Sunday, 31 January 2010

poster series (#2)

The final two posters in the Millennium People Internet series (find the other 5 down the page, on flickr, or here)

NSW vs. manhattan

Tottenham Court Road Tube, on Flickr, via the Londonist.

A quick response to Dan Hill at City of Sound, who tweeted recently:

"If the ENTIRE world's population had the density of Manhattan everyone would fit into New South Wales. Can someone prove this for me, cheers"

The density of Manhattan is 27,490.9/km2 (wiki) and the area of New South Wales (a state of Australia) is 809,444 km2. Therefore, if New South Wales had the density of Manhattan (which is, I believe, the question) then you could fit 22,252,344,060 people.

The current world population is 6,692,030,277 (google) so you could fit about 3.3 worlds into NSW.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

fistful of links

via the Londonist Flickr pool

You'll get on that net; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life: some news.

The Londonist has been good this week (providing the shot above, as well as notifying me of the enormous collection of old films available at the London Transport Musem). Also, the tube map of the galaxy. Some futuristic stuff: man's future in Hydrospace; Female Androids.

In the news this week: a movie recently made by chimps surprisingly not related to anything on the interactive chart of 2009 US movie hits; related, 50 incredible Polish film posters. Unrelated, South Koreans told to make babies. Tech: how tough are NES games? How many computers made this year? Bubble-wrap turns 50– and goes virtual (via this isn't happiness).

Russian iceskaters impersonate Aboriginals (which they saw on Youtube), win gold (Russian dance here). Also ice cold, a coyote frozen in its tracks. The meaning of a short squeeze (not sexual). Related, (vaguely sexual) pixelated nudes (as seen at left). Related, perhaps, Curious Expeditions. Also curious, a cross-section of two women (one who is fat).

Now, there seems to be some debate going on over why it was so cold this winter, leading some to comment on the gulf-stream myth. Topical: the airport scanners that look at you nude, and which don't work anyway. Also airport security, "If the US can create Avatar, they can fake 9/11" says Malaysia's former premier. Vaguely related, first-world problems.

Finally, via Cessums.

Monday, 25 January 2010

millennial escapades

If virtual space is treated as seriously as real space, then at a certain point the design of wireless fields comes into play. But how to design with an invisible medium? My aim was to influence the virtual, so I built a room within a room, a network within a network....

I went to the Apple store with a wireless broadband dongle and changed the network of the computers from Apple to myself, then set the network homepage to be my blog. The Apple red-shirts tried to work out what was going on... it took them some time, during which all Apple store customers were obliged, upon opening the safari browser, to read my blog. I was discovered and ejected.

Observant readers will notice this took place at the end of last year, during the hiatus, before MP got its makeover.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

poster series

A new Millennium People poster series aiming to bring to light some interesting facts about the Internet, question our relationship to it and the portals we use to view it. Viewable on Flickr.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

iceland #4: sudeyreri

This is the final post in my Icelandic Saga... and the post is likely to be a saga in itself...

There is a magnificent approach to the village of Sudeyreri, which is found on the farthest tip of Iceland's West Fjords. During the winter the fastest way (weather permitting) is to fly from Rekyavik, in some sort of modernised Short's 360. Anyone who flew Aer Lingus across the Irish Channel in the 90's would probably recognise the aircraft by the name 'vomit comet'.

The descent into the West Fjords is a treacherous one. At an altitude of only several hundred feet, the plane races up and down the valleys in a very particular pattern, zipping over warning beacons and performing tight turns around lit poles. There is something of the aerobatic race about it. Then suddenly the engines throttle back completely, and you drop the last few feet onto the icy runway at Thinkery.

The little arrivals building was mostly crowded with parents and families waiting for their returning children; and so tight was the space, and so intimate the atmosphere, that it took on the appearance of a living room with a conveyor belt running through it. Outside, a massive Swedish truck from the 70's painted a dashing red and upholstered in several tints of brown took us up into the tunnel. Until relatively recently Sudeyreri was completely cut off for about four months every year. A mammoth construction project... a tunnel several miles long cut through the mountains... was the solution. Perfectly straight, its vaults lit up like a medieval banquet hall.

The village, only 350 people, is completely centred around the fishing industry, and is run by a type of benign protector – Odin – the owner of the fish factory and fish drying house. He employs only couples, in an effort to build up the population of the village, and owing to the fact that in his experience men make better fishermen, while women have better attention spans for skilfully de-boning fish for hours on end. "There are no men on my factory floor" he said "they just lose concentration and mess things up." They do however employ the local kids, who, when there is a large haul of fish, will work for a few hours after school to make up the numbers. These same kids, with nothing much to do, have discovered the joys of putting your back flips on youtube, and composing black metal music (brot were practising in the church when we arrived).

