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Friday, July 29, 2005
The Wonka movie comes out today. With a bit of luck it should be suitably trippy for a nine-month old. The production design for the chocolate factory was inspired by the futurist renderings of Antonio Sant'Elia, although Peter Bradshaw also sees Tate Modern/Bankside in the strong verticals. To be fair, Giles Gilbert Scott was probably influenced by Sant'Elia as well. Some discussion about the sets at Coming Soon. See also the controversy over Tim Burton's Oompa-Loompa cloning methods. The original film now has a sparkling new flash site.

BabyCam, 'set to end over the shoulder child monitoring' / Brand New, 'thoughts on brands and communications'. See also Mediameld. These are quasi-professional weblogs, open musings from those working in the field of visual communications / Slowly She Turned also has an agenda, 'simple living, slow food, and sustainability' / the big loader, or why kids like diggers / the puppet jungle will sell you just about every type of glove puppet / active suspension, a record label with neat animations.

Marvels in Miniature, James Fenton on Nicholas Hawksmoor's model of Easton Neston / crisply interactive websites designed by Matt and George / hypnotic flash experiments at dextro, a 3D kaleidoscope at Tekhna 3d, more Trippy Programs / three interesting points in one post over at Bottom Drawer: should architects refrain from designing prisons? (related, Glancey on prison architecture from 2001) Is religion integral to urban regeneration? Are paper bags better than plastic bags?


Thursday, July 28, 2005
On the west shores of Salton Sea, you can still see the traces of ghost town, laid out in the 1950s but never populated. Via phil, via Google Sightseeing, which also links to the Salton Sea wikipedia entry. The photos are particularly atmospheric. More photos of abandoned structures by Richard Heeps (his portfolio is well worth browsing). A Hi-res satellite image.

Mike Mason photographs sand in strange and beautiful ways / children's book illustrations / huge collection of music videos / the rather morbid Gallery of Transport Loss, subtitled 'Photos and Lessons of Disaster'. Given that the site is hosted by an insurance broker, the 'lessons' are presumably very instructive (via Whiskey Tango) / is Scotland's modern architecture in crisis? Or is architecture itself in crisis, given that the Scottish Parliament has just been shortlisted for the Stirling Prize?

The truth about kids and violent video games shows that statistics are handy for just about anything / snoop around National Geographic's press room / buy Stanley Kubrick's Mercedes / Nostalghia.com, an Andrei Tarkovsky Information Site (via Palace Chime) / London Lost and Found, 'a guide for the misguided' / Sharing books and parcel tape: 'If I wanted to show a visitor the best of Finland, I would take them to a public library and then to Helsinki's Main Post Office to see the roll of parcel tape.'

Cabinet Magazine, things' favourite paper publication, is coming to London's Barbican Gallery for a talk tomorrow night (July 29th). Cabinet editor Christopher Turner will speak on 'Chromophilia', an event held in conjunction with the current exhibition, 'Colour after Klein'. We can't make it, sadly, but the topics sound fascinating (and very 'Cabinet'), including the history of Spectro-Chrome therapy, and some Cabinet-produced films on the history of mauve, Gertrude Jekyll's colour schemes and early colour photography, the camouflage theories of painter Abbott Handerson Thayer and the Spinal Tap-esque Superblack, 'the darkest color ever created.' The press release also notes intriguingly that 'the event will feature the mass administration of the outdated Luscher Color Personality test and possibly also include a discussion of chicken contact lenses.'

Will Battersea Power Station's chimneys have to be knocked down and replaced? It seems a shame, as the chimneys are a defining element of the original structure, and even with like-for-like replicas the building edges just one step further towards total pastiche. It serves the developers well to re-build the chimneys, as plans like single seat restaurants and observation platforms will be far easier to pull off inside nice modern structures.

We have a piece published in today's the morning news, entitled London Underground.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Christopher Alexander's The Nature of Order is an epic four-volume tome presenting an all-encompassing theory of architecture. Centred around the concepts of 'living structure' and 'living processes' - organically-derived concepts that conform to human scale and traditional methods - Alexander believes contemporary architecture is 'arbitrary' and essentially damaging. More intriguingly, one of his quotes reads '...I believe he is likely to be remembered most of all, in the end, for having produced the first credible proof of the existence of God...', although Alexander's definition of God doesn't necessarily tally with the traditional view.

At times, it seems like those who lionise the contemporary architecture of the 80 years suffer from some kind of social compulsion, deliberately going against the prevailing flow of opinion. The richly ironic fact is that what was intended to be an architecture for the masses is now strictly a minority pursuit. The Modern House is a new niche estate agent, specialising in connecting contemporary architecture with its compulsive fans. Admittedly, being a niche interest it means that all too often contemporary houses are seen as fodder for redevelopment, tear-downs that developers know very few will miss.

Some more on the 40 under 40 architects list, this time with fine portrait photos by Timothy Soar / architecture links from Nicolas Norero / watch me change is a Gap-gimmick, but entertaining, at least once / Square America (via archidose), 'a gallery of vintage snapshots & vernacular photography'. Onward links include Ground Glass, photos, Old Haunts, spooky ephemera, and Hugo Strikes Back!, visual arts, some of which is mildly pornographic, some of which, like this huge collection of Moscow Metro Photographs, is anything but.

Yesterday's BBC news had an ironic juxtaposition. Ancient phallus unearthed in cave. Right below it, we read Uproar grows over GTA sex scenes. I wonder if the phallus caused uproar some 28,000 years ago? / photos of Brazil by Thomas Locke Hobbs, via Land Living / Michael Danner, photographer / the Intonarumori, 'a family musical instruments invented in 1913 by italian futurist painter and musical composer Luigi Russolo'. Russolo's manifesto was called The Art of Noise. History (and sounds) from Thereminvox.com.

The Toyota Auto Museum has an online gallery. Strangely for an auto maker, they seem happy to exhibit their competitors' cars, such as Roosevelt's Packard Twelve, or this enormous Cadillac Series 60 Special. Presumably they were acquired to study, shrink and improve / Kottke goes retro. Some anniversary or something, probably / Projekt 30's June exhibition.

A question. How does Getty Images get hold of (and therefore presumably profit from) this image (from this BBC news page), when it quite clearly originated with Transport for London?

