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Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Jeremy Deller's The Battle of Orgreave. Deller is one of the nominees for this year's Turner Prize, always a predictable source of controversy. I love Jeremy Deller is a good profile from the Guardian. One of Deller's best-known pieces is the invention and development of 'Acid Brass', the recreation of classic acid house anthems with a full-on brass band with the massed horns of the Whitburn Band, and eventually recorded by yet another ensemble, the Williams Fairey Band (although Pitchfork didn't like it). You can hear a streaming sample of 'Pacific 202' sample on this extensive page of audio downloads from 808 State (search for 'brass').

This gives us another chance to plug the cover of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" (mp3 link) by the UMASS Front Percussion Ensemble. They can sure march, too (wmv link). This segues nicely into London radio station xfm and their Rock School competition, which solicited cover versions from school-age bands around Britain. There's some great stuff here - the more complex the song, the better.

Elsewhere. Widgetopia tracks the little bits of functionality that people devise for their websites. The Trixie Update is one such site - the obsessive cataloguing of a baby's development. We have a pen and paper. Clearly this is not enough. 3,117 nappies (and counting) in 16 months is impressive stuff....

Good news for wine as scientists around the world suggest we reach for the corkscrew: I, II, III / the all-white diet of Erik Satie. Check The Musician's Day for details of his eating habits. (thanks to James, who was after details of a book about an artist with a penchant for monochromatic meals. Can anyone help him out?).

The Seinfeld Dictionary (via many places) / Rail Fan Europe has pictures of trains. Many pictures of trains / Gabrielle de Montmollin's Bird Women / Sublime Stitching will embroider whatever you like / slick homewares at Victory Vintage (fit for The Incredibles?) / wurh, a London-based weblog.

Online advent calendars, the pick of the bunch (from metafilter). The Historical Present's advent calendar is an online tradition.


Sunday, November 28, 2004
A collection of Sunday ephemera.

Village honours victims of 1944 big bang got us digging around for more information on the day the world blew up, the RAF Fauld disaster. The explosion created a 12 acre crater. Related, Control Towers brings together the many airbases and smaller airfields that used to be scattered across the UK. There's a section on control tower design, which shows just how modern and sleek early designs were.

20 Strange and Wonderful Books (via the daily jive) / Laurenn McCubbin illustrates and provides a weblog / Die Puny Humans, always worth a visit / people (mostly men) in their studios, via music thing. More general links of musical and sonic interest at Rummage through the Crevices, including tape findings, which promises 'found home recordings, and other cassette deck oddities'.

All about the Jetsons / The Never-Ending Search, society's obsession with hidden objects / Sublime Magazine launches soon, promising something to do with ethical living / the timeframe clock, 'collecting memories and experiences catalogued within the time:frame of a day' / didn't we used to own this domain?

An update on Greenside (see things passim, and this page at the Twentieth Century Society) / go on, be a Secret Santa and make a total stranger very happy / Mister Jalopy's Hoopty Rides, auto ephemera weblogged / This isn't London, a misanthropic weblog.

An image is slowly emerging at Pixelfest / sample the pulse of ebay (via BingBangBosh) / great portraits at Snowsuit / tickets from lots and lots and lots of shows by the Grateful Dead / the video game/real life distinction just took another pass with the blur filter / an interview with Jonathan Ive / hugely irresponsible speedopix.

A giant book on Bhutan / Nasiri's photoblog from Iran Ita / Snail Street at The Food Section / Postcards from the Attic / maps and alterations in Watership Down / A guide to the alleys, courts and passageways of Central London.


Thursday, November 25, 2004
A Life in Badges: School (see the earlier parts: college, marriage and work), from back when button badges were like medals of honour. There is an exhibition about button badges at the British Museum at the moment: Status Symbols: identity and belief on modern badges.

The Persuaders, all about the brave new world of marketing and advertising (via Sachs Report). We'll hunt around for a torrent of this PBS show and then report back. Looks like it might have a bearing on Sunday's post, which inspired much debate.

Elsewhere. An archive of 1960s ladies' fashions, snipped from the pages of Vogue and suchlike, including this great shot of Julie Christie. The same site has a vast collection of vintage costume links / Ohtori, a Japanese animation gallery / Development of Waseda Robot / Humber Advert Gallery / fight creationists with stickers / snapshots of the past (via Coudal). In the same spirit, some images of Ibiza in 1969.

