Pets at home, part 1

When wild beasts roamed the UK‘, the story of menageries, animal shows and exotic beast dealers like Charles Jamrach and Edward Cross. ‘Most exotic pet shops were in London – by 1895 there were 118 wild animal dealers in London alone – but there were also shops in Liverpool, Bath and Bristol.’ Cross’s menagerie shifted around central London, first on the Strand, then to behind Trafalgar Square and then finally to the Royal Surrey Gardens in Walworth, from where it was eventually dispersed and the site used for the construction of the Surrey Music Hall, no trace of which remains in today’s Palsey Park. The modern park is a few steps away from the current workshops of Victor Mara Ltd, scenery painters, about which very little exists online. The company can be traced back half a century at least, before one enters a rabbit hole of stories about theatrical stagings and grand public spectacles:

When Sir Edward Moss, the founder of Moss’ Empires, opened the Hippodrome on January 15th, 1900, he achieved his ambition to give Londoners “a circus and watershow combined with elaborate stage-spectacle impossible in any other theatre.” The first show, entitled Giddy Ostend, starred Little Tich and the cast included a youngster whose name was Charles Chaplin. After Giddy Ostend came a series of extravaganzas with titles like Volcano, Typhoon, Earthquake, Avalanche, and Flood. These productions were by no means confined to the stage; in front of it, the part of the auditorium normally occupied by the stalls, there was a circular arena; the floor could be lowered and the resulting tank filled with a hundred thousand gallons of water. In the course of an Arctic Spectacle called The North Pole, seventy-six Polar Bears slid down into the tank from the stage!

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Round and round and round

History of film, 100 years in a chart / Remember who you are, James Ward takes the considerable time and effort to attend an all-day long David Icke marathon at Wembley Arena, just so you don’t have to. Also by Ward, what the computer-owning, tweeting popluation sees when it looks up / RIP Lebbeus Woods, Geoff Manaugh pays homage to the charismatic and visionary theorist who died last month / vaguely related, Alexander versus Eisenman, an architectural debate.


Design, art and creativity at Construct of the Mind. We especially like their collection of contemporary landscape photographers, Take a Look / Spectrascopic, a tumblr / Chase Cars, are ‘slot cars with character’ with enhanced suspension and body lean. Perfect for old-school car chases. Part of the presumably huge slot car modifying subculture, such as this site’s attempts to map the 2012 F1 circuits: ‘Our interpretation of the Albert Park circuit requires floor space of at least thirty feet by sixteen feet’.


200 Wilhelms, a composite image created from every appearance of the celebrated Wilhelm scream: ‘By digitally averaging the scenes from 200 films and TV shows they get destroyed, removing the people and leaving behind just a big, bright screen — and a small but larger-than-life sound.’ By Keaggy / Solitudes, a series of woodblock prints by David Bull.


Iconic Houses is a new site designed to map and chronicle houses that are ‘recognized for [their] significance in the development of modern architecture of the 20th century.’ Slick and well-presented, the twist is that all the featured houses must be open in some way to the public.


KGF Classic Cars takes beautifully detailed photographs of its stock, which makes for a fine collection of flickr sets. Check out this Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC, a well-loved Citroen CX20, an incredibly original Trabant 601S, and a Barkas B-1000 Minibus.

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Book covers, from now and then

A little late for this, perhaps: ‘Dracula will be a 740 page book by the artist Roman Vasseur that features the covers of an ongoing collection of novels from the vampire genre.’ See some of the covers already collected. The project was on show at the Stanley Picker Gallery last week / ‘The tyranny of cultural choice is making my brain gasp‘: ‘Time anxiety induces a perverse reaction to recommendations. Links to “must-read” articles or rave reviews of “must-see” box sets make me sigh.’ Instapaper is the VCR of the information age / illustrated above: paintings by Jessica Rohrer.


David Foster Wallace’s posthumous essay collection, Both Flesh And Not, versus Jenny Turner’s The Brainstorm, a novel about the ins and outs of a progressive newspaper on the cusp of the information age and a sudden – but not catastrophic – loss of memory. The rubber band motif is clearly a good one.

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Red dots

A city map scattered with over 10,000 red dots: the Spatial distribution of executions in Stalin’s Moscow, a ‘database of purges of Moscow residents in 1930s-50s’ taken from data provided by The Memorial Society. Linked via an article by Daniel Sandford via the BBC News magazine, ‘In Moscow, history is everywhere’:

In my flat – Flat 7 at Number 9 – lived two brothers. Olimpiy Kvitkin was killed in 1937 and his younger brother Aristarch in 1939.

