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Friday, August 26, 2005
Modelling New London, City of Sound on the 1:1500 scale model of London at New London Architecture, with many glorious photos and details of how the model was made (by architectural modelmakers Pipers). We mused a little bit on virtual cities last month, but the New London Architecture model prompted some digging around decidedly low-tech alternatives to glossy cyber urbanism. Turns out that if you have a sharp knife and infinite patience (and a few dollars), you can make your own, decidedly non-modern, Wild West Frontier Town using Eric Hotz's downloadable pdf models. Whitewash City is an entire frontier community, with church, brothel, saloon and even outhouses. Hotz is a skilled illustrator who works in a variety of styles - we like his woodcuts.

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Other things. Why do people cling to strange beliefs, be they about their own inherent stylishness or the reality of visitors from other worlds? The Beckams, UFOS, Conferences & Harringtons / photographer Thomas Mayer has taken many hundreds of images of Zollverein Industrial Complex, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Blind Contour Friday - drawing without looking. Back at school we used to call this "Trace of Seeing". Apparently that term isn't widely used, if Google is a reliable barometer. Only a handful of people seem to use it in the artistic context, like Pam Clocksin, for example / the wood engraving of Cicely Englefield. See also 'Mimosa'. More imagery and illustration at the Central Saint Martins Museum and Study Collection.

La Machine de Marly, 'the engineering marvel responsible for the gushing fountains and other water features at Versailles', at Pruned / Catfunt becomes Made in China / why Finland is fab. Or is it? / scam from the past / Tramavirtual, a free mp3 compilation of new Brazilian music (via Observer Music Monthly). A random snippet from this Guardian profile of the Feminist Sheila Jeffreys caught our eye: 'in Brazil, for example, there are more Avon ladies than members of the armed forces'.

Spacing, a photoblog / Scope, the online journal of film studies from Nottingham University / another online publication: Suitcase Magazine / Treasures in Full: Renaissance Festival Books (via textism / a mirror made of wood (via tmn) / the Wolverhampton Freecycle initiative, partly the work of no, 2 self / Robert Birnbaum talks to James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency.


Thursday, August 25, 2005
The Lost Formats Preservation Society, a nicely tongue-in-cheek exercise by Amsterdam-based design bureau Experimental Jetset (via Sachs Report), combining retro-chic nostalgia with the graphic simplicity of the format silhouette - although showing each element to scale would have been nice. Formats that invite further research are John Logie Baird's Phonovision discs from the late 1920s. Apparently only six discs survive, and you can see images from one of them here. Read more early television history. The wikipedia has a comprehensive list of storage devices, including the various types of floppy disk.

Another format we're fond of is MCA's DiscoVision, a format that was also a company and a record label, confusingly. Not mentioned in the LFPS is the RCA SelectaVision VideoDisc. We have one of these, gathering dust, with a selection of titles. I think it still works... And the site also doesn't mention the wonderful little Sinclair Microdrive cassette. You could daisy-chain two Microdrives together, giving you a massive 170k of fast storage. Revisit mass storage on the Spectrum with an article from Sinclair User, via the staggering SUMO archives.

The art of retouching (via metafilter), a scary insight into the blandalisation of visual culture. Is that a word? / Leite's Culinaria, recipes and writings by David Leite / William Stout Architectural Books / Giancarlo Neri's The Writer, installed on Hampstead Heath and widely seen on the internet / 'People are my landscape: Social Struggle in the art of William Gropper', includes magazine illustrations such as this cover of The Liberator, from August 1922, or the Fight Against War and Fascism.

A gallery of latte art / LWSDM, a Scot in Finland. Takes great photos too / Bootleg Toys, 'the undiscovered playthings' (via Plep). From Transformers to Buffy. As merchandising revenues account for an increasingly large percentage of 'box office' gross, these objects are only going to proliferate.

Be sure to check the other aerial photographers listed in yesterday's comments.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Transfer, a NY-based architecture weblog, links to the incredible aerial photography of Oscar Ruiz, a helicopter pilot above Mexico City. The suburbs are especially breathtaking, and not in a good way. More aerial imagery can be found on the website of Alex MacClean. Neither photographer is afraid to focus on the patterns created by man-made development, which provides an interesting counter-point to the work of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, perhaps the most famous contemporary aerial photographer. A more abstract, fine art approach is taken by David Maisel, but both photographer's work serves to highlight the impact of human beings on the earth.