Labels of Chateau Mouton Rothschild: the annual artist's labels from 1945 onwards / Stalin's Empire Style, the photography of Vladimir Clavijo-Telepnev (via conscientious) / Mindgum, a culture-driven weblog, throwing out oddities like Jen Magazine, 'a new lifestyle webzine for Mormon girls' (with 'modest fashion fixes'. Actually, having just seen Woolworths' mesh thongs for 8-10 year olds, complete with 'sexy' splashed across the front, we're with Jen).

PCL Linkdump, a weblog. Lots of good things here / the Burnt Food Museum / Endless Parade of Excellence, a weblog / Philobiblon posts on women's history / objects and gadgets at Lorbus / City Magazine promises 'design, food and fashion' / Haroeris Astrum, a weblog promising 'Fortean Journalism'.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Dazzle Ships In Drydock At Liverpool: from Edward Wadsworth to Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark at Spoilt Victorian Child. From dazzle patterns to wartime magic. Apothecary's Drawer links to Jasper Maskelyne, Master of Make Believe, a site dedicated to the 'war magician' who set out to fool the Nazis with a series of large scale illusions. Documentaries have been made about Maskelyne's role, which he himself probably talked up, and his great feats, such as the 'concealment' of Alexandria Harbour (by constructing a decoy version along the coast to fool nighttime spotters) probably didn't have as great an impact as has been claimed. The fake tanks are nice, though.

A huge collection of scanned college yearbooks (specifically, the 'Londoner', the yearbook of the London Central High School, in Bushy Park, Bushey). The LCHS was a Department of Defense Dependents School - for children of US servicemen and women stationed in the UK. The school was formerly a U.S. Army Base, known as 'The Old Bushey Castle'. After the war, the 'castle' was demolished, just one of hundreds of country houses that were vacated during the period, usually requisitioned by the government for wartime use, and then never able to get back to former glory (see this exhibition and the excellent No Voice from the Hall, by John Harris). Lots more site history available here, including the story of the nearby married quarters for the USAF HQ at Ruislip, which were demolished in 1998. Built to American, rather than British standards, with heavy-duty floors and dual voltage power supplies. Culture shock needs to be mitigated. This 1999 pdf provides relocation information for US Navy personnel being stationed in the UK ('You are advised to leave your guns in the USA, but if you must bring them, make sure you understand all the rules and regulations for importation').

More treasure troves. The Alternative 80s / The Archive, a history of UK rock festivals from 1960 to 1975. Amazingly, the rather staid Oval cricket ground (now labouring under some daft name due to corporate sponsorship) used to host concerts, like this 1972 Melody Maker Poll Concert, featuring Wishbone Ash, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Genesis.

The 1974 Estes Catalog, for the amateur rocketeer / Hugh Pearman on MoMA NY: Shock of the new, or chill of the morgue? The terminally tasteful new Museum of Modern Art in New York.

How it works - the computer, via i like / Timeframes: TV Title Pioneers, an exhibition (just finished, I think), at the Kemistry Gallery in London. See also the Test Card Gallery at MHP, which also links to dozens of other TV history sites.

Catalogues of classic SilverLine Boats. All good stuff / classic Citroen DS brochure, part of a big Italian site devoted to the car. Many more pictures / TableHockeyCentral.Com is pretty comprehensive / the soon-to-retire Routemaster bus.


Sunday, November 21, 2004
The Decline of Brands, by James Surowiecki in the current Wired, (via Boing Boing, who expounds on it in Brands aren't worth as much as we thought). We got into trouble for saying a similar thing a while ago. There appears to be very little debate about branding, so any oppositional talk about the contention that brands are in someway a logical evolution of production and marketing is worth a closer look.

As we said before, the brand is a phantom, a cypher, figments of the popular imagination that have somehow become the essential conduit for cultural information about objects. It's not a thing, yet without the idea of 'brand', we would think of many things in totally different ways. Bowblog, in a post entitled Brand Fanaticism considers a new book, The Cult of Mac. He notes how 'somehow, the brand survived the extended suicide attempt of the 90s and has now been translated into an utterly unique luxury brand meets cult product.' Without the carefully created brand mystique, the claim that Apple produces 'cult products' couldn't stand up. The mystique has created the cult.

