Watching the skies with jaded eyes

Kottke made the point a couple of days ago that the USAF’s recent casual announcement about its now-defunct UFO division – and the release of a couple of blurry but presumably far more authentic films than have ever been seen before – was swiftly overtaken by the rampant insanity of the modern news cycle. Are we all just more jaded and cynical? Is the idea of unknown (non-alien) machinery capable of incredible feats simply accepted? A true conspiracy theorist would posit that this soft peddling of hard news is a way of preparing us for a grand announcement about Oumuamua (good work there with the Lovecraftian name generator), but it turns out that it was just a rock. The possibilities were endless.


Other things. Dynamicland, an ‘authoring environment’ / music from Dronningen / The House that Edek built, a tale of war, escape, redemption and architecture / photographs by Ivan Jones. See also his project This is Landform / photographs by Yiannis Hadjiaslanis / at home with Ricardo Bofill, part of Nowness’s In Residence series / Make Anything, a YouTube channel about 3D printing.

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Be kind, rewind

Make interesting books happen. The World Through the Eyes of Alexander von Humboldt, ‘beautiful illustrations from the greatest scientific traveller who ever lived’. A Kickstarter / Cain’s Jawbone – A Novel Problem at Unbound (via Tom Gauld), a reprint of a 1934 puzzle book by Edward Powys Mathers, aka Torquemada / Reyner Banham’s Megastructure is also up for a crowd-funded revival / a great history of the great British sandwich / Save me from suburbia, Boy George on the power of pop in the 1970s / odd poppy sculptures by Eric Nado / pop-culture Easter eggs.

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Off world

Compare and contrast: the globes of Emmy Ingeborg Brun, ‘a Danish Mars enthusiast who made a small number of globes… Her inscriptions suggest that she viewed Mars as a potential model for Christian socialist cosmopolitanism on Earth’ vs Google Mars. A Brun globe is for sale at Crouch Rare Books / Boundary Breaking in 3D games / simulates radio waves travelling into the distant empty expanses of space / The Englishman and the Eel, a new book about a (relatively) unknown delicacy / what is an eggcorn? / photos from inside the cabs of long-distance truckers / buy a theme park, of sorts, in Florida. Some other theme parks for sale / the world’s wind turbines.

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Labour intensive

Without wishing to invoke Betteridge’s law of headlines, is Bitcoin a bubble? For an essential primer, John Lanchester’s LRB story on the currency last year is the gold standard. But for an even more alarmist headline, this time without a qualifying question mark: Bitcoin could cost us our clean-energy future. ‘Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day.’ Check the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index for more stats. At the time of writing, the carbon footprint per transaction, in kg of C02, is calculated as 122.14kg. This is an issue that people have been writing about for years: Virtual Bitcoin Mining Is a Real-World Environmental Disaster / lighter things. Music by Ulrika Spacek / pedals by Acid Fuzz / recommendations for weird online fiction.

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Around the world

Cyriak’s latest is all about horses / the sound of a gif / a recent Google Doodle celebrating coding for kids / good overview – with simulations – of the challenges facing carbon capture / airport runways, abstracted / the incredible, the world of stray tunes, random voices and static (via Mefi) / I Made My Shed the Top Rated Restaurant On TripAdvisor. The story of The Shed at Dulwich (also via MeFi) / a new book about the commercial art of Heath Robinson. A good gallery of the artist’s work.

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Things we learned

Open for Business, 1966 VW Van brochure / the end of Every Frame a Painting / 52 things I learned in 2017 (also via K) / for her 90th birthday, Elton John’s estranged mother hired an Elton John tribute act to perform / an auction of splendid Citroen ephemera / 5054 is a new (physical) magazine about cars / retro synth illustrations by Ste Holmes / illustrations by Darryl Cunningham / illustrations by Kerry Hyndman / Sky Rogue is a game with a retro feel and theme / Google the planets / the lost villages beneath Ladybower Reservoir / nearly but not quite modern ruins: the crumbling Houses of Parliament.

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Tech talk

What ‘Tech World’ did you grow up in? Interactive nostalgia courtesy of the Washington Post. A world where there are speed trials with mouse robots in Japan. The robot learns the maze first then returns to the start point to run it as fast as possible / developers share their most memorable dirty coding tricks (via me-fi). See also The Poor Man’s 3D Camera / Using deep learning and Google Street View to estimate the demographic makeup of neighborhoods across the United States. We all give signs, both conscious and unconscious / a smorgasbord of terrible movies / dark and unsettling Black Friday Tape Loops / paintings by James Bland / The Monolith, art, urbanism, change and inspiration. Paintings by Gwyneth Leech (via tmn).

