Monday, March 31, 2008

Design is Dead?

Philippe Starck says he is fed up with his job and plans to retire in two years, in an interview published in a German weekly on Thursday.

"I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact," Starck told Die Zeit weekly newspaper.

"Everything I designed was unnecessary.

"I will definitely give up in two years' time. I want to do something else, but I don't know what yet. I want to find a new way of expressing myself is a dreadful form of expression."

Starck, who is known for his interior design of hotels and Eurostar trains and mass consumption objects ranging from chairs to tooth brushes and lemon juice squeezers, went on to say that he believed that design on the whole was dead.

"In future there will be no more designers. The designers of the future will be the personal coach, the gym trainer, the diet consultant," he said.

Starck said the only objects that he still felt attached to were "a pillow perhaps and a good mattress." But the thing one needs most, he added, was the "ability to love".

I have to agree that as I get older, I appreciate a small handful of nice things I put to good use on a regular basis and find most of my stuff amounts to little more than life clutter. I also really enjoy the simplicity of hotel living and the attitude that comes with it. Still, I have to think Mr. Starck is having a bit of mid-life crisis here, and thinking rather narrowly about what design is. If he were still alive, I'd love to hear the retort from Charles Eames. Perhaps the era of design objects Mr. Starck is most known for is dead - and that might be a good thing.

Jean Nouvel wins the 2008 Pritzker Prize

Jean Nouvel
NY Times: French Architect Wins Pritzker Prize

Jean Nouvel, the bold French architect known for such wildly diverse projects as the muscular Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the exotically louvered Arab World Institute in Paris, has received architecture’s top honor, the Pritzker Prize.

“For over 30 years Jean Nouvel has pushed architecture’s discourse and praxis to new limits,” the Pritzker jury said in its citation. “His inquisitive and agile mind propels him to take risks in each of his projects, which, regardless of varying degrees of success, have greatly expanded the vocabulary of contemporary architecture.”

In extending that vocabulary Mr. Nouvel has defied easy categorization. His buildings have no immediately identifiable signature, like the curves of Frank Gehry or the light-filled atriums of Renzo Piano. But each is strikingly distinctive, be it the Agbar Tower in Barcelona (2005), a candy-colored, bullet-shaped office tower, or his KKL cultural and congress center in Lucerne, Switzerland (2000), with a slim copper roof cantilevered delicately over Lake Lucerne.

(Did I call that or what? Actaully, I though he had already won the Pritzker. I just felt this was going to be a big year for him.)

See the slide show.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


We have a huge fascination for antiquated terms and figures of speech here at Burnlab HQ, much like we adore antiquated cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

(I first became obsessed with Old Fashioneds because of Jim Backus' charmingly alcoholic character in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but I digress.)

Whenever I come across a colorful but out of fashion term, I try to work it into everyday speech as much as possible. There's a notion that "the good old days" sounded more sophisticated and wittier than the present. (And really, who can argue?) As contemporary gutter language filters up through daytime talk shows, MTV, and eventually finds its way into the bloody dictionary, It's fun to counter it with some classic American slang from the past. (I find wearing a monocle, smoking a pipe and speaking in a heavy mid-Atlantic dialect makes me feel better about it, but also usually results in getting my ass kicked.)

Today's antiquated word of the day is: cockamamie

It's a word everyone knows, but how often do you hear it used?
Next time you hear someone says "That's wack!" say to them, "no son, that's cockamamie!"

It can be used to describe simple things, but is best used to describe schemes and plans. Perhaps it's fallen out of favor because people don't seem to craft elaborate schemes so much anymore - which may perhaps be the bigger travesty.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sound Taste of Silver

I haven't had tonsillitis is nearly twenty years, but got a mega-wicked case of it this week. (You don't realize how many times you swallow during the course of the day until if feels like someone is jabbing a screwdriver in the back of your throat every time you do.) The one treatment that actually works is ionic silver, which - I learned yesterday - is used as a hospital antiseptic to kill both viruses and bacteria, as well as to soothe burns. Although mostly non-toxic, prolonged ingestion of silver can cause argyria, which can leave you looking like this. I'm just going to trust that my 2 oz. bottle throat spray won't turn me into a Smurf.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Scion Hako Coupe Reveal

Sometimes I seriously wonder if I'm just living vicariously through my fiance's super-awesomeness. For those who don't know what I do during the day, I did design this recently. That's something, right?

edit: Bethany is still cooler. She was just blogged by Bruce Sterling on WIRED.