Ultimately, this is a dangerous idea. While the Wired piece goes on about 'a new breed of hyperinformed superconsumers' making the concept of branding obsolete, this smacks of a marketing guru (indeed, branding guru) looking to find a professional way out of the situation. In The World in Two Footnotes, Design Observer's musing on the 'brand madness'-themed issue of Eye magazine, Michael Bierut's main focus is on how one of Eye's authors (Nick Bell's essay The Steamroller of Branding) neatly divides the designer's approach into two fundamental choices (passive or creative). However, we're more interested in the anti-branding rhetoric of the Eye issue as a whole, in particular Terry Eagleton's Reading On Brand.

Eagleton revisits Wally Olins' 'seminal' branding manual, On Brand and finds it a thinly-veiled uncritical apologia for the creation of concepts and ideas - brands - that overrule the physical reality of the marketplace - e.g exploitation of workers and consumers. Eagleton counters Olins' caveat emptor that big business is ultimately about the bottom line, and should therefore be forgiven the occasional transgression (be it of human rights or moral good sense) by saying 'it is rather like arguing that muggers do not claim to be vicars, and so cannot be faulted when they scamper off with your handbag.'

In fact, caveat emptor ought to be our mantra against the whole concept of branding: don't believe a single thing about anything. Eagleton concludes that '... everything [Olins] has to say on the subject goes to confirm what the Marxist tradition has long argued about alienation, reification and the fetishism of commodities.' Olins' conclusion that 'brands represent identity' isn't yet quite true, thankfully. However, that anyone would even will it to be true is deeply worrying.

An aside: Eye is a somewhat pricey read and we rarely get to sample its beautifully-designed pages, so it was a delight to discover that a good chunk of each issue is put online.

Elsewhere. What Really Happens When Prophecy Fails: The Case of Lubavitch, via this thread on the evaporation of the unexplained / this post, listing The Top 40 Bands In America Today, is getting a lot of linkage. Is it just us, or is this a rather uninspiring and predictable set of artists?

Glass desk collapse (via caterina) / slick t-shirts sold slickly at molgam / photos from the Vietnam War / Luxo, a Pixar blog / amazing Tokyo Sewers / Photograph Collection Gallery at the Rasmuson Library.


Friday, November 19, 2004
The Milgram Re-Enactment, a 2002 re-visiting of Stanley Milgram's infamous sociology experiment from 1961. The artist who created the 2002 version of the experiment, Rod Dickinson, was one half of the duo claiming responsibility for a spate of recent crop circles. Dickinson crops up regularly (pardon the pun) at Circlemakers, a website dedicated to the creation of complex patterns in the corn. The movement is still going strong, and is occasionally - and willingly - appropriated for commercial purposes. Circlemaking has almost attained the status of old country pursuit, but those in the know are happy to perpetuate an air of mystery. Read this Wikipedia entry to get the whole story, including the work of the infamous Doug Bower and Dave Chorley.

The world's biggest sub-woofer (via music thing, who also link the Jesusonic effects box and the Japanese product design database). One hopes that the foundations of the buildings above this speaker are secure. Staying large: all about Gigapixel images and beyond, like this 2.5gp image of Delft - a long exposure which produces anomalies. See the original, a fine view of Bryce Canyon. This earlier picture prompted speculation about the image quality from Cold War era spy cameras. Finally, a photo book for your vast images.

Staying with spies: Collecting Hit type cameras, the original consumer spying device. Hit Types were a sort of poor man's Minox (sample pics) - see some images . At the other end of the scale, a kid's site all about pinhole photography. NYC London does great urban pinhole imagery. This series, on the Barbican, isn't pinhole. But it's still brilliant.

10x10, an interactive 'news mosaic' / everything you like... / some fine photographs of containers, by Frank Breuer. See also his series on poles, warehouses and logos / Esopus Magazine promises debate and no dumbing down.

DigModern sells 'vintage and rare books and objects for the modernist' (no capitals) / I like this / always entertaining: simulacra corner / Notes from the Road, travelogue and photography / playerblog tracks developments in mp3 players.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Just what is it with cars and robots? Cast your mind back to the Mini transformer, a wizard viral marketing wheeze that briefly captured the web's fickle imagination. Now Citroen have gone one step further, using CGI to turn their new C4 into a dancing transformer, choreographed by a chap called Marty Kudelka. Nice CGI, but what does it mean? Something to do with the ongoing infantilisation of the automobile, perhaps.

