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Friday, January 31, 2003
A while ago we linked to the Philippe Carly's huge archive of photographs taken both on and off stage and mostly in France during the post-punk era. Philippe now has a new server for the site, Newwavephotos.com, which should sort out some of the bandwidth problems it was experiencing (related, but only just: make your own rock band. Find a chord).

Elsewhere. How to find an architect to design and build your own house: an insider's guide. A brief history of railway time (most appropriate given that a light dusting of snow throws London's transport system into chaos). Stock car racing event programme covers, via Sharpeworld (whose fascinating Coyle and Sharpe website is now up and running).

Design industry classifieds - worth a browse. Jetset's excellent modern furniture links. Some weblogs: Making Light (see especially 'religious kitsch'), thescoop, which is journalism-focused, and self-confessed 'music snobbery' from jeans and a t-shirt. Picture of the day.


Thursday, January 30, 2003
Grab bag today, thanks to ongoing tweaking and code-shuffling. Honestly, it's at times like this, with several hundred pages of beginner's html to re-format, that we look longingly at the numerous, vastly more sophisticated, alternatives that are available (especially Movable Type and the forthcoming, gorgeous-looking Textpattern).

Elsewhere. A comprehensive news link list from WorldNewYork. "We are talking about a man who is able to take a rainbow and cover it with dew." The Old Computer archives personal computer history, with an emphasis on the gaming side of things. We like the magazines. Those were the days. Office and commercial space prices in Europe, interactive map (flash). Spooky book versus spooky site, both dealing with a feeling of a big, dark unknown.

More. Someone's taken the trouble to type up Douglas Coupland's Generation X Neo-logisms. We're quite fond of Ultra Short Term Nostalgia at the moment (extra: read more Coupland). Weirdo music. Incredibly Strange music. We missed this Conference on Popular Music and American Culture. There's a fantastic array of truly daft-sounding papers here: I, II, III.


Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Bibliomania is the online remnant from a project devoted to the presentation of an individual's catalogue of books. An invited group of contributors were asked to provide a list of books, in any format, to form part of an installation in a gallery space, a 'library within a library' wherein the only forms of categorisation were their selection criteria and presentation style. In general, the project was an opportunity to swap lists that wouldn't look out of place on a cultural studies course, but there are the occasional gems. We like David Blamey's Kashmiri Good Nature library, a catalogue of the well-thumbed books that 'self-accumulate' in a store on the fringes of the tourist trade in Gokarn, India. Ron Haselden's books about the sea also has potential.

In general, though, this idea fails to make the most of the medium. Booklists of all sorts proliferate on the web. It's not just that people want to share what they've read, but that the tools for researching a bibliography or compiling a wishlist are so accessible and finely honed that they form one of the backbones of the internet. It seems there's a chance to make a genuinely interactice and interlinked collaboration, a web project that builds on Amazon's automated recommendations system to create an alternative, more personal, network of data and connections.

Entirely unrelated. Cars with aeroplane engines, an entertaining tale of those who search for just a little more power (this enthusiasts' site also has sampled engine noises, a sign of true dedication). Strangely, the piece doesn't mention John Dodd's infamous 'Beast', a semi-legendary vehicle of awesome power and jaw-dropping hideousness that placed the Merlin engine from a Spitfire into a glass-fibre bodyshell bearing the legendary Rolls-Royce radiator. The engine's provenance has since been called into doubt, as has the vehicle's alleged top speed.

Elsewhere. London, map links, courtesy of haddock. A seriously high-powered turntable. Float pens (via muxway). Children’s Books of the Early Soviet Era (via textism). Crashed Rolls-Royces. Thanks to The Loupe for the link (we'll change that red colour soon, promise). We don't read Japanese, but Pallanoia also looks interesting.


Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Keeping it brief today, as we wrestle with the css code from hell.

The Encyclopedia of the Marvelous, the Monstrous, and the Grotesque, complete with imagery. Not nearly as grim as you might imagine from the internet, with a focus on the 'wonders' described by the early travellers and collectors, and subsequently compiled in great tomes. Unrelated. The Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850 – 1920, a comprehensive exhibition and gallery. There's too much here to list, but we especially like Dr King's Lucky Book, 'My Life Was Saved by Bovinine', and these dubious instructions on 'electrocures'.

