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Friday, July 30, 2004
Angie McKaig offers assorted sweets and musings on digital culture. This link, Designing Games for the Wage Slave, reveals the gaming industry's big paradox; huge complexity is possible, but the time available to actually play games is decreasing. The trade-off is that complexity and realism equate to a more immersive experience: more detail makes for better games.

But just how complicated do you want your games to be? (special offer: we'll send a free set of discs for Republic: The Revolution to the next things pre-order received - that game looked so complex that I didn't even bother to install it...). The next in the series of Grand Theft Auto games, San Andreas, will apparently add virtual fast food to the gaming world. Your character (does anyone still say avatar?) will get gradually weaker unless you pay heed to a hunger meter. Conversely, eat too much, and you'll sweat and stumble around the landscape. For now, this feature is being treated as marketing spin, rather than a significant advance in the immersive qualities of the gaming world.

With the developer currently under fire for the alleged links between their game Manhunt (which to be honest, looks horrid), it's time to re-visit that old chestnut - can video games influence social behaviour? The emphasis on violence is a distraction, as, thankfully, it seems that only a minority are predicated towards violent acts in the first place. Perhaps when more mundane - yet quantifiable - behaviour is simulated, such as eating lots of burgers, clear links will emerge between real and virtual worlds. For example, will there be an 'epidemic of obesity' in the world of GTA?

Back to real world concerns. The European Assistant for Energy Efficient Architecture - lots of examples under 'buildings' / a different type of green architecture: Kudzu-covered houses / the Recent Past Preservation Network. Their 'Windshield Survey' is a snapshot of architectural optimism. More at modern Phoenix / Battle of the Bugs, a 1987 Newsweek story from the peak of the Cold War about information theft.

Electricity Pylons Around the World (via Coudal) / feeling inadequate? fearful of surgery? you need The Bulge, apparently / not related. pop-up and movable books, via iconomy's metafilter post / linked just about everywhere in the last few days, but Transportation Futuristics ('Visionary Designs in Transportation Engineering') is a fine little site - exactly what you'd want from this kind of exhibition. (found via gizmodo, K-ho and more) / great mash-ups: Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots at Klepshimi.


Thursday, July 29, 2004
We're winding down for an August break, so links are thin on the ground and thinking is getting fuzzier... also stand by for an announcement about the latest issue / take a virtual tour of a typical London house / images of the Farnsworth House from 37 signals / the Bionic Dolphin. Move over Tintin / nice animation / we can highly recommend the collected letters of Gary Benchley, rock star / Philipp's weblog, Google logoscoped, focuses on developments in search engines and browsers, and related projects like the Googlehouse.

Save the Routemaster is a romantic but ultimately doomed cause. Each time I ride one of these buses, I wonder if it's for the last time. Some more details in this slightly infuriating article by Andrew Gilligan (he of Hutton notoriety, re-invented as an Associated Newspapers columnist). It includes this misguided quote from Peter Hendy, TfL's 'director of surface transport': "We've got a bloody museum out there. Nobody drives to work in a Morris Minor because it's a design classic." Surely, surely, there are plenty of people out there who do exactly that? Dan Hill also tracks the issue in Routemaster RIP, and makes a good point about why no-one has done the seemingly obvious thing and come up with a retro-styled version. Early Routemaster concepts do exist, but bubbly, fresh, retro-inspired designs are a bit thin on the ground. I recall the occasional student project (of which this one, by Blake Cotterill at Coventry's excellent MA course in 2003, is the only one I can find online). You'd have thought that the combination of curves, form and cultural memories would be a dream for designers.

Industrial Night and Magic is the mighty impressive site of Haiko Hebig. Check these ads from the American steel and coal in industry in 1966 as well as Hebig's own images (such as the Zollverein series) / identify this mystery bus (how can a bus be a mystery?) / With Louis, film and photo.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004
TVR, one of the last remaining British car companies, is bought by a 24-year old Russian banker. One suspects the jingoistic motoring press will have something to say about this / Coke ad or Scientology handbook? More images can be found here, at the inestimable Cup of Chica. Thanks to the excellent 0lll for the link.

A fresh take on the 101 things to do list, courtesy of Last Plane to Jakarta / Rodcorp, 'art, architecture, books, maps; how teams and systems work; politics; mobile world', including experiments in using the tube as an artistic tool / T-shirt underwear, via this ask me-fi thread.

Panoramas and more at explore London / Supermarketing, ads from the comic books / the Dialog Table, the future of interfaces? / href="http://cmart.design.ru/">spooky illustration (flash) / The Payphone Project, 'stories, pictures, phone numbers and news from payphones and public telephony' and mainly concerned these days with the gradual disappearance of payphones from our streets (doomed by the likes of the lonely box in Shrewsbury that was used once in a year).