This car-as-toy approach manifests itself in car design itself, epitomised by the supposedly funky, clip-on aesthetic of the Smart car (although it's a moot point as to whether anyone has ever actually clipped on a new set of bodypanels to their car). But childhood, and memories of childhood, is also integral to the way in which cars are sold; via bright, colourful advertising (Renault's current Modus - slogan 'grow up, what for?' - is a case in point, as is Mazda's 'Zoom' campaign) that evokes fun and frolics, portraying an adult purchase as a reward, a treat that perpetuates the aspirations and desires of childhood.

Other things. Organise your books by colour / Atlantis, The lost city that's always being found (via tmn) / The Big Smoker (via moosifer jones) / more mapping, this time with a decidedly political slant: the The Urban Archipelago.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Over at Design Observer, Jessica Helfand writes about The Incredibles - a film which is not just a loving homage to the superhero genre, but also the painstaking construction of an imaginary age of 'good design': 'The Incredibles dwell in a kind of extraordinary dystopia, at once a celebration and an exaggeration of Eames-era modernism'. The Designibles dwells on the character of Edna Mode, who is billed as a 'superhero fashion designer,' with secondary attributes of 'super attitude' and 'excellent taste.' Her Philip Johnson-style glasses give the game away: here is the architect as superhero. Move over Howard Roark...

But wait. People tend to forget that Mid-Century Modern, for all its modish tastefulness, was once very much in the service of 'good' in the fight against 'evil'. The military-industrial complex ploughed its hefty R+D budget into mass-producing modern design, promoting consumption and generally equating new technology - in all its forms, be it in the kitchen, living room or car port - with social freedom and democracy.

We've written before about the book Cold War Hothouses, and the way in which modern design was one way of shielding the American consumer against the communist threat. The Incredibles' world, designed as it is down to the last mote, speaks of a climate of fear, mollified only by consumption and rampant technological innovation - innovation that climaxes in the forms and attributes of the superheroes themselves. Back in the day, comics were just one front in the battle against the socialist hordes (see This Godless Communism, for example).

There are some production notes here about the movie - its 100 sets of 'retro nostalgia': Art director Ralph Eggleston calls the film "suburban-mid-century-Tiki by way of [production designer] Lou Romano," while the director is quoted as saying: "I saw the world of The Incredibles as looking sort of like what we thought the future would turn out like in the 1960s". That fails to mention a sadness for this missing future, something that's at the core of retro nostalgia: a wistfulness for something that was somehow - almost inexplicably - lost before it was ever truly found.

See the film's stellar Metacritic rating and view trailers. Read about Pixar and the Uncanny Valley. Thanks to Bill Drenttel at Winterhouse (the design company he runs with Helfand) for directing us to it. We especially like their covers for Susan Sontag's recent paperback re-issues. Which segues us nicely into Shooting Images, an article extracted from things 17-18 on the photographic representation of the Iraq War, and on Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others.

Other things. An amazing animated grafitti tag (via plasticbag) / Londonist aims to do for our fair capital what Gothamist did for NY. For some reason we read Gothamist quite regularly. Will a London-centric weblog work? / Modern Phoenix: that post-war optimism encapsulated.

100 top trainwrecks, not of the dodgy British network variety - think more along the lines of Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon.


Monday, November 15, 2004
Jennie Erdal's new book, Ghosting: A Memoir details her life as a ghost writer, creating a series of blockbusting (bonkbusting?) novels (Women, A Timeless Passion and Of a Certain Age to name but three), that purported to come from the publishing tycoon Naim Attallah (see interview here). You can read two extracts from her book: The Invisible Woman and Whose book is it anyway?.

Two things via that's how it happened: Dirty Found magazine, which is like its sister publication, Found Magazine, but for 'pervy Polaroids, sleazy birthday cards, raunchy to-do lists, nasty poetry on napkins, illustrations', etc. You have been warned. Also, The Things I want, wishlist voyeurism.