The archive also contains valuable collections of Kodakiana, soap flake advertising, tobacco advertising, and some entertaining personal scrapbooks, in all their tattered glory.

Finally, we are amused by this contemporary advertising campaign


Monday, January 27, 2003
Uber-fashionable instrumental band Lemon Jelly have always had an aesthetic advantage – one of their founding members is also a graphic designer at Airside studios. This explains why their packaging, website and general ambience is really rather lovely. Now you can play the ducks game, or watch the video.

Staying with music. Last week's Flaming Lips concert in London was a whirl of contemporary psychedelia, pushing the post-punk aesthetic just about as far as it will go. Animal costumes, bubbles, glitter, giant balloons, fake blood, epic films perfectly synchronised to the music and an earnest, charismatic frontman. All in all, an awesome experience.

We can remember our first sighting of a mobile phone at a concert, a previously hermetically sealed space that intentionally separated you from the outside world, immersing you totally in enormous noise and restricted vision. The mobile phone broke into this closed world, ending its isolation for ever. We can remember the first time someone rang us up from a gig to share the blurry, shapeless mess of sound down the tiny speaker. We can remember seeing our first digital camera at a concert, held high above someone’s head, the action on stage reduced to a tiny patch of shifting colours. And at the Flaming Lips we saw a camera phone at a gig for the first time. Technology marches on.


Friday, January 24, 2003
All change! As of last night, we now own thingsmagazine.net. Rather confusingly, you'll still be able to access everything on our old server, but we'll slowly and surely migrate to the new space over the next month or so.

If you keep getting this page and no updates, our apologies. This is an archived page and doesn't get refreshed, so you'll need to go the old server to get the latest updates.


Thursday, January 23, 2003
The death of the British Tupperware party is all over today's news. Tupperware must be one of the most analysed products of the past century, a miracle object that combined technological innovation with innovative marketing (that in turn tapped in to evolving social and demographic changes) to create a design history icon. You can still attend an on-line party. Collectible Tupperware, courtesy of Ebay.

This discussion on the SS Australis, a cruise liner that now haunts the coast of Fuerteventura, relies heavily on the website of Ken Ironside, a former gym instructor who worked on the ship in the 1970s. It's rich with period evocations, especially the galleries, which includes posters from onboard entertainment and even menu cards.

Working with the web often seems to require a conscious imitation of mental processes. Links lead one's train of thought off and away until a major distraction comes along (usually a browser crash) and the whole chain collapses. You have to re-trace your steps to find the last site you were looking at, working back from each mental image until you arrive at the one that triggered the diversion. Images of the day – Hockney-esque interiors from Stamen: I, II.


Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Today is the 105th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s film, Launch of Japanese man-of-war "Chitosa" (broken picture links, but you can still download the film from this page). The Chitosa was a 4,760-ton second class unarmored protected cruiser built for Japan's Imperial Navy and launched at the Union Iron Works Shipyard in San Francisco. The name derived from the word 'chitose,' meaning "a thousand years of peace". A grainy set of stills from the film. More images from the Shipyard’s scrapyard online at the US Navy’s history site here. Union Iron Works history.

Elsewhere. Label art from cans of salmon. Discussion and links about feral children. Just what is it about abandoned asylums that lures photographers? Daily life in Iran. Imagery of the day: the abstract, painterly photography of Richard Caldicott.


Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Peter Brook's 1963 film of William Golding's The Lord of the Flies was filmed in Puerto Rico. This huge site devoted to the film includes a scene by scene gallery and extensive background information. It was clearly a major life experience for the troop of young actors, many of whom re-united for a 1996 BBC documentary and also contributed to the site.

Aside: there seems to be an interesting cultural shift between the 60s film and the 1990 re-make, with the former's focus often appearing a bit dubious, especially in these more sensitive times. We mention the film because Vieques was our Christmas and New Year destination (precise location). The beaches used for filming in 1963 appeared totallly unchanged.