It turns out that Olimpiy Kvitkin was a rather important person. Born into an aristocratic and military family, he became a life-long socialist and revolutionary. After studying mathematics at the Sorbonne University in Paris, he became one of Stalin’s leading statisticians. He was the man in charge of the 1937 census, an ambitious attempt to count everyone in the Soviet Union.

That was where his troubles began. Because Stalin had announced in 1934 that the population was 168 million and growing fast but, when the returns came in from the 1937 census, it was clear that the population was just 162 million – six million fewer than Stalin had announced just three years earlier.

It did not mean Stalin was wrong, though he might have been out of date. It meant that the sheer, unimaginable scale of the millions of deaths from the man-made famines of the 1930s was starting to show up in the official statistics. By far the largest numbers died in Ukraine, in what is known as the Holodomor – the extermination by hunger.

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Still lives and objects

The F.K. 23 Bantam was developed in 1917 by Dutch aviation pioneer Frederick Koolhoven, then working as chief designer at British Aerial Transport Company. The biplane was intended as a fighter for the nascent Royal Air Force in the First World War. This craft was shown in 1919 at the First Aviation Exhibition in Amsterdam, which marked the start of civil aviation in Holland.

From the Rijksstudio, a searchable database of works at the Rijks Museum (via MeFi). One of our favourite tumblrs is Still Life Quick Heart, and the Rijks Museum collection is a fine place in which to duplicate that site’s esoteric approach to art curation.

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A selection of links for the weekend

A random selection of links to delve into / all about George Bull, three mediums delve deep into the history of a former chocolate factory / a few weeks ago we posted this image, ‘helmet‘, to our tumblr and it immediately became immensely popular, with several thousand notes. Now has kindly delved into the origins of the image (it’s called 35 images of space helmet reflection and was compiled by the artist and designer Eric Ulrich) and what it shows. Full confession; we found it as the background to Jim Rossignol’s twitter feed.


We’re late to the gifctrl party / what happens when you splice the Wellcome Collection with Konditor & Cook? , a collection of medically correct cakes (via MeFi) / illustration by David Saracino / a collection of tumblrs: Raniking, Mutant Documents, Fouchtra!, KAPITAL, DESEOPOLIS, art, SHE said, more than 95 theses, what’s a girl to do? / still time to enter tomorrow’s Drawing Marathon.


It’s the end of the road for Volkswagen camper, finally put out to grass due to the half-century old design’s inability to conform to modern safety regulations. The Type 2 van has been made in Brazil since September 1950. A set of 15 classic VW camper adverts. What will Danbury do? / Mecca’s mega architecture casts shadow over hajj, including ‘the Jabal Omar development, a sprawling complex that will eventually accommodate 100,000 people in 26 luxury hotels – sitting on another gargantuan plinth of 4,000 shops and 500 restaurants, along with its own six-storey prayer hall.’ / Sugar Gum House by Rob Kennon Architects / many of the world’s pianos, built a century ago at the height of the global piano boom, are now reaching the end of their natural life. Except in China.


Other things. The Course of London’s Fleet River, via MeFi / the Volvo 262c Bertone, just one of many pieces of Volvo ephemera held at, home of the previously linked Volvo 240 Paper Model / Architectuul, an architecture portal / paintings by Paco Pomet / a bit about the ongoing Tate 2: brick facade tests and the vision for the new building, together with a history of the original Tate / we love the image below, captioned “When this Robe Wears out, Mildred, I’ll Give It to You.” At Saltycotton’s photostream.


The archetypal Flavorwire post: Fascinating Vintage Photos of Beautiful Buildings Being Demolished / A Soviet missile base in Germany that spy planes never saw: ‘This is the launch-pad for a nuclear attack on Western Europe. Soviet nuclear missiles 20 times more powerful than Hiroshima were set up here, primed to be fired at targets including London and nuclear bases in eastern England.’


Things will be intermittent over the next week or so. Please peruse our ancient archives, click through some projects or take a turn on our tumblr.

