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weblog archives
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Friday, May 06, 2005
Kottke provides a comprehensive set of links and information for Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson's entertaining rebuke to those who accuse the modern world of dumbing down. In a way it's a shame that the book is just that - a book - because the dead tree format fails many readers who might feel Johnson's ideas are the start of a discussion, rather than the last word (his subtitle, 'How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter', neatly sums up his argument. In fact, it's such a succinct summation of the book that it almost negates the need for the book itself). Another discussion. In the end, our favourite bits were the little diagrams illustrating narrative depth: Starsky + Hutch versus The Sopranos (although some critics railed at even those).

Even a weblog post like Kottke's showcases the limitations of this kind of cultural analysis - a form of criticism and theory that exists partly because of the way the internet has democraticised information availability. The point being that the internet seems to encourage books, yet the books themselves inevitably add more noise to the signal, encouraging yet more books and so on. Another example of this genre is Curtis White’s The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves (which seems to be subtitled Why Consumer Culture is Turning Us into the Living Dead in the UK). Interesting only for the opposition it sets up against Johnson's book, neither really get to the crux of why so much contemporary culture - be it 'high', 'low', good or bad - has the feeling of high fructose corn syrup.

We shall continue to contribute to the soundbitatisation of practically everything with our traditionally random 'elsewhere' section. Charlie emails with details of the British Library's Texts in Context website, a rich collection of original source material. Our favourites include 'Books for Cooks', which has a recipe for jelly and custard from 1575 and tips on repelling bugs from Hannah Glasse's 1747 best-seller, The Art of Cookery. Her recipes seem to endure. Some more rare cookery books page 2from the Kansas State University's collection.

The Amaztype page has snared quite a bit of publicity (even in places like Creative Review magazine) / wanted, back issues of wallpaper magazine. Ah, but do they have the magazine's Russian edition? / Fashion Projects, isn't an online publication, but looks intriguing all the same / The Physics Behind Four Amazing Demonstrations: how to walk on broken glass, dip your hand in molten lead, break a concrete block, etc. / one wants these images to be much bigger: Plan, by Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga. There are some better reproductions at Raster, which specialises in Polish art, as well as at Artnet. They also bring to mind this drawing of 221B Baker Street (as well as a fair few of the entrants in this list of the top 100 Spectrum games).

Italian automobilia at Barchetta / scattergun, a weblog / all sorts of artistic chaos at desaster.ch / does anyone own a chair like this?. If so, I am jealous / sandsational / Chris Jordan's photography includes his series 'Intolerable Beauty — Portraits of American Mass Consumption' / a guide to the first 50 singles issued by Creation Records, via indie mp3. Teenage Kicks 3000 and the Peel Tapes are two of a burgeoning collection of tribute sites to the late John Peel, comprising of sessions and even whole programmes ripped from old audio tapes.

Allianz Arena Munich, a striking new structure by Herzog + de Meuron, in a photo gallery by 0lll. The Allianz plays up on the stadium's essential otherworldliness, an alien object that has descended into a (fairly featureless) landscape. Although the exterior is highly faceted, it's no match for the architect's National Stadium in Beijing, a highly complex structure that is rumoured to be suffering design changes thanks to budget cuts. The official Allianz Arena site, with its own image gallery.