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Friday, October 28, 2005
Just one snippet today. A short history of the 100 hectare bunker at Spring Quarry East, near Corsham in Wiltshire, on the surprisingly folksy Ministry of Defence homepage (no .gov domain?). The tunnels are now for sale, with 'creative uses' sought (previously). More information in this thread at Above Top Secret (which is a bit pop-up crazy, apologies). The base was also known as 'Burlington', and the ATS site throws up this interesting document regarding staff selection, page 1 and 2. 'Conditions will be crowded and austere and staff of all grades may have to perform unfamiliar and possibily uncongenial tasks under great stress.' Burlington's purpose was to act as the new centre for Government in the event in nuclear war. More, as always, at the Research Study Group.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005
'Prospect: Utopia shows its true colors', ten years on in the New Urbanist development of Prospect, Colorado, with some excellent photos by RJ Sangosti. More on Prospect's developer, John 'Kiki' Wallace. Meanwhile, New Urbanists ponder over the best way to re-build the Gulf Coast. Others has suggested that New Orleans becomes the next Venice, or even Arcology, a full-scale manifestation of Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti. A more low-tech solution is promised by the H.E.L.P project (House Every Last Person).

The Dutch have some experience of designing on flood plains: 'Afloat in the Flood Zone' looks at the 2nd International Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam, held this Summer and entitled, presciently, 'The Flood'. Featured architects and builders included: Tangram, Waterstudio, Factor, Art Zaaijer and Dura Vermeer. There's an excellent overview of the show is at Core 77 / Harry Beck continues to be one of the most influential figures in information design. Motorway Map applies his circuit board influenced style to Britain's major road network. Check the links for extensive references to other new maps and Underground history, like Simon Clarke's tube map page (via Yoz).

Compact Memory, archived Jewish publications from the turn off the 20th century, and ANNO, Austrian Newspapers Online (both via ask me-fi). See also the British Library's Online Newspaper Archive / Festival is a free 'software multi-lingual speech synthesis' / Interactive bird flu timeline / articles on Floridian antiques / all you ever wanted to know at Garlic World / One Plus Beirut, images of Beirut, including this disturbing assassination diorama. (via pruned) / Exactitudes is a remarkable photography project, charting people 'types', through modes of dress, hairstyles, etc. It's been around for a while, but appears to have been re-presented.

New York Cityscapes / the Silicon Zoo, tiny creatures (and other things) etched into circuit boards - we like the really fine print. See also the gallery of microscope photography / a gallery of Las Vegas Neon / What fancy corporate headquarters really mean: Witold Rybczynski reviews The Edifice Complex in Slate / The 38 Stops, the route of the 38 bus, walked as a tribute by diamond geezer to mark the end of the Routemaster era / improvisational rock from Cyclops Revolution / play The Mystery of the Scream and solve an art crime (via). Only you can't any more.

Related, Stolen Art in Belgium and the Central Registry of looted cultural property from 1933 to 1945 / invisible real estate is on the up: Gamer buys virtual space station / postcards of airports / Mori and Ando scar Omotesando, a scathing critique the new apartments, built by the Mori company and designed by Tadao Ando (see also this great fan site). 'They took away the natural light and replaced it with TV. They destroyed the real experience of strolling outdoors to provide an indoor "sensation." They took away the trees and the ivy and replaced them with concrete. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.' Read this piece on Paul Rudolph in the Bronx to see how another concrete master came unstuck with mass housing.


Monday, October 24, 2005
After yesterday's revelation about Lye Street comes the information that such cartographical tricks are known as Trap Streets, deliberate copyright snares. Many thanks to blanketfort for pointing these out, as well their close relation to the Nihilartikel ('nothing article'), a deliberate falsehood inserted into an academic text. We prefer the New Yorker's word for the term, 'Mountweazel', 'based on a false entry for Lillian Virginia Mountweazel in the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia.' The newest edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary inserted the word 'esquivalience' as a heffalump trap for the unwary. Some good items raised in the comments appended to this Languagehat post on the subject. See also the me-fi post.

'Esquivalience' gets well over 500 Google hits, not bad for something that doesn't exist. Who's to say it won't enter everyday language soon? We always liked the tale of how the word 'Quiz' came to mean what it does: 'The story goes that a Dublin theatre proprietor by the name of Richard Daly made a bet that he could, within forty-eight hours, make a nonsense word known throughout the city, and that the public would give a meaning to it'. Of course, it turns out to be a tall tale. But as this Wikipedia entry on Made-up words in The Simpsons (via me-fi) illustrates, technology and rabid fandom conspire to make the contemporary lexicographer's job a fast-moving one.

Revisiting Michael Heizer's City, and using this location map to pin it down in Google Earth (tip: enter <38°01'48" N, 115°26'10" W> into the search bar - it's a bit blurry, though). Related, sightseeing with Google maps / whatever you do, don't send in the clowns, because the risk of coulrophobia (actually a relatively new word, one that seems to be a result of commercial demand) / iPod Subway maps / some more deliberately false things: a compilation of 555 numbers from films, comics and TV / the Colossus hoax.

