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weblog archives
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Thursday, January 31, 2002
It's a bit early for Valentine's Day, but this is the perfect image to keep in mind.

As blogging's cultural profile leaps ever higher, the question we should be asking is should we go Pro? To reach the giddy heights of the second annual Bloggies, it seems that simply being blogger-powered is not enough.

Top blogs appear to have achieved a kind of aesthetic consensus. Bluishorange (winner: best designed blog), textism and dollarshort all have a hand-wrought approach, mixing fine type, neat little graphics and a soft pastel palette (mmm. colo(u)ring contest). Perhaps it's something to do with using Movabletype - the blogging software that seems to give weblogs a rich, hot metal feel (and is favoured by our friends at the morning news, amongst others).

Elsewhere, Coudal, the journal of pop and design culture, is well worth a visit. This was a nice-sounding URL (and a beautiful template), which led us nicely to Bump on a Log - intriguingly subtitled Geocaching in Minnesota. What on earth is Geocaching? A few more clicks, and all is revealed. It appears to be a kind of GPS-assisted treasure hunt - sort of hiking for geeks. There's even a GPS-related art movement, rich with the kind of surrealism that even old hands can't match. Strap on your new palette, and off you go…

Wednesday, January 23, 2002
On this rainy morning, some classy black and white animation. A gorgeous, in every sense, flash animation, featuring laid back music and the talents of a thousand flash monkeys and one Eva Herzigova, supermodel. Presented as an interactive game, it appears to trail her official website (which is certainly not located at The finished version is unlikely to be quite as noir as the trailer.

Are Flash sites at all practical if you need to convey information? Witness what happens with big magazines and institutions; they shell out vast sums to create intense on-line environments, only for them to gradually atrophy due to lack of funds and knowledge. A case in point, the dramatic original Victoria & Albert Museum site has now been replaced with something altogether more sedate (uglier, too). The Barbican's isn't too bad, but still relies heavily on a graphics-friendly technology to present textual information.

Where museums have truly been able to harness the power of the web is with the microsite, a stand-alone website that accompanies a specific exhibition. Not only do microsites give a better overall sense of how an exhibition is presented, but they also live on once the partitions have come down and the gallery has moved on to something else. A recent favourites was Airside's cute interactive Onlinejam for the Barbican's Jam exhibition of 2001. The Van Gogh Museum's microsite for their forthcoming Van Gogh and Gaugin exhibition is a case in point - a flash site that uses the artists' correspondence as a basis for illustrative animations.

Jay Jopling's White Cube Gallery (also by Airside) is more dictatorial: if you're in the market for this kind of art, it's assumed you have the technology to view it. That said, updates are regular and the animated typographic interface isn't overly complex. But why can't all on-line art projects be as snappy as this? If only we knew what it was all about…

Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Congratulations to Hildi and Chris on the birth of their daughter.

Thursday, January 17, 2002
We've often linked to photographic weblogs in the past - Photographica, and Noah Grey. While the web might not seem to be the ideal place for photographs, resources and private projects continue to proliferate. For reference buffs, Hákon Ágústsson's is a freshly re-worked database of photographic quotations, pearls of wisdom from anyone who's ever held a camera. The Booknotes weblog have done a nice job of collecting several historic galleries, including Stieglitz and Muybridge.

You could travel a million miles along the many online roadtrips that have sprung up. Matt Frondorf's American Mile Marker images evoke the glory days of Route 66, motels and a landscape bristling with Joshua trees and cactii. The American Highway Project is well worth a visit, specialising in archival material about roadside ephemera. The stark black and white photography has a timeless quality: rusting petrol pumps don't really have an era of their own.

The desert holds other stories. A very tacky documentary on the UK's Channel 5 the other night (all about crash tests, full of lavish slo-mo and a sadly dated segment on the probability of a plane impacting a tall building) inspired the exhumation of this link, an archive held by the Department of Environment's Nevada Office website. Essentially a photo essay of America's nuclear tests and their legacy, the images reveal an eerie beauty. As well as the 'standard' test pics (103kb), there is room for the comparatively mundane - see a (presumably steaming) pile of solid transuranic waste (306kb). The atomic era certainly left a sizeable (202kb) legacy (as well as giving us a good excuse for a self-link).

There is always an elsewhere on the internet.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Wonderful. LEGO is a remarkable toy, albeit one which is now increasingly geared to the possibilities of multimedia and, more aggressively, product placement. Nostalgia fans (do too many entries in newthings look back, rather than forwards?) should visit Lugnet, the International LEGO Users Group. Lugnet's guide is a remarkable resource (the day this was received in our household was a happy one indeed). Some of LEGO's many flavours were all but forgotten until we tried the guide - the garishly coloured Fabuland, for example (this cottage with its tree!). In the 'good old days', there were even toys that allowed you to do your own vacuum forming, although we imagine the accuracy wasn't a patch on LEGO's...
(via the ever-wonderful haddock, a proto-blog with an appealing stream of consciousness approach - links come thick and fast, tracking an idea across the web, a sort of rough and ready version of the data mining described in Gibson's Idoru)

Monday, January 14, 2002
A few links that hook up nicely with things 15's musical slant, starting with this plea to the record companies to make more sense of their on-line position (via Salon). In the age of the iPod, finding those who are entirely anti-file sharing is rare. Indeed, you're more likely to encounter rabid enthusiasts (thanks to Noparking for the link).

