Monday, June 30, 2008

caterham seven

it’s hard to believe that over fifty years have passed since colin chapman unleashed the very first lotus seven on the world of motor cars.
bringing his own philosophy of design to the forefront of roadgoing open-wheel driving, chapman redefined the idea of a sports car by integrating racing design into roadgoing vehicles that were essentially barebones pocket rockets. the original seven sold 2500 copies in its first year and became a mainstay of clubman racing in britain for many years.

designed as a flies-in-your-teeth alternative for people who could afford cars as playthings, the seven went through several phases, adding creature comforts along the way that in some people’s view “softened” it up. in 1973, lotus decided to step away from the seven’s kit car image and concentrate more fully on high-end limited series road cars at that time. the rights to the seven were sold at that time to lotus’ distributors caterham cars who continue to build the car to this day.

to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary, the bbc website has some nice images from the fiftieth gathering of lotus/caterham 7 enthusiasts.

so, now that you’re immersed in the idea of a small, highly-powered little sportscar, let’s take a tour of the caterham site and see what’s going on these days with this most iconic of english automobiles. well undoubtedly the best place to start is the showroom to have a look at what’s available these days. on the surface the various models look more or less the same, but it’s in the details - the suspension and drivetrain and to some degree the details in finish that you see the differentiation along the model line. ranging from the sigma

to the ultra high-end performance csr

i think i’d likely end up somewhere in the middle with the roadsport model, designed as it is for all weather conditions.

if you’d like to see some video (which like all good car videos gives you a kazillion teaser shots and lots of nice throaty exhaust rumbles and on-board cameras hanging on for dear life) then the “fifty years of driving thrills” video is for you! after that then perhaps you should have a look at the slalom, the drift, and the circuit videos.

caterhams are constructed of aluminium sheet attached to a tubular steel chassis. caterham sevens are front engined with rear wheel drive and two seats. their extremely high performance is achieved through light weight (less than 500 kg (1,102 lb) on some versions) rather than particularly powerful engines. having said that, you can pick up an extremely powerful model called the csr which you can outfit with a 260 hp cosworth engine. the stats for this particular version are staggering and difficult to imagine - remember your bum would be no more than a foot off the ground and your eyes might be no more than three feet off the ground - 0 - 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph! as caterham states in its release: “the csr uses a substantially revised chassis for increased torsional stiffness and offers new integrated dashboard, revised aerodynamics, f1-style pushrod front suspension and fully independent rear suspension. the CSR260 is a devastatingly quick, yet highly controllable, road and track weapon.” i can only imagine. if you would like to see this little rocket flying around a track on anglesey (oh and while you’re there you get the added bonus of the caterham’s pretty cousin - the lotus exige on the same track) the watch this . . .

here’s a lap of nurburgring onboard a caterham seven superlight . . .

Sunday, June 29, 2008

the fragmented orchestra

each year europe has a city that represents its cultural centre. this year it is liverpool, a city on the northwest coast of england and not very far from the official golden fish birthplace and cultural imprinting centre. one element of the celebrations accompanying the distinctions accruing to being named europe's cultural centre is a project that is absolutely mind-boggling in its complexity and then also very lovely in its execution and outcome.

melding science and art has often produced results that require a degree of compromise on the part of the viewer or listener as it is recognized that the object of the work is to challenge extant parameters or to reinvent new ones. this often makes both the process and the product "difficult". the fragmented orchestra is the brainchild of jane grant, john matthias and nick ryan. fans of radiohead and coldcut will recall the name of john matthias who has played with both those bands. jane is a visual artist working with film, sound, video and installations. nick is a composer, producer and sound designer.

so what is the fragmented orchestra? well it is an idea based on the organization of the human brain. as information triggers a response that results in the firing of neurons within the brain’s cortex, so information that is fed into the vastly larger scale brain of the fragmented orchestra triggers a response.
the "neurons" of the fragmented orchestra are placed in 24 locations around the united kingdom, ranging from football stadia, highway crash barriers, school playgrounds and an offshore buoy with a ringing bell. here's a map of the various locations and objects where neuron units have been attached. at each location, a small ‘neuron unit’ has been attached to the surface of an existing physical structure. can you remember banging sticks along metal fence rails, or chucking rocks at the sides of empty waste bins? if you do then you can start to see how each, if appropriately linked could be used as resonant sound sources that could in turn send the signal generated through whatever action is required and then reassembled at another location as a sonic pastiche.

