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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Ford Motor Company produced the 100 millionth V-8 engine this week. That's a lot of engines. Nearly a billion cylinders, in fact. The company has been mass-producing V-8s since 1932 (with the "flathead" model - no, we don't know what that means, either) and currently shoe-horns them into large, vulgar pick-up trucks. Vaguely related, fantasy concept cars, from the fevered imaginations of Polish enthusiasts.

A gallery of lost aeroplanes. Esthet is a photography-centric weblog, based in Tokyo, with lots of good things. A snapshot of the rusting De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. Take a tour around this library of antiquities, courtesy of iconomy and speckled paint. See also Past Masters, Jane Stevenson's piece on antiquarianism in things 12.

Elsewhere. A huge radio gallery. More vintage radio ads at Radio City. Something for Jennifer: vintage Scopitone ads. Locations for gritty Brit gangster thriller Get Carter (laughably re-made by Sylvester Stallone a few years ago). Stefano Pasini tells us how to mix the perfect Martini.

Links shamelessly plundered. April Winchell hosts a great set of Abba tracks in Hindi - worth hunting down. Welsh castles. How to fake that classic Lomo effect, via kottke. Pin-up is a saucy French comic (flash required).

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Old and new

But mostly old. Magnificent Obsessions is a classic single-issue weblog, focusing on ‘the passion, the heroism and the glory of people with too much time on their hands.’ This is an pithy summary of most of what goes on on the internet, including, we're sure, newthings itself. Like the Museum of Hoaxes weblog we mentioned a few days ago, it suffers from infrequency, rather than the undeniably juicy subject matter. Yes, many personal weblogs can and do flag up the 'weird and wonderful' quota, but the idea of collating all the especially obscure personal quests - people who replicate mass transportation systems or spaceships in their back gardens, for example - has a great attraction. Magnificent Obsessions also pointed us to RAT Run, the Road Anomalies Tour website, with galleries aplenty.

A few elegant old caravans, in the days before wheeling your home behind you became stigmatised. The Vintage Airstream archives. The official Airstream site, still churning out sleek aluminium beauties. Airstream's great rivals, Spartan, also built fine aluminium trailers. Spartan was owned by J.Paul Getty and was famed for its Executive, one of the earliest aeroplanes targeted at the business market. The company diversified into trailer-making after WWII, using many of the same methods and materials. Check the curvy Crescendo, great advertising gallery and historic photos. Yet more trailer topics: restoring a Spartan (the marvellously monikered 'Mansion'). See also Vintage Vacations and Birchwood Beauties.

'Designed in 1963 for the Swiss Cottage Library by Sir Basil Spence,' these excellent desks can now be yours. We love Basil, everything from his private houses to his work at the University of Sussex. The controversial refurbishment of the Swiss Cottage Library was due to have opened yesterday. More retro homewares at Twinkled and Les Puces du Design.

Elsewhere. After yesterday's stuffed extravaganza, some more taxidermy links. Cathy Lomax runs a great art weblog. Wired magazine investigates the robot nurses of the future. A gallery devoted to the gorgeous Exakta camera.

Anna Sutton is an excellent illustrator (you'll probably know her from her pen portraits at tmn). Katie Cohen takes nice photos. Julian Merrow-Smith paints beautifully (especially his still lives). Artwords is an excellent bookshop. Japanese design at Compact Impact, (via muxway). Nomediakings is a CD-Rom zine.

New! press junket, a photo gallery (and thanks to Waldman for the link).

Monday, April 28, 2003
Much-needed rain

A Case of Curiosities is devoted to the art of taxidermy, decorative, restorative and anthropomorphic. As well as potted histories of some of the great taxidermists of days gone by (e.g. Walter Potter, whose vast arrangements of tea-drinking kittens, mourning songbirds, studious rabbits and cricket-playing guinea-pigs enthralled the Victorians), you can peruse the site owner's restoration work, special projects and 'furniture pieces'.