One of the earliest exponents of aerial photography as a visual polemic was Le Corbusier, whose 1935 book Aircraft juxtaposed cramped medieval cities with the apparent light, space and beauty of (his) new architecture. His picture essay was shot through with gleaming images of the very latest aeroplanes, fetishising the machine, frequently at the expense of the destruction that machine could bring. We've scanned a few pages from the book: Le Corbusier: Aircraft.

There are plenty of DIY ways to make your own aerial photography, using kites, rockets (like this), model aeroplanes and gliders, even pigeons (there are some wonderful old photos buried within this (16mb) powerpoint presentation). Here are some members of the Bavarian Pigeon Corps in 1903, taken from this History of Aerial Photographic Interpretation. More on the BPC: at the '1909 Dresden International Photographic Exhibition... picture postcards of the fair taken by pigeons were very popular.'

Transfer also contains the Anti-sit archives (tmn) - how public space can easily be made private / Japanese architecture / missing literary masterpieces / strange that we have to go the University of Virginia to find out more about Salisbury, Wiltshire / big numbers: US Military spending / as if to confirm Tuesday's post about technological proliferation, Engadget does 1985.


Monday, August 22, 2005
The overly technological object appears to have reached a critical mass: there is too much stuff in the world. Granted, there have always been superfluous things, many of which were interesting purely on account of their superfluity. Anything, for example, that was seen on TV or came via Britain's Innovations catalogue or via the Skymall had a kitschy kind of fascination, a promise of better living through technology, or design, or sheer ingenuity. Never mind that these promises were - inevitably - false.

Today, the technological object is pushing similar boundaries of implausability, condensing every possible function into a small an area as possible. Once up a time this was known as 'convergence,' a handy buzzword yet one which didn't really address the fact that while things were getting smaller, there were, conversely, more and more small things. While journals and blogs like Red Ferret, engadget, gizmodo, electrolady and about a thousand others breathlessly report on the latest devices, the old devices multiply like rabbits, too small and light to even work as bookmarks.

Elsewhere. A field guide to electronic music, via The Daily Jive / contemporary and hand painted Russian movie posters from the country's rural hinterlands / the Bertrand Russell Archives / Lotta Living, retro style architecture, etc. / Robert Kirshner, artist.

Real-life tales of spooky happenings. Here at things we are Bigfoot obsessed, this 911 call in particular / the photos of James Fee / things stuck in MRI scanners / what's new at Getty Images, as well as a calendar search (like today's tank images) / Am I a lone voice of sanity crying out in a universe gone mad?

At Bradley's Almanac, a fine presentation of Career Girls, the board game. If only this had been some kind of Mike Leigh tie-in (via tmn). See also Games Gone By / Bad Science, the weblog, via Apothecary's Drawer / Kaleidoscope, the Classic Television Society, seems to rely on physical objects - usually tapes - that have often been surreptitiously liberated from blinkered employers (usually the BBC). Related, testcard, an interface from the C6 organisation.

It Plays Doom, a website devoted to the proliferation of one computer game across every conceivable format (via joystiq) / the Abram Games poster shop / one of the advantages of not posting until the end of the day is that you can see amazing TV like Taxidermy: Stuff the World and rave about it. Charlie Booker sums it up nicely.

This month's photo gallery comes from St Petersburg (a trip unrelated to Tony Wood's epic Prisoners of Paradise from things 17-18, although the occasional atlante cropped up).


Friday, August 19, 2005
Diamond Geezer has compiled a series of wonderful illustrated posts on London's River Fleet, the once-beautiful waterway that flowed from Hampstead down to the Thames but is now little more than a storm drain. Along the way, he takes in Kenwood House and Highgate Cemetery, flickrizing the whole trip as he went. London bloggers are really digging into the capital's geography and history, and the weblog format is perfect for this combination of travel diary and journal. Highly recommended.

Elsewhere. A collection of literary hoaxes, via largehearted boy / the photos of Geoffroy de Boismenu / Girls on Film, an exhibition at Zwirner and Wirth, 'a selection of established and emerging artists whose work appropriates images of women taken from a variety of pop-cultural sources' / Architectural Ruminations offers up two good architecture links: Ecology of Absence and B.E.L.T (Built Environment in Layman's Terms).