The all-female factory workforce. De-boning takes place on thick perspex light boxes, the rhythmic flick and swish of the knives barely audible over the hum of the central conveyor belt.

There is such a rationally organised system to the village: everyone works for the company, which invests in the school and donates money for local amenities. The whole place is powered by the hydroelectric plant installed on a local farm, and by a small geothermal plant in the town centre. There was something vaguely socialist about the single party equal distribution of profit. One night I had dinner with a local family and asked, bathed in the glow of their enormous television, would it not be a good idea to make the fish factory a union-run venture, organised by the people of the village? But they seemed against this: it was wiser and more efficient to have Odin at the helm (so to speak).

Another time, I went out on one of the small fishing boats. Myself and two friends, an Italian and a Swede, packed into the tiny vessel, and set out for the Arctic circle. The system of fishing, which is conducted in the eternal night of Arctic winter, is done using a long line (comprised of 24 segments) onto which bait is tied. The line takes about 3 hours to spool out, and then 6 hours to reel in. The two fisherman stand at an open hatch, waiting for the incoming line to present whichever fish it has caught. These are stabbed with a hook on the end of a stick and flicked into a large tray. Here they are killed by the other fisherman and slung into the hold (being sorted by species). A good haul would be about 4 tons.

The weather was particularly violent when we went out (though I am proud to say that of the 15 in my group that went out in several boats, I was one of only 3 that were not constantly ill), with the swell over 3 metres. It was so rough that we had to abandon a spot where it was known there were plenty of fish. While turning south to shallower waters the swell caused our line to snap, and we spent a good hour roaming around the outer Arctic circle looking for the flashing buoy – a pinprick of red in an ocean of black. The line had dragged along the bottom, and had picked up a wild assortment of sea-creatures, some of which I don't really even know how to describe. Amongst them was a giant crab, with a pincer the size of a child's hand, at least 50cm across. Due to the weather we pulled in just under two and a half tons.

The last buoy coming in, around 1pm, after 10 hours at sea. The waters had irritatingly calmed by the time the light came, making photographic evidence of the storm impossible. At its height, the boat had switched on a search lamp to see how bad it was – the beam cut straight through the high waves rolling over the deck, lighting up crystal turquoise mountains all around us.

Friday, 22 January 2010

if these walls could talk

The real Architecture Association on the left, and the perceived digital AA on the right... via Flikr.

When the richness of a place, its history and aura are better captured in the imaginary spaces of a virtual city, what good is the building itself? When my home network password is more important than my front door key, when my door has become nothing more than an icon and an option list… Why not knock it all down? Why not remove the physical obstacle that prevents us from seeing the building?

new millennium

The London Eye, modified from this image, and the cover of Ballard's novel 'Millennium People'.

Millennium People has moved – our new url is:

Although we are no longer at all traffic will automatically redirect.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

fistful of links

Iceland, via Kevin Cooley. Related, false landscapes.

What's that in my fist? Why, its a bunch of fresh cut roses for my love: some news.

Spillway's Raging for the Machine. Related, CommunistRobot. Kind of related, how many computers have been sold this year (in real-time)? Not really related, how many track combinations can you get out of an Ikea train set? It seems like a bit of a Brio rip-off if you ask me (old-school Brio you understand, before it got all hi-tech). Related, the meaning of the word brio.

Cliqset, another one of those open-plan internet tools (like we didn't have enough social networks already). Related, social image bookmarking: Super related, 500px. Accidental social networking 'I found your camera...'

I really love the xkcd cartoons (left). Consistently brilliant. Some cool WW2 posters. 50's fonts and stock images. Fuck Yeah! Dioramas! First person tetris. The golden age of comic books.

Not sure if you heard, but Banksy and Robbo have been having some sort of graffito spray-off in Camden: Banksy started it, then Robbo replied, and now Banksy is getting it again.

The dangers of a high-information diet. Goddamnit. Ten classic Simpsons episodes. Pretty much right, I reckon. The Harbin Ice Sculptures. Crayola colours go crazy. When I threw rocks at a glacier this is pretty much what I heard. I mean, I could go on forever, there's just so much crap out there (my own included), but I'm going to stop it right there and end with this bad boy:

Saturday, 16 January 2010

nomadic banks

An MP original...