as it is, all of the neuron units are connected to each other, via the internet, to form a tiny ‘cortex’ and can then ‘fire’ signals back and forth when stimulated by sound. when a ‘neuron’ fires, fragments of sounds from its location are transmitted to the central venue in which each neuron unit is represented by its own loudspeaker. what’s very cool about this is that performers, including individuals and groups from near each neuron site, can play each neuron unit and listeners can listen to the resultant array created by the cortex at work. 

i find thinking like this exciting from the perspective of a lay person who has long admired the product at the interstice of art and science. bringing large and diverse setttings together into a techno-aesthetic framework organized around the workings of the neuron is masterful in itself. bringing that insight to life is beautiful.

the fragmented orchestra recently won the prs foundation for new music award. the new music award judging panel said; “the brain is never silent, it filters, selects and makes connections. the fragmented orchestra uses these neural patterns in the same way to allow us to hear the uk as music.” a brief documentary complete with a sample of what we can expect from this project can be viewed here . . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2008

bmw m1 homage concept

i’ve never been a big fan of german cars - well the big manufacturers like mercedes-benz, porsche, bmw - i’ve been in many examples of each and can say that they are well-built, very cleverly designed, and sometimes even exciting but for the most part they lack what i enjoy in cars; that certain undefinable quality that elevates them above and beyond simple transportation and makes getting into them something memorable, even something you look forward to.

i have to say though that of the three i have always preferred the general design aesthetic of bmw who for whatever reason seen to be able to take fairly staid designs and incorporate a degree of coolness, chic, edge, such that they clearly appeal to that niche that falls between the practical-minded and the sporty.

one of the more extraordinary machines bmw released was the m1. in its first iteration it was produced for three years. the street version was credited with a top speed of 260 km/h (162 mph). worked-over turbocharged racing versions such as this lovely example driven by nelson piquet, were capable of producing around 850 hp

a fan site devoted to the bmw m1 bmw m1 can be found here.

recently bmw surprised the car world by releasing a very lovely exotic created in homage to the m1. named the bmw homage concept, the car efeatures many styling cues from the original m1 but with a definite tip of the hat to more current designs. as such, it isn’t a vehicle you’re likely to use for grocery shopping or nipping out for a coffee. this has more of the feeling of a boulevard poser or perhaps something you’d tear up the early morning asphalt with on a quiet stretch of highway. either way it’s a very lovely piece of design work.

here are a few images of the bmw homage concept to drool over. here’s a gallery of images.

soundtrack to an evening in 1976

technically the first day of summer vacation for me and it is gloriously, a morning of muzziness, rain, and fog and with it comes memories flooding from very far away in time. if you, like me, believe that time is something that is only uncompressed by our wish to see it as an arrow with a beginning, a middle and an end of flight then you will appreciate how the autumn of 1976 can be as present in this moment as the moment i lived a year ago or even one minute ago.

in the autumn of 1976 i went to bed one night with a lovely selection of music organized by a friend who (through the wonders of a shop that actually purveyed vinyl from other continents by musicians who were known and yet also not so-well-known in the little town i lived in at that time and to which i have returned) very generously provided a musical journey that has blossomed into my current appreciation of musics from all sources and forms.

so this morning’s selection is coloured by the smell of sandalwood incense, scented candles, and at the time i first heard this i enjoyed white wine above all else so there would almost certainly be the ubiquitous bottle of blue nun present. in my company at that time were nineteen year-old university students from new jersey, vancouver island, and southwestern ontario.

the evening begins with the synthesizer and mellotron driven sounds of tangerine dream's album . . . "rubycon" pt. 1(1)

tangerine dream rubycon pt.1(2)

next up the closing song from vangelis’ album "heaven and hell"
a beautiful majestic yet wistful piece of music sung by the lead singer from “yes” jon anderson - here are the lyrics . . .

