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Friday, August 29, 2003
On Imber. The abandoned Wiltshire village of Imber isn't as closed and remote as it once was. The public are allowed access about 50 days a year, making the journey - a pilgrimage, almost - up from the barracks town of Warminster, down a lonely road past the red rusted hulks of blasted tanks until they reach the village. Little remains. The thatched cottages of a sepia past have long crumbled away, their traditional construction unable to stand the rigours of simulated street fighting. The buildings that replaced them are functional, windows gaping open without glass, tiles usurped by hard-wearing metal. Few original structures survive. Most remarkable of all is the Church of St Giles, a 700 year old parish church that is still a working place of worship.

Artangel's event, curated by Jeremy Herbert, celebrated those who sought, unsuccessfully, to return the village to the villagers. Back in 1943, they were rudely evicted by the army 1943, yet stoically moved out to assist the country in her time of need. Such an attitude wouldn't wash today, but then everyone's used to standing their ground (and the army's needs have changed as well: the makeshift 'town' presumably doesn't fit the criteria for today's street battles, looking a little bit like a suburb of Swindon rather than downtown Baghdad).

Herbert turned the whole village into an installation, illuminating the house shells from within, strange music seeping out. A driverless Morris Minor (actually there was someone there, but he was crouching down under a tarpaulin) glided silently around a roundabout, and a house walked. Well, a canvas-covered house shaped object (which reminded me of both Terry Gilliam's animation and, unfortunately, Chris Morris's infamous Brass Eye where a paedophile disguises himself as a school....) slowly led the procession of guests down the old main road to the church.

The final half hour was devoted to a concert in St Giles by composer Giya Kancheli, performed by the Matrix Ensemble, the Rustavi Choir from Georgia and the ghostly voices of Salisbury's Cathedral School choir. In truth, the music didn't really take off - the church was stifling, people were shuffling on their feet and the music ebbed and flowed, promising climaxes that it didn't deliver, and tip-toeing around solemnity. The choir were amazing, though, polyphonic signing of unbelievable richness (samples here and here). See also Giles Turnbull's images of Imber by day (and we like his Swindon ones too).

We had our very own mini-blackout yesterday: six weeks of sun, a small shower of rain and the National Grid buckles and fails in a shower of sparks. Happily, we were above, rather than below ground when the power went down. The streets of South London were unusually dark as our bus crawled through a rainy Clapham and Brixton. The more conspiratorial will probably think that a certain Prime Minister had flicked the switch to distract from his long-awaited appearance at the Hutton Enquiry. Vaguely related: broken (thanks tom).

The UNH! Project, a 'collection of gutteral moans from comics'. This is a gem of a site: Oof, Aaaah!, UGH!. You get the idea. UNH! came via Flambingo, which also links to Brighton's Embassy Court, one of the country's best inter-war buildings. Regardless of quality, it has suffered decades of neglect (although a Conran-led refurbishment is being touted). More on the building at this Streamlined Moderne site (which has lots of other good things: vintage electrical equipment, Hoovers and the glorious Citroën GS. File under 'slightly obsessive'. Which is fine by us).

Exclamation Mark's link to Strange Science got us looking for the original dinosaur hunters and the history of paleontology, how the pioneers of the science were first received when they presented these strange and incredible skeletons to a God-fearing society. Naturally, forgeries and frauds were not uncommon, and early artist's impressions relied a little bit too much on the cultural memories of dragons. These sea monsters are particularly fine.

Random snippets. Building the Washington Metro, including a look at the architectural genesis of the stations / diagram of suburban chaos, via coudal / Hot Rod gallery / invisible broad system, a weblog / the Stout Scarab - rarely has a car been so appropriately named.


Thursday, August 28, 2003
Last weekend we had our first trip to the Isle of Portland, and were entranced by the steep streets, bleak hills and crooked, man-made coastline. It's pretty stony down on the Jurassic Coast, and Portland stone is the best of the lot (I love the Wikipedia). In these post-industrial days, many of the island's quarries have become historical sites, full of artistic intepretations and memories (see Tout Quarry). There's a huge amount of information (and imagery) on this page, and Portland has an official website too, with bonus pages on evocative local shipwrecks and more.

Much of what we think of as modern London (i.e. post Great Fire) is built from Portland stone, and the island was first quarried from the outside in, as the sea was the only way of transporting the stone. As quarrying technology improved, seams of stone were followed inland. The stone is still much in demand for high profile projects, and the quarries hit the headlines a few years ago when a devious contractor supplied the wrong kind of stone for the British Museum's new south portico. It doesn't look too bad, but some were very riled. Apparently, there is still a quarry set aside for repairs to St Paul's Cathedral. More about Portland's role in various London landmarks.

Yet more pulp at Pulp Cards (thanks to Tobias at Whalelane). Some of these are pulpier than others / photos_of_signs and vegan victuals, both at PJchmiel.com (via sachs report) / hints and things around the home / photomails, a photoblog / James Turrell's Kielder Skyspace, a kind of miniature Roden Crater, up in the wilds of Scotland.

Someone, somewhere, has devised a brand new operating system for the ancient Commodore 64 - a serious labour of love / what can happen in a hail storm / antique scientific instruments / Mr Aitch (Giornale Nuovo) on bookshops / cleansurface, archive of graffiti and street art images / other people's old slides are always fascinating. I particularly like this picture of snowy beetles.

Chapter 1 of PR, a Short History of Spin / Sundress is home to a 'miscellany of magazines' / Do computer games have to tell stories? Where Stories End and Games Begin thinks not. Although some forms of games, adventures, role-playing, etc., do have a narrative thread, they depend on giving the illusion of free will to the player as they channel them along. This essay muses about the various kinds of non-linear narrative, gamebooks, experimental fiction, hypertext fiction, etc. (the text links to Erasmatazz, a site specialising in 'interactive storytelling', containing this epic treatise on Art of Computer Game Design), before concluding that 'gaming is the most vital artform of the age'.

We're slowly and surely re-jigging our photo galleries. Bear with us. We've also 'installed' an rss feed. Do with it what you will...


Wednesday, August 27, 2003
The Real Getaway Tour is a loving re-creation of a virtual re-creation of London (discussed here). I hated the Getaway, having been well and truly swept up by the pre-release hype. Admittedly, the recreation of London's streets was remarkable, but the storyline and acting were crude and, frankly, unpleasant. There was none of the humour or sense of freedom that underpins a game like Vice City: the characters you play had no redeeming features at all and the body count just racked up and up until it all felt rather sad and pointless. I also blame the game for making me drive badly in the real world. Related: Multi Theft Auto.

Staying with shoddy gangsterism and exploitation: Pulp magazines (all via oldtimey). Visit this huge French site, with classics like Amazing Stories, VISCO (the Visual Index of Science Fiction Cover Art). We have to deep link into their frames, but browse titles like Coven, Wonders of the Spaceways and Tales of Tomorrow. Finally, ThePulp.Net, a huge resource of information, including a brief history.

Random snippets. The McMansion comes to Australia - buy your own slice of this brave new suburbia (you'd be hard-pressed to find a more mixed-up name for a style of house than 'Balmoral Tuscan')/ all you ever needed to know about your washing machine - for those perilous days after your two-year warranty expires (via br) / the ill-fated XB-70, the 'Great White Bird'.

Little did we know, but our Kudzu mention yesterday just scratched the top tendrils of the cult reputation of this rampaging plant. It's also the name of an online magazine: Kudzu / big shiny bikes at Meccapixel / elegant photograms by the Neasden Control Centre / we like Lost and Frowned's Found Slide Foundation.

