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Wednesday, January 25, 2006
A brief history of the London Squatting Scene in the 1970s by Nick Cohen (via The Rat and Mouse), focusing in particular on the Villa Road squats in Brixton. Although the scene's political motives were ultimately confused, the squatter's main legacy in Lambeth, where the council has a truly miserable track record when it comes to dealing with squatters, was to prevent further redevlopment of the besieged Victorian fabric. Cohen looks at the curious, cranky optimism of the period and ties it in to Martin Amis's reminiscences in The War Against Cliche, where he remembers how cheap is used to be to live in the heart of a big city like London. Cohen continues, 'Since 1974, the real prices of British houses had increased at a little over twice the rate of the European average,' and suggests, in his usual iconoclastic style, that it's land ownership that fractures the market, and society with it. Building on the countryside is the only answer: '...it is time to let the bulldozers roll.' A whole host of squatting-related information can be found in the resources section of Squatters.org.uk, including this this pdf.

In an age of rapid change, it's little wonder that something has emerged that might be called, somewhat oxymoronically, 'urban bucolic'. Urban bucolic transposes the emotions generated by romantic and classic landscape imagery to the urban setting, generating fond memories of what the city once was. Check these old photos of Glasgow, or this grand collection of old Birmingham images by Keith Berry (especially like this, and the scenes from under Spaghetti Junction: back to Concrete Island). Even the much-linked city photography of Olivo Barbieri (via me-fi, which pinched it from BLDGBLG, The City as an Avatar of Itself') has a mournful, nostalgic quality about it.

Some other things. Radio Free Polygon, music and more / reviews of new food, a McSweeneys special / buy a house, get a free Ferrari. Online publicity stunts (see Crush My 307 as well) are very much a symbol of the age / another recent and recommended post, 'Camping in an abandoned mine' / the rest of Keith Berry's photographs are well worth browsing through / the Cloud Appreciation Society snare one of Yahoo's finds of the year awards / many, many old magazine covers (via tmn). See, for example, The American Rifleman.

A big fridge means a land of plenty (google video) / all about ambergris, the beachcomber's lucky find. It's also the name of an imaginary city / David Adjaye says that British public buildings 'just don't work. Related, buy one of his private ones / Streamliners, America's Lost Trains', of which the Super Chief is perhaps the most fondly remembered, "The Train of the Stars". The iconic name was recently revived by Ford, who slapped it on a vast pick-up truck at the 2006 Detroit Show: the F250 Super Chief Concept boasts 'bold, American design, first-class comfort and exceptional traveling range were inspired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s Super Chief locomotive.'

A good collection of links on Soviet Art / if the thought of one of the world's hottest country's manufacturing 30 tons of fresh snow every single day doesn't give you chills, then you are ready to ski in Dubai / Mapping Hacks / play Turbo Tanks / scrapyards in flickr / the Washington Banana Museum, which has copious images of early twentieth century banana-eating parties / Historic Cities, a collection of medieval maps. The London page is extensive, for example, 'A Plan of the City and Liberties of London after the Dreadful Conflagration in the Year 1666' and the 'Map of London Water Works' from 1856. The latter clearly sets out the city's long-hidden contours, including Nunhead Hill and Telegraph Hill.

Staying with maps and collections: Marcel Zumstein collects old maps and bottle caps, amongst other things / what are the most expensive first editions? / giant digital images, via kottke, via cheesedip / advice to the old / amazing series of photos of China / who knew that Frederick Gibberd's Pullman Court had its own website? / Binary Moon, a weblog.


Friday, January 20, 2006
Lots of disparate things today, as updates will be sporadic over the next week / even more google maps hacks and tips at Googlemapsmania, including the comprehensive UK info map / another use of weblogs that had totally passed us by - as course notes and updates. For example, tag along with SOCI 4038, Anne Galloway's Advanced Studies in Urban Cultures course at Carleton Uni / the Bookninja, literary picks.

Not quite sure about this photoblogdirectory thing, but it cleverly pulls out images we link to in each post, which has some sort of value / Domus publishes some of the entries into its Ryugyong Hotel competition, something I suspect the North Koreans know very little about / how to lose a Serra / Italian cave city emerges blinking / profits drop at Foster and Partners, causing snarky headlines in the national press, taken directly from Building Design but with added lashings off schadenfreude.