The site is a treasure trove, helped by a gorgeous design, and a real eye for the macabre. We like the souvenirs, and also this wistful poem.

For a long time to come I shall fondly remember,
Poor Nimme who died on the 11th of November,
He might have lived yet for many a year,
If an accident had not cut short his career.

Of his breed I can say without falsehood or joke,
There was no better Ratter in all Basingstoke,
Though only a Dog his loss grieves me sore,
For so faithful a fellow I shall never find more.

Elsewhere. Some steel houses in Palm Springs, a tour courtesy of scrubbles: ‘Driving through the swanky Vista De Las Norte neighborhood is tough. You have to dodge a lot of private landscaping trucks.’ Entirely unrelated: a good collection of Nabokov resources.

All about pop-up books, via Iconomy. Fun with Flash: Insert Silence. Railroad curiosities (and more). Analogue versus digital, a debate we're still having with ourselves. The Olympus OM-4 instruction manual. Or the lovely new Leica MP or the new D-Lux digital. Customise your Levis. Reminiscent of the great 'sweatshop' fiasco of a few years back.

You'll hopefully notice slightly better Mozilla compliance around here. Thanks to Bradley. New! Adieu Paris, a short story.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
Fries to go

We're currently reading Reefer Madness, Eric Schlosser’s follow up to Fast Food Nation (see review in things 15). Schlosser writes in the tradition of the great crusading journalists - think Jane Jacobs, Jessica Mitford, Vance Packard, mixing often horrifying facts with a soupcon of personal experience and a straight, simple writing style. One of the by-products of Fast Food... was that Schlosser became a rent-a-quote talking head for fast-food related news and pop culture snippets. It'll be interesting to see whether he becomes a similar authority on dope, porn and immigrant labour.

In the UK, the news that McDonald's is not only losing money but is also trying to project a healthier image was greeted with a combination of schadenfreude and scepticism. A couple of years ago, things visited the Golden Arch Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, the world’s very first McHotel. It was surprisingly comfortable, but the only restaurant was a McDonald’s on the ground floor (although this appears to have changed). It was opening night, so we were given the full welcome package – a cabaret (in the underground car-park), the official Swiss McDonald’s song and the highlight of the evening: the big cheese of McDonald's Switzerland arriving at the presentation in an open-topped Smart car, bearing the flaming torch of progress (seriously). The McHotel concept doesn't appear to have caught on, which is probably a blessing, but the point is that the company is very open to any form of brand extension...

The McDonald's production process explained (in Flash and in French). Fast food and lawsuits: American estimates are that the annual cost of obesity related illness and lost wages is around $117 billion. Microscopic photos of burgers and fries.

Elsewhere. A day at the (drag) races. How to breed stag beetles (includes scrubbing them with toothbrushes). Little tiny tanks you can use to recreate Battlezone (or, indeed, Combat) in your own house (related: military Battlezone). Painted cars in Cuba, via fiendish word.

'The most expensive space in North America' is an architectural installation, by a team described as the ‘Throbbing Gristle of architecture’ by Core77. Click away, and we find our old friend Guild House, the ultimate all-purpose po-mo pin-up building. Interesting thesis - that it's a fine line between the decorated shed and the International Style. (related: the real Throbbing Gristle).

Now available to buy, finally: things 12 and 13.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Winning and losing

We haven’t seen this anywhere else (and can’t remember the front page in question), but it seems that the Evening Standard isn’t above a bit of photo doctoring… Takes us back to the Museum of Hoaxes (which, incidentally, is also a book and an entertaining if very infrequent weblog). More on the photo manipulation at the Independent Media Centre.

Some photography links. Next Level is a glossy photo magazine with a suitably flash website. See also the photography of Jorn Tomter. This links us to PYMCA, the Photographic Music Youth Culture Archive (i.e. where to get attitudinal stock shots of multiply-pierced teenagers in day-glo clothes). We're also fond of the work of Joel Sternfeld (especially Mclean, Virginia and this one). More Sternfeld.

