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Friday, February 29, 2008
The Charms of Wikipedia, by Nicholson Baker, a man who knows a thing or two about arcane knowledge and losing, but not entirely hopeless, causes (via me-fi). 'But the work that really drew me in was trying to save articles from deletion. This became my chosen mission... So I kept on going. I found press citations and argued for keeping the Jitterbug telephone, a large-keyed cell phone with a soft earpiece for elder callers; and Vladimir Narbut, a minor Russian Acmeist poet whose second book, Halleluia, was confiscated by the police; and Sara Mednick, a San Diego neuroscientist and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life; and Pyro Boy, a minor celebrity who turns himself into a human firecracker on stage.' And on it goes. His 'Deletopedia' proposal is an interesting one, a temple to the world's truly arcane knowledge, deemed somehow unknowable, or not significant enough.

We would then, presumably, be faced with the prospect of editors from the 'real' encyclopedias, knocking at the Deletopedia's door, begging for knowledge to be released to them.

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'Counterfeit Ferrari ring busted in Rome', modern versions of the Pontiac Fiero-based MERA, a quasi-official copy from the 80s / America Fuck Yeah, a flickr pool / big, wobbly seconds-hand clock from the BBC / we do indeed admire the URL of Jennifer Daniel's personal website.

Michael Heizer's City from space / Otto Volante, a quasi-futurist personal roller coaster installation by the Gelitin collective / holster blog / CR blog on the Shell Guides exhibition / Rank Order - Current account balance, feeling the wallets of the world.

The Baby Name Voyager / The Small Press League / The Future of Suburbia, archinect on the looming crisis of the McMansion, future slums / the photography of William Lamson, at Bertha Magazine / Veronica Ibarra, artist. We like the receipt project / fashion illustraton by Stina Persson / Woody Allen's typography / HAT projects blog.


Monday, February 25, 2008
Pica + Pixel, collating visual culture / Digital Museum of Social Housing (in Dutch) / garfield minus garfield, surreal genius / Pretty Taxing, 'artists' tax disc holders' / save Robin Hood Gardens / Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time / Criva, culture and imagery / OneThirtySecond, kits of 60s and 70s classic cars.

The work of Ivan Slavinsky, 'the self-styled 'most expensive artist in the world''. From Carole Cadwalladr's Observer piece 'Shopping with the oligarchs'. Book now for the 2008 fair. Check the gallery of the 2007 fair, and the Observer's own gallery by Andy Hall.

Creative Review feature on United Visual Artists. The UVA website and blog / As a Dodo, 'the obituaries you'd like to see' / orders of magnitude / One Page Magazine, an art project. Compare their version of Wired with this much-linked 'archaeology' of Wired issue 1.1 at fimoculous / a set of Jacques Tati clips / most insensitive use of a Holocaust memorial?

Swatch and Beyond, revealing the sheer 80s hideousness of these inexplicably popular timepieces / Hitspaper, Japanese culture / In Pictures We Trust / the light blue line, tracking climate change / Virtual and real blur in Eve Online: 'Eve is a great place to learn business skills, or to sharpen business skills' / illustrator Jonathan Williams / plastic kit Model Box Art Library. Could be so much more. Plastic model set on flickr.

IKEA accused of teasing Denmark: 'It seems to be an example of cultural imperialism. IKEA has chosen the objects with the lowest value and given them Danish names.' / aerial images of the Burj Dubai - the grainy little video looks like a special effect, a hazy world into which this gigantic, almost alien structure, has risen like a black termite mound.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Miniature utopias, the International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest 2007. The aquarium is a space for small-scale exponents of the city beautiful movement, mixed in with a healthy dose of Rococo-era landscape fantasies, with everything planned down to the last waving frond / tno, a website / spot on, Top 10 albums of 1987. With one possible admission (influential, if not entirely listenable) / lonely cars by Christopher Michel / 'It's not a laptop, it's a movement. And it deserves our full support.' / there's an element of car-crash-fascination with Born Rich (see also Luxist), devoted to ultra-conspicuous consumption.