A List of British English words not used in American English / unpublished Pictures of Bombed-Out Berlin / gas, tires, oil, a petrolhead website / the B-Thing's World Trade Center was a project to make a covert balcony high up on the WTC. However, the blurb gives the building 38 more storeys than it actually had, which casts a bit of doubt on the whole enterprise. It was conceived in 2000 / 'Usher in the Love, how to make a puff piece', by Sarah Hepola.


Friday, October 21, 2005
The Open Street Map project (via Boing Boing) is a very laudable attempt to wrest control of mapping back into open source, away from the likes of the Ordnance Survey, Promap, etc., etc., who currently control the data and charge large amounts of money for it. Open Street Map simply points out that GPS technology essentially makes all this information available for free - you just have to collate it. Buy their rather beautiful London Poster to support the project (or download this elegant desktop wallpaper).

What intrigued us most is the concept of the Copyright Easter Egg, the deliberate mistakes introduced by mapping companies to see if they can catch out their competitors. For example, consider the aptly-named Lye Close, a small cul-de-sac appearing an A-Z of Bristol. Only it doesn't actually exist. A few years ago there was an exhibition at the British Library entitled The Lie of the Land: the library's very first webcast was entitled 'Secret Lives, Secret Maps,' which looked at maps as disinformation, for example the post-war concealment of Prestwick Airport. Or cartographic proof that Allied bombs were targeted at Dresden's residential heart. It also introduced us to Lobster Magazine - 'the journal of Parapolitics'. Cartographic easter eggs are different, though, and unlike the type now routinely inserted in games and DVDs. Clearly you can lie with maps, but actually finding these copyright 'footprints' is difficult. Publically, according to this page, the OS does not include deliberate mistakes. Perhaps a trawl through The Map Room's links will reveal more.

More mapping. How influential is your city? The Commoncensus Map Project is trying to create a cultural map of the USA (via kottke) / church burning, a tumblelog, also noted by k (who kindly linked us as well, much to someone's chagrin) / absent without leave, a weblog / Oxford Circus Underground Timewarp. One for Underground History / experimental cars from Mercedes-Benz / blinging Mercedes, Japanese style, at F-Class / Petrol Maps, 'Mapping the history of oil company road maps in Europe' / a collection of mythical islands.

Ultra-modern ruins: MVRDV's Dutch Pavilion, constructed for the Hanover Expo in 2000 (via Mondom, who also link 'Physical SimVillage: Interactive 3-D Telecommunications device for Architectural Design Project'). Modern Ruins are an ongoing fascination: here are ruins of the 1964 World's Fair in New York. There's something so wholesome and innocent about Du Pont's Wonderful World of Chemistry revue (seven year's before A Clockwork Orange as well!). An earlier post on the Hanover Expo.

Photographer Douglas Levere, and his New York Changing project, get the tmn treatment. These are stunning images, but this is perhaps the worst way to experience International Style architecture (e.g. this vs this). Given Berenice Abbott's original images were framed by the existing architecture, Levere has no choice but to take the same viewpoint, regardless of the framing, and it could be argued that he is deliberately using a pre-modern eye, not used to to the abstraction of the monolithic building.

The piece also made us search out more about the Garibaldi Memorial, seen here before (1932) and after (1998): 'After the defeat of his Roman army, the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi sought refuge from 1850 to 1854 with his friend Antonio Meucci, a Florentine stage designer and inventor who had settled in this small cottage on Staten Island.' The curious pantheon cover was added in 1907 when the house was moved. It was actually made of concrete. It was taken away in 1952. The house is now the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. In America, Meucci is the named inventor of the telephone. Garibaldi invented a biscuit, which 'commands a unique position in the biscuit world.'

Speaking of London, we spent an enjoyable half hour revisiting the Charles Booth Online Archive this afternoon / buy fine pens at the Fountain Pen Hospital / buy fine wines at South London's Green and Blue wines / Sark to the Dome, a walk by Russell Davies (a continuation of a Thames walk we did a few years ago. Scenes like this have already changed dramatically due to new construction) / the ultimate Lost page.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The relic shown at the right is on display in Palma's cathedral, which contains several reliquaries of varying degrees of elaborateness. The relic was an integral part of Christianity's mid-period - say the last 1900 years or so - before global communications technology and scientific advances conspired to put the divine on the defensive, objects that continued to hold sacred properties down the centuries. Relics were housed in reliquaries, 'a major form of artistic production across Europe and Byzantium throughout the Middle Ages.'