Border Community and beyond

James Holden's Border Community Recordings was created in 2003 for some of the best reasons any group of people can get together and start a project: to present new ideas, produce high quality work the creators are passionate about, and blur boundaries.

Five years on, Border Community seems to have hit its stride, finding itself at the forefront of what is almost sure to be the sound of '08. I kind of hate to make statements like that, but can't help it. I could call it "electro-shoegaze" or something easy to digest like that, but would rather just leave it as "other". What it is, is music of equal parts intellect, emotion and danceability. We've seen this recipie before: most notably from electro-shoegaze [there, I said it] luminaries M83 and our dear friends at Ghostly International - who've been doing this longer than just about anyone.

Why now? It's a simple matter of a glut of this kind of music coming from all directions, all of a sudden - and it's all really sophisticated and accessible at the same time.

M83's brand new single Couloures is possibly their best work to date, and Ghostly's recent and upcoming releases by acts such as The Reflecting Skin and Tycho represent exciting new territories in "Avant Pop".

Over the past several months Border Community has released some of my favorite new records. Actually, endless thanks go to my beautiful partner in crime for turning me on to Ricardo Tobar's El Sunset EP, Nathan Fake, and Fairmont's [a.k.a. Jake Fairley] new LP Coloured In Memory - which is totally different, but the most amazing work Jake has done since Touch Not the Cat.

Border Community has been pegged by some journalists as "new trance", which Holden not only rejects, but I think is the product of very myopic views held by those who can't see beyond the electronic dance community and the oxymoronic world of "club culture". It's the same reasons many people in that community don't understand acts like Justice and Vitalic... or even LCD Soundsystem for that matter. Such ignorance is not worth worrying about, and certainly won't keep us from enjoying great music - whatever you want to call it.

Nathan Fake - You Are Here [2007]

Nathan Fake - The Sky Was Pink (Icelandic mix) [fan video, 2007]

M83 - Teen Angst [2005]

Tycho - The Daydream [fan video, 2008]

Nice Tower! Who’s Your Architect?

Nicolai Ouroussoff on New York's current architecture boom.

Interestingly enough, NYC's current love affair with architecture must in some part be attributed to seeds planted by Herbert Muschamp - Ouroussoff's outspoken predecessor at The Times. What would Herbert think of what is being built today? Or as the article suggests, perhaps the bigger questions are who is building and why, and what does it say about New York?

HL23 by Neil Denari

THE HL23 tower, planned for a site on 23rd Street in Chelsea, is the kind of commission Neil Denari has being waiting for his entire working life. Mr. Denari, a Los Angeles architect who once ran the Southern California Institute of Architecture, has labored on the profession’s periphery for decades. But because of a recent demand for name-brand residential architecture in New York, he is finally getting a chance to test his ideas in the real world.

HL23 by Neil Denari

And Mr. Denari is not alone here. His building is part of an eruption of luxury residential towers already constructed or being designed by the profession’s most celebrated luminaries. In the last five years more than a dozen have been completed; maybe a dozen more are scheduled to break ground this year. They range from soaring, elaborately decorated towers by international celebrities like Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry to smaller but equally ambitious architectural statements by lesser-known talents like Mr. Denari.

With the financial markets in an ominous roil, the realization of this boomlet is far from guaranteed. But even if only a few more are completed, the final effect of these buildings could be the greatest transformation in the city’s physical identity since the 1960s. Bold and formally elaborate — some would say showy — they reflect a mix of attitudes and styles that the city has never seen.
Read on.


io9 looks at neuro tourism in the films of Charlie Kaufman, and his upcoming directorial debut Synecdoche, New York.

The movie we're most eager to see this spring may well be 'Synecdoche, New York,' the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, who wrote 'Being John Malkovich' and 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.' Will it be science fiction? We don't know yet. But we do know it'll be mind-bending, and judging from the synopses we've read, it'll explore a theme dear to Kaufman's heart: physical locations as reflections for places in the mind.

