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Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Whatever Happened to Automated Highway Systems? AHS were once the dream of car manufacturers and consumers alike, epitomised by GM's Firebird II concept, shown at the 1956 Motorama and the star of a film detailing the Dream Highway of Tomorrow, one of the earliest AHS. The Firebird II could actually drive without human intervention, provided a wire was buried in the surface of the road.

But although the idea has been around for literally decades, other advocates are still suggesting we take the first step. The political will and public desire for automated systems expired long ago, and the last flurry of interest was just eight years ago at the Demo '97, when 20 modified Buick LeSabres ran along a stretch of Interstate 15 in San Diego. At the time, concepts like Buick's XP2000 (very software-sounding) were getting geared up for the widespread implementation of automated highways, yet nothing really happened. What will change is the advent of true car-to-car communication, using Bluetooth-like broadcasting, rather than unreliable sensor-based systems. A common standard has now been agreed for cars to broadcast their position to others and monitor exactly what's going on around them; once these systems are in place, AHS are almost inevitable. Only now, the issue for the public is no longer one of convenience but of control.

More autos. Vauxhall Heritage, nice of a manufacturer to sponsor a public site about its past, especially when that past is often rather naff. Many horrors abound in this copious gallery of concept cars. Is styling everything? No, according to Detroit, Retro Has Failed You, an article in The Car Connection which asks, 'How many looking-back cars have been big hits? Surprisingly few.' Certainly not the Chevrolet SSR, Ford Thunderbird, New Beetle and horrid Chrysler PT Cruiser (although apparently Zaha Hadid drives one).

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Other things. Self-explanatory: monster magazine covers, via Tofu Hut / can someone explain the differences between the US and UK versions of Google maps? Type in a street name in the UK version and it brings up a list of places (or the map itself if it's a unique location). Do the same thing with the US version and you get business listings. Why is this?

Whitelabel.org, a weblog, which brings us the wonderful London Underground accelerated time disruption map. In the grand tradition of tube map-obsessed weblogging, Stefan has taken Transport for London's own data on disrupted tube lines and turned it into a mesmeric Quicktime movie. Watch as tube lines blink on and off like forks of lightning flashing across central London. The upshot of all this data mining is the remarkable statistic that the London Underground runs without problems just 22% of the time. Marvellous.

A fine collection of vintage cameras, via coudal. Strange to think that one day these objects will be totally obsolent, as chemical processes are slowly phased out. Last year, Ilford, one of the oldest names in black and white photography, went into receivership. Happily, it appears to have survived, for now / the in crowd, a weblog / me, my life + infrastructure, a weblog.

The China photography of Ferdinando Rollando / how to roll a Boeing 707. Earlier still, a homage to the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser (via i like) / glossy architecture: 50 Years of Record Houses / minimalist and electronic mp3s at the dozer blog / Happy Birthday Miffy!, A celebration of the work of Dick Bruna / Memorial museums, 'cabinets of misery' according to Tiffany Jenkins in Spiked.


Monday, June 27, 2005
It's not surprising to find a piece in the Guardian entitled 4x4s are killing my planet. But rather than write a statistics-driven polemic like Keith Bradsher's High & Mighty, Robert Macfarlane (the author of Mountains of the Mind), is more concerned with the co-option of rural imagery as a means of selling cars, a process that goes hand in hand with the 'apocalypse [that] has fallen upon the environment'.

The countryside of car advertisements is certainly seductive. By means of illustration, Macfarlane uses the example of OneLife magazine, a glossy lifestyle publication for Land-Rover, produced by Redwood Publishing, king of the contract magazine. Throughout OneLife, he finds "glossy centrefold spreads of eco-porn," and nature "being used to sell a product which embodies the principles by which nature must not be understood."

As well as noting how 4x4 names are a blend of cunning blend of the overbearing, almost militaristic, and the indigenous - Freelander, Toureg, Explorer, Pathfinder, Navigator, Tahoe, Landcruiser (which 'carries the wisdom of seven continents in its soul') - the crux of Macfarlane's piece is that off-road vehicles are one more way of widening the 'gap which currently exists between knowledge and place':

"4x4 advertising is dedicated to manipulating landscapes into generic forms. All that it requires of a landscape is that it evoke the idea of challenge - something resistant to be conquered, something natural to be tamed. A river is valued for its difficulty of fording. A mountain for its dramatic and nameless escarpments. No landscape can be only itself: it must represent an obstacle of some sort... The hypocrisies of 4x4 marketing are dark, multiple and pernicious."