The internet feels like a giant reliquary at times. On bad days, idling around looking for something interesting is bit like being stuck in a newsagents stocked only with men's interest magazines, from lurid bikini specials to railway modelling journals, superficial visual snippets that are served up without any sense of discovery, backstory or depth, as if they existed solely to sate an appetite for soundbites (viral culture has a lot to answer for). Sometimes a trawl through the big sites - boing boing, metafilter, kottke, etc. - is like methodically working your way through a box of good chocolates - good at first, then swiftly becoming something of a chore, and a regretful one at that. Whereas chasing links, making connections and following leads is a little like observing a saint's relic, the reliquary's little window revealing a tiny morsel of bone or scrap of cloth, leaving the imagination to fill in the corporeal blanks.

The web is also like being stuck in a giant uncatalogued library, with every dusty shelf offering up hidden treasures; you just have to hunt for them. Our mental picture is a combination of the Gormenghastian, before the great fire, and the octagonal library in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. The latter was apparently inspired by the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto, a brutalist construction by Mathers and Haldenby, in collaboration with Warner Burns Toan & Lunde. The library does have a medieval aspect , a fortress of knowledge (according to the Wikipedia, one of its nicknames is 'Fort Book'. It's also the subject of the widespread 'sinking library' urban legend).

Eco's fictional medieval library was strongly influenced by Jorge Luis Borges, in particular the Argentinian's Library of Babel, an unfolding, labyrinthine, almost infinite space, that apparently contained all knowledge:

'When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimensions of hope.'

This multi-layered strata of knowledge, fact and supposition is something dealt with in the work of architect and theoretician Ben Nicholson (contemporary, no relation to the St Ives School Ben Nicholson). Nicholson's installation 'Thinking the Unthinkable House' brought together four projects concerned with four facets of the history of architecture, including a shredded B52 bomber and the 'Kleptoman Cell', a project which took Kurt Schwitters' Merz as its inspiration, incarcerating objects that contain a memory of a Nuclear Holocaust that never came.

Holding all this together is the Sacred Geometry of Michelangelo's Laurentian Library, a complex pattern hidden Under Foot and Between the Boards by false floors and centuries of shelving, accumulated books and knowledge (to lower the tone, this is something perhaps alluded to in Spielberg's third Indiana Jones film, I think - a masterful combination of pop and classical sources). For Nicholson, it's the sheer density of information crammed into the floor pattern that creates the wonder, a pattern that imitates - but also goes beyond - the plan of the actual room above. Perhaps, he speculates, the architect and patron were suggesting the creation of a place of knowledge that synthesised the known systems of the time: 'The Laurentian Library could support a furniture layout which is a hybrid of the two types of library in existence at this time, the monastic basilica and the studiolo'.

Perhaps the internet is also best understood as a dual system (and not just the DOS vs Mac hierarchy that Eco playfully compared to religion back in 1994). We suggest that rather than just a cabinet of curiousities (the traditional wunderkammer remains a popular web metaphor), the internet is in fact a combination of reliquary and labyrinth, both a maze of one's own making and a receptacle for wonder, a place where getting lost is a self-conscious act, portals act as balls of twine, to be unwound or ignored at your peril. What counts as wonder? Traditional esoterica remains a popular theme (you can look for anything, anywhere, if that's what you're determined to do), but the web also supplies us with contemporary esoterica, an emerging strand of visual culture that attempts to reconcile the immense realm of consumption and identity through curating, collecting, presenting, ensuring that objects set up a constant loop of feedback between memory and the present (just to pick an example entirely at random, without the internet, would these Famicom card cases (via) even exist?). From the sublime to the ridiculous, or as Borges once noted, 'There is a kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition.'

* * *

Other things. Shortcut, an installation in Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. The duo's 'Powerless Structures' seems to be sinking, rather than emerging - part of an ongoing series. A biography / the 100 oldest dot com domains / Bradley's Almanac offers live mp3s / plenty of collage artwork available in the galleries at Ma Vinci's Reliquary / Always Touch Out looks at upcoming transport projects in London, including the ongoing East London Line Extension / for the very keen and sharp of scalpel: 3D paper models of cars (thanks to scattergun, whose 'things magazine-style' link post contains plenty of gems) / i like sweet wrappers / are printers watching us? / from 'China Builds Its Dreams, and Some Fear a Bubble' (NYT article, will expire soon): 'This year alone, Shanghai will complete towers with more space for living and working than there is in all the office buildings in New York City.'

Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower opened on the 18th, lording it over the curious mash of outlet stores and upscale boutiques that is Gunwharf Quays. The Spinnaker is classic event architecture, originally dubbed the Millennium Tower, the sail-shaped structure was first mooted (pdf) in late 1995, yet missed its original deadline of 1999 by several years, prompting a quiet re-naming. Naturally, it also went over-budget (curiously it still takes people by surprise when buildings go over budget) and was generally derided by the people of Portsmouth (although snidely comparing the Spinnaker's cast concrete structure to the exposed cast concrete construction of the late-lamented Tricorn Centre - now a great car park - is indicative of the public's shaky grasp of the subject). More opening dates came and went, with lift problems dragging on over the summer. Then, on opening day, the Tower struck back, Stephen King-style, and trapped the city council's project manager in a broken lift. Towers are usually 'troubled', if only because the alliteration sounds good.