We see faces in audio equipment / the neat dragon optical illusion (which didn't work for us after we'd printed out and laboriously put the little critter together by ourselves...). See also the shadow sculptures, impossible objects and transformations of Shigeo Fukuda.

Profanity Adventures investigates the response to rude words in ZX Spectrum text adventures (via metafilter). Not as obscure undertaking as you might think; typing rude words into text adventures was one of the main preoccupations of pre-teen boys back in the early 1980s, and the canny programmers of the era recognised this, doling out proto-Easter Eggs to reward the more creatively foul. Killjoys, of course, just crashed the game.

Bits and pieces. The BBC muses on GTA San Andreas / The DJ Never Has It, JAMC Automatic: references to the Jesus and Mary Chain in pop culture. Actually not hugely interesting, apart from the revelation that 'Nine Million Rainy Days was played on Episode 74 of Miami Vice' (when 'the sudden return of a kingpin's financial wizard son sets off heated speculation throughout the Miami underworld as to why he's come back'). I prefer this page, where Apu extols the virtues of Cheap Trick.

Lois Lane in I am curious (BLACK)!, presumably from the era of Black Like Me / Iraq gets its own version of Changing Rooms / the monastery of Novy Dvur, given a makeover by John Pawson. Finally, real monks get the minimalism they'd clearly been craving.


Friday, November 12, 2004
SimCity and its influence on planning culture. Early versions of the game were criticised for their rather simplistic political slant - low taxes make happy people, etc. etc. As the article notes, the later versions of the game divides each city into local neighbourhoods, and the effects of different decisions - school locations, crime levels, etc. - impact first on one neighbourhood and nearby neighbourhoods, rather than reflect on the city as a whole.

Turns out that the types of city created within SimCity are very much based on the American, rather than the European model - 'the sense of abundant open space'. As the piece states: "Unwieldy growth and megalomaniacal, destructive behavior are the two poles of [Sim]city operation and the player’s most likely courses of action. Thus the heart of the game is much less a universal vision of city design than it is a reflection of the most extreme tendencies of development in America, found in the few areas in which one person has total control over a large parcel of land..."

Related. Make a City Model (via tmn) / a huge collection of SimCity fansites / the history of Brasilia, with some amazing construction photos / the book jackets of George Salter / a 'disgruntled spouse' writes from the front lines of today's dynamic games industry, where big budgets collide with tight deadlines at great personal expense.

No,2 self writes about Paul Shepheard, whose book What Is Architecture?: An Essay on Landscapes, Buildings and Machines was one of our favourite books on the built environment from the last year. I also have a copy of his earlier book, What Is Architecture? (subtitle, An Essay on Landscapes, Buildings and Machines), which I'm looking forward to reading. Looks good, if Peter Lindberg's snippets are anything to go by.

Icon magazine on design blogging (the same article in article in pdf format - thanks to 0lll for posting the article, to Javier at archinect for alerting me and to Rob for the scans). Related, a cover page archive for the archinect web magazine. See also this cover page archive for Salon.

A nice collection of mostly incredibly tasteless celebrity cars / Fonts from American food advertising / something to explore a little deeper: Proboscis. This creative studio seems to be all about facilitating collaborations between artists / Our Show Home gears up for another exhibition of mid century modern furniture, etc. / Saarinen (senior?) gets his dues.

We glossed over Michael Wolf's amazing photos yesterday. The point to them, of course, is to highlight the sheer weight of plastic toys that comes out of China and the less than satisfactory conditions under which they're produced.


Thursday, November 11, 2004
OK. A few tentative posts. Please continue to sign up for details about things 19, just so we can get an idea of the levels of interest out there. things 17-18 is still available.

John Updike on The New Modern / the collage art of Peter Lewis, via the morning news / the real toy story, by photographer Michael Wolf, a serious 'sea' of Chinese toys.

How to move a hive of bees ('there is an old adage, that when moving a hive, you either have to shift it less than three feet or more than three miles') / Lego figure gallery via how it happened / sleight of hand.

Visit The Devil's Tramping Ground (via Mr BaliHai) / a weblog alphabet at anti-mega / Close to the Madding Crowd, on spectacle in the city, versus the wisdom of crowds / in other news, the danger of competitive dads.

John Carpenter's "The Thing" reviewed from the perspective of actual Antarctic research-base workers (via Incoming Signals) / Video-id, on advertising / Five Thousand Days, press photography in a changing world.