Tuesday, July 27, 2004
A trip into the heart of St Pancras chambers. Was this huge hotel/office part of a ‘network ahead of its time?’ (an idea explored in the book The Victorian Internet - and very amusing satirised here). Only later did the powers that be come up with the idea that control could be ‘done centrally and only the tweaking delegated’. There’s an interesting aside in this Guardian piece on homophobia in former British colonies – how it could be seen to be a legacy of colonial rule. ‘Indeed, it is clear the British had an off-the-peg penal code, since in Malaysia the same law [forbidding "sexual acts against the order of nature”] is also called Section 377, [as in Jamaica]’

Short cuts today. Project Button, via Russell Davies (check his images of the Cafe Riviera, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, part of an ongoing road trip around the UK's extremities) / love this / urinal.net. Yes, it really is about urinals / frightening: permanent make-up at kissability (via cheesedip) / Australia in its infancy: photographs from the Hume Family Collection.

19 on paper, art and etchings / re-visit this random personal photo finder / photos by Gina Glover / the sounds of Strawberry Switchblade / Jargon-busters pick top offenders after 25 years of rewriting history. The Plain English Campaign is a quarter of a century old (during which time, management doublespeak and wonk vocabularly has undoubtedly increased) / all about subliminal advertising.


Monday, July 26, 2004
The new (?) Royksopp video, Remind Me, is a beautiful piece of work. Is this the culmination of our obsession with infographics? Is there a term for when the various strands of a cultural fascination culminate in one, all-encompassing piece of work or object, what might be called a 'category killer' in product design? A couple of years ago a great book was published - Open Here: The Art of Instructional Design. Its arrival co-incided with a plethora of manuals and instruction booklets, as pictograms became the de-facto language of a globalised marketplace. Naturally, some instructions are more obscure than others (there was a great website about daft diagrams, but I've lost it...).

Elsewhere. The Lost Border, Photographs of the Iron Curtain, by Brian Rose (via Conscientious) / this neat animation apparently demonstrates how bittorrent works. Doesn't really help me, but looks pretty (built with that cunning application called processing) / books at slower, porfolio collections.

Clever stuff: word count. At the upper reaches of word usage, it also functions as a pretty good band-name generator… we also guarantee that you can't guess what the last word is / Le Cabanon de Le Corbusier / how to rip realaudio.

Tickle this man / Toy Tent - retro tin toys / horror upon horror at the UK Game Show Page / has anyone ever escaped from Alcatraz? / Einsturzende Neubauten (at City Comforts) / an American website all about Salisbury, my parents' home town / weblog snapshots (big page) / goofs.


Friday, July 23, 2004
The end of the 'cloud'? The so-called Fourth Grace is set to swan dive into history, as it 'is no longer viable because of increasing costs and fundamental changes from the original scheme'. Commentators are billing the cancellation of yet another high profile scheme (see the post on Libeskind’s Spiral below) as the end of iconic architecture, a notion that’s gained popular currency in recent weeks.

Part of the problem with such schemes is the difficulty of 'reading' them in an architectural sense. However slick the presentation (and slick presentation is one thing that all 'icons' have in common, even if they are in no way related stylistically), renders and visualisations rarely give an insight into how a building will function on a day to basis. Unsurprisingly, this elicits suspicion. In Britain at least, the public has learned to its cost that the bigger and bolder a proposal, the less likely it is to get built.

Elsewhere. The Knight Rider dashboard project / rock and roll enters its dotage: golf tournaments and cruises await senior rockers / the View-Master is apparently back in fashion. Over one billion reels have been issued. A collection of more stereoscopic viewers. You can even get custom architecture reels. Even more 3D at 3D web.

Wrist fashion, a weblog dealing with watches (via Coudal). It's a bit gadget influenced, with an emphasis on the tech side of things rather than the pure engineering that attracts collectors to very high-end watches (like this concept Tag Heuer. Paradoxically, when watches cost five or even six figures, owners tend to have more and more of them. You therefore get strange devices like automatic watch winders (more, more), the humidors of the chronographic world. These can become just as fetishistic as the watches themselves.

An amazing gallery of the Millau Viaduct in the South of France / vertical football, an advertising installation by TBWA/Japan / mixmatcher - suggests playlists and lets you make your own (thanks Ben) / musings on music and hollywood film stars by yorkpete / beautiful poster design at aesthetic apparatus / the complete bits of Fry and Laurie (via plasticbag).


Thursday, July 22, 2004
Tall Buildings, a new exhibition at Moma seemingly reinforces the idea that ultra-skyscrapers are little more than eye-candy, better suited to scale models in art galleries than actual cityscapes. Grouping great clusters of tall towers together - as the exhibition's flash interface does - is also somewhat intellectually dishonest. Why are, say, new opera houses or museums never compared by such 'side by side' comparisons?

Spiral sunk? In the time it's taken to get this far on the V&A's controversial Libeskind-designed extension, Mr L has built two other structures here in the UK, suggesting that the visitor-ingesting shock of the new created by his design might now be on the wane.

Photography by Jack Lowe / image after, a free image library / Shift Blog / Octopus Dropkick / gadgets and more at the red ferret journal (via rzeczy) / visit Master Replicas for movie props made real. Sadly, their AT-AT Walker is only ‘studio scale’, which seems a bit of a cop out.

Steel works, Gary, Indiana (via Coudal). Also via C, a collection of Nevada Casino Chips / Red Dress Shoppe, vintage clothing / Listening Eye, photography by Jon Wozencroft (via raccoon).


Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Part of the joy of a physical record collection is the browsing – you start out looking for something and inevitably get sidetracked (no alphabetical listing here, a la High Fidelity, I’m happy to say). Choosing a record, CD, tape, minidisc, becomes a game of join the dots. But as record collections melt into air, the mp3 blog becomes the contemporary substitute for flipping through the shabby cardboard spines of a hundred thrift-store records, looking for gems. (Oh so many links to chose from - these links to collections of links are the easy way out, and a sign of just how much stuff there is out there).

Diary of a record at the asking for trouble label. We should do diary of an issue, but it would be far, far duller / Popjustice is still, touchingly, obsessed and thrilled by contemporary pop / The Pop Group Jukebox, music and information about the UK's angular avant-gardists from the early 80s.

A Web Page, contemporary art imitates 'life', gets bought by the very life it seeks to imitate. Circle is completed / take a virtual tour of Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (virtual tours never really took off, did they? Problem was, the term means different things to different people. To me, a virtual tour means a sweeping rollercoaster ride through a computer generated space. To others, it means clicking through a bunch of tiny thumbnails) / Le Corbusier's Couvent de La Tourette.

Jak's view from Vancouver, a weblog / Troubled Diva, a weblog / experimental mp3s at erikm's site / the American Highway Project / the roller coaster database / Weird New Jersey. Issue 14 mentions the remarkable sculpture, Light Dispelling Darkness, in Roosevelt Park, Edison, NJ - the electric triumph vanquishing evil (more at Midnight Society, 'NJ's Tristate Area Historical Society of the Strange and Unusual').

We have no idea what this sounds like, but admire the themed artwork and overall spirit of the project: Plans for Travel, a concept album by the band 90 degrees south / Ohio Trespassers / Western Heights, defences in Dover. This Victorian map gives an overview of the vast fortifications, now largely derelict / Deep Cold, re-imagined sci-fi pasts / Top Secret Projects! / X15 Design, fonts and more / more design experiments at Setpixel / 'A Village Life', photographs by Andrew Stockdale / Chance Projects, the work of Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Sometimes, you just want to be flippant, and skip along the surface of things like a smooth pebble. Hence today's collection of miscellanies. We have pie charts, say the folk at and then... (via beautiful stuff). And they do. People who fight with swords. Miss Scotland 1998 Contestants' Wishes for the Planets' Future. Empty Supervillain Threats. All good. More lists: sugar and spice at Vitamin Q, an essential survey.

Overheard tube gossip, via Adam / threepm and with a twist (thanks for the software tips) / just why are basements so frightening? / Never Came Home, an mp3 blog / the Bewitched who's who / Cult 45, a second-hand bookshop / Betty Boo mp3 frenzy / Lynn Becker's ‘irreverent photoessay’ on Frank Gehry's new Jay Pritzker Pavilion (seen also at Moleskinerie) / a-matter, architecture and related / giant ant, a weblog.


Monday, July 19, 2004
The Complete Guide to Isometric Pixel Art, via A Joshua Tree in Every Pot / the art of Tom Sachs, linked before but we still like it. Totally locked into the military-industrial complex (check the McMaster-Carr catalogue for all your machine-head needs) / is tourism 'The last fantasy the 20th Century left us'? asks Ideas Bazaar.

The very first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, scanned in its entirety / damn Italian architects: according to this Archibot post, there is one Italian architect for every 548.8 of the popluation – compared to the UK, where there's one for every 7,413. And the UK seems hellbent on lowering that ratio: Probe as 90% fail degree.

A9 is a new search engine / a vast image collection, absolutely none of which is labelled. A few samples: the architecture of Mckim, Mead and White, early Islamic culture, American town planning / wallpapers from Japan, the usual collection of anime stars, cars and cute things.

Pawsense, cat-typing sensor (via De Steen der Eigenwijzen) / Joannou de Luxe, a weblog / Pulp.net, the online home of new fiction.

Blogger keeps changing and it is getting worse and worse. Whole posts can be magicked away by a couple of ill-considered key presses - without even taking your hand off the keyboard. Any alternatives please?


Friday, July 16, 2004
Chrysler Heritage is a new(ish) website indicative of a major growth area for car companies right now - controlling and presenting your heritage. The traditional motor museum can't really compete with the architectural might and curatorial power of the manufacturers themselves. Check the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz museum, a swirling design by UN Studio, or Audi's Museum Mobile by their factory in Ingolstadt. Others go further, such as Coop Himmelb(l)au's BMW Welt, an 'event and delivery centre' in Munich. Managing one's image - and the story of how things came to be - is so much easier if you control the whole package.

Inexplicable Objects, things that demand a little explanation / how to make a book with people you’ve never met: Toy Camera / Notebook, designer Mark Simonson’s weblog featuring type and trivia (we especially like the self-confessedly geeky examination of the computer source code used in Terminator 2).