We're off to the Lawn Road Flats tonight, with a bit of luck.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Bad Mags (via Ashley B). Why is the web such a fine repository for trash culture? Perhaps scanning and uploading and thing somehow flushes out the essential seediness, leaving behind a pixel-thin veneer of irony. It suits the low-attention span era to strip (bad choice of word, perhaps) the cultural back story out of images and objects, flattening their meaning to an instant flash of recognition and/or delight. The things we talk about at things are increasingly not objects in the traditional sense, but the traces left behind by the objects we remember, traces people have taken time and effort to recover and re-present. Or, more likely, they are a new breed of objects. Devices for collating and controlling an ever-increasing volume of music and images, or places that exist only in silicon, or cabinets of curiosity that have no physical form, no sense of wholeness, collections that take up no space.

Elsewhere. If you still have the capability to watch an hour or so of silent black and white movie, take the time to download the Expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at the Internet Archive (via we make money not art, via Bibi's Box) / the Hearwear exhibition is currently showing at the Victoria and Albert Museum (also via we make money). The official site is here. The exhibition is curated by a friend of things, and is well worth a visit.

The oops list, aviation blunders (via adventure lounge). The back story for this bad eject situation can be found here. The pilot, Keith Gallagher, flew again six months to the day / sorry about the jarring link switching. Kate Marshall paints burlesque wrestlers (via hyperreal and supercool) / 2lmc spool, London-centric design and culture weblog.

Wiederaufbau: Nachkriegsmoderne in Berlin is an elegantly-presented selection of Berlin's best twentieth century architecture / Modern San Diego / Shop Dropping is something I think we've mentioned before. Essentially reverse shoplifting - i.e. you surreptitiously stock the shelves - it seems like a fine, if rather unprofitable, way of distributing music, publications and more / Mocking Music delights anorak wearers everywhere by posting the complete NME C86 tape / The Food Section looks tasty.


Monday, July 25, 2005
Bits and pieces today. The internet movie poster awards. Related, the Peter Cushing Movie Poster Site (via sponbustion magazine, which is full of diversions, including how to convert a school bus into a motor home and this selection of 360 panoramic views from the UK, like this view of Blackpool in the shadow of the Pepsi Max Big One. Note, you can't see happy Friday night people kicking seven shades of something out of each other in this shot) / galleries of automotive interiors, with our favourites being the over-stuffed 80s and lurid 70s (via jalopnik) / the evolution of the cover-design for Robert W Chambers' The King in Yellow at Triangular Sun / Commodore 64 animations, via fosfor Gadgets / the babyplane, for duping doubtful children (via Oh!Gizmo).

Vestal Design Blog (linked via Edgar Gonzalez). We like the web smart color schemes at The Return of Design. See also Collision Detection's link to the Colour of the Day Project, by Johanna Balusikova. Brown is a good colour for Thursdays / Flight Sim Books provides online copies of 11 classic flight simulator manuals, from back when the only visual guide was a pixellated horizon. For more retro flight memories, visit Migman's Flight Simulator Museum. The page on Digital Integration's Fighter Pilot took us straight back to around 1984 / the art of David Ostrowski / Nebo Peklo, a weblog / modelling Disneyworld (via Boing Boing / Microsoft's Virtual Earth isn't nearly as good as Google's / wanted photos from days gone by.

Want a distraction when travelling on the tube? You can always knit (via importdisappoint). Related, a post-bombing tube map, one more for the collection (via Boing Boing). Hopefully out of date already.


Friday, July 22, 2005
The Wind Caravan website supported a series of kinetic sculptures by Susumu Shingu. More kinetic/noise art installations: the treeHarps, windribbons and whistlers. Intriguing stuff: listen (aiff). Many more fascinating projects and sounds at Terraplane Chorography 3, which documents three decades of sound installations / the RAF's Saxa Vord radar station on Unst in the Shetland Isles is to close. It's pretty bleak up there. Unst is the 'most northerly populated island in the British Isles', home of the Muckle Flugga lighthouse, designed and built by Thomas and David Stevenson, the former being the father of Robert Louis.

This leads us on to Chris Mullen's The Visual Telling of Stories, a 'database dedicated to the study of narrative in visual form.' The site is a bit slow, but it is an incredible resource. For example, check the gallery of Aesop's Fables, or illustrations from the Ladybird books, the amazing law and order scrapbooks, representations of pain, Brian Love's The Poppy Day, strips from pulp magazines ('I wish I had socked him! I should have busted his jaw!'), an intriguing collection of Victorian photographic albums and more and more and more.

k-punk is a south London-based weblog about politics and music, and the way one tends to mediate the other. No surprises for guessing the chief topic of conversation at the moment, but the points made are intelligently discussed. Linked, The Kubrick Site. The site also turned us on to some other London-based theoretical/musing weblogs, including Charlotte Street (run by Mark Kaplan, who also oversees the Critical Dictionary) and Abstract Dynamics. Via Charlotte Street, the (unfinished) Encyclopedia of the Marvelous, the Monstrous, and the Grotesque.

Other, more materialist, stuff. The BenzWorld galleries. No car gets pimped more than the Mercedes-Benz. Al's Car Page has articles on German, English and Asian limousines. Al has a big collection of car brochures too. We also share his passion for unusual station wagon conversions / stencils from the stencil library / Amiga art flickr set (via Caterina).

We can't wait until the likes of Topozone are fully integrated into Google Earth. Related, the Google Weblog and Hot or Not + Google Maps. See where 'hot' people live (via me-fi). The horror of metadata / 40 under 40, new architects step into the media glare / PanduCermat.org.my is a Malaysian government initiative to get law-abiding citizens to send in cellphone pictures of drivers doing illegal/silly things (via autoblog).

The Observer launches a technology magazine this Sunday (24th July), takings its complement of glossy supplements to four, the others being food, music and sport. They've been broadly influential across all swathes of that which we call culture, representing the apex of a particular kind of middle class smorgasbord of lifestyle and consumption, reducing everything to a series of well-marketed tick-boxes, be it an 'edgy' new CD, promising young sportswoman, or 'undiscovered' soft cheese. They're a bit like amazon's recommendations system, except in print and slightly more over-bearing.

On Tottenham Court Road, yesterday. Stockwell today, etc. etc. And so it goes on. Today's papers. The suspects. Bomb-related cliche-watch: 'X bears all the hallmarks of Y'. Have a safe weekend.