In a nutshell, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a theater director who's directed Death of a Salesman in the small town of Schenectady, NY. He gets a MacArthur grant to do a Broadway production, and wants to create a work of "brutal realism and honesty." So he gathers a cast in a warehouse in New York's theater district and directs them in a "celebration of the mundane," living out their lives in a scale model of New York itself. (Hence "Synecdoche.")
Read on.

Lebbeus Woods on Integrity

Some 'light' Monday morning reading: the fourth in Woods' series on the relationship between ethics and aesthetics.

Be sure to read the comments too. For what this seems to lack in hope, it makes up for in poignancy - and is indirectly an inspiration to pick up the challenge where modernism and post-modernism failed:
I agree that the passing of interest in integrity and ethical distinctions marks the end of utopian thought and aspirations, meaning a belief in progress and improving the human condition. These were the ideals of modernism, in response to the deplorable living conditions for many created by industrialization in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Sadly, these ideals were never fully applied by modernists themselves, who got sidetracked in the 20s and 30s by unsympathetic political events, the rise of Fascism and Communism, and World War II, among other things. Modernism failed, not only in architecture (becoming, in the end, elitist), but as an intellectual, political, and ethical movement. Post-modernist thinkers and architects, in reaction, had no belief in progress or ‘making a better world’ but preferred to keep a distance—usually ironic— from such thinking. Perhaps they felt betrayed by the failures of the generation before them, and rejected not only their methods and forms, but also their goals.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dethlab at The Works tonight!

Totally last minute show alert:

Professor Rob Theakston was supposed to DJ tonight, but sadly he busted a wheel driving up from Lexington this afternoon and asked us to fill in. We're all going to miss Rob's presence terribly, but you should ignore the spring blizzard and come out anyway. We have tons of new music for you.

Dethlab will be playing from 11:30PM-1:00AM, between JARED WILSON of Feed the Machine and TOM LINDER of Detroit Techno Militia.

NEFARIOUS.NET presents BANDWIDTH: DetroitLuv Nights v6.5
Friday, March 21, 2008
The Works Detroit
1846 Michigan Avenue, Detroit 48216
10PM | only $5 | 18+

Sine Language

A Live Electronic Music and Digital Film Performance by Chris McNamara, Walter Wasacz and Jennifer A. Paull

Windsor-native Chris McNamara is a member of the Canadian-U.S. laptop collective, Thinkbox and currently teaches in the University of Michigan's Screen Arts and Cultures Department. His installation, Magic City, was exhibited in the Shrinking Cities exhibition both in Berlin (2004), and at Cranbrook Art Museum in 2007. Walter Wasacz is a writer/editor/photographer and co-founder of Paris '68, a sonic-art collective based in Detroit and Pittsburgh. His work was also featured at the Art Museum during the Shrinking Cities exhibition in 2007. McNamara and Wasacz are joined in this performance by sound and visual artist Jennifer A. Paull of Hamtramck, who has been performing with Paris '68 since 2006.

This is the last special event of the superb Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future exhibit. This is an all ages show but there will be a full cash bar.

Friday, March 28, 2008
7 p.m., deSalle Auditorium
Cranbrook Art Museum
map and directions

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Flashback video

Brand new video for Motor's latest moster single.

Motor - Flashback [2008]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


ULTERIOR - The Death of Everything [2007]

ULTERIOR - Weapons [Live, 2006]

I'm loving these guys. It's like Suicide was sent forward in time to cleanse London of those terrible brightly patterned hoodies. They also have the coolest MySpace nickname ever.

Chris Cunningham Set To Produce New Horrors Album


Chris Cunningham Set To Produce New Horrors Album
After years of freaking people out with his video work, director Chris Cunningham is trying his hand at producing — not cinematically, but musically. The English filmmaker, best known for his music video work with Aphex Twin, Björk and Portishead, will be producing the second album by UK band the Horrors.

Cunningham has previously worked with the gothier-than-thou act when directing the video for their “Sheena Is a Parasite.” And according to the band’s front-man Faris Rotter, they aren’t too worried about his lack of experience in the musical production realm.

“The ideas that he has are really cinematic and there aren't really that many contemporary producers who have that kind of vision of their own and put that kind of stamp on something and I think he could be one of those."