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Letters to the Children of Troy

Our History: Letters to the Children of Troy, May 1971 (via Brian Busby): ‘In early 1971, [children’s librarian Marguerite] Hart wrote to dozens of actors, authors, artists, musicians, playwrights, librarians, and politicians of the day. She asked them to write a letter to the children of Troy about the importance of libraries, and their memories of reading and of books… Hart received 97 letters addressed to Troy’s young people from individuals who spanned the arts, sciences, and politics across the 50 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, the Mariana Islands, and American Samoa’.

Those writing included First Lady Pat Nixon; Michigan Governor William Milliken; then-Governor of California Ronald Reagan; Michigan State University President Clifton Wharton, Jr., the first African-American president of a major U.S. university; first-man-on-the-moon Neil Armstrong; Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown; authors Isaac Asimov, Hardie Gramatky, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Ben Spock, and E.B. White; and actors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Vincent Price, and Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. In early 1971, Hart wrote to dozens of actors, authors, artists, musicians, playwrights, librarians, and politicians of the day. She asked them to write a letter to the children of Troy about the importance of libraries, and their memories of reading and of books.

The letters are available as a flickr photoset. Our favourite is the four page letter from Edward Ardizzone, his handwriting as soft and evocative as his drawings, with a short memoir of a pre-(first world) war childhood: ‘To read of men + women of days gone by is to learn something of ourselves. For, after all, they are part of us’.

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Wipers and telephones

Satirical Magazines of the First World War: Punch and the Wipers Times. The latter publication – compiled in a facsimile edition by Peter Davies in 1973 – was one of several trench magazines, written and printed in terrible conditions:

Its popularity can be seen in its longevity – not only did it have an extensive readership, but was printed for over two years. It ran from February 1916 until just after the war had ended. There were even two editions printed after the war under the name of “The Better Times”. Unlike the regular weekly instalments of Punch, the production of The Wipers Times depended on the editors being in reserve with an area where they could set up their printing press. The press had been salvaged from the ruins of Ypres by the Sherwood Foresters, and although the paper was not officially sanctioned by the B.E.F., it was additionally circulated around most of the Western Front.’

See also this collection of propoganda from the First World War and beyond at Macarenses, a kind of one-stop shop for the absurdity and unpleasantness of war and conflict. There’s a long-neglected blog as well. A casual quote from this Intelligent Life article, ‘A Boy’s Own Broadmoore‘ by the novelist Patrick McGrath, brought the random violence home:

On Christmas afternoon we used to have tea with the chaplain, a vast man called Basil James. He could hit a cricket ball clear over the Wall, but was so fat that he required someone to run between the wickets for him. My father remembered the Reverend James pondering his memories of the first world war and sorrowfully recounting how, while laying telephone lines in no-man’s-land, he had had to kill a German soldier with a telephone headset.

The excellent article is about McGrath’s childhood as the son of the head warder at Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum, then on the cusp between Victorian-era solemnity and isolation and the modern era. McGrath used the experience as the basis for his wonderfully bleak and gothic novel Asylum. See also Berkshire Record Office’s Inside Victorian Broadmoor. The above image is from Roundwood’s World, a site devoted to wargaming miniatures. A last word on Broadmoor takes us full circle:

‘The hospital’s closest fellow institutions are Wellington College and the Military Academy at Sandhurst, and it used to be said that a gentleman could be educated at Wellington, become an officer at Sandhurst, and end his days in Broadmoor, without travelling more than a mile or two in any direction’

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Histories of power and rock and roll mice

The Nimbus MkIII is a ”pareidolic robot’ that identifies forms and faces in clouds.’ (via b3ta, one of many visionary projects showcased at the RCA’s Design Interactions 2012 site. We also liked A Brief History of Power by Tobias Revell (giant jpg linked here and extracted above) and Pei-Ying Lin’s Guiltless Excuses, ‘a mobile application that pragmatically deals with people’s inner guilt and helps them to maintain a balance between the personal and the public self… The project introduces the idea of ‘Excuse Management’ which turns the ordinarily undercover human behavior of making excuses into a serious consideration, and quantifies social status with a variable called “’Excuse Credit’ which is a person’s popularity in a community.’ Finally, Koby Barhad’s All That I Am goes to some length to ask the question, ‘Can a mouse be Elvis?’:

Hair samples of Elvis Presley, bought on ebay were sent to a gene sequencing lab to identify different behavioural traits (varied from sociability, athletic performance to obesity and addiction). Using this information, transgenic mice clones with parallel traits were produced. The genetically cloned models of Elvis (in this case) are tested in a collection of various contemporary scientific mouse model environments, simulating some of the significant biographical circumstances of his life.

