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Friday, February 28, 2003
Faster, faster

Friday grab-bag. Buy this 1940-era scrapbook. Visit Spirit Level Film and buy Rendezvous, a cult classic from Claude Lelouch (thanks to a feature in today's Independent). Described as 'the best action film of all time', it's a one-take trip through the streets of Paris, undertaken at seemingly impossible speeds. You should be able to stream a small, blurry copy from here.

Elsewhere. We've had these links kicking around for a while, maybe because they're of interest mainly to UK readers. Peter Rachman was a notorious 'slum landlord', operating back in the days when Notting Hill was a troubled neighbourhood, not a tourist destination or daftly expensive place to live. The area is also home to the great Trellick Tower, Erno Goldfinger's towering legacy. Westbourne Studios are worth a look if you're nearby, especially the sight of the Westway ploughing through the central space.

Need to know more about cheese? Download the Cheese Report (pdf), which confidently asserts that 'Cheese continues to be ubiquitous, staple product with enormous consumer penetration - over 98% of all households in the UK buy cheese.' So many cheese facts: sadly, pre-grated cheddar sales are up 6%, while 29,000 tonnes of cheese spread was sold in Britain in 2001. 10% of cheese in Britain is eaten on toast. Enough already.

Elsewhere. Play classic Pitfall (in flash). Ook’s magazine covers gallery (especially pleasing). A handy guide to common care laundry symbols (via Muxway). We missed this in time for Valentine's Day: declarations of love.

Visit Piero Scaruffi's extraordinary website, especially the music section. A good website of the week selection at the 24 hour museum. Seinfeld scripts page. For the fashionistas: invites to the NY shows (thanks, again, to tmn).


Thursday, February 27, 2003
Before and after

Hidden narratives woven from carefully placed book spines (via Caterina). This reminded us of the work of the great Tom Phillips, artist, sculptor and general cataloguer of all things weird and wonderful, and in particular his work, A Humument. This series of 'altered books' first appeared in the 70s, and use forgotten Victorian novels as their basis. Phillips highlighted individual words throughout the text (sample pages here: I, II, III), creating entirely new - and unexpected - narratives. (spelling correction 07.03.03 - thanks languagehat).

Phillips is also the author of The Postcard Century, a book you can completely lose yourself in (and one which would make a wonderful website). Browsing one of his two existing websites, we also discovered this, the 20 Sites n Years project, a record of gradual changes in a particular part of London. Happily for me, Phillips' studio is close to my home, so these are all familiar spots - we just wish the pictures were larger.

Elsewhere. Geegaw gives us '10 Reasons not to buy a scooter', which was highlighted by the highly trained eyes at Portage (see also this glorious collection of Scooter girls). We had our first cross-town, pillion journey on a Vespa yesterday. Frightening, but swift.

Fancy some fancies on your desktop? Cake icons. Pushed for space? Buy a miniature guitar amp (the enlargements are particularly tasty). Weird Peckham calendar, courtesy of the supremely irritating Virgin Radio. Downloadable mix tapes at Brilliantine.org.


Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Cold as ice

This article is a overly harsh take on the Ted Williams cryonics kerfuffle from last summer (via: New World Order). We could say a lot of things about the cryonics movement, and although it has more than its fair share of quirkiness, horrifying and gruesome it is not (although admittedly the operating theatre has a certain frisson to it – but then show us an operating theatre that doesn’t). As you can see (with our exclusive photos!), this isn't exactly a super-slick operation, but the overall tone of the article is alarmist in the extreme (Ted?).

History of Iraq. The 1,000 blank index cards project. Advertising archive for pedal steel guitars. Another Ready.gov parody at Idlewords. Good, but we don’t really want this to be an egg on face situation. The Photobloggies have been announced.

Bizarre emails we have received: ‘I would like to know how to register bore goats in the state of california could you please direct me in the right place thank you allen’.


Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Sleight of hand

Anatomy of a very simple scam. Approached by a squeegee merchant at a set of traffic lights, we let him quickly clean the (almost opaque) windscreen. What can you do? Given that the car was filthy, this probably deserves a few coins. Reach into a jeans pocket - not easy, sitting down - and scrabble about for a pound coin. The window only opens a crack so I press the coin into his palm; by this time the lights have changed and people behind are getting irate. But then he drops the pound! To have such a small amount of money promised and then cruelly snatched away seems so unfair. We panic - there's no more hefty change in my pocket so I snap at my partner to give me some more. The money exchanged, the lights finally go green and we're away. At the next opportunity I look down for the dropped pound but can only find a two pence piece, nestling in a fold of my jumper. I say nothing. A few minutes, as we're entering a carpark, I finally venture: 'You know, I have a feeling that that guy ripped us off - I don't think he dropped the pound coin at all.' To which she replies, 'I'm glad you said that - I could have sworn I still saw the pound in his hand when he dropped the coin.' Probably the oldest one in the book, but very neat nonetheless.

More diversions and distractions. 'I know what you're thinking' is an interview with Derren Brown (good site), just about to become the UK's number one magician - or 'mentalist'. A bit like a less creepy David Blaine, the article tells how Brown used to be able to get himself free meals in restaurants, just by persuading the management that he'd already paid. There's also a lovely anecdote from the writer, Jay Rayner:

Coincidentally, I have known [Andy] Nyman for a few years. Early on in our friendship he came to dinner and, after the main course, I implored him to do a few tricks. He first got me to choose a card which I was to place in my shirt top pocket without showing him. Then he ran through a few other impressive card routines. Finally he returned to the card in my top pocket. It was the three of clubs, he said, and, of course, it was. He left the room and returned with a copy of that day's Times open to the announcements column. The first entry read 'Andy Nyman's flash image is that Jay Rayner will choose the three of clubs.'

Still with psychological manipulation, or why diamonds are forever - this fascinating article at The Atlantic reveals all. ‘To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever -- "forever" in the sense that they should never be resold.’ (thanks to tmn).

Some galleries. Winkerya has a set of thingsy photo galleries (see: I, II). UK equivalent (with landscapes too). A Dr Seuss advertising art archive. Pineapples in popular culture. Scanned faces at Brushstroke. Postcard galleries at 404 Object Not found (emphatically not boring). The site also has found objects and photos. Single-make car sites that are as comprehensive as this one make us happy. Dogs in Cars (via cheesedip). Just don't tell the RSPCA.

We've just finished Mark Kurlansky's Cod, so the historic photo archives at the The NorthEast Fisheries Science Center were more interesting than one might imagine. Also fishy: Cape Cod.


Monday, February 24, 2003
Random links

A humorous response to last week's misery links. Vintage news - how to shock traffic wardens, or how the British motoring populace got their revenge on authority in the days before congestion charging (which, whisper it, seems to be working just fine. Of course, you wouldn't know this from the tidal wave of negative propoganda from the Evening Standard). Interesting mention last night of the Bingley Bypass protest, the first anti-roads protest. After 28 years, the road is now going ahead (note flashy official website - a sign of things to come?).

The dark flipside of those oh-so amusing 419 stories: when it all goes right. When it all goes wrong (me-fi). Moomin art, via Plasticbag. The creator of anonymous juice told his story in Saturday's Guardian. Burrowing in thrift shop record bins, with scans and background information. Some excellent images at Lost Labor, manual work from days gone by (see this almost deco example). Aerial archaeology.

The Melancholytron makes 'pictures moody, nostalgic, and somehow sad'. The wonderful Museum of Jurassic Technology has its own me-fi discussion (see Rosemary Hill's things piece here).

Geegaw has excellent links. Webmonkey now has a weblog. Cheesedip, an elegant weblog, links to these pictures of a pop princess.


Friday, February 21, 2003
What goes around...

How we loved to laugh and sneer at the worries and fears of the olden days, when mutual annihilation seemed an inevitability. Sample movies: I, II, III, IV. Perhaps we should have known not to sneer as with grinding predictability, this past has come back to haunt us. Ready.gov is a US government site that offers a lot useful information about what do to in the case of extreme emergency. Sample downloads (all pdfs): vehicle, building, chemical, explosions, nuclear. Here's hoping that one day we'll be able to look back fondly on these as well. Two more glimpses of past paranoia: nuke pop (including a chart of nuclear war fiction), protect and survive (see Home Defense and the Farmer).