Historical images. The bridge over the Carriso Gorge on the San Diego and Arizona Railway / miniature books / inter urban wreck from historic Albion Michigan / huge collection of aeroplane diagrams in Nasa's Dryden graphics gallery / the Antique Small Engine Collectors Club, with gallery / the Tragedy of the Dodo, with gallery / more up to date: old computer collections.

The incredible pencil drawings of Andrew Holmes. These probably have to be seen for real to be appreciated - there's an exhibition starting at London’s Plus One Plus Two Galleries on 10 September / issue one of Bonus Magazine / many art links / Uncarved, an industrial music weblog.

Do you use the BBC website? Add your comments to the official Independent Review of the service. Related: CoolEdit tutorials, amongst others, on the BBC's training zone / Do you need to sell the entire contents of your house? Including bird noises, china dogs, and even the house.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Just snippets today. The secret of a healthy life: better food, smaller plates / some strange images at gorgeous pod (who sells clothing, CDs and Donnie Darko-like drawings) / a very big machine indeed / tiny thumbnail edition of Oz’s infamous schoolkids issue / superb page from an American Fiat aficionado / explore Sumea's apartment, a neat 3D application / an obsessive collection of video games (via muxway) Related: arcade fonts (also muxway).

Esthet sees the Leningrad Cowboys, and also has links to St Petersburg images and the Akun Resort, Kyrgyzstan. Related: a huge map of Stalingrad in 1941 (via Indiana University's historical map collection).

Venice is sinking. Modern buildings are crumbling (both via arts journal) / abandoned buildings of Ohio / Secret Basingstoke by Rubberneck / related, the kudzu weed is rampaging: over vehicles, houses and more (see the four seasons series) / images of Nova Scotia / insultingly stupid movie physics.


Monday, August 25, 2003
Bifurcated Rivets's link to disused UK airfields threw up these pictures of Bircotes, which had a building dedicated to housing a Link Trainer. The Link, devised by one Edwin A.Link, was the precursor to today’s flight simulators. Related: build a 1/24 scale replica of a trainer / a brief history of flight simulation:

Crude pilot training aids had been designed even before WW I, but none had any significant training value. Edwin A. Link provided a giant step forward when in 1931 he received a patent on his "pilot maker" training device. He had perfected his design in the basement of his father's piano and organ factory in Binghamton, NY. Organ bellows and a motor provided the means for the trainer, mounted on a pedestal, to pitch, roll, dive and climb as the student "flew" it. Ironically, most of his first sales were to amusement parks. In 1934, after a series of tragic accidents while flying the air mail, the Army Air Corps bought six Link trainers to assist in training pilots to fly at night and in bad weather relying on instruments.

The paintings of John Sloan (more: I, II) / fashion scans are a big scene, and are pretty good at providing back issue info on the major glossies / rogue semiotics continues its London-centricity with a look at the capital’s dedicated press, or lack of / ephemera now (via Coudal). This whole site is a joy - wagons!.

Two galleries via tmn: go underneath NY with National Geographic, and up in the mountains with terragalleria / I Leica Camera, on the life of Robert Capa (the title paraphrases the infamous short review of Christopher Isherwood’s ‘I am a camera’, of which some wag (variously attributed) wrote the brisk review: Me no Leica)

Huge episode guide to Radio 4's Just a Minute, including, remarkably, transcripts. The BBC are apparently promising to make their entire archive available to the public online, although the format isn't specified. Stroll along to TV Cream to see what this might mean... / music news: Smalltown Supersound are an excellent Norwegian label. I stumbled over Monopot's first album in a bargain bin, where it certainly didn't deserve to be.

Found Art has kindly donated an example of their art to our own projects section: the singing man. Thanks also go to Rubberneck, an experimental music magazine, for sending in this bizarre image of stone pelicans. Background information to come.

An insane flash animation via caterina / Clissold Leisure is a protest blog - when architecture fails the people. Related: Eyesore of the month (via sylloge). We like Kunstler's paintings too. Déjà vu, I think, because I’m sure I’ve said this before. Also related: Russian Utopias, a depository of paper architecture (via me-fi) / Apropos of nothing: the Royal Mail's useless postcode finder website is actually available in a stripped down, entirely free version that no-one tells you about: postcodes on-line

A collection of links from Oldtimey (visit soup du jour of the day): Bardcode -- the works of William Shakespeare in barcode format at Artcontext / Jerz's Literacy Weblog / download this book: Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book! online / gruesome Monty Python merchandise.


Friday, August 22, 2003
This robot dinner guest probably won't faint into his soup / 'Stained Linen', an audio dinner party project by Linda Duvall / many thanks to Borbonesa Publishing, whose delightful package of Turtle Soups 1, 2 and 3 arrived yesterday. A real labour of love / how to cheat at slot machines, via Gizmodo / the Law and Order colouring book, via Liable / a block drop game / a review of Mistress of the House, Rosemary Baird’s book about the origins of interior design / the Max Power generation get a critical kicking in the UK's worst modified cars, via Bifurcated Rivets (and yes, we’d have to agree with you about the Spar Boxes, but they do have a certain unusual charm).

The internet museum of flexible records (which bizarrely omits one of our favourite-ever flexis) / women in spacesuits in TV and film (via Coudal). The motives of the author aside, this is an interesting look at the changing shape and technology of the popular future (related: Where's my space age?. Also related: little Barbarella thumbnails and poster).

Coudal also links to this story on this freshly discovered diary, revealing Salisbury life in the nineteenth century. We'll be spending a few days in twenty-first century Salisbury this weekend, attending Artangel's Imber Concert (more details). Full report next week.

We have a new photo gallery: Corsica I. A very pleasant bank holiday weekend to you all, and apologies in advance for the lack of activity in the next few days.


Thursday, August 21, 2003
Be careful what you wish for. Deadlines have descended, so just a slender post today. To the links. Dramatic images of concrete construction. Related: Concrete Quarterly, for hardcore (ho ho) enthusiasts / demolition!, photography by Paul Ott.

Painting and sculpture at Varo Registry, including Rachel Whiteread, Jessica Stockholder and Barbara Kruger / the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Background info on the museum's forthcoming new building / Good Design in Japan, forty five years of award-winning industrial design / go driving with this graphics demo.

The Gallery of Regrettable Food (thanks Tom). We especially like Jello, and the frightening Jello Book of Surprises.

Save our Short Story (via tmn). We're doing our best! Read 'Adieu Paris' and 'Critical Mass', and we'll have more new fiction soon.


Wednesday, August 20, 2003
New resolution. Don't post so much. The next few weeks promise to be horrifically busy, so the chance to write a small essay each day on this site is no longer on the cards. Instead, to the links. Winged launch vehicles / pencil self-portraits / Asmara, the frozen city / A House for Happiness ("Les Maisons du Bonheur"), 134 mini projects dreamed up by a group of architects and auctioned off for refugee charities. The site is especially neat / Extra Ordinary Every Day, at Harvard's Busch-Reisinger Museum (via metafilter). This online installation relates the objects created at the Bauhaus, as well as the designers, personalities and physical contexts they were originally placed in.

10 Japanese cars you can't have (plus a few you don’t want), at Car and Driver (via Sachs Report) / the sci-fi art of Frank R.Paul, via exclamation mark, via speckled paint. Also, the largest water pistol museum on the internet: Digital waterguns, which came indirectly via our friend iconomy (can you call someone a friend after an email or two?). The etymology of waterguns is as follows: soakers (large, often two-handed affairs), figures (novelty devices with little firepower), handguns (classic size and proportions, only their lurid colouring gives them away) and rayguns (futuristic evocations of tomorrow's water warfare).