London's Lost Designs, on manhole covers and homogenity / Lost in Tyme, psychedelic music from the past / fake children's books, some are pretty good / the space art of John Polgreen / it's all about perception: HD DVD players become 'DVD upscalers' / an exhibition by photographer Guido Mocafico: Nature Morte - Photography in the company of Old Masters / BySoAndSo, on craft and design / Can the British just sail right up the Mississippi? / Habitually Chic is a visual splurge of contemporary shelter magazine aesthetic, mustard yellow, uncracked monographs, ottomans and catkins.

aerial geometry: 5 circular communities from the sky / more striking images of planned communities / empty houses on London's most expensive road: 'The only visible signs of habitation are the security guards lurking in the shadows like feral cats.' Google Maps / Export to World, bringing Second Life objects into three dimensions / book-lined staircase / another journey by train, the NE corridor viewed by primitive nerd.

The case of the Pantheon clock, the AJ interviews the UX, the secret organisation comprising of various clandestine specialists: 'To this end, [infiltration specialists] The Mouse House has a vast collection of keys and alarm-system know-how, while the cartography wing boasts the only comprehensive map of Paris in existence, unifying all disparate underground networks, from the sewers to the metro, underground parking lots to electricity grids. Another group, which counts a rock-driller among its members, uses these maps to dig connecting tunnels, taking care to camouflage the newly made entry points.'

Fred's footprint: The impacts of a new PC via City of Sound. Also noted, admired, whatever, On the 'Archigram-What-Organisation-You-Must-Be-Joking-Mate', DH writes about the ad-hoc organisation of what has evolved into one of the most influential architectural offices of all time (still cited today, 'yet assessed in terms of built projects they produce only a playground in Milton Keynes and a swimming pool for Rod Stewart.'). Part of a triptych of informed opinions on important creative collectives, organised by Noisy Decent Graphics / Learning from North Philadelphia, Dmitri Siegel on Guild House by Venturi and Rauch, Cope and Lippincott, 1963. A building that was too clever for its own good, and pretty much shot down the concept of Postmodernism before it even started. As did this.

London Profiler, a modern day Poverty Map, only without Charles Booth's obsessive attention to detail.



Monday, February 18, 2008
1960s London, photos and film stills (via interconnected). A brief tour. Battersea Power Station steaming away. The view from the brand-new Millbank Tower, before the construction of the modern wing of St Thomas' Hospital. The Intrepid Fox, then and now. Hyde Park Hilton, with a Jensen CV8 coming round the corner. Number One Poultry, before James Stirling got his hands on it, and Palumbo failed to import Mies. The sign on this building reads 'C.Rhind-Tutt', perhaps hq of the master builder who spawned this. Waterloo Station, 1966, and now. Properly swinging. Busy motorway. Greater London House, now with its art deco facade reinstated and formerly the Carreras Cigarette Factory. The working river.

192.com offers London mapping with a far higher resolution than you're probably used to. The interface could do with a fair bit of work, though / previously noted (but revisited due to URL change), the most haunted house in London, 50 Berkeley Square, at Walks of London / Painting that adorned classic album to be sold / new wind farm concepts / the art of Ric Stultz / kill dead pixel, is this digital snake oil?

'In 2006, American data centers consumed more power than American televisions.' Keyword: Evil, or how Google gets its electricity cheap / ever wondered what it would be like to shred a car? / viewpoints in Chile / viewpoint in Norway (the view from) / viewpoint in Colorado.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


As another archaeologist creaks back into life, Michael Shanks writes that 'we are all archaeologists now...', stressing that 'Archaeologists deal in the life of things.' (good to see that the Jones film includes lots of blowing dust off old carvings). We might all be archaeologists, but we're also the people stacking the holes full of grave goods, a treasure trove of things to be found in the digital afterlife.

