Letters of note

This Chinese Factory Makes $100,000 Architectural Models / see also the models of Made by Mistake printing money, visualising spending / here’s where some of that money went: an underground missile complex on 14.73 acres of land, yours for $495,000 (at house hunting) / art by Isabella Cotier / art by Jean-Claude Gotting / music time: jazzy psychedelic noodling by Felix Essex / Blacklab, ‘the dark witch doom duo from Osaka, Japan’. As good as that sounds / epic noises from Spotlights / Die or D.I.Y?, charting the esoteric, the homemade, the off-beat and the political / a fine selection of bands at Shore Dive Records / Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered, exploring a “17th-century trunk of letters once belonged to postmasters Simon de Brienne and Marie Germain” (via MeFi) / Quinn, One man’s fictional journey across Britain, a project by Lottie Davies. Beautifully evocative images.

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Artistic endeavours

This and that. Art by Joël Penkman. There’s also a movie, courtesy of the Handsome Frank agency, which makes short films about its illustrators and artists / also using egg tempera, the exacting interiors of Andrew Grassie / Soviet Space Graphics, a new book / Trump’s new Air Force One design / ARK D-0: Tito’s Nuclear Bunker / photographer Alastair Philip Wiper has a new book, Unintended Beauty / see also the Stahlwerk Project by Bernhard Lang / Sea of Artifacts, an installation by Mandy Barker, includes this lost and found mixtape / things that have changed your mind.

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Sleeping giants

Otto’s Greenhouse at Architectural After-life. Yes, it’s ruin porn, but at least there’s a decent dose of history in there too / what will the ruins look like after Donald Trump’s War on Architecture? There were some German guys who thought about that: Albert Speer and the fascist theory of ruin value. Do the Ghost Hotels of Atlantic City count? / somewhere else where the ruins have also been meticulously curated: the Rough Guide to Xbox (via Kottke) / also via K, Old Book Illustrations / The music icons captured by Scots amateur photographers / Electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani explaining synthesizers on the PBS kids show 3-2-1 Contact / sort of related, Arp 2600 reissue / and here is the contemporary result: DDDance.party / staying retro, rotary cellphone by Justine Haupt / 70s Sci-Fi Art, a tumblr / restoring a house in SF, the Pink Painted Lady / Visits from the Night Hag, on a troubled relationship with sleep.

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No great surprises

Why do so many bad drivers have luxury cars? A new study blames ‘disagreeable’ men: ‘A new study out of Finland has found that argumentative and egotistical men are particularly likely to drive cars like Mercedes, Audis or BMWs, and those same personality traits can also explain why these people can be such aggressive and unethical drivers.’ / the broken promise of the Sydney Opera House / Mission to Mars: beautiful imagery, but also a comforting fantasy, a unifying story we can tell ourselves when the complexities and conflicts of living together on this planet all get a bit too much / but look! Lego space station! / How Instagram is making jigsaw puzzles cool again / the School of Architecture at Taliesin is closing / It’s Just a Question of Style, a tumblr / diskprices.com; compare and contrast: ‘When Computerworld was founded in 1967, a 1-megabyte hard drive would have set you back by $1 million.’ / The Modern House on YouTube / Do not pass go: the McDonalds Monopoly Scam.

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Sleep well

The Mile High City on Norman Mailer’s Cannibals and Christians, 1966 (via Meanwhile) / the lives of ordinary people, links to possessions and places laid bare / Infinite Scroll: Life under instagram, guided by the algorithm / the giant robots are coming for us, if the small dog-shaped robots don’t get us first / finding the tomato flavour tipping point / revisiting anti-mega / Incineration Ceremony, a symphony by Thomas Andrew Doyle / examples of water SFX in Malta’s sea horizon tanks / From Casper to Eve, all mattress companies are basically doomed. Mattress manufacturing has always enjoyed an outlier status. This who’s who of the UK mattress industry from a decade ago shows the (deliberate) confusion that abounded, even before the online retailers joined in. Today, it’s chaos and margins are minimal. Some industry insiders estimate there are as many as 100 brands selling compressed foam mattresses online (2018); There are now 175 online mattress companies—and you can’t tell them apart (2019).

