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Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Currently unable to post, apparently. Something to do with a java error?


Saturday, December 27, 2008
Detroit ruins: the Motor(less) City (via The Cartoonist) / a great visual essay on Chittagong, Bangladesh (via me-fi) / Cassette from my Ex (via domeuplaneta) / Most coveted Covers, a section of the Readerville Journal / Noir and the North Kent Marshes.

Walking the Berkshires, a weblog / the shapes of things has become Myrtle Street / images of early maps / the American Hydrogen Association is admirably low-fi / the state of architectural research in the UK, an ongoing investigation by the sesquipedalist / via sharpeworld, a Handmade Japanese Motorhome. Beautifully detailed, with an expandable floor operated by an air compressor. 'This camping car is made to small size. Because the road in Japan is narrow.'

This is the story of the Jolley Gang, Victoria Coren exacts her revenge on a shadowy group of memorial service crashers, led by one Terence Jolley, thanks to the fictional Sir William Ormerod. Jolley has been attending memorial services - and the wakes that follow - for many years.
in response to Ray's comment on the (inevitable) me-fi post, we think there's something fascinatingly Dickensian or even Orwellian about Jolley, and the whole article opens up a middle class subculture defined not by poverty of the imagination, but by the kind of threadbare-cardigan-style penury that went apparently out with the 1950s.

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Monday, December 22, 2008


Caustic Cover Critic on Odile Redon's enduring popularity amongst book cover designers. They also have a browse through our Pelican Project. We need to do a little bit more to this particular feature - perhaps add a 'Pelican of the Week' or some such feature. Something for 2009, perhaps / did we link this before? Rad Library, inside old books. Where oh where are all the original paintings? / Rubik Cubism, pixel art meets 80s meme, with predictably linkable results / Can You Spot the Chinese Nuclear Sub?, a piece from last summer on the security implications of satellite imagery (now also used to find hitherto unexplored jungles).

An excellent me-fi post on Thomas the Tank Engine, soon to forsake his Hornby-esque model world for an entirely computer generated one, a move which is inevitable but also seems to rather miss the point. The degree of separation between programme and toy will only be increased, leading us to wonder whether the popular wooden Thomas toys are destined to be a thing of the past, utterly dislocated from the slick, reflective, fluid world shown on screen. From the post, the incredible Mapping of Sodor page, a feast of fictional cartography and history (even Beck style). Sadly the curators of the brand aren't fans of accuracy. 'It must be said that validity ceased at the start of TV Series One which obliterated Tidmouth as the main terminus station and replaced it with Knapford.'

Via ask, the LEGO factory is a user-generated resource for displaying downloadable custom models / interview with a bookbinder / The Charlatan's 'Can't Get out of Bed' is being used to advertise Benylin. The cough medicine brand has previously used The Clash / a Twitter enhanced Derive - the new urban experience / BLDG BLOG on Fossil Cities and our ultimate total disappearance, 'the future magnetic presence of urban metals that have been compressed into the thinnest bands of underground strata.' Traces of lost urbanism form a major part of our modern mythology, such as the story of the pyramids beneath Lake Mills, Wisconsin, an apparent source for the pre-historical copper industry. Civilisation might be swiftly scoured from the face of the earth, but what we apparently _want_ most is to find evidence of a recently vanished past.

Sprint's Plug into Now site is like a 1950s imagining of the future, a steam-powered widget that delivers useful information in a mostly useless way / DropBox is very contemporary and looks exceptionally useful. Whether we will commit to the service is another matter / Typographic Practice, 1904 / TypePad for Journalists, be interesting to follow this project / fun with statistics, the 2008 bailout versus Other Large Government Projects, at Voltage Creative.

From the projects (and missed by rss types), the telegraph poles of South London. See also some new galleries: Arctic Survival, Desert Survival, Jungle Survival and Sea Survival, four handy (and badly scanned) booklets to help the 50s and 60s era pilot survive in inhospitable environments.

It's that time of year again, the Johnson Banks team looks back on design and marketing savvy Christmas cards from times past. A happy Christmas to all our readers. Updates will be sporadic at best for the next week or so.