Charlotte Perriand at designboom / Becoming a Man Through Lingerie. Shades of a classic episode of Father Ted / the Texas Tower, a bit like the Maunsell Towers (etc. etc.) / temporarysites, exhibitions and installations / Douglas Coupland is designing a park in Canada / meanwhile, back on planet celebrity, it sounded good, but sadly Brad's Diner will not become a feature of Hove's seafront. You see, Brad didn't return Frank's calls.

One of London's missing links has been getting press lately, namely the concept of extending the Bakerloo line to Camberwell. Apparently it was once seriously considered, back in the 30s, 50s and 70s, but lack of money scuppered the scheme each time. Nonetheless, there are still 'shunting tracks running from Elephant & Castle to under Burgess Park in Walworth'. See also the project page at Always Touch Out, which provides an overview of ongoing London transport projects. Related, the Subterranean rivers of London, and Nicholas Barton's book, The Lost Rivers of London, one of the pieces of literature that inspired Daniel Roth's new installation at the South London Gallery, 'The Well'.

Hello Kitty — the 'Empress of Cute' / the sad story of the Thames whale, the ending of which was inevitable / a hobbit house / a+t magazine offers chunks of its refined architectural coverage online / dare you enter the world of Little Marcy? / real life Dinky toy fetches million / looking for a bit of the Barbican?

Just exactly what are architectural 'best-of' lists good for anyway? Sidewalk Critics notes the way the local has been superseded by a new global criticism, one which is necessarily less in-depth. The piece cites the Architect's Newspaper: 'Architecture criticism has devolved over recent years from being consciousness-raising, progressive, and pleasurable to read... to being ad hominem, celebrity-obsessed, object-centric, and obtuse.' So in the absence of a 'cohesive culture,' how can architectural criticism possibly hope to make an impact? With the internet bringing a thousand portfolios onto everyone's desktop, architecture criticism becomes little more than identifying major trends from thumbnails. The apparent global reach of modern architectural journalism is little more than an illusion: 'Just to remain au courant with the far-flung projects of the big-name firms would require tireless travel (not to mention an ample expense account), and it certainly wouldn't leave much time to track the less-promoted work of promising young practitioners.'


Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Slow magazines, Momus on the new wave of anti-materialistic magazines crowding Japan's already densely-packed news stands. Via Michael Bierut's In Praise of Slow Design at Design Observer, occasioned by a gift of The Complete New Yorker. Quite a package. Tintopia has the lowdown on the set, its unworkable DRM, slow interface and extraordinary license agreement (a point that hasn't gone unnoticed). Happily, such a potentially wondrous thing doesn't stay broken for long: there's a hack that'll allow you to bypass the tiresome disc-swapping. Also at that Boing Boing link, how Peter Steiner's classic, 'On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog,' had made him at least $100,000. Unsurprising when you consider that a 'deluxe framed print' at the New Yorker Store is $295.

Referrer mining. New City Movement, a weblog. Eclectic stuff. Good to know that you can get $39 off Botox and a movie. Another good-looking, content-rich weblog, Nowuseit, which is starting a handy monthly compilation of Flickr Faves, like this covered car, lifting feet, Antarctic aurora, spinning ride and more. Books and more at Catalogue Blog. Fashion and politics at Lux Lotus. Gracia Haby's High up in the trees is a new weblog detailing her collage art.

Explore the Science Museum's extensive archives / a history of parking meters. Early Miller and M.H. Rhodes models from the America on the Move page, which has a browseable collection of artefacts relating to transportation history / self-contained cleaning box: gets everything done at once. Shades of the Smithson's House of the Future of 1956 / the Robert Opie Collection, a treasure trove of packaging design / Gastronomica is the Journal of Food and Culture. It looks delicious and fascinating / Chris Boot publishes great books, which you can buy (cheap) at foto8.com / The end of Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel (via me-fi).


Tuesday, January 17, 2006
FAT is a postmodernist issue: British pranksters get serious. Hugh Pearman on Fashion Architecture Taste, a small London firm that is moving from its fringe position to the centre stage. No longer theorists and iconoclasts, FAT now have high profile new projects commissioned by Urban Splash in New Islington (the Manchester 'Millennium Community'), amongst others. Check out FATist Sam Jacob's excellent Strange Harvest as well. His piece Good Morning Britain gives background to their (inevitably) failed bid for the British pavilion at the 2006 Venice Biennale 2006 (curated by Richard 'Ricky' Burdett). Jacobs explains the FAT approach succinctly: confront populist notions of what is and what isn't architecture head-on (on this occasion through the theme of 'English Dreams').

