use for sake of memory makes good sense: Harvard psychology department head Daniel Schacter, the author of The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers, discusses how the Post-it functions as a ‘prospective memory cue or an external memory aid’ that compensates for our inherent absent-mindedness due to the ceaseless sources of distraction in our lives.

And on that note, don’t forget to watch the inauguration streaming live from D.C. today at 11 am EST (4pm GMT) courtesy of MS Silverlight via the official inaugural site. Comprehensive updates will also be featured on Joost‘s ‘Everything Obama’ channel for US-based users and anyone using a proxy, and Live is covering this historic event in tandem with Facebook.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: ‘Humble Masterpieces’ (MoMA 2004)

British hallmarks (pieces at random)

Masthead dilemma

Welcome back to the post-holiday routine, everyone. As I write, I imagine I hear a resoundingly unanimous sigh — yes, at work again — if only there had been just another week. Without a doubt I share the sentiment. After the brief hiatus in posting (in no way indicative of any epic vacationing, believe me), I return with several updates and business at terminal velocity as usual. Usually it’s at the start of the new year when I find myself wanting to do a bit of house-cleaning. The extent of this is mostly determined by the ongoings of the year before and how much malleable time is at one’s disposal for tidying through the stylesheet, shaking up the layout, or going for a complete theme overhaul. Working on brand profiles for other people year-round can often make you forget entirely about your own until you have ten minutes of headspace to contemplate how you’ve let yours slip silently past and how dated it’s all begun to look in retrospect. But I began on a series of minor adjustments ahead of the WP upgrade towards the end of last year to gauge what tweaking would still be required or would be purely cosmetic come 2009, and more than anything to keep things from shifting too drastically in one way or another only to decide by February that it had all been unnecessary.

Because rather embarrassingly, I tend to feel towards retired former designs the way I miss the My Little Pony toy salon my mum accidentally gave away to charity when I was five (it was something like this, but not nearly as hideous). Its obsolescence inevitable, of course, yet I would still keep it today if I could, stored away for sake of memory with the other childhood relics I dare not name… However one significant touch-up is on the table, and without delving into this Freudian analysis any further, my question is this: should I do away with the masthead, the one thing remaining untouched since this site’s conception three years ago? Does it now appear to be old and weary? You’ve probably already noticed the changes in reading length format (consequently reducing the search return limit to one entry per page) and the absence of the mile-long archival list and blogroll. But feng-shuing too much might actually achieve the opposite of what the UI is for, namely make it easier to browse and dig for older, perhaps relevant posts. So if any of what you see doesn’t work for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch — especially if you’re an IE user, because editing in Firefox leaves minor gaps for coding in 2.7 to get lost in translation, and those are easy to miss if left unchecked… Now back to work!

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: ‘Site overhaul’ (pieces at random)

Visual breakdown screenshot

With 2009 fast approaching us (so soon already?), it’s time to put an end to this site-squatting contagion. After promising back in September to follow-up with developments on the space I had set aside for wordless relief by way of a visual art-only portfolio over at [sarah badr], all has been mum on the grapevine till now. But finally with some leisurely vacation idle in sight (or at least one likes to hope), I figure there will be no better opportunity than now to get all that is stagnant rolling once more. Conceptually based on my poetry series ‘Breakdown (For the New Millennium)’, the now updated page to launch the official site presents a visual run-down of potential metaphor in break-step animation. Perhaps best summed up as a current news feed and/or media blitz to signify the age of communication technologies, digital content, and the constant bombardment of information in copious varieties of format, it is part of my ongoing exploration of the marrying of poetry and graphic design through motion graphics. Though at around only thirty-six impromptu frames in makeshift, it is still very much under construction — so do stay tuned.

A side note for sake of synchrony and further dimensional enhancement, I highly recommend you play Simian Mobile Disco’s track ‘Tits & Acid‘ (Attack Decay Sustain Release, 2007) in the background whilst watching, as it’s currently a strong contender for Breakdown‘s feature soundtrack. Now that aside, CSS updates have been sighted in various locations on Pieces at Random and Express Checkout, following the launch of WordPress 2.7 and its provision of more flexible autonomy for back-end blogging (many thanks to those of you who e-mailed feedback!). Elsewhere, personal portfolios on a number of creatives’ networks have been given a breath of new life with the uploading of my recent production of work in galleries. And in less fruitful news, unfortunately due to the volume of projects running over at Springbox Design, the sb* re-brand has fallen a few notches on the to-do list in order to focus attention on where it’s most needed, ahead of imminent deadlines before everyone retires for the holidays. But as usual, keep your bookmarks updated and I promise to report back as progress continues on into the New Year.

Sarah Badr © MMVIII

See also: ‘Genesis explained’ (pieces at random)