Random selection. Brass band photographic history, thanks to the Daily Jive. Nintendo's great Donkey Kong Jr (which we are utterly unable to play now that our reactions have slowed to treacle). The Bible Bar 'is a highly effective appetite regulator based on the seven foods from the Book of Deuteronomy 8:8 - "A land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey".'

Aerobirds fulfills all your muscle car needs, including videos. A junkyard gallery. Discarded paintings by gifted amateurs, via scrubbles. Animal onomatopoeia in many languages, inspired by seeing friends’ children gabble in various tongues as they grow up.

Last but not least, a big thanks to Bowblog for the LRB sub.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Deep in plaster dust

We weren't aware of this before, but the BBC has a great online collection of audio interviews, including some giants of the arts, film and literature. It's especially good for re-visiting the plummy tones of some grand dames, Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton, not to mention this interview with Hitler's architect, Albert Speer.

A history of the revolving door (thanks to me-fi). If this were a snappy little book and not an academic thesis, it would no doubt be titled Round and Round, or some such. A nice but brave idea - open up your digital photoframe to imagery from around the world.

Edward Tufte, information graphics guru, on the London Underground Map (via kottke). It links to the geographically accurate tube map, this collection of old journey planners and the new bus maps: all things favourites. More on the underground.

Some more info on looted Baghdad. 'Let's face the fact that 6-12 armed soldiers could probably have saved Iraq a billion dollars, not to mention the historical and scientific value.' Drifting embers is a blurry photoblog. Visit former fire-fighter Mike Legeros and his huge collection of toy fire engines. We like the airport ones the best.

Elsewhere. A huge collection of Russian religious icons, all of which are for sale and all of which were probably painted yesterday. Brigata Italia is a design-saturated built culture webzine (via Coudal). Check the pieces on Louis Kahn, Diller and Scofidio and Morphosis. Also linked, an old racing car gallery, which inspired us to find these vintage racing posters, not to mention this page on the legendary Silver Arrows.

A company called Scaled Composites has unveiled its SS1 (Spaceship One) project, a private spacecraft system that's pitching for the X-Prize. Scaled Composites is the brainchild of aeronautical innovator Burt Rutan, so it should be worth a small wager.

Highly recommended viewing last week - a triumverate of bands from the UK and Japan: Giddy Motors, Mika Bomb, Electric Eel Shock.

New! Read Christopher Stocks's The Pebble Collectors.

Sunday, April 20, 2003
Bank holiday snippets

A tiny posh car.

Christian motorsports.

Trend spotters with their own weblog.

Designmai, the upcoming Berlin Design Festival.

Utopian visions, an academic guide. Compare with the Lifeboat Foundation's plans...

A website devoted to organised crime.

The infamous Duelin' Firemen!

Roadside America, a giant indoor miniature village (see also here.

Dance your way to fitness, in flash.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Sunny day

The sun is shining, so it hardly seems to matter that blogger has eaten two days worth of links. You missed a nice digression on earthquakes and aerial photography, though.

Architecture. When did Detroit lose it's feel for modern architecture? The city is not only the birthplace of the modern auto industry, but it had the modernist industrial architecture to go with it. See especially the work of Eero Saarinen and Albert Kahn. Also, visit the RIBA's architectural photography archive. Wouldn't it be nice if this was all on-line?

Cooking for losers. Lots of white bread. The Dauphine Electric, a retro-fitted Renault that manages to avoid the Bladerunner/Back to the Future cobbled together aesthetic favoured by prop builders. (an aside: a product placement list from BTTF - one of the earliest, and most successful, exponents of the 'art').

New! Read Krystal Chang's Animate Objects.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Here and there

Enter the wonderful world of Sam Smith, on display at Pollock's Toy Museum in London for the next fortnight. Smith existed on the fringes of many art movements, surrealism, modernism, primitivism, creating work that has a hint of the bold yet naive nautical imagery of Alfred Wallis (Smith was the son of a steamship captain), but is also imbued with a passionate love of folk art and toys. The latter two tend to be snootily dismissed by the aesthetic movement, perhaps deemed not serious enough for consideration as vital elements of twentieth century visual culture.