Some other things. The work of artist/designer Andrea Zittel, bridging the gap between product design and installation with a series of inhabitable sculptures / a collection of pictures of wartime London in colour / Ephemeral New York, a lovely weblog ‘chronicling an ever-changing city through faded and forgotten artifacts’. A London equivalent is needed, if only to capture the relentless way in which development-led ‘transformations’ – such as this one at Nine Elms London – periodically swoop in and completely re-structure our perception of the city.


Jenni Sparks’ Hand Drawn Map of London is a thing of beauty. Available from Evermade / Dave’s Geeky Ideas / Overhead Compartment / a new website from German photographer Tillmann Franzen / the Thingiverse is always worth keeping an eye on. Related, 3D printing comes of age / listen to UVB-76, aka The Buzzer.

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A Natural Order

A Natural Order‘ is a photographic series by Lucas Foglia: ‘From 2006 through 2010, I traveled throughout the southeastern United States befriending, photographing, and interviewing a network of people who left cities and suburbs to live off the grid. Motivated by environmental concerns, religious beliefs, or predictions of economic collapse, they build their homes from local materials, obtain their water from nearby springs, and hunt, gather, or grow their own food.’ There is also a monograph.

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Off road and down dale

‘Thierry de Montcorgé, a competitive driver in safari rallies such as Bandama or Nice-Abidjan, is at the origin of a crazy bet: race a Rolls Royce in the Paris Dakar safari rally. What was just an idea during a dinner with friends, became reality few months later with the help of Christian Dior as a main sponsor, using this Rolls to launch its new fragrance “Jules”, a name the Rolls was often dubbed with.’ The car was recently put up for sale. We also like Jacky Ickx’s Citroen CX rally (part of a flickr set of Dakar rally miniatures, which also shows the Rolls).


Munich ’72 Summer Olympics, ‘an Illustrated London News Special Publication produced in conjunction with Young World Productions Ltd on behalf of the British Olympic Association.’ / “You could say it was the first failed government IT project.” / Second homes map of England and Wales / Hansel and Gretel dumpster-dived and got hepatitis / how to build a Cthulhu idol, a beautiful and complex piece of craft at Wily Builder / the end of Ceefax, a memoir / CLOG, an architecture magazine.

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A cache of books

MetPublications has a selection of full text books, putting pdfs of new and out of print art books into your hands for free (via MeFi). Titles include All the Mighty World: The Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852–1860 (above, Windsor Castle, 1860), American Ingenuity: Sportswear, 1930s–1970s, In Quest of Comfort: The Easy Chair in America, Eliot Porter’s Intimate Landscapes, a photography book, and a monograph on the Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni.

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Pop culture design history for the tumblr generation, OMG that Artifact!. Neil McGregor eat your heart out / The murky allure of the Loch Ness monster. Apparently, ‘Christian Fundamentalists Teach US Children Loch Ness Monster Is Real To Disprove Evolution‘. Does anyone have a scan of this textbook? back where it all began / The Big Map Blog is being update more regularly / on the road again. We need to do some updates / Music at Tresanton, a small classical music festival.


The AN/FSQ-7 on TV and in the Movies, a pleasingly dedicated website about the cinematic appearances of the USAF’s AN/FSQ-7 (SAGE) computer systems, eventually decommissioned in 1983: ‘The Q7 was also a special effects dream, with more lights, switches and vacuum tubes than any other piece of hardware, and found its way into many science fiction movies and television programs over the years.’ (via Wired, via Coudal) / step into the world of Downton Abbey via the Country Life Image Library / The Sketchbook Project / Temple of Light, an art weblog / This Date in Design, a designer’s almanac / oldny, an art weblog / installations by Mary A.Valverde / paper sculptures and projects by Peter Callensen.


Scroll bars, a sculpture by Jan Robert Leegte / Domus on architectural publishing / Thundercats action figure guide / Swinton Druid’s Temple, Yorkshire’s answer to Stonehenge / ‘A Brief History of Plastic’s Conquest of the World‘, an extract from Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story / Lego Batcave.