The problem is that the kind of national identity that's distilled by FAT's work, with its emphasis on uncomfortable truths like how much people love bungalows, uPVC windows, mock Tudor and 'Nostalgia for a Time We Never Knew', has never hung well with the officially appointed tastemakers. For there was a generation born out of inter-war Modernism who evolved into a cadre of gently benevolent style dictators (as evinced by the Designing Britain, 1945-1975 website (via i like), which chronicles the Festival of Britain era). Britain was ruled over by these rugged designer types in their chunky sweaters, churning out neo-Bauhausian kitchen appliances and robust plastic furniture, objects that filled the Design Council's shop, replete with Kitemarked goods to instill confidence in what were essentially untrained, wayward consumers, dizzyed by the new choice and variety.

Although the wayward consumers won out, it's probably safe to say that the Modernists have never given up, and the influence of 'design' on culture is now more highly valued than ever (another point Jacob makes: 'Government, developers and the public have all decided to believe in, fund, and construct architecture again.') Pearman has FAT down as Contemporary Post-Modernists, but this is backhanded compliment barely skims the many levels of the studio's approach. Post-Mo, at least in an architectural sense, was all about visual quotes and re-appropriation, visual humour that relied on the juxtaposition of opposites, favouring the visually literate, often at the expense of everyone else (although FAT can certainly do humour and homage - their 'How to become a famous architect' is an amusing take on the KLF's 'The Manual (How to have a number one the easy way)').

What set the most innovative Po-Mo architecture apart was its audacity and unwillingness to play within the rules; SITE are a good case in point. Yes, their work for Best were witty yet iconoclastic in that they undermined the then-fashionable rational purity of the shed aesthetic. Ultimately, though, the Best stores weren't about architecture at all, but populism - giving consumers something different. In recent years, Po-Mo has collided with the cultural version of Post-Modernism, a more terrifying and unwieldly beast that thrives on obfuscation, effectively reclaiming the high ground for raw aestheticism (read Deconstructivism), just as Modern-lite floods the market. FAT's unashamed populism is markedly different from that of their peers; for them, there's no joke to be in on, except the wry chuckle at the apoplexy of a generally staid profession.

Talking about FAT leads inevitably to the new Icons of England website, the sort of thing that's asking for a theoretical punch. Just what are the visual symbols of 'Britishness'? Bottom drawer kicks off by pointing out how geographically messed up the whole project is, although the unspoken message is that this is a totally pointless exercise, something suitable for young schoolchildren but barely worth foisting on everyone else. Frankly, we're totally sick of hearing about the Routemaster bus.

*

Other things. Also via bd, a nicely-judged rant against the new Observer Woman section (official site: 'Polly Vernon grows her leg stubble out for the first time in 23 years') and google maps meets camera streams. The internet is such a fabulous distraction. We'll be looking at retro furniture sites again in a second, just you wait / the East London Postcard Site, only on the front page (via the Cartoonist) / free Space Combat simulation. Deliberately difficult apparently / the apathy of the 'download generation' / objects and things at FunFurde / photos by Catherine Chalmers (more info). Her hyperreal series Foodchain and American Cockroach are worth checking out / the future is white and pointy: maglev train in Japan / as if destroying the fabric and community of the C20 city wasn't enough, 'Le Corbusier binds book in dead pet dog,' (via kottke).

The Motorway Archive / misteraitch is right, a site with 'authentic air of pervasive disappointment about it which seemed to characterise Austin-Rover' / 'Are car chases more common in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the nation? If so, why?' (via tmn) / there's something about the brutalist aesthetic of Boge Lindner Architekten's Brandubungshaus ('burning practice house', located at a fire station in Western Germany) that's rather appealing. The fact that we think that is no doubt a poor reflection on our hopelessly aestheticised sensibility, corrupted by far too much neo-modernism.