Brand New Portishead Video (and it's really good!)

Portishead - Machine Gun [2008]

Nothing trip-hop about this. It's sort of like if The Knife and Nine Inch Nails got together to make a minimal wave record.

French Architect Jean Nouvel Designs Perfume Bottle

My personal pick for starchitect of the year, Jean Nouvel has designed a bottle for L'Homme by Yves Saint Laurent.

From Wallpaper*: 'I wanted to give it a clear-cut shape, so it would easily fit a man's hand while still stimulating different aspects of his imagination,' says Nouvel of the erect tube that sits into a bolt-shaped stand, that doubles as the lid.

Pictures and comments at Archinect.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why Ghosts works where In Rainbows didn't

Let's get this right out of the way up front: Nine Inch Nails has had an immeasurable impact on me since 1990. The Downward Spiral played as much of a role in my formal design education as any of my courses did. There's not enough room here to explain why, but Trent Reznor's approach to his art ran in tandem with the very leading edge of design and communication theory at the time. If you've been following Burnlab over the years, you might think that I hate Radiohead. I don't. I like their music for what it is: traditional indie-pop done extremely well. Where I get agro about Radiohead is when people try to portray them as more than they are. There is absolutely nothing innovative about Radiohead. They are extremely good songsmiths and masters of pop music, but everything really interesting about them sounds borrowed from others. Nine Inch Nails has no interest whatsoever in being good at what has been done before. This is why I identify with them. The comparisons between In Rainbows and Ghosts has nothing to do with aesthetic preferences, but everything to do with artistic approaches.

Trent Reznor and Thom Yorke are both very smart men, but one is more in touch than the other. I'll be the first to admit that Nine Inch Nails hasn't done much truly exceptional musically in the past ten years or so. The important thing is that Nine Inch Nails has always been acutely aware of culture and society as a whole, while Radiohead has seemed like a rock dinosaur trying to be hip - unaware of anything but fleeting glimpses beyond its music industry blinders.

I read David Byrne's article in Wired, eagerly anticipating some profound revelation about the future of the music industry. I adore David Byrne. I read the article three times... thinking I missed something. Sadly, I didn't. He had nothing to say that wasn't common sense three years ago. Are people really that slow? MySpace can do so much more for you than a label can. This is news?

Before going his own way, Reznor watched carefully how others approached the world beyond major labels. Reznor clearly learned lessons from Radiohead's pay-as-you-see-fit model, its successes and its failures. I've been adamant that the the $1 per song standard is the most fair and reasonable approach in the digital music realm, and am disappointed that NIN didn't maintain this with the digital release of Ghosts. I am glad however that they did set a minimum price. As much as a few acts can make on touring and merchandise, the real product is always the recorded work. This should never be compromised. The expanded experience may be more profitable to some, but the recorded song is the art, and the art must be respected above all else.

Giving away music is brilliant - if it's only a tease to encourage people to buy the whole work. NIN gave away nine songs, or 25% of Ghosts. Traditionally, this would be two songs, which is pretty much industry standard by now.

I was glad to hear Radiohead say that their distribution model was not meant to be universal. It works great for Radiohead, but doesn't work for independents. NIN's model on the other hand, can work for independents and megastars alike. A standard minimum price for digital downloads and a range of bonus items for die-hard fans is a completely scalable concept. It's stupidly simple, fair and profitable.

The other thing I love about Ghosts is the Creative Commons license. It was - in my opinion - the most unexpected and most brilliant part of the package. Creative Commons has been around for a long-ass time in internet years, but has never been applied to music quite at this level. [I'm sure Yorke is looking up what it is right now.]

I commend Radiohead for being bold enough to try what they did and bring the issue to the spotlight. It took someone who really understands current culture to then do it in a way that works.

The single biggest difference between the two approaches though is this: Thom Yorke wants to sell his music. Trent Reznor wants to change the world.

Documenting Brooklyn: Officer's Row

"The Officer's Row Project is designed to document and preserve the history of the officers’ quarters of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, otherwise known as Admiral’s Row, through the process of oral history and urban memory.

We have spent the past three and a half years documenting the history of the houses of Officer's (Admiral's) Row, located within the walls of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This has included photodocumentation of the exteriors, interiors and grounds, as well as interviews with families who lived within the houses."