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High style

We give you the links. You connect the dots. If there are any dots to connect. How to design a set: the house in Parasite. See also the perfect montage in Parasite / should architects work for regressive regimes? / mood music / If we survive the night, a short story / a modular house / Hieronymous Bosch figurines / a list of contemporary experimental rock bands / The Mile High City on Norman Mailer’s Cannibals and Christians, 1966 (via Meanwhile) / cut through cliches with the Buzzsaw / My Instagram, a short story / a joyous new series, The McMansion Year Book, starts with a look at the proto-McMansions of 1970 / just seven years earlier, parts of the UK still looked like this: the changing face of Camberwell, from 1963 / more London history / a virtual tour of the Isle of Wight, part one and two / a twitter feed that recommends things from the Internet Archive / studying for Losers.

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Building them up

A selection of pictures from the John Laing Photographic Collection being digitised, which will be open for public access on the Historic England website as part of the Breaking New Ground project at Historic England / the origins of witchcraft: Wonders of the Invisible World / the wrong kind of architectural vision / architect Simon Astridge writes a journal / a photo essay about Roland George’s Saab workshop in Brooklyn / don’t move, improve. See also The case for … never demolishing another building / Announcing the Winners of the 2019 McGingerbread Hell Competition / Super Scale, using custom electronics to give a remote control car the appearance of a full-size model / pencil drawings of lingerie, exploring ‘connected narratives of pain and pleasure,’ work by Azita Moradkhani / Giant Geometric Patterns in snow, work by Simon Beck, at My Modern Met.

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Artful dodges

The work of Joel Sternfeld is always worth a browse / more photographs by David Duchon-Doris / the 20 Radiohead chords you need to know / Camp Fuzz, sonic slackering in the great outdoors / music by https://blisstonia1.bandcamp.com/releases – Hawaiian shoegaze / a list of triple tautonyms / a couple of things via Kottke: ridgeline maps of the world and a hand-drawn travel notebook / an obituary for the artist John Baldessari.

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Underground passions

David Adjaye and Sue Webster’s Mole House, once owned by William “Mole Man” Lyttle, who spent 40 years burrowing, before being legally removed from his burrow. Subsequently sold to the artist, it was demolished and rebuilt in collaboration with Adjaye / Staring at Hell: The aesthetics of architecture in a ruined world, by Kate Smart, creator of McMansion Hell, a musing on ruins, romance, and the jarring relationship between beauty and the sublime and the natural and unnatural world. See also: Smoke from Underground, the story of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Also related, Kennecott Mines: An Alaskan Ghost Town / the hacked-together, cyberpunk dystopian future creeps up on us without anyone really noticing; Farmers Are Buying 40-Year-Old Tractors Because They’re Actually Repairable. Prices for old tractors are rising as tractor hacking becomes harder and harder. From three years ago (via MeFi): Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware. More information about the “Right to Repair” movement.

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London Embroideries by Reena Makwana / the art of Caityln Cold / Barrières, Mobiles and Irish Landscapes after Robert Adams, three photographic series by Cindy Lelu / repurposing old fenders to make a Beetle mini-bike / Isometric City Builder, via Kottke / music by the East Lonesome Drifters / Family Archive, a project by photographer Daniela Spector.

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The beetles and the Stones

Confusing Coleopterists, ‘breeding bugs in the latent space’, a project by Bernat Cuni at Cunicode / tmn’s Year in Music 2019 / music by A Formal Horse / The history of radio-controlled car legend Tamiya / The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism: “…[the] aesthetic of fashionable austerity is like a brand logo. It is identifiable anywhere, and serves to remind us of the air of moral purity associated with simplicity, even if the minimalist product to be consumed has no moral content whatsoever.” / “The Copyright Extension Collection, Volume 1“: Why There Are Only 100 Copies Of The New Bob Dylan Record. Now The Rolling Stones have got in on the act. What about the Beatles?