More abandoned spaces: jailhouse, via consumptive / the Lochnagar Crater, via Greg (Hellfire Corner is a huge WW1 resource) / galleries of The Big Dig by Andy Ryan / diving history (explained in Brooke Bond picture cards - neat little books like this).

Memo to self: .pif files are not .pdf files. Here's why.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003
An archive of street art stencils, via dublog. Ruavista Magazine, 'Signs of the City', has extended visual essays on urban graphic representation around the world: billboards, graffiti, signage, etc. Visit Cairo, São Paulo and more. Talking of street art, Nissan recently ran a US poster campaign that appeared to be slathered in graffiti (images here, courtesy of Wooster Collective). The 'tagged' URL points to Electricmoyo.com, which is, guess what, a Nissan corporate site dolled up with layers of trendy graphics. Rob Walker's Slate article, 'Nissan's Game of Tag', reveals all: the 'doctored' posters trail an upcoming series of poetry readings and performance, sponsored by Nissan, naturally, as a way of bolstering their brand's underlying 'philosophy'.

Unsurprisingly, one doesn't really learn a lot from the website, either about the readings, or about Nissan. I longed for a nice simple specifications page, or a thirty word summary describing exactly what's going on, and where. Being a brand-building exercise, it doesn’t even seem like there’s a car to sell at all, which is a shame. After all, the presence of the word 'electric' in the URL makes anyone with an interest in automobiles sit up and take note. Vaguely related. Toyota are apparently thinking about building the Lexus concept car that appeared in the film Minority Report. Try out the Lexus Minority Report experience.

More futures. The Boeing 2707 was America's Concorde, an almost forgotten supersonic transport (SST) that went one better than both the original and the Tupolev Tu-144 by being bigger and faster. More information (and many links) on the 2707, the result of a program announced by Kennedy in 1963 and eventually abandoned, like so many things, in the 70s (you could even buy a plastic kit of the design). We're heartened to discover a site called Unreal Aircraft (read their take on the 2707): sections include 'Roadable Aircraft', twin fuselage planes and lost classics (more aviation white elephants). As a special treat, we've scanned our only picture of the Boeing 2707, comparing it with its supersonic siblings. Practically every day I hear Concorde powering over the skies of South London, and reach for my camera in the hope of catching an elegiac image (I'm thinking Wolfgang Tillmans here) before it's gone for good, some time next month. And every time I remember to do this just a few seconds too late.

Design things. We like the Mazellaneous book shelf at Elseware / Butter's Art Vending Machine / Gaffa Design links to various portfolio sites: in-duce, 21 inch, si-ste-ma and nicedotome / Hosenpants, a weblog / Apothecary’s Drawer, a weblog that is right up our street: 'an eclectic look at interesting science, arts, and culture sites' / Dutch firm What Architecture have an elegant site / art projects at Art-e-zine, featuring embroidery, altered books (courtesy of artist Jeanette Janson), personal journals, many pages of vintage images and much, much more. Recommended.

More blackout pics at Gothamist, an excellent photo series by John Wehr and various blackout related things at Gawker (who reminded us of this seminal Times Square panorama). And that’s enough about the blackout.

Several fair trade links: Fair Trade Federation, Subsidies Kill, Make Trade Fair, inspired by KickAAS, Kick All Agricultural Subsidies, a new campaigning weblog launched by the Guardian.

Did we mention the RV revival? A new book looks at Mobile America, and we recommend both this slide show at Slate and our own contribution, Tom Bentley's recent story on the Airstream caravan.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Pretty serendipities, a weblog (via iconomy). This weblog has only been going for a fortnight or so, but posts already include a comprehensive collection of photographic portraits of Frida Kahlo and the links between Modigliani's portraits and those by hip German photographer Loretta Lux. Serendipities provides plenty of examples, even throwing up some Modigliani landscapes we’d never seen before. Recommended.

Cedric Price died last week. An architect whose built legacy amounted to very little, yet who was hugely influential through his writings, schemes and teachings. Price arguably paved the way for high tech: his proposals for a Fun Palace for the Littlewood's entertainment group is a precursor to today's ubiquitous self-contained theme parks, while the megastructural ambitions of the 1965 Thinkbelt Plan (more) in Staffordshire's deprived potteries area is an early version of the so-called 'smart communities' sought by contemporary cities from Malmo to Beijing / more architecture: New York galleries at Hyperkit / digital cities (via Muxway) - browse urban architecture in Serbia, Uzbekistan, Israel and more / Simmons Hall at MIT, Steven Holl's new student residence building.

Being Hunted is a good example of a zine/weblog with higher aspirations. Focusing on locating and displaying things ('dedicated to the sole purpose of providing information'), this publication presents a very urban cabinet of curiosities. The emphasis is on street style, toys, graphics, music and clothing (thanks to absenter for the link). Sort of related: 'What is Real?', behind the scenes at MTV's 'The Real World'. The Merchants of Cool, an old but very comprehensive look at the world of corporate cool-hunting / more weblogs: boynton, vanDerwoning, a weblog with images, curious girl, the photography of Jeff Brouws, via conscientious.

Some unusual Landrovers, apropos of nothing. A while back we were trying to find a link to 6x6 Range Rovers the other day, and no luck. But here it is. Why one would need to add another axle to one of the largest vehicles on the road is beyond me. This led us to Jankel, manufacturers of armoured cars, and the extraordinary 'hawking' Range Rovers (I like their hugely inappropriate techno-soundtracked opening page). There's no direct link, as it's all in screaming flash, but check the hawking vehicles' great 'elevated hunting seats'. Related: history of falconry.

Weird and not so wonderful. This aviator doll has been everywhere, and I bet they’re selling a shed-load / an extraordinary example of a yawning culture gap: Nazi chic in a store in Hong Kong (and, by the way, the oft-told story of the crucified Santa in a Japanese department store is false. Perhaps this is too). Diana Moseley would have loved it / interesting - an executive order that seems to grant total immunity from anything to all those engaged in rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure and oil industry (via the Guardian diary). More info at Seen.org and earthrights / handy, backgrounders, super-dense, hyperlinked reference essays from the Economist.

Die-hard indie devotees should check this comprehensive list of who owns what in the global record industry, courtesy of the British Library's sound archive (related: 'Music sales defy the doomsayers'). Speaking of indies, we can highly recommend Asian Man Records, proudly operating independently out of a garage in California. The BL's sound archive is worth a browse - you can listen to early recordings such as this brown wax cylinder of death crying at Mabuiag, on Australia’s Torres Strait. The record company link came via 99000, who got it from Erase, a London-based music-centric weblog (it's good to see the Shell Centre getting the visual kudos it deserves). Erase has many excellent links, such as the pointer to Simon Reynold's Blissblog, which we'd lost track of, and the astronaut's notepad, another leftfield music weblog.

An empty Kmart is a beautiful thing. Kate Bingaman’s 'Attention Kmart Shoppers: The Closing of a beloved friend' at Core77 is a homage to the joys of late-night shopping: 'Kmart was my corporate sleeping pill.' Love the photos too. Related: empty high school (via consumptive). Also brings to mind Douglas Coupland's latest, Hey Nostradamus!, which is indicative of the ever-narrowing gap between Coupland's novels and his artwork, perhaps uniquely among popular authors. 'Tropical Birds' is the novel's companion piece, a sculptural installation of a school canteen in the immediate aftermath of a massacre. This might sound trite and sensationalist, but when combined with the incessant chirping of lost hope, the effect is ultimately very moving.

