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Thursday, February 16, 2006
'In John They Trust', an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about the modern day 'John Frum' cargo cult (via Boing Boing). The accelerated rate of Western consumption, specifically military consumption, has created an extraordinarily skewed world view: 'At war's end, the U.S. military unwittingly enhanced the legend of their endless supply of cargo when they bulldozed tons of equipment - trucks, jeeps, aircraft engines, supplies - off the coast of Espiritu Santo. During six decades in the shallows, coral and sand have obscured much of the watery grave of war surplus, but snorkelers can still see tires, bulldozers and even full Coke bottles. The locals wryly named the place Million Dollar Point.'

That last link goes to a Cabinet Magazine article on the spot and Operation Roll-Up, the post-war 'clean up' program that was to provide a bizarre military-industrial-tropical aesthetic in CBS's Survivor Vanuatu. Before you condemn the dumping and destruction as a classic example of wasteful American behaviour, a similar post-war operation in the Solomon Islands was ruthlessly overseen by the British colonial government: 'Islanders held the British colonial government, not the American military, accountable for this destruction.'

Above all, the creation of Million Dollar Point unwittingly accelerated the growth of the cargo cult, a concept that pre-dated the military take-over of the South Pacific region in WW2 but which blossomed under the enormous financial investment into the area. The objects the US military imported have since become the focus of the islanders' veneration: 'In the same vein, all kinds of material objects and symbols of the American presence - from red wood crosses modeled on the Red Cross to marine hats - were adopted as religious paraphernalia, invested with meaning that seemed strangely independent of, yet intimately connected to, their original purposes.'

See also Thurston Clarke's book Searching for Crusoe: A Journey Among the Last Real Islands and the extensive Pacific Wreck Database website, which has a page on Vanuatu and images of Million Dollar Point.

*
Other things. Cinema Treasures, preserving classic cinemas. You can search cinema designs by architecture firm - very helpful - like the Harry Weedon Partnership, creators of the magnificent Odeon Leicester Square / tinselman, a weblog / we have another letter from London at tmn, this time rather grumpier / a List of motorways in the United Kingdom / depressing: 'Mr Pownall asked: "It isn't every day that someone confesses to a murder on a park bench, is it?" She replied: "It is in Peckham."' / thumblicio.us captures thumbs of well-known websites, but not this one.

Whatever happened to screensavers? Are we all doing so much more work that we have no time for them? A few years back there was a brief trend for screensavers that beavered away at giant datasets, networked computing projects like SETI at home (and other BOINC-powered projects (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing). The BBC are now collaborating with the Climate Prediction website. More information here, along with a map of current users.

Honda's Cog has nothing on this, a Rube Goldberg machine of extravagant complexity built in Half Life 2 / we still get a fair few links pushed through from this Hoax Museum entry on the Mini Cooper Autonomous Robot, a nice little piece of viral marketing that captured people's imaginations (and fooled a surprising number of people). Since then, there's been Citroen's dancing C4 advert, beautifully rendered and styled. Now comes a real transformer, albeit a small one / what's in your bag?.

For some reason our recent domain name outage also magicked away the two new galleries of Kevin Saidler's photographic series, 'Bulldozing Belgium'. Worth re-visiting.