The Officer's Row Project is the work of documentarian Alexis Robie and social historian Corie Trancho-Robie.

[Thanks Mark Straiton!]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sociology 2.0

(I hate the whole 2.0 thing as much as anyone. If you can think of a better name, I'd gladly use it.)

Last week turned into a sort of "ethics week" on Burnlab, as we looked at the roles shame, taste and morality play in design, politics, business and society. Almost on cue, the governor of New York punctuated the complexity of the discussion, and the violence in Tibet elevated it to tragic and urgent proportions.

There are still plenty of current ethical debates worth mention - such as Herzog and de Meuron's argument for working in China - but, this week I'd like to spend some time on the rapidly changing trends in how people interact with information and each other, and how social networking models are being applied to things of substance in the real world.

There was a good article in Wired a couple months back on the viral marketing/expanded universe for Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero project, created with immersive media consultants 42 Entertainment. Any discussion of viral marketing these days can't exclude J.J. Abrams: creator of Lost and the blockbuster monster movie Cloverfield, who's viral campaigns are just as interesting as the filmed productions, and provide a tremendous amount of content depth to those willing to be more than mere consumers.

Abrams has proven himself the master of participatory storytelling, but I've had a hell of a time finding much critical analysis of his approach on both news outlets and blogs. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places? If you run across any articles, please send them this way, as well as anything else on this week's subject. We're open for discussion.

The Social Science of Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor gets it. Not just creating a music distribution model that works fairly for fans and for artists, which is profitable and respectful of intellectual property while at the same time being extremely open, and is scalable from megastars to independent bedroom producers... he gets the big picture of web 2.0 style social interaction and communication, applied well beyond the limits of computer screens.

Last week NIN and Google launched the Ghosts Film Festival, in which Reznor invites fans to make short films based on songs from the new Ghosts I-IV album. The project isn't just about user generated content. That's been done a million times. He's sytematically removing barriers between not just artists and fans, but between people and ideas. If you step back and look at the projects he's done over the past year or so [the J.J. Abrams style viral campaign/expanded universe for Year Zero in particular,] what he's doing has more to do with sociology than anything else. People interact and exchange ideas much differently now than they did a few years ago. Reznor and his team not only understand this and can tap into it, but are facilitating and accelerating the change.

Ideas and products are no longer part of a linear provider/consumer relationship. What we're quickly heading toward is a model of opt-in participatory exchange. You don't just chose to consume something or not. You chose be part of something, and with that, you chose to be part of a group, and the dynamic each individual brings to the group changes it and changes the original idea. By encouraging people to remix and make films for his music, not only are the original ideas transformed, but there is a social chemistry created that spawns new ideas that in turn generates more nodes of information exchange.

This structure has existed since the first social networking sites, but there is generally a lack of substantial content. [I don't understand the point to 90% of Facebook's applications, beside wasting time and cluttering up the screen.] The Ghosts Film Festival is the next step in facilitating real social networks based around exchanging creative ideas, and I think just the tip of the iceberg.

View the intro for the Ghosts Film Festival here and the submissions here.

addendum: It should be noted that Reznor maintains a quiet but ultimate executive control. This is critical. The initial creator should singularly maintain quality control, but that shouldn't discourage participants or hinder their creativity. Sometimes the best ideas come from the most unexpected places. At the same time, true democracy usually results in disappointing compromise, or worse: pandering to the lowest common denominator. There is a careful balance to be had in such projects, which is part of what makes them such fascinating experiments.

Robot High School

My Robot Friend - Robot High School [2008]

Robot High School is the new album from My Robot Friend, currently being completed and due out early-mid 2008. Download the single here.

[Thanks SV4!]

Also see The Cut, a collaboration between My Robot Friend and Zombie Nation, and a documentary from 2002.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I've become a big fan of Ann Althouse's blog. She's so on point about race, gender, politics, comedy and New York City, it's stunning - and an incredibly entertaining read.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

DETHLAB vs. GLU.HUFR: Free Party at the Magic Stick Friday

Bethany and I and our good friend Sean Whaley are throwing a free dance party at the Magic Stick tomorrow (or tonight - depending on when you reas this.)