Radio Diptheria, an mp3 weblog / threadbared, vintage patterns, commentary and glorious images, such as this crocheted steering wheel cover. Classy vintage patterns, on the other hand, are a growth industry / Zafusy is an experimental poetry journal: check the annoucements for more details and links / global gas prices (via kottke) / i like goes to East Kilbride, the childhood home of the Jesus and Mary Chain / the Raymond Loewy Foundation keeps the designer's legacy alive, but probably rather glosses over his legendary PR ability and self-mythologising.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005
A big paragraph of randomness, so late it's almost tomorrow. P.E.A.R.T,a robot drummer (named for Neil Peart of Rush, the original math-rock band, who has been robotised before). Originally via daily jive / AMG will make your already rapid Mercedes stupidly fast. In the old days, Mercedes owners with more money than sense rather gratifyingly indulged in the thrillingly tasteless / a large set of documents by the late Philip J. Klass, 'one of the most widely recognized UFO "debunkers."' / RIP John Loder, engineer and record label owner / the Scoville scale, a measure of heat / confused lions hunt small cars / Shelf Abuse: 'No European country is as reliant on supermarkets for its food shopping as Britain. It is no coincidence that the UK also has the worst eating habits in Europe' / Every Object Tells A Story.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Turn your head, who will 'fill the space between two opposing profiles of your face' with a rather fetching wooden vase, or 'Pirolette'. Best of all, you can do it all via the internet (via Core 77). Lego used to offer a similar online service for their mosaic pictures, although you now have to use the Brick-O-Lizer (movies). If that doesn't appeal, then Erich H.Arshbarger can build one for you. His portfolio is impressive, to say the least. The scaled-up models are our favourite things.

Although the Pirolette page comes with a rather twee poem, it reminds us of a far more muscular and sinister object: Renato Giuseppe Bertelli's Head of Mussolini, also known as the continuous profile, of 1933. This shiny, ultra-machined object epitomises Italian fascism's cosy relationship with modern art and architecture. This is a good place to link Jonathan Jones' stinging condemnation of the Estorick Gallery's recent exhibition, Futurist Skies: Italian Aeropainting. In 'Birds of Prey', Jones excoriates the fascist obsession with technology as little more than a perverse love of the cleansing mechanisms of death, and the art itself as kitsch and mediocre (although his view is seemingly contradicted by his Observer colleague Laura Cumming a few days later). Jones' latest piece covers the same era, this time looking at 'What the Nazis didn't want you to see'.

Also of note, Black day for the blue pencil, Blake Morrison on the lost art of editing / Rhapsody, a sound piece by Tina Hochkogler, otherwise known as Tinhoko (via diskant) / Zeke's Gallery, the blog of a poetry and music performance space in Montreal, complete with sets to download / Laurie Lipton draws dark imagery. Her latest series is called 'Day of the Dead'.

The Airplane Book, via PCL / Architectural Ruminations, a weblog / Cressida in Delhi, a weblog from the field / one hand shuffle, via those wily card sharps at tmn / More head turning with Compute, Ulrika Mild's mournful, one-woman electronica outfit. Listen to Turn you head (mp3).

Huge congratulations to Hildi, Chris and Sophia on the arrival of their new baby.


Monday, August 15, 2005
Last week's mystery photo has been identified as a Fascination, designed by an inventor called Paul Lewis and built in 1974. Many thanks to Kelly of the Kelegraph for digging this up with the help of a friend. Lewis is an interesting character. He built several versions of the 'all-plastic' Fascination (originally called the Airomobile) from around 1934, using a three-wheeled layout for aerodynamic efficiency. The originals cars had a conventional front end but an aquatic-looking tail (almost manatee-like). Quirky as it may have been, the 1974 Fascination didn't really represent 40 years of technological advance (simply reversing the wheel layout and drawing even more inspiration from Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car).

However, part of Lewis's dream was for the vehicle to incorporate an electro-magnetic motor, as detailed in this page on articles about one Edwin Gray Sr., who was alleged to have invented an 'engine that consumes no fuel.' Admittedly, the publication in question was The National Tattler, which was lurid, to say the least ('Man Eats Girl', thankfully not supported by any visual evidence. Other front pages were rather nastier: I, II, III, although still black and white. All found at Bad Mags. Doesn't this December 1977 issue of Punk Rock magazine appear incredibly contrived, as if a student was playing about in Quark? Even though December 1977 was pretty much the height of the punk movement, contemporary culture makes us suspicious of authenticity).