More scans. Thanks to textism for pointing out Posters from the WPA. Some of these are available in vast uncompressed archival tiff files (up to 33mb!) This image in particular sent us scurrying off to Google. We had seen a Catalina. flying boat, presumably abandoned, on the tarmac at San Juan (along with many, many functioning Dakotas). The Caribbean would seem to be the perfect spot for a modern-day flying boat service, a form of transport that combines the drama of flight with the romance of the ocean. Current services are fun, but small.

Other contemporary concepts, especially of the Wing in ground effect type (Boeing's vast, daft Pelican transport and the Soviet Union's ultimately abandoned Ekranoplan experiments) might be awe-inspiring, but they're not quite the same as the great flying boats made by firms like Shorts. (More galleries: I, II, III, IV)

Elsewhere. Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, paragon of 1980s style. Classic photography for sale at the Josef Lebovic gallery. Don't link!: daft linking policies. Slower gets into black and white and snow. Beat music combo Belulah have a pleasingly retro-tinted site. More dead aeroplanes (courtesy of the veritable linkfest at Muxway). Image of the day.


Monday, January 20, 2003
Still thinking about scans, quality control and the like. You can usually trust enthusiasts to do proper scans (for example, Jensen car brochures), and rooting around various automotive websites has revealed a host of great imagery. Ford Registry has glorious galleries, focusing specifically on the company's 1967 models. Not all the information is uploaded yet, but where available it's dizzyingly comprehensive. Check out that year's Color Charts, magazine reviews and newspaper adverts.

This link came courtesy of Ookworld, which devotes a considerable amount of space to galleries of ephemera, packaging and products ('hear whispered SECRET conversations ... thru SOLID WALLS') and car design. We especially liked Highway Hi-fi, an essay on that forgotten backwater of in-car entertainment - the automotive phonograph. Way back in 1955, the Chrysler Corporation introduced the first dashboard-mounted record player, a unit just a foot wide (!) that played custom 16 2/3rpm discs. These discs were specially produced for the player (see list here), and included forerunners of today's audio books, such as an adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Elsewhere. A new article from Andy Crewdson's New Series, an interview with the printer Gerald Lange (another link). This is our vote for the CD player of the moment, thanks to Muji. London Population 1801-1991, thanks to Sylloge. Image of the day. Prada NY critique. Viva Las Vegas: casino ephemera.


Friday, January 17, 2003
We’ve been browsing this excellent page on the Alfa Romeo Montreal, about as comprehensive as fan sites for a a single car can be. What we hadn’t appreciated that the prototype was first shown at Expo 67 in Montreal, hence the name (the production model debuted at Geneva in 1970). Coincidentally, Christopher Church pointed us to 99000's Moshe Safdie links. Safdie, the archetypal obsessive architect, is best known for created Expo 67's celebrated Habitat (more galleries and links: I, II, III, IV, and V).

Flying from Puerto Rico to Atlanta a few weeks ago, we passed above what was clearly the Kennedy Space Center. The first clue was the coastal site, with broad highways linking clearings that, from the air, looked like they could be launch sites. Although wary of doing a von Daniken, what clinched the theory was the sight of the Vehicle Assembly Building, with the long, broad track for the Crawler-Transporter to take the rocket (and now the shuttle) to the launch pads. A thrilling sight of a familiar, yet forbidden place. Happily, it took about 30 seconds to clarify this on the web. This satellite image shows the VAB at top left. More satellite thumbnails. More VAB images: I, II, III.

Elsewhere. Galleries of space related things (e.g: portable life support system). A free spaceflight simulator. Bellybuttons in Brussels. Music from video games. Image of the day.


Thursday, January 16, 2003
Call It Home: The House That Private Enterprise Built is a fascinating study of the American private house in the twentieth century, the story of suburbia's commodification as house-building processes were industrialised and suburbs fanned out from city centres. Created by Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Conservation (link), the project is subtitled ‘a laserdisc history of suburbia from 1934-1960’. Although it promises great visual treasures (images of the Futurama pavilion, an advertising archive, cartoons, etc.), the scans are sadly pretty low-res. Which begs the question: once a (presumably expensive) project of this kind is done and dusted, will there ever be the time or money to go back and re-scan such material properly? And what is properly? 72dpi? 300dpi?