It's pretty straight forward:
You come to The Stick around 10PM, have some drinks, dance to some dark-ass electro, new-wave, dance-punk, monkey-acid, and boot-gazer, go home with someone beautiful, and thank us in the morning.
How simple is that?

Iron Fist in Velvet Glove


Friday March 14th 2008
10PM -2AM | 18+ | FREE!

The Magic Stick
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit Michigan

Rare Plus8 and Probe Records Back in Stock

(This is either breaking news or my fault for not checking the site since January.)

Minus has apparently uncovered a stash of classic Plus8 and Probe records and CDs.

These are long out of print original pressings of the music that first got myself and countless other combat boot wearing squids into techno in the first place. Projects like Cybersonik and Circuit Breaker came along just at the right time - when industrial bands were borrowing more and more from mainstream hard rock and leaving us all feeling a bit confused and betrayed. Plus8, and especially Probe, were just the right cocktail of cold, hard, synthetic dystopia.

I've complained plenty here about feeling betrayed by some of the directions techno has taken in recent years. It's really interesting to listen to tracks like Circuit Breaker's Jackhammer and Cusp's Mars The Red Planet again. Acts like MOTOR and Terence Fixmer have given techno it's steel balls back, but Plus8 and Probe [and Underground Resistance] grew them in the first place.

Click through the music section on the Minus site. The prices aren't bad, given the rarity and significance these records. If nothing else, take a walk through the early '90s by listening to the samples.

Jean Nouvel's MoMA tower "out of scale"... in midtown??

Jean Nouvel's MoMA tower

Jean Nouvel's MoMA tower

A planned 75-story residential skyscraper connected to the Museum of Modern Art seems headed for a fight with area residents, who claim the Jean Nouvel-designed tower would be dramatically out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood.

FTW? Please don't screw this up. The good news is the Community Board 5 subcommittee which unanimously voted against the air rights transfers has no real say in the matter. The MoMA tower is a chance to make up for some of the massive lameness being built at Ground Zero.

Archinect | Curbed | more rendering pr0n

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer / My Dream Cabinet

It would be a huge injustice to New York if Eliot Spitzer stepped down. As Manhattan DA and New York State Attorney General he took on organized crime and Wall Street corruption and won. Nobody has or could clean up New York like Spitzer. People hate him for it, but who? The mob and sleazy brokers. And Republicans. That's about it. He's like the 21st century Eliot Ness. It's really shitty what he did to his wife and his family. I don't mean to make light of that at all. Soliciting "escorts" is certainly a crime and a lousy way to conduct one's self, but I would be so bummed out if such a great politician were forced out of office over this. It's suspicious that the Feds were investigating his money transactions, and stumbled across the escort ring in the process. [Which is exactly what happened.] Why was the federal government so in his business to start with? His personal failings are serious, but the good he's done - and can yet do in public office - must be considerd.

With that, here's my dream President Obama cabinet:

[I have no idea who'd be the best vice president, but any of the below would be a great choice.]
Secretary of State: Richard Holbrooke
Secretary of Defense: Wesley Clark
Attorney General: Eliot Spitzer
Secretary of the Treasury: Ron Paul
Secretary of the Interior: Dennis Kucinich


I knew this was inevitable, and it probably won't have any sway on your opionion (nor should it!) but I'm officially getting on the Obama bus as of today.

He doesn't represent nearly as much of a paradigm shift as I'd like, but his lack of beltway experience [a.k.a. cynicism and special interest connections] is refreshing. Most importantly, I trust that he'll do what he believes, rather than what he thinks will get him ahead. The most important thing in this whole election - in my opinion - is that we can prove we're capable of becoming good world citizens, and become the shining example of liberty and compassion people around the world used to look up to.

Neither Hillary or McCain can do that. I have a soft spot the maverick McCain of 2000, but he's too compromised now.

If Hilllary gets nominated through some contorted super-delegate scenario, I'm voting for Ron Paul or writing in Dennis Kucinch. I don't care if that means the White House goes to the Republicans. I'll just move to Europe. I refuse to vote for business as usual.

Tuesday Night Videos

(My late high school and college years weren't all about Industrial and Robert Smith... just mostly.)