But we digress. The original Tattler articles on Edwin Gray were at the Rex Research site, which hosts hundreds of documents on contemporary arcana. There's more on Gray at Free Energy, who do fancy stuff like Cold Electricity (not to be confused with Heavy Electricity. Related, 'how Chris Morris hoodwinks his victims'). Here's a picture of Gray demonstrating his motor in 1977. The Fascination's failure, and the fact that Gray's invention, which 'Could Change History By 1984', is little known and forgotten belongs in that category of urban myth spin-offs - the world-changing innovation that is promptly shut-down by the powers that be, its inventor driven insane, or vanished, or worse. Snopes has a nice page on the Pogue Carburetor, a device invented by the Canadian Charles Nelson Pogue that was claimed to improve fuel consumption ten-fold. Claims for the carb snow-balled, but none was ever officially tested, and rumours spread that the test models had been stolen.

The Pogue Carburetor refuses to die, and there's even an organisation, HIMAC, dedicated to 'help get the truth out about the super fuel conversion carburetor technology' (although they have a greater agenda than mere fuel efficiency). As others have noted, Pogue's invention would violate the first law of thermodynamics. Yet the device has earned a place in the secret history of suppressed inventions, almost all of which follow the tried and tested narrative of little man versus big, oppressive government, zealously guarding the interests of business and national security.

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Other things. The end of the Lomo LC-A, via the excellent scrapbook (a Citroen enthusiast!) / Monday Night, 'a journal of new literature' / music links and more at Basement Galaxy / MeMo, a culture blog / bomb shelters in Israel / do you have the time to find out more on the story of Jamie Kane, virtual pop star, deceased? / on archaeology and idolatry: the Destruction of Mecca / Crime in Chicago, scare yourself with Google maps. It seems a bit unfair that getting threatening phone call puts you on the map / we're thinking of getting into FreeCycle. Anyone with any experience?

Merz, edited by Kurt Schwitters and published in Hanover from 1923-1932 / some more odd-shaped automobiles / paintings by Andrew King (via City of Sound). King's landscapes appeal especially - they have a definite Tom Thompson-Group of Seven feeling about them, which is apparently rather unfashionable. King's other work seems rather Biggles-inspired (much like the game Crimson Skies, which had a similar stiff-upper-lip theme).


Friday, August 12, 2005
Re-visiting the concept of Rephotography (last seen on things in October 2003) and prompted by a fresh visit to Doug Levere's New York Changing project (more details). The Wikipedia page links to the exhibition Urban Life Through Two Lenses. The interface is rather unwieldy, but if you compare images like this to this, you get a pretty swift impression of the changing contemporary city.

After yesterday's musings on eternal data formats, we've been recommended the book, Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M.Miller, Jr. Thanks to Brad (Unimpeachable Mandarin, indeed). More tomorrowland: Time magazine's Visions of the 21st century is thankfully archived, so we can check out the wisdom and predictions of five years ago / the future, the past: Star Trek business cards, via kottke.

Bromptons in the field / the modo, part of an occasional series on gadgets from the past / the landscape renders of Gerhard Mantz (via archidose) / Lynn Becker's Repeat, a Chicago-based architecture weblog / Archi-life, when the Half Life 2 engine meets contemporary architecture (shown here with MVRDV's VPRO, seen here on its official page) / a good-looking model of the Eames House / 'An overview of all variations in location of the daylight opening'.

Charles' George Orwell Links looks pretty unbeatable.


Thursday, August 11, 2005
On old data formats and how to ensure that which you want to endure will last. And vice versa. It's not surprising that you can still find rolls and parts for Player Pianos, given that practically every mechanical and electronic device ever invented has a loyal following somewhere, be they street organs and automated musical instruments, Trabant cars or Apple Newtons. But these are ad-hoc survival mechanisms, dependent on passionate individuals and the passing on of arcane knowledge. The web helps, of course: where there were once postal networks and fanzines there are now webrings and email lists. It's not just physical things that decay: there's a similar problem with language (see, for example, the League of Lost Languages) - gradual loss is inevitable and in most cases irretrievable.