Elsewhere. Atomic Magazine is a retro-culture themed publication. Is it just us, or does all this retro culture stuff seem infused with an element of cheesecake, a world where the pin-up was the height of visual elegance? (admittedly, we're slightly guilty of this ourselves).

More beauty news. "It isn't Miss Moon's fault she can't see your inner beauty," Mommy gently tells Norah. "Miss Moon may be very special, but she isn't all-powerful." Bless the Onion and Norah's New Nose. Norah wouldn't have got very far with Guy Bourdin, the ultra-influential French fashion photographer who pioneered the unsettling fashion portrait. Bourdin had a great eye, regardless of the sinister undercurrent present in his pictures, but his legacy - fashion shoots in the style of Weegee - seems less convincing. From Boudin's era, we also like Melvin Sokolosky, especially his bubble fetish.

The weird world of the Children's Evangelist. This teaching aid probably sums up their approach. "We want to train people who can evangelise children and who can train others to evangelise chidren (multiplication)." Flee!

Bowblog shows us old and new, as yet another classic logo bites the dust. Some great big crystals. A downloadable album of what some people call 'click rock'. MFdistilled takes the essence of metafilter, strips out the trolls, rants and endless ping-ponging threads to nowhere. As a result, it's not as fun.

The public enquiry into the London Bridge Tower, a structure that will have a big visual impact on things's world, got underway yesterday. Good or bad? We're strangely ambivalent. Milk Bottle of the Week is self-explanatory, except perhaps to cultures where bottles have been replaced by cartons (huge diversion: visit New House, concrete-award winning mansion of the Tetrapak king).

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
On looting

The destruction of Iraq’s vast store of antiquities is, to put it mildly, heartbreaking. In particular, Robert Fisk’s description of the destruction of the National Library and Archives and the Ministry of Religious Endowment’s Library of Korans is especially unsavoury for 'thing'-loving people everywhere. As a recent story noted, ‘the world’s first written words may have been lost forever’. See also this prescient article, written just a few days before the looting started.

UNESCO information on Iraq (also here and here). Archnet’s Iraq architecture section isn’t comprehensive, but there are still some evocative images there. The Great Mosque at Samarra. Another gallery and an official museum website, before the sackings. See also the inevitable me-fi thread, which packs in a good deal more than the above.

Of course, it isn’t necessarily the architecture – fragile, yet subjected to thousands of years of cumulative repairs and reconstruction – that has suffered most, but the ephemeral, fragile fragments of history – manuscripts, reliefs, books, letters. However, some six decades after the Second World War, the international community is still trying to untangle the various treasures looted and scattered by the Nazis, so it's not surprising that no-one holds out much hope for Iraq's heritage.

Elsewhere, and on a lighter note. Taxi magazine is a cunning ploy, a glossy combination of lifestyle and forecasting, all constructed around Getty Imagery’s admittedly sumptuous pictures (previews of issue 1 and 2). However, each issue costs an eye-watering 25$, and many spreads are spoiled by that irritating imitation china pencil scrawl across the composition.

Sweet tooth vs natural.

Monday, April 14, 2003
Not a lot

Artnotes is one for the sidebar, a compendium of all kinds of cultural links, spinning off into digressions ranging from comics to architecture that mimics objects - ('pop architecture' isn't a satisfying enough name for the building-as-object, whereas Venturi's Ducks vs Decorated Sheds seem a little architecturally esoteric).

Artnotes gives us the Calvin and Hobbes Snow Art Gallery, a neat collection of the best snow-world themed C&H cartoons. Snow never seemed more snow-like than when it was depicted by Bill Watterson. I think it's the absence of anything but blankness that conveys a snowy world so well, with just a few scribbled lumps perfectly capturing footprints or shadow (Calvin does Gormley). There's also a link to the Stuckists (we like Eamon Evershall the best) - look for Stuckists on the steps of the new Saatchi Gallery some time soon. Probably.