The sounds of Lord Haw-Haw (via Haddock), WW2's most celebrated traitor. Vaguely related, the closure of Berlin's Tempelhof Airport has been announced (link is to to Tempelhof, a collaboration 'between Tom America and visual artist Rob Moonen' that celebrates the city, the airport and its role in the famous post-war airlift). There are some excellent photos to be found there. The huge structure was designed by Ernst Sagebiel in 1941, but is now little-used. No word yet as to what will happen to the huge buildings. Read 'Lunch at Tempelhof', Hugh Pearman's elegiac piece on travelling through the terminal (from things 10).

If you so desire, FAB1 is up for grabs. The model (i.e. puppet-scale) six-wheeled pink Rolls-Royce is one of the more celebrated TV cars in history. Sadly, the new FAB1 is absolutely horrible - utterly devoid of wit or invention. It's a big pink merchandising opportunity (not that the original wasn’t marketed to death either). The original features strongly in this episode.

Artists Tyler Brett and Tony Romano take the term 'Carchitecture' literally with a series of prints. More images at the exhibition Beyond Terminal City from 2002 / French popstar fashion at Bardotagogo / personal pictures of Osaka Expo 1970, truly one of the great world expos. Check the Pepsi Pavilion (buried on the servers of the Interactive Telecommunications Program of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. See more projects in their gallery). More Osaka images.

Missing Items, Found, a new book (via Caterina) / Look-Look Magazine, put together by young photographers, writers and artists / photologgers are making bigger and bigger images: Infrangible, Dyswis.


Thursday, July 15, 2004
More architecture culture. The word 'library' isn't terribly sexy, is it? How about Idea Store instead. How one London council is re-inventing the library for a consumerist, rather than a paternalist age: "The 19th-century libraries it replaces used marble steps, classical columns and the architectural language of stately homes to give people the sense that they were doing something special. Adjaye does the same, but the references are to the world of fashion, the materials are glass, rubber, metal and wood."

Life and death at M&S, or how Britain's once-favourite retailer 'abused architecture' in its attempt to create a chic destination'. Ironically, this is a case of a company attempting to be paternalist ('bringing minimalism to the masses'), rather than overtly consumerist, the inverse of the above approach. The consensus seems to be that it hasn't worked, that the store failed its core market, and any more attempts at modernisation will be strongly rebuffed.

Some more urban exploration - this feeds into yesterday's thoughts about the democratisation of architectural representation (unwieldy term). The many urban exploration sites are performing a valuable service, not just by cataloguing vanishing parts of the built environment, but by highlighting the extreme wastefulness of our culture. How can all these places be empty?

Elsewhere. The Architecture Hate Page still seems to be very riled by MVRDV / Robert Crumb's A Short History Of America, an animation /rifle through the dumpsters of the stars with Pop Trash (minusvision), the ultimate in paparazzi intrusion / a fabulous photo - more at Orbit1's Swairfest gallery.

Toyota's Partner Robot; have your own jazz combo. The little wheeled one is my favourite - the most sci-fi-like as well – it’s Ro-Jaws! / boats in London at transportblog / as the US election hots up, even the condiments are getting partisan (disclaimer: this may well be a joke) / what to do in Paris, by Crooked Timber.

Hippoblog, design commentary and links from the studio of Lekker Projects / the Site of Reversible Destiny, a remarkable man-made landscape in Japan's Gifu Prefecture. The park is designed around the concept of generating the unexpected. Created by Arakawa and Madeline Gins, aka the Architectural Body Research Foundation. Big picture here.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004
A great walk-through of the new Seattle Public Library (via City Comforts). I like how new, signature modern buildings are published on the web, not by architectural photographers or even the architects themselves, but by interested, ordinary people (with, admittedly, a great eye and (usually) a professional interest in design).

Architectural criticism was once a remote, closeted world. If you didn't buy the magazines, you didn't know about the buildings. And even today, if you do buy the magazines, you are still beholden to the carefully-composed (and inevitably biased) presentation, be it from the magazine, the writer, the photographer or the architect themselves.

Instead, sites like dezain, archinect, designboom, designaddict (and many, many more) have great galleries, illustrating new buildings under construction, design shows, etc., creating a rough and ready way into seeing buildings you might otherwise be unaware of or unable to see without forking out for an expensive magazine.

Architectural representation is being democratised. Back when international modernism was supposedly the most democratic form of architecture ever devised, its presentation (and consumption) was very tightly controlled. Perhaps that's why the image so often failed to live up to the reality (and, perversely, why weblogs like this are so enthralled by online galleries of faded glory and past visions...).

Elsewhere, a trawl around the linklogs. Andrew Holmes’ Gas Tank City, incredibly detailed pencil drawings / grow-a-brain looks great these days. Some links: TV Repairman pill. Lighthouse photography (what is it about lighthouses that inspire insipid romanticism? Like the Lighthouse Family). Disappearing Florida.

The Classic Appliance Gallery, via Inflight Correction. Also via IC, a Nixie tube wristwatch (more about Nixie tubes), a Trabant crash test (a very frightening combination of words) and this beautiful 1955 Mercedes race car transporter. Related, transporters from Alfa Romeo and Dodge.

Look at me is an uncommonly beautiful collection of found photos (via Exclamation Mark, who also links to a Treasury of Bats) / ilike points us to the Kalakala, 'the World's first Art Deco ferry'. Also via I like, Plastic Living.