Vaguely related to this 'brighter than a thousand suns' train of thought. SOHO, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, has a high-res, almost constantly updated image of our very own sun available for your viewing pleasure (thanks to haddock). Punk links (including an excellent Big Black page). The celebrated Saarinen TWA terminal at JFK gets a spot on Salon (with images from Lightningfield). 4AD 'where are they now', partly in response to tmn's name-check fest.

Today’s site improvements: scalable text. Online ordering still working. We think.


Thursday, February 20, 2003
Web design schadenfreude

Few words can describe the horror of using Netscape 4.7 to visit thingsmagazine.net. Far from being a carefully composed series of pages (in IE6), we were greeted with what could only be described as an accident in a font workshop. We've implemented a rather hasty workaround - feedback appreciated, as usual - so that old school browsers will encourage readers to click through to an old version of the site: thingsmagazine.net/old_website

Actually, using 4.7 (which appears to be the strictest, most bloody-minded browser), to look around today's web is quite eye-opening. We haven’t got to the stage yet where we can analyse our stats to see who’s using what, but it seems that even some of the major players – sites we very much admire – tend to wobble slightly when confronted with 4.7’s demands (links will mean nothing in newer browsers: I, II, III, IV. We're certainly not singling these sites out, but golly it makes us feel better to discover that we're not the only ones capable of leaving your browser window look like a teenager's bedroom).

More admin, of a less onerous kind. We can now announce, tremulously, that our first things 17 piece is up and ready to read. Critical Mass is a strangely topical short story. You can also (pause for fanfare) be the first to experiment with our online ordering system. Just one issue available so far, things 15, which will ship with a CD.


Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Interesting, and chilling, Register piece about the robot armies of the future. We especially liked this flip comment: ’Hunter-Killer's ability to strike deep into enemy territory, no matter how dangerous, should allow the US military to dispense entirely with Europeans, except maybe for sweeping up afterwards.’ The full report is here at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It makes for frightening reading. 'Augmented Cognition,' that will 'directly (but non-invasively) measure human cognitive load so that information can be presented to the warfighter or commander in a way that does not overload human cognition when mental processes are pressed to the limit, and that takes advantage of spare mental 'processing power'.'

The robotic battlefield concept is trying hard to undermine the cute image of the robot, carefully cultivated by the consumer giants that stand to benefit from mass-market penetration (more 'consumer robots': I, II, III, report). Instead, DARPA are proposing things like the Software for Distributed Robotics program, which will 'enable very large groups of very small, very inexpensive robots to perform useful tasks'. What exactly constitutes a 'useful task' isn't stipulated. The age of (semi-) intelligent machines draws closer. And these are just things they're actually telling us about.

Elsewhere. Weatherwatch. Snowy images from East Coast weblogs: I, II, III, IV (makes the light dusting we received last month look rather puny in comparison). Also, Caterina recommends tea. The Catfunt weblog slowly limbers up. Cute cats (and flash movies) at Meomi. New-look news. Slot machines for home use. A gallery of station wagons.


Tuesday, February 18, 2003
A vague combination of food and music today, appropriately enough given tomorrow night's London show by the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra (listen). We're not going ourselves, but we know someone who is, so it'll be interesting to compare them with the sounds of our friends the Sonic Catering Band. Their Apotheosis CD. which came free with things 15, is still available - at some point it might even be posted as an mp3 (if the Sonics agree), and by the end of the week you'll be able to order your own via Paypal. Promise.

More food. Family Indigestion is the anti-Nigella, and will have you cooking like Elvis in no time. Their expose of the use and abuse of gelatin is shocking. More digestible are the excellent foodblogs out there. A sample: the hungry tiger, Nobody's Fool, Foodblog and B is for bacon. More links here. Golly, we're hungry now.

Elsewhere. Ephemera from the 1800s, a big gallery (lovely - stamps) linked to by the ever-reliable Coudal. Design very rudimentary walk-throughs at Small blue printer. Goya guitars were big back in the 60s - and got themselves some pretty good endorsements. Designfeast is a portal site for the creative industries, and points us towards the Artlex art dictionary, the Altpick design directory and Polar Inertia, the gorgeous-looking 'journal of nomadic and popular culture.' We like: airport diagrams, Utah maps, abandoned gas stations - all of it, in fact.