A gallery of images at Carter's Original Steam Fair, from Bowblog. See also the 'permanent fairground' at Hollycombe in Hampshire, staffed by a merry band of boiler-suited enthusiasts. More steam engines at the Steam Plough club, the Robey Trust and Old Glory magazine.

The black-out links we didn't post on Friday. Galleries at the Guardian, a weblog at buzzmachine, a 'mo-blog' called Blackout and, best of all, the slower take on things. And read Rosecrans and Melissa's Recipes for a Blackout (and Blackout!) at tmn. In days of old, when the power seemed to go out every couple of weeks, we would make crumpets on the top of our wood-burning stove. That is all.


Friday, August 15, 2003
One of the first things we wanted after hearing and reading about the great New York Blackout is to see how the world of weblogs and photologs will document the event. The BBC has a mild gallery, but their correspondent's description of walking through an eerily dark and silent (but by no means empty) Times Square made us hanker after more photos.

Of course, with the power still out at time of writing, there's not a lot of on the ground reporting making it onto the web. Nonetheless, it says something about the immediacy and familiarity of the weblog format that one thinks of turning to individual people, rather than vast media organisations, to get the low-down on a news story. We'll be checking in with the sites of snap-happy New Yorkers (slower, lightning field, kottke, etc., etc.) later today (update: whoops, we forgot. More on Monday instead).

At the moment, a search for New York Blackout Gallery yields nothing at all. Just wait. Unsurprisingly, there's a lengthy me-fi thread on the black-out, as well as a post linking to the Blackout History Project, with its archive of documentation and reports about North America's two most serious power outages, in 1965 and, most notoriously, in the summer of 1977, described by Time as a 'Night of Terror' (a pdf of a photocopy, by the look of things) and the 'Heart of Darkness' by Newsweek (also appropriately murky).

Elsewhere. Out of Lascaux has posted thoughtfully on two disparate subjects; the new Wonder Woman comic and Caravaggio's Beheading of St.John the Baptist. Some more Wonder Woman, courtesy of sugar-n-spicy. We remember reading somewhere that the early WW comics displayed their creator's penchant for seeing the amazing amazon in, er, tight situations. These scans certainly bear that out. Read a history of the character and creator, Dr. William Moulton Marston, here. Marston was a psychologist who paved the way for the polygraphic lie detector test: most authorities on the comic, and indeed Marston himself, don't deny his fascination with strong women.

"By their comics tastes ye shall know them! Tell me anybody's preference in story strips and I'll tell you his subconscious desires. These simple, highly imaginative picture stories satisfy longings that ordinary daily life thwarts and denies. Superman and the army of male comics characters who resemble him satisfy the simple desire to be stronger and more powerful than anybody else. Wonder Woman satisfies the subconscious, elaborately disguised desire of males to be mastered by a woman who loves them." (from Our Women are our Future, Olive Richard, Family Circle, 14 August 1942)

Earlier that year, Family Circle had asked "Are the comics bad for children?", an early expression of the high level anxiety that eventually led to the introduction of the Comics Code Authority in 1954 (24 years after the Hays Code set similar strictures for the silver screen). Amongst other things, the CEA stipulated that 'The letters of the word "crime" on a comics magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title'. It wasn't good news for Wonder Woman, either. 'Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration or any physical qualities' and 'Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.' Getting in a bind had become a thing of the past: I, II, III, IV

The Journal of Contemporary Photography features solemn, black and white work / cartoon-like graphics and links at Tado / Pulp Magazine, New Zealand design scene / Freshness Mag is sneaker-obsessed, and gives us a good excuse to plug Dave White's upcoming 'Clash of the Titans' exhibition, starting next month at exposure ltd / the warning signs project, with shades of Phil Baines' excellent Public Lettering website. Baines, together with Catherine Dixon, have also just published Signs (Laurence King), an extended essay on typography in the built environment.

An excellent set of links from Caterina (walking stick self-defence is sweeping the web!) - personally, I can't get enough about secret underground tunnel complexes: Chicago Tunnel Company Railroad / Cities in Mexico / The Utility Pole Project, 'research in urban roots communication'.

We have a new review: Tony Wood's musings on Titanic, an exhibition on objects and artefacts salvaged from the great liner. These two images come from Flammarion's new series of pocket-size collectibles books, each beautifully illustrated and less space-consuming than the collections themselves.

click for enlargement

click for enlargement


Today is Good Manners Day, so have a very pleasant weekend.


Thursday, August 14, 2003
A random selection of things found, sought out and stumbled over today. The crash of the Phoenix, the final flight of stunt pilot Paul Mantz, 'King of the Hollywood Pilots,' during the making of Flight of the Phoenix / archidose, a weekly dose of architecture / goodbadart.com, the kind of drawings that end up on the fridge doors of godparents everywhere.

Publications. Small Spiral Notebook, 'a venture into something literary' / The Galactica is an online arts magazine, with photography, music and more (including a link to this beautiful architectural portfolio, K-whaps) / Borbonesa publishing, a small press specialising in artist's books, prints and oddities like turtle soup, which includes a 3" CD (not unlike our issue 15...). Our cheque is in the mail / Ampnet is an angry pop fanzine, translated to your monitor screen / Moorish Girl, a weblog.

Arete is an Oxford-based arts tri-quarterly. Very elegant design - we're surprised not to have seen this before. Poetry, fiction, interviews, reviews and more. Helena Echlin's bitter but eloquent 'Letter from Yale' conveys a vivid sense of her frustration with the (artificially-aged) ivory towers of contemporary academia: 'In a class on The Canterbury Tales, the secondary literature dwarfs the Tales. We are asked to review books on Chaucer, and even review reviews of books on Chaucer. I see an infinite sequence of mirrors into which Chaucer has disappeared.'

Miami-based pastel-pushers Arquitectonica have quite a neat website / more depressing modernist destruction / Luc Deleu's Containers / musings on arts, architecture and more at Shana Ting Lipton's weblog / The Daily Candy, a glossy online tipsheet for fashionistas and more / the Venice Architecture Biennale, a personal gallery by Hugh Pearman.

The swashbuckling world of Rafael Sabatini / We ain’t got no car!, a zine from Portland Oregon / that Van Gogh film footage turns out to have been a hoax - the absence of actual images didn’t help / photos of Nepal from 1994, via Vigna Maru, which also gives us Celtic Twilight, the world of Arthurian Illustrators, and a pdf copy of Andrew Loomis's 1943 book Figure Drawing for all it’s worth (warning, very big file) - handy if you'd like to inject a little authentic retro style into your illustrations / photos of Africa by Juergen Stumpe / own an original, er, booty babe / fun with virtual fireworks, via memepool.

What really happened to Ted Williams. And here's where it happened…


Wednesday, August 13, 2003
At Home with Hitler, words of waldman's scan of the infamous Homes and Garden article from November 1938, when the magazine got a personal tour of Adolf’s little place in the country: 'It is over ten years since Herr Hitler fixed on the site of his one and only home. It had [original italics] to be close to the Austrian border, barely ten miles from Mozart’s own medieval Salzburg.' It certainly makes the 'Curse of Hello! seem a little tame. A little later we read:

The Führer is his own decorator, designer and furnisher, as well as an architect. He is constantly enlarging the place, building on new guest-annexes, and arranging in these his favourite antiques – chiefly German furniture of the eighteenth century, for which agents in Munich are on the look out.

Related: Diana Moseley, widow of Sir Oswald, leader of the British Union of Fascists, has died. Moseley, who lived in virtual exile in Paris, was one of the last surviving direct links to the Third Reich. Unrepentant to the last, she commented in her last interview that 'Hitler was wonderful in his way' and '[if he walked in to this room] I would be delighted to see him.' Moseley was one of the six remarkable Mitford Sisters (although Lyn Barber is typically acerbic about their collected achievements in this review of Mary Lovell's The Mitford Girls): Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Debo.