An obituary for Viscount Esher, architect and town planner (and a man who wrestled with leaky roofs) / classic games meets modern art in Pac Mondrian . Broadway Boogie-Woogie with ghosts.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004
One of the most memorable interviewees in Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect: A Son's Journey (imdb details) was the irrascible character of Edmund Bacon, who worked with Kahn on the late 50s re-structuring of Philadelphia. Bacon got very riled with Kahn Jr, who seemed to be accusing him of failing to take Kahn's Sr's plans for the city on board (big circular multi-storey car parks just outside the city centre, enabling pedestrians to enter the central area without being hassled by motorists).

The camera lingered naughtily on the rather nondescript architecture that Bacon eventually commissioned, much of it by Vincent Kling (whose firm lives on). I came away from the film thinking that Bacon was nothing more than an amusing old school reactionary, the type who thinks that they know better than the public, that amorphous, uneducated mass that knows nothing about the built environment.

But then I found this: Edmund Bacon Skateboards in Protest. Turns out that Bacon, who commissioned Philly's famous LOVE Park, is all in favour of the busy skateboarding scene that centred around the park's smooth marble surfaces (even more bizarrely, it turns out that Bacon is actor Kevin Bacon's father - which pretty much factors in all contemporary architecture and designers into the daft game).

Originally designated John F. Kennedy Plaza, LOVE Park got its common name from Robert Indiana's giant LOVE sculpture, one of several dotted around the US, such as this example at Wichita State University (viewed as part of their excellent Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection).

Back in April 2002, the city banned skateboarding (quicktime panoramas), and the Free LOVE Park campaign began. The park has since gone wireless (to which the skaters replied, "Skaters LOVE wireless too"), and there was even talk of building a replica of the park at one of the Woodward Camps, which is apparently a kind of extreme sports Mecca, Center Parcs with grinding.

It's encouraging to see a planner embrace the skate-led reappropriation of public space, especially when skaters are usually discouraged by any means necessary. Read Iain Borden's Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body for more about the way in which boarding blends into cities and turns them upside down, finding new ways of using old spaces (interview, review).

All this ferretting around revealed the excellent Philadelphia Buildings website (Kahn biography here). You have to register (and subscribe to see bigger images) but it's a goldmine of information about the city's development, and the myriad unbuilt projects that litter its past (Kahn's vast City Tower Project, and the contentious Civic Center scheme).

Staying with architecture, Hands off Arthur Erickson looks at the legacy of one of Canada's great architects, who, like Kahn, produced works of great formal power and integrity that didn't always flex to accommodate their occupants (although Kahn's later work, as the film makes clear, usually managed to please pretty much everyone - but not even they are immune to change).

Particularly threatened by insensitive additions is Erickson's University of Lethbridge, a monumental concrete slab. Some more images here, and a less iconic view by Tommy Williams, which puts the structure in its wider context. Look at the images on Erickson's own website (especially this) to get a sense of just how important photography is to architecture. The latter image reminded me of the extraordinary Residencia at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, designed by German architects Auer + Weber (Guardian article), very Kahn-like in its scale and ambition).

Elsewhere. A big collection of contemporary art / you too can belong: the Corrugated Iron Club (thanks Tom) / a walk around the congestion charge zone (15 miles - who would have thought) / 12 Rules for Good Cursive Handwriting (via del.icio.us) / the Misuoka Motor Co. makes retro-styled cars for the modern market (thanks, Joao). Download wallpapers here / It’s not carved in stone, a weblog.

Under Consideration, a design and typography forum / more and more and more mp3 blogs at this monkeyfilter post. E.g. the John Hughes Jukebox / 3D paper models from Taiwan, from iMacs to tanks.


Monday, July 12, 2004
What happens when you die? Not musings on the spirit world, but a musing on the artificial afterlife afforded by the myriad online personalities, lists, subscriptions, profiles, memberships, etc. etc. that everyone has floating around the web.

When you die, who will shut these down? How else will the internet know that you're dead? All good points. In a couple of decades time, the problem of 'dead people' on the internet will start to manifest itself. In fifty years time, the living will be outnumbered by the dead. Companies will be established to purge records of dead users, a new form of undertaking. Automated emails, tied in to official records, will periodically be issued by major online retailers to ensure you're still breathing.

The internet offers us our best chance of immortality. AI chatbots will 'learn' your personality, giving you the mischevious possibility of living on after you die, instant messaging friends from beyond the grave, haunting your favourite chatrooms. In one hundred years time, despite the efforts of online ghostbusters and body snatchers, the internet will have become a repository of the dead, a Dantean underworld, a virtual afterlife, where the distinction between the living and the dead will no longer exist.

Elsewhere. Fetish Items of the Rich and Famous: Phaidon's mammoth Atlas of Contemporary Architecture may be beautiful, but what does it tell you about architecture?, asks Christopher Hawthorne at Slate. The book is a magnificent thing, to be sure, but Hawthorne accuses it of creating a 'perma-bright world where buildings never age or decay' (that's architectural publishing for you). His main criticism is the lack of context, that the book portrays each building as an isolated spike of brilliance related only to the work on the surrounding pages, and not the structures next door. This is far more valid, especially as the title, 'Atlas', hints at some kind of in-depth geographic survey. Instead, it simply perpetuates the image of high-end modern architecture as being somehow aloof and distant from everything else.