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Friday, December 19, 2008
Boing Boing readers predict the next five years and beyond. Some are eccentric - 'More men will decide to opt for obedient robot wives to do cooking, cleaning and other stuff that will appeal to the misogynist, creating a mind shift in the western female' - some are prescient - 'People will own fewer objects, and be more selective about the physical objects they do own' - but most are deeply pessimistic.

Blogs about vocations, mostly snippy / Kiosk, a new way of shopping for small art items and oddities - slightly like a retail version of Industrial Facility's 'Under a Fiver' project (some of which can be seen here). The site's Blog / a viral marketeer gets their comeuppance / announcing the construction of a cooled beach in Dubai. Nice headline grabbing story that probably has way more just beneath the surface.

Death maps, the UK teen murders 2008 by location, and murders across the whole of the UK ('Many victims of murder with a firearm are from wealthier areas, perhaps because it tends to be those with money who have shotguns and similar weapons in their homes.') / A Firework for WG Sebald, one of many works by Jeremy Millar.

The Commons, flickr's epic project to bring public photo collections into better view / the Book Cover Archive, with links to things like this gallery of old science fiction covers / Imitation of Life, a tumblr / the 'Green Void' installation by the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture / N55 are a Danish design group who condense their projects into downloadable manuals, such as the Walking House, a down-sized Archigram.

Song for Someone promises customised mp3s, with the name of your choice slotted in. The age of mass personalisation hasn't really expanded beyond the range of goods offered off the back of photo services like flickr, essentially just an updating of the tacky Snappy Snaps mugs that have existed since the dawn of time. But then again, playing with the fundamentals of an object, adjusting the sliders so that any permutation of words, forms or images is possible, goes far beyond the levels of control that a typical brand needs to apply. For example, would M&M's open themselves up to Nike Sweatshop-style shenanigans? It's unlikely: the disclaimers are relatively extensive ('To avoid any confusion and keep everyone safe, we will not print any reference to drugs or prescription items, especially those that are in pill or capsule form')

The rather pointless Calvin Klein Dollhouse, the conflation of brands, toys and deconstructivism in a holiday season special confused aesthetic / enter the global snowball fight. These Christmas virals seem rather thin on the ground this year / from The Big Picture's Best of the Year, this photograph of bow and arrow wielding Maasai warriors is like Agincourt with casualwear.

Adverts for General Dynamics, back when the military industrial complex had a handle on style and presentation / on a completely different tack. The world of the astrologer isn't usually on our radar, but naturally there are a host of them out there online, many touting celebrity clients (such as Henri Llewelyn Davies. Few, however, are as entertaining and wilfully perverse as Madame Arcati, which seems to combine a heightened awareness of modern media with a fervent belief in a mystical order, and draws in all manner of names into its orbit.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008
Vinyl, the documentary, the first part of Alan Zweig's entertaining 2000 documentary about vinyl obsessives / Loop are back / 11 Awesome Comic Book Hideouts / This New Ocean: The History of Space Flight / the tallest abandoned structure in Russia / cloth escape maps of Europe at Sean Gillies' blog, via The Map Room / The Donnell Library Center: A Eulogy In Pictures (via BB) / more James Ravilious.

Differences in perception. Russia! magazine has an entertaining feature where the team from Curbed check out the new Russian architecture, the predictably disastrous blend of monumental, moderne lite and brash beyond belief. English Russia regularly throws up galleries of this kind of thing, almost all of it depressing / Yulia Tymoshenko is the current Prime Minister of Ukraine, and exceptionally adept at image-making. Her site's gallery contains over 7000 photos.

Rennart presents 'Spindles - a photo album and diary of silent film actress Irene Rooke's hideaway' in Dungeness, dated 1927 / all about the Fender Jaguar.net / Folding Baguette makes the Magic Light, which sound like it defies physics but is actually a rather more analogue version of the touch interface.

