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weblog archives
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Friday, September 24, 2004
Ciabatta cities: there are some extremely good points here about the buzzword-centric planning system in the UK. We are constantly being hectored about the need for so-called 'sustainable communities,' a phrase that, like the best political rhetoric, is utterly unchallengable. Which party could stand up in the Commons and say, actually, no, what we need are communities which can't sustain themselves? It's like being in favour of wet rain, or breathable air, or edible food, a bland statement that challenges nothing and encourages no-one to do anything but nod in assent.

But as Glancey points out, the structures that should be underpinning these proposed model communities of the future are, in reality, being slowly and deliberately undermined. He cites the example of the Post Office, a once proud institution which formed the centre of hundreds of small communities up and down the country, with a network of employees who were uniformed, efficient and actually popular.

No more. Today's postal system is a shoddy excuse for a service, a truly depressed institution that feels burnt out and teetering on total system failure. things often works in central London, practically in the shadow of what was once the Post Office Tower. Yet since we've been there, two nearby offices have closed, trebling the queues in the remaining one. And this is slap bang in the centre of town. More importantly, the rural post office is slowly being snuffed out, fragmenting and dispersing small, self-sufficient communities.

It's not as if this is something that's just crept up on us. People have been pointing out how important such macro-level social structures are for years and years. Forget fox hunting as social glue (a rather dubious contention) - the real reason communities, whether rural or urban, will be alienated is when they wake up and realise that 'sustainability' was, sadly, one of the biggest smoke and mirrors concepts of the modern era.

Other things. The story of the phantom cosmonauts, 'never acknowledged by the Soviet Union. Most were said to have died in space. One allegedly was the first man in orbit and survived' at the Encyclopedia Astronautica. Among them is one Ivan Istochnikov, the subject of an art happening by Joan Fontcuberta that had many people fooled.

Lambretta diagrams / that old futurist chestnut, the flying car, gets wheeled (?) out once again / Compass, visual search the collections of the British Museum / jump into a Mini. Spread ad meme around the web / vast history of the Transformers (the robots in disguise).

Locard's Principle: "There is no such thing as a clean contact between two objects. When two bodies or objects come into contact, they mutually contaminate each other with minute fragments of material." The basis of forensic anthropology. Related, the history of fingerprints

The Religious Policeman, a weblog from Saudi Arabia / a useful piece on contemporary news values by Andrew Marr / Citroen of the Month is a fine name for a feature, at Usounds / The Witness Exchange, an mp3 weblog / mechanical Pong, as seen everywhere.

The Online Guide to Whistling Records, via Basic Hip, who also hosts the classic Vertigo Then and Now page / the Found Slide Foundation, re-uniting lost slides with their owners.

The Soviet Gulag Era in Pictures, 1927-1953 (via Plep) / Henry Bursill's 1859 book Hand Shadows To Be Thrown Upon The Wall (via Exclamation Mark, via wherethreadscomeloose) / now this is really creepy.