Why can't all cars look like this? asks Steve Bowbrick of the Nissan Figaro. Something of a cult classic in London (especially, from anecdotal evidence, among media types), read all about the retro roadster here. The car was only built from 14 February to 14 September 1991, the mere blink of an eye in mass production terms - just 20,000 were made (and a fair amount of these seem to be in London). You can hire one from
parc-ferme (a new rival to the more established Classic Car Club), or buy one.

Vintage watch ads, via the daily jive / removing 'unacceptable symbols' from Microsoft Office 2003 - in other words, the swastika removal update / scissorkick and pop77 just two of many great music weblogs linked to in this me-fi thread. Emo/indie fans can find videos of the likes of Explosions in the Sky at Silence Magazine, while copy, right? links mp3s of cover versions, good and bad / Sheldon Brown's Istoria, computer-generated sculptures.

Japan Underground, photographs by Hideaki Uchiyama (thanks Tom). Not just tube stations, but power plants, scientific labs, and bunkers / designer Marc Newson's show at the Groniger Museum at Cool Hunting (related, Newson's concept jet at an earlier showing in Paris) / bad parking 1 and 2.

The author Toby Litt occasionally asks questions on his website, and sometimes people answer them / a profile of Phil Gyford, online mover and shaker. See, for example, weblogger's summer reading / The Arcata Eye police log is something of a cult classic (via ask me-fi). There's a touch of Framley Examiner in there too.

You could save a lot of time by going here: Spoilers for Every Movie Ever Made (via invisible city) / buy photographic prints from art and architecture / Zeppelin image archive / the Uncle Sam image gallery / forests fear the Plustech walking machine.


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.


Thursday, July 08, 2004
Random clippings today.

reckankomplex offers music, downloads and opinions (and a cat of the month) / it's nice that soulbath still exists, although it's exhibition of banner ads has faded into historical document / the counter-cultural timeline, 1975-1990 / Slowfood, 'for the Defence of and the Right to Pleasure’.

Tom’s 2000AD page / Carfree.com, proposing 'delightful solutions to the vexing problem of urban automobiles' / Badassmovieimages is kind of like it sounds / ducks ahoy at World's Largest Roadside Attractions / modern ruins photographed by Shaun and Wendy Lewis O'Boyle.

The artist JS Boggs, with a free Boggs original (even if you have to print it yourself) / keep up to date: 'The latest Electronic Gadgets shipped directly from Japan' by Japan-Direct / Perfume Bottles: A Study of Contemporary Material Culture.

Weblog round-up. Norfolk Windmills / Pataphysics Research Laboratory / Sleeve Notes / Flux + Mutability (photos, such as Un village nommé Angoisse, by Edouard Levé).

Master & Margarita, an in-depth look (with maps, illustrations and more) at Mikhail Afanasievich Bulgakov's novel about life under Stalinism.


Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Meet the Pro-Bush Punks, the Guardian delves into the weird, contradictory world of Conservative Punk (and GOPunk and Anti-Anti-Flag). Clearly not big fans of the DKs then? (more DKs). An interesting point about 'punk's' ethos being generally contrarian, and not just libertarian or anarchistic: "Follow that logic and Bush's bullish approach to foreign policy - basically, screw what anyone else says, I'll do what I like - seems quintessentially punk."

Also of interest in today's paper, London 2016, or how the capital’s transport network would look in the (highly unlikely) event every single project on the drawing board got the green light (the East London Line Extension and the long-awaited Crossrail among them). Can’t find a link to the map online, though? Given that tube maps are an online obsession, I'm sure someone will oblige soon.

Elsewhere. A gallery of paintings by Caspar David Friedrich / largehearted boy solicits links to other mp3 blogs, including luna and kingblind / Topic Magazine includes Lucinda Devlin's disturbing Omega Suite photographs / there's a shiny new linkbar at rogue semiotics / album reviews in 75 words or less / the custom virtual guitar / the Schecter Hellcat VI.

Swashbuckler's Cove, celebrating the ‘golden age’ of piracy (1650 to 1725, since you asked). Related, a history of pirate's flags and the cultural meaning of the death's head symbol.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Viruses, overwork and other horrors will keep it brief today.

The Rest is Noise is the personal weblog of Alex Ross, the music critic at the New Yorker. Not just music, but things found and observed as well: "The most chilling inscription I've found [written in a used book] was in a paperback of Lord Jim: "Texas School Book Depository, 1963." Originally seen at me-fi.

Lightningfield visits the old Renault Factory on the Ile Seguin. We can remember when this factory was functioning, back when we lived in Paris. Industrial ruins are endlessly fascinating. Check these bathrooms. A poignant old poster. The links are great too - especially the ocean liner one. Another photographic tour, this time in moody black and white.