Buy Old Childrens Books.com, with many galleries / Just Like the Movies, 9/11 preimagined after the event through existing movie footage. We are overwhelmed with images of destruction, most of which are taken utterly for granted until cunningly re-cut in such a way / examples of unusual words from The Meaning Of Tingo, a book we foolishly passed up on a charity stall last week / The Onion's Atlas of the World.

Alan Taylor - Kokogiak - runs The Big Picture, a website we adore and which sets a standard for visual presentation on line that few other sites have stepped up just yet. While the image-driven weblog, tumblelog, whatever, has proliferated over the past 18 months, few people are exploiting the true size of the screens we have in front of us.

Tracking politics and economics. Rather than watching hemlines (or anything else) we should be checking the multiplex: 'Apparently politically conservative times coincide with zombie movies and liberal times with vampire movies.' (via me-fi).

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


A Second Tulip Mania, do the prices of contemporary art works represent a 'classic investment bubble'? 'In Russia [contemporary art sales] rose 2,365 per cent in five years (2000-05)'. Also, 'In Britain, there was the Banksy market, a kind of contemporary art lite, for people with thousands rather than millions to spend. Images that would once have never made it past a T-shirt, mug or wall, were now bought and sold as limited edition prints and stencils on canvas.' Comments at First Drafts, the Prospect Magazine blog.

Disappearing Places, via me-fi, the cartography of nostalgia / Unusual and Imaginary Maps / Hoogerland National Railways / we can build you, a tumblr / Ninth Letter, a weblog / Ruffly, a very minimalist blog / The Diorama Diaries, or how a contemporary humorous essayist translates their work into something flickrable.

The Dark Lord of Logos meets the Metal Band Name Generator. Any logo generators out there? / CTRL+V, think we linked this one before / CTRL+C, copy and paste a new Taj Mahal. A move that has not been popular in India / Vroman's, a tumblr / Futurgasm, 'future excitements of the world' / Eskissos, an architecture weblog.

Nukephoto.com, 'the comprehensive source for photographs of U.S. nuclear weapons systems' (via me-fi, again) / Stephen Fry seems to be single-handedly keeping every mobile phone company in business right now / an extraordinary set of photographs of fossil hunting in the former Green Sahara. The giraffe petroglyph is incredible.

Spaceship!, a piece of 'Collaborative Interactive Fiction' from The Guardian's Gamesblog Community. Play the demo. Heavy shades of HHGTTG ('This must be a Thursday.') but promising nonetheless / Popular Mechanics, lots of / C.Y.L, an image log with music and video too / Maiike, a weblog / make books at blurb / is Shanghai built with dodgy steel? / The Clothes that got me laid, fashion advice in blog form for sartorially driven metrosexuals.

The Barclay Brothers (poor Wikipedia entry) start closing down their interests on the small island of Sark. On the face of it, this looks very much like the kind of feudal behaviour the newspaper owners are claiming to be striving to remove. Following their failure to win popular support for their 'regime' ('It just shows that turkeys can vote for Christmas', according to a member of the 'Barclay camp'), will the Barclays retreat to their castle on Brecqhou?

Top image from The Little Artists.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The Beaford Archive, 'established in the early 1970s to document the land, its people, and their traditional way of life in rural North Devon.' The archive contains 80,000 images by the late James Ravilious (son of Eric, more images at Rennart) / Magazines now archived on Google Book Search. Thus far there doesn't appear to be any way of finding out which magazines have been filleted for the purposes of scanning (e.g. New York Magazine, for example). This is one way to do it, but is surely not very comprehensive. From Popular Science, April 1948, '10 Easy Ways to 'get that Extra Room''.

Aviation in Rio de Janeiro, a host of imagery from the era of seaplanes and Zeppelins (via Continuity in Architecture) / Jonathan Jones (or a sub-editor) asks, 'Is the Sagrada Familia being banalised in the name of tourism?' The old maxim applies - if an article is being posed as a question, the answer is inevitably 'no': 'Far from betraying Gaudi's spirit, the belief that the Sagrada Familia should be finished is in accord with a religious sensibility in which the architect is a worker, not a star.'