Kitchens of Distinction - Drive That Fast [1991]
Seeing KOD at Industry in Pontiac is still one of my most memorable concert experiences. I couldn't believe that wall of sound was coming from just one guitar. A lesson in the magic of distortion pedals.

Lightning Seeds - Pure [1989]
Still brilliant after all these years.

Kate Bush - Hounds of Love [1985]
This cassette was the official soundtrack to my first drive to NYC in 1990.

Lightning Seeds - All I Want [1989]
Still brilliant. (The back-up vocals toward the end are not in the album version, thankfully.)

Jesus Jones - The Devil You Know [1993]
Make fun all you want. Jesus Jones was the awesome.

XTC - Dear God [1986]
If I were president, the first thing I'd do is make this the national anthem. And then bomb the south. (I'm kidding... maybe.)

Shmoo always getting into trouble...

Pilot Speed - Alright [2007]

(Yeah, it's a ghost not a Shmoo. I liked the title though.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Two Sides of Different Coins

Hopefully you caught the seemingly contradictory nature of my Mazda and Dubai posts. Why is Mazda's dismissal of good taste in pursuit of a new form of beauty a good thing, while the spectacular growth of Dubai seems cynical at best? Both pursue the path to their respective ends without the burden of shame, and both are motivated by economic survival. The difference lies in the means to their ends.

It is certainly possible for one to operate without shame while maintaining the highest ethics and morals. One of the greatest misconceptions is that shame and morality and inseparable, if not synonymous. If you believe Christian teachings, humanity was given a clean slate when Jesus died, yet shame and guilt are still overwhelming influences in western culture - especially within the catholic church. That does not make it right.

Mazda's shame-free search for beauty is innocent by nature, and most importantly, doesn't cause harm to anyone else. In that, it is ethical and similar to Objectivism. Even at Ayn Rand's preachiest, she is always clear that with individual freedom is the need for respect and ethical behavior for a society to function. One is never obligated to serve the needs of another, but one's own desires should never compromise another's liberty.

Dubai is more like an amoral corporation which feels no responsibility beyond profit and ego. It rightfully operates without the burden of shame, but also appears to lack any real ethics or morality. Sure, the UAE has lots of strict rules - but I don't see real ethics coming into play. It's the ultimate in top-down capitalism. As was pointed out earlier in the comments, migrant workers are treated "below human standards" according to Human Rights Watch.

You can't blame the developers in Dubai. They learned everything they know from American corporations and politics since the Reagan era. The notion of good corporate citizenship was all but erased in the 1980s. Most large American corporations, and even many privately held companies, feel no responsibility beyond their own best interests. That is completely lazy, unacceptable, and potentially evil. If speaking about a person, psychologists define this as "psychopathic behavior." The same has been said of the Bush administration, which is the first time the Reagan era corporate model has been fully applied to the executive branch of the US government. The administration runs exactly like a modern corporation. These are the kind of people who do terrible things all week long, then feel okay about it because they go to church on Sunday. This is a massive distortion of morality. In this type of mindset, when one makes a mistake they immediately think internally: "I'm going to be in trouble - how do I get out of it?" instead of externally: "I've hurt someone - how can I help them?"

The rule of law is ever shifting and practically farcical, and can never substitute real ethics. We need not feel shame, but we must be ethical in everything we do. This applies universally to individuals, businesses and nations.

[somewhat related: Guilty Pleasures]


I had a post written about the Creepabilly band Gravemist, but all of their official sites have gone dead, including their YouTube channel and MySpace page. Odd, as they were mentioned on the science fiction blog io9 just last week. Hopefully they're just retooling, and haven't gone back to the cemetery. You can still hear some of their wonderful take on American Gothic at

Friday, March 07, 2008

Delirious Dubious Dubai

Lebbeus Woods on Koolhaas in Dubai

One thing for sure, Rem Koolhaas doesn’t hedge his bets. He also knows how to stick his neck out and not lose his head. He has perfected the old debating trick of disarming his critics in advance. Philip Johnson was also a master at this. Before anyone could criticize the pandering commercialism of his office tower designs, he would say, “I’m a whore.” Rem Koolhaas gives this tactic a European sophistication, a rhetorically polished upgrade. He says that he is trying to “find optimism in the inevitable.” The “inevitable” sounds like fate, something beyond human control, and has an ominous ring to it. Death, of course, is the ultimate inevitable, and who could criticize someone who is defiantly optimistic in the face of that? It’s a heroic position, no doubt, if, that is, the inevitable is as certain as it is made to seem.