First, find those mp3s. We feel that epitonic does a great job (check neumu for more reviews) - all the better for hosting whole songs, and not just snippets. Record companies that put whole mp3s on their sites get automatic credibility, in our opinion - try Kranky or Secretly Canadian as examples (warning: both feature music that alternates irrationally between very noisy and very twee). For very untwee music (that's especially unsuited to snippets), try Earache - some of their artists in particular.

Elsewhere, it's Retro Cocktail Hour! Sadly, most of London seems to have got wise to the value, monetary or otherwise, of gems such as these. The vinyl one finds in the capital's many charity shops is mostly very sad indeed, as this kind of retro japery becomes more sought after. Think of sleeveless 7" singles, chipped and scratched, bulky unplayed box-sets from faded 70s easy-listening superstars and countless unwanted classical albums, all soft focus covers to tie in with cheap television advertising campaigns. Unwanted and unloved, charity shop vinyl is only for the diehards, searching for the kind of thing that now takes pride of place in more upmarket boutiques (there was once a whole _host_ of retro shops listed on the old things links pages. Perhaps one day they'll come back...).

That said, there are still gems to be found. A quick search reveals sonic pioneers (Enoch Light and the amazing Delia Derbyshire, doyenne of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop) whose work would be highly prized. It must be out there, somewhere.

Thursday, January 10, 2002
Seen on the notice board in Warren Street tube station, London:
'It will take a little 'time' for the clock in the ticket hall to be fixed.'

Elsewhere, an idea so simple that we wish we'd thought of it first. Jason Kottke's instant internet art exhibits exploit Google's image search. Assume that most webcam owners use the image file webcam32.jpg and bingo! 1,650 grainy pictures of fuzzy skylines, sheltered coves and many, many cubicles. A host of curators have stepped in to post their own 'exhibits'- e.g. the artily erotic 'nude' gallery, the banal pantheon of email graphics and the empty world of the spacer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002
Extend your sympathies to the morning news team - New York's finest website has been temporarily melted thanks to problems with their hosting company. Here's hoping it comes back soon. In the meantime, as a sort of addendum to yesterday's musings on aviation archaeology, here's a selection of new artefacts for the genre.

This is a good building, although not everyone seems to think so. No real reason for posting it (another view here) apart from experimenting with Google's excellent advanced image search. It's not perfect, though - there are apparently only two views on the whole web. However, a little bit of digging shows that the good old Euston Tower is actually quite well represented.

Funny what one can find. Although perhaps best known as the former HQ of London's horrific Capital Radio, the building's greeny glass sub-Miesian facade also allegedly once concealed M15's telephone network. Now part of British Land's Regent's Place development, the building has also hosted a tall-building based art project.

The future of tall buildings in London is currently being reviewed in the controversial public enquiry about the proposed Heron Tower. KPF's 728 ft tall building is certainly arousing strong emotions - but is it really a 'black-winged bird come [that has come] to devour London? Follow the UK debate about tall buildings here (inevitably slightly less thrilling than its foreign counterparts).

Monday, January 07, 2002
The sheer enthusiasm for chronicling the debris of our recent past is epitomised by aviation archaeology (via memepool), the stories behind those forgotten, long-overgrown tragedies that punctuate the history of flight.

In an age when every disaster is examined in massive detail, discussed and dissected, it is unsurprising that these forgotten histories should now be resurrected in such detail. We've covered this subject before with Doug Coupland's musings on TWA's ill-fated Flight 800. Yet even the Atlantic couldn't keep all the secrets of a crash site, and those on solid ground are much more rewarding for the historian, if 'rewarding' is the right word.

Certainly less morbid, yet relevant to faded industrial glories, are lost highways (not related to David Lynch's film of same name (and to keep the brackets flowing, here's the Metafilter discussion of the last link)). Whether part of the vast American Interstate system, or the unrealised dreams of tortured dreams, roads to nowhere have a poignant fascination.

And today's picture is from this on-line toy car museum, a site of unbridled joy (most particularly this page.

Thursday, January 03, 2002
A happy new year to you all, and apologies for the lack of updates over the Festive Season. Work on things 15 carried on right up to Christmas, and most of the issues are now on their way to subscribers. As we've mentioned before, things 15 contains a free 3" CD by the Sonic Catering Band. Check their site for sound samples of their exotic audio collages, all cooked up using some readily available audio tools, namely Fruity Loops, CoolEdit and that old mainstay, Cubase. The CD was pressed in Czechoslovakia by GZ Digital Media, a complex operation that didn't quite pan out. Perhaps some day we'll post a picture of the original CD design...

The ultimate plan is to create a DIY Sonic Catering page - allowing you to mix your own audio snack. While we ponder on the technical hurdles, visit these (far more complex) on-line audio tools. Looplabs is a dance-orientated mixing desk, which will eat up hours of your time, while Cymbalism offers a similar service. No-one’s come up with a DIY, on-line, abstract guitar noise machine. Just yet.