Monday, January 16, 2006
Alan Turnbull's Secret Base page could do with a bit of organisation, as it's currently grouped into three giant parts (I, II and III). We'll let that pass for now, because there are lots of fascinating things here, gleaned from looking at the sudden avalanche of mapping and satellite data online. For example, the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston has suddenly started appearing on maps (near the top of the page). Learn how to spot the many fuel depots and ammunition stores dotted around the country. Question the existence of 'secret junctions' on the M4 (and other motorways), leading to places unknown (all taken from page 2). We were saddened to see that the MoD is no longer using the Metropole Building, just south of Trafalgar Square. In UFOlogy, this is where the UK's stash of top secret information reputedly lay, although my father, who worked there in the late 80s, denied everything.

The Metropole lies on Northumberland Avenue, once the site of the original Northumberland House (the Victorian building took the same name). This was the last surviving seventeenth century 'river palace', cut off from the Thames by Bazalgette's amazing Embankment and surplus to Victorian needs. It was a grand building, painted by Canaletto in 1752 (more information), and some interior views as well: grand staircase, quadrangle and gallery. A fire hastened its end, and it was ultimately demolished in 1873 to make way for the new street, which was lined by grand hotels built by the Northumberland Avenue Hotel Company, mostly for visiting Americans. Northumberland House will soon become a student hostel for the LSE.

Ballardian, definitely. The Crash Car Girls (nsfw, in all probability. Via me-fi). There's also Smash my Viper (via Autoblog), one of many, many imitations of the Million Dollar Homepage) and a sort of self-flaggellant homage to Wendy O.Williams. Read this 1984 Creem piece, '1984 will be a little early', for an account of her destruction of a Chevy Nova: 'What you didn't see was Tom Snyder hugging his producer with joy and the fourth floor NBC executives running downstairs certain that Puerto Rican nationals were blowing up the building.' (Creem has the article in its own archive, but there's lots more interesting stuff at the first place, Modern Atomic, including pin-up girl matchbooks and vintage images from Aberdeen, South Dakota).

A map of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (via me-fi) / Photos at Pulpo, via gatsu gatsu, which also links the strange Golf? game, a vector graphics extravaganza which we have no idea how to run, let alone play / more photography at Heudnsk Log / beef up your flight simulation experience with Visual Flight. Alternatively, wait for Microsoft's forthcoming Flight Simulator X, which promises some incredible graphics / vote for the Stupidest Daily Mail/Daily Express headline of 2005. Tough to make a choice, but interesting that they both went with 'You can kill a burglar' at one point.


Friday, January 13, 2006
A short history of Gutta Percha and the story of the Victorian Internet, at Clean Slate, who visited Porthcuno Beach, Cornwall, the traditional landfall for transatlantic cables, including the FLAG (Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe), the 28,000km cable that's currently celebrating its tenth anniversary (see Neal Stephenson's epic Wired article - and we mean epic, as it's 42,000 words long). See also the Atlas of Cyberspace. Both via the Map Room, albeit circuitously. All kicked off originally by Arthur C.Clarke's How the world was one (interview). More info at the Clarke Foundation

Also at Clean Slate, a link to EarthBrowser. Compare to Flash Earth. Our perception of scale and distance is being seriously undermined by these little blue globes on our desktops - the world has become a thing, not a place / and a strange place at that: 'One in 10 young people would drop out of education for a shot at TV fame, a survey suggests' / scans of Synapse, 'the electronic music magazine' from the late 70s onwards (via music thing). Very of its time: 'But unlike the sirens of myth, Jackson is calling the whales not to destruction, but to safety, away from harpoons of Russian and Japanese hunters.'

Victoria Coren's article The Slang Show accompanies her new BBC2 series, 'Balderdash and Piffle', in collaboration with the Oxford English Dictionary. An accompanying box asked for the etymology of the word 'mullered' (one of the OED's 'origin unknown' words), meaning 'Drunk, extremely intoxicated'. Amateur wordsmiths were swiftly on the case (scroll down): 'The word is not 'mullered' but 'mullahed', and it doesn't really mean drunk so much as wrecked or slaughtered'. Alternatively: 'I suspect 'mullered' emanated from the 1970 football World Cup... when they were beaten 3-2, with Gerd Muller scoring the crucial goals'. Or even: 'muller was used by potters to grind oxides and stuff. It was a small, oddly-shaped lump of glass.' Our ten cents - we always thought it originated with the cosy end-of-weekend TV show Ski Sunday, with David Vine shouting excitably that some unfortunate Swiss or German, usually by the name of Muller (Peter Mueller?) had, once again, become detached from the slopes in spectacular fashion, as people yodelled and cowbells tinkled in the background. Twenty years on, the theme music (ram file) still makes me think of snow (and buttered crumpets).


