Friday, February 29, 2008

Woody Allen/Jack Kerouac mash-up

Kerouac reading Visions of Cody to Steve Allen's piano over the opening to Woody Allen's Manhattan.

Playmobil wins again

Playmobil Security Check Point.

The user comments and tags are priceless.

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!". But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.

The best thing about this product is that it teaches kids about the realities of living in a high-surveillence society. My son said he wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillence System set for Christmas. I've heard that the CC TV cameras on that thing are pretty worthless in terms of quality and motion detection, so I think I'll get him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interogation Set instead (it comes with a cute little memo from George Bush).

At first it looked as though my Playmobil terrorist cell was going have trouble getting through this security system - no naked flames, sharp objects, guns or bombs. Then I bought the Tobacco Lobbyist upgrade pack which allowed cigarette lighters to be carried through so they simply torched the plane instead. Hours of fun for all the family.

Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers

Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Every time I get off the L-Train at Bedford or Lorimer it happens. I know I'm supposed to be in this hamlet of hip but it always seems more like New York channeling my neighborhood in southern Hamtramck. Being a directionless Detroiter lost in the mysterious broadways of Brooklyn I had merely missed the mark. This month I finally found the strip as it were and toured W'burg's cafés and shoppes aplenty. This is a hipster hub to be sure and while I didn't think it was the end-all, I did make a splendid survey of Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers.

This fantastic(ally small) bookstore is a haven for the arts and culture book lover. S&S specializes in used, rare and new books on contemporary art, architecture and various design fields. What I found most delightful though, and their website makes note of this, was the serendipitous mix of odd finds and specialty publications. Over here is Paul Felton's The Ten Commandments of Typography. On this table over here is a selection of current and back issues of Cabinet magazine. On that shelf over there is a copy of J. Muller-Brockman's The Graphic Designer and His Design Problems. Everywhere I turned was something I admired or desired.

It was packed in there but it was worth it, even among the throngs of scenestery patrons. Stop by when in W'burg.
Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers
218 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211, Tel. 718.387.7322

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Green Apple

This article is a little more than a year old, but no less fascinating.

How Green Is the Big Apple?
New York City ranks among the country’s most sustainable cities, owing primarily to its density and the fact that the majority of the population uses public transportation. But how green is it really? And how much greener can it be?

One of the more interesting statistics is that despite [or perhaps because of] New York's density, 26.8% of it's land is open space. Compare that with sprawling Los Angeles' 10.0% and lush Atlanta's 4.3%. New York also has the lowest obesity rate... well, that's a no-brainer.

I don't have a solid tie-in here, but wanted to include this: As John Flansburgh says, Everyone's you friend in New York City, and everything looks beautiful when you're young and pretty.

Synth duos: Two against the world

This article could be ten times as long and still just scratch the surface:'s Joe Gross looks at the synth duo phenomenon.

Synth duos boil the "band" idea down as far as you can get before getting into the area of solo act, which is a whole different pop concept. Couplehood is such a primal idea that the synth duo contains an air of mystery that regular rock bands do not, especially when one stays quiet, behind the keyboards, and the other is the focus of attention. Who are these two people?

Formed by artists Martin Rev and Alan Vega as hippy worldviews dissolved into the trashy, paranoid Manhattan of the '70s, Suicide was genuinely extraordinary, a root integer of synth pop, new wave, punk, industrial dance, techno and post-punk, not to mention the Bruce Springsteen song "State Trooper," which almost sounds like a Suicide tribute.

On the band's amazing self-titled first album, Rev played simple, repeated riffs on an organ or synth, first-generation drum machine puttering along, while Vega's reverbed, Elvis-ish voice and creepy hostility seem a genuine force. The combination was and is like nothing else in rock. Check out "Ghost Rider" for punk before punk and "Frankie Teardrop" for a howl of urban despair that will chill your blood and ruin your day.

With the rise of new wave and more-portable synthesizers, the synth duo exploded. Dozens of bands appeared all over the place. Soft Cell emphasized the moments when love turns sleazy, Marc Almond's cabaret vocals pushing against David Ball's synths. "Tainted Love" was, of course, the smash hit, but that's only part of their story.

Eurythmics were cold pop idols — few voices have ever meshed with synths better than Annie Lennox's alto wail, but often she seemed more the robot than Dave Stewart.