Thursday, July 21, 2005
The Found Madonna Image of the Week (via exclamation mark) is a little bit disappointing. For a start, it's not nearly as creepy and compulsive this Madonna gallery (talk about setting yourself a truly Sisyphean task), nor is it a collection of religious simulacra. Related, Hokum-Balderdash Assay is an entire weblog devoted to simulacra and pareidolia, and includes this excellent essay, The Incredible Likeness of Beings: Religious Simulacra and Pareidolia. More on Pareidolia from the Wikipedia. A collection of more faces on Mars.

Robert Birnbawn talks to Ian McEwan at tmn / moon conspiracy background / on coffee cup lids, by Phil Patton, via a non-story about plagiarism at the Gutter / One billion mobile phones will be sold in 2009, according to analysts / one would have thought that deep within the International Standards Organisation's copious website would be all sorts of gems. But even if you want random information like the standards that underpin freight containers, you have to pay for it.

The Hawkwind Museum /the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is fast gaining a reputation as a high altitude sports arena: tennis and golf to name but two / the epic images of Robert Polidori / Contextual Signage at the Barbican and on Channel 4. The current series of C4 idents are beautifully presented and will no doubt garner armfuls of awards.

CMYK, a festival devoted to independent magazine culture. Related, Publish and be Damned is running a self-publishing fair on Clerkenwell Green on 31 July. If we were organised we'd go / Plausible lies and false truths, a collection of 'facts that seem false or lies that seem true' at kottke / One photo per mile across the U.S. (via Lifehacker).

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More bombs today, or security alerts of some sort coming in as we type. Four points of the compass. Update, seems like detonators without explosives were used, probably intentionally. Me-fi thread.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Bits and pieces today. Architecture news at fresh arch / the zip code map, because we're always losing it / World Stadiums is a useful resource / Design Within Reach's Summer Contest: who designed this house? (via Subsystence magazine) / Jimmy Squid's Weapons, a photoblog.

One of the smallest NY apartment goes on sale (via curbed). 'Compact and bijou, Mostyn, compact and bijou. (a phrase that came into popular usage from adland). London has more than its fair share of overpriced rabbit hutches, as the rabid enthusiasm that greeted Piercy Conner's microflat concept from 2002 indicated. But as Hugh Pearman noted, the microflat down-graded the home from a spatial concept to little more than a consumable object, an over-the-counter gadget, the iPod of housing. In fact, had the architects waited a few months until the iPod (launched 23 October 2001) had taken off, popularising the idea of cultural compartmentalizing, their idea might have garnered more than widespread media interest and would perhaps even have been realised. Meanwhile, a site of great historic literary interest - and much human misery - gets the makeover treatment.

Ottmar Liebert has a weblog, which links to the 2 Columbus Circle Game, a conservation merry-go-round in NYC. In other conservation news, and a welcome piece of schadenfreude for fans of inter-war British architecture, the man who demolished Greenside, a classic (and listed) 1937 house by Connell, Ward and Lucas, has been refused both listing building consent to demolish and planning permission for new house. According to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 'in demolishing the building without consent, the applicant has by his own actions returned the site to open land in circumstances where he could not be said to have had any legitimate expectation that a new and different building could be erected on the site.'

More OTT architecture. The Goldstein House, a John Lautner classic / Morris Lapidus, the architect of excess / Kultureflash has a gallery of images of Michael Meredith's Huyghe + Le Corbusier Puppet Theatre, installed last year at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, designed by Le Corbusier in 1963 / the ultimate flash face. Everything you do turns out like Carlos the Jackal / Google Moon. Not as exciting as it sounds - a bit of a one-note joke, in fact. But can a real application called Google Galaxy be that far behind?

Bernd Brunner's The Ocean at Home - An Illustrated History of the Aquarium is a new book from Princeton Architectural Press. Read Wesley Burnett's review at Popmatters. Staying nautical: the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office, with online exhibits on lighthouses,
lighthouses, icebreakers and useful publications like these Instructions For Painting U.S. Coast Guard Vessels from 1935. By 1965, you get illustrations.


Monday, July 18, 2005
More ingenuity harnessed in the name of commerce: the Shadow billboard is designed, quite literally, to only make sense when the sun comes out. The image, which advertises a brand of sunscreen, is composed of hundreds of small raised aluminium posts. When the sun is out and in the right place, the cast shadows form the image - a sunbathing woman. Interactive billboards aren't new - a while ago an environmental group put up a poster at, I think, Vauxhall Cross: it started out completely blank, and then as the days went by a message appeared as dark sooty particles accumulated on the surface, clinging to special glue.

Perhaps surprisingly, contemporary London isn't as festooned with billboards as it was in the Victorian era, when advertising pervaded every nook and cranny. This extract from Successful Advertising (1885) gives ten reasons when to stop advertising, one of which is: "When every man has become so thoroughly a creature of habit that he will certainly buy this year where he bought last year." As a result, public spaces were a riot of posters, all hawking this and that, in a totally unregulated, and unscrupulous market. Yet there has to be a happy medium between billboards so clever they detract totally from the experience of the sights, smells, people and activity of the city behind them (quite literally, as in the billboard photos of Stephen Gill) and the Delete! project, which stripped out all extraneous white noise from advertising in a single street in Vienna - creating a rather oppressive, dull space.

Vauxhall Cross has become a symbolic location for a variety of things, including London's traffic chaos, public transport complexity, the growth of the surveillance society, the mediocrity of most private development and the political nature of the planning process. All of these things were explored in last summer's Vauxhall Pleasure project, which juxtaposed the serene with the constant assault of traffic, appropriate for a site that once housed London's principle Pleasure Gardens. See also
and this image of the Effra Site, named for the now-hidden River Effra, before Broadway Malyan got their hands on it and demolished the (in)famous Nine Elms Cold Store. Also see Lambeth Landmark, which has excellent archive images of Vauxhall and ephemera ('One More Ascent This Season of the Royal Vauxhall Balloon').

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Simulated society may generate virtual culture, a New Scientist piece on the intention to simulate a community of 1,000 'intelligent' agents, observing how social groupings and structures emerge through the creation of simple tasks. The NEW-TIES project (wait for it, New and Emergent World models Through Individual, Evolutionary, and Social Learning. That's the kind of acronymn that was arrived at during an uninspired night at the pub) is a bit like The Sims but without humans to contaminate the gel in the petri dish. Other scientists scoff at the idea, which will include characters and environments modelled using Counter Strike to ensure it looks accessible and interesting for human observers. One Edward Castronava is quoted as saying, "The most sensible research project, it seems to me, would be to study [real human societies that grow up on their own within computer-generated fantasy worlds], rather than conjure artificial ones." Castranova has a proposal for a "university-based synthetic world", which he calls Arden. Smacks a bit of Live As a Tudor to me.