The problem with music... is it time for an mp3 revolution? The essay gives a nod to this seminal essay (mainly by using the same title), but at the time the latter was written, a delivery system like the internet and mp3 obviously didn't exist (except, perhaps, for tape trading). Now that an alternate means of production is in place, will it make any difference on the way music is created, promoted, discovered and sold?

Elsewhere. Great list of esoteric mp3s at 365 days. Art imitates life (only not nearly as elegantly). More architectural-scale game, the constantly shifting facade a forerunner of future buildings?

Newly published: 'Letters'.

Friday, April 11, 2003
In and around

Starship Dimensions is a wonderful find, a fan site that allows you to compare the relative dimensions of science fiction's most famous creations. If you've ever wondered how large a Vorlon Planet Killer is (approximately 45km), and whether it's any bigger than Arthur C.Clarke's Rama habitat ship (not quite - Rama is 5km longer), this is the place to come (an aside: David Fincher's Rama movie, due out in 2006, sounds quite exciting). Compare it to the diagrams at Skyscraperpage.

More from the unknown and unlikely. We're not sure what we’ve done to encourage this, but a mysterious Jim Smith mails us with a huge list of paranoid websites and books, such as Above Black and the work of Jim Marrs - we certainly had no idea that a UFO crashed in Texas in 1897 (nor, for that matter, that the universe as we know it is a sham and a facade, etc., etc., etc).

Elsewhere. Strawbale architecture vs Hobbit-like designs (the latter courtesy of Roger Dean, king of Prog Rock cover art). See also Caterina's link to the mysterious Mushroom House. Compare and contrast. Following yesterday's links, two me-fi Death of Concorde discussions: I, II. Re-code lets you build your own barcodes, presumably so you can get higher scores at Barcode Battler. We can't think of any other application.

Staying with architecture and design. Audacity is a research organisation that claims to be 'against sustainababble and for development'. This is an interesting and very technologically determinist take on the debate about sustainable architecture, arguing that nature is a resource, not a 'thing' to be held in reserve and tip-toed around. The Audacity crew court controversy by recommending Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist (huge collection of pro and anti-Lomborg links from Arts & Letters Daily: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and more at the bottom of this page), and a sense of longing for the lost world of true futurism hangs over the whole enterprise (in other words, the spirit of Archigram, 60s pioneers of high tech).

Weblogs we haven't looked at for a while: Interconnected, Heiferman, 990000, Bluejake, DNKB and Pushby. Iconomy's recent selection of bikini links inspired us to update Laurel Blossom's Making Waves.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
Back-pedalling from the future

It had to happen sooner rather than later. Concorde’s time is up. Following the Paris crash on 25 July 2000, the supersonic airliner's future was always blighted. Hugely expensive to run and maintain, let alone travel on, the industry slump that followed the WTC disaster pretty much sealed its fate. We live on the Heathrow flight path - far enough away for it not to be a problem, but close enough to hear the thunderous rumble of Concorde around about 9.00pm each day. It's a welcome intrusion, and one which was missed when the jet was grounded after the Paris crash. And soon it will be gone for ever - perhaps the most audible indication of (benevolent) technological progress ever devised. We think Wolfgang Tillmans's photo-essay will be the best way to remember it - a dart-like blur, dominating the senses.

Supersonic travel has receded into the distance. The Soviet Tu-144 (which met its own Waterloo following a crash at the 1973 Paris airshow) was a direct copy of Concorde, yet the two aircraft came from wholly different directions: one an international collaboration/rivalry between the UK and France, the other the product of a totalitarian system, dedicated to producing cutting-edge technology at whatever cost. (more Concorde links: I, II). One 'Konkordski' ended its days as a testbed, while the rest were left to museums, or to rot at the edge of Russian airfields.

