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Thursday, June 08, 2006
Random themes that are all somehow linked. They came from outer space, Tom Dyckhoff on Future City: Experiment and Utopia in Architecture 1956-2006 at the Barbican, and the work of Constant Nieuwenhuys in particular: 'New Babylon was a city not of sin but of pleasure. Constant imagined a future in which humans, freed into permanent leisure by technology, would endlessly have fun.'

How endless would the fun be? In 'Among the Transhumanists: Cyborgs, self-mutilators, and the future of our race', Slate William Saletan looks at the subculture of body alteration. This is aworld away from the one-man in-joke that is Kevin Warwick, perhaps the best-known exponent of cyber-enhancement in the UK. This is far more serious stuff, delving into arcana like 'the self-demand amputation community' and the even rockier ethical path of living forever: Aubrey de Grey, immortalist, 'also floated the creepy idea that overpopulation might not become a problem because once we're immortal, we might realize children are no fun'. A world of endless fun yet without any children implies some confusion ahead.

'The Land of Milk and Bunny: What Peter Rabbit can teach businesses about going global', over at Grist Magazine. Beatrix Potter is huge in Japan, which gobbles up a sizeable chunk of the $500m spent each year on Peter Rabbit branded goods. Unfortunately the article is a mangled collection of platitudes that relate to so-called 'sustainable branding'; e.g. 'think multi-local,' and worry about the impact of Japanese tourists on Cumbria / Purse Lip Square Jaw on the Internet of Things.

We have contributed to this year's Field-Tested Books, the annual round-up of reading at Coudal, complete with limited-edition poster. Leonard Pierce on Balllard's Crash is particularly fine. See also our latest letter from London, London sprawling. Thanks to Pitchaya for suggesting a link with the Elephant Hotel, the palatial pachyderm of Coney Island. If only urban elephants wasn't the name of an NYC Republican group, it would be a fine phrase to describe objects that are strangely out of place in the city environment. We're back to the notion of spectacle, central plank in the theories of the Situationist International, the group that counted Constant Nieuwenhuys among its founder members. And what became of the hotel? It burnt down in 1896, perhaps as a result of the 'searchlights flashed erratically from her eyes'. It was a close relative, also built by James V. Lafferty, of Lucy the Elephant, now a famed favourite destination in Margate, Atlantic City. Lafferty also inspired the Moulin Rouge Elephant.

Other things. 'In 2006, is it now OK for a Jew to buy a VW?'/ a rogue's gallery published, somewhat oddly, by the British Transport Police (via Andy Farnsworth's Tripe Soup). The BTP History Archives is an interesting browse: was Jack the Ripper a Railway Policeman? / Ample Sanity, a weblog / Epitonic, influential music site, redesigns and relaunches.

ePerimetron (via The Map Room), a quarterly web journal 'on science and technologies affined to history of cartography and maps' / A Brief History of the Vacuum Cleaner (via incoming signals) / The Eyes Have It, a weblog / images, objects and opinions at Bouphonia, a weblog / Enter Whining, a weblog / mapping the billionaires (via lpc).