Other things. The new wave of tomorrow: personal outsourcing. This generational niche is crying out for its own Microserfs / the rather spooky Inversion, an installation project by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck at Art League Houston. More images / building sites, photos by Isabelle Pateer / Buildings R Us urge you to consider a round of Urban Golf / Week in Review, hand drawn graphics illustrating the past week's major news story (via information aesthetics) / this screen-based keyboard is really rather clever / forthcoming Urban Modelling Application. Name it / GTA Batmobile mod.

Every kind of building system is available at The Construction Site, including one of our favourites, Fischer Technik. There wasn't a lot you couldn't do with Fischer Technik, and you could also marvel at the gazillions of bits and the Bauhaus-like perfection of their packaging and instruction leaflets (last link is from Kugelbahn, just one of many rolling ball sculpture sites. More Kugelbahn, this time from Switzerland, with the focus on kinetic art).


Saturday, July 16, 2005
Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the Trinity Test, the world's first atomic explosion, which took place at the Jornada del Muerto Valley (appropriately-named the 'Journey of Death' by water-starved Spanish settlers). More about the Manhattan Project, and the actual site itself, which has very limited access. This slender paperback, The beginning or the end came our way last month, a book-of-the-film of the dramatisation of the 20 billion dollar race to make the bomb. See also the Children of the Manhattan Project site, which deals to some extent with the health legacy of those who were involved. Update, check Boing Boing for details on the Simnuke 'memorial and reaction'.

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Saw Dig! last night. Very good. Anton Newcombe, of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, understandably doesn't think so. This man sneezes hits. See for yourself, as all the Jonestown Massacre's earlier albums are available for a free download. Good links too, such as the JPFO (that's Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership) Bill of Rights Limited Edition Commemorative Pistol, produced by Investment Arms of Fort Collins, Colorado. They also make the very special NRA 'My First Gun'. Because 'nothing quite captures the feel of that first time.'

Odd Books is compiling a bookshelf of unusual and overlooked publications, like You Have Lived Before! and the charming self-published monograph Faces of World's Captains / girl printer, a weblog / the history of the Fuji Rabbit scooter: 'the first Fuji Rabbit, the S-1, had the landing gear of a wartime bomber for a wheel.' The company also made the classic Fuji Cabin / Mom's recipes, typed up and food stained, a flickr set via bottom drawer / build your own Teardrop caravan / more on the Power of Nightmares.

The Essential Ghoul's Record Shelf brings you mp3 themes from creepy movies and TV shows. Actually, they're not creepy at all, but kitschy in a Halloween pumpkin kind of way / Kunstler's eyesore of the month is, predictably, the Freedom Tower: 'It lacks the dignity of even a common bowling trophy.' / 'Thousands and thousands of parasites are waiting for you. Come with me! This way!' to Tokyo's Meguro Parasite Museum. Some more information and images. Some more quirky Japanese museums.

I know you're all getting tired of this by now, but the car is still for sale. Only this time there's no reserve.


Friday, July 15, 2005
Domus magazine has launched an open competition for 'Ideas on architecture and geopolitics for the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang', a virtual competition, if you like, as a means of engaging with North Korea. More details (free registration required). The unfinished hotel looms over the city - the print edition of the magazine contains some quite spectacular photography. While not quite a symbolic icon along the lines of the Empire State, the Eiffel Tower or even the Gherkin, the building is nonetheless gaining a cult following in the West, with its own Wikipedia entry and even appearing in video games (the chipper-sounding Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction). We referenced it last year via this city tour.

Entertaining monster tooth find at Loch Ness is, inevitably, a hoax. It's most likely an attempt to create some buzz around The Loch, a new(ish) novel by Steve ('Two Words: Jurassic Shark!') Alten. From reader reviews of Meg, his first monstrous shark epic: 'I loved Jaws (film and book) but for me Meg is better. Jaws was a 25ft Shark, times that by two and a bit and you have Meg. Steve Alten has obviously researched his subject'. Embarrassingly enough, I think I've actually read it... Sadly, even the most famous picture of Nessie, the Surgeon's Photograph, was unveiled as a hoax some 60 years after it was taken. Yet people still want to believe. 'Monster Hoax by Sir Peter S', was the unfortunate anagram of Nessiteras rhombopteryx, the Greek name enthusiastically given to the monster by the naturalist Peter Scott (who did fine work setting up the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust when he wasn't pursuing the lost plesiosaur with a diamond-shaped fin). Original link via me-fi.

Curiously Incongruous, a photoblog of a fading and peeling London, via The Cartoonist. That's my train! / bottom drawer, a weblog / Swiss Miss, a weblog / Macchina fotografica, a photolog / Heritage and Preserved Railways around Britain. See also the Advanced Passenger Train, Britain's infamous last brush with high speed rail.

Yet another controversy about GTA San Andreas. Did modder Patrick Wildenborg code the infamous GTA sex scene mod, or merely unlock them? Wildenborg claims that 'the scriptcode, the models, the animations and the dialogs by the original voice-actors were all created by RockStar.' They say no. Senator Hillary Clinton says no way.

Learn how to tie the 'Ian Knot', 'the World's Fastest Shoelace Knot', and many, many more at Ian Fieggen's Shoelace Site, via personism, via d* notes on.... / Prayer 'no aid to heart patients' / forward retreat, a visual culture weblog / The Treehouse and the Cave, a weblog / thinking about things, a weblog / debate: what effect have the London bombs had on Adam Curtis's The Power of Nightmares thesis?


Wednesday, July 13, 2005
TED is the Technology Entertainment Design conference, usually held in Monterey every February. The organisation's first UK event finishes in Oxford tomorrow, having breezed through an impressive line-up of contemporary thinkers. We came to the site via a news story on Richard Dawkin's pronouncement that the universe is "too queer" to fully comprehend; indeed, we will probably never understand it in its entirety. Dawkins' talk was called 'Meme Power', and his quote is probably an extrapolation of JBS Haldane's famous remark in his book Possible Worlds (1940): "Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose".