once, we did run
how we chased a million stars
and touched as only one can

once, we did play
how the past delivered you
amidst our youth we'd dream away, away

as if i knew the words i'm sure you'll hear
of how we met as you recall so clear

once, we did love
long ago how did i forget
holding you so closely

look, how i move
chance would have me glance at you
to know how you move me, me

all barriers fall around us as we hear
of memories known and matters so long ago, so clear

once, we did run
how we chased a million stars
and touched as only one can

so long ago , so clear . . .

the next track is from the english progressive rock band ”yes”. taken from the album "relayer" which featured among other things the extraordinary and fantasmagorical artwork of roger dean . . .

yes - soon

and to wake the following morning, i recall brian eno’s beautiful and melancholy ”discreet music” in which brian took pachelbel’s canon and enosiffied it by organizing the instruments such that their unique timbre was reflected in the speed with which they played their parts. the result is that bass lines are much slower and violin lines are played a little quicker.
have a listen . . .

and now to enjoy the morning paper, to hoover back some joe, to make breakfast for my children and to listen to the sound of the falling rain . . . . . treats galore!! i’m a lucky boy!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

sacred and beautiful music - spem in allium

composer thomas tallis, was born five hundred and three years ago in england. he is described as a prolific composer of sacred music and certainly i number amongst my favourite pieces of sacred music from any culture or religious/spiritual persuasion his composition “spem in allium”.

“spem in allium” is one of the more extraordinary experiences i have had the pleasure of hearing in terms of works for the human voice. it’s hard to imagine the effect this piece of music must have had at the time it was first presented, consisting as it does of eight five-part choirs layering phrases over and around other phrases creating an extraordinary and in some ways sonically and spiritually overwhelming experience.

i heard some of tallis’ music when i attended evensong a very long time ago in yorkminster in the city of york in england. the delay between a sound being made and its echo returning from the highest point of yorkminster is several seconds so the most amazing effect can be achieved when a choir sends music into the vaults which then returns layered upon the next phrase and so on......

a page has been devoted to providing choirs with the sheet music for this lovely piece of music.

here is the latin text for spem in allium . . . .

spem in alium nunquam habui præter in te, deus israel:
qui irasceris et propitius eris,
et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis.
domine deus, creator cæli et terræ,
respice humilitatem nostram.

which appears in english as this . . .
i have never put my hope in any other but in you, God of israel,
who will be angry and yet become again gracious,
and who forgives all the sins of suffering man.
lord God, creator of heaven and earth,
look upon our lowliness.

this is music that defines the space it is heard in and so i recommend that you listen on headphones or in a peaceful space that allows you to focus on the many layers of appearing and disappearing voices and phrases!

here then is spem in allium . . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2008

school's out!!! time to celebrate with spanky and the boys

well this was the last day of the year for kids to be in school and i waved goodbye to another year of teaching - my seventeenth! it seems appropriate to celebrate the occasion with something school-related! how about "our gang?!"

i can’t remember the first time i saw an episode of the ”our gang” series, but it seems to me it was probably sometime in the late sixties on a hot summer afternoon sitting on a nylon slip-covered couch drinking kool-aid
back in the days when the kid’s programming didn’t really start until late afternoon.

our gang was shot between 1922 when it was a silent series and was known as hal roach’s rascals. the concept was incredibly popular and carried through to the advent of talkies and then right on through until 1944. considered one of the best known and most successful series in cinema history, the series eventually totalled 220 short films and one feature film.

the series was known to me as the little rascals and was reprised much to the joy of my own children in a feature film that wavered between capturing the original naivete, innocence and acceding to the demands of the much more fickle movie going youth of the last twenty years.

today is a special day though as school is officially done for another year and i thought it would be more than appropriate to settle back with a short but funny movie from a simpler time . . .
"came the brawn" . . . pt1.
"came the brawn" pt. 2.

wooden bike coffee

my day begins with coffee - a beverage i developed a taste for as a student at trent university right here in peterborough. in those days - the mid to late seventies - i cannot recall much of a fetish or much in the way of knowledge around coffee. i drank it and it helped me wake up, stay awake, and mistakenly i also entrusted it with the capacity to reverse the effects of other liquids.