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Friday links

Quick link round-up. ‘Fossilizing’ With a Camera, revisiting Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Dioramas project / 9 experiments in large, a slideshow round-up of new architectural concepts / Adrift (Tyen) is a first person game that creates an atmosphere of creeping dread, simply by placing the player inside a small, sail-less boat atop a roiling sea, with real time weather and lighting and no discernable plot (via rps) / curator? / a gallery of recent streetviewable locations.

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A full deck

The (un)Made in China exhibition at Beijing Design Week explores the delights of working in a foreign culture, namely the many grand projects by Western architects that were proposed in the white heat of China’s economic explosion and then, for whatever reason, fell by the wayside. Meanwhile, the country is producing innovations in the of speed and efficiency, not aesthetics, with the likes of Zhang Yue’s Broad Sustainable Building, an aircon manufacturer turned Minecraft-esque purveyor of near-instant buildings. And not just pre-fabs, but stacked towers of hitherto unimaginable heights. BSB’s innovation is pretty much the polar opposite of parametric design and the fluid landscapes conjured up in the abandoned projects in the first link.


Other things. Why modern maps put everyone at the centre of the world, a lament for the art of getting lost aand the random discovery. Includes a link to Londonist’s Hand Drawn Maps of London series / sort of related, A Guide to London’s Classic Cafes and Fish and Chip Shops / Peter Berthoud’s Discovering London links to last month’s London Sale at Christies. A list of lots.


China’s high speed railways, “the biggest single financial scandal not just in China, but perhaps in the world.” / Skyhook, the balloon-launched rescue service for downed pilots / Drone Shadows, a project by James Bridle, a project shown as part of Adhocracy, itself a part of the current Istanbul Design Biennial. Adhocracy:

The world of people who make things is in upheaval. If the last revolution was about making perfect objects—millions of them, absolutely identical, produced to exactingly consistent quality standards—this one is about making just one, or a few. Its birthplace is not the factory but the workshop, and its lifeline is the network. In the place of standardised, industrialised perfection, it embraces imperfection as evidence of an emerging force of identity, individuality, and non-linearity.

Play Architecture – Playing Cards, published by Rakennustieto / RIP Mike Singleton, creator of Lords of Midnight / ‘Every dot on the map interests me, especially the little tiny ones. Some “towns” are no more than an intersection, possibly with a store or a town hall. A few towns seem to be gone without a trace, though sometimes the tiniest evidence remains. I have photographed over 300 towns, mostly in Minnesota and North Dakota‘. Via MeFi.

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From Russia with love

Rodcorp is embarking on a re-reading of the Ian Fleming James Bond books: Bond 1: Not Stirred, with ultra-pithy plot summaries (‘Doctor No (1958) is the one with guano, claw hands, Honey Rider and Jamaica.’) and an acute eye for the archaic:

‘And despite Fleming’s obvious love of travel – you could easily imagine Bond as a columnist for Monocle, sampling the best Scandinavian cocktails and Austro-Haitian hollow-point ammunition – the books are fundamentally socio-politically isolationist and fearful.

Bond 2: Zeiss is coincidence looks at Fleming’s obsession with the ‘eyes and looking’ / sort of related, but not really: a fine collection of Russian Art and Books. The above is a detail from the book ‘Manners of Rasteriaeva Street‘, 1964.

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The WOW for the way out

WOW is billed as ‘the most minimal record ever made’: ‘The WOW happens when you play several records simultaneously. Since each record player is unique, the tone will alter slightly depending on its mechanical components. In combination these tones create a powerful sub sonic wave field, which you can control by changing pitch on the record players and by touching the spinning records.’ You can hear a sample here, headphones are recommended. The project brings to mind both the Flaming Lips’Zaireeka‘ (still available) and the drone genre. There’s an oft-told story of a test pressing of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Wedding Album, accidentally sent out for review to a UK publication (the sources differ). Faced with a wall of solid, unwavering tone, the reviewer took a deep breath and plunged in to what they presumed was part avant-garde statement, part exploration of deep, primal sound. According to Wikipedia, Ono and Lennon were delighted and sent the following telegram:


The story is also referenced in this BBC review of the similarly monotonal ‘Ström by Carl Michael von Hausswolff.