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It’s 2020. Yay.

Photographers Andy Brown and Nathan Gibson exploring planned spaces in the UK / sort of related, Celebration Florida: Disney’s Not So Perfect Town / Architecture of Doom’s 2019 Tumblr Top Ten / Wowhaus’s top 50 houses of 2019 / It’s Nice That’s Review of the Year 2019 / the 10 Best Shoegaze Albums of 2019 at Paste Magazine / related, in praise of Vaughan Oliver / RIP too to Syd Mead / the enduring mystery of what happened at Dyatlov Pass / if Elf was a thriller / Mad Love, ‘or how we make pictures’. The intense art – pre and post production – of automotive photography / see also this is why I don’t get hired to shoot supercars, an intense how-to video by photographer GF Williams of the work that goes into making an image, in this case the DeTomaso P72 Launch Photo / the Handmade in Japan Festival, a treasure trove of alternative crafts: felt cats; fish sticks; micro dolls houses; hippo staplers; etc / happy hues, curated colours in context / the disappearing landline / user interface fails / Warren Ellis understands the importance of linkage (via MeFi), but the waning strength of such lists is indicative of the slow heat death of the blogoverse.

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Tragic Roundabouts

How Wes Anderson Became an Accidental Icon of Interior Design (via K). The ‘accidental’ tag is becoming less and less credible / very Wes? The Tower at Christmas Common / bouncy: Elastic Terrain (via MeFi) / what is the collective noun for Hovering Art Director? A ‘Point’? A ‘Tut’? A ‘Sigh’? / Everywhere at the end of time, The Caretaker / environmental footprint of a PlayStation4. Cut and paste the conclusions to most other modern electronic consumer goods / What sounds or musical passages subconsciously trigger memories for you? / Tell us about your experiences of night terrors.

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Massive swings

On World Ships and 1000 year space missions. See also Aniara / Can you make the band name bigger?, the gig posters of Luke Drozd, who also does the covers (and music?) for the unsettling (in a good way) spooky folk of Bloxham Tapes / rich architectural illustrations by Andrew Cadey with a south London focus (e.g. Peckham, Camberwell) / 52 things I learned in 2019, where the ephemeral meets with existential.

Please vote.

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Gem fields

Buried Treasure, a new site dedicated to undercovering hidden gems of indie gaming / angular music by A Formal Horse / GM Supposedly Destroyed (Nearly) Every EV1 Ever Made—So Why Is One in an Atlanta Parking Garage? / related, Who Killed the Electric Car?, edited / Bloated Motors / Alexandre Guirkinger’s photographs of the Maginot Line (via Wired). Feel sure we’ve linked this before / “El Sueño Americano / The American Dream: Photographs by Tom Kiefer” / Nithurst Farm by Adam Richards Architects / gifts for architecture lovers / while we’re on the subject, the Kottke Holiday Gift Guide is always recommended / The History of Havana – The Beta. The Demo. The Perfection. How a hit song evolves.

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Risk-averse delivery

Street View Journey, a selection of paintings by Nao Tatsumi / don’t get trapped in a sneaky hate spiral / lots of gems at this History of Science and Technology sale at Bonham’s / Words for Music, a music blog / live music captured at Sound you can see / unsettling silicone sculptures by Laira Maganuco / unsettling ceramics and more by Evelyn Bracklow / Rowan Moore revisits the Millennium Dome 20 years on… a very British fiasco: ‘It set a pattern for the next decade of urban regeneration in which the power of iconic objects was overrated, in which bold-sounding political statements were then undermined by risk-averse delivery, in which the skills and integrity of architects and artists were crushed by the mechanics of public-private partnerships.’