Dawkins' point was that humankind has done a fine job of creating 'middle worlds,' realities that make sense of the immense complexity that surrounds us through essential simplification. The universe is made up of countless billions of things, yet as humans we can only perceive things of a certain scale, those that are not too large and not too small, and this is the 'middle world' we inhabit. Haldane, a keen entomologist, speculated that the larger an organism gets, the more complex it becomes, what has come to be known as Haldane's Principle (Haldane, a quotable chap, also coined the word 'clone'). Others, most notably Jane Jacobs, applied this principle to organisational systems, arguing that complexity doesn't make things big, but bigness makes things complex. That's not to say complexity doesn't occur on the microscopic scale: Haldane was once asked what his research had led him to think about God. 'He must have an inordinate fondness for beetles,' he replied. Not to mention beetle horns.

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Other things. Oskar goes nuts, a weblog / someone pointed out to us yesterday that the current things colour scheme is far from ideal if you suffer from protanopia, deutanopia or tritanopia - colour blindness. Try using the Colorfilter on the site and you can see the problem. More changes... / Lucy Pringle has a hugely comprehensive website all about crop circles, with conclusive photos like this one of a hostile alien symbol / speed limits go up in some US States / TED Global discusses future cities: apparently 130 people a second move to urban areas around the globe.

Thanks to Olli at Shinerclay for the pointer towards Uniform Freak, which continues to serve up classic air hostess style / nice to get a mention on a Flaming Lips forum / the LiveJournal mood tracker / 70s stuff, via Life in the Present / photographs by Tobias Hegele / Russian interiors, a series by photographer Christian Houge (via Conscientious).

One of the world's largest container ships, the OOCL Shenzhen / crates and barrels (via coudal). I feel they're missing a trick somewhat, by posting whole screen captures rather than the little 8x8 pixel barrels themselves / a modern set of Russian dolls by Marco, via Nebo Peklo (via i like) / pins and needles, a knitting blog / Swiss publishing giant Birkhauser takes over Lars Muller / Why I bought a typewriter on eBay. Related, Chuck and Rich's Antique Typewriter Museum. The toys are especially fun.

London's two-minute silence was genuinely eerie, almost completely quiet save for the clatter of an idling taxi pulled over on Waterloo Bridge.


'Futuristic luxury homes unveiled' details the proposed scheme for 46 'high-end' architect-designed properties at Lower Mill Estate in the Cotswolds (the Telegraph take on the story was naturally very disapproving). Every now and again a brave developer tries their hand at this kind of high profile scheme, bringing out the architectural big guns and hoping that the project's expected cultural legacy will outweigh any social or environmental concerns. A few years back there were the grand plans for Grafton New Hall (which seems to have been quietly forgotten), while in the US there are the (in)famous Houses at Sagaponac on the Hamptons (which now seems to be downplaying the scale and expense of the 34 houses, hoping they will 'inspire a shift... away from the conventions of endlessly repeated, uninspired traditional designs, which trade art for size').

The idea that one can create ('curate', even) a collection of 'instant icons' is ultimately doing contemporary architecture a disservice as 'good design' becomes associated with big names and even bigger budgets. Also, both the Lower Mill Houses and the Sagaponac schemes are designed as second homes, a construct which practically negates any claim they might have to being 'innovative places to live'. If you don't have to live somewhere all then time, then all sorts of concessions can be made to privacy, convenience, storage, etc. Lower Mill's architectural zoo is also a small part of the site, the majority of which will be covered by competent yet conventional 'contemporary show homes' ('affordably' priced between 295K and 2m UKP, with the architect-branded houses going for up to 10m UKP).

Another argument in favour of such 'iconism' (horrid construction, but can't think of a better word) is that these expressions of the avant-garde helps drive the rest of the world forward, opening up popular taste and encouraging the mass-market to experiment and innovate. The paradox is that by setting themselves apart as exclusive bastions of high-design, these developments risk turning 'contemporary' into the new Neo-Georgian, the gated communities of tomorrow that simply switch pilasters for Priva-lite, and garnering the same kind of distaste.

So what use is the residential avant-garde? This extract from Sudjic's The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World tells the tale of a Frank Gehry commission that never was. The Peter Lewis House consumed nearly two decades of the architect's time (in pre-Bilbao, pre-interational jetset days), with an ever-expanding program and spiralling budget that 'kept rising from $5m, to $20m, $65m and even $80m'. As this article in Business Week notes, 'it's hard to know exactly what the Lewis house would have looked like,' but the models that were presented showed the project as a synthesis of Gehry's formal language to date, the 'fish' in Barcelona, the Pop-juxtaposition of smooth and sculptural forms (first seen in the Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen-adorned offices for Chiat/Day in LA from 1991)), and the CATIA-composed cascading metal facades that eventually wound up forming a core part of the architect's current stylistic phase.

Lewis claims, with some justification, that his commission had a major impact on the design for the Bilbao Guggenheim. Although he might feel the need to justify the cultural contribution made by the 'several million dollars' of fees he paid to Gehry, this claim is far from wishful thinking. Gehry has acknowledged how elements of the residential design made it into the conference room of the DG Bank in Berlin, for example, and those hefty fees effectively made Lewis the architect's patron during a lean period. More importantly, their relationship also resulted in the Peter B.Lewis Building at the Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio (2002), so the Lewis House, for all its modernist McMansion pretensions ('a 10-car gallery... storage for his art collection... space for a director... a curator... a library... escape tunnels', etc.) was a giant sketch, a way for Gehry to hone and resolve an aesthetic that has subsequently become famous the world over.

Nonetheless, Sudjic's book is ultimately down on the Lewis House, deeming it the manifestations of a control-freak personality, stating that 'this is the world as I want it. This is the perfect room to run a state, a business empire, a city, a family.' In his Times review of The Edifice Complex (entitled 'Are architects venal, vacuous and ego-driven?'), Jonathan Meades (linked via Veritas et Venustas) describes the book as 'a work of damning apostasy', concluding that the rich and powerful's desire for a built legacy will continue to appeal to architects' vanity over their better judgement. The new 'iconic estates' do little more than allow the privileged to buy into the ongoing illusion of modern architecture as power and taste.

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Other things. Town planning: How Boston got messed up (via Sachs), a hugely depressing collection of before-and-after images of the effects of Urban Renewal on the city of Boston, focusing on City Hall Plaza. The City Hall is an undeniably imposing building, designed by Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles, but will forever be tainted by its association with the Boston Redevelopment Agency's clearances policy. Many photos at the Boston History Society's site. From the original Cyburbia link: 'The people in the community never knew what hit them. All of a sudden, they found themselves living in the suburbs. Where there kids had played yuppies now walked their dogs. When they went back to see the place where their childhood home had stood, they couldn't find it. The very streets had disappeared.'