Other things. America vs the Congestion Charge. Coates has it right about the charge - the only people who complain are shopkeepers (which always seemed rather spurious to me anyhow - how many people drive to the shops in London?) and wealthy types who are fortunate enough to live very centrally and feel it might encourage them to use public transport (when mostly they'd get a discount anyway). Maybe they're the people who drive to the shops. Anyway, the Americans aren't having it.

We are being overwhelmed: 'There are somewhere around 10 billion insects for every square kilometer of land surface.' / an amazing model train project, as if to confirm our suspicions about web content / when UNICEF bombed the smurfs, they missed one potential target / Fractal Food: Self-Similarity on the Supermarket Shelf / Gullwing Russian Patrol craft / a giant collection of New Wave singles covers. Both via me-fi / the Liste Rouge, threatened buildings identified by the Swiss Heritage Society. Compare with the UK's Risky Buildings and UNESCO's World Heritage in Danger.

Thalasso-Travel: 'Citing an invented burst water pipe or lack of hot water, invite yourself to take a bath at the house of your friends. Take with you all of the equipment that you would use in a spa: soap, shampoo, towel, bath-robe, relaxing music, seaweed scrub, champagne, etc.' From LATOUREX, the 'Laboratory of experimetal tourism [sic]'.


Monday, October 17, 2005
One day we'll all wake up and everything will be an ARG. The rise of the ARG, or Alternate Reality Game (as utilised by a certain TV show, which has built on the concept of related spoof websites with hidden messages first seen in the publicity associated with Spielberg's AI) characterises contemporary media's ability to worm itself into every aspect of life. It also corresponds with the rise in the MMORG (don't you just love the acronmynisation of modern life?), immersive on-line worlds that are becoming so sophisticated that their economic developments are deemed worthy of academic study and their social structures entice players to spend more time online that off.

As concepts like social software become more advanced, and individuals, companies and mega-corporations all invest in building the digital structures that will underpin the storage, retrieval, delivery and interpretation of every kind of content, the gap between the ARG and the MMORG starts to disappear. Right now, there appear to be differences. On the one hand, ARGers seem to be outgoing, investigative types, the ones who thrill in the cross-pollination of reality and virtuality, and who relish the fresh opportunties (chiefly, it should be said, for entertainment) that it offers.

For example, consider an extreme itineration of the ARG concept, a company called Video and Adventure Services, who apparently create 'customised reality adventures', an art project that is either being strung out into a media hoax, or pushed outside the boundaries of the gallery and into the realm of big business. Ultimately, VAS has art school written all over it, the kind of meme created and dispersed as a way of seeing how it was interpreted by media coverage. Originally seen at wonderland and Wallo World, there was also a piece earlier in the year in the Guardian, 'Kidnapped. Then charged for the privilege'. But run a search, and you see that Tmn actually ran an interview with the main protagonist, Brock Enright, nearly three years ago, and Enright was apparently doing his shadowy stuff some six months earlier. Enright's website is Semagoediv, and the service he provides is called a 'Custom Reality Adventure').

So hunting the truth about Enright turns into a mini-ARG in itself, and we're no nearer discovering if the whole business is actually true. For now, ironically, it's the more completist and fictional world of the MMORG that offers its players certainty. Why, when there are even real salaries to be earned in virtual worlds, need reality encroach at all? Selectparks, which usually looks at the world of video games by artists, includes a recent link to this article entitled Videogame Aesthetics: We're All Going to Die!, looking at the various means of representation available to today's game designers. If there's one thing that will either create or crush the perhaps inevitable cultural slide into near-constant virtuality, it's aesthetics; might alternative worlds be so different, so appealing, that reality can no longer offer an alternative? Or might increased processing power offer new realms of artistry that can supplement and enhance the real world?

*

Other things. 'Italy's ageing Ape drivers face their first test'. Re-visited, an Ape gallery / New maps of national absence, on Jason Salavon's 'Homes for Sale' series at the excellent BLDG blog, recently linked by me-fi / Ed Bacon has died, see our earlier post / 15 minutes to listen and We Love 1997, mp3 logs / All about Nothing, a weblog linked to the Malanda art website. The emphasis is on optical illusions / Ortholog, a weblog / emulate a ZX Spectrum on your Sony Ericsson P900 / a collection of collective nouns.

Staten Island Boat Graveyard (via Boing Boing) / Panoramio (via gadgets.fosfor.se) organises your imagery on a global scale / John Peel was a hell of a man (via tmn, which also links these epic 80s sax solos and the Demise of the $.01 sign / experimental bands in the UK / photographs by David Gibson / New York City Transit VG Map, fusing flash and Google Maps for added functionality. Or coolness. Via plasticbag / The Making of a Home / the Panorama Factory / a burgeoning subculture: teasmades (another). See also Teasmaniacs (via haddock).