From all around the town, and from the hills above it, the good folk tumbled out of their homes, and collected in the square. The bank was in town. Anxiously, the people formed a queue, the ritual most strongly associated with this social institution.
Most had come to see the bank clerks employed in valuation: the Fortune Tellers as they were called. Behind their long trestle tables of mahogany, the Tellers would Tell, judging each object as it was presented to them, and passing comment on its interest to the bank.

It was on the basis of these proclamations that the people would decided whether to keep or destroy their belongings. Something that was useless to the bank was useless to society, because the bank was the storehouse for all social objects.
You never really owned anything anymore, but simply exchanged it for credit. An object given to the bank on loan equated to the possibility to loan something else in return. A constant fluctuation in social needs for certain items, furniture, vehicles, jewelry, clothes, ensured a constant exchange. The bank worked like a cooperative society for objects, with 80 million members...
The ease with which objects were deposited and retrieved from the bank very quickly loosened the ties people had with them. The inherent desire to hoard soon melted away.

People found that in time they did not miss any of these things they gave up, and never asked for them back. They remain to this day in the vaults of the bank, able to be viewed, like a still-living museum to our civilisation. The bank was a stepping stone to the objectless society.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

iceland #3: growth

Greenhouses at the Icelandic Agricultural University in Hvanneyri.

This is a continuation of Millennium People's Icelandic Saga...

The first question to come out of every Icelander's mouth on hearing that we were a group of architects from London, and that we were interested in the end of the world, was "why on earth did you come to Iceland?" This apparent self-deprecation in fact masked a rather bizarre understanding of the current global condition: they didn't think Iceland was a very good place to look for the end of the world.

Economic ruin, melting glaciers, massive deforestation and dwindling supplies of fish (the only real product to come out of the country in any appreciable quantities) and yet the people of Iceland were irritatingly blasé about everything. The economic woes will pass, they felt, and if the glaciers melt, well, that's just how it is. Rising sea levels? Iceland sits at the junction of two continental plates, and is growing all the time.

'Do you realise', I said 'that the world is quickly running out of oil?' They smirked into their hardfiskur (fish dried to resemble balsa - mine gave me a paper cut). All they have to do is a dig a hole and practically unlimited amounts of power and hot water come out. The vast majority of this energy goes into refining aluminium, but, so scientists at the Agricultural University told us, if this energy was diverted to agriculture Iceland could easily grow several times as much produce as it needed.

At their campus, rows of glasshouses cascading down a hill in Hvanneyri, the glowing warmth of sodium lamps shines out into bitter cold and eternal crepuscule that is Icelandic winter. Inside the hot houses: room after room of perfectly shaped tomatoes, enormous cucumbers, coffee, bananas, kiwis. Also one room, apparently without purpose, filled with examples of cacti. One scientist speculated on perhaps growing wheat next winter. The idea of vast fields of grain grown under an Eden-project like roof in the freezing north of Iceland does my head in a bit.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

fistful of links

70's space colony concept, via F*Mass, via Design Swan. I particularly like the indoor sun. Nice.

A fat, fat fistful from the future: some news.

2010 is apparently the Year of the 3D Television. Also technology: mobile phones from the future, related the bio-phone; 2009's sexiest geeks. (w-wait, did Jade win or not?); so now your keyboard knows if you're stressed; iPhone apps are crap. Why not use your phone to control a military spy plane instead? Related, iPhone fingerless gloves. Also future: the London Transport Future Generator (although just getting London Transport to work in the present would be nice). Related, Indian transport future; related, retro-future: Atomic Annihilation. A bit related, Airminded.

Hardcore technology: Web 2.0 suicide - the fastest way to permanently delete yourself from all social network sites. The Consumer Electronics Show was on in Japan this year. So cool. Microsoft obvious fail. I mean, look at the guy's jumper. Related, Microsoft Word 2010 parody. Also Japan, the suicide forest at the base of Mt. Fuji; Pimp your maps with Cloudmade.

Meanwhile, a look around the world: its so cold here in the UK pensioners are burning their books. Very Bradbury. Related, the Ballardian forum is up and running again. Winter is cruel: muppet suicides; not related, global warming solved by paint; super-sweet anti-whaling speedboat rammed by the Japanese recently. Now sunk; Australia still accidentally racist. America: NY's proposed cable-car network; Boston's abandoned subways; California: nudists upset over rotting seals buried at their beach. Also California, Arnie says prisons must be at least as good as schools (or something). In America, plane thieves get their own Facebook fan pages. How not to write about Africa. More globally: weird shit's going on with the Milky Way's Dark Matter.