Monday, February 17, 2003
We're not going to post huge amounts until we've nailed down the redesign and sorted out the subscribe/purchasing situation. At the moment, clicking on 'subscribe' doesn't help you very much - apologies.

'Not only does [the Londoner] barricade his house against two-legged animals of his own species, but his mania for fortification extends to precautions against wretched dogs and cats.' From Victorian London, a vast period resource. Vaguely related, 'Has a Frog a Soul?', T.H.Huxley's talk to the Metaphysical Society on 8 November 1870 (from The Huxley File) which melded vivisection with philosophy - a very Victorian approach.

Elsewhere. The Ray Crowley gallery - web art, snippets and more. Vintage auto ads. Muscle car ads (grainy scans). Trouser ads from the Sixties (via nosenseofplace). Old VW ads (classics, every one of them). Early digital watches (especially I, II, III).

Update: Thus far, this Congestion Charge thing seems to be running smoothly. The tubes and trains weren't noticeably more cramped (if that's possible), and the roads are strangely quiet. Mind you, it is half term and quite a few people have called in sick...


Friday, February 14, 2003
The Brunswick Project takes place this April. A site-specific artists' event, the Project invites 19 contributors to tackle the relationship between the residents of the Brunswick Centre and their surroundings. The Brunswick has always been controversial. A great slab of unpainted concrete in the Georgian heart of Bloomsbury, Patrick Hodgkinson's design teeters on the brink of alienating brutalism yet has the dramatic solidity and massing of Sant'Elia's unbuilt Futurist sketches.

The new issue of Cabinet Magazine (9) looks well worth acquiring. Read 'The Wall and the Eye' online, the story of the integration of planning and politics in the occupied territories. (Also new today, 'Love in the time of Smallpox' - remember, 'nothing’s sexier than someone with a heightened state of awareness.')

Valentine's day pin-ups available here. All about Dennis Severs' house. Archive of historic steelworks photography. Recycled vintage fashion at Trashtique (with great links to more vintage sites). Gig reviews at Slow Thrills. A French site devoted to the joys of the retractable hard-top. Curious colouring projects at Enchanted Learning. Blurbism photography still beautiful. We've only just got around to checking out the Consumer Reports archive, and think this compares well to this (except, of course, for battery life...). A new version of Elite - I, II, III.


Thursday, February 13, 2003
Humour in architecture rarely works, but FAT's house in East London (designed for partner Sean Griffiths) is a rare success. Equal part child's drawing, contemporary loft and comic book take on architectural theory, the house is both witty and pleasing at the same time. Griffiths recently posited that we are entering an age of New Architecture, a simple yet devastatingly accurate comment on the bland distillation of modernism that is now internationally popular. New Architecture is everywhere, it's the debased glassy modernism favoured by business parks and airports, a kind of ultra-conservative aesthetic that projects a reassuring, yet not too dangerously utopian sense of the future.

Designboom keeps getting more comprehensive - we like this movie. Other structures. The Futuro House, Finland's contribution to pop architecture. Eileen Gray fanpage. Wendy houses. Interesting piece linked to by wholelottanothing - how warehouse conversions are now coming full circle and being turned back into warehouses again.

We were pleased to see that The Modern Antiquarian is now a fully fledged website in its own right (courtesy of that great curator of England's hidden history, Julian Cope). Me-fi discussion here, and Jonathan Key's review of the original book in things 10.


Wednesday, February 12, 2003
A spot of cliché watching: '‘The sound of barrels being scraped', 'logistical nightmare', 'best thing since sliced bread', 'veritable smorgasbord', 'the last taboo' (thanks to NTK), 'the new black'.

A chap by the improbable name of Monty Nebinger emails to offer his services. "With the United States on the brink of a possible war with Iraq, these are undoubtedly busy days for members of the media." Happily, Monty's company Forecast International/DMS have "in-house staff of Aerospace/Defense Analysts have been tracking and analyzing military operations for over thirty years – and we would like to make our collective expertise available to you in support of your efforts to cover the possible war with Iraq."