UseLess objects by JVLT. Although the designer claims to be making a comment about Design/Art culture ('The works of "UseLess is More" represent the essential difference existing between Design and Art. Industrial design produces useful objects with good taste. Art produces useless "things" from a functional point of view, but with meaning as its essential prerequisite.'), these seem to work better as a critique of image-led design culture. They are highly crafted objects constructed, photographed and then distributed in such a way as to make widespread reproduction inevitable.

Photographs by Matthew Porter. Lovely / photography by Leon Chew / art by Michael Clyde Johnson. We especially like the 'room for forced perspective' / the London Architecture Diary / me-fi has the requisite round-up of Oliver Postgate links / live stats from BBC News / ask me-fi has some fine death metal recommendations / try out the radio / need a random number?

Our initial thoughts (since excised) that the merging of the editorial teams for the Architects' Journal with the Architectural Review implied a 'less than rosy future' for the titles. On reflection, this could be read as a slight against those working on the titles. Far from it - the Architects' Journal is probably the best architecture publication in the UK right now (although we will greatly miss Patrick Lynch's column). We were simply worried that the move was a first step on the road to closing the AR altogether. We'd be very happy to be wrong - few magazines have such inherent potential (and such a glorious legacy - check Eversion's AR-related sets) as the AR. The 'outrage' column (which might nowadays fill a whole section), the spirited campaigns for a more human urbanism, the sheer depth and quality of the design.

As our sidebar attests, the signal to noise ratio in the contemporary architecture scene is high. The architecture blogs crackle with static as the image - both real and rendered - achieves a kind of primacy that even the most enthusiastic advocates of architectural photography could not possibly have predicted. In other words, it's hard to write about architecture when the popular hunger - mostly amongst other architects, it seems - is not for text, but pictures. As a result, we have a whole generation of designers who have learned to take advantage of this literary blight by diagramming their work, reducing structure, program, planning and theory to a set of criticism-deflecting visual codes.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Victory City, Orville Simpson's epic attempt at creating a private utopia (via me-fi). This example of amateur urban planning is defiantly high rise (in exceptional detail), a rarity, as the fantasy conurbations of fiction and the imagination are rarely vertical. In the real world, going up remains the definitive statement of modernity (although the passion for tall buildings may well wane considerably). Related, a gallery of the Burj Dubai at IconEye featuring photographs by David Hobcote (who has contributed to BurjDubaiSkyscraper.com, a site that appears perpetually astounded by the relentlessly upwards progression of this building).

However, unveil an unlimited landscape of infinite possibility, and what is the architectural response? Nostalgic homages to a lost modernism. In Original Sim ('For the architects of Second Life, reality bites') a tour around the virtual spaces created by real world designers, the real and the surreal abut each other. For architects, the attractions of 'building' in Second Life are obvious: 'There are no planners, no building regulations, no thermal loss calculations, no value engineering by developers.' Yet this is a quote from a designer who 'also maintains [Second Life's recreation of the] Farnsworth House', surely the most iconic example of architectural arrogance ever created. When left completely to their own devices, architects either create chromatically extravagant, structurally improbable buildings or attempt to develop and finesse the more rigorous aspects of modernism.

Perhaps amateurism should be given free reign. The traditionalists are attempting to strike back, with limited success. 'I'll show you a real carbuncle, Charles,' Poundbury takes a pounding (excellent photographs by Paul Russell, demonstrating that so-called 'bad' architecture often makes a far more interesting subject than 'good' architecture, perhaps due to the accommodation of context). Two more things that relate to adhocism and individuality: all about The Story of High Street, a new book from the Mainstone Press about the retail variety of 1938. I want to get on with my life but the market won't let me, a photo-essay at infinite thought, a journey along the Piccadilly Line to the wretched Westfield ('the new home of luxury', the Gherkin looming out of the website in a deliberate perversion of the city's geography to lure the unwary) and on to the miserable (and doomed) Trocadero.

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What are some great lost albums? / Slow Painting, a weblog / architecture photos by flickr user rucativava / the Gibson Dark Fire, a 'robot guitar' that looks intriguingly stuffed with all manner of sound-tweaking technology. Something for a future edition of music thing to obsess over.