The Scottish Parliament wins the Stirling Prize, a brave, non-political choice inevitably flagged in news pieces by the sheer cost of the whole venture (or dismissed inelegantly as a 'turkey' by pundits who ultimately backed the wrong horse) / immerse yourself in the complex world of the British aristocracy with Debrett's Correct forms of address.


Friday, October 14, 2005
Slide away bathroom, via hippoblog. Some more about transformable architecture, a genre which seems to intersect with pre-fabricated architecture, yet neither have ever really made it off the ground / The Nexus of Politics and Terror. On coincidence / 360 degree views of the Louvre / photos by Pinocchia (via Ribaworld), including a spot of Calatrava and Gaudi / nice set of pictures of Gateshead's threatened multi-storey car park, oft-linked before / Alan and George invite you to Old Merthyr Tydfil / maps of medieval London.

My Moleskin Edition. Trust the Japanese to take a consumer product and obsess about it insanely. See also the upcoming Mini Tokyo, 'a new interpretation of the classic Mini Traveller at the Tokyo Motor Show that reflects the Japanese appreciation for all things British.' The car is big business in Japan, as was the original. Related, BMW announced yesterday that as of 1 January 2006, 'all owners of BMW, Rolls-Royce and MINI vehicles will be entitled to free take back of their car once it has reached the end of its serviceable life,' in line with this piece of EU legislation. Ironically, as the date on this tax disc indicates, Rolls Royces don't ever really reach the end of their 'serviceable lives'.

Scare the bejesus out of yourself with this handy do-it-yourself sea level change generator / architechnophilia, a weblog / architecture news at fresh arch / download snippets of Lee and Herring / g-i-g, 'a common blog for block 23' / Tape it off the internet, a jokey fusion of Tivo, bittorrent and the VCR that may just, one day, turn into something worth having / a fresh site from the people at Pocko, who make small books.

Many thanks to those who pointed out that the 'average wedding photograph' we referenced yesterday was a project called 'Special Moments' by the artist Jason Salavon (see comments from Geoff at bldg blog). Nick at blanketfort linked his projects and more 'melds' including Mike Mike's Face of Tomorrow (a similar project was featured in the Sunday Times Magazine about a decade ago, back when computer morphing techniques were shiny and new) late last month.


Thursday, October 13, 2005
Grab bag of things today. Bldg Blog links architectural averages, a photographic project by Meggan Gould called Go Ogle. Reminiscent of that 'average wedding photograph' someone created a few years ago, and which has proved impossible to Google / Peter Funch is a photographer / Rebound Designs seem a little sad to us, rather like those Faux Books one can buy to 'complete a room'. Via scribbling woman / another Bldg Blog post, Nova Arctica, how global warming is opening up the previously uncharted wastes of the north, which references Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, in which Danforth goes mad, whispering 'disjointed and irresponsible things' about, amongst others, '"the primal white jelly," "the color out of space," "the wings," "the eyes in darkness," and "the moon-ladder."' 'The Color' also became a short story (pdf). See the Lovecraftian Bestiary for references.

Today is John Peel Day. A few links. In Session Tonight. 6 music is broadcasting a tribute. Read an old appreciation from Slate, and an article in today's Guardian by Ryan Gilbey on working on Peel's unfinished autobiography, My Peel Sessions. There are plenty of tribute sites out there, offering downloads and more (although popularity has overwhelmed some of them). Check the John Peel Session Archive or visit The Peel Tapes to download selected shows for a real nostalgia trip.

Unicef's decision to bomb the Smurfs was a canny piece of publicity. The smurfs have never been quite as popular in the UK as they are in Europe (something to do with our homegrown animation talent, I suspect) / two audio pieces by Igor Savchenko: a small research on Contemporary Coded Radio Transmissions and Yevgeny Primakov Is U-turning His Plane Over the Atlantic, March 24, 1999 / the BBC's excellent Storyville documentary series has a good minisite, with a feature on every film.

Portfolio, contemporary photography in Britain / worldwide premieres, past and present, from the Geneva motor show / radio-controlled tank combat, one of many projects created by the Gizmologist. If you're really into scale modelling, then there's only one scale to focus on: 87th. Some more 1/87 models / build a paper Lada Niva / mighty Jenga tower / Is it OK ... to use a patio heater? In the UK, the piece concludes, '[CO2 emissions from patio heaters] roughly negates all the savings in CO2 emissions made in 2003 after pollution-reducing company car tax reforms were first introduced'.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Flying Bombs and Rockets chronicles the devastation wrought on London by Germany's V-weapons during World War II. It's a hugely comprehensive chronicle of the 2419 'doodlebugs' and 500 V2 rockets launched at the capital in the last two years of the war, exploring where and when each bomb fell (including our immediate local area). The V weapons (V is usually translated as 'vengeance', but actually stood for 'Vergeltungswaffe', a compound word meaning 'compensation weapon') had the advantage of range yet were as indiscriminate as any other form of bombing, then and now. The New Cross bombing was one of the worst civilian tragedies of the war.