More disappearing streets at The Great Cleveland Flood, a fantasy gallery / The Devil's Web Gallery, sexploitation posters (via Sachs, via Screenhead) / Stunned, a weblog / The spectacularly obtuse blog / three really rather beautiful photos of Anthony Gormley's new installation, Another Place, at Chromasia. A recent Guardian profile of the artist.

The Model 914 PC Bot from White Box Robotics. These appear to be mobile cases for high-end PCs, and little more / loud sizzling: the Einstuerzende Neuekuechen is an online cook book created by fans of Einsturzende Neubauten / on the new poem from Sappho, by Texts and Pretexts / New York Dog magazine. My guess is that this isn't real, but apologies if it is.

Regntid, 'A place where it rains, but not on you', your own personal (malfunctioning) rain cloud (via plasticbag). Reminds us of Rob McKenna (taken from this stunningly detailed Wikipedia page entitled Minor characters from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), a 'Rain God who is cherished by the clouds'. His sad and soggy story appears in Chapter 2 of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

A telling comment on London's multi-culturalism. Related, I wasn't there, I was nowhere near is a good perspective on the tube bombs from little.red.boat: 'If you were nowhere near, and you're ok, marvel in that fact. Not in the fact that if you had left the house two hours earlier and taken a completely non-sensical route, it might have been you, or if you happened to be somewhere you were never likely to be, it could have been you.'


Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The set of photos at top right this month are all taken from the remarkable Central Building at BMW's Leipzig Plant, designed by Zaha Hadid. When we visited, the attached factory (true to its name, the Hadid building is sandwiched between several vast industrial structures) had just started churning out a limited number of 3-Series BMWs, before production began in earnest. As a result, Hadid's coup de theatre, the overhead conveyor belts, were rather empty - they take finished bodyshells from assembly through to the paint shop, via a storage facility.

The Central Building was beautifully constructed, with concrete surfaces that felt as smooth as satin. Although it fits a tight site and fulfills a complex brief, the building still displays Hadid's deliberate complexity and theatricality, with multiple levels, ramps and views. Even the car park is a delight, a geometric composition of skews and slashes (the studio has a thing about car parks, perhaps intrigued by the ironic possibilities of creating dynamism from hundreds of static objects - see the Terminus Hoenheim in Strasbourg for an earlier example).

Last year we wrote about the challenge of creating complexity as a result of Hadid winning the 2004 Pritzker Prize (video). Was her architecture buildable? Did it rely solely on the initial punch of the computer-aided visualisation? At that point, barely 18 months ago, such was the paucity of her office's built work that many were asking questions about Hadid's ability to translate astonishing graphic skill into real architecture ('She is well known for her inability to translate her ideas into realistic projects, let alone finished buildings,' Clay Risen wrote in New Republic (the piece is archived here).

Recent projects have silenced the doubters, for the most part (perhaps the snipers have moved on to Libeskind?). There was also controversy surrounding the architects' decision - at the client's behest - to do away with artificial ventilation systems. A lot of people stamped their feet about this in rage, the implication being that the company was able to slip under local building regulations in return for bringing much-needed employment and investment to the area (formerly part of East Germany). BMW was certainly betting on a lot of media coverage of their whizzy new building, so much so that Domus magazine ended up running a catty piece on the carefully orchestrated media circus (which was when our photos were taken). Instead of publishing any of the supplied photos (by three separate photographers, all free for editorial use), they stripped everything down to a single black and white spread with random speech bubbles popping out of the assembled journos, architects and media minders, spouting banalities. Part of the problem was BMW's ultra-tight media embargo, which forebade publication before a certain date.

Related, Just another day at the office, three tales from high profile workplaces, featuring 30 St Mary Axe (which now appears to have officially adopted the 'Gherkin' nickname), the Lloyds Building and the Scottish Parliament (via archinect). Pieces on new, high-profile buildings are often accompanied by a dose of schadenfreude: windows that don't open, toilets that don't work, etc. etc. Sometimes, these claims are more than justified, as with the ongoing problems faced by Stoke Newington's Clissold Leisure Centre, a modernist structure designed by Hodder Associates that was allegedly 'poorly designed, poorly built and its facilities poorly specified'. It lasted just 20 months, after tales of cultural insensitivity, layout problems, security issues and much, much more. Hackney closed it down. Alarmingly, our local pool, the Peckham Pulse, is now having problems ('continued closure of the pools for some considerable time'). Rumour is that it may never re-open...

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Other things. The glory hole, a 'non-regulated spillway' for the Monticello Dam at Lake Berryessa in California. Another picture, and a short piece on the engineering behind the glory hole. (via me-fi) / Age Maps, a photo series by Bobby Neel Adams (via Boing Boing) / Engadget has a mystery suitcase-based object for readers to identify. Opinion seems to be that it's a (large) TENS machine.

Oskar Karlin's 'Never Ending Drawing' (under 'projects'): 'every day I document my movements by drawing them on a map'. Karlin designed the crisply minimal Limited Language site / the fabulous Contour Crafting building technology gets its own dedicated site (thanks to Life Without Buildings, an architecture weblog) / more architecture-focused sites, Architechnophilia and That Brutal Joint. See also Liao Yusheng, which has forays into food.


Monday, July 11, 2005
The second fatal accident in two years at the innocuous Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, which trundles past the caravans, beach huts and light houses of the Kent coast towards Dungeness. Back in the Second World War, the little trains were armoured in a Dad's Army kind-of-way, but their real moment of glory came in helping build PLUTO, the Pipe Line Under The Ocean that pumped fuel to the Allied forces in Northern France. 'Pumping stations were disguised as ice cream shops, garages and bungalows.'

The railway line was the pet project of two classic racing driver eccentrics, Captain JEP Howey and the famous Polish Count, Louis Zborowski. Zborowski, like his father before him, died at the wheel: 'It is said that when he died he was wearing the same cufflinks that had earlier brought about his father Eliot Zborowski's death in 1903, when one of them had become caught up in the hand throttle of his Mercedes during a hill climb at La Turbie.' The younger Zborowski's best known achievement was not the railway, but the creation of the original Chitty Bang Bang (note, only one 'chitty').

According to the official website of the West End Musical, that lyrical name has far from innocent origins: 'The name of the car was actually derived from the words of a bawdy first world war soldier's song. Officers would obtain a weekend pass or chit so they could go to Paris for a couple of days and enjoy the favours of the ladies of the town at their leisure:- 'Chitty - bang bang.' Wikipedia's page on the 1960s film, writing by Ian Fleming, is comprehensive, and here are some location shots. The film was production designed by Ken Adam, better known for his work on the James Bond films. Adam is also the subject of a new book by Christopher Frayling.