Thanks to everyone who wished us well. Apparently things recently appeared in icon magazine here in the UK. A scan would be hugely appreciated, as we seem to have missed that issue now. Thanks!


Friday, November 05, 2004
things is taking a spot of paternity leave. Intermittent posting will resume soon.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Some more on that National Geographic anti-Creationist cover over at Clive Thompson's Collision Detection. Thompson notes that 'the US states that are home to the main proselytizers of creationism are falling further and further behind in science,' citing this excerpt from the book Retro vs Metro. However, that book's premise has been accused of being simplistic, so we don't know if we can really trust that extrapolation. Unsurprisingly, the National Geographic's forums are being whumped.

Another interesting post from CD, about the problem of obsolete data formats, slipping away from us, bit by bit / architectural photographer Ezra Stoller has died. A gallery of his work, and some more / things grow better with Coke: Indian farmers discover the pest-controlling qualities of the world's favourite thirst-quencher. Ironic, given Coke's alleged habit of extracting too much ground-water in the country.

Who is Mary Sue? In the complex world of fan fiction, Mary Sue is the name given to a character who is a rather transparent projection of the author's own fantasies and aspirations. Given that much fan-fiction deals with SF (oh my God, so complex), the wish fulfillment elements of Mary Sue-ism aren't too hard to see. Ever wanted to cast spells, beat up bullies, cross galaxies, have romantic liaisons with improbable creatures and generally whoop it up? Mary Sue has done all these things and more. Read the Mary Sue Manual, or take the Mary Sue Litmus Test.

It's strange how the London Underground diagram has become such a popular subject on the web. The London map's geographic distortions are well-known, if confusing to outsiders (although we'd argue that the meandering path of the River Thames is the capital's single most obscufatory feature). Such distortion didn't wash in grid-based New York, however, and people got confused. Read more in this Design Observer post all about the New York map. Related, a huge collection of NYC subway maps. The Moscow Metro, and a history (also, old Russian tram maps).

Route 79 has An interesting post about the UK market penetration of Subway, the ongoing struggles of McDonalds, and the high cost of franchising versus the potentially higher profits: 'providing you have a good location (near a McDonald’s) then you’ll make your million in no time at all'.

An amazing time-lapse movie of the CN Tower, day and night superimposed on one another / Wonderful, visions of the near future. A fine-looking exhibition shortly to visit Manchester's Cornerhouse Gallery / visualising the life of your weblog, by plasticbag.

Sneedle Flipsock, a weblog / a machine that ties ties / via I like comes Special Item, where people reveal their own special items / some modern ruins, via metafilter / time to head back to consumptive.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Given that today will either see a massive change, or a massive continuation of the status quo, it seems a good time to look at Massive Change, the new polemical monograph from Bruce Mau and Jennifer Leonard. An exhibition, a radio show and, ultimately, a manifesto for design's re-engagement with global issues, the project divides the world of creativity into a series of design economies, each involving the re-channelling of previously malign influences into the common good.

These 'economies' include Military ('Can we re-imagine our use of military-derived technological power?'), Living ('We will design evolution') and Wealth & Politics ('We will eradicate poverty'). Each economy is given its own linklog, collating news stories from around the globe in order to extract common threads, future trends and evidence of design's power to effect change. It's a bit like a traditional linklog (e.g. memepool, metafilter, monkeyfilter, del.icio.us, etc. etc.), but somehow not quite as well organised - even commercial design link sites like engadget and mocoloco do a better job of presenting and, crucially, organising information.

The optimism on display is refreshing, to say the least. Can design really change the world? Perhaps the question should really be can objects and human ingenuity make the world a better place? Can we improve our lot yet continue to manufacture things that people desire? It's the ultimate paradox of consumer capitalism; how to create less within a system that demands more and more to function. Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth is a 43-point call to creative arms (albeit a slightly dated - 'Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it' - and irritating - 'Read only left-hand pages'), one which recommends you work within existing systems: 'Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise.'