More car advertising. Helmut Krone. The book. A monograph about the art director responsible for the American VW campaign, 'Think Small,' still held up as one of the most important and influential ad campaigns ever, and copiously illustrated throughout the book. Krone's influence is still felt on the company's recent ads, although I saw a woeful US spot for the Phaeton the other day that tried uneasily to make a virtue out of the car's low sales and hence rarity.

Elsewhere. The online diary of Zoe Young about her work in Angola for Medecins Sans Frontieres dealing with an outbreak of Marburg haemorrhagic fever.

The F Word, contemporary UK feminism / Dadblog / Joe's Favorite Paper Airplane (via Molgam) / Donald Keyhoe's Flying Saucers Are Real (1950), via exclamation mark / Ralph Lauren's car collection, via tmn / amazing gigapixel images / Personism contributes Shelter Magazines and Living With Art to apartment therapy / home made jam, many links / a Daily Dose of Architecture uses Google Maps to give you an aerial tour of the works of Renzo Piano (Building Workshop homepage).

Beijing Boom Tower, a speculative view of Urban China in 2020, at the Dynamic City Foundation, via Ashley B's Notes from Somewhere Bizarre. These predictions are probably rather accurate. See also City of Sound's alliterative post from earlier this month / Hyperkit visit the Golden Lane Estate.

The artwork of Lester Haas, Beaux-Arts architect / sci-fi art round-up: Peter Elson, Stewart Cowley and Chris Foss, three titans of futuristic landscapes and giant spaceships. Remember the days when this kind of artwork adorned the cassette tapes that held ZX Spectrum games, creating high expectations of the content within that were always hopelessly unfulfilled.

Found City (via me-fi): 'send photos and text messages from the street to your personal map and tag it, etc.' Top tag is, unsurpringly, street art / Dynamic Demand is a real-time representation of the load on the UK's National Grid, the intention being that someone smart will 'design electrical appliances that can react to the current grid condition and change their consumption to help smooth out imbalances.' A worthy goal, given that standby power consumption is still such a major problem.

The history of Suck.com, via metafilter. The actual domain Suck.com hosts the archives / Consuming Things, perspectives on consumption / Home Built Cockpit Project, via me-fi / Naoya Hatakeyama: Examples from the Lime Works Series, 1991-1994 and Lime Hills, 1986-91, via flux + mutability.


Friday, June 24, 2005
Back again, with a few tweaks and enhancements (see what's new? for more).

Herewith a compilation collection of links to see you through the weekend, starting with this epic post on the architectural ambitions of the New China over at City of Sound / the architecture of GTA San Andreas / Uri Geller gets his comeuppance, way back in the 70s / modern houses as film locations / In Memoriam: My Manual Typewriter, Rick Poynor waxes lyrical at design observer / 'Confessions of a Neo-Leachian (or How I Escaped from the Art Police)', an amusing essay at Critical Ceramics / buy original Billy Childish prints via Ebay / Aquarium Gallery

Cassette tapes, R.I.P, Music Thing mourns the imminent passing of the humble compact cassette / Polish Tappers. Related, let's tap! / wristwatches developed in conjunction with car manufacturers, many of which cost more than decent car... / Burning World, an mp3 weblog / all of Coudal's fresh signals covers, on shuffle / a collection of fine 1970s cars / the Guardian's culture vulture weblog (for sidebar) / The 2005 RIBA Awards.

Create your own ambience with Sound Raider (via haddock) / a searchable list of all those who served in the Battle of Trafalgar / duck hunt, a retro game / Rip-Off!, inside the 'management consulting money machine' / Jeremy Dickinson paints rusty toy cars and shipping containers and more / Top tips on luxury travel from Wanda Lust / The Morning News gets a re-design / Make your own Bayeaux Tapestry (via diskant) / 'magic castle play houses' by Capelabranca.

Rendered fantasy architecture by Ilkka Halso / Rake's Progress, a weblog / photos at Catseye / one-up on your average SUV / welcome to my hell, the realities of maintaining a digital music library for all time. Find out why DVD is "a disastrous medium" and why you shouldn't fill your CDs right up to the edges...

Does anyone want to buy our car?


Thursday, June 09, 2005
We're away for a week, so there'll be no posting. Feel free to poke around the site a bit.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005
How to Write for the Papers is subtitled 'a guide for the young author.' First published in 1912, this is a third edition from 1925, and in this context, 'papers' means not only newsprint, but the fiction and non-fiction publications that were devoured by huge markets in the UK and US (and Europe too). It's unclear how much of this advice is pertinent today.