Autokadabra is a Russian social network site for motorists. Pretty impenetrable, then. But the design behind the site, by Turbomilk, involved creating a portfolio of 'icons for all the cars in the world.' Nice work / looking for unacknowledged links between global news stories: Map shows toll on world's oceans vs Geneva '08 Preview: Rinspeed sQuba Roadster/Submarine.

To Brooklyn, a gallery / Mellart / the end of Villa NM, a brief but glorious life for a feted modern house / where is the bad part of your town? / kottke's piece on the King of Kong documentary causes us to wonder whether there shouldn't be a dogme 95-style standard of documentary making, with film shown in strict chronological order and the limitations of a one-camera set-up not disguised using cuts.

Architecture. An indication that small-scale iconism doesn't always fare well, as the Architecture Foundation cancels its proposed HQ, a faceted structure by Zaha Hadid that increasingly gave the impression it was being pared down, slice by slice, simplified from an explosion of form into a relatively straightforward wedge. The cancellation is not a huge surprise to most commentators, although Rowan Moore, while stating plainly that the AF 'will not proceed with our project to create a new building in Bankside, London,' is rather unfairly billed as the man who lost a legacy'.

Disney have the right idea. Their new House of the Future ditches the curvy walls and wipe-clean bubble aesthetic in favour of standard American vernacular, choosing instead to stuff the interior with touch screens and all manner of modern conveniences. We can't help but link the Daily Mail's crowing excoriation of the Smithsons' 1956 House of the Future (which they sponsored, but never mind): 'Folding front doors and blow-dry showers: How a 1956 vision of today's homes got it wrong').

BLDG BLOG on the Air Disaster Simulation photography of Richard Mosse. As the photographer says, 'The results end up looking like something approaching early war photography from the 19th century (Roger Fenton, Matthew Brady, Timothy O'Sullivan, etc.).' The photography of genuine air disasters also has its practitioners. Witness Douglas Coupland's 'Worst-Case Scenario', published almost ten years ago now.

The work of J.J. Grandville, a French cartoonist from the 19th century. See also Syrian stamps / another form of signature architecture: 770's of the World, global replicas of 770 Eastern Parkway / photography by Jo Longhurst / the 1960 Citroen DS brochure / 3 girls in Paris, design and culture / play Quake on your phone / Flexplore, a new way of sifting through flickr sets.

Heraclitean Fire, including interesting diversions along the Thames Path / the Dartford Tunnel Cycle Service bus, sadly lost to history / the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks / Ultimate Wurlde, the legacy of a small games company / old flash experiments at www.ertdfgcvb.ch / there are professional paintballers?

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Monday, February 11, 2008
Gamescape: Create a City while Playing a Game. Generating floorplan data from game movements, which are then plotted on to Google Earth (via DDE). Makes the megastructural ponderings of late twentieth century avant-garde architects look rather tepid.

The Street as Platform, Dan Hill on bravura form with an extended speculative essay on how, increasingly, everything is connected. Forget the matrix, we're living in the mesh, a net that is finely or loosely woven depending on your level of immersion.

'Photographer James Stokoe Tips His Hard Hat to the 'Accidental Architecture' of Washington Construction Sites' / The Lipster, a new online magazine edited by Jude Rogers / more fliers / AisleOne, visual culture / Hel Looks, best and worst dressed in the northern hemisphere / Emma's designblogg.

Live and let Livesey, South London's best and most idiosyncratic museum under threat. Absolutely infuriating / evolving logotypes / incredible image of a beached freighter / Planetizen's Top Ten websites for 2008, which brings us neatly full circle.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008


468B Thy Future, martel on an obscure 'found poetry' book by Bern Porter, described in more detail on UBUWEB, where you can also get a pdf of the entire work (link, 19mb). 'The pages of this book were taken from computer printouts Porter lifted from the 1960s Saturn moon project at Huntsville, Alabama. A low-level technician on the project, Porter probably used printouts that came across his desk, which were not top secret.' Also: 'Found implies lost. What others discarded he appropriated and claimed its authorship. He combed through trash (often at the post office, after sending off a fresh batch of mail art) to find new poems. In his life he scavenged for everything, not just language and imagery, but also food, clothing, and rides.' A fascinating man, who 'contributed to the invention of television, worked on the Manhattan Project and the Saturn V rocket, and made the acquaintances of Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Werner von Braun'. Some interviews and poems.