Farewell to Oliver Postgate / at the other end of the creative spectrum (although linked, perhaps, via the Clangers, 'Sci-fi 'creator' Forrest Ackerman dies' / Strawberry and Cream, craft and art / 25 times a second, a tumblelog / The brilliance of creative chaos / Istanbul (Not Constantinople, a weblog.

Atelier Malkovich, a collection of half scale idealised artist's ateliers / revisiting the Taos Hum, 'a low-pitched sound heard in numerous places worldwide ... usually heard only in quiet environments, and often described as sounding like a distant diesel engine' / the demons of Building 280 / Iain's C64 homepage / paintings by Laura Moreton-Griffiths / buy stuff off the police with Bumblebee Auctions.

'The New Examined Life: Why more people are spilling the statistics of their lives on the Web' / thanks to David for the following digging at the New York Public Library's portal, including a selection of NYC Atlases, a huge image library, including the work of Bernice Abbott. Related, an Austeresque venture: a photo of every single street corner in Manhattan, by Richard Howe (via kottke).

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Saturday, December 06, 2008


Travel Brochure Graphics, revisited / Grey Room, a place to escape from / a mobile crane simulator / David Guy's website highlights self-curated delights like The Pointless Museum, an self-declared portal of ephemera, Throttling, 'an archive of comic book throttles', and the celebrated Ladybird title 'How it works: The Computer', scanned in its entirety (related, Douglas Keen's obituary) / highly recommended, The Morning News Annual 2008.

Referrer mining. the whole buffalo says some nice things about us / always pleasant to be sidebarred, this time on RAR / Books Covered / the Flickr Friends of The Twentieth Century Society / thanks to an earlier anonymous comment for pointing us to Brokers with Hands on Their Faces, contemporary studies of despair / Barbie beats on the Bratz / the British speaking clock is now sponsored by Tinkerbell. Accurist have taken themselves online after 22 years.

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, a 1972 documentary posted in its entirety. Highly recommended (via me-fi). See also the new book from Actar, The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, edited by Kazys Varnelis. Varnelis was recently found asking where is the good new architecture?, a question that wasn't answered especially satisfactorily / The Planet X Saga / a selection of guilty reading / kottke on the first mall, a little bit of Gruen history / 'various resources and links to articles related to North American syllabic writing systems' / an Audi brochure from 1939, rather unfortunately pitched at week-ending Nazi officials.

Lapland UK 'is NOT and never has been in any way associated with Lapland New Forest'. And now the news that Lapland West Midlands has also failed to live up to snowy expectations. Shades of Flamingo World (at 4m10s). 'Disappointing theme parks' is a flickr group that has potential / flickr sets by Unexpected Bacon / Dallas Clayton has the air of a Stateside Shrigley, although no doubt he would love to mimic the latter's marketing acumen / mentioned in passing in the last post, the entire Diary of a Nobody, as rendered online by Kevan Davis / a real nobody, the Stranger in Alexandria / it's depressing that the plummeting American car industry should be dragging down the carefully cultivated niche brands bought around a decade ago, plundered for technical information, and ultimately stripped of prestige.

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Getting a lot of linkage, Star Wars: A New Heap, 'Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Death Star', John Powers' visual essay at Triple Canopy (linked via me-fi, k and KK, amongst others). In summary, George Lucas's Star Wars brought the aesthetic of the 'used future' into the mainstream, painting the technology and culture of an uncertain tomorrow (although the films were actually set in a distant past) as a bastardisation of the sleek minimalist/modernism of the Empire. This ad hoc world, where everything is greebled to within an inch of its life, is deliberately contrary to the quasi-fascist aesthetic of the Galactic Empire ('a slapdash world of knuckleheads pursued by industrial-scale minimalists'). It's tempting to suspect that the entire essay was triggered by the surely intentional visual parallels between the Death Star and OMA's RAK Convention and Exhibition Centre in the UAE.