So how do you keep volatile 'things' for ever? A while ago we reported on Jaron Lanier's project, 'A Time Capsule that will survive One Thousand Years in Manhattan' (a collaboration with David Sulzer and Lisa Haney). The idea was originally published in the New York Times as part of their Time Capsule series that looked at the dawn of the then approaching millennium (and archived here at the American Museum of Natural History). The idea was genius - to mutate cockroaches so that their DNA contained the archives of the New York Times. Yet as Lanier notes, although it subsequently encouraged serious debate and research, the concept was actually a spoof. The published piece omitted such gems as:

If other cities choose to adopt copycat archival strategies, there is a danger that roaches imbedded with an archive of, say, the Washington Post, would interbreed with carriers of the New York Times archive. In that case the roaches of Philadelphia would eventually contain a mixed text record. This is not as great a difficulty as it might seem. As significant sequence similarity is required for recombination to occur, genetic crossover between Washington Post and New York Times articles is extremely unlikely. Indeed, if crossover were to occur, an earlier of instance of plagiarism or reprinting would be implicated. At any rate, as long as each article is stored with its proper reference data, it will be possible for future historians to reconstruct both archives from a sample of roaches.

Our original link has expired, but chunks of the text re-surfaced in 'E-whale, E-rabbits and E-cockroaches', a paper by Philippe Queau at Unesco's Russian office. This takes things all a bit too seriously, drawing Lanier's roaches together with Orwell's 'Whale' and artist Eduardo Kac's fluorescent GFP Bunny (I have my doubts as to whether the latter was actually real. It encouraged a lot of debate, but wouldn't it have been easier to take a conventional white rabbit and spray it with fluorescent paint?). It also makes eccentric predictions: 'So why not pull a rabbit out of our hat whose every third hair is fluorescent red, green or blue, according to the familiar principle of colour television. The result: the *Photo Bunny*. We could therefore store furry photos of all the masterpieces of our museums in a rabbit hutch.'

Perhaps Queau's iBunny is just as deliberately fanciful as the data roach, but serious or not, the idea of adapting creature to carry little morsels of culture with us - sort of mimetic carrier pigeons - might hold great attraction for those who think the animal kingdom continues to owe us a favour. Perhaps a more important consideration is to work out what information fragments really need preserving. The UK media is currently discussing nuclear decommissioning, in the wake of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency's preliminary Strategy for Consultation. As plants like Dungeness near the end of their active life, the issues - and costs - surrounding their dismantling are becoming more and more pertinent. This is a serious long-term project, which the NDA reckons will cost at least 56bn, and will take at least 25 years (down from earlier estimates of 125 years). Dungeness is one of nine Magnox nuclear power stations, a programme which began in 1953 with Cumbria's Calder Hall. Dungeness A is due to cease operations in 2006. According to this history of UK nuclear power, the last remaining reactor to close will be Sizewell B in 2035.

The timescales are actually far longer. From the BBC story: 'Among issues that the authority is looking at is the need for an alternative for Drigg in Cumbria, which is the only place in the country where low-level nuclear waste can be stored in perpetuity. Drigg is about 1km from a shoreline that is eroding at the rate of 1 metre a year. There is a risk it could flood between 500 and 5,000 years after it is closed.' So how do you ensure that information about radiation hazards, etc., survives a period that extends further into the future than recorded history stretches into the past?

A long time ago, in the unGoogleable past, we remember reading about a programme that was designed to generate enduring mythologies out of contemporary items, specifically the early nuclear age. Could specific facts and data about nuclear waste's multi-millennial decay period be incorporated into oral traditions and thus avoid the need to write everything down? The Encyclopedia Mythica offers no clues as to this theory. Did we just make it up?


Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The BBC brings together 'amateur' architectural photographers in honour of the UK's Architecture Week. This always passes us by, embarassingly, but we did manage to see the giant new development model of New London Architecture on display at the Building Centre. It was very grey. The Office of Subversive Architecture have an installation in progress. Related, the imminent arrival of Channel 4's 'Demolition' prompts Jonathan Glancey to decry the concept - 'a determinedly populist, democratic, accessible, anti-elitist bit of prime-time programming in which presenters Kevin McCloud and Janet Street-Porter will find out just which buildings you would like blow up.'

