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Friday, July 09, 2004
The stuff industry. An interesting review (by Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler) of Madeline Bunting’s Willing Slaves ('How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives') in last week's Guardian. One of Bunting's observations is that consumer desire has replaced religion as the great controlling power in our lives. Back in the era of the workhouse, when the twelve hour day was a blessing, hard work was deemed a moral duty: "God was a sort of über-boss, or "overlooker", in the jargon of the time". But in our secular age, all-consuming desire for things has replaced spiritual salvation as the great unrequited love affair of the people. The world works damn hard because everyone wants stuff, or better stuff than they already have.

We're obsessed with things too, I guess (and, by extension, stuff). After all, that's what this weblog / magazine is supposed to be all about. But it increasingly feels like there's too much stuff to deal with, a mountain of objects to seduce us, be they small and seductively silvery, built by huge teams of white-coated technicians in spotless, far-off laboratories, or limited-edition monographs slaved over by introverted graphic designers from obscure European towns. The consumer society has fractured into a thousand shards, each one containing a microcosm of desires, created and somehow sustained.

The internet is a repository of our memories and expectations of these things, but because it's not a 'thing' in itself we have a different reaction to it than, say, a high street window display. Each day, representations of hundreds, if not thousands, of objects flash up before us as we go about our journeys on the web, checking up on familiar places, taking diversions to new destinations, looking for novelty and inspiration (and occasionally doing some work). The million-odd pixels in our monitor shift and blink, re-arranging themselves in milliseconds to depict something else, again and again, objects reduced to representations, images that somehow still have an emotional impact.

How did we ever manage without this mass collective memory of objects? More and more, the past finds itself leaking into the digital realm, the physical slipping away into 1s and 0s as scanners whirr through their never-ending task. Can these virtual representations ever be a subsitution for real things? Do they serve to stimulate desire, or contain it? Can a website replace a book, or a gallery replace a stamp collection? Are they even comparable?

Elsewhere. Things, as usual. Images of Titan and Saturn / almost painterly cityscapes by photographer Vincenzo Castella. New York views by Helen Levitt in Crosstown / Taprats, 'computer-generated Islamic Star Patterns'. More on Islamic pattern.

More forms at designer Patrick Sundqvist's Supershapes. He also takes beautiful photographs / Motel Moderne / Tintin and Censorship in Iran / Types of Divination / music reviews and downloads at Fluxblog / if you've ever wanted to sample Singaporean Mincecore, Swedish deathgrind, Swiss grindcore and more, then my last chapter is the place for you / I am Spartacus (mp3).

The vOICe, which we mention occasionally: converting pictures into sound / Jeeves IQ, compare and contrast with Google Zeitgeist. Interesting how neither Spiderman 2 or Kirsten Dunst get a look in at Ask Jeeves / a pictorial history of the Apple Desktop Interface, 1979 - 2000. A pity it jumps from 1984 all the way to 2000.