From the same era comes the period piece illustration of Coby Whitmore, whose post-Norman Rockwell/photo-realist style proved popular on magazine covers and advertising (I, II, III, IV). Along with Rockwell, and other unfashionable names like Earl Mayan, Whitmore did many covers for the Saturday Evening Post. There is lots more imagery at Illustration House, especially pulpy novel covers: I, II. See also the National Museum of American Illustration.

Elsewhere. Giman's collections of model cars, planes, trains. Vintage design books at Recyklotron and Synthetic Space. And if you're in Japan... Bookblessyou. Comparative mammalian brain collections at the Brain Museum. High speed spoon dispenser. Saucy pixel paintings (see thumbnails for full effect) . Image of the day.


Wednesday, January 15, 2003
More industrial archaeology. Pennsylvania's mighty Bethlehem Steel company was sold last week. Apart from the small matter of what will happen to the firm's employees, conservationists are fighting to save the five mighty 17-storey furnaces at the Bethlehem Works (CNN story, which will probably expire soon). The history of Bethlehem Steel. Image gallery courtesy of the Society for Industrial Archaeology. More images on the company's official website: I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII. Another good gallery.

Can such relics of outdated industry be retained? Economically speaking, the answer is probably not. However, major industrial plants grew to symbolise the community they supported (or even created) - physically and mentally - meaning that there is an increasing desire to retain more than mere memories when the industry moves on. See, for example, the Magna Centre, the Parc de la Villette or the Zeche Zollverein colliery (more pics).

Elsewhere. The Twentieth Century Society's latest journal, focusing on the Sixties, comes highly recommended. Some great images at Lomoblog, but the site is something of a work in progress (also a bit too crisp to be produced by an actual Lomo? Not sure. Thus far, our experiments with the Supersampler have only been about 30% effective. Some scans soon, perhaps). Another photoblog: Bingwalker.

Photo agency Veer has a good creative weblog, the Skinny. Is, gulp, newthings a Culture Blog? Not sure, especially since places like Portage continue to get all the good links: visit the splendid Mondrian Machine for a case in point.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003
There isn't a huge choice of supermarkets in Britain: Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Safeway and Waitrose pretty much sums it up. The big five jockey for market share amongst themselves, and their target markets also shift up and down the demographic scale over time (Tesco, for example, was once seen as the least upmarket brand, now it is one of the better brands. It has a well-thought of home delivery service).

The current battle for the soul of Safeway is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, for a chain with such a large market share, Safeway loiters fairly squarely at the lower end of the market. Our local branch is a sizeable replica of one of the earlier stages of the circles of hell, although this descent is accelerated during the school holidays. Thus far, the bidding looks set to be between budget giant Walmart and Sainsbury's. The hideous American company already owns low-priced chain Asda, and obviously has the financial clout to take over Safeway as well. The other contender is incredibly smart in comparison.

As the tide gradually starts to turn against out of town development in the UK, supermarkets are looking for new sites, so cannibalising smaller chains is a neat way of snaring some new real estate. But as we know all too well, Walmart sucks. There are therefore no prizes for guessing which outcome we favour.

Elsewhere. No sense of place tells an interesting anecdote about Koolhaas and JJP Oud. The correspondence referred to is in this book, Mart Stam’s Trousers (scroll down). More info on Stam: I, II. Plink, plink, fizz: canny marketing from Alka-Seltzer (fizzy homepage). Sex, rhymes, and videotape: an analysis of the music videos of Duran Duran. Dumptruck History (related: stuck trucks).


Monday, January 13, 2003
Huge amounts of stuff came and went in our Christmas absence (we were here, yet didn’t see any of these. Typical), and after a few days of clicking and scrolling the muscles in our mouse-wielding hand have now fully warmed up and everything looks a bit more familiar. Are people going to take it easier this year? (e.g.).

Jonathan Safran Coer noted caustically in Esquire, with reference to the current profusion of self-conscious, verbose and overly-explanatory fiction around, that there are now many people who write more than they read. Was this a sly dig at the weblogging community? Any form of creative writing that is intrinsically linked to the web placed a lot of emphasis on getting the words out (I, II). There's nothing like missing one's target daily wordcount to get one seriously flustered.