Apparently, 'more than 15 million people, or 30% of the population, are registered for online gaming in South Korea.' One of them succumbed to exhaustation yesterday, part of the burgeoning problem of people becoming totally, irretrievably, immersed in parallel worlds. More at Joystiq / Modern Arf is a new book by Craig Yoe, looking at the intersection of art and comics. Among the featured work are drawings by Hy Mayer. Mayer pioneered an extraordinary 'worm's eye view' perspective (which Yoe rather unkindly calls 'the first upskirt' imagery). That's the only one of his images I can find online.

Turn your colour digital pics into smouldering black and white / a big page of products designed by Achille Castiglioni, courtesy of Evanizer / at the opposite end of the spectrum, an interesting post on the white plastic chair, and how it seems to turn up everywhere. This 'research' is the work of Functional Fate, one Jens Thiel. I seem to remember that Douglas Coupland called this chair a 'category killer' in Generation X.

Chetan Kunte, a weblog (with great photos) / messy page, but lots of info on Parisian architecture / what is this? .

Apologies for the slow posting lately.


Monday, August 08, 2005
Project Gutenberg is a remarkable resource, yet one that feels strangely detached from the web's other key data sources. Part of Gutenberg's attraction is the added perception of depth and history it gives to information found online, much of which is missed in general searches that favour newness and 'news'. In recent months this 'digital skimming' has started to get us down, as if the internet is a thick crust of largely superficial information that is increasingly hard to penetrate.

New tools don't help us dig any deeper. It's a question of resolution more than anything, the way analogue tends to slip unsatisfactorily into the digital realm, the sharp edges pixellated, compression remnants that obscure, not enhance. Google Earth might give us the world on a desktop, but it's often a grainy, blurry world that casts a veil of uncertainty, not enlightenment, on the area you're looking at. In the same way, Yahoo's new audio search (see also their video search) just throws up results from Napster, rather than hunting through the millions and millions of audio files that must lurk there, somewhere. You're better off learning to search like this, using Google like a master filliter of other people's card files.

Today useless UK retailer Dixons announced they will be ending 35mm camera sales (apparently digital cameras outsell film by 15 to 1). Even just a couple of years ago, this ratio would have been hard to predict. Amazon's Look Inside and search inside services will inevitably become a substitute for 'real' books, just as our perceptions of how we index, retrieve and store photography and music have changed substantially over the course of a decade.

So analogue is on the way out, yet the analogue world remains - and will perhaps always remain - richer than the digital realm. If you want a digitised text, you have to hunt high and low for it. Our recent finds include Naomi Klein's No Logo, very useful for reference, discovered amongst this collection of Sozialistische Klassiker (see also the online works by George Orwell ('Shooting an Elephant' is a sad tale) and Karl Marx, amongst many others (the text of Thomas Moore's Utopia, for example.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we were hugely alarmed to see someone reading Henry Ford's The International Jew on the train last week. And it wasn't a carefully packaged edition for academic study, either, but a glaringly cheap, ultra anti-semitic edition, with 'Jew' in giant red letters and an unpleasant caricature below it (in fact, it was exactly this edition, which comes pre-packaged with another infamous screed). Without the racist prop the reader would have been just like anyone else on the train, yet with it he suddenly appeared to be an archetypal thickset English thug. No-one else seemed to notice, or else they did a good job of ignoring him. Presumably if you tried to pull a stunt like that in New York, say, you'd draw some well-deserved opprobrium.

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Other things. Old but still entertaining, Starship Dimensions, a visual comparison of the science fiction universe's best-known space craft. And to scale ('each pixel equals two kilometers to a side') / unfortunate children's books, a flickr set via Boing Boing / Triplement is a real estate weblog, only without the snark of Curbed. In fact, there's so little snark it's rather too enthusiastic, especially given the bland banality of so many of the featured projects. Can there be a happy medium? We'd like an architecture weblog that isn't so steeped in cynicism and irony that it can no longer offer up simple criticism and praise.

Mullets. White jeans. Architecture?, the BBC comes round to architectural revivalism. In a completely superficial way / Horticultural, a gardening blog by Jane Perrone / high quality movie scans / Anarchitect takes a novel approach to the newsblog/weblog format, splurging post-it note style all over your screen. We like it. It points to a new edition of This is not a magazine / Placement 'examines choice in culture.'

Quartzsite 'is a town of 5,000 in the summer that swells into an instant city every winter with the influx of more than a million RV dwellers', via AUDC, the Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative / best guacomole recipes / Coldplugs, US sports car racing in the fifties and sixties / the FIFA World Cup 2002 Stadiums, a photographic series by Edmund Sumner.