Dubai is certainly the inevitable place for the realization of Koolhaas’ ideas. It is by now the capital of an economic and political New World Order. A city-state without income taxes, labor laws, or elections, it is ruled by a corporate oligarchy of hereditary rulers, accountable only to themselves and their investors. Quite a model for the global future. Built up rapidly over the past few years on the wealth gotten from the world’s greed for oil—and more recently as an unregulated sanctuary for cash—it has no depth of history or indigenous culture, no complexity, no conflicts, no questions about itself, no doubts, in short, nothing to stand in the way of its being shaped into the ultimate neo-liberal Utopia.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Eikongraphia on Mazda’s Crossed Folds

Mazda Taiki interior
Mazda Taiki Concept interior

Dutch architecture critic Michiel van Raaij examines Mazda's bold new design language.

In the past year the Japanese carmaker Mazda has been working consistently on a new form language, and this week unveiled their most extreme ‘sculpture’ yet: the Mazda Furai. A car designed to take the 24h Le Mans challenge.

The design features ‘crossed folds’ everywhere. Normal steel plates feature only single folds, but here multiple folds are applied that cross each other diagonally. That is completely new. Unprecedented.

He goes on to talk about "maximalism" in design, and - without saying so outright - asks that we re-examine our definitions of "beauty". (At least that's what I took from it.)

Maximalism is our future. Maximalism is the end of good taste. Maximalism moves the border of good taste a little further and thereby makes room for emergent futures.

“Architects are obsessed with good taste”, Crimson writes in their book ‘Too blessed to be depressed’. I think that is true. But I also think that taste moves in a certain direction, in the direction of form, of maximum form. Zaha Hadid is just the beginning.

(Or, in the direction of "maximum joy", as we learn to shed the shame of Eden and rediscover the uninhibited virtues of wonder and possibility. Mazda does an excellent job demonstrating a new kind of beauty, unburdened by the type of shame which is at the root of outmoded definitions of taste.)

the Steam-Powered Messiah

the Steam-Powered Messiah

Unfortunately there is next to no information about this illustration or its creator: known only as Mikolka Parovoz, Belarus. It's still by far the coolest thing I've seen all week, and accompanied this curious story.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Williamsburg Domino Plant Redo Denied

Rafael Viñoly's Beyer Blinder Belle's design [Viñoly is doing the proposed towers around it] for the Williamsburg Brooklyn Domino plant has been sent back to the drawing board by the Landmarks Commission.

Plus it looks like a super-sized rip off of the Tate Modern... but there are certainly worse bulding to copy.

Lebbeus Woods blog


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Exclusive new Goudron and Ministry

You had all but given up on MySpace. It's not as painfully boring as Facebook, but nothing relevant ever really happens on MySpace anymore, right? We have been proven wrong not once but twice today, with truly bizarre new tracks from legends of Detroit Electro and Chicago Industrial:

Ron Zakrin a.k.a. Goudron has just uploaded (like just a few minutes ago) a new track titled Dungeons and Dragons, as a tribute to D&D creator Gary Gygax who recently passed away.

Ministry has posted a new theme song for the Chicago Blackhawks. (If you didn't know, the Chicago Blackhwaks are an NHL hockey team. Don't feel bad - I had to look that up too.)


For some reason I think it's appropriate to post this - from our very disturbed friend John Starlight:

(It's so ironic this became a football anthem.)

Monday, March 03, 2008


MOTOR rocket car colorized

MOTOR's third single off their Unhuman LP, Flashback was released on Mute today in Europe and the UK. The list of remixers reads like a Dethlab dream team, including T. Raumschmiere, Terence Fixmer and Franz & Shape. Serious business. U.S. release is scheduled for March 25th.

Ghosts in the machine

We saw this coming, but certainly not so soon and with so many surprises: Nine Inch Nails' new 36 track instrumental album Ghosts I-IV was released last night under Creative Commons license in four formats.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Kap10kurt Music Video

Directed by The Holograms, produced by Parisian motion graphics studio Mathematic