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A history lesson

Things has been online for nearly 18 years. Our first website was hosted by demon and still lingers on somewhere, and then we switched to, scraps of which still exist in the Internet Archive. It’s strange how such comparatively recent history now has to be sifted and searched for like an archaeological dig. In around September 2001 we decided to adopt the new-fangled ‘weblog’ format (‘The things editors hope that the weblog format will make updating the site less of a chore’). After seven years of working with Blogger, we switched to WordPress in March 2010. Since then the site has bumbled along with a mix of ancient templates and hand-coded html. Traffic has steadily and relentlessly declined, from a high of 328,965 annual visits in 2011 to around a quarter of that today. Yet being interested in ‘things’ is more popular than ever; the idea of a site that found the hidden gems in the internet riverbed was once relatively rare. Now, everyone wants the glint of something shiny and gets served up a relentless stream of stuff. How much longer can we last?

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Bouncing down

Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman scene comparisons from Man on the Moon. Now watch Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton / the delightful Vistabule teardrop travel trailer / an article about web search, from 1996: Seek and Ye Shall Find (Maybe), found via this comment on Halt and Catch Fire / how to make fake plastic food in Japan / a collection of urban white elephants / the bittersweet act of revisiting favourite children’s books / how many decimals of Pi do we really need? On accuracy and scale / It’s Nice That presents the animated illustrations of Geoffroy de Crécy / rendering the Simpsons’ house in eight different ways / modernist rentals, coming soon / The true story of the fake US embassy in Ghana. It was a fake.

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Deep dive

Paintings by Kirsten Tradowsky / cars are getting bigger (via Cartype) / eight years of construction: Official Louvre Abu Dhabi Time-Lapse 2009 – 2017 / Making a violin in less than two weeks / reviews from the audiophile man / decidedly unpolished archive images from the heyday of British post-war housing / artwork by Nicolas Monterrat, at Colossal / the mid-century modern tumblr / totally unrelated, a joyous twitter thread: ‘Please show me pictures of weird stuff in your parents house‘ / William Walker, a quiet hero. Mountain 7 on the diver who toiled for six years in the water-logged foundations of Winchester Cathedral. Many more pictures and information at the Society of Architectural Historians blog.

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Something in the water

A tale of derring-do, boundless courage, optimism and rank ignorance: self-taught rocket scientist plans to launch over ghost town. Leaving aside the flat earth theory, amateur rocket travel is a truly eccentric niche. A few years ago, Copenhagen Suborbitals was in the news. The company is still around, but the co-founder is (in)famous for sadly different reasons. Here is a list of amateur rocket records. Can you make your own homemade spacecraft? Is it possible to reach space using a home-made rocket? / some other things. Violence against women detected. The art of Jilly Ballistic / Overnight at Walmart, a gallery (via Kottke) / UK water firms admit to using divining rods to find leaks / The Tenants: Zupagrafika reveals the people behind its modernist paper buildings / related, a new book by Christopher Herwig on the exotic everyday modernism of Eastern Europe and Russia. At the Calvert Journal

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Shoe leather

Why Amazon’s ‘last mile’ is such a grind for those who have to walk it. A world that has created devices like the Flexbot6 / London’s Architectural Association threatens major cuts / Gurafiku, a tumblr about graphic design in Japan / illustrations by Vera Bee / music by Lady Banana / graphs and more: Why the young should watch the Budget / Flying Car About to Take Off. October 2007 / Still Life Sundays, photographs by Steve de Vriendt / politicians sitting alone / retro electronic objects by Love Hulten (via this, that & also, etc) / lessons learned from a start-up failure.

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Making things happen

Various things. paintings by Yoko Akino / 13 Horror Films for Architecture and Urban Design enthusiasts / Jony Ive on Apple Park / interactive novation fun / car models by Stephane Dufrene / Ministry Assistant is an app designed for Jehovah’s Witnesses to track who they’ve spoken to in each neighbourhood / People-Mapping Through Google Street View / why do Boston Dynamics’ video look like they do? / the Martin Parr Coloring Book / Just Type Stuff, and it appears.

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Medical ‘innovation’ issue. Sergio Canavero Is About to Perform the First Human Surgery — and There’s Nothing to Stop Him. Maybe includes mild spoilers for the recent BBC R4 drama, Tracks. See also, These conjoined twins can share each other’s thoughts & vision (at K) and Tiny human brain organoids implanted into rodents, triggering ethical concerns (via MeFi) / other things. A history of Cricket Magazine / paintings by Birkin Haward / a fascinating collection of ‘re-photos‘, essentially before and after / would you buy a house from this man? / The illustrated manners book; a manual of good behavior and polite accomplishments.

