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Month January 2010

The Decaying Microcastles of Detroit

From 100abandonedhouses:

The abandoned houses project began innocently enough roughly ten years ago. I actually began photographing abandonment in Detroit in the mid 90’s as a creative outlet, and as a way of satisfying my curiosity with the state of my home town. I had always found it to be amazing, depressing, and perplexing that a once great city could find itself in such great distress, all the while surrounded by such affluence.

Brush Park, on the outskirts of Detroit’s entertainment district was always an area of interest to me. For as long as I can remember the area, housing large houses and mansions, sat largely abandoned just a stones throw away from the Fox Theater, and not far from Wayne State University, the Masonic Theater, and even the central business district. How could an area that was obviously once a wealthy enclave in the city become an example of the downfall of American cities?

For years the area had signs advertising the redevelopment that was about to take place. It finally began to happen, with the construction of the new ballpark for the Tigers, and Ford Field for the Lions. New condos, and town homes began to appear amidst the rubble of burned out mansions turned apartments. Some of the houses were so large they became “loft condos”. As the entertainment district flourished, and Brush Park began to transform into something new, I realized the other approximately 135 square miles of Detroit was largely ignored. The excitement about Detroit’s “rebirth” took center stage, while much of the rest of the city was becoming largely abandoned. Even Brush Park itself was still largely abandoned, but with the remaining tenants of Brush Park buildings being pushed out, and many of the old houses torn down, I moved on to other areas, where Detroiters were attempting to make a life among abandoned and burned out houses. Often times, the neighborhoods were almost completely abandoned. In these neighborhoods I encountered concerned citizens, packs of wild dogs, 20 foot high piles of toilets, and houses with the facades torn off, filled with garbage.

As the number of images grew, and a documentary style emerged, I switched from mostly black and white, to color, and decided to name the series 100 Abandoned Houses. 100 seemed like a lot, although the number of abandoned houses in Detroit is more like 12,000. Encompassing an area of over 138 square miles, Detroit has enough room to hold the land mass of San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan Island, yet the population has fallen from close to 2 million citizens, to most likely less than 800,000. With such a dramatic decline, the abandoned house problem is not likely to go away any time soon.

Spotted at deerhunter blog.

Superfast Bullet Trains Are Finally Coming to the U.S.

Believe it: Bullet trains are coming. After decades of false starts, planners are finally beginning to make headway on what could become the largest, most complicated infrastructure project ever attempted in the US. The Obama administration got on board with an $8 billion infusion, and more cash is likely en route from Congress. It’s enough for Florida and Texas to dust off some previously abandoned plans and for urban clusters in the Northeast and Midwest to pursue some long-overdue upgrades. The nation’s test bed will almost certainly be California, which already has voter-approved funding and planning under way. But getting up to speed requires more than just seed money. For trains to beat planes and automobiles, the hardware needs to really fly. Officials are pushing to deploy state-of-the-art rail rockets. Next stop: the future.

The rest of the Wired article, by James Glave and Rachel Swaby, which has great diagrams, charts and time lines, is here.


Illustrations by Paul Rogers

The Poetics of Space



It is also a terrible trait of men that they should be incapable of understanding the forces of the universe intuitively, otherwise than in terms of a psychology of wrath.

Gaston Bachelard

Cooper Union Academic Building Time Lapse Construction

This is two and a half years of construction at about 4 frames per day up until May 24, 2009.

More details here.

Run horse, and do not stop!

Spotted at Italian Cycling Journal.

A New Kind of Lightning Discovered

From PhysOrg:

When volcano seismologist Stephen McNutt at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Geophysical Institute saw strange spikes in the seismic data from the Mount Spurr eruption in 1992, he had no idea that his research was about to take an electrifying turn.

“At the moment the eruption started, there were these sparks of lightning coming from the vent of Redoubt that only lasted 1 to 2 milliseconds,” said McNutt, ” This was a different kind of lighting that we have never seen before.”

The residents and scientists who witnessed Mount Redoubt’s explosive eruptions described the events as a breathtaking display. “They all said that it was the most spectacular lightning display that they have ever seen,” said Thomas.