Thursday, January 12, 2006
Rotational asks is there a need for a new way to review computer games? Meanwhile, Game firms face challenges ahead, as the whole medium slowly becomes far too expensive to generate content for, let alone review. And does Lost owe its soul to video games?. The Seattle Times thinks so / Gordon Cullen meets Pepe le Pew: the art of townscape in looney tunes.

Photographer Laura Domela's Fiesten is a publication resulting from four days spent photographing cyclists in Amsterdam. The word is Dutch for 'ride a bicycle.' See also John Glassie's Bicycles locked to poles / the latest item to be digitised by the British Library's Turning the Pages project is Mozart's Musical Diary (no direct link, lots of flash) / boat fan Paul Allen's old computer collection is hosted at PDP Planet (via Boing Boing) / Parole is a database in progress, pictures and snippets from environments real and imagined / a stack of places to go in Google Maps (via Coudal). The Ford test track, with its Nazca-like detail / architectural photography by Brian Rose.

General bungle and major disaster, a review of Lewis Page's Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs: Blundering and Waste in the Armed Forces. Interesting snippet: '[Apache helicopters] are being produced in Britain under licence at a cost to the taxpayer, says Page, of nearly £40m each. Israel got its Apaches for less than £12m each.' (buy the T-shirt!) According to Hansard, in 2002 the MoD reckoned each one was £27.5m, although they won't be delivered into service until August 2006.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Impressive: a Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River, via shepherd's pie, which also links Andreas Gysin's very soothing net art project, Sky / bit late with this: Double Decker Living (via the rat and mouse) / the lovely Optimus keyboard is apparently close to market. Their site has an interesting history of QWERTY keyboards, as well as the anachronistic Soviet keyboard / maybe related, Fake Products and the Movies That Loved Them. Doesn't mention the accident prone Oceanic Airlines.

Some publications: 306090 is a journal of architecture / Lumpen looks worth a punt / Space and Culture is better known via its weblog (as, I suppose, are we) / there's also a new issue of Leisure Centre available / Strange Attractor / more at the del.icio.us 'magazine' tag / have you renewed your Artistic License? / Projekt30's January exhibition. We like Elizabeth Reagh's city paintings / more art: the landscapes of William Wray (see also the links, which include other 'California Regionalists') / Violent games 'affect behaviour' / what recent cultural innovations appear timeless?

Apes and mistakes: architectural errors in King Kong / extraordinary, rambling article on 2 Columbus Circle by Herbert Muschamp / Glancey on 30 years of SAVE, the heritage body that helped turn around the British perception of old buildings / speaking of which, Kisho Kurokawa's iconic Nakagin Capsule Tower is on the way out / the Ruins of Detroit / Veblen Goods: 'A commodity is a Veblen good if people's preference for buying it increases as a direct function of its price,' a knock-on effect of Thorstein Veblen's theory of Conspicuous Consumption.

An excellent, ultra-simple weblog: MacDaraconroy / embroidery is the new something or other / the Citroen 2CV, an ultra flexible design / Pseudo Dictionary, a place of made-up words / Ostmoderne, architecture in Slovakia from the 60s and 70s. Some wonderful stuff, like the inverted ziggurat of the Hotel Panorama in Strbske Pleso (official site. Other local hotels also take the shape of a mountain).


Sunday, January 08, 2006
The artist John Latham died last week. Latham lived a few hundred yards around the corner from us and was a regular sight in the shops and cafes. He was 84 and died with a show, albeit an unnecessarily controversial one, running at Tate Britain. Latham was a local fixture, not a 'character' in the hoary, eccentric sense (unlike, say, the man with a toy cowboy hat, or the mumbling man with thick glasses, or even the chap who thinks that a Ford F-350 is acceptable transport in South London), but someone who had felt like an integral part of the community. Some more of Latham's works.

Carrying on from last week's post about J.G.Ballard, a new exhibition, 'When Lives Collide', by Paul Wenham-Clarke, recreates road accidents and looks at those left behind; a deliberately provocative response to the glamorisation of speed and, yes, car crashes in the media / some more information / another return to an old post: is a lost London street buried beneath a department store? / massive, a weblog about 'massively multiuser online entertainments' / why don't car makers do graphics like this any more? (at tocmp) / the John Jurkowski collection of truck pictures. 'Announcing The White Super Power Series 3000'.