Porter's work reminded us of the found objects and sounds that underpinnned Jake Tilson's sublime Atlas Magazine, hugely influential on us back in the day for its now all-too-common blend of esoteric imagery and noise. There really was a sense of discovery with an issue of Atlas, which belonged to the era before the internet turned cultural excavation into a click-fest. Mind you, some of the earliest online repositories of ephemera and information are starting to take on a musty, abandoned feel, as expectations about presentation make us skim over anything that looks too 'old'. An example, Douglas W. Jones' venerable Punched Card Collection, old school in design and execution. That long-standing web accumulator of cast off ephemera, Found Magazine (and its sister publication Dirty Found), now seem just a little too slick.

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Other things. Missed this first time round: Justin Quirk's piece on retro concerts: The Don't Look Back concert series is about more than just nostalgia: 'Thurston Moore made the point that pre-digital technology, so little of the 70s and 80s underground was documented that actually seeing the gigs constitutes a sort of "secret history" of alternative music.' It is amazing that collections of gig flyers can circulate the internet with the kind of reverence once accorded to fragments of the true cross.

Art by Scott King / photography by Mathieu Bernard-Reymond / down with tractors, an mp3 blog / more mp3s and reviews/reminiscences at dk presents / David Kreutzer and the city, an architecture and design weblog / 30 New York Times magazine covers. Consistently interesting / Emma Laiho's weblog / BladBlog, a visual aggregator.

Alvar Aalto's Architecture, a database, via Lewism / Connotype, a designer's website / The White Whale Laughs Last, illustration / Spacing magazine has two blogs, Spacing Toronto and Spacing Montreal / deceit in popular culture, meish on the sliding scale of deception for entertainment / Arkitekturmuseet's Picture Bank / the Curated Object, collating the increasingly dense world of online collections / Thorsten Klapsch, a photographer's weblog.

The Pink and Blue project. Somewhat reminiscent of Michael Wolf's Real Toy Story project / POPjisyo, 'a web based pop-up dictionary for Japanese, Chinese, Korean and other languages.' / The Party Racket, JF Kane on the web of lies, intrigue and double-dealing involved in the average child's birthday party / interesting documentary about the late John McGeoch, post-punk guitarist par excellence: listen again / Rocksellout, an mp3 blog.

When a high-tech society goes to ruin the results are truly spectacular: No Man's Land - 'The haikyo phenomenon shines a light on Japanís ghost towns, deserted islands and abandoned spaces'. See also Haikyo Hyoryu - Images of Destruction in Japan, filled with remarkable structures.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The Shell Guides presented an extraordinary vision of Great Britain as a bucolic utopia, rich in wildlife, local interest, verdant views and winding lanes. Intended to spur the early motorist into fuel-sapping forays across the landscape in search of new experience, they were illustrated and adorned with imagery that drew on the abstracted vision of modernism, in particular Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism. Arguably the serene imagery created for the Shell Guides, and the accompanying posters and maps, are a further stage removed than the work of England's mostly rather polite exponents of modernism, taking the dynamism of modernity and re-packaging it as a largely decorative art form. The guides and posters included work by Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash (detail from The Rye Marshes, 1932, above), Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland, Vanessa Bell, Abram Games, Rex Whistler and E.McKnight Kauffer. All experts of the era, but who might also be called exponents of tea-towel modernism.