Nonetheless, the essay effectively juxtaposes images of the minimalism of post-war American modern art with the Empire aesthetic, and that of 2001, a utopian impulse on an epic intergalactic scale that has more in common with the fantasy Berlin of Albert Speer than the dusty spaceports and rusty ships ('a flying saucer had never been a slum before'). Ultimately, Lucas's vision became culturally dominant, and the post-post Banham-era Los Angeles of Ridley Scott, a neon-soaked, rain drenched city awkwardly retro-fitted for a tomorrow that arrived too fast, continues to define the image of the modern dystopia. The art and work of the original minimalists evolved into a formal critique of the automated megalomania of the military industrial complex, culminating in works like Michael Heizer's 'City' (previously mentioned). Here we have an artwork that combines the aesthetics of modernism, minimalism, and eclecticism, fulfilling the visual predictions of both Kubrick and Lucas and yet somehow even more mythological than any fantasy world they ever dreamt up, thanks to its remoteness and almost legendary status.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008


The emergence of SLRs that can shoot short bursts of video threatens to undermine one of the last remaining bastions of technological perfection, the broadcast quality film clip. Commentators have noticed that cameras like the Nikon D90 or the Canon SX1 IS offer the potential to totally undermine the established media's stranglehold on how, for example, sporting events are chronicled. By creating a situation where photographers are also potentially TV cameramen, the market that values Broadcasting rights for the Beijing Olympics at around 1.7 billion dollars will have to be reassessed. Ultimately, the new technology will place more and more emphasis on time, the need to instantly review the immediate past.

The advantage will be gained by those able to push vast amounts of data - Gi-Fi - allowing HD slow motion footage to be streamed practically live from anywhere in the world. The corresponding increase in storage media will open up new complexities in human interaction. A year ago, someone was asking whether current technology would allow someone to make an audio recording of their life. In a world of 5 gigabit/second data movement, the internet's de facto status as a rolling archive - the slow but gradual accumulation of all the world's media, bit by bit - becomes entirely irrelevant. Instead, the amount of data generated will rise exponentially as we create a constantly expanding record of the present, swiftly overwhelming our memories of the past.

The catalogued life - like that of Gordon Bell (digital) or Robert Shields (analogue) - is all-consuming; the very nature of chronicling anything and everything simply precludes one from reflection. Memory will become exclusively short term. In 50 years time, when the Pooteresque ramblings of Robert Shields finally become public, we will all be too immersed in the ongoing chronicles of our daily lives to presumably even notice.

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JunkJet is a fanzine with spirit / how to max out your triangle, another attempt at graphing the work/life balance / abandoned Japan versus full Japan / photography by Maximilian Haidacher. The images of out-of-season Alpine hotels are fantastical (via Curio + Abyss) / the Erase weblog / an A to Z of New Zealand in stamps, via Hero Design Studio / images of Japanese custom cars by Satoshi Minakawa.

Camberwell Illustration, a companion to Camberwell Design / Maiike, a weblog / the model gallery at D*Hub is rich with content, if rather poor in interface. Examples, C19 plaster fungi and anatomical models / Baby It's Cold Outside, a weblog, especially C'est La Vie / Alessandro Carloni's beautiful sketches / Books Covered, a weblog / Truckspills.com / Planes on Fire, a gallery at tmn / the Loneliness Map of England.

It's tempting to see Jorn Utzon as some kind of Roarkian ideal, so stubborn as to deny himself any pleasure from the creation of one of the world's most iconic buildings. Ironically, neither the BBC or the NYT articles mention Ove Arup, the man who turned Utzon's 'sails' into a reality. There's little point in trying to evince any 'national' characteristics from the difference between Utzon's gruff self-denial and Arup's cultured anonymity (the cover of Peter Jones's Arup biography, Masterbuilder of the Twentieth Century, shows just the back of the engineer's head), but they each represent an extreme facet of the architectural personality. Studied Arrogance versus apparent aloofness. Utzon's attempt to disengage from his creation was in vain - he will forever be associated with the Opera House and hence the architecture of shape and place, not function.

Related. We forgot to attribute the Rand quote recently posted. The source is Rand's The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, published by The New American Library of Canada Limited, a Signet book printed in September 1971 (part of a box set of Rand paperbacks). The quote starts on page 129.

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