Of course, Diana wasn’t even the most pro-Nazi of her siblings; that dubious honour went to her sister Unity. This lengthy piece about Jessica ('Decca'), perhaps the most famous (and high achieving) sister, tackles their tragic family history.

Looking for someone to swipe with our light switch or umbrella, we first had to check the legal definition of footpad: 'a thief who preys on pedestrians.' It's a short step to outlaws and highwaymen, a site delving into the stories and folk histories that accompany this shadowy underworld, even spilling out into popular songs. There are fascinating anecdotes and links within, including one to Mysterymag (why, as a cynic, am I drawn to this kind of publication again and again and again?), and the Complete Newgate Calendar, where we learn that our namesake met a nasty end:

At the trial the prisoner exhibited the utmost indifference to his fate, and appeared to entertain no fear for the consequences of his guilt. He maintained his firmness throughout a most feeling address of the learned judge, in which he was sentenced to death, but exhibited some emotion when he was informed that a part of the sentence was that his body should be given over to the surgeons to be dissected.

At half-past eleven o'clock on Monday morning the wretched malefactor ceased to exist, and his body was given to the surgeons of Rochester for dissection.

Elsewhere. The Mostar Bridge is back; the old bridge fell on November 9, 1993. More: I, II / we just missed this exhibition of St Petersburg photographs / a homage to the Jaguar E-Type by Travelers Diagram / you-are-beautiful.com / a mighty test of co-ordination.

Some beautiful photos of smoke at sensitive light, via cup of chica / at home with gadget-king Gizmodo, via gothamist / it's back! the infamous Sound of Hell (see this snopes debunkation, and thanks to Nigel for the link).

How to cross the Uncanny Valley (via Coudal), the tale of a near-as-dammit humanoid robot head / naming your band after an architectural movement is one thing (Bauhaus vs Bauhaus, New Brutalism vs New Brutalism), but after a specific building? Sadly, the mp3s are down at The Barcelona Pavilion's site, so we can't offer up a verdict (but we can heartily recommend the first two). The real (albeit reconstructed) Barcelona Pavilion.

Your dream home from Aladdin - with fine illustrations from the turn of the twentieth century / some very hi-res images of Verner Panton's irrepressible interiors, via NSOP. We like this one (big) / Chrome Waves is currently hosting the Flaming Lips' wonderful version of Neil Young's After the Goldrush. Go get it.


Tuesday, August 12, 2003
'Imagine that you are walking in a lonely part of the country, carrying a light switch or an umbrella, when suddenly a foot-pad bars your way, carrying a stout stick, with which he threatens you.' From Self Defence with a Walking Stick,' originally published in Pearson’s Magazine on 11 (January 1901), 35-44 (via sugar-n-spicy).

Pearson's specialised in proto-science fiction and tales of derring do (publishing, for example, the work of H.G.Wells on a regular basis). The previous year, 1900, Herbert C.Fyfe’s gloomy 'How Will the World End' proposed a number of doomsday scenarios; the earth’s oxygen might soon be exhausted (within 340 years), or giant beasts would suddenly evolve to superiority over man:

Fossil remains of crabs, 6ft. in length, have been discovered, and such enormous creatures might - owing to some cause or other - multiply exceedingly. If we imagine a shark that could raid out upon the land, or a tiger that could take refuge in the sea, we should have a fair suggestion of what a terrible monster a large predatory crab might prove. And, so far as zoological science goes, we must, at least, admit that such a creation is an evolutionary possibility.

Fyfe even mentioned the possibility of a stray comet wiping out the planet. 'In 1832,' he claimed, 'our planet is known to have actually passed through the tails of comets, hut nothing came of it. What would happen if we unfortunately encountered the actual nucleus of one is a question more easily asked than answered.' This was Biela's Comet, which contemporary witnesses observed as having split in two after passing so close to the Earth in 1832. The comet, tailless and misshapen, appeared as expected in 1839 and 1846, before vanishing, confounding astronomers who waited patiently in 1852, 1859 and 1866. Until:

The third period of the perihelion passage had then passed, and nothing had been seen of the missing luminary. But on the night of November 27, 1872, night-watchers were startled by a sudden and a very magnificent display of falling stars or meteors, of which there had been no previous forecast...

But what happened to the tails? This fascinating page suggests that the series of mysterious fires that struck America's north-west on 8 October 1871 were directly attributable to the Biela's wayward tail.

The summer of 1871 had been excessively dry; the moisture seemed to be evaporated out of the air; and on the Sunday above named the atmospheric conditions all through the Northwest were of the most peculiar character. The writer was living at the time in Minnesota, hundreds of miles from the scene of the disasters, and he can never forget the condition of things. There was a parched, combustible, inflammable, furnace-like feeling in the air, that was really alarming. It felt as if there were needed but a match, a spark, to cause a world-wide explosion. It was weird and unnatural. I have never seen nor felt anything like it before or since. Those who experienced it will bear me out in these statements.

At that hour, half past nine o'clock in the evening, at apparently the same moment, at points hundreds of miles apart, in three different States, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois, fires of the most peculiar and devastating kind broke out, so far as we know, by spontaneous combustion.

Most famously of all, this was also the night of the great Chicago Fire. Did a comet cause the Chicago conflagration? Academics, unsurprisingly, doubt it. In 1908, however, it was a different matter. Something definitely impacted in Tungasaka, Siberia. Was this a comet strike? I hadn't appreciated that the first expedition to the site only got there 30 years later, yet the devastation was plain to see.

Elsewhere. sugar-n-spicy also sends us scurrying to the historic photo gallery of the United States Department of Agriculture. Most of the imagery was taken between 1937 and 1943. We recommend: machinery, transportation and landscapes (e.g. 'Buried machinery in barn lot,' from 1936) / BMW, chuffed to bits with the success of the new MINI, is chucking around cease and desist letters at online fans who share its enthusiasm / Harry Potter and the Cover Artists, over at Felix Salmon. Related: Coudal has the low-down on the HP fakes and international editions.

Crooked Timber is a new collaborative weblog, which gives us the agony of the tube, and info about Patrick Crozier’s (unusual name?) excellent transport blog, which in turn has interesting thoughts on London's congestion charging. It makes depressing reading. TFL might not be doing everything right, but their mapping is a joy to behold.

Music things. Other people's lists are always fascinating, though like Desert Island Discs, they're also an excuse to be as willfully obscure as possible. We'll be visiting Dusted Magazine again / we thought that drones, samples, clicks and throbbing guitars went out with the 90s, until we discovered the joys of the Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element - who take us back to the heady days of Main (more) and the lovely Loop. Endless smiles / a neat portable record player at Gizmodo / more death of music blather: apparently, profit margins on the ringtone of a new song will soon be higher than those on the CD version.

Thanks to Blurbism for this NPR story on the Tricolor saga / If I was on the same continent as the Walker Art Center I would be beating a door to their exhibition Strangely Familiar. However, full disclosure requires us to state that I did contribute one of the catalogue essays...


Monday, August 11, 2003
Imagery links. The photorealism of 1968, via Gospelmarks / still clever: the Aphex Twin's hidden imagery / Caterina posts a fascinating series of links about photo-retouching. One assumes that the retouchees never know the full extent of the changes, and subsequently buy in to the levels of 'perfection' that are achieved? This sure beats anti-wrinkle cream. No-one really appreciates how widespread photo-retouching is, in all fields. This architectural image, complete with 'how-to' images, tidies up irritating things like stray cables, switches, dirty skirtings, etc. When you see something flawless, you can be sure it's not really what it seems.

