In this era of funny-shaped mp3 players and Bluetooth speakers it’s refreshing to find a company still building music boxes. At least, that’s what the MusicMachine 2 claims to be (via Design42day). Designed by Maximilian Büsser and friends, a company better known for its elaborate timepieces, this is actually the second Music Machine. As before, the mechanism is crafted and manufactured by the Swiss music box specialists REUGE (known their mechanical bird automatons, apparently). The choice of music is also striking:
MusicMachine 2 doesn’t just look unconventional; it plays unconventional melodies as well: Themes from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek, on one ‘channel'; Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, The Rolling Stones’ Angie and The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? on the other. Small wonder: MM2 was conceived and designed by MB&F and its songs have been selected by their rock ‘n’ roll founder and sci-fi fan, Maximilian Büsser.
How much every embassy in London is worth, a speculative look at the value of non-sovereign land in the capital, conducted by Spears. From North Korea’s Islington semi (value c£750k) to the Americans’ £600m new structure in Vauxhall (their soon-to-be-vacated tranche of Mayfair sold for £500m), the total value is something in excess of £4bn (set against an estimated total value of £1.5 trillion for the city’s entire housing stock). ‘Russia pays only £1 a year, thanks to a 1991 agreement; conversely, the UK pays one rouble a year for our embassy in Moscow.’
Dan Hicks has an ‘occasional blog’ about interesting things like archaeology, museums and material culture / the Walker Art Center has a great cache of blogs / what’s your best nursing ghost story? / Razor Crazy Cart XL. 3m09s for the good stuff / the Grateful Dead tune their instruments for all eternity / Michelle Farro is an artist / Tim Allen is an artist / ambient, spacious sounds and music from New Amusements / Iggy Pop on music and the music industry / NASA has a soundcloud (via MeFi).
Tim Dunn is the UK’s foremost expert on model villages. His weblog, The Model Villager, is a bit sparse at the moment but he has an excellent piece on Bekonscot Model Village and Railway in Buckinghamshire in the latest issue of the C20 Society Magazine. Bekonscot claims to be ‘stuck in a 1930s time warp’, but as Dunn reveals, most of its structures date from much more recently and its current picturesque Tudor stylings actually replaced rather more modern models that were deemed out of keeping with the quaint miniature perfectionism of its owners. He’s also the creator of a superb map of the UK’s model villages, including one of our favourites, Tucktonia, which has long since vanished beneath a real village.
Fire Face’s Small Radios Big Television is ‘a game about exploring digital places stored in analog media’. It has a beautiful aesthetic and sound design, although don’t expect swift and simple answers (via RPS) / A sale could end man’s time amid Packard Plant’s ruins, the tale of Allan Hill, the last resident of one of Detroit’s industrial gems, an old factory said to be one of the largest ruins in America. Check this then and now comparison and a Flickr set (via Autoblog).
‘One in Five‘ was an information leaflet issued by the Women’s Voluntary Service for Civil Defence in February 1957. A starkly terrifying document, it attempted to reduce the impact of the hydrogen bomb by suggesting that a bit of intensive house-work and careful organisation could somehow minimise the immediate effects and aftermath: ‘the nation would be strengthened if one-in-five women knew the simple things they could do to mitigate effects of nuclear warfare.’ Our copy is annotated in a precise hand by someone attending a well-meaning talk on ‘things to do’. ‘Drifting dust is known as the fall-out’, she writes, ‘every particle gives out gamma rays. There will be Royal Observer points at intervals of about 10 miles. To Keep Heat Flash Out. 1. Lime wash windows and skylights (3 coats on outside) 2. Or have shutters (white washed) or angle boards. A fire retarding solution can be bought for materials (or can be made).’ And so on.
The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy tells the tale of how early bulbs were essentially under-engineered in order to keep sales at a healthy level. This ‘conspiracy’ was set in motion by the Phoebus Cartel, an affiliation of big bulb manufacturers to plan obsolescence into their products and set bulb life at around 1,000 hours. Before the cartel’s actions gained traction, lightbulbs were tough old things that could last for a substantial amount of time – the famous 4-watt Centennial Bulb at Livermore Fire Department in California hasn’t been switched off for over a hundred years, becoming a celebrity object in its own right (Bulbcam). Some more light bulb Methuselahs. Related – we’ve recently been trying the LIFX ‘smart’ lightbulb, presumably a first step towards that all-consuming ‘internet of things’ everyone keeps talking about. The idea of linking light bulbs into your wi-fi network is not an intuitive one, but it could catch on.