Cool shit: beauty is she (models/fashion/SFW) in particular I think there is a shoot to be made on the subject of WW1 women; Interesting letterheads (Einstein, Hitler, Johnny Cash, etc); DIY Kung-fu film script; CGUnit (which I embarrassingly misread), a sort of CGI/graphic art/photography mega-site; the new book from Jason; 60's sex and style from Pour 15 Minutes d'Amour (for 15 minutes of love). Ne le regardez pas au travaille (NSFW); Related to you: mum and dad.

William Shatner reads Palin's tweets on Conan's show. Related, Palin gets a job with Fox; super cool Australian photography: bang bang dot dot; Chris Schaberg invokes Heidegger against airport delays; Hilobrow (because middle-brow is not the answer). Start here; the amazing photos of Richard Mosse. Really. Check him out; Apollo 12 lunar diary. Related, the Gemini 16 press release (pdf); I've always been a fan of Carlo Mollino's furniture (BLDG blog article), architecture, car design, etc, but had no idea he also took dirty polaroids; a 19th century flow-chart of all of human history. Related, a flowchart of whether you need a panflute; Body Mapping/Ghillie Suits at Mount Olympus.

And... finally,

Monday, 11 January 2010

how big is the internet?

The Internet, via.

There are somewhere in the order of 4.2 billion unique Internet addresses (IPs), housed on 44 million servers. These consume about 5% of all the world’s electricity and produce about 2% of all carbon dioxide emissions. This amounts to roughly 80 megatons a year and is similar in output to the emissions of Argentina or the Netherlands.

It is comprised of about 40 million gigabytes of information, which, in its simplest form, would weigh something in the order of fifty-six millionths of a gram.

Here the contradiction: the Internet might, theoretically, occupy less space than a single grain of sand, and yet its contribution to global warming is equal to a small country. It is both an immense geographical entity and a miniscule atomic whisper. It exists in a time and place, and yet transcends that to become timeless and aspatial.

It is an emergent system, where a highly-engineered, yet simple, set of rules has allowed for the creation of a massive network sprawling across the planet. The structure of the Internet is a hub and spoke system, in which information is hoarded at central servers and trickled down to individual IPs, making it, in technological terms, far from democratic.

Friday, 8 January 2010

olafur eliasson at the mca

Several times while photographing Iceland I was reminded of the haunting images taken by Icelandic-Dane Olafur Eliasson. He replaced Antony Gormley as my favourite living artist a couple of years ago – as I became less and less interested in people and more and more interested in landscapes.

With surprise and delight I stumbled upon a major exhibit of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art while visiting Sydney recently. I'm a massive fan of his works: waterfalls, his Serpentine pavilion, and here are two good articles about the guy.


An image doing the rounds on national newspaper covers. I'm right in the damn middle of it. Should have stayed in Sydney... Nonetheless, the city can be quite beautiful:

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

wireless fears

Digital Rising
A visual representation of the Digital Dialectic...

City people do not give a damn about their physical orientation. Urban dwellers do not know where they are. They could not tell you where north is, or at what angle the sun rises in winter. They will tell you that London is flat, because online maps have no topography. Almost no Londoners have seen the mouth of the Thames, nor even a photographic representation of it. Psychogeography is outmoded, depressingly retrospective.

The real has already become irrelevant.

The fear of city people, who make up more than half the world’s population, is not physical disorientation, but digital disorientation. Our eternal angst about social acceptance has been superposed into the digital realm. Belonging is about Facebook networks, Twitter followers, Blogger comments, and, to a lesser extent Myspace fans, ICQ & MSN Messenger contacts. Of course, the names of these programs will change, but the essence of online acceptance will remain. It may even get more extreme, as perhaps indicated by the rising popularity of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG).
Further, our fear is not only that the online community will accept us – in whatever guise we choose to present ourselves – but also that we will be able to connect to them.
Chat abbreviations like ‘do’ (dropped out) are becoming more and more rare. The era of the permanent threat of imminent disconnection is over. The fear of temporary disconnection had been replaced by a much greater fear of permanent disconnection...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

iceland #2: power

Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant, at Hengill.

The landscape of southern Iceland is a vast treeless environment; a desert of lava flow, salt flats, and luxuriant mosses. It is so perfectly horizontal you would swear you could see the curvature of the planet. At certain points steam rises directly from the earth, whipped up by the wind into sulphurous slipstreams, backlit by the five hour sunrise that is hibernal day. The ground is warm to the touch at these places, and is marked by the brown stain of burned vegetation. Sometimes there is a puncture, a pool of bubbling water, sometimes just darkened soil.

