Who's hot and what's not on Wikipedia. Fascinating.
Those that visit this site through an RSS reader will have noticed the feed now carries full posts, including images and links.
If you're still seeing only the title and a text excerpt, then you are subscribed to an archaic 0.91 version, which will be disabled shortly. Please update your feed here.
Enjoy. And thanks for stopping by.
Back before memory cards and music on hard drives, here's a collection of cassette tape designs. The TDK D90 was my all-time favourite: clean sound, cheap price, essential look.
A couple of weeks ago, as I deleted the daily dose of spam in my inbox, I came across this strange email. The subject line read: Where can we send you review copies of our books?
Was this some new form of phishing? an ID theft attempt? or a wannabe stalker seeking geographical coordinates? These are days of paranoia, after all.
But books as bait?
So I opened the email, and instead of the surreal automated text generated by a bot running off a zombie server, there was a crisp one-liner from a guy called Russell Fernandez, who identified himself as the marketing manager of Princeton Architectural Press.
Aside from a sense of satisfaction at receiving reviewer recognition from an established print publisher specialising in visual culture, I was intrigued by the marketing strategy behind this approach. Thinking back to the cluetrain manifesto this felt akin to the opening remarks of an asynchronous conversation. Call it gonzo one2one indirect marketing if you like.
Interestingly, a particular publication was mentioned. A collection of drawings by an a(u/r)tistic savant.
Here is a book on what is known as outsider art being sent to what can (still?) be called outsider media outlets known to report on outsider art. How elegant.
For the record, I received two books, the one described above is discussed below.
As I leaf through Blackstock's collections: the drawings of an artistic savant, a quote from Banksy comes to mind: "All artists are prepared to suffer for their work but why are so few prepared to learn to draw?"
Gregory L. Blackstock certainly did. A retired Seattle pot washer, autistic and artistic, his style is remindful of certain illustrated guide books and encyclopedias from the 1940s and 50s. An information architect of ordinary objects and animals, his work is made up of visual lists and taxonomies, and delicious handwritten tags.
Described by a local paper as an anthropologist of the everyday, I was struck by Blackstock's focus. The artwork featured in the book was all drawn between the early nineties and the present day. Yet his collections of dogs and hats and roofs and saws seem to belong to a world that perhaps survives hidden in pages still found in public libraries. There are no brands or digital gadgets or contemporary trends outlined by his pencils and crayons.
Quite disquieting. Very fascinating.
Sometimes you stumble into a sentence which is simply sublime:
Last Monday I drive back home after a week on holiday south of Rome. I set off at six - an ungodly hour - so as to miss the morning traffic into the city, and 'cos I have stuff I want to do in the afternoon and the 700km drive is a long one.
It is already late. On the Pontina (the main artery that links southern beaches and towns to Rome) traffic is heavy and already slow. Long lines of vehicles all heading to an ancient place called the Eternal City. A open van has a clump of palm trees in the back. They make me think of Galilee. The suffering of adults and children is made never-ending by the crimes we perpetuate against one another. An absurd original sin.
On the Raccordo, Rome's ringroad, I stop for breakfast and order a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant, which in Rome is called cornetto and in Milan brioche. I've never worked out where it stops being one to become the other.
Everything is in flux. Everything is in continual change. The Raccordo keeps adding tarmac and lanes and crosses countryside once used as sheep pastures and backdrops to spaghetti westerns. On the other side of the capital, I join the A1, known as the Autostrada del Sole (the motorway of the sun - which unites north, centre and south). Motorways, once driven the first time, become so boring, so bland. I stop for cans of Red Bull a couple of times. The caffeine turbocharge drives jagged corners through my nervous system.
At Florence the traffic stops, moving. Standstill, then first and second gear. Repeat. Outside the light is brilliant bright. There has been no respite from a month-long heatwave. The air-conditioning in my C3 has turned faulty. It no longer works when the car slows down and stops. Malfunctioning filters affected by speed. A metaphor maybe?
There's this novel set in Pakistan called "Moth smoke" which uses air-conditioning to develop one of the best descriptions of the dividing lines between poverty and wealth I've ever read. There is Henry Miller's iconic "Air-conditioned nightmare". There was this short story (from an 80s pulp collection of women's erotica) set during a heatwave in New York which was really sexy, sweaty and sweet.
Air-conditioning defining our collective actions, our ability to function, to maintain movement.
Up in the Appenines, between Florence and Bologna, the traffic stops again. Not moving, people step out of cars. The sun merciless among the mountains. On the radio, news of the scores of children dead in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, in Iraq. In the boot of my car is an old punk record collection, finally out of storage after 10 years. There was a video by Discharge of bombs falling in black&white and Cal shouting why, why, why. The radio brings news of 20 holidaymakers killed in traffic accidents on Italian roads the previous day. Holidays in the sun. Are nationalities a need or a necessity?
I stop for petrol a second time. It costs over 1.4 euros a litre. A latino petrol attendant reminds me of a few days once spent in Tela, Honduras, back in the early 90s. Tela was a sleepy town set in the centre of a beautiful bay. After weeks of travelling trough Central America with no film or video media, I was hungry for the cable TV found in the hotel room. But frequent powercuts meant missing chucks of movies, removing meaning. They meant lying back on the bed back in the humid heat. At the weekend, crowds descended to the beach, just like in Italy. The difference was they looked so much poorer. No new beachwear or designer towels, only grubby T-shirts and underwear. During a walk along the secluded side of the bay I stopped in what looked like a hotel and asked the waiter for a drink, only to discover it was a private house. The owners were friendly and polite. They told me stories of families that made Honduras, and their life in Miami. Has petrol really peaked?
Nine hours later I reach Pavia. I drive across the roofed bridge Albert Einstein enjoyed crossing when he lived here. Below it the waters of the Ticino are at a record low. The river itself is at risk. I reach our home in the countryside. I step out of the car and the heat hits me like a schoolyard bullyboy. There are wasps everywhere, flying crazed with the attitude of drunken hooligans. A whole bunch have made their home on our front door. Inside, I find an infestation of little black flying bettles. Late into night, after a losing shoe battle with the paratrooper bugs, I fall asleep with the air-conditioning on.
The following morning, as I drive to work the weather breaks and a tropical-like rainstorm forces me to pull over. To stop.