My Temple Seeks a Sponsor!, says Thomas Heatherwick, seeking £9,000,000 to build a temple for the Shingon-Shu Sect in Kagoshima. The design is a scaled up, laser-scanned piece of fabric, to be created out of layers of glass and plywood / a bit more about the great GM Pad concept / Dan's epic post on New Musical Experiences over at City of Sound / if you're visiting Marseilles, be sure to stay at the Hotel le Corbusier (see these pictures by Hyperkit) / Archinect is running a series of 'best-ofs'. So far there's commentary from Bryan Finoki, Mason White and Javier Arbona, with more to follow.

We contributed a short piece on 'Brand Hijacking' to Limited Language / The 'Conspiracy' Art of Mark Lombardi, 'Late Artist's Swirling Diagrams Chart Scandalous Relationships' / artist Martin le Chevallier works in the aesthetic best described as 'post video-game' / Nabeel's Cosmos, a weblog / so why is it the Medium is the Massage? / old IBM brochure: I and II (via bb).

A project investigating how our trails of casually-created data might be interpreted: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists. Good old Secret Santa doesn't look so innocent now / a collection of architectural links from the Architectural Review's monthly online column / although 2005 was apparently the year of the black Christmas tree this time last year we were musing about aluminum christmas trees. Here's a shot of one in the wild, c.1963.

If it wasn't for the postman ringing the bell to deliver my tmn coffee mug this morning goodness knows when we'd have woken up. Proof, in any be needed, that you should go and buy some of their merchandise.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006
The spaces in between. In this ode to the visual wonders of silt, BLDBLOG dredges up its ongoing fascination with J.G.Ballard's Drowned World, which features a city overwhelmed by catastrophe (another chance to link the If London were like Venice page). As well as describing fractured landscapes, Ballard also likes his humans to be critically damaged in some way, believing that their hard-won bruises and lacerations somehow make the soul sing a little louder, heightening perception of the self (an aside: all Ballard's characters tend to have wonderfully robust and direct names: Robert Maitland, Helen Fairfax, Catherine Austin, Dr Robert Laing, David Markham).

For Ballard, the landscapes of the city and the human body are interchangeable, one mirroring the other. Characters only truly awaken when their everyday banalities and ordinary transgressions are brought into sharp focus by self-inflicted catastrophe and technological revenge. Crash being the obvious example - 'the first pornographic novel about technology'. The novel's themes, which can be traced back to Futurist blood-lust, continue to resonate through art and photography. See the car crash photos of Jeff Busby, as published in Amplification, reviewed here at Ballardian, whose title bar image of a motorway's underbelly mirrors Ballard's world view. There's also the fascinating Karambolage, the catalogue of the work of Arnold Odermatt (hopefully more about this in things 19).

The best ode to otherness in Ballard's oeuvre is Concrete Island, the tale of a motorist stranded on a barren patch of waste ground in the intersection between several fast-moving urban motorways (also a play. Although at first Robert Maitland's fellow motorists' refusal to stop appears unrealistic, he is soon truly stranded. Within 20 pages, Maitland has catastrophically damaged his leg; 'His right thigh and hip had swollen into a massive contusion, and the head of his thigh-bone seemed to be fused into the damaged pelvic socket'. Escape up the steep embankment now appears impossible. Unsurprisingly, Maitland is an architect, and his concrete exile is portrayed as self-willed, a subconscious act resulting from his careless, casual speeding in his silver Jaguar, or even his profession's collective guilt about the whole enterprise of the urban motorway.

Maitland's car and body suffer similar abuse, as does the city, for which the dead space of the concrete island appears as a bruise or cut. The book is a paean to what the academic Alan Berger calls 'drosscape', also the title of his forthcoming book, Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. This promises to be a study of American 'wastescapes', the patches of empty land that find themselves in the centre of cities, due to post-industrialisation, intense commercialisation and whatever else. Berger, also the author of Reclaiming the American West, doesn't necessarily have Ballardian themes in mind, but both writers are drawing our attention to these huge physical and mental spaces, with Ballard using them to unspool our unconscious fears, and Berger pointing out that we barely see them anyway.