Further to our post a few days ago, here are some great images of the raising of the Tricolor - this is especially remarkable (see also the Guardian's flash guide to the salvage operation). The process seems analogous to Richard Wilson’s 'A Slice of Reality', first installed outside the Millennium Dome (is the sculpture still there?), a 70 foot cross-section of The Trent (related: read Charles Barclay's 'Metallurgy and Metamorphosis, all about Wilson's most recent installation at the Wapping Project).

Grow A Brain gives us this selection of 'eclectic links about the California Recall Election 2003'. Related: the list of candidates - some 500 political wannabes (we do love this photo). Still with politics, Politics & Science is a depressing collection of President Bush's 'promotion of ideology over science'.

A term we learned at the weekend: 'simulated occupancy', or using computer-controlled lighting, curtains, etc., to mimic your daily household routine when you’re away on holiday. A sort of glorified timer switch, and something which will inevitably become ubiquitous. We have video recorders and Tivos to watch TV for us - soon the TV set will turn on by itself to watch programmes, regardless of whether anyone's there or not / Boynton is a weblog worth reading / make your own deconstructionist composition (flash, via memepool).

'Here kitty, kitty,' from last week's Guardian science section, asks whether evolution has hard-wired us to perceive large, unknown animals as big cats, a survival mechanism that has succeeded instead in creating a contemporary urban myth (see the Surrey Puma, etc.). Visit the British Big Cats Society for straight upbelief and the other side of the argument. Related (sort of): a virtual cat (flash, via memepool).

The big cat article also brought us to the Journal of Memetics, a publication concerned with 'evolutionary models of information transmission'. The first article we tried was 'Darwinian Processes and Memes in Architecture: A Memetic Theory of Modernism'. This is interesting stuff. The authors posit that modernist architecture is a so-called 'parasitic' meme - an evolutionary dead-end that has survived thanks to its cultural dominance (in fashion and style, etc.), rather than any practical reasons. The minimal, low-information content of modern architecture was better-suited to its propogation as a meme, and the negative connotations that were associated with its stylistic forerunners (classical styles) also placed modernism on a pedestal (poor choice of words there). Quick, someone tell Prince Charles. But before you do, though, consider that this is a very flawed argument.

For a start, the piece begins with the fundamental premise that modern architecture is always and inherently unsuitable and unresponsive for human needs, unlike classic and nineteenth century styles. More sweeping statements are made: 'Early modernists set up standards for minimal dwellings that had little relation with the living needs of real human beings, and incredibly, most of them are still applied today.' It is asserted that modernism derived its visual language from the 'forbidding, hostile exterior[s]' of military architecture (forgetting, perhaps, that fortification and siegecraft has a history that pre-dates even classical styles of architecture, and that the 'romance' of the so-called hostile environment obsessed architects both in the pre-modernist era and beyond - see, for example, Carcassone).

But that's not all. The authors claim that Darwinian selection is easily over-ridden by a dominant visual aesthetic - that the evolutionary nature of design (the adaptive process) was discarded in favour of the emotive power of modernism's strictly rational, and anti-human, aesthetic. Their example is confused: Le Corbusier's transposition of a 'crab shell' into the Pilgrimage Chapel at Ronchamp (a rather simplistic description of the building's genesis, but never mind) apparently fails, because 'a crab shell is beautifully adapted to house a crab, but not for its magnified shape to house human beings wishing to worship in a church.' Ronchamp's shape is inherently irrational, representative of Corb's late expressionist period, without a straight line to be seen, and hardly a good example of rationalism's dominance.

The analysis continues, infuriatingly. By suggesting that '[m]odernism was very successful at convincing people to forgo sensual pleasure from built forms, as minimal surfaces and spaces offer less visual stimulation than human neurophysiology is built to handle,' the authors impose their own aesthetic prejudices, unwilling or unable to acknowledge that the memetic factors of 'simplicity, novelty, utility and formality' (all of which are dismissed almost as confidence tricks on the part of architects) might, conceivably, have arisen from society's evolving requirements: factors such as the need for sanitation and privacy, the end of domestic service, the rise of the automobile.

No-one denies that modernist architecture has failings - many of which are quite severe. But by positing that the entire modern movement is the result of a dominant political ideology, and nothing more, the authors do architectural history a disservice. The idea that modernism's (apparently questionable) benefits ('social equality and housing opportunities for all') are memetic 'encapsulations' that rebuff any criticism could also be applied to classicism, or any other architectural 'style'. The piece also denies that modernism's origins were, in any way, derived from preceding styles (in the traditional evolutionary manner), making it a parasitic cuckoo in architecture's evolutionary nest.

The dominance of modernism could very well be attributed to its success as a meme, but might not the same be said of classicism? After all, the orders of classic architecture, the placement and type of decoration, etc., are loaded with cultural symbolism, symbols that are arguably the very 'encapsulations' that are so effective at meme propogation.


Friday, August 08, 2003
All aboard the Normandie, the original 'ship of light' and one of the grandest liners that ever sailed. See also Ships of State, both sites via the daily jive. The latter site has an article entitled 'The Windsors are Aboard', which chronicles Mrs Simpson and the former Edward VIII's penchant for continent-hopping (between numerous European residences and an apartment spanning an entire floor at the Waldorf Towers) on the latest liners of the day, accompanied by 'up to 150 pieces of monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage.'

Once ensconced in the suite Wallis would oversee the redecorations. United States Lines sheets and towels were replaced with hand made Porthault linens embroidered with the Windsor's crested monogram. Wallis was so fond of these linens, she sent her maid across enemy lines to retrieve them from their Paris home at the onset of World War II. Specially made crested and monogrammed curtains went over the portholes. [Interior designer] Elsie De Wolfe professed, every room should have a bit of animal skin so, Wallis threw down a few leopard rugs and added a couple of delicate antique tables which traveled in their own specially fitted trunks.

Nick loves spiders / antiquity under threat: 'Berlusconi accused of rigging approval for Venice motorway,' which will unfortunately plough past a few of Palladio's crumbling villas / modernism under threat: Noah's Boathouse, an early design by Colin Lucas (see also the ongoing saga of Connell, Ward and Lucas's Greenside) / the Unbearable Heaviness of Industry, a collection of stunning imagery of China's hyperactive industrial revolution / the 26 things observed by Satan's Laundromat / historical UFOs? Call Erich von Daniken (or, better still, visit the Mystery Park).

The backfiring van photo horror gallery (and discussion). In the UK, backfiring cars are the closest we get to gunshots: perhaps I’ve heard one or two gunshots in my time, but have always dismissed them as back-fires. This stunt probably wouldn't be so amusing in places where guns are more prevalent. Also, we're guessing these pictures were taken 15 to 20 years ago as well, judging by the fashions on display - try explaining why you have a remote camera set-up in the back of your white van today (via tmn, which also features this gallery of ASCII music videos). Staying with mobile photography: the Camera Van (related: Wired article, me-fi discussion). 'Irving composes his images by driving closer to or farther away from his subjects and stands inside the camera to make the images'.

Become a Google voyeur, a neat little programming trick that looks for online images still bearing the filename automatically generated by the digital camera that took them / the BBC's book of the future – a vision of the world in 2020 / private presses in the UK / a gallery of Post-It note art, mostly doodles (as you’d expect), but this one is nice. Related, the Starbucks notepad project.