This is the primary power source of the Icelanders, geothermal energy. At Hengill, in the south, bores have been sunk to a depth of 3000m, where the water is several hundred degrees in temperature. Through a complicated system of heat exchanges and turbines the plant produces an enormous amount of hot water and electricity, primarily to fuel the ever-hungry aluminium industry. Although Iceland has none of this metal itself, cargo ships will bring ore from as far away as Australia in order to benefit from the cheap electricity.

The over-abundance of power and hot water manifests itself in unusual ways. Graveyards are often lit up 24 hours a day. As you drive through the countryside, rolling through the twilight fog, suddenly a cluster of neon crosses will flash by… Also, everything is heated, the side-walks, the soccer fields. There can be two foot of snow all around a perfectly dry concrete walkway.

“We have so much energy,” a geothermal operator at Sudeyreri’s miniature power plant told me, “that at night we have to disconnect the generators. I’ve been thinking of solutions, and I think that if we could charge electric cars or boats at night we would not be letting so much go down the hill.” He gestured to the steaming rivulet cascading away from the plant.
Its hard to imagine, but if cities like London want to continue into the twenty-first century, they will have to put themselves in the same position…

Friday, 1 January 2010

As a blog purportedly dedicated to the spirit of the times, what could be more fitting than to remember twenty great moments from the last ten years?

2000 Al-Qaeda Summit: held in Kuala Lumpur, it was basically a knees-up for terrorists. The 9/11 plot was hatched over cigars in a lady-boy strip club. True story.

Y2K: The Millennium Bug. Biggest disappointment ever.

Concorde: Air France flight 4590 burst into flame and trailed into a hotel, 113 dead. Concorde was subsequently canned, the first time in history aviation technology has taken a backward step. Supersonic air travel is now a retro thing of the past, which is perhaps the strongest argument that this is not the future after all.

The End of Mir: irreparably punctured by an unknown source, the depressurised space station was pushed into a lower orbit and burnt up: the fiery death of cold war competitive spaceflight.

9/11: Where were you?

The Euro: The thing I will never understand about the introduction of the Euro is why the notes weren’t made of plastic, like the Australian currency. Their wonga is foolproof for forgers, and waterproof for days at the beach. Given the amount of rain and humidity in Europe it would have made so much sense.

Britney + Madonna kiss: the beginning of the end for popular music, one went on to date a boy called Jesus and the other to shave her head and make a habit of walking into public toilets without shoes on…

Columbia: Foam from the boosters dislodged some heat tiles, and rather than send up another space shuttle to help fix the damage, cheapskates NASA decided to risk re-entry. It would have been pretty cool to see two Space Shuttles in orbit at the same time, instead Columbia and her crew of seven were spread over several miles of central Texas.

SARS: you remember that? Before Swine Flu was popular, Avian Flu was supposed to kill us all.

Mission Accomplished: The greatest pre-emptive strike of the decade has to go to Bush, as he strutted in a fighter-jet jumpsuit onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln declaring that the major combat in Iraq was over. This inspired the song Dirty Harry, by the Gorillaz, which as far as I’m aware was the first real anti-war song of my generation –
“Out in the desert, with a street sweeper,
The war is over, so said the speaker,
With the flight suit on, maybe to him I'm just a pawn,
So he can advance, remember when I used to dance,
Man, all I want to do is dance”
Spaceship One: Commercial spaceflight. What could possibly be cooler than that? Of course Branson bought the company…

Smoking Ban: Now clubs and pubs only smell like fart and sweat.

Abu Ghraib: I have nothing to say.

Boxing Day Tsunami: Crazy. Shit.

Liquids and Gels: A very irritating addition to the list of aeroplane “do not’s”.

Iphone: Perhaps the strongest evidence yet that we are living in the future.

LHC @ CERN: Rumours were spreading thick and fast about whether or not the Large Hadron Collider was going to destroy the world by creating a black hole along the Franco-Swiss border. When the machine kept breaking down this led to a group of scientists claiming that people from the future were coming back in time to sabotage the machine, to prevent us from seeing into the origins of the universe. Now being made into a major motion picture.

Obama: What a handsome, tanned man. But while I loved him during the election for not descending to Palin-McCain’s level (name-calling) and taking the moral high hand, now he is president I just want him to stand up for himself.

MJ dies: ‘show us on the doll where the bad man touched you, Jimmy.’ That black/white man/boy was dead to me a decade ago…

December 16, 2009: Astronomers discover GJ1214b, the first-known exoplanet on which water could exist. If advances like this continue it is only a matter of time before we make Star Trek a reality. Cool.

the first ten years of the future

Via Paleo Future

A Joyous New Year to all of you still using the Gregorian system. If, like me, you roll with the World Calendar, Happy World's Day, and don't forget to stop your clocks for the next 24-hours!