Unseen spaces and spaces in between also bring to mind the topic of map Copyright Traps (previously mentioned), whereby the imaginary street serves a singular, if devious, purpose. Sometimes these artificial addresses make it into the real city, like the 'houses' at 23/24 Leinster Gardens in Notting Hill (from Urban 75): blank facades that conceal a tube line. Fiction is perhaps the most satisfactory outlet: China Miéville's short story "Reports of Certain Events in London", published in McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, deals with the random, portal-like appearance of whole streets, ramming their way into the urban fabric before vanishing. There's also Markus Nummi's short story 'Adieu Paris' in 17-18. Vaguely related, a bit about London's Urban Sprawl, which links to The Evolution of Slum Clearance Policies in London and Paris.

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Other things. The story of Space Mountain at Disneyland. We hadn't appreciated how much the exterior of the ride (at least the Anaheim one) looks like the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool. See also the Space Mountain Homepage, with details of the four SM installations (Orlando, Anaheim, Paris and Tokyo), plus copycat 'dark' rides. Visit a slick micro site for Space Mountain 2 or this virtual replica on Google video.

Space-Time Video Completion / the Baldakin Modular Accommodation System / the increasingly infrequent Sachs Report has updated / an enormous collection of cover art for the works of Isaac Asimov (via Plep) / Minor9th, a weblog we haven't visited in a while / nice Strandbeest post at Pruned / explore the Museum of Ephemerata / retrievr (me-fi), a visual (and deliciously imprecise) way of searching flickr images.


Monday, January 02, 2006
A happy new year to everyone, and a link festival to kick off 2006. We'll start with this history of the Atlantic Cable and Submarine Telegraphy, a hugely in-depth (if you'll excuse the pun) site complete with a selection of cable route maps, showing the course of the various undersea wires laid in the last 150 years. For example, the world in 1901. The host site, FTL Design is a treasure trove of object histories and objects, machines like the Difference Engine, or Cox's Gold Changer (Cox was the publican at the Black Friar in London, an Arts and Crafts gem with interiors by Henry Poole that stands rather marooned beside Blackfriars station, with the northbound Thameslink tracks punched through the air beside it). You can also flick through the Golden Hour Owner's Manual, for those lucky enough to possess this marvel of technology, visit an online shrine to cult actress Janina Faye, browse a vast directory of eFanzines, enjoy details of Edison's remarkable Electric Pen, read a scanned brochure for the MITS Altair Computer, learn about the many Springfields in the US and see copious images from the 1886 Liverpool International Exhibition. Highly recommended. Links include the Keuffel and Esser slide rule catalogue.

Another history, this time of the TV remote control / contemporary polaroids by Oliver Wang / a gallery of Sony's BetaMax players, both via PC World's 50 Greatest Gadgets page / the story of the trash-hoarding Collyer Brothers / heliography is communication using mirrors / an extraordinary piece of folk architecture, sadly under threat / Motorola's Houses of the Future, from a 1960s ad campaign (via boing boing). In the future, there will be enough dramatic outcrops of rock and isolated verdant gullys for everyone to have their very own cantilevered structure / what's life like in online world that's about to end? Clive Thompson on the last days of Asheron's Call 2 / images of George Orwell / a cartoon by Osbert Lancaster.

Malls of America presents 'Vintage photos of lost Shopping Malls of the '60s and '70s'. What are we reminiscing about exactly? / Overshadowed's photographs are amazing / a huge collection of vintage posters and playbills at the fabulous Circus Museum / vintage adult movie posters / 'This is not just a retrograde cliché.... This is a defiant reclamation of a retrograde cliché.' Seth Stevenson on Jaguar's 'foolish new ad campaign' in Slate / a slide on 'The Conservation of Harry Bertoia's Sculpture Group Symbolizing World's Communication in the Atomic Age'.

Artworks. Paintings by Heather Horton / photos by Nick Turpin / illustrations by Tatsuro Kiuchi / Mary Ellen Mark's haunting photographic portraits / retro stuff sold by Out of Vogue / Andy Budd, a weblog / the Hair Archives / Jeanette Winterson on modern architecture (including praise for Jacobsen's St Catherine's College in Oxford) / Elevator Moods, strange, (very) short films / a list of phobias / 2005's top 50 music videos / 100 things we didn't know this time last year, at the BBC via metafilter / most appropriate for the holiday season: the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Really. Become a gustatory athelete.