Some depressing stats culled from The Car Connection - Americans spend an average of around 450 hours a year in their cars (twice as long as Europeans). Yet Europeans lose more time to traffic jams, 60 hours a year compared to American's 37 (and 105 in Japan!). Even more depressing, this thread brings together several links on black box recordings, last words, lucky escapes and tragic ends. The transcripts are almost unbearable. A good excuse for us to link to Douglas Coupland's 'Worst-case Scenario' from things 10.


Thursday, August 07, 2003
Escape Rail, a gallery of fire escapes (via Coudal, who also dole out this slice of Beatles-related weirdness: the mysterious case of Paul McCartney’s double). There just isn't such visual diversity of fire escapes here in the UK - their impact on urban architecture is negligible in comparison to the US. Perhaps because there haven't been any catastrophic modern era fires like the one in Chicago in 1871 (visit this site for memories and images of the Great Chicago Fire, including ruin galleries). The fire escape ladder was patented in 1878 by one Joseph Winters.

A quick look around throws up this History of Fire Safety Legislation. William the Conquerer's edict that fire's be extinguished at night, for safety reasons, led to the invention of the fire cover, or 'cuevrefeu', which gives us the contemporary 'curfew'. Another nugget: timber chimneys weren't banned until 1400. Naturally, it was London's Great Fire of 1666 that drove legislation forward. Related: why are dalmatians considered firehouse dogs?.

An index of famous curves, via Ramage, via Incoming Signals / classic plastic soldier ethnology, complete with battle tactics / endess galleries and other photography links at esthet, which we haven't visited for a while / AOLiza stalks the instant messenger boards, looking for people to engage in random, pointless conversation (related: Anyone home? by Leena Krohn).

A natural link for us: sh1ft's 26 things, 'the international photographic scavenger hunt' - over 400 galleries of personal interpretations of the world / more photography links at eye-imagine, a new weblog. There's a welcome obsession with miniature cameras, including links to the book Spy Camera and the International Spy Museum, with this somewhat unbelievable image of a photo pigeon. King of all miniature cameras has to be the German company Minox, who make a seductive series of scaled-down reproductions of classic cameras.


Wednesday, August 06, 2003
We're seduced by Montreal's Maisonneuve Magazine, subtitled 'eclectic curiosity', which bills itself as the 'new New Yorker of the younger generation'. As well as looking good, there are articles on all sorts of pertinent, things-like topics. We especially liked Natalie Alvarez's Are you for real?, which tracks the rise of stealth and viral marketing and the role of the 'brand leaner'. The article mentions Big Fat, a company which claims to specialise in 'Real Life Product Placement,' - 'in other words... we infuse brands into the target's life without disrupting their everyday, normal behaviour.' They also claim to be 'more play dough than Plato,' a not-so-subtle allusion to Alvarez's horrified realisation that Big Fat's methods - infusing their clients into everyday scenarios - might, conceivably, be the rule, rather than the exception.

This is Truman Show stuff, the desire for authenticity in an artificial world, and the consequent creation of faux 'authenticity' to exploit our desire for some kind of physical and psychic truth. Alvarez also references the Histriomastix, William Prynne's vast 1632 tome that embodied the Puritan worldview by decrying the 'debased' world of the theatre, published at a time when women were making their first, tentative, steps on the stage (and dismissed as 'notorious whores'). Is a new Puritanism our only escape from a world without authenticity?

The concept of the performance without boundaries, or the paratheatrical, brings to light the frightening possibility that human beings might be other than what they present themselves to be, that the eye might not be continuous with the soul-jeopardizing trust and challenging any confident appeals to truth. The health of the state and safety of the social order vitally depend on a limitation of the paratheatrical. These Puritans were threatened by the seemingly limitless possibilities that the idea of the actor implies - leading to a dystopian vision of the future quite similar to that of Big Fat's critics.

Elsewhere. We had high hopes for Labels at the Edge of Obscurity - potentially hours of fun for indie rock obscurists - but every single link is broken! At least it gives you something to search for / big black cloud / the aerial photography of Jason Hawkes / a gallery of covers for the CIA World Factbook (actual Factbook link), via dublog. It's a shame that the Factbook didn't start back in the 50s or 60s, back when designers with buzz-cuts and short sleeve shirts knew how to project national strength, virtue and sheer righteousness through graphic design, dammit. As it is, most of these look like knock-offs from various science picture libraries.

Three good things at Sachs Report: the Boombox Museum, chronicling the rise and fall of the ultimate portable hi-fi (we especially want a Casio KX-101 or a CK-200). In fact, we still have one of these - a treasured gift some 21 years ago. (more boomboxes. more magical gadgets). Also related: the LED museum, all you ever wanted to know about light emitting diodes.

Also at Sachs, the world of Vinyl Video, and a gallery of Japanese vending machines. Staying with technology, new and old – diaphanous projection screens made of fog / prototype bicycle-driven machines at Pedal Power / chill out at H.R.Giger's new Giger Bar (if you're the type of person that can relax in the belly of a giant alien beast, that is), via Gravity Lens / does an old Belgium movie show the real Van Gogh? Does Salon mention a website that is impossible to find? Not sure to both of those questions.

Light Trap is a photography portfolio site, including the architectural/abstract images of Tom and Matt Buttrick and, best of all, Neil Gardiner's photographic essays on contemporary brightwork, a much-debased artform, and signage. We also like Tanya Clarke's neat homepage.

Explore custom pre-fabricated homes at New York's Resolution: 4 Architecture / buy products adorned with Pulp Art / hot rod art by our namesake at Ole Heap / angry robots by Christian Ristow.

Apologies for today's late posting. Blame the weather for the go-slow. A little bit more about the last two photolog images (1 and 2). The abandoned asbestos (actually the asbestos-like amianthus, or 'earth flax') mine at Navari, Cap Corse, closed in the mid 1960s. The spoil from the mine destroyed the nearby coast (the beach at nearby Nonza, coloured grey by the pollution, is still shut) and devasted the health of many who worked there (culled from the Rough Guide. More info mining history, in French (pdf), and this pdf with images of the environmental impact of mining).


Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Medical-related artworks by Laura Splan (via two-zero). From here we get to the work of Gail Wight. Many intriguing projects here, such as the Cabinet of Curiosities ('meditations on evolution') and Spike, a brief history of the experiments and explorers who decoded the cells, nerves and electrical impulses that make up our brain. It's full of endlessly fascinating trivia: 'In Germany, Dr. A. Bayer synthesizes barbituric acid, naming it after a friend called "Barbara." Its derivatives, used in medicine as sedatives and hypnotics, will include the first sleeping drug, "barbital."' (and, presumably, Barbiturates)

I once saw grim footage of this particular 'experiment' - the public electrocution of an aggressive elephant at Coney Island's Luna Park (last link needs Quicktime). I'd forgotten it was a publicity stunt designed to promote Edison’s preferred (and ultimately doomed) electrical current system (the original plan was to hang the elephant). There was even a recent competition to design a memorial for Topsy, the tragic pachyderm in question.

We found out more about Topsy's plight at Roadside America's Elephant's Graveyard, eleven tales of 'America's dead, misunderstood titans'. There are some seriously tragic ends: Jumbo was hit by a freight train; Thirsty Mary was shot to death; Norma was struck by lightning. Perhaps most terrible of all is the tale of Big Mary, hung from a crane (how do you hang an elephant? Oh. Ugh). These tales would make a great, but gruesome, children’s book.

'Living here is like an itch,' an author's thoughts on St Petersburg. Ingrid Bengis, author of Metro Stop Dostoevsky describes her adopted city as a place without destiny or purpose, a city of catastroika ('catastroika - a sign of a complete catastrophe', from this article on the failure of perestroika and, gulp, the need for evangelical missions in post-Soviet Russia). Meanwhile, the caryatids and atlantes just watch, waiting.