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Unethical photography

Another gallery of evocative/depressing/stunning ruined architecture (delete as applicable), this time it’s photographs of abandoned mid-century modern homes at Flavorwire. We’ve mentioned the photography of Chris Mottalini before, but we’re new to the work of Mikael Olsson. The images shown are from his project Södrakull Frösakull. From the blurb:

This book explores the heritage of Bruno Mathsson, one of Swedish modernism’s leading designers, through two of his architectural works. In Frösakull a house that Mathsson both designed and lived in Mikael Olsson invaded, colonised and interacted with the remains of the house. In Södrakull, on the other hand a second house that Mathsson designed and lived in Olsson acted like a Peeping Tom, sneaking around the exterior of the house with his camera. This unethical method of trespassing a private space reveals something even more unethical, namely the fact that nobody, not even the Bruno Mathsson firm, took care of his property after his death. Frösakull was later sold, fixtures, furniture and other possessions included, while Södrakull was refurbished and turned into a glossy and artificial space.

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The Ship of Riddles and the Full Scale Falcon Project

Full Scale Falcon is a quest to build the ultimate Star Wars prop: a 1:1 scale ESB/ANH hybrid Millennium Falcon with complete, correctly scaled interior. Yes, I have completely lost my mind, just like most of my friends and family say.’ Going one step further than the members of the Millennium Falcon Builders Club, the FSF Project is almost a piece of land art:

I own a secluded 88 acre tract of wooded land where we’ll be building. We have selected a site on the property that is low enough so that the top of the Falcon can be seen easily from several vantage points. A flat area roughly 400? x 400? is being cleared. And yes, I am aware that it will eventually show up on Google Earth and Google Maps. I’m counting on that.

But that’s not all. For the Falcon is a spatial impossibility, a House Of Leaves/Tardis that shows the fundamental trickery inherent in cinematography and the perils of subjecting a film set to intense, relentless scrutiny over a period of decades (someone did this last year for The Shining, neatly rebutted by John August in Cinematic geography and the problem of genius). Back to the Falcon:

‘Perhaps the saddest day of my Star Wars fan-life was the realisation that the Millennium Falcon interiors CANNOT be matched to the exterior. The rush job, sadly, meant that glaring inconsistencies arose between the interior and exterior of the vessel. The exterior set was built BEFORE the models were finished, and ended up about 40% too small!’.

That last link is from an exhaustive (and archived) site, The Ship of Riddles. In the years since it was archived, much of its visual source material has been reproduced elsewhere, at larger scale. Check Wookiepedia for an exhaustive page of Falcon info and a simple image search yields untold visual riches. while sites like i09 host huge galleries taken from books like Starwars: the Art of Ralph Mcquarrie. These 1978 sketches (see image above) show the production company was aware of the spatial disturbance in the force represented by the ship’s interior and exterior. Whether the Full Scale Falcon team can reconcile spatial geometry and fandom remains to be seen.

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‘… the Isabella; a kind of whitish-yellow-dingy.’

Something compelled us to revisit, home of the incredible Giornale Nuovo, a short-lived weblog that lives on as the closest approximation the internet has to a dusty old book, forgotten on a distant library shelf, offering up unceasing wonders to those who find it. For example, we’d never visited the entire subsite devote to Isaac D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature, ‘a compilation of book-lore whose first volume was issued in 1791, with further instalments added in 1793, 1807, 1817 and 1823.’ Every page is rich with miscellany: Anecdotes of Fashion

Fashions have frequently originated from circumstances as silly as the following one. Isabella, daughter of Philip II. and wife of the Archduke Albert, vowed not to change her linen till Ostend was taken; this siege, unluckily for her comfort, lasted three years; and the supposed colour of the archduchess’s linen gave rise to a fashionable colour, hence called L’Isabeau, or Something compelled us to revisit, home of the incredible Giornale Nuovo, a short-lived weblog that lives on as the closest approximation the internet has to a dusty old book, forgotten on a distant library shelf, offering up unceasing wonders to those who find it. For example, we’d never visited the entire subsite devote to Isaac D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature, ‘a compilation of book-lore whose first volume was issued in 1791, with further instalments added in 1793, 1807, 1817 and 1823.’ Every page is rich with miscellany: Anecdotes of Fashion

Fashions have frequently originated from circumstances as silly as the following one. Isabella, daughter of Philip II. and wife of the Archduke Albert, vowed not to change her linen till Ostend was taken; this siege, unluckily for her comfort, lasted three years; and the supposed colour of the archduchess’s linen gave rise to a fashionable colour, hence called L’Isabeau, or the Isabella; a kind of whitish-yellow-dingy.


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