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Friday, December 23, 2005
Save the Pearlroth House (via Land+Living), a modernist marvel in the Hamptons by Andrew Geller. These things never end well, and the house's relative modesty will ultimately be its undoing / architect Richard MacCormac discusses his vision for Broadcasting House, some notes by Mr Hill at City of Sound. A pity that MJP are no longer working on the scheme. It's also depressing that FOA's 'Music Box' scheme for White City appears to be in limbo (all noted at CoS).

The 2005 Google Zeitgeist is fascinating; the (wired) planet's obsessions distilled into a few fancy graphs. But what one really needs is an interactive zeitgeist that can be controlled by entering parameters and seeing whether they're up or down on previous years / a useful method of combining gmail, picasa and flickr to get your photos online / not very seasonal: suicide spots, a breakdown of favoured places to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge (the latter via me-fi) / best web games of 2005: 3D-SF cave is especially claustrophobic.

So Wrong They're Right, a documentary about 8-Track cassette aficionados, made by the founders of the 8 Track Heaven site, online since 1995. One of the site's original founders, the late Abigail Lavine, posted the last words of gangster Dutch Schulz on her own website, Deathbed Delirium of Dutch. These last words, crazed and babbling, were taken down by a stenographer and later found favour as raw material for the likes of William S.Burroughs.

Killer Maps, or online mapping - where is it going? The piece includes an interesting history of GPS: 'On May 1, 2000, the intentional degrading of GPS signals, called Selective Availability, was turned off by order of President Clinton, instantly reducing the range of error in a civilian GPS fix to 10 meters or so.' Locational mapping will soon become just another way of shunting us ads, only this time they'll be rather more locational. We just wish we could get Mobile GMaps to work on our phone. Related, 'Mapping Bruce,' Flip Flop Flyin virtually visits all the spots sung about by Mr S (via The Cartoonist) / vintage Soviet art featuring Father Christmas. Apparently / BT, of all people, look into the future (via) / the photos of Gilbert Garcin / Portal Classic gets an Italian site / Book, a sketchbook that criss-crossed the Atlantic between four artists, Mac Premo and Duke Riley in New York, and Rory Jeffers and Oliver Jeffers in Belfast.

Volkswagen's Transparent Manufactory in Dresden (via Coudal). This was where they make the rather unloved Phaeton and where, whisper it, some Bentleys are also assembled. Also seen at me-fi / BLDGBLG riffs off our City Kong piece with some thoughts on animals in cities / secret sounds conveys images and sounds from places unknown and hidden. It's all very mysterious and rather spooky - loop_tower.mp3, for example. We also love this collection of sounds of the surface of a frozen lake, Lake Hafravatn in Iceland (photo by Pall Gudjonsson) / a collection of handy mnemonics / a work by Ron Mueck / Bright, a Netherlands-based tech weblog / panorama from atop the Empire State Building / illustration by Ragnar at Symptomatica / festive fun with It's a Wonderful Internet, a virtual pop-up book (via cynical-c).

The World of Kane investigates the cameo appearances made by selected pieces of modern furniture in Space 1999, Gerry Anderson's live action space adventure series. Best known, to us at least, for featuring the epic Eagle Transporter (a spaceship model so excellent it has its own website), the set dressers also popped into upmarket furniture boutiques to 'get the look' of the 21st century. As you'd expect, there's a lot of moulded plastic. Stanley Kubrick had a similar eye, and a bigger budget, when he directed 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And that really is it for the rest of 2005. A happy new year to everyone.


Monday, December 19, 2005
On King Kong, the Empire State and the dynamism of the city. Peter Jackson's film has won high praise (with just the occasional dissenter - more reviews at Metacritic), and most people seem happy with the idea of the film as a straight re-make of the 1933 original. Naturally, the special effects are the prime draw, and Jackson has practically doubled the film's running time in order to take in all that visual wonder. The Kong is King site tracks the re-make's production history, with all the OTT behind-the-scenes stuff that you just know will be fleshing out a couple of DVDs come Christmas 2006.

The new version gives the Empire State model a bit of a makeover, one of some 90,000 buildings modelled to create the virtual New York of the 30s (2.8mb image, from the huge amount of visual information at The One Ring). Everything was recreated on computers and with traditional sets built in New Zealand (we like this improvised blue screen). Naturally, today's filmmakers have an advantage, in that the Empire State is available as a 3D model to anyone who wants it, an instant set that just has to be dressed up with authentic grime and haze.

The film makes the skyscraper's mid-town isolation pretty clear, standing practically alone in a sea of smaller buildings. The Empire State was built fast, the physical manifestation of all that the European modernists had fantasised about for the preceding decade. It became a natural symbol of the city - the building's official site has a movies page - even if the most ambitious part of the original plan, the airship mooring mast, was doomed to failure. 'Passengers would have to make their way down a stinging gangway, nearly a quarter mile in the air, onto a narrow open walkway near the top of the mast. After squeezing through a tight door, they would have to descend two steep ladders inside the mast before reaching the elevators.' The mast became a radio antenna instead.