the beans of wonder and joy . . .
my consumption is in my own view reasonable. years ago i drank many many cups of coffee but now i restrict myself to two - and restrict sounds more puritanical than it actually is - i enjoy two cups at most - well, mugs - and those are both emptied into my system as early in the morning as i can stand it. from there the caffeine fuels me on my morning ride in and carries me on a caffeinated wave through the critical first hour of the teaching day. i like strong coffee, preferring the thick heavy rush of sumatran coffee to most others.

here’s a closeup of my dark master . . .
if you drink coffee you cannot ignore the simple fact that much of it is grown and harvested by people who are effectively slave labour, working in sometimes poor conditions, with no job security and little in the way of health care. “fair trade” coffee has been around for a while now and whenever and wherever possible i buy it in place of the ground beans i favour from starbucks.

there are several people who will provide not only fair trade beans but beans that are grown with sensitivity for the local ecology of which they are a part. one such company is wooden bike coffee. wooden bike is working in rwanda, a tiny african country bordered by uganda, burundi, the democratic republic of the congo and tanzania. in rwanda the bicycle is a symbol of progress and hope, yet only 1 out of 40 can afford a bike, so they make them out of wood.
these wooden bikes allow the growers to haul several hundred pounds of coffee cherries to the finishing stations quickly which as i am sure you can imagine, means that they get paid more money because a premium is put on fresh delivery. so, the bicycle is the perfect tool for transporting the coffee because of its easy maintenance and because it is extremely cheap to buy and operate.
here are a bank of the coffee bikes created by proceeds from this project . . .
if you’re interested and you’d like to buy some coffee to support both your caffeine addiction and the worthy work of wooden bike, then nip on over to equal world coffee who will happily sell you coffee online.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

esther williams: swimming and smiling at the same time

as the school year draws to a close and the coup de grace is being delivered to another full year's work, it seems like the golden fish is going through a "do you remember" phase. today's post continues the trend. i feel certain that when my holidays begin, the post will return to its more divergent and unpredictable self.

esther williams surely ranks as one of the most extraordinary women to have entered a swimming pool. she turned a skill that is usually restricted to backyards or - at best - competitive swimming pools, and managed to turn it into not just an act but a compelling and lucrative act at that!

esther took the highly athletic, physically gruelling and marginalized sport of synchronized swimming and turned it into an artform. behind the art lay hours and hours of punishing rehearsals that often left her with ruptured eardums, not to mention that while she was performing the endless and extended underwater scenes, she nearly drowned on several occasions. esther was fearless performing all her own stunts including one dive off a 115 foot diving tower that ended up with her breaking her neck and living in a body cast for seven months!

i love the symmetry of the sets and the swimmers, the grace with which she moves through the water (how do you swim and smile at the same time?), and the way she plays to the camera knowing full well the effect she was having on every man in the audience ‘cause let’s face it, the girl was a knockout! oh and i have to mention the effects including in this scene, fountains with huge fires burning inside them!!!

feast your eyes . . . .

it’s incredible stuff and since you’re still here perhaps you should have a look at the finale to million dollar mermaid - her most famous movie . . . . the trapeze artists appearing from a cloud of smoke and cracking off synchronized dives from high up in the air!!! the aerial shot of esther being hauled up a kazillion feet while hanging onto a metal ring and beneath her a mandala of bathing beauties into which she fearlessly plummets! wow!! you’ve got to see this!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the sin of harold diddlebock

silent movies have always been something of a double-edged sword for me as i love the innuendo that is necessary to carry the movie where dialogue can distract from the body language and facial expressions of day-to-day life, in a silent movie it is almost everything. so much is conveyed by the movement of a hand, the subtle glance that expresses so much more than words. on the other hand i miss the dpeth of relationship and the expression of the inner self that sometimes surfaces in the better movies through dialogue.

one of the more deservedly famous early silent movie stars was harold lloyd. harold was born in burchard, nebraska in 1893.
in his life he made nearly 200 comedy films both silent and “talkies”. in addition to his natural comedic talent. harold is famous for the incredibly dangerous stunts he undertook in the course of making many of his films. for example you might be familiar with this hair-raising scene in which harold dangles precariously from a clock high above the street . . . here’s a brief excerpt from the film “safety last” . . .

if you’d like to know more about harold then you should definitely pay a visit to this website dedicated to all things harold lloydesque.

in this post i’ll be sharing harold’s final film. in this film, he reprises a character first portrayed by lloyd in a 1925 film. this film details what has happened to the hero, harold diddlebock who (twenty years earlier) had enjoyed a huge triumph on the college football field. harold diddlebock tells the story of a jazz age go-getter who finds himself stuck in a dull, dead end book-keeping job for years, only to be let go with a tiny pension.

harold seeks comfort in a bar, at which point (after hoovering back the first drink of his life, and a specially prepared drink in his honour), he blacks out and reawakens on a thursday. the remainder of the film follows harold as he tries to figure out what happened while he was unconscious.