The terrifying fixed-position V3 was never operational before the war's end. Embedded within a French hillside, the 25 long-barrelled guns had a high rate of fire that would have swiftly destroyed London. The site at Mimoyecques is now a museum, and an eerie one at that; the extensive tunnels were carved by slave labour, tombs chipped from solid rock, with the tunnel walls scarred with hundreds of thousands of tiny indentations. An unknown number of workers died there, either in the terrible conditions or as a result of Allied bombing (which delayed the operation of the weapons until the war was over). Project Anvil, a top-secret yet abortive experiment to create remote-controlled, explosives-laden PB4Y-1 Liberators, apparently also targeted the site. Anvil was a troubled project, which claimed the life of JFK's older brother, Joe Kennedy in the process: read the US Navy's notification letter: 1, 2.

The Supergun concept didn't die with the war. The US Army worked on something called HARP, the High Altitude Research Project. HARP was the brainchild of McGill University professor Dr Gerald V.Bull, 'like a figure in a spy novel, designing arms for some of the world's harshest regimes.' Bull went where the money was, and in the Cold War, the money was American. HARP's initial intentions were relatively benign - it was designed as a low-cost satellite launcher. HARP used salvaged battleship guns to launch a small rocket known as a Martlet (named for the mythical bird on the crest of McGill University). The project faltered, a victim of inter-bureau rivalry.

Bull resurfaced in the 1980s, working for one Saddam Hussein on Project Babylon, a monstrous weapon that lurked in the Iraqi desert, unfired, until it was eventually dismantled by UN weapons inspectors. Project Babylon cost Bull his life - he was assassinated in Brussels in 1990, just another doomed engineer - and also kick-started Western dissatisfaction for Hussein's regime, mainly because those in power could no longer justify turning a blind eye to bits of 'oil pipeline' being shipped to a regime that swiftly went off message.

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Other things. A classy obituary notice... 'in lieu of flowers...' / speculative alien biologies / why DVDs are the new giveaways / 020, a London entertainment guide / old things at Salvage One and Retrovius / the photography of Peter Granser / short movies at Patalab02 / watch bookmarks pop up live / Parallax View, Neoist Impulse, two weblogs / the official Happy Flowers website / sound effects, like many other media library services, are now available online, a loss for clip-art centric cover designs.

The ATP festival folk have announced their latest venture: The United Sounds of ATP. But aren't gigs getting just too retro? As the folk at diskant noted in a recent review of the Iggy and the Stooges Don't Look Back show, 'but it seems like the nail in the coffin for a band to have to go backwards like this. To look back,' before concluding that the show was actually one of the best things ever. Next thing you know, they'll be recreating seminal pairings from the long-forgotten past. Or creating all-new fusions of musical DNA.

Banville may have won the Booker, but who will win the Blooker? More to the point, how many websites have actually been turned into books? Besides Andrew Losowsky's Barcabook, of course. Are we a book based on a website? Or is it the other way around? One thing's for sure, we get picked up by lots of branding websites. Not quite sure why this should be. Sites like Rock'n'Roll and Advertising and brand new are fairly useful insights into the industry's self-conscious; what's good, what's bad, etc. etc.

Fact Check, keeping politicians honest / recipes at Burnt Toast / the architecture of the World Exhibition 1958 - better known as Expo 58, the show that spawned the Atomium / don't exhibit any Suspicious behaviour on the tube, although it's a moot point as to what 'suspicious behaviour' actually is these days / If it's got an engine, a motoring weblog / the flying Hydro Foam.

Caveman days with Og - Son of Fire, the original neanderthal from the Boy's Life paper ('The Magazine for all Boys, Publishing by the Boy Scouts of America'). Cover art is consistently interesting: squares, sneaking up on beavers, looking topically martial ('On to Washington!') in 1935, and fighting the heathen horde. Note, the NRA symbol in the top right has nothing to do with Charlton's lot, but is the symbol of the National Recovery Association, part of Roosevelt's New Deal (see also America in the 1930s site).


Monday, October 10, 2005
Yet more interactive fiction, this time the annual IF competition, which offers a selection of games created in a variety of programming languages. Facade was a bit of a disappointment, an idea in search of better execution, and also in desperate need of more depth. Conversations felt one-sided and enquiries fell on deaf ears (21 years ago we got 'Thorin sits down and starts to sing about gold'. Not much seems to have changed).