Elsewhere: Vintage tape recorders (via Sharpeworld - see also the extensive visual archives at Grundig - select history on the menu). The unusual automotive designs of Bruce Mohs. Olivetti, a case study in architectural patronage. Rattail's huge archive of London gig photos - every band you've never heard of.


Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Publisher’s Lunch always throws up some gems in their round up of the latest deals. Just when you thought that every subject under the sun had been snapped up - or that every possible angle had been covered - you find that some wiley publisher/author/marketing department combination has found a new way forward. We especially like the sound of Rachel Greenwald's The Program: How to Find a Husband After 35: Fifteen Action Steps Using Marketing Tactics Learned at Harvard Business School, perhaps one of the most unwieldy, yet informative titles, ever. You can also do the workshop. Ever wondered what the best title would be a book of celebrity bbq recipes? Try Bobby Flay's Boy Gets Grill for size. Reminds us of the old and oft-forwarded (but nonetheless amusing) Washington Post list of inappropriate children’s books.

Are we storing too much data? More to the point, there is so much data collected every day – apparently growing at a rate of 800% a year – that how can it possibly be of any use? Of course, when things go wrong, we frantically comb through these records – the black box recorder, the video image snatched on a bus or in a shopping centre, the fragments of a destroyed machine. But is our culture ‘engulfed in its past’? The very act of posting photos or recording daily activities creates an endless archive: 'Since Kodachrome made way for JPEG, pictures accumulate on hard drives like wet leaves in a gutter.'


Monday, February 10, 2003
And we're off! Finally, newthings has a new home, here on thingsmagazine.net. Please change your bookmarks - we'll send out a few reminders in the next few days. Teething troubles are inevitable, I'm afraid, so please contact us if anything looks especially strange. We're going to work on the type sizes as well, promise.


Thursday, February 06, 2003
Distractions and diversions. theBot is a flash application that runs around the web looking at your text scrap of choice, returning with extracts from matching sites which it then scrolls across the screen. We'll have to investigate this further, because our soundless work environment obviously doesn't do it justice.

Doesn’t it annoy you when websites make their links available to subscribers only? In a similar vein, companies sometimes ring up our place of work, offering a link from their website. Which they'll then charge for. Daft. Speaking of daft, it's sad that the Monowheel never made it to the mass market (via Muxway). If San Francisco can't cope with the Segway (which we tried out last year, and thought was a blast), single-wheeled vehicles have little hope.

The computer demo scene can be revisited at Ojuice, a throwback to the days when floppy disks were packed full of Finnish techno and extraordinary computer graphics. Some of the most talented demo coders were poached by the big software houses to write games - sometimes they started their own games companies. Occasionally, something fascinating springs from this sub-culture. Eve sounds particularly promising, a 'massively multiplayer, online, persistent world game,' a space simulator that promises to deliver our fantasy version of Elite (java version of the orginal Elite here, shareware version here).

Having been exposed to the original Elite at an early age, we spent a lot of time at the back of the maths class imagining exactly how such games would improve in the future, and all the various graphical and gameplay improvements we'd introduce. This was still the 8-bit era, remember, and the notion of an interlinked, global 'persistent world game' was unimaginable. Big space games seem to be making a comeback. Variously, we have the almost mythical Elite 4 (more here), Microsoft's endlessly delayed Freelancer, the Celestia-based Mostly Harmless, Egosoft's X series and more. All these games promise to use the web to create a virtual universe (sort of Everquest in Space), populated by gamers who will probably never leave their houses.

Finally, 'none more black' has finally been perfected.


Wednesday, February 05, 2003
Weblogs, what are they good for? This Guardian piece concludes that a good weblog is something which manages to start a conversation, whether through sharing something interesting or even provoking a reaction (we were especially comforted by this: 'We'll start to wonder why gorgeous, perfectly-phrased and knowledgeable weblogs have small audiences and awkward, questioning, apparently half-finished ones attract thousands.') Admittedly, newthings hasn't exactly been a hotbed of debate since it started, but we're working on making it less of a daily link-fest and more of an ongoing project - the original subtitle.