Related. Russia's prison tattoos, a fascinating article by David Johnson about Prisoner's Tattoos, a book by former guard Danzig Baldayev. Originally published by Limbus Press in St Petersburg, the book is shortly to be re-issued by, I think, Scalo in Germany. (Limbus also has a couple of St Petersburg/Leningrad galleries: the city during World War II and in the Seventies). Baldayev's obsessive work was carried out against a background of a huge prison population and high levels of crime (indeed, his publisher is even quoted as saying: 'After 50 years, what we're hearing and seeing now will be forgotten. In general, the level of criminalization of society will fall, and this book will be a monument to a culture that has passed.') Baldayev's work is truly a 'dictionary' - these marks are all part of an elaborate language of power. 'A prisoner who has a tattoo of a cat smoking a pipe is a successful thief, Baldayev says. A snarling tiger or wolf means the thief is particularly powerful. A murderer might have a tattoo of a warrior in armor standing on severed heads or a tattoo of a sword piercing a skull.'

Elsewhere. The Foolscap Press produces large, lavish-looking illustrated books. We would like to actually hold one. They also have a useful collection of Artist's Book dealers worldwide / Courageous Ace is one of the world's largest car supercarriers, capable of hauling 6,400 cars across the globe at a time. Launched by the Mitsui O.S.K Lines, it leads us into the world of bulk carriers, where you get whole ships devoted to wood chips, of all things. Bulk-carrying cars has a big advantage - the cargo is self-propelling, so it can haul itself on and off the boat. Related: two images (I, II) of the Tricolor, which took a load of Volvo XC90s to a very watery grave back in December. The salvage operation even has its own website, TricolorSalvage.com.

The tale of the first computer virus, at waxy / chunky, wacky watches from Japan at Tokyoflash / an elegy for the Beetle (one of presumably thousands), via scrubbles (one more Beetle link at the BBC) / Nasty, 'academia at its brattiest', with articles like Jennifer Garrison's Kissing Dementors: Fear and Social Discipline in the Harry Potter Novels'.


Monday, August 04, 2003
We have been contacted by someone eager to sell us 'Silent Domolition Agent' (sic), also known as 'soundless creaking agent'. It sounds rather amazing. From the instructions: 'Please stir a kind of cement powder matter with water, pour it a hole in rock or concrete. After a moment, rock and concrete will rend themselves.' Makes a change from endless viagra spam.

We are honoured to be making our first contribution to the Mirror Project - a wing mirror shot / yet more pin-ups / online wedding lists are now commonplace, as are picture galleries of past ceremonies, but this just strikes us as extremely over the top / found in the depths of our links file, with no accompanying documentation: e-com.con.com - it's looks like a pseudo-hacked corporate site. Was this for a movie tie-in? We're baffled. Why did we even clip it in the first place?

The earth as art via raccoon / extraordinary web design at Frosch-Studio. If one was a potential client, wouldn't a hugely detailed and lavish flash promotional site make you nervous? Doesn't it imply that the studio doesn't have much to do except play with their website? / end laundry basket confusion (and save a bunch on handmade Danish quality socks - is there any other kind?) with 10 socks, via diminished responsibility.

The Bat Guano galleries of nuclear weapons testing / vaguely related, a review of 24 at Sight and Sound. We're backed up with video tapes here, a month or so behind the UK, let alone the US, so we can't read it just yet / overmorgen, a highly worthwhile weblog / Colombia-based Jorge Retrepo's excellent wonksite is worth visiting for its black and white photos of cars and trains / Pastense, commercial quality 1950s retro furnishings. We'd prefer the real thing, though, as this stuff smacks too much of sticky-floored fast food joints and inappropriately dressed waitresses / Pierre di Scullio's Qui Resiste catalogues the author's various hand-printed publications, as well as fonts and links / more fonts at the beautiful fountain.

The world of Raymond Scott, (unwitting) composer of madcap cartoon melodies and pioneer of electronic music (with his own invention, the Electronium). The site contains sounds too. He also worked with a young Robert Moog (more on Moog: I, II, III). Contemporary musical instruments rarely have personalities - in fact, they spend most of their time imitating old musical instruments (like this Flextone amplifier, or this huge collection of digital drum machine resources). One could argue that people who take the time to build their own instruments (like the awesome New Brutalism) have an edge on those who don't, those for whom a guitar, keyboard or drum machine is just another tool, and not a thing with character.

Historic sites on the web. An old online gallery of the work of Julius Shulman / old collection of flash experiments at surface.yugop - not a lot has happened here for a while / also old: jjg.net's collection of weblog links - the state of the online world in October 2000 / missing in action: List Magazine.


Friday, August 01, 2003
'The Magic Circles' is Paul Morley’s elegy for the vanishing 7” vinyl single. Will music soon cease to be associated with physical objects? Morley calls the iPod 'at once a nail in the coffin and some kind of saviour, … an object that seems beautiful enough to honour the history of the popular song as a vast and varied art form, and to be the futuristic replacement to the vinyl single.' It might be beautiful, but as a result 'the physical presence of the popular song is gone.' He concludes (with shades of the KLF ):

At the end of the journey, I say to Kylie, or Kylie says to me: "Some day music will only be air. There will be no objects to hold or fetishise, and people will simply collect lists. No disc, nothing spooled or grooved, no heads to clean, no dust to wipe, no compulsive alphabetising. Nothing to put away in shoeboxes or spare cupboards, and be embarrassed about. A chip inside us and inside the chip a route to all the music that there ever was, which we can compile and organise and reorganise and reorganise and merge with and feel into and in whatever way possible find the time to listen to, and we'll need the time, all the time that music finds the time to press into.

More scattered links. We like the Glasses Project at Miss Ashley: 'an experiment in repetition and the effects of americana on strangers in the supermarket' (the object gallery is also beautiful) / more photos at absenter / Japanese apartment buildings are seriously austere / very clever '3D' gif gallery.

The official site for Roobarb and Custard - keep re-loading to hear the intoxicating theme tune again and again / after the American Gallery of Psychiatric Art, we now have the Japanese gallery of Psychiatric Art (via geisha asobi) / modern living, neat, strangely futile flash animations / handy: how to catch a magic bullet / Wandsworth Borough council has equipped its registery office with two wedding cams / Steam Powered will do clever things like give you free games (Half Life included, apparently) if you install it.

In stark contrast to yesterday’s shiny stainless steel Jacob Jensen-designed B&O pieces, here are some vintage phonographs at Old Crank (via Fiendish is the word) / apropos of absolutely nothing. What makes the new MINI supremely great is all down to its Germanic design and engineering – qualities the country has long since excelled at. Sadly, what makes it supremely irritating its wholly British image and advertising campaign, highlighting how Britain excels at vapid creativity, rather than manufacturing.

Archive of imagery and recollections about recorded migration into the UK (via BBC) / Purse Lip Square Jaw, a weblog / all sorts of contemporary debris at monochrom, e.g errors / the pin-up art of Gil Elvgren / Josep Lluis Sert's Fundació Miró, Barcelona (related: more Barcelona and Miro) / Mastication is normal has kindly offered to judge books by their covers - i.e. how to approach the same subject from different angles, and the subversion of the designer's trade ('this cover is nothing short of perfect'). We'd also recommend occasional things contributor Alan Powers’ book Front Cover, and his forthcoming Children's Book Covers for dust-jacket junkies.

The story of rabbits in Western Australia, a companion piece, one might say, to Danielle Olsen’s Dividing Australia.