Publish and be Damned, a weblog about writing, publishing and self-publishing. Although in our case, it was self-publish and be damned. We liked this retort to Louis Menand's incredibly pedantic review in the New Yorker (sorry, I've lost the link) / Random Acts of Reality, the medi-blog that everyone's reading, apparently / patterns at citrus moon / the paintings of Wendy Judge.

The Star of the East is a conceptual design for a 'leading-edge integrated renewable energy station' - a new type of power station that melds windfarm with biomass renewable energy. Truly science fiction in scope (although the site notes that 'Of course this is only the very initial suggestion of what things might look like'), it's not surprising to find that architect Will Alsop is involved. More info (pdf).

American science and surplus, via consumptive. All you ever wanted. Baboon skull? German lantern? Little glass ampules? / The Minor Fall, The Major Lift, a weblog from New York / down-sizing: Unfazed by the Law, Pocket-Bikers Roll On: the micro-bike in California (via kottke). These things are popular in Peckham as well - a large empty cardboard box sits in a neighbours front garden.

The Modern Language Association Language Map / What Else Happened in America While Lewis & Clark Explored the West, a history lesson.


Monday, July 05, 2004
'When architects run amok' (registration required, sadly), another take on the conservation of modern buildings. Richard Neutra's Gettysburg Cyclorama is due for demolition in 2007. Why? Because calls to return the site, location of the Battle of Gettysburg, back to how it was at the time of the battle in 1863 are far more compelling than Neutra's rather austere 1960s structure. Turns out that the age of memorialising the Civil War with grandiose architectural statements has passed: "Meanwhile, for many Americans, the Civil War has evolved from history to leisure pursuit." It's not the only Civil War Cyclorama - there's also one at Fulton, Atlanta. Naturally, not everyone is happy. Via Land Living.

More architecture. The Kilowatt house, a peaen to the new electric age, has been restored and is up for sale / London Skyline, 60 views of the Gherkin (via dezain) / Section 2, a new venture for web-based design, photography and more, edited by Tom Lardner and kicking off with Scratchplate Saints, rock graphics by Joel Lardner (familiar-sounding surname...?)

Matter Magazine, compact and delightful, although the stories are often dark and disturbing. Other literary things, snipped from their links: Mslexia ('for women who write,' a site for a print-based publication), Fine Words (a web-based publication), which kicks off with some poetry, Build magazine.

Skateboards, sketches and Wundbabots at Furnitureclub (via Robocore) / lots of guns in the new issue of Delve Magazine / railroads of the former Soviet Union, via the Map Room, who also links to the new Las Vegas monorail, which will banish the grim trudge up and down the strip. Although I suspect the empty lots have all gone now.

Weblog round-up: firmly ambivalent, Keys Corner, Coincidences, Akkams Razor / Tag the Dog, the Dutch Daily Oliver (still leaping happily around the South of France) / Sputnik, more retro style links, e.g. Retrofuture. The world is very retro these days. I'm not sure what it means just yet, but I don't think it's wholly good.

The art direction on The Village, M.Night Shyamalan's latest movie, looks fantastic - all simple, white painted houses, acres of green, rolling hills and, typically, a menacing presence in the woods. The website conjurs up this atmosphere beautifully, with scratchy, twittering audio design that creeps the hell out of you. It reminded me of Danish Soundscapes (designed by Ordinary Kids) and Jonathan Clarke's Afterlife: Streatham Cemetery. See the film's trailer.

Two fascinating zoology posts at memepool, on Ligers, Tigons and Humanzees (very Margaret Atwood, whose own site is called Owtoad, and whose book Oryx and Crake revelled in hybrid creatures).

Just what is the perfect angle to staple paper? (via me-fi, which declares 'I'm fed up with hearing about the beauty of small things.') / Mark M Lucas has many, many pictures of terrifying insects. Urgh / Atari Noise / Silly Putty Physics Experiment, via That's How it Happened.


Friday, July 02, 2004
Is London Zoo really going to remove the penguins from Lubetkin and Arup's Penguin Pool? The Twentieth Century Society thinks they are. Perhaps the zoo thinks the penguins would be happier in a pool like this one? Modern architecture and zoos is one of those things - a seemingly good idea at the time, but one where architecture's supposedly fundamental qualities - solidity, timelessness, etc. - are quickly subsumed by the faster-moving disciplines of zoology and animal welfare.

Take the elephant house, also at London Zoo and designed by Sir Hugh Casson in the 60s. The raw, jack-hammered concrete fins of the exterior were oft-likened to the rough grey hide of the elephants themselves. But human beings, let alone elephants, find brutalism hard to love. In the unlikely event of a new elephant house being commissioned, one could be fairly certain that a rough concrete enclosure, however elegant, won't be on the drawing board. (Keeping elephants in any form of captivity is now officially frowned upon. Indeed, London Zoo's elephants now live in the far leafier environs of Whipsnade, after the tragic death of a keeper).

So perhaps the penguins have a point. Lubetkin was careful to study penguin behaviour, but the pool is remarkable and enduring not for its advanced concerns about animal welfare (at least by the standards of the 1930s). Instead, it was the complexity of the design, the interlocking concrete ramps and the way in which the pool expressed modernism's pure geometry better than any building designed for humans. It's still inspirational.