I'm honoured and delighted to be joining the morning news as a contributing writer.


Friday, August 05, 2005
Another exhibition by Trevor Paglen (see our post of August 02), chronicled in great detail by Forward Retreat. This project was entitled Recording Carceral Landscapes, and investigated the Californian prison system, the 'third largest prison system in the world, bested only by China and the United States as an entire country'.

Albert Kahn, 'the architect of the auto industrialists' / diskant on Clear Channel (see post dated Saturday 30th July) and the way the media giant is worming its way into the 'indie' scene / 'Italian river 'full of cocaine'' / the story of the "Elusive Little Mansion on the Mountain" / metafilter post on the The London Necropolis Railway.

'Injectable whole opium... from the juice of the poppy', 'Placidyl nudges your patient to sleep,' 'You wouldn't have recognized Nancy... back from the brink with Pacatal', all from this collection of vintage pharmaceutical ads (via Sachs). A sizeable proportion of these ads convey ways of 'calming' down 'hysterical' females, either sending them to sleep or somehow pacifying them. Pacatal was withdrawn as early as 1970.


Thursday, August 04, 2005
Just snippets today. Paris now and then, a comparison of Eugene Atget's photos of the city with a contemporary (if perilous) view by Sophie Tusler, aka the Little French Girl (via kottke) / watch a short preview of Simon Goulet's short film OIO (mpg) (via sensory impact). Goulet calls the 9 minute short a cinepainting. It took 11 years to make / abandoned bases in Montauk, shot by Lightningfield / whose fish is this? Coudal offer up a puzzle.

The work of Richard Caldicott, a south London based artist / he's a funny bloke, Luigi Colani / km77, handy archive of automotive press shots / a remarkable photo: diving. More photos at free delivery / Trendblog / Navigating History explores the often overlooked collections held in local museums. Somewhere we shall definitely return.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005
What is an Orgue de Barbarie? It's a kind of miniature pipe organ that plays music 'pre-programmed' on cards. In Britain it would be known as a barrel organ, an instrument typically used by an organ grinder to create a form of street music looked down upon by aficionados (from the Wikipedia entry: 'Charles Dickens wrote to a friend that he could not write for more than half an hour without being disturbed by the most excruciating sounds imaginable, coming in from barrel organs on the street'). The French name literally means the barbaric organ, a mixture of linguistic confusion and a reflection of its apparently base origins.

The latter link is from the Mechanical Movement Digest, an eclectic site with a huge gallery of organ projects, all of which speak of total, blissful obsession: 'Seeburg Celesta Super Orchestrion playing Wurlitzer Mandolin PianOrchestra files, H rolls, G and 4X rolls and my own arrangements transcribed from genuine period dance orchestra orchestrations'. There are also sounds for your delectation.

This beautiful Renault Poster is just one of a hundred wonderful things to be found at Agence eureka, a French weblog of wonders. From there we get origami at the paper forest, or a selection of vintage head gear at Des Chapeaux (they don't make them like they used to), or MeggieCat's collection of visual inspiration, or the Tacky Times weblog (better than it sounds, with links to great collections like the Tonka Toy Look Books, as well as giant open directories like this one - no details, no names, no clues, just hundreds of images).

These architectural ATVs are amongst the rendering and concept work undertaken by Zeitguised, who exist at the point where rendering tips over into its own self-importance. Other projects that seek to dispel the hype of super-sleekness includes the 'Seksi' CAD plug-in. Watch it turn Eisenman's House II into an instant Hadid. Just add skewing.

A good point at Bowblog on the proliferation, or not, of imagery related to the London bombings and the Birmingham Tornado / an ancient Aiwa reel-to-reel at MidCentury Radios, 'Lebanon's First Radio Website' / explore 'interesting' photos on flickr, via PlasticBag, which has lots of good stuff right now, including the horrific-sounding Liberality comic and the difficulty of writing a letter to a father you never knew.