There were actually four 'Chittys', created with engineer Clive Gallop at Zborowski's country house near Canterbury. The pair's final car was the awesome Babs, which made a fatal last attempt at the land speed record at Pendine Sands in Wales, driven by John Godfrey Parry Thomas. Those were the days when driving racing cars, at locations like Brooklands, was a titanic struggle, the preserve of heroic, be-goggled figures, many of whom died in accidents.

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Staying rail-related. A coal train on a burning bridge / Life in the Present has moved / Live8, the videos / the Gmaps pedometer / a new concept for the classic Citroen 2CV. / a collection of old fantasy film posters / the New York Public Library Digital Gallery (via Living Home).

Gutcult magazine / new sneaker art from Dave White / linked before, but well worth revisiting, The Recent Past Preservation Network. Related, the Chicago Architecture Club has launched a competition to find new uses for the city's industrial water tanks. Brings to mind Rachel Whiteread's 'Water Tower' of 2000.


Friday, July 08, 2005
London is quiet today, certainly around this particular spot. The tube was running as normal (Victoria line), although it was understandably rather quiet. There's the chatter of a helicopter, possibly circling around Tavistock Place, about half a mile to the east, and the occasional siren. Thanks for all your messages yesterday.

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Urban Cartography, a weblog about changes to the urban environment, both good and bad. There's an interesting post (originally via Boing Boing) that references the Google Earth comments we made a few days ago, concerning the development of 3D cities. Apparently, Virtual Philadelphia is up and running, just one example of what's possible with the imagery and data generated by a company called GeoSim Systems, who 'build truly photorealistic city models'. Naturally, Google wants a piece of this, feeding the information into Google Earth, or even from A9.com. 3D data already exists for quite a few US cities (and UK ones too - Bristol has a VRML model that dates back a decade, while there are probably several virtual Londons out there - such as this GLA-funded one).

Of course, there are also those virtual realms that use real-life data for the purposes of 'entertainment'; the much maligned (and rightly so) PS2 title The Getaway and its worthless sequel used a simplified London that had been created in the time-honoured way of taking loads and loads of photos (a fansite, since removed, even took the trouble to compare virtual to real). So will the developers, Team Soho, be making this data available to Google? Shame to waste it completely, and there can be little enthusiasm for yet another game about death and destruction in London.

We seem to have an insatiable desire for data about the places we're familiar with. Yet what is apparently even more fascinating are those places we can never go to, be it somewhere like the Holy Loch submarine base, the landscape around Chernobyl, C.M.O.C in North America, etc. etc. It's significant that one of the default places in Google Earth's 'places' folder is Area 51, perhaps one of the most scrutinised 'secret places' in history.

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Elsewhere. The estate we're in is an entertaining essay (sneer, even) by Germaine Greer about British short-sightedness in housing design. Related, James Woudhuysen asks Why is construction so backward? (which is also a book) on the fantastically provocative Audacity.org.

The Mushroom Kingdom, a Super Mario encyclopaedia, via kottke / Made Magazine / for some reason it's always cocktail hour in the original series of Bewitched, via tmn / the Casino Carpet Gallery (also via kottke) / stuff the state of the world, let's just eat giant burgers (thanks to bifurcated rivets).

Photoundtext by Joachim Beck / graph of UK blood stocks / San Andreas: Grand Outtakes (thanks Alex) / yet more mapping data: shark attacks, Iraq war casualties / an animated atlas of the USA / is it normal? Probably / fosfor gadgets, electronics, memes and clips.

Ironic timing for this Metropolis article? "We must ask ourselves what it says about our nation to produce a "Freedom Tower" hiding behind twenty-stories of solid concrete" / DVD about Stockholm Street Racing, clearly inspired by the game discussed above / House Plant Picture Studio, a weblog / Triplux, a New Zealand-based collection of photos and text.


Thursday, July 07, 2005
We're thinking of all those killed and injured by this morning's blasts. BBC news, Guardian (and newsblog), Ananova, metafilter thread and Londonist weblog round-up, Flickr pool, image from the tube, Wikipedia page, project nothing has more updates.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005
A random collection of bits and pieces today, although unifying themes may emerge.

Russian children's books. The books on Revolution and industry are especially epic, and make our Ladybirds (with their art by John Berry) look tame in comparison, as do these beautiful I-Spy book covers. Related, another flickr photoset: Mystery / Lovely Design is exactly that.

Many, many Found Photos, some of which their owners might be rather uncomfortable to have lost. On the same subject, a word of warning. Never buy a Sharp GX-10 or related products (like those listed at Sharp-World, very much not to be confused with Sharpeworld, which is safe for all consumers), as it will steal all your precious memories into its camera and you will never get them back / we're pretty sure that Vincent didn't have this sort of thing in mind: The Starry Night, an endless zoom. The original painting is at NY Moma.

A gallery of Battersea Power Station, soon to be re-branded The Power Station (good thing, seeing as the new sub-station on nearby Cringle Street manages to spell it 'Batersea' on the sign). Very much not related to this Power Station either. We visited the crumbling site a couple of years ago. A small part of me suspects that the whole regeneration plan is just a big fraud, a giant accounting black hole that funds will be sunk into in perpuity and eventually written off. Here's hoping we're wrong.

Twisted language. The Japanese used to have a monopoly on this kind of thing, but now the high speed Chinese economy is catching up: Bomb Plastic is carefully chosen for you, from a gallery of English in China at Lightningfield. Back in Japan, a competition on urban futures: Keitai City: how is the city to develop? Not like this: Another Minsk, more photogenic urban decay (via me-fi). The opposite effect: HousingMaps (via Alttext), the combination of Google Maps with apartment listings.

"Graphic design is easy, of course, so we kill ourselves trying to make it hard" / Timothy Richards, an architectural modelmaker in the grand tradition, using Gypsum plaster to make grand classical designs / 'A shade of pink: The Lawn Road Flats are brought back to life,' and will be officially re-opened at the end of the month / All-Story, volume 9, number 12, as designed by Zaha Hadid. Hadid is also one of the architects set to benefit from London's acquisition of the 2012 Olympics.