More zoo architecture. Lubetkin and Tecton at Dudley Zoo / other things - Discovering the Fleet (part of Architecture Week, which I missed completely. Via hyperreal and supercool). The Fleet River ran (runs) into the north bank of the Thames, underneath what is now Farringdon Road. Little more than an open sewer for much of the past 300 years, it was once envisioned as the city's grand canal by Christopher Wren. It didn't look too bad in the past / some more listed buildings.

The Tyranny of the Tagline: 'Why do ad agencies and their clients love taglines so much?', asks Michael Bierut. The Holy Grail of taglines doesn't help: Just Do It. But can you make the tagline into the identity? The YWCA clearly thinks so. The comments flag up the Tareyton cigarette slogan, 'I'd rather fight than switch'. Did Public Enemy sample this in Fight the Power? Does anyone know? The nine samples listed here don't mention it.

Elsewhere. Driving and shooting will always be popular in video games, notes the BBC. Meanwhile, reviews of the game that spurred the article, Driver 3 (or 'Driv3r', if you must), are causing controversy - is this the gaming world's equivalent of payola?

Also noted, Random Features,a photolog / gamine-spotting / retro gadgets covered in this Wired article / Land Living, design and architecture news / an architectural pilgrimage in sketches. A grand tradition, continued.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself, since I own three of the top ten covers of the year, an utterly unscientific analysis at USA Today (as one might expect). Related, the art of Matteo Pericoli / brilliant corners, a weblog (not to be confused with 80s indie darlings, the Brilliant Corners.


Thursday, July 01, 2004
S.T.A.L.K.E.R (subtitle, 'Shadow of Chernobyl') is a forthcoming game set in 2012, 26 years after the Soviet nuclear catastrophe. Does it have anything to do with Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker? (more posters). Most definitely. Tarkovsky's film is the prescient story of a scientist and journalist entering a mysterious 'Zone', led by the Stalker himself, a man versed in the bizarre weather patterns, strange behaviours and barren locations of the zone.

The film was developed from a novel, Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and published in 1972 (related: an imaginary soundtrack for the book at Sine Fiction, part of a huge collection of audio by a_dontigny and more). The game's developers, based in the Ukraine, have obviously added some twists: 'The game utilizes a popular rumor that the Chernobyl accident was a result of an antenna that directed psychotropic waves at the U.S., and that was accidentally turned on by the power station's staff. According to some experts, there was such an antenna, we have a photo of such a structure,' they said.

Of course, computer games need to create and sustain a sense of progress through a story to hold the attention, and Tarkovsky's long, narrative-free films aren't the most obvious inspiration for twitchy trigger fingers. For them, games developers still insist on slinging in bucketfuls of mutants - H.G.Wells' Island of Doctor Moreau remains the most inspirational text. But then gamers haven't matured - most gamers don't want to mature. For the gaming community, maturity equates to a controversial or contemporary subject matter, like the way in which ever more recent wars become the subject of video game participation (and self-perpetuated revisionism). Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, the Gulf Conflict, and more, there are few no-go areas as far as the accurate modelling of machinery, men, locations and tactics from the world's burgeoning collection of former (and current) battlegrounds.

But more contemplative approaches are gaining currency, as virtual environments become so visually sophisticated that there really is the occasion to sit, stare and observe, rather than strafe and snipe, constantly watching your back. Video game settings have traditionally specialised in the macabre, the spectacular, or the exotic, rather than the unavoidable banality that is commonplace in contemporary photographic practice. But as games get bigger and bigger, encompassing whole cities and landscapes, capturing every aspect of the built environment, from warehouses to skyscrapers, is inevitable. S.T.A.L.K.E.R certainly looks brooding and eerie, even, dare we say it, dull (more comparisons). The more complex a game, the more likely it is that you can pause, look around and not be brained for your desire for a spot of quiet contemplation.

To round the circle off, The Emergence of "Landscape Urbanism" (pdf), a paper by Grahame Shane, looks at the book Stalking Detroit, itself inspired in part by the Russian science-fiction novel. Stalking Detroit is a visit to the post-industrial city (a tour that's also popular on the web), including the urban photography of Jordi Bernado. Someday soon, we'll be using our computers to navigate around these visions of the contemporary landscape. Just as our minds will no longer expect a radioactive monkey monster to leap out from behind every boulder, so the investigation and appreciation of urban spaces will be liberated from the confines of the monograph.

Elsewhere. Revisiting Elena's (in)famous trip around Chernobyl on a bike (related, did it actually happen?). East End then and now at Sublime Photography, who are also responsible for Underexposed - photos from the indie scene. A great source of fashion inspiration for the young guitar-slinger about town.

Trivia factoid from the obituary of Doris Thompson, doyenne of Blackpool's Pleasure Beach (still able to ride the PlayStation rollercoaster at the age of 100) - apparently the town has more holiday beds than the whole of Portugal.

The photography of Candida Hofer, places of work and study / Joel Biroco's site includes automatic artwork and Klee-like paintings (thanks Rob, or no, 2 self).

It's time for Coudal's annual Summer Reading extravaganza - we're in there somewhere...