Kong, which opened just two years after the new tower was complete, used the city's skyline in the classic Kong image (large), not to mention the various posters: 1949, 1976 and 2005. The Dino De Laurentis remake used the WTC instead of the Empire State, and the poster (with its magnificent hyperbole: 'The most exciting original motion picture event of all time' - our italics) nods to the latter, still standing tall in mid town. The very tip of the tower is, of course, central to the film's climax, the sharp end of modernism overcoming the beast. The moment is celebrated in form; you can now buy the desk sculpture (strangely different to this one, and this one - there seems to be some confusion about the precise detailing at the top, although not when you compare the original with Jackson's rendering of the NY skyline (via)).

But what struck us most about the remake was how the climactic dog fight adopted the visual language of Italian futurism, in particular the work of the 'Aeropainters' (an aesthetic we commented on a few months ago). The in-plane shots in particular recall Tullio Crali's amazing 'Nose Dive on the City'. Crali's imagery was about pure violence, the intersection of war machines and civilians, mediated by the harsh angles of the modern city. 'Nose Dive' was completed six years after Kong, and shares the film's fascination with modernity; both works revel in its essential superiority. Crali's later work was even more explicit about the aesthetic of death: 'Intercepting English Torpedo-planes' and 'Dive on the Airport', for example. While today's special effects makes these visual links even more obvious, the modern film plays more as a homage, rather than an advancement of the original's central idea - that the modern city is both the problem and the solution.

*

Other things. Stephen's weblog / some photos of beautiful trees by Squirmelia (nice image of Rachel Whiteread's Tate Modern installation too) / EverythingIHaveEver, scratch your way to a map of your possessions, via lowercase.

Google's Books site is also something we haven't had time to explore in depth. Rumour has it that there's a hack doing the rounds that removes the restrictions... / the bogus tribute to Douglas Coupland / London punk photos from the late 70s / another great before and after retouching expose / old cameras in 3D. Another opportunity to plug things 13, with its lovely 3D cover (and free glasses). Via Happy Palace / the Dragon's Den update.

A couple of grand gift ideas for 2006: LikeABike, and Automoblox / the German car blog / there's something very elegant about old computer game graphics: MSX Maps / the internet was made to purvey cute / The Pi Project, 3m 14s long songs that incorporate a portion of the code / you never hear about the Yowie, the Australian Bigfoot (also a candy and a band). Check Yowiehunters for more speculation.

We're in seasonal wind-down mode, in case you hadn't noticed. Posting will be intermittent between now and the new year, so we'll take the opportunity now to wish everyone a very merry Christmas.


Thursday, December 15, 2005
The photography of Geert Goiris is all about empty landscapes and discarded technology / step back in time with 3DLondon's rather old set of maps. Good zooming quality, but you have to install software to get there / a great urban climbing video, apparently set in a very crumbling Russia (complete with French rap soundtrack). Via haddock / panoramic views of towns and villages of France / vintage colour photography by Keld Helmer-Peterson (via i like).

Kultureflash showcases Zaha Hadid's (now abandoned) plans for the proposed Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre / welcome to the Hyperbole Towers, or when realtors get over-excited (which is most of the time) / best-loved or most-hated? Why architecture polls are almost always wrong / time to revisit New London Architecture, most of which remains unbuilt / Lego Escher at gravestmor / the woodcuts of Richard Seewald aren't served very well the site that bears his name.

Honda have rolled out an update for their ASIMO robot, which is gaining in functionality piece by biece, bit by bit, in seemingly trivial increments (via metafilter). ASIMO mark 3 can now run at 6km/h rather than 3km/h, and can push a trolley, yet it retains its somewhat uncanny mannerisms. Many more photos here and we have a small gallery from our meeting with the robot's older, slower, less energetic relative last month.


Monday, December 12, 2005
King Tat, an exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, features an installation by Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson of 'the tomb of a modern recluse a man they call King Tat'. Doyle and Mallinson have a subversive take on the built environment, using altered familiar and homely structures to portray a more accurate world. 'Wendy Squat 2' is a boarded up child's playhouse, while 'Skippy' turns the classic Cosy Coupe into a festering rubbish dump. 'King Tat' taps into the British obsession with dirt and disorder behind closed doors, best exemplified in popular culture by the 'Life of Grime' series of TV shows, later extrapolated into 'How clean is your house?', essentially an excuse to probe into the lives of the mentally ill and socially withdrawn, further humiliating them in the process.

From house to (future) mobile home: a gallery of General Motors' PAD, an 'advanced mobile home', which has echoes of the ARK, from a little-remember 70s TV show (did this ever make it to the UK?), or even the immense Antartic Snow Cruiser of 1939 (gallery). GM envisage their current concept as 'an urban loft with mobility, a concept for living in the ever-changing cultural landscape of Southern California'. It reminded us of the mobile home-based culture described in 2000AD, the 'mo-pads' that would plough the highways of Mega City 1 in the late 21st century (timeline). 2000AD is fast turning into one of the most prophetic cultural documents of the late C20. Some more vintage motorhomes.