In the first half of the twentieth century, London was awash with specialist publications, weekly and fortnightly papers that provided a steady diet of derring do, adventure, non-fiction and what we now call 'human interest.' The gazetteer of names and addresses at the back of How to... lists 33 daily papers, 86 weekly papers and 37 fortnightly ones, almost all of which were based in central London, especially EC4 and WC2 (Farringdon and Covent Garden). Just one of the fortnightlies seems to have survived as a monthly magazine (Good Housekeeping), the rest have all vanished (although names occasionally get recycled).

In the days before widespread photojournalism - and articles built around things you could buy - the stock in trade of the 'paper' was the story, be they 'bright and thrilling' (Red Magazine, a Fleetway publication) or 'true stories of a startling nature' (Wide World Magazine, based just off the Strand). Romance and religion were both popular, but Albert E.Bull's book had no time for the disreputable ('contributions should be of good high tone and avoid the sordid and ultra-sensational', he notes of the magazine Quiver. That said, you could always turn to old stand-bys like the Boy's Own Paper for tales like 'Chased by Wolves!'.

Alternatively, build-it-yourself instructions (how to build yourself an all-wave ether ranger) were hugely popular (a bit like Make Magazine?). Or even 'Strange Weapons, and Stranger Ways of Using Them. Crucially, Bull notes that 'sordid and "gory" tales are rigidly banned.'

American short story publications were even more prevalent - search for
American periodicals on this page. They tended to be a bit more 'hard-boiled' than their English equivalents - like Black Mask - or, alternatively, even soppier (Modern Priscilla). See also the Fiction Mags list and the magazine list at Galactic Central, which attempts to chronicle some 6,000 publications and this page on story papers.

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Other things. Another page on the Maunsell Sea Forts (see yesterday), which are apparently the subject of a 3m rescue project. The structures also crop up on the cover of Architecture of Aggression, subtitled 'military architecture two World Wars' (our copy was last taken out of Cleveland County Libraries on 14 February 1979). Published by the Architectural Press in 1973, the book covers topics like the Fortresses of Liege, the Albert Speer designed Flak Towers in Vienna and the vast tunnel network known as Mittelwerk, where concentration camp inmates were forced to make V2 rockets - any many thousands died to create the precursor to the Apollo programme.

The poetry of Anna Akhmatova (mp3s, in Russian) / satellite photos of the US / the Eureka Tower, Australia / Colors magazine on the cult of the fan / designsponge, a design weblog / the photos of Joey Harrison / Quarlo photographs NYC. Love it / we love gigposters / Rod Baird's Ancient Routes, a guide to 'the ancient trade routes around the Mediterranean' / crafty things at supernaturale / Everquest Daily Grind: addiction in the world of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (and a collision detection piece on a way out of the problem in Slate).

Rick Poynor, editor of Eye magazine on the design monograph, in particular the book 3D>2D by The Designers Republic, essentially a monograph accompanying Sadar Vuga Arhitekti's Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Llubljana. A great building, undeniably, but ultimately 'a slender idea graphically inflated to attention-grabbing proportions.'


Sunday, June 05, 2005
Abandoned modern architecture is not really as uncommon as one might think. There's an undeniably epic scale and sweep to the largest modernist schemes - a sublime to ridiculous genre that encompasses Brasilia, Chandigarh, even Thamesmead or the late, unlamented Pruitt Igoe (see yesterday's post). Yet scale gives these places an inescapable feeling of emptiness and abandonment, even when they're still in use (for filmmakers, it meant an instant dystopia): one of the primary criticisms of modernism is that rigidity and repetition make for sterile places to live.

Halvorsen, in flagging up the amazing Maunsell Towers, reveals the modern ruin's innate sense of drama, a blend of regret, tragedy and failed potential that adds immeasurably to the atmosphere, made all the more pertinent by its historical closeness. (we're also pretty sure that the Towers provided some celebrated visual inspiration).

Which is why these links to a few Russian Urban Exploration sites are so fascinating (Abandoned.ru is especially recommended). The structures shown here are not only abandoned, but frequently unfinished, and convey the sense of a society struggling - and failing - with massive social upheaval. For example, abandoned hospitals and asylums are two a penny in the UK, but an unfinished hospital? We did a short bit of (sub)urban exploration on the Baltic coast last month, and again, the complex we visited was, again, unfinished - a factory that never built anything at all. Photos to follow.