On this evidence, Mau isn't keen to rock the boat. These things that are going to change the world have to exist within the framework already established by all the other things - namely that the methods of production, distribution and demand are all in place. If not, then the designer risks being accused of living atop an ivory tower, their idealism neglected by the dumb mass market. But crucially, Massive Change uses the term 'design' to emcompass all fields of human endeavour, be they traditional product development, scientific research or political initiatives. The word can't help but be de-based by these myriad loose and fluid associations - is 'design' about modern living, genetic engineering, pseudo-scientific posturing or the simple act of having an idea and seeing it through to fruition? All creative thought - 'design' - is therefore evidence of progress: things can only get better.

One unpalatable truth about this determinist view of design is that good things frequently come out of bad things. For example, a significant proportion of consumer-orientated technologies are derived from military technology and applications - such as the mobile phone. In presenting human creative endeavour as an ongoing process of incremental improvement, Massive Change is sometimes wilfully blind to the here and now. See, for example, strategic blimps, a musing about the US Department of Defense's Strategic Airlift Program, or the search for a super, bulk cargo-lifting aircraft. Cynics might point out that such a device, known in military circles as the WALRUS, is designed - that word again - to facilitate regime change, not famine relief. Yet Massive Change asks us to consider the device's impact on the latter, and look past the former as an inconvenient fact of life, a means to justify an end.

Some more comments in this short, snarky metafilter thread on the exhibition. The thread includes this link to Dean Allen's amusing Annotated Manifesto for Growth, in which he neatly punctures some of Mau's more asinine statements. Meanwhile, back in the 'real' world, feast your eyes on these canine accessories, including this insane dog divan. The is the Corb Grand Confort reinvented for your pooch. Put another way, it's the final stage in the journey of a designer object, from intended mass-produced, democratic 'good design,' to limited production elite designer item, to insanity.


Monday, November 01, 2004
It is not a good time of year for Chrysophobics. We can sympathise with the writer of Give up the ghosts, who laments the swift descent of British Halloween into a horrible, cheap photocopy of America's $3 billion festival of orange tat. Having opened the door to a depressing succession of small children, clad in lurid, cheap Woolworths costumes, lurid facepaint and nasty Scream masks, and swiftly given in to their gratitude-free demands for sweets (adding to the sugar already coursing through their veins), we would happily give the whole thing back to the US. 'Two lollipops' is interpreted as a sticky handful. Parents lurk guiltily on the pavement.

Some more history, and some more complaints, this time from the ExWitch Ministeries. That's the problem with Halloween; if you hate it, you're either a curmudgeon or a fanatic. Halloween is truly celebration of evil, but not in the religious sense. In Britain, the commercialisation of Halloween got a huge boost when ET was released in 1982. Back then, the only delight was pumpkin carving, a rare and exotic craft (movie trivia: the 'enhanced' version of the film digitally altered guns to walkie-talkies and changed 'the word "terrorist" to "hippie" in describing Michael's Halloween costume').

The film's trick or treat scenes showed American children having a lot more fun than their British counterparts. A cultural shift was underway, first with the importation of some of the more lurid Halloween urban legends. Of these, the razor blade in the apple was the favoured horror story, accepted as truth by almost every adult and used as a stern warning against the dangers of trick or treating. Today, packaged sweets are more tamper-proof, acrylic costumes and latex masks are cheap to make (with a correspondingly high profit margin) and Halloween neatly fills the long retail gap between Easter and Christmas. As a result, the British Halloween industry has kicked in with a vengeance, eager to imitate its American counterpart.

Vaguely related, Supernatural and Fantastic Imagery of the Middle Ages, via exclamation mark / Simon's Advert and Brochure archive / design culture stuff at mooch / a huge collection of photo and image albums, including 1950s cars and weird trucks in Japan.

The National Geographic takes on the Creationists / retrovertising reminded us of the art of Arthur Radebaugh, futurist artist (see his flying bus) and subject of a new exhibition on yesterday's world of tomorrow. See Where are the cars of the future we were promised?

Celebrity Food dysfunctions, such as 'Elvis' fave Fool's Gold sandwiches. These apparently consisted of whole baguettes stuffed one foot high with bacon, peanut butter and strawberry jam. Each contained 42,000 calories, enough to sustain a normal man for a fortnight. You can find a squirrel recipe here (it doesn't mention whether you should use common or garden grey or, presumably the gourmet's choice, red).

A fine appreciation of John Peel from Slate, with mp3 links / a history (in French) of plastic-bodied cars / key dates in BBCi history / Berlin 1945-1985.