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weblog archives
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Wednesday, January 06, 2010


A short history of the amateur amusement park. Backyard roller coasters have become a staple of internet round-ups, as private ingenuity has created increasingly elaborate tracks - see Jeremy Reid's Oklahoma Land Run or John Iver's Blue Two, for example. Yet the genre is relatively old; this homemade coaster seems to date from the early C20, while in the late 60s, occasional gems like this private cable car (one of 'The Most Exciting Outdoor Toys You've Ever Seen') were built to delight. Traditionally, the domestic thrill ride was limited to train tracks: Busplunge has a nostalgic post on back yard train ride, which clued us into the existence of the Miniature Train and Railroad Company of Rensselaer, Indiana. More at the MTC Trains Owner's Web Site.

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The small scale print revival continues apace. PWR PAPER is a freesheet including collaborations with numerous artists and writers (Max Ronnersjo, Inka Lindergard and Niclas Holmstrom, Matthew Feyld, Thobias Faldt, Natalie Rognsoy, etc. While zero profit, info-dense, creativity-driven publications like PWR PAPER are thriving, the commercial flipside is presented by Newspaper Death Watch.

Monster Practice, on architecture and creativity in general / Slack-a-gogo, a music blog / homage? things and things. Cleverly venturing into the world of the retail portal / Poetix, a weblog / Veronique, a tumblr / n+1 magazine / glass pope, a tumblr / all about the Victorian Turkish Bath.

Secret Projects, unbuilt projects and aviation technology / thetimbrown has created a graphic entitled Namco's Visual Arcade History, 1978-2009. A shame it's not larger / online Rollercoaster Creator / roller coaster image above from a selection of coaster patent drawings at the wheeled vehicles section of the Jitterbuzz page / My mouth still looks asleep, a weblog about 'mental ill-health and its possibilities' / moominsean, a weblog all about old cameras.

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in search of the Swiss Cheese building: 'Oh my God! In Chicago, we get bent out of joint because two supertall towers - the Chicago Spire and the Waterview Tower - are unfinished because of the real estate crash. But this section of Dubai, which is called Business Bay, is the crash on a whole different order of magnitude. I counted at least 20 unfinished towers, and they came in every different shape and size--some with V-shaped, folded facades, others with belly-like fronts, still others that splayed outward on both sides. This is an entire district of unfnished buildings--a ghost city, with just a smattering of construction workers on the job.'

Perhaps modern ruins will become an integral part of the contemporary cityscape, just as parts of rural Spain and Greece are dotted with half-finished quasi-agricultural structures, filling time as storehouses and sheds until their concrete frames can be finished (see the work of Sam Appleby, for example). To think of ruins in advance is to have a suspiciously vainglorious eye on posterity. For example, the epic historical essay Losing the War (via Me-fi) has a section on Hitler and Albert Speer's concept of 'ruin value': 'Maybe it was possible to factor a certain decay mode into their designs, to ensure that some picturesque element of each structure would survive. Arches or pediments or rows of pillars could be reinforced far beyond the requirements of the load they would carry, so that they would still be standing after the rest of the structure was dust - ensuring that even the wreckage of the Reich would inspire awe.'

Awe is not the dominant emotion associated with ruins. Nostalgia, perhaps. Right now, the embedded potential of a half-finished, abandoned or decaying building isn't the first thing that comes to mind. This might be changing. A few years ago Domus magazine ran an ideas competition around Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel, now finally nearing completion, transformed from a concrete shell of limitless potential into a gaudy po-mo spike. And according to this Bloomberg report, it was the first fevered splurges of jagged creativity at Ground Zero that inspired the even larger splurge of jagged creativity that is Las Vegas's CityCenter ('The Capital of the New World'), larger, swifter and with far more avant-garde angles than the smoothed off GZ will ever have.

Perhaps the emergence of the modern ruin - whole cities of ruins - will come to represent a shift in cultural production, a more contemplative, romanticised notion of progress whereby things take time and the relentless boom is forever banished. Already, abandoned technology and stifled progress holds a place in popular culture, be it Noah Sheldon's atmospheric images of Biosphere 2 (via me-fi) or Adam Bartos's 'Kosmos: A Portrait of the Russian Space Age' or the post-Chernobyl landscape of Pripyat. All are powerfully emotive spaces.

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