We can only speculate what will happen to Concorde once the final customer leaves its cramped cabin this Autumn. Whatever the outcome, it'll be a blow for national pride (British and French). Today, no single country (with the exception of the US) can possibly afford to design and manufacture an aircraft of this nature without collaborating - this was even the case back in the 60s when Concorde's development began. Every now and again, someone moots a possible supersonic (or subsonic) concept (Boeing's Sonic Cruiser, for example), but they're usually just that: concepts that bear little relation to the current level of demand and state of the market. However, work is being undertaken in Japan and Australia, with the NEXST-1 concept. Watch this space.

Elsewhere (and nearly related). A flying game. At the circus. The Campanile, a pioneering 3D movie (via this thread). The angriest dog in the world - we'd forgotten all about this cartoon. NY songlines.

A page of stamps. EMMA is the Electronic Museum of Mail Art, and includes a section on Ray Johnson, the 'Father of Mail Art' (more Johnson here). There's an aesthetic at work here that reminds of many online magazines, but it's clear that the influences go back much further than that.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Here and there

A little late, but 'My Creepy Valentine' is exactly what it says - seriously unsettling images that would put the frighteners into your intended. The page is just a small part of what makes Iconomy such a great site (not least because it points to the Barbarella site we’ve always hankered for. Altogether now, ‘decrucify the angel!’). Thanks too for the pointer to Skyscraperpage, most especially these diagrams.

The Map Room is a weblog about, unsurprisingly, maps. These range from online collections, to scholarly appraisals of the early days of cartography, terrestrial and celestial, ancient and modern. Is a single subject focus the key to an excellent weblog? Of the various freefilter sites that have sprung up in the last few months (weeks?), we like bookfilter the best so far. See also: humorfilter, geekfilter, filmfilter, musicfilter and, inevitably, warfilter (and don't forget kittenfilter). Is this the end of the original metafilter, as its posters and readers fragment into myriad sub-communities, each with their own agenda? At the moment, conversations are fairly quiet across the board, but it’s very early days.

Elsewhere. Hitchcock's Vertigo, then and now (via Sharpeworld, back from her little sleep). After Pepys Diary, a slightly less literary source makes it into weblog form: Laura Palmer’s diary from Twin Peaks (the URL is not what it seems). It stands to reason that had the series been set today, Laura would have had a weblog, not a diary.

More unusual record sleeves: I, II (both via Raoul, who is sadly not the long-silent Raed). See also Secret Agent Soundtracks of the Sixties, via nothing is true (via Iconomy, again). Classic camera links: Nikon, Canon, KYphoto,

Silly musical cartoon. Surprisingly entertaining snapshots at the Sisley website. There are no microchips in Benetton's clothes (news story). Wait for this to assume some kind of urban mythic status. Inkblots magazine, fiction, poetry and more.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Art and design

Today, a selection of galleries, starting with Unity Peg's retro-style tea towels. Are tea towels uniquely British (i.e. do other people call them dish cloths), or is it a globally accepted term? The crisp, simple Unity Peg site was designed by the good people at Hyperkit, purveyors of quality websites. Their aesthetic spills over into two of their 'public art' projects, created at the Victoria & Albert Museum's annual ''village fete': flags from a treasure hunt, and the fuzzy felt infused landscapes of 'making a scene'.

Thanks to Noah Sachs of the Sachs Report for pointing to us recently. Noah's site is well worth checking out. Great links include Exactitudes, a 'photographic anthropology of dress codes' and social groupings, and Kenji Yanobe's extraordinary 'survival' sculptures. Elsewhere, Jorn Utzon, famed for the Sydney Opera House and not a lot else (to most people), has been awarded architecture's biggest prize, the Pritzker.

Elsewhere. A brief history of Helvetica, at Delve Magazine (see also 'High Tension', a gorgeous photo essay). Check out Room 606 at the SAS Royal Hotel Copenhagen, the only surviving element of Arne Jacobsen’s original design concept (and now the subject of a fine new book from Phaidon).