Madle.org, one of those sites so filled with things (in this car car-related, although there’s also a sideline looking at cars on bags) that it’s impossible to know where to start) / The Paper City is a well-observed tumblr by architect Henry Stephens, pulling together imagery like this: Mies big and small / The Aphex Face, or how to embed imagery in your audio files, first practiced by The Aphex Twin himself / jog something with Kept Ephemera / video art by Petra Cortright / Light Reading, a weblog by author Jenny Davidson / ‘Left’ is the new album by Morton Valence and we highly recommend it.
Max Creasy takes photographs of contemporary architecture and makes photographic still lives, never losing sight of the oft-ignored relationship between buildings and people. His side project Nothing Matters ‘takes the narrative of image and text and connects it with the numerical rationale of filing systems through the camera and books. Pictures are selected from his own photographic archive, with their automatically generated camera file number, and referenced against the same sequence of digits from the Dewey Decimal System of the local Hackney Library. This generates a book that creates a relationship with the image that is random, fictitious and yet logical.’
Big bundle of things to sift through / Adventures in Stationery is a book by James Ward, a man who claims to like boring things / flickr’s Stationery Junkies pool / a fine selection of found favourites at Proof, the National Geographic’s excellent photo site / This isn’t Happiness points towards the fabulous Deep Space Rugs by Schönstaub. Walk on a tapestry of stars and all that / related, Andromeda and the Milky Way Collide! / The Maps We Wandered Into As Kids / see also Maps on the Web, which collates the best cartographic infographics / Books that allude to books that do not exist / FY, amps and pedals / related, pedal boards / Philip Greenspun has put thousands and thousands of photographs online, many of which are absolutely fascinating / Daniel Eatock’s pen portraits at Eatock / SE/SW, an online exploration of South London. Includes a great photograph of the fabulous Dawson Heights / on the other side of Europe, An Afternoon in Banjica, downtown Belgrade / and over to another continent: use the Google to watch Detroit slide into decay / or use Google to explore the world’s most dangerous worlds / also slightly depressing, Urban-Exploring Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch / sci-fi influenced paintings by David Palumbo / fine taxidermy by Sinke Van Tongeren / more Russian ruins at Sovietgoner.
Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-1975 is a new book by Elain Harwood, the latest in a line of recent books about concrete and society, architecture and nostalgia. Many people find it hard to get authentically nostalgic about the legacy of concrete architecture in Britain (although some manage just fine – the imagery above comes from We are Dorothy: Lost Destination: Britain’s Concrete Heritage). But these buildings represent an era in danger of disappearing altogether, buried by self interest and distaste for any ideological association with a tainted past.
Up and down (and a little out of date). ‘This is the Liberal Socialist Dream… Crappy Apartments with no Air Conditioning going for over a million dollars…': CNN goes wild for the Peckham boom / sort of related, things you’ll never hear a Londoner say / Thomas Mein captures the annual Middle East supercar pilgrimage to London / Typical writer ‘earns £11,000 a year’, research reveals. More depressing figures here / London’s cheapest flat / Britain’s smallest £1m apartment (note our subtle linguistic shift between ‘flat’ and ‘apartment’) / the above image is Vic Lee’s print of Bellenden Road. See also the road then and now (a small snapshot of gentrification).
Centre Pompidou is closed for holiday, a work by Thomas Mailaender, currently showing his Cyanotypes series. His earlier installation ‘Night Climbers of Cambridge‘ builds on the legendary book of the same name by proto urban explorer and fascist sympathiser Noël Howard Symington under the pseudonym ‘Whipplesnaith’. A trascription of the book can be found here and it was also reprinted by the Oleander Press (even in Japanese). The period photographs are spectacular (even when set incongruously to AC/DC – another look here) and a film is in the works. More images and a diagram (‘map of the escape’) here.
A fantastically creepy whispered version of The Wind in the Willows. The book has one of our favourite endpapers: The Wind in the Willows, illustration by E.H.Shepard (as is the above image) – the definitive edition. Visit the Kenneth Grahame Society for a list of illustrators who have worked on the various editions over time, read the book at Project Gutenberg.
Another chunk of things. Dennis Zahone collects Memphis / the architecture of Antonioni’s The Passenger, 1975, at Architecture of Film / Sydney’s Doll Hospital, a photographic portrait / a short film about Dutchness in design / abandoned shopping carts, photographs by Joy Sportel at Polar Inertia / short and sweet: One Tap Quest / the Autobianchi Bianchina, a Fiat 500 with added style / Hybrid Modernism: Movie Theatres in South India / Miranda July Made A Purse For Neurotics Like Us (at Refinery 29. People seem to have perfected the idea of the ‘glossy blog’. What would once have cost an unattainable amount is now the ‘authentic’ mode of display on the web, symptomatic of the relentless professionalisation of modern life. Because the digital tools exist to create a certain sheen – whether it’s the implied depth texture of letterpress, bokeh, a slick fade or slide – anything less is seen as disrespecting the material in some way. The website as dusty card catalogue is a thing of the past).