The end of civilisation edges nearer with news of this terrible, terrible sounding game featuring 50 Cent. While '50's' life has never been much more than a (rather violent) cartoon, computer games are fast approaching near photo-realism, as these images from the upcoming Project Gotham Racing 3 for the XBox 360 testify. So realistic, in fact, that their veracity was doubted by some game industry commentators. Another real/virtual world blurring: virtual photography in GTA, together with news of Grand Theft Photo, a flickr group. More GTA snaps.

10 foods you should never eat / seen everywhere, Cameron Zotter's headlights font / Cynical-C, a weblog / RabbleRocket, a weblog / a flash-based scrolling shoot 'em up: warning, this devours time / Finding my Religion, 'Filmmaker Roger Manley on the power that resides in things' / another recent piece: a profile of designer John Morgan in Grafik magazine / the car is still for sale.


Monday, July 04, 2005
Mapping is undergoing a rapid revolution. The past year has seen the general availability of mapping data increase exponentially, culminating in the technological wonder that is Google Earth (the result of the company acquiring a firm called Keyhole). Granted, some have criticised the application (currently in Beta) as little more than showboating, just as the basic Google Maps is fun for getting a new perspective on familiar places. However, the existence of professional editions and public toolkits for Google Earth promise an application of almost limitless power.

What happens next? Well, we can start with the gradual integration of the tens of thousands of existing data points, as set out in this me-fi post. What kind of data do you want to see on a map? The possibilities are limitless: Central London traffic cams, crime figures, house prices, real time weather data, noise mapping, even shipwrecks and snapshots (for example, see 'How to GPS Tag Photos: Flickr, Mappr, Google Earth....'), and so on and so on.

Taking the application to its logical conclusion: we will each have a little Google Earth spinning on our desktop (something like this), which expands full screen and becomes the front end for photo albums, address books, route-finding, etc? A PDA version will inevitably be available, putting the world in your pocket (and given ad executives the opportunity to write a 100 cheesy slogans). Imagine combining Google's data with that of the Ordnance Survey, for example (the OS guide their data very carefully, but their glossiest offerings look incredibly dated compared to what the basic Google application can do).

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Elsewhere. The amazing Sacra di San Michele, north of Turin. According to Gridskipper ('an urban travel guide'), the cliff-top monastery was one of the inspirations behind Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Jean-Jacques Annaud's film of the book was actually shot on a vast set and on several locations, including in Germany. Art directed by husband and wife team of Dante Ferretti and Francesca LoSchiavo, now better known for their work on Martin Scorcese's recent films.

Staying in Turin, you can also take the Italian Job Tour. Apparently the (original) film is not very well known in the city in which it's set, partly because it spends a lot of time being very down on the Mafia (even though the Mafia got to drive beautiful Fiat Dino coupe. Related, architecture in film - modernist locations. Thanks to the joys of Google Maps, I reckon this is the Chemosphere. Related, the location of the garage in Ferris Bueller.

Selvedge magazine, on textiles and more / Played in Britain have a fine-looking book on British lidos on the way / do old computers underpin 90% of today's businesses? / I wrote a short review of The Incredibles for icon magazine / the advertising art of Marie-Claire Lefort and Marie-Francine Oppeneau. So very, very French (via i like, of course).

Between Blank and Boring reminds us of The Peel Tapes. Kottke muses on death in the celebrity age. Some good points: Chances are in 15-20 years, someone famous whose work you enjoyed or whom you admired or who had a huge influence on who you are as a person will die each day. Imagine losing a John Peel every day / Largehearted Boy is collating links to the weekend's Live 8 performances / the hats of Ascot, via Philobiblion /

Reports are reaching us of illegibility. Do you have font problems with things? Let us know. Thank you.


Friday, July 01, 2005
Folded Space, a weblog with a good overview of the new War of the Worlds movie (last link is to inevitably whiz-bang official promo site. I haven't bothered to check it). However, any excuse to link to War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection should be seized. The collection also cropped up in a recent issue of the ever-wondrous Cabinet Magazine.

We received a nice write-up in Londonist. We are, apparently, Stakhanovite in our output (see Seventeen Moments in Soviet History for more), after the unfortunate Ukranian coal miner Alexei Stakhanov who was alleged to have produced fourteen times his quota from one shift (cited) - he even made the cover of Time. Today, the country's mines are most dangerous workplace in the world: 'Since Ukraine became independent in 1991, almost 4,000 miners have died in accidents.'

Another gem, Snarkout, which has a helpful 'history' tag for all sorts of emphemera, like The Galloper magazine, 'Europe's online magazine for old showland'. Re-visit a world of ghost shows, captive flying machines and much, much more. In scope and tone, The Galloper reminds us of Tobias Seamon's excellent first novel The Magician's Study, an extract from which graced the pages of things 17/18, no less.

Captive flying machines were a speciality of one Hiram Maxim, better known as the inventor of the machine gun in 1884, not such a great legacy. There's a blue plaque commemorating this achievement in Hatton Garden, near his original factory. Maxim's flying machines, both captive and real are far more fun. His steam-powered bi-plane, tested at Baldwyns Park in Bexley, had vast 17 and a half foot diameter propellors. A bit more on steam-powered flight, and a fine old illustration from Science and Society.

More hidden histories. Boffins create Zombie dogs, screams this News.com.au story (via tmn), triggering a memory of a much, much earlier experiment. This 1940 film, Experiments in the Revival of Organisms, purports to show Russian scientist Dr. S.S. Bryukhonenko's experiments with a severed dog's head. Gruesome stuff (download the half-gig mp2 movie if you can stomach it). The comments and ensuing discussion are pretty sure it's fake. After all, Stalin's Russia wasn't exactly a hotbed of scientific accuracy and progress - just ask Alexei. The new research took place at Pittsburgh's Safar Center for Resuscitation Research, which seems like a low-key place to be involved in such Re-Animator-style shenanigans.

Related, horror, shock and exploitation cinema at Sin Alley. See also The Groovy Age of Horror / TV Tropes, via tmn / Mindreading, 'the interactive guide to emotions' / Risen to the Surface, a weblog / visit the Port Eliot Lit Fest 2005, featuring all sorts of things faves, including Mr Toby Litt.

German Expressionist woodcuts / an A-Z of ideological dilemmas, prepared by the Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Husayni Sistani. Beats Anne Widdecombe, we guess (via James and Annie) / look out for a new edition of Leisure Centre magazine / Stop Motion Movie of the construction of a Lego Star Destroyer (via Coudal). That's a serious kit - and seems to really brings out the urge to chronicle.

Huge congratulations!