I can honestly say that about half my closest friends are in a synth duo in some form or another.

[via Voltage]

TED 2008

The 2008 TED Conference opened yesterday in Aspen. This year's theme is The Big Questions... such as, Who are we? What is our place in the universe? What is life? Is beauty truth? How do we create? How dare we be optimistic? And the point? etc.

Brogan at TED 2008

A couple of highlights from yesterday's session included a surprise presentation by Stephen Hawking, and a preview of the WorldWide Telescope project - a technology that combines feeds from satellites and telescopes all over the world and the heavens, and builds a comprehensive view of our universe. Kind of like Google Earth turned outward... but infinitely bigger and more complex. WorldWide Telescope looks to be a revolutionary yet incredibly intuitive way to explore the universe. It will be available for free download this spring.

To keep up on the latest at TED, here are a few blogs worth following:
Kings of Simulcast
Lunch Over IP
Thomas Dolby
Official TED Blog

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monocle Magazine

I love magazines. I often devour entire copies of The New Yorker, Automobile and Wired on single leg of a flight. My latest favorite is Monocle. The UK-based magazine was launched one year ago by journalist and Wallpaper* publisher Tyler Brûlé. It trades the big glossy layouts of its cousin for in-depth articles printed on sturdy matte paper - covering international affairs, business, travel, food, culture and design, targeted squarely at grown up gen-x'ers. The smart articles are complimented with artful photography and infographics that rival those found in the pages of GOOD. As the Huffington Post describes, "Where Wallpaper* could legitimately have been described as 'style with substance,' Monocole is the inversion, arguably well summed-up as 'substance with style'." I quite like that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

File under: "because it's true"

Since Mike is off in LA, I will take over the interim duty of posting All Things Wholly Inappropriate. Folks, I present to you, Stuff White People Like.

For example, #67 Standing Still at Concerts.

So when white people go to concerts at smaller venues, what to do they do? They stand still! This is an important part of white concert going as it enables you to focus on the music, and it will prevent drawing excess attention to you. Remember, at a concert everyone is watching you just waiting for you to try to start dancing. Then they will make fun of you.

The result is Belle and Sebastian concerts that essentially looks more like a disorganized line of people than a music event.

Read through them all. Highlights include Prius, Bicycle, Apple (der) and Arts Degrees . Much LOLZ ahead.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Flong lives!


Our old friend Golan Levin has re-designed his portfolio site with lots of tasty new work. Check it.

[I'm a little late on this. My bad for not checking in since mid-November.]

If you don't know who Golan Levin is, he was golden boy at the MIT Media Lab, created mind blowing projects such as Scribble and Dialtones, makes a wicked lasagna (which is how I first met him via Marius,) threw the best pumpkin carving parties Brooklyn has probably ever seen, and currently teaches at Carnegie Mellon. Plus, he's about the most awesome, down-to-earth super-genius you'll ever meet.

Monday, February 18, 2008

David Macaulay on drawing Rome

One of my heroes, David Macaulay speaks about the process of creating his book Rome Antics on TED Talks.

[via Archinect]


o2 Culver City studio

I'll be in LA (Culver City to be exact) the next few days. Not sure how much free time I'll have yet, but would love to catch up with some of the west coast Burnlabbers. Hit me at: mike at burnlab dot net


Friday, February 15, 2008

"You Are the Worst Thing in the World"

The brand new Telefon Tel Aviv single You Are the Worst Thing in the World is now up on Pitchfork for your streaming pleasure. I think this is already my favorite song of '08. The surprisingly pronounced arpeggiation, bass guitar and electrically charged cemetary haze atmosphere recalls some of the best late '80s dark wave, but mixed with dozens of other influences and all grown up with Joshua and Charlie's inticately layered production.

Josh points out that Pitchfork's description is off: "It's definitely not 'soul' or 'laptop soul' or whatever - surely wasn't made on a laptop. And that picture is 4 years dated. Oh well! At least it's up there and you can hear it, although it's probably a few months early...."

I don't think I can wait a few months for the real thing. Sinlge now. I haven't been this tempted to break out the goth dancing at my desk in long time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kiss & Tell Radio

Seze of Kiss & Tell is guest hosting a special Valentine's program on East Village Radio until 4PM EST.