The team has also been studying how the newly-discovered volcanic lighting compares to familiar thunderstorm lightning. “It’s fascinating as we learn how volcanic lighting is the same and yet different form thunderstorm lightning,” said Behnke.

(c) 2010 Inside Science News Service

Pithoprakta: action through probability

From the Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary press release:

Now on show at The Drawing Center, in the Main Gallery from January 15 – April 8, 2010. The exhibition will explore the fundamental role of drawing in the work of avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001). One of the most important figures in late twentieth-century music, Xenakis originally trained as an engineer and was also known as an architect, developing iconic designs while working with Le Corbusier in the 1950s. This premiere presentation of Xenakis’s visual work in North America will be comprised of samples of his pioneering graphic notation, architectural plans, compelling preparatory mathematical renderings, and pre-compositional sketches—in all, nearly 100 documents created between 1953 and 1984. Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary is co-curated by Xenakis scholar Sharon Kanach and critic Carey Lovelace and will travel to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (June 17 – October 17, 2010) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (November 7, 2010 – February 13, 2011).

One of the world’s most widely performed contemporary composers, Xenakis brought together architecture, sound, and advanced contemporary mathematics, moving away from traditional polyphony to create music comprised of masses of sound, shifting abstract aural gestures, linear permutation, and sonic pointillism. A groundbreaking interdisciplinary approach was also apparent in his architectural creations, such as the Philips Pavilion, an icon of twentieth-century architecture, which Xenakis created under Le Corbusier for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. The design of the Philips Pavilion’s volumetric structure was inspired by the glissandi—glides between pitches—that made up Xenakis’s groundbreaking orchestral work Metastaseis (1953–54). The meticulously rendered works on view in the exhibition burst with kinetic energy and palpable sonic qualities, providing a singular insight into this extraordinary innovator’s process of “thinking through the hand.”

Narratives 2.0 by Matthias Dittrich


From Narratives 2.0

Narrative 2.0 visualises music. The music was segmented in single channels. The channels are shown fanlike and the lines move from the center away with the time. The angle of the line changes according to the frequency of the channel, while the frequency reaching a high level, the channel becomes highlighted by orange. The visualisation should not necessarily return exact informations, even if the arrangement and uniformity of the music can be read. The purpose was to create even more an aesthetically responding visualisation with the music as an artist.

Rest in Peace Howard Zinn & J.D. Salinger


Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

“His writings have changed the consciousness of a generation, and helped open new paths to understanding and its crucial meaning for our lives. When action has been called for, one could always be confident that he would be on the front lines, an example and trustworthy guide.”

Noam Chomsky

Boston.com article on his passing.

J.D. Salinger, 1919-2010

J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose “The Catcher in the Rye” shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91.

Mr. Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author’s son said in a statement from Mr. Salinger’s literary representative. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.

“The Catcher in the Rye,” with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951, a time of anxious, Cold War conformity and the dawn of modern adolescence. The Book-of-the-Month Club, which made “Catcher” a featured selection, advised that for “anyone who has ever brought up a son” the novel will be “a source of wonder and delight—and concern.”

The rest of the Wall Street Journal article is here.

Depressing Local News?

From the Gothamist:

Asylum released these fun new pie charts today showing how depressing local news is in America. Conclusion? It’s all pretty damn depressing. Their misery index separates the news into ten categories, then ranks them in order from heartbreaking (accidents) to harmless (weather and travel.) Based on how much airtime each category was given, they calculated who wins for the most depressing city. The amount of coverage dedicated to sports at the expense of other news is in itself depressing. But how did we score?

NYC ties with D.C. for 8th saddest city, with 23% of our local news time going to crime, 15% to the economy, and 5% to accidents. However, we spend a surprising 0% on corruption (Jersey territory?). And hey, their depressing highlight just happens to be coverage of the heroin pamphlets! However, we can all be thankful because our news is nowhere near as depressing as Boston’s, which ranks #1, spending 40% of their time on crime and 20% on accidents. Maybe they’re just sad about that 18% on sports because the RED SOX SUCK!”