And more. Show and Tell Music has a huge collection of weird LP covers, including hand-made artwork (via tmn). Diner art (via Muxway. A huge gallery of shipping-related photographs. Oldsmobile ads (I, II). Painfully trendy t-shirt designs. How to move a train station.

And finally, things was very chuffed to take part in the prestigious Fiona Project (large gallery) - we're glad it fulfilled its intended function.

Monday, April 07, 2003
Automatons for the people

A robot round-up, courtesy of this me-fi link. Robodex, Japan's premiere consumer robot show saw the latest round of domestic technology on display (BBC summary here). Of course, no-one needs a robot in their lives - we've got on pretty well without them for a while. But the expectation is there, a seed sowed by countless fictions, whether literary or cinematic, and few now doubt that domestic robots will eventually become commonplace.

The huge popularity of Sony's classic AIBO set the pace. Originally intended as a limited-edition technological showcase (and priced accordingly), the interest generated by the robot dog (later cat, apparently) swiftly spawned cheaper, better second and third generation models. People love their AIBOs (webring), and other, increasingly sophisticated robot pets are swarming onto the market (related: Can a dog tell the difference? What happens when AIBO meets a real dog: movie. AIBO football).

But will a robot ever be more than an expensive toy? For now, as one might expect, all eyes are on Japan. No-one quite knows what shape robots will ultimately take, so in order to make an emotional connection with what is essentially a mobile computer, anthropomorphism seems to be the best option (especially in a nation that worships cute). The other option is to imitate humans: leading the pack is Honda's Asimo, a compact humanoid robot with a growing cult following. Still too expensive for the domestic consumer, and with little purpose in life save for climbing stairs and opening the NY stock exchange, Asimo is just a hint of things to come.

Other manufacturers aren't imitating us at all. Epson's tiny robot seems to suggest swarms of intelligent machines (as long as they're not robotic crickets), while Sanyo's Banryu is an early attempt to create a robot with a purpose. The Banryu is a sort of surveillance device (for obsessives who want a little bit extra), designed to lumber around your home sniffing out gas leaks, intruders, domestic terrorism and all the other things people obsess about from work. It'll then take a snapshot of the problem and send it to your mobile phone, so you get a little pixellated view of your smouldering bedroom. It's a great idea in principle, but one can't help wonder whether the target market would rather hold out for something with a bit more bite. We have no idea what this does at all.

Elsewhere. Paltry fuel efficiency increases should allow for a few more years of SUV inflation. The UK branch of the World Monuments Fund has lots of info about threatened buildings, but unsurprisingly the risk levels don't come close to certain hotspots: Erbil Citadel, Nineveh Palace. More conservation matters: one of SITE Architects' iconic BEST stores is apparently under threat.

Unrelated. Faux innocent illustration from Japan. See also the Cool Museum (via Quasimeta, who has an eye for this sort of thing). Maison Neuve is a magazine of ‘eclectic curiosity’. Pig Iron Malt is a literary zine, while Fictionline is a short story competition with lots and lots to read. Finally, Delve is an 'exploration of visual culture', featuring great photography. We especially like Noah David Smith's Cars and Ofer Wolberger's Anywhere (wow), both classic examples of 'No-place' photography. Issue 3 is devoted to the letter 'H', Sesame Street-style.

Friday, April 04, 2003

The artist Mel Chin's In the Name of the Place (undertaken with the GALA Committee) was one of the best pieces of under-the-radar pieces subversion in contemporary television. Undertaken in the days before the ubiquity of the web could turn a typing error into a potential corporate disaster (update), or an unthinkingly forwarded email into a global meme, there's surprisingly little about the project on line.