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Other things. Secret bunkers and mountain hideouts: hunting Italy’s mafia bosses. See also the BBC documentary The Mafia’s Secret Bunkers, which you can watch on YouTube / History Always Favours The Winners, a record label with some great signings / Champagne, shotguns, and surveillance at spyware’s grand bazaar, a depressing trawl around an arms fair / Le Mans 1955, a short animated film (via Jalopnik, which also links to this extendable H Van / web thingys by Matt Round / slo-mo ocean footage. Sparkly / Stranger Than Kindness: The Nick Cave Exhibition / the creative legacy of Teletext / more 8-bit aesthetic at Rose Tinted Spectrum / contemporary stagecraft uses hi-res three dimensional realms projected around the action, rather than green screens (at the sci-fi blog Dark Horizons) / reminiscing about the dangers of our youth / and finally, The Ireland Shakespeare forgeries:

‘Deeree Sirree, Wille youe doee meee theee favvourree too dinnee wythee meee onn Friddaye nextte, attt twoo off theee clockee, too eattee sommee muttonne choppes andd somme poottaattoooeesse.’

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Accelerated ages

Four-wheeled dreams, Rick Poynor on the seduced but unquestioning approach taken by the V&A’s monograph Autofocus: The Car in Photography, published to coincide with the exhibition Cars: Accelerating the Modern World. In general, Cars shares the muddled-up mix of mirror, signal, manoeuvre as the book. It is a strangely old-fashioned piece of design history, one that falls into the trap of being simultaneously seduced and confused by its subject matter. A rich cavalcade of archive material, specially commissioned films and archive material, design ephemera, models, automobilia and actual physical cars are given a hefty amount of space in the V&A’s new Sainsbury Gallery. Critical distance – or even disengagement – is something that design history has struggled with since the discipline’s inception, walking a fine line between dry academic analysis and goggle-eyed wonder at the contents of old archives and dusty collections, long-forgotten historical cul-de-sacs and of course the retro-futurist’s inevitable schadenfreude at past (over)ambitions.

No other object has been so comprehensively fetishised by society, the result of which is an on-going, acrimonious and bitterly bad break-up that looks set to last for decades. As an exhibition, Cars ticks almost all the boxes one would expect and the staging and curation is competent and cultured. But the story of the car is now so ingrained, complex and far-reaching that any overview-style exhibition like this is doomed to be incomplete. Throw in the need for sponsorship – in this case Bosch, the behind-the-scenes tech supplier that works with practically every manufacturer – and holding a critical view isn’t really possible. There is some great content nonetheless, e.g. The evolution of European motorways 1920 – 2020, this history of streamlining (an absolute mainstay of design history) and short films about three (incredibly male-dominated) Car Subcultures. Staged from the midst of a fast-changing age, Cars: Accelerating the Modern World captures some elements in sharp relief, leaving the background as an indistinguishable blur.

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Underwater cities

John Lautner’s 1960s Wolff Residence in Los Angeles (via Wowhaus) / contemporary pattern designs by Dan Funderburgh / the vanishing Voloport / “Walking on the Moon“, broken down / Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, a new book by Adam Minter (buy) / Second Home in Hollywood, by Selgascano / sort of related, What’s behind a phobia of holes? / There is No Ark,”Photographed in and around Miami, Anastasia Samoylova’s latest book, FloodZone, is an urgent and brooding reflection on the rising sea levels rapidly submerging the city and its environs.” See also Heaven or High Water: Selling Miami’s last 50 years. And even if the condos don’t flood, their prices might collapse in any case.

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Unintended consequences

Open Memory Box offers the ‘biggest digitized collection of home movies from the GDR’, a dreamlike collection of silent 8mm films of a completely vanished world (thanks to TT for the tip) / Are compostable bags really compostable?, an ongoing series at Plenty of Taste / shimmery music by Arrial / Rule #1 Is You’re Not Invited: An Interview with Fran Blanche of Frantone Electronics at She Shreds / music by Surya / music by Kogumaza / other things / In praise of white noise / related, a collection of themed soundscapes or browser-based generators like Noisli, hipstersound (really), rainyscope, PlayNoise, myNoise and a soft murmur. You get the picture / not related, but could be: ‘BOLD opportunity to own a decommissioned underground Titan II missile complex. Plenty of silence there / The Greater Bear, updating Simon Patterson (via b3ta) / unintended consequences: Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai; This is the software meltdown behind Crossrail’s costly delay.

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