(She's playing Hounds of Love right now, so tune in!)

edit: The show is now archived here.

Happy Valentine's Day from PSYOP

Brilliantly twisted.

The World According to Stephin Merritt

Great interview with Stephin Merritt at BlackBook.

Some choice replies:

SM: Sounds like you’re in a lawn mower. Is there something you can do about it?

SM: Different people reacted differently. I’m having difficulty picking out a story in this.

SM: Yours is a narrow definition of pop music. Where are you going with this? When I talk about popular music, I’m referring to music that you don’t have to wear a tuxedo to listen to. Hold on for a moment. [Answers door. Dog goes apeshit.] It was the Girl Scouts.

SM: He just came back from having a pedicure, and he’s very upset. He hates nail stuff, so the last thing he needs is a Girl Scout on the doorstep. He’s been traumatized already today.

[thanks SV4!]

Chocolate Scrabble

Just in time for Valentine's Day: Chocolate Scrabble!

[via Core77]

Putzing around

As a side note to Mike´s post about Bob "the Putz" Lutz: if he thinks global warming´s a stretch I can´t wait to hear what he thinks about Tata´s plans for an air-powered car.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Doing it Right: Automotive Edition

I figured it was apt to follow the last post with some examples of companies leading the way in responsible design (rather than dragging their feet and throwing tantrums because the glory days of $40K+ trucks with fake wood trim are over.)

Our "Doing it Right" series salutes people and organizations who are socially and environmentally responsible by nature, rather than because green is in. "Green" brings up images of Birkenstocks Crocs and every bad cliché that makes me want to puke. Responsible design should not be market driven. It is not an aesthetic. It is not a way to make yourself feel better. It's just the right thing to do.

We covered the super-awesome Tesla Motors previously. Here are some initiatives we like from more mainstream manufacturers:

BMW Hydrogen 7 was the first realistic example of a no-compromise approach to responsible automotive design. Hybrids, ethanol, etc. are all compromised intermediate steps to emissions-free propulsion. Hydrogen powered and pure electric powered vehicles are the only foreseeable future when the oil runs out. BMW has the technology pretty much ready to go, just waiting for hydrogen distribution infrastructure. Plus, instead of sticking it in a 318, they showcased it in their top-of-the-line luxury sedan. Nice touch.

Toyota's Corporate Citizenship Division focuses not only on environmental issues, but on traffic safety, education, arts and culture and a "harmonious society". Also, Toyota MoCo spends one million dollars an hour on research and development. I'm personally not a fan of Toyota styling in the least, but president Watanabe's speech at the Detroit Auto Show was honestly an inspirational example of good, balanced corporate citizenship. Watch it here. [Full disclosure: I co-designed the set you see behind him with Dharmesh Patel and the team at o2. The set by the way, is recycled cardboard.]

The Audi R8 V12 TDI is another realistic example of a responsible no-compromise product. It is still fossil fuel powered - however, it's a pure exotic which scoots to 62mph in 4.2 seconds and gets better mileage than the average sedan on the road today (around 25mpg in a segment that averages around 15.) Audi entered the first diesel powered car to win the 24 Hours of LeMans. "Adopting European diesel is pie in the sky.” M'kay, Bob. More thoughts on the R8 V12 TDI at Core77.

Global warming is a "total crock of shit." -Bob Lutz

Wow! Barely a month in, and GM Vice Chairman Maximum Bob Lutz pulls way ahead for our first annual Douchebag of the Year Award.

During a closed-door session with several journalists, the ex-marine stated that global warming is a “total crock of shit.” Then he added: “I’m a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter. (With the battery-driven Volt), “I’m motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2 (argument).”
[via Jalopnik]

This is the same guy who cried that the 35mpg CAFE standards (which don't go into full effect for another twelve years) would push the cost of GM products up by an average of $6,000 by 2010. Interestingly enough, the night before, Toyota Motor Company president Katsuaki Watanabe embraced the legislation and promised that Toyota would meet the standards ahead of schedule as part of it's commitment to responsible design.

Oh, and GM lost about $37 BILLION last year.

Bob Lutz business card
Bob's business card, via the New York Times

How can Michigan's economy be in such horrible shape with bold, forward-thinking visionaries like Bob Lutz running things?