Today, Shell are known mostly as makers of quite extraordinary profits. When did this situation arise? When - and how - did the company throw away its reputation as keeper of English whimsy and quiet delight? Just how could a company so immersed in the arts, located at the precise point where the avant-garde melted into the populist, throw it all away? The guides are the subject of a new exhibition at MODA, The Shell Guides: Surrealism, Modernism, Tourism (see also wikipedia). Some more examples of Shell's exceptionally broad and fluid corporate identity can be found at Ian Byrne's fabulous Petrol Maps website, 'mapping the history of oil company road maps in Europe', and Rennart's page on Shell Posters (and individual pages on Nash, Ravilious and Bawden).

Elsewhere, EU 'should ban inefficient cars'', according to a former Shell Chairman, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. "You would be allowed to drive an Aston Martin - but only if it did 50-60mpg."According to this profile, he drives a Prius.

The shift in the decades following the heyday of the Shell Guides also saw industry move from being a largely estranged, hidden spectacle (very far from being a 'tourist' destination, and suitable only for moody, modernist studies of industrial life) towards a reconditioned, reenacted life as heritage and spectacle. After the Falkirk Wheel, will we get The Derby Arm? The British canal, once one of the key arteries of the industrial revolution, is being reinvented as a collection of theme park machinery whose main purpose is to generate tourism, not electricity or steel.

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Long Live Magazine Culture (and part two), Russell Davies on seminal publication design and the misuse of received wisdom. Includes this link to a piece on AR's epic Manplan, which ironically has had more of an impact on designers over the years than the architects and planners it was meant to invigorate.

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Interesting how you can sometimes stumble into a whole patch (good collective word for weblogs? probably not) of locally-focused blogs, all lovingly compiled and unexpectedly revealing. Perhaps they're no more revealing than any random geographic cluster of linked weblogs, but what might seem like epically Pooterish esoterica is transformed into fascinating insight when you realise that the locales, characters and events being discussed are within mere miles of your own location. Admittedly a fair few of these transcend the idea of a personal diary and veer dangerously towards the quasi-fictional book-proposal blog, a minor sub-genre in British publishing that merges the tradition of diary-making with the skittery, brand-saturated observations of Chick Lit.

So via Landcroft House's inward link to us, we find Confessions of a Dulwich Nanny, Nunhead Ramblings, Posh Mum (definitely pitched at literary agents, that one), The Bellenden Bun Fight, The Wood Vale Diaries, The Daily Muse (also responsible for My London Taxi, a guide to keeping a black cab as a family car).

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Wrong Distance, an exceptional visual culture weblog. Example posts: Eero Saarinen Sketches, photography by Michael Wells, modern plastics pamphlet (see also) / At Night in the Forest, a personal project by Ben Aqua / Ask Jerves, visual culture collection, as is criva, this is no declaration, re:cycle and holster / we like Andre Thijssen's Fringe Phenomena project / Line Architecture, visual things / Bookendless, a Japanese site dedicated to art books and monographs, the more obscure the better.

Will Wiles' review of 700 Penguins in icon looks at the era when 'good design' was largely overlooked in favour of 'a distressing amount of general schlock' in the late 70s and 80s. To be fair, a lot of this general schlock is what passed for 'good design' during those times / watch the Jungle House take shape, accompanying the Design Museum's current Jean Prouve exhibition / Bad Banana Blog, visual culture and ephemera / The Alphabet of Illustrators, 'an index of names' / Badaude, a weblog with illustrations.

An observation taken from Miranda Sawyer's piece Who calls the tune in the new music age?: 'Just five years ago, you'd release a handful of products from every album, meaning three singles, a couple of 12-inch remixes. Maybe up to about 10. Now, for the last Justin Timberlake album [2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds] we released 181 products. And 140 of them were digital: ringtones, wallpaper, soundtracks for games.' / vote for 'the most beautiful car in history' / a couple of mp3 blogs, dusty sevens and the ghost of electricity / that will probably be that for this week.

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