The spectre of Chernobyl hangs over all these images, perhaps, the one modern event that can effectively rip the still-beating life out of an entire city in an instant. But the overall picture is one of economic stagnation. Images likes those of the 'sleeping giants' in the 'Moscow countryside' should bring comfort to Russia's enemies and vindicate the policies of even more. Another gallery, the lost biker. More abandoned healthcare: the Le Valdor Hospital and the Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire (now and then), both in Belgium. Dubtown, German places. It's impossible to mention urban exploration without citing Urbex, the endlessly interesting site about infiltrating abandoned sites in the UK.

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Some other things. The city distance tool will give you the direct distance between any two places on the planet. Handy. hi-res images from the Atlas of our Changing Environment, produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (news story) / further to yesterday's publishing links, all about In Coldest Type, 'a scathing indictment of the American Way of Bookselling'.

You can buy instant showreels of old ads in Delhi: 'These CDs will be used repeatedly for nurturing employees in the art of advertising' / the landscape paintings of Helmut Ditsch / flyers and posters by Same Design / bananas in pyjamas, by David Wills / band mind weapons.com, meet crank.net


Friday, June 03, 2005
Jane Jacobs, super-villain?. A new play, the wonderfully-titled 'Boozy: The Life, Death and Subsequent Vilification of Le Corbusier and, More Importantly, Robert Moses', villifies Jacobs in a campy, tongue-in-cheek kind of way ('putting the punk rock back into urban planning'). The play comes soon after Pierre Huyghe's Le Corbusier puppet show, a kind of World Police for architects, as well as news of Brad Pitt's burgeoning architectural career. Starchitecture never had it so good.

Meanwhile. Pruitt-Igoe stills casts its shadow, while on the other side of the world it's as if Moses is still steaming ahead: Lightningfield charts rapid urban change in Shanghai. Boozy would have loved it.

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What's the deal with book publishing? Answer, 'happy' and 'sad' warehouses, pulping machines and a business model that's like playing the Vegas slots. In 2003, 34% of adult hardcover books were returned to publishers, compared with 28% in 1993. Ironically, the WSJ page is sponsored by Xerox.

Looking for a suitably post-apocalyptic site for a shoot? Try Locations UK. Alternatively, you might want a garage or hot-tub. The site is (inadvertently?) a good way of taking a tour round the capital's finer apartments and residential architecture, including deco, modernist and contemporary (the latter is Anthony Hudson's Drop House).

Is it possible for the internet to dry up? It feels as if it's contracting a little, pages falling apart, slipping away. We'll keep searching. How many frames per second can you actually see? / The Russian Mosin Nagant Page / exploring the Cincinatti subway / a one-man Luftwaffe life-raft. From here .


Wednesday, June 01, 2005
A fairly random selection today. Recycling from the sky: the scrap-metal dealers of Kazakhstan (via Rossignol). There's an aura of unreality to some of these pictures, equal parts Mad Max, Brothers Quay and Jeunet and Caro, with a splash of Terry Gilliam. It's also a remarkable demonstration of quite how wasteful space travel is, with great chunks of rocket booster scattered across the landscape. Some captions would be instructive, because without them, the images slip easily in line with contemporary myths.

A conservative US website posts its Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. The first three are fairly predictable, but from there things go rapidly downhill / a walkthrough movie of Jet Set Willy. Clearly not taken from the (original) ZX Spectrum version (emulated here), as that was apparently nigh on impossible to play all the way through (without resorting to pokes) / The Art of War, an online exhibition at The National Archives / when English eccentricity meets real world concerns: the truth about cars tackles the Bristol Blenheim. Visit the official Bristol site.

City of Sound's linklog / the photography of Peter Guenzel / yet another example of religious simulacra, the Jesus Ultrasound (a good name for a band?) / when homogenity strikes back: a landscape of street signs (via design observer). Also at DO, Post Punk Record Sleeves / Heures Creuses ('off-peak hours') and Octopus Dropkick, two pop culture weblogs.

The Shadow Robot Company will sell you a Shadow Dexterous Hand (but not in pairs) / t-shirt designs at Furniture Club / Miss Representation, excellent writing on architecture and architecture culture (all too often not the same thing) / the automotive designs of Paolo Martin / Regret the Error. Because mistakes happen. Somehow misses off the Guardian's busy section.