Other things. sleeping students, via Exclamation Mark / did you see A Knight's Tale? Then maybe you're entitled to a spot of compensation from Sony / Google Earth combined with data from a Chicago realtor to make a handy plug-in. Related, a site that compares the competing Google Maps with MSN Virtual Earth / Hel-Looks, Helsinki street fashion, via Boing Boing, which also links the stipple portraits of Noli Novak's, which adorn the print edition of the WSJ / modern houses for sale in Seattle.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Trevor Paglen has spent a considerable amount of time chronicling the shadowy world of secret defence contracts, worth an estimated 23.2 billion dollars. His site chronicles 'research journeys' to these hidden spaces, although some are far better known than others, like the Groom Lake base, which gets starring roles in Hollywood movies, is bookmarked on Google Earth and beloved by conspiracy theorists. The local area trades on its notoriety. Paglen has also developed something he calls Limit-Telephotograph, producing images of objects at great distance. His talk, The Secret Bases ('Exploring the Pentagon's "Black World"'), sounds good. It's at 16 Beaver Group, NY, next Monday (via Archinect). Update: Archinect has a whole feature, Hitching Stealth with Trevor Paglen, which we somehow overlooked in the original post.

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While Delia Derbyshire has made the leap from unknown backroom toiler to posthumous genius, with even a play about her life (see our previous post), we had never previously heard of her late colleague, Daphne Oram. Oram died in 2003, two years after Derbyshire, and was instrumental in the formation of the BBC's Radiophonics Workshop. She joined the BBC in 1943: "As war raged, she began to indulge her hobby after hours, in the workplace. Always a night-owl, and having initially failed to persuade her bosses to create an electronic studio, she would stay late and move the BBC's first tape recorders together to build a studio. When morning came, she would disassemble it." See also the late Hugh Davies' Daphne Oram: Tribute to a Pioneer on the Sonic Arts Network.

Oram's great innovation was the Oramics system, an early machine for converting imagery into musical compositions, using 35mm film and light-sensitive sensors. The BBC has an online exhibition about electronic music pioneers and new musical notations, called Cut and Splice, where you'll find details of the likes of Norman McLaren (whose 'Dots' and 'Loops' films continue to have an influence). View several of McLaren's films. Back to Oram: Davies' appreciation concludes with a quote from Francis Bacon's utopian The New Atlantis of 1624: 'Wee make diverse Tremblings and Warblings of Sounds, which in their Originall are Entire...Wee have also meanes to convey Sounds in Trunks and Pipes, in strange Lines, and Distances.'

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Elsewhere. A fine selection of architecture images at Raimist's flickr stream (via Coudal). Andrew Raimist's weblog, Architectural Ruminations is worth bookmarking. He runs his own practice, Raimist Architecture / contemporary Mexican art at Galeria Lopez Quiroga / a huge transportation gallery / Gia is a South London weblog / a new weblog created every second.


Monday, August 01, 2005
Every now and again someone links something that you really think you should know something about, but have never, ever heard of. This is one such thing. The vast station of Canfranc, in Northern Spain, was part of a railway 70 years in the planning. Linking Paris and Madrid via a system of 24 tunnels through the Pyrenees, the railway line was intended to be the height of luxury, an Alpine Orient Express. Only, according to this history, the station marked the intersection of two different rail standards, the European gauge and the Spanish one, causing enormous delays for both freight and rail passengers. Wars, disasters and ongoing economic stagnation eventually did for the station.

As Matthew Parris notes in his Times essay on the station (entitled 'Look on this white elephant of a station, ye mighty, and despair'), the structure is ten times the size of London's Midland Grand Hotel, which has the advantage of being right in the heart of town and not in a 'narrow, dark, valley at the Spanish entrance to the tunnel.' Originally via metafilter. You can see the station quite clearly in Google Earth as well.

Yet more abandoned grandeur. Hashima Island, 15km from Nagasaki in the East China Sea, is known as the 'Ghost Island'. This fascinating piece from issue 7 of Cabinet Magazine details the island's history, and how it went from being uninhabited to becoming one of Japan's largest coal mines, bristling with concrete buildings, to back to being empty again. During WWII, it was little more than a slave labour camp. Here are two galleries of the abandoned island: I, II. The piece concludes with news of a documentary on the island, co-authored by Carl Michael von Hausswolff. Excerpts were recently shown at South London's Beaconsfield Gallery. Many thanks to Tom for the links.

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This week's edition of The Reunion featured the original members of the BBC's Not the Nine O'Clock News. Well worth a listen / set this (wmv file) to the 'Blue Danube' and you're away (via Peppered). Cheesy midi music reminds us of Frontier / "Hero" squirrels get the close-ups / Rotational visits Rockstar / Pruned, on landscape architecture.