Technology advances so rapidly in all fields, that you can't help feeling a little bit cheated by contemporary manifestations of AI - it hasn't made the same quantum leap that you find in, say, display technology or storage. We're still stuck with mimickry, and even the most sophisticated Turing Test wannabees frustrate right from the off. 'Intelligent' things will be mimics for several years yet, until a real Kurzweil-style breakthrough is made.

Other things. Rent the Luminhaus, an LV Home in a sylvan setting. See New Yorker piece on creator Rocio Romero. America's Autumns are so intense they have to map them / the Museum of Hoaxes has been re-designed, and offers this salutary tale on weather wars, as well as the more traditional Tall Tale Creature Gallery.

A Jeeves and Wooster mega-site / apparently we linked this British Airways Museum site, but I don't think we did. We do have a bit of a thing for the Shorts Flying Boat, though. They don't make cabins like they used to / science advance section. Michael Crichton, hero of the global-warming-as-hoax movement / by 2015, 'Congress has mandated that one third of the US military's ground vehicles must be able to operate autonomously'. The Darpa Grand Challenge.

Living inside a plastic water bottle / LibraryThing helps you catalogue your books (associated weblog). It's a bit daunting to start now, but with 400,000 books catalogued on the site, others are clearly embracing it. People are also starting to photograph their books. Flickr's books cluster is interesting as well - virtual thumbing through strangers' reading habits / the photography of Amir Zaki, including the beautiful 'Spring Through Winter' series, which inverts the conventional photographic view of modern architecture.

Parking lot, a weblog by Chris Corrigan / Cajun Music mp3s / linked before, the London photos of Colin Gregory Palmer / links at sponbustion magazine, including the walkman museum and the Mastermix project, which offers downloadable snippets from those compilation tapes you find at the back of the cupboard.


Thursday, October 06, 2005
Architecture. Koolhaas on Sixties Architecture / right up our street: Pointing It, 'finding architecture with Google Earth' / crumbling brutalism at i like: the residential halls of St Andrew's College. There's a brutalist architecture flickr pool, which is rather encouraging / 'How communities are re-using the Big Box / 'The soldier and the fox: Francis Alys gets the measure of London,' 'Hugh Pearman on how the artist captured an authentic cityscape / around and about in the Winchester Mystery House (via). Visit the official home page. We just had a quick tour of the BBC's refurbished Broadcasting House (more history). The interior of the drama studio has more than a hint of mystery house about it, with front doors that open onto blank walls (for the authentic sounds of keys scrabbling in the lock and chains being drawn back) and an acoustic spiral, a winding snail-shaped corridor that allows the spoken voice to fade naturally into the distance...

Automobiles. The Colours of Italy, one and two: Hyperkit get their cameras out to chronicle the country's indigenous automobiles, in this case the Fiat 500 and Piaggio Ape / the remarkable Renault 4 looks good but doesn't have as much content as these sites from Norway, Britain, France and Germany / Build your dream car, neat BMW promo via Evenings on the Lake (thanks for the shout in me-fi). The wallpapers page has a nice selection of pictures of the company's Art Cars (the most recent of which will be a work by Olafur Eliasson, he of Weather Project fame).

Art. The British Council have placed their entire Art Collection online / Kathryn Yu, a weblog / the art of Richard May / art by William Schaff / photographs by Philip Toledano, including the series Car Salesmen.

Objects. Inflight Correction ventures into avant hi-fi equipment: ElectronLuv make 'atomic age hi-fi audio', whereas this just looks atomic / handheld electronic games (via).


Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Camouflaged bunkers in Switzerland, from a new book by Leo Fabrizio. Coudal has a featurette on the restoration of Mies' S.R.Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The IIT has a Mies Van de Rohe Society. Crown Hall, of course, was the site of Mies' infamous 'camouflaged columns', as his slender steel structure had to be sprayed with fire-proofing legacy of the 1871 Chicago Fire. 'Mies went from the direct to the poetic, spraying concrete on the columns, then facing them with black-painted steel to create the illusion of an exposed structure.'

Radical Cartography (via the map room) / what's on? Check upcoming, freshly owned by yahoo / remote control mail will steam open your envelopes, scan your correspondence and email it to you wherever you are / a few links via rotational: Uri Geller Web Design, Free 3D Models of Great Buildings / dare you enter the rocket racing league? / Kapitza document their books beautifully: The Pits, the story of an archaeological dig, and William Morris, a catalogue accompanying an exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester / photography by Izima Kaoru / Facade is billed as 'a one-act interactive drama', via Idle Thumbs. You can download it using bittorrent: we'll report back when we've played it.

Thanks to Brian for the link to the work of painter Will Cotton, which exists on the interface between kitsch, pin-up and pop. See also Sharon Core's candy and cake photos, the Thiebauds series (no prizes for guessing the inspiration (previously noted). Core is a trained pastry chef, a comparison that, although mouth-watering, 'makes you feel kind of sorry for the newer medium.'