A site dedicated to the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition of 1901, in all its embellished glory. We like the food company exhibits, with accompanying product endorsement: 'I am going from here to Niagara Falls to view the wonders there and also, incidentally, the new plant of the Natural Food Company, which manufactures Shredded Wheat. I've become interested in that commodity now and I wish to see how it is made.' We didn't know that the wonder cereal was once made near the thundering falls, but now we do (look here for more Shredded Wheat info than you could ever possibly need, including box inserts). Also local: electricity.

Elsewhere (or, links we didn't have time to put up in December). The wonderful Futurliner (discussion). Kitsch decorations (now out of season), German WWII plane design, (via nsop), geographically accurate tube map, biro-web - ‘made with pens’, Posteverything: a record label, analogue heaven, image of the day.


Friday, January 10, 2003
We’ve mentioned scrubbles's Syd Mead obsession before, but we're also fond of their campus cuties, plastic dolls that evoke a certain era (with, strangely, no real indication of their scale. Life-size? Palm-size?). More glamour, this time with former model Jennifer O'Neill. We'll admit to nothaving heard of her either, but her gallery has a nice selection of magazine covers and ads from times past (see I, II, III). Steven Heller's book Counter Culture evokes a similar period feel. We've often pondered whether there's a whole aesthetic ably conjured up by the words 'blurry photos of small plastic toys.'

To explain. There's something simultaneously edgy and strangely beautiful about this style. Some websites (notably Harrumph) manage to capture it beautifully, while commercial agencies produce whole volumes dedicated to glossy layouts composed of toys, the focus alternating between hard and soft, the colours vivid, the details alive. These pictures frequently turn up in company reports and on the business pages. Doug Coupland's Spike project takes the aesthetic as one of it's starting points, using the device of scale (again, scale?) to perhaps ponder why we're so fond of pseudo-juvenile imagery to convey adult points.

Photojunkie is launching the Photobloggies on Monday. We'll steer clear, I think, after our last foray into website rankings (at Photoblogs, now improved to the extent that we can see we have four votes. Four!). The excellent Popculturejunkmail (who pointed out to us that we're not alone in gathering some stray 'poseuers' from the Enetation system) shows us the way to the Foreign Groceries Museum. After several weeks of exposure to foodstuffs created by this sinister corporation, especially this wholly repellent concoction, these look eminently edible.

Elsewhere. Assemble your own VW beetle from these slightly grainy workshop manual scans. The haddock-derived Pepys Diary project has garnered a lot of impressed comment since it launched at the start of the year. We'll still link, because it's a wonderful idea, beautifully realised.


Thursday, January 09, 2003
A happy new year to all our readers, and apologies for nearly three weeks of stasis. Take a fortnight's break from the internet and when you return everything looks very different – somehow crisper. We'll even wish a happy new year to the kindly person who somehow changed our Enetation link to read 'poseurs'. You'll notice that we've since scrapped the comments - not in some hissy fit, but because we didn't really understand the Enetation system (hence the hack) and also because we received, er, about three comments in six months... In truth, we'd prefer email - it's a break from spam and death metal press releases.

Travel. This slightly-too-keen Salon piece about an ad campaign caught our eye. Is the writer's yearning for the ‘luxurious eroticism of train travel’ justified? The mysterious world of Orient-Express style luxury certainly retains an erotic edge over the slam-door reality of our crumbling rail network, but sex and travel remains an uttainable fantasy. Despite our link last year to the world's last 'sexy' airline, perhaps trains still retain the edge over planes.

The so-called Mile High Club (no links - searching for this is just asking for trouble) is and always was a cheap jibe – the private planes of numerous sultans, CEOs, and playboys being the only environments where this kind of aerial orgy could ever possibly occur. The train, on the other hand, comes complete with bundles of ready symbolism – rushing into tunnels, etc., with accompanying, frisky darkness – not to mention a greater sense of freedom (Agent Provocateur, purveyors of exquisite lingerie, once set a steamy catalogue shoot in the exquisitely panelled compartment of a vintage train, which sort of sums up the concept for us. There's also Shadow of a doubt, perhaps the sexiest Sonic Youth song (played on this guitar!), loosely based on Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train).