Partly, this is due to the acquisition of thingsmagazine.net, a proper domain name where we can finally stretch our legs and experiment. Regular subscribers will have noticed that things 17, the winter 2002-03 issue, didn't quite make it out of the starting gates. There are many, very plausible, reasons for this, but in truth we needed a break - things has existed as a bi-annual publication for eight years, operating entirely outside normal working hours.

So how will things and newthings develop? We're very keen to retain our print dimension, and part of this will be to make it easier to buy back issues of the magazine. Perhaps most importantly, we're going to change the way things is published. From this Spring, we're going to dip our toes into the water of print-on-demand, a technology that doesn't seem to have made any serious impact on publishing. In fact, POD has a terrible reputation, the choice of unscrupulous vanity publishers out to ensnare unwary authors or the way to get hold of vast, expensive and obscure academic tomes.

We can't pretend this is going to be a hitch-free journey, but we hope (fervently, with our fingers tightly crossed) that POD will give us the freedom to commission more interesting new writing, broaden our audience, while allowing us the continued pleasure of producing a delightfully tacticle object twice a year - one of the main joys of working in any form of publishing. thingsmagazine.print will then join thingsmagazine.net.

Elsewhere, a grab-bag of photography and music today (with apologies for the lateness of the update). mp3it is a regularly refreshed site containing rare and unreleased tracks from a variety of left-field bands. Philip Greenspun's Alaska travelogue is full of fine, high-res images, as well as interesting tales of travelling up and down the Americas. We especially liked this ruined gold dredger and this unusual bus.

STOCK.XCHNG has free stock photos. Londonstills is chock full of city imagery, while the marvellously-named Greystock brings you 'images of the Mature Market'. And finally, an absolutely vast (4.3GB!) database of Roman antiquity, including satellite imagery, the 1911 survey of the Monuments of Rome (broken links, but the big images still load), funerary iconography and much, much more.


Tuesday, February 04, 2003
We missed the interview of the century last night (no, not this one), but knew enough to decode this snippet overhead on the train this morning: (pointedly, wife to husband) 'If you said you did that, you’d be in trouble. But apparently because he’s Michael Jackson it’s all right.' Rock family portraits (thanks Sharpeworld).

After yesterday, another futuristic flying machine, the Turbohawk. A Blade Runner-style future edges closer. The latter movie’s flying car, the Syd Mead-designed Spinner, has had an afterlife as a science fiction in-joke, with a cameo appearance in Star Wars Episode I. Science fiction cinema is a very self-referential genre. (Related, the story of a scream – how a simple sound effect from the 1950s became a must-have in your action movie).

Elsewhere. A Googie architecture gallery (and no, we don’t owe you money, I’m sure). Image of the day (curiously reminiscent of the one we have up here – both were taken at the same airport).


Monday, February 03, 2003
If you're quick, you can catch one of the great unrealised sci-fi dreams of our time. Paul Moller's prototype Skycar is up for sale on Ebay (making a nice change from the ghoulish fascination with Shuttle debris and mission patches). Moller's dream - one which most people discarded back in the 50s - was of a personal flying machine, a swift, multi-engined point-to-point device that could take a family of four on a cross-country jaunt in perfect safety. Flight tests will apparently continue after the first M400 sells, presumably to help fund the second prototype.

Something else to purchase: the Gucklhupf is an experimental house built by the architect Hans Peter Wörndl. A fully transformable space, it can be sited just about anywhere, with a flexible, folding facade that opens up or closes the interior as required. It also reminds us of Michael Jantzen's glorious M House (not to mention his other projects), an interlocking, endlessly re-configurable house.

Even more science fact - the inspiring tale of how tiny, hyper-dense particles (imagine '10 tons squeezed into something about the size of a red blood cell') occasionally smash through the Earth, causing seismic events on directly opposite sides of the planet, approximately a minute apart. More futurism: toy robots.

Elsewhere. The nice thing about this flash applet (thanks tmn) is the preview option, which allows you to watch how you approach a blank page. We find ourselves scribbling in large circles, gradually spiralling inwards into a densely layered doodle of no doubt strong Freudian significance. And don't forget to play the Gorey mystery game.