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weblog archives
eXTReMe Tracker
Monday, January 17, 2005
'Illegal Engineering', author and illustrator Tim Hunkin on the art of safe-cracking (via Yoz). We'd love to see this illustrated and annotated lecture performed, because the history of locks, safes, chests and security boxes is one of fiendish and devious objects (shown in this Hunkin cartoon), and the accompanying history of lock-picking is equally fascinating. Many of the names referenced in the text are still familiar today, like the locksmith Joseph Bramah, inventor of the allegedly 'unpickable' Bramah Lock. This was an incredibly complex device, as demonstrated by these illustrations, whose success is evinced by the continued existence of the Bramah Company. Bramah's lock was eventually picked by Hobbs, who was subsequently defeated by the American locksmith Linus Yale. Yale's son, also Linus, created a front door lock so enduring that I've used one twice today already.

More information at Antique Locks, which links to such wonders as this collection of Bank Vault Time Locks (which 'keep the vault door locked until the timer runs down'), Dean's Antique Safe and Padlock Page, and the Chubb Archive. Charles and Jeremiah Chubb's locks used to be made in a huge factory on Glengall Road in South London, not far from things. Some more Chubbs history, showing a typical Chubb Safe Deposit installation (lock detail).

Hunkin's page coincided with our acquisition of this book by the delightfully-named Shifty Burke, Memoirs of a safe-breaker, published by Arthur Baker Ltd in 1966. (Safe-breakers get good nicknames, witness Hunkin's tales of 'Piano Charlie'). Burke's book is perfectly attuned with the underbelly of 60s London, the criminal world that got to rub up with glamour (e.g. the Kray Twins 'immortalised' by David Bailey) and create an enduring popular mythology.

For novices, the book begins with a glossary, explaining many terms which have passed into popular usage ('Throw the book: apply the full weight of the regulations, 'Butcher's: a look (butcher's book)') via the popularisation of Cockney rhyming slang. But there were plenty we hadn't heard:

Dead job: burglary carried out on empty premises
Flattie: policeman
Jam pot: gas meter
Nevis: 7-year sentence
'Loids': pieces of celluloid used to force back the latch of a Yale type lock
Pussies: furs


*

Elsewhere. Delightful and slightly obsessive: Francoise Hardy all over the world (via I Like, who also point to this elaborately wonderful speculation of one man's future, What if..., courtesy of Craig at Flip Flop Flyin) / aviation news. "Last year there was not a single death from large jets registered by the major airlines in North America, Europe or Australasia. Not a single one. Nor was there in 2003, nor in 2002."

Kiddie Records Weekly, a polychromatic celebration of 'classics from the golden age.' (via Irregular Orbit). At the opposite end of the audio spectrum, The Sound of Data at Acts of Volition (via kottke). See also the myriad white noise generators you can get to mimic various natural and unnatural sounds.

A nice set of Sci-fi book covers from Russell Davies, who also links to Jonathan Harris's Number 27. Harris is the creator of Understanding Vorn, 'an artwork in flux'. "Every five minutes it scours thousands of weblogs, searching for the four most recently posted pictures that begin with the letters 'V', 'O', 'R', 'N'. Every five minutes, UNDERSTANDING VORN changes, filled with fresh words and pictures from the blogosphere".

Ellie Harrison's travels around London / Stopped Clocks, via Boing Boing / architecture T-shirts / Malcolm Gladwell writes entertaingly on SUVs / an online portfolio at Variate.net ('a compendium of small pieces of me').