With the help of the show's set decorator, Chin infiltrated the plastic world of the soap Melrose Place, transforming props and backgrounds with highly politicised slogans and symbols that would never normally be allowed on television. These included the words 'human rights,' 'turmoil' and 'chaos' being inscribed in Chinese on the side of takeaway food packaging, weaving the chemical structure for the RU-486 'abortion pill' into a quilt clutched by a pregnant character, and 148 other artworks (more info (pdf)).

Elsewhere. Oval Mansions was once a great squat, overlooking South London's famous cricket ground, and organised enough to have its own residents' assocation and art gallery. Now £2m will buy you the lot (pdf): expect it to be knocked down and replaced with some ghastly flats. Unrelated: a new issue of Born magazine, including the wonderful 'Letters to a Lover' (which has more than a hint of Nick Cave about it).

News you might have missed: 'Caravan park 'Christ' draws the faithful'. Only three years old, but a strangely innocent tale of a streetlamp, wooden fence and a dappled reflection. Less innocent and actually rather awkward in its lethal combination of cute and sappy: the Defender of Freedom figurine, meticulously crafted by hand (aren't they always). Computer graphics: the Eiffel Tower deconstructed. Need links? Enter the Blogging Ecosystem and see who thinks highly of you.

Not sure what happened here...

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Interesting article on the cathedrals of the culture industry, focusing on LA's gradual evolution into a 'museum-city'. Do great cities loose their vitality when whole districts are set in aspic and devoted to the presentation of the past? Speaking of retro, Dooce shows you how to make your photos glow like a 1970s shampoo advert.

Believer is the McSweeneys magazine offshoot. We haven't clapped eyes on a copy yet here in London, but can't wait. The slot car racing community can’t design a decent website for toffee, but the Pictorial Scalextric website is pretty amazing (see I, II). More racing cars can be found here.

Elsewhere. Things we used to believe explores the interface between urban myth and childhood confusion. The Museum of Unworkable Devices explores the interface between hope and physical impossibility. A visual history of German radio design.

The oft-cited dull blog isn't the first example of deliberate dullness. Thanks to the thoughts of Mr Pooter (Gutenberg version), amusing banality is culturally acceptable. However, other people's intentions are not always clear.

A Legacy of Invention is a good over of the career of Charles and Ray Eames. Movie posters from Ghana. Website re-design for Spiritualized (who have a great new compilation album out). Links to publishers and small presses.

We've added a link to the most recent photo from the MET-7 satellite. You can also build fun animations of swirling clouds. More satellite images from Landsat. And yet more.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003
The point

Quick post today, to flag up a new gallery, full of big, whirly, pointy things that have a strange beauty and grace in a certain context, but at the moment don't evoke any of those emotions at all.

A day late, but the Museum of Hoaxes's April Fool special is worth a read. They appear to have omitted the Lirpa Loof, a dimunitive Yeti-like creature discovered by the merry pranksters on BBC television's That's Life, back in the dark ages. We remember this beast - a man in a furry suit - as being extremely frightening (run a search for Lirpa Loof and you find all sorts of deliberate misinformation, as you might expect).

Graphics International has a new, flash-intensive website, designed by the clever chaps at Engage Studio. You can even download a piece by a things contributor... Vellum Magazine is glossy and slightly saucy. There's a good gallery of Herzog and de Meuron's new Laban Dance Centre over at Look at the cute little mouse!

We bought a gorgeous Arthur Erickson monograph the other day, so it's good to his Filberg House (more) getting some long overdue recognition. According to an NY Times article (since relegated to their pay-per-view archive. $2.95 for one article? What?), the 1958 house has a bright future after a period of uncertainty (read: philistinism). Erickson studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, and while his education projects tend to err towards megastructures, his houses are exaggerated takes on Wright's Prairie Style aesthetic.

Staying with mid-century modern. The huge art collection held in NY's Seagram Building is apparently up for sale. A great shame, as the Seagram wasn't just an innovative and elegant structure, but designed as a repository for art and sculpture right from the outset, a sort of monolithic box of delights (original link via Archinect).

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