For all the other douchebags out there, don't fret - there are still over 10 months to pick up your game. But you must ask yourself, "does my douchery affect tens of millions of people?" The bar has been set.

Cyberoptix Tie Lab at POOL

David Blunk manning the Tie Lab booth at POOL

POOL, the leading juried showcase for independent fashion design opened in Las Vegas yesterday. My better half has been selected to exhibit as part of s(eco)nd, POOL's newest spotlight area, focused on environmentally and socially conscious brands.

BSD "Barber"

BSD "Caviar"

In addition to representing the latest from Cyberoptix Tie Lab, Bethany is launching B.S.D.: a brand new line of luxury neckwear. B.S.D. takes the Tie Lab's trademark witty design sense, high quality materials, careful attention to detail and brand experience to the next level with exclusive new designs printed on only the finest heavy-weight silk.

More info and photos at Toybreaker Blog.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sagmeister at Deitch (with 7,200 stacked bananas)

Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far
until February 23, 2008

Deitch Gallery
76 Grand Street, New York, NY

[via Core77]

Jean Nouvel in NY and LA

2008 will belong to the architect who looks suspiciously like Dr. Evil.

jean nouvel

Los Angeles | New York

+ good Design Boom interview from last spring.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

All The Umbrellas In London

New fan video for one of my very favorite Magnetic Fields songs:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mazda Furai on the track

I meant to post this with my auto show coverage, but got distracted.
Better late than never, here you are:

This "concept car" is a fully capable American Le Mans spec race car with a three rotor rotary engine. (As beautiful as the body is, one could cargasm just by listening to this clip.) The raw B roll footage above is 10x better than the finished video you might see elsewhere. I like how they need to use a 911 Turbo as a camera car... which still doesn't do a very good job keeping up.

Speaking of race cars, have you seen the GT2 class BMW M3 unveiled in Chicago this week? Are all the best car designers in the world exclusively doing American Le Mans series cars now? I remember not so long ago that race cars were studies in pure engineering. Lately it seems racing is leading in styling as well. I'm not complaining, as long as road cars get some trickle-down effect.

Friday, February 08, 2008

ReFUSING FASHION: Rei Kawakubo opens at MOCAD tonight

Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942), established the high fashion house Comme des Garçons in Tokyo in 1973. Kawakubo's concepts originate from her education in fine arts and literature rather than a formal fashion design training, and incorporate elements from the famed Fruits subculture of the Harajuko district of Tokyo. Driven by concepts, she is known for conveying her ideas verbally to her patternmakers to interpret. Kawakubo is considered a key figure in re-defining sexual identity in new terms of feminity, and is often discussed in the company of such figures as Coco Chanel, Elsa Shiaparelli, and Vivienne Westwood. With the introduction of her line in Paris in 1981, Kawakubo created a sensation with her androgynous and innovative design, and solidified her stature as one of the three major avant-garde designers from Japan, alongside Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto.

From the stunning architectural interiors of her stores to the provocative makeup and styling of her models on the runway, Kawakubo has consistently managed to challenge conventions with each facet of her presentation. Kawakubo's broad-based design practice has included collaborations across genres, including architects and artists such as Steven Meisel, Gilbert and George, Francesco Clemente, Philip Johnson, Julian Schnabel and others. Her designs have inspired a generation of new designers including such luminaries as Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Helmut Lang, and her own protégé Junya Watanabe.

February 8 through April 20, 2008
opening reception Friday, Feb. 8, 7PM
$5 general admission | free for members | cash bar
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
4454 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48201

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Watercube opens in Beijing

More images at Flickr, via Archidose via Archinect.

Eames Demetrios at Cranbrook tonight

Eames and Bethany at the Michigan Central Station this time last year

Eames Demetrios will be speaking and showing some of his grandfather's rare early films at the Cranbrook Art Museum tonight at 7PM, as part of the ongoing Eero Saarinen exhibition.