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Construction photographs by Mårten Lange / the sound of the underground, fifty albums you probably haven’t heard (or even heard of). Mine the comments for more / also related, an elegy to the cassette tape / other forgotten media, The Great Diary Project (via MeFi), collecting the memories we’d usually rather forget / Tokyo from the rooftops, photography by Lukasz Palka / the last photographs of Robert Landsburg at Mount St. Helens / Ultimate Reality, the video and music work of Dan Deacon and Jimmy Joe Roche / Night Procession, photographs by Stephen Gill and words by Karl Ove Knausgård, published by Nobody Books / no scriptwriter could create this dialogue in today’s age of self-awareness: From A to B, tales of modern motoring, 1993 / the Steve Jobs BMW Z8 / The lonely death of Delhi’s jungle prince.

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Here they all are

This is where we’ve been putting all the links. Incredible Doom, a web comic (via MeFi Projects). Recommended / another comic: A Fire Story / useless design features in modern products / J Mascis to sell lots of excess gear on / vintage images of the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue / Back to Bits, old school style animations / hugely comprehensive post on post-war British bombers (of the flying kind) / the Rolling Home book, vanlife monograph dreams / the Saab-Lancia 600 / the Anime Floppy Disk page / an animation of the Analytical Engine / The Gallery of Lost Art / the Hustler, a design by William Towns / so many sounds and colours: cheaper pedals / Goodbye Uncanny Valley: ‘CGI production has ironically helped spur a move from traditional cinematic language into an abstracted, visceral sequence of spatially and temporarily disconnected impacts’ / car production in Australia has now ended / Google and the Resurgence of Italian Design. A bit of a stretch, aligning new Google design with the best Italian products of the late modern era, but certainly one in the eye for Apple / Global Shark Tracker / depressing deep dive into the mechanics and economics of the world of the design blog. Basically boils down to asking how high one should jump / explore the Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler, a new book by Brett Ingram on the outsider artist Renaldo Kuhler and the imaginary world of Rocaterrania.

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Built environments

A collection of Lost Modern buildings / Mariah Carey and the sound of Christmas / Now do London / music from The Barnslou Trio / 8 built projects that inspired: ‘five urban housing cases, which despite being architecturally overlooked, they are worth being celebrated for the development and enhancement of a musical heritage.’ / 30 years after the great storm, then and now / High and Dry, a photo-essay of Trona, California, by Mark Broyer / sort of related, Van-derlust: on the road across North America – in pictures / How toxic is your car exhaust? / photographs by Reuen Wu / the story of Daytona USA / Grim, a collection of imagery representing the ‘dark aesthetic’, i.e. new Goth / Kottke on the box / technology that is perfect despite being obsolete / how Starchitects built Astana.

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Small connections

Some views of Japan, an Instagram about the small stuff by writer Naomi Pollock / a box of maps: Everywhere, from Herb Lester / Sirens of Chrome, a gallery and interview at tmn about the motor industry’s use of spokesmodels, then and now / sort of related, Covered Cars / Every Noise at Once, an audio journey through genres. Recommended.

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Mapping’s Intelligent Agents: ‘How do machine intelligences read and write the world?’ / a fascinating dip into the ‘Inexplicably Fascinating Secret World of Thomasson. While not a word we would have used, ‘Thomasson’ means ‘a preserved architectural relic which serves no purpose’, and Messy Nessy has compiled a host of these simultaneously fascinating and infuriating features for your delight (via MeFi) / this charming short film explores the technology behind the bells at the Domtoren Clock Tower / Bolder is a website about living well in later life.

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Everybody lies

‘As Seth Stephens-Davidowitz points out in his new book Everybody Lies (Bloomsbury, £20), researchers have studied the difference between the language used on Google, where people tend to tell the truth because they are anonymously looking for answers, and the language used on Facebook, where people are projecting an image. On Facebook, the most common terms associated with the phrase ‘my husband is …’ are ‘the best’, ‘my best friend’, ‘amazing’, ‘the greatest’ and ‘so cute’. On Google, the top five are ‘amazing’, ‘a jerk’, ‘annoying’, ‘gay’ and ‘mean’. It would be interesting to know if there’s a husband out there who achieves the full Google set and is an amazing annoying mean gay jerk.’ From ‘You are the product‘, John Lanchester writing on Facebook for the London Review of Books (via MeFi)

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