Old pedal cars from the Petersen Auto Museum (via bean rocket). The museum's website has an online exhibition entitled 'French Curves: The Automobile as Sculpture' / Balikli Kaplica is a thermal spa near Kangal, Turkey. The hot waters teem with tiny fish that are said to help with skin complaints. Apparently, they are regular fish who can cope with the temperature but thrive on the flakes of skin. They're known as Doctor Fish.

The Punk Vault and Strange Reaction, mp3 logs / a collection of weather icons (via Swiss miss) / er, your laptop is broken / re-opening soon: the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea / Beyond the Valley sells interesting stuff / Look at this..., a linklog, including details on how to restore the 267 Corgi Batmobile. That was one very complex toy.


Monday, October 03, 2005
This month's building study from the Twentieth Century Society is Eileen Gray's E. 1027 villa in the South of France. Gray's life is a fine example of the power of reputation. She is currently the subject of a retrospective at London's Design Museum (pdf information). As Gail Stevenson's text notes, E. 1027 has long been overshadowed by the often overbearing presence of Le Corbusier, who built his own holiday home and 'cabanons' nearby and fell out with Gray after he daubed Purist murals across her pristine white walls without her permission. Corb drowned while swimming just off the stretch of coast overlooked by the house (grimly, the house was also where an earlier owner was murdered by his gardeners in 1996). Restoration of E. 1027 is due to start early next year. Another review, Fiona McCarthy in the Guardian.

Gray designed very little, and built even less. Yet while her furniture is celebrated, E. 1027 has suffered, falling into disrepair. Sutherland Lyall, reviewing the Design Museum show in last week's Architect's Journal (ludicrous and expensive registration/subscription combination required), noted that her modest output has been inflated by the sheer ubiquity of two or three 'iconic' pieces, most notably the E. 1027 table and Bibendum armchair (both designed especially for the house, thanks to the free reign provided by her client - and lover - the Romanian architect Jean Badovici).

Born into a wealthy family, Gray never had to support herself through her work, and was thus able to throw herself into the glamorous inter-war scene, most notably in Paris, where she opened a pseudonymous gallery and worked as a designer on sumptuous, post-deco apartments before emerging as a fully-fledged, hard-edged modernist. After the war, and after the falling out with Corb, a lack of other commissions led to Gray effectively dropping off the map. Lyall writes that during this time the exhibition describes her as 'documenting her work'. 'For three decades?', he counters, 'Nothing wrong with rich, nothing wrong with misunderstood, and nothing wrong with neglibible output. But, after viewing the show, you are a tad inclined to go 'hmmm'.' Her furniture design endures, all the more so following a 1972 sale of Jacques Doucet's effects, which included many of her pieces (according to Lyall). A 1980 MoMA exhibition, four years after her death, 'crowned her as a major modernist.'

Surprisingly, the E1027 is just about childproof, if you make sure the spine is firmly against a wall so the cantilever supports your infant's weight as they haul themselves up to swipe off everything carefully arranged on top of it. The detachable glass top is becoming a bit of a worry, though.

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After last week's military dioramas, here are some cake-basedlandscapes. Even more dioramas here, this time based on great scenes in motor racing. Both thanks to Blanketfort (who went mad for pencils last week).

An animated Necker Cube. The hyperstar is pretty neat as well / Empty Me make multi-functional bags / why marketing people are the type of people who act before they think / ever wanted to see into that 'Gated Community'? Now you can, thanks to the patented Heavy Trash viewing platform (via world changing, which has a sustainable design focus).

The Fame Machine examines this country's burgeoning yet benign celebrity culture. Two points: 'First, celebrity has become the product—rather than just a device for marketing films or music,' 'Second, celebrities, agents, photographers and picture desks have found that the most efficient way to create an endless supply of celebrity news is to work together.'

That came via an in-depth City of Sound piece on the re-designed Guardian (a look that has yet to impact the newspaper's website) / jumping Manta Rays, via collision detection, which also marks the passing of Jeff Chapman, aka 'Ninjalicious', the man who pretty much single-handedly kick-started the urban infiltration movement, sneaking through every building, old to new.

Toogle search, words and pictures / Thee Silver Mt. Zionist, an mp3 weblog with a post-rock slant / The Design Encyclopaedia, an under consideration project / how to restore a Triumph Herald 13/60 / Geek History through T-shirts / Various Cosy Catastrophes and Dreadful Dooms, a list of fictional disaster scenarios.

Generic Sci-Fi Quarry, an installation that acknowledges British sci-fi's penchant for filming other-wordly scenes in abandoned quarries. More here at the cult TV archive / sci-fi spillover: The Montauk Project, an enduring myth that may, or may not, be woven into the narrative tapestry that is Lost (hint, don't trust anything you read at a sight called Mind Control Forums).

Visited on Sunday: Nunhead Cemetery, initially All Saints Cemetery, and now a verdant, overgrown oasis with tantalising glimpses across the City through the trees.