Friends and Colleagues: Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames and Irwin Miller With Eames Demetrios and Will Miller
Thursday, February 7, 2008
7:00 p.m., deSalle Auditorium; reception to follow in the New Studios Building

Among the most important relationships in Eero Saarinen's life, personally and professionally, were his relationships with architect and designer Charles Eames and with successful businessman and philanthropist Irwin Miller, the CEO of Cummins Engine Company, from Columbus, Indiana. Join us on this evening of memory sharing as Eames Demetrios and Will Miller talk about their famous grandfather and father, respectively. The evening's program also includes the screening of the never before seen footage made by Charles Eames during his years at Cranbrook. The program will conclude with a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Aluminum Group, home and office chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


An indie short film based around my favorite SebastiAn track [and a classic Twilight Zone episode]:

Pre-Valentine's Day Massacre

Every Wednesday night at the Painted Lady in Hamtramck, Opium Den is hosted by Georgio 'the Dove' Valentino, who serves up Chartreuse cocktails and an anaesthetic continental soundtrack underneath which one discerns the monotonous pulse of the infinite. Joining him Feb. 13 will be nofuture and nofeelings from Paris 68.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Super Tuesday

I'm saving you from yet another painfully long political rant by letting this guy say pretty much everything that's on my mind. Seriously do click this video though. It's dead-on and entertaining.

(I'll probably get on the Hipsters for Obama bus soon enough, but for now I prefer to walk.)

Close Siren

Bethany and I had the pleasure of performing with Travelogue for the second time in six months this past Saturday night in Cleveland. Aside from being incredibly cool and [good] weird in every way, Jon and Mandi make some of our favorite music. They usually close their set with the single Close Siren from 2003's Winter EP. I did shoot video of it on Saturday [which you can find in the post below] but I was standing entirely too close to the speakers and the sound clips rather badly. Among synth-pop classics, Close Siren is up there with the best of Ultravox and Berlin. Seriously. To make up for my sloppy videography, here is a version that does their performance justice:

Travelogue - Close Siren live [2004]

(Once again, big thanks to Jason Solvent for making the conncetion.)

Death Certificate

The Suction Records Now We Are Dead tour came to a close during the wee hours this past Sunday morning in Cleveland. Check our Flickr set for photos and YouTube page for videos.

We're not quite done twitching though...
Look for Lowfish+Dethlab east coast and Quebec dates this spring!
(Solvent will be under self-imposed house arrest, completing his next LP.)
Solvent: Demonstration Tape
Speaking of Solvent, Demonstration Tape (1997-2007) has just been released internationally by Ghostly. The 2XCD compilation is limited to 1000 copies, and features two brand new tracks and several long out-of-print gems. [I hear the artwork isn't all that bad either...]

Monday, February 04, 2008

Special Affect

Before they went on to form Ministry, My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult, and Concrete Blonde, guitarist Al Jourgensen, frontman Frankie Nardiello, and drummer Harry Rushakoff - along with bassist Martin Sorenson - were the Chicago post-punk outfit Special Affect. Their one LP, The Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture "Too Much Soft Living" was self-released in 1981. [As far as anyone knows, no such movie was ever made.] Thanks to the wonder of YouTube [and Nardiello uploading some old tapes,] we can now get a little taste for what those early days were like.

Special Affect - Out of Order live [1980]

Wax Trax! opened their store on North Lincoln two years before this show was taped, and Wax Trax! Records was established in 1981. I distinctly remember my first blustery 300 mile pilgrimage there in February of 1991. Wax Trax! was the Mecca of the music scene that changed my life, and is still my benchmark for independent electronic music today.

Also see Too Much Soft Living live and The Chicago Punk Database.

Marco Polio and the New Vaccines

Marco Polio and the New Vaccines
Marco Polio and the New Vaccines: the third wave Detroit-based experimental/art-school-electro band to watch. I'm loving Dance With Nobility.

While you're at it, enjoy The Hint - the latest from my favorite second-waver [and Dethlab special teams member] Stevie.

Standard NY

Curbed has a great new photo and some updates on the hotel stradling the Highline.

+ Official site w/ webcam.

Star Trek Movie Rumors

Alternate realities?

Yep. Now that we've seen Cloverfield and neither Clark or Kucinich are in the race, we have a new obsession.

Super Bowl ads

A few of out faves from last night:

Audi old luxury: on notice

Coca Cola it's mine

E*Trade pukey

Tide talking stain

Ford centrifuge

Planters perfume

Career Builder wish

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"This is not a bomb. It's just for the lulz."

Happy anniversary, Boston.

One of several LED sculptures installed around Boston, commemorating the events of 1/31/07.

High fives all around for the pranksters behind this.