Other things. Mp3 blogs have been our discovery of 2005 (we're usually late to the party). View every song posted by Said the Gramphone in the past two years. Another: woodentop/ Related, what happens to my mp3s when I die? / the cover art tagging project / artworks by AntiGirl / Polish Posters of American movies / Glamorgirl Photography, cheesecake from 1959 / compare and contrast with the modern work of Patrick Demarchelier.

Eugenio Recuenco takes elaborately staged fashion and advertising photographs, like this shipwreck vignette, or this extraordinary series of images featuring Kimora Lee Simmons. Contemporary visual culture is just one long quote and clip session / Vlaemsch market a flat-pack moose / it's all in the eyes: The All Girls School, a photographic series by Mara Bodis-Wollner at tmn.

Distellamap, 'Seeing the operation of code in Atari 2600 games' / flickr images tagged with Buncefield: instant visuals on yesterday's exploding oil depot / Les voitures des Presidents de la Republique / Autocar's weblog / the weblog of Atomic Books, who promise 'literary finds for mutated minds' / artistic photography at Our Eyes, which frequently means nsfw-nudity / a history of Corvette prototypes / is it another christmas miracle? (thanks dave).


Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The Lutine Bell was taken from HMS Lutine after it sank in 1799 (a cannon wound up in Windsor Castle), and hung in the offices of Lloyds of London. 'When reliable information about [an overdue] vessel became available, the bell was rung once for bad news - such as a total loss - or twice for a safe arrival or positive sighting. This ensured that all brokers and underwriters with an interest in the risk became aware of the news simultaneously.' It last rang once on 9 November 1979, 'when wreckage of the tanker Berge Vanga (via) was located in the South Atlantic'. More about the bell, which now hangs in Richard Rogers' Lloyds of London.

Does RRP's structure shout 'insurance'? Should buildings advertise their contents? 'For many buildings, Form doesn't Follow Function, the results of a survey into how we interpret architectural iconography (see also this Washington Times article).

The Peerage, a very British website. 'A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe' / Lanymation clips bits from movies (via sugar-n-spicy). Some nsfw content / Datacloud, a weblog (thanks for the reference) / the Urban Voids of Philadelphia, via BLDGBLOG / photos at pixelives / work by Radi Designers / Design Observer mourns the end of Emigre magazine / extraordinary constructions viewed via Pinhole photography.

Film locations in Toronto, the cheap film crew's generic American city (via collision detection / the Phaeno is complete / the ward-o-matic, Ward Jenkin's weblog devoted to visual culture and illustration / been before, but worth another look: Grenouille Plus, yet more scans and visual ephemera.


Friday, December 02, 2005
More bits and pieces. Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon updated for the modern age / London Mink, a weblog / Sisyphus III, a computer-controlled sand plotter (via Eye Teeth) / why do you wake up just before the alarm clock goes off? (via kottke). It's all to do with our internal body clock, apparently / Beat13, music, art and design collective / Surface Pressure, art (and more) by Tommy Perman / Real Photo Postcards at tmn / gorgeous London Street Scene (via) / London Underground Fashion Victims, from Going Underground's blog.

AudioMastermind is a bit like music thing, which links One Word Movie, a good way of making insane flashing presentations to annoy people / Slavs of New York is a great name for a weblog / did we post these cassettes before? / 'CIA Realizes It's Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years' / Iso50, the work of Scott Hansen (via Papryczki) / Concrete Blond make textured concrete (via Lewism, 'About Architecture, Design, and Life in Finland', with a fine flickr page) / Lightningfield descends into Paris's catacombs / 'If you wish to cast any Spells that must be cast before Moving, do so now'.


Thursday, December 01, 2005
Bits and pieces today. Eye Level, the weblog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum / parking stats from NYC / where are they now?, Rich Burridge looks at tech predicitions from Omni magazine, the 80s equivalent of Wired (via Caterina) / play BrickQuest with Lego / Panama Canal time lapse movie (both via boing boing) / Kiddie Rekord King, 78rpm children's records.

Tigertea, design and illustration / Olivier Kugler has a way with a simple line, while Clemens Habicht's illustration uses torn up paper to great effect (all via datura) / a ping clock / furniture makers Established and Sons have a smart new website and online magazine, Estd 00 / Paul Murphy's Girlie Playing Cards, on show at the Transition Gallery / Pandora is a streaming radio station that you get to educate about your tastes. It's a bit hit and miss.

Slow Mosaic makes slow mosaics from your searches. From Japanese Freeware (via). Some more java art experiment-type links / we love 1997 mines the charts and newspapers of that momentous year. Strangely we can't remember a single thing about 1997 / a short history of the ampersand / illustrator Marco Faasen has a weblog chronicling his commissions.

The Wreckroom ponders life 37 years after the release of the White Album / One Hundred Views of the Empire State Building, an ongoing series at Dead Programmer (via kottke). The site also has an instructional amount of information about radiators / Eric Myer's Stereotypes photography project.