Monday, June 23, 2008

metamorphosis two by philip glass

this is such a simply beautiful piece of music that rather than be all clever and well-researched i'm going to let you hear it and make your own judgement and experience your experiencing of it without the mediation / moderation of the golden fish research department.

metamorphosis two: philip glass . . .

steampunk's thin white duke

steampunk has moved from the fringes of literature to a lifestyle in what seems to me to be record time. a full spectrum of talented and imaginative artists and designers willing to develop and provide the accoutrements for the steampunk lifestyle has emerged.

drawing on an aesthetic that jules verne would have felt at home with (and that often looks like stage props that fell off the set of “twenty thousand leagues under the sea”. hey while i’m thinking about it, you can read the book here or download the book as a pdf at the same site.

on the subject of steampunkish design, i came across a designer who is crafting some lovely and interesting odds and ends named art donovan. art has some really nice work at his site including this steampunkish clock . . .
and this exquisite and lovingly detailed lamp named “the thin white duke”. . .
standing 50 inches tall and 21 inches wide at the lampshade, the thin white duke is made of solid mahogany, solid brass, glass, bronze mesh and steel. what distinguishes art’s work from other steampunk designers is his willingness to incorporate a variety of materials and textures that contribute to the aesthetic and functional aspects of his designs . . . .

if you’re drawn to his work you can see more of it at his website or nip over to art’s other blog which has images and text connected to his current design work which moves in a wide range of attractive and intriguing directions.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

motoart: turning airplanes into furniture

have you ever wondered where old airplanes that have passed their prime end up? i’ve always figured they’d end up somewhere like this . . . all neatly lined up,
quietly rusting and decaying in an airplane graveyard . . . and as you can see . . . i wouldn’t be far wrong.

however, an enterprising company named motoart has given these sad machines hope for a second life as home and office furniture.

here are a few examples: a c 130 . . . a c130 flap converted to a very stylish office desk . . .
a b 727 . . . a b 727 cowling converted to a cozy and easy to look at office cubicle . . .
a dc6 . . .
a dc6 engine cowling again turned into a lovely little office cubicle . . .
and finally a b52 stratofortress . . .
a b52 ejector seat - non-functioning but wouldn’t it be fun for those times when you have "you know who" over and you’d like to send them on their way . . .
it’s obviously not for everybody but if you are interested or want to have a better look at what’s available then visit motoart’s website. if you would like to look at the full-range of motoart’s creations then you should have a look at their catalogue.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

cool magnetized and suction cup clocks

if you have the wish to arrange time on your own terms then these two products might be just the thing for you! the girotondo suction clock allows you to attach the mechanism and little wooden balls on whatever object or surface, in whatever combination or arrangement you desire. the clock requires a space with a minimum diameter of 28 cm and runs on one aa battery. it’s available through pedlar’s online website.

close cousin to the girotondo clock is the magotondo clock which (as you might have guessed) is comprised of magnetized components that allow you to arrange the clock’s elements on any surface that welcomes magnets!
i think half the fun of owning this clock would be locating and buying and then placing in a conspicuous location the metal objects to which the clock would be affixed!! also available at pedlars online website.

a summer day

a summer's day! it is so nice to be able to write those words and be inside a summer day and not merely reminiscing. this was - as summer days go - a beautiful summer day - i actually got to sit outside and read . . . . then when i tired of that i sat myself down and watched a couple of hours of excellent football featuring russia and the netherlands playing in basel, switzerland. there’s still lots of schoolwork to be done but it felt for the first time as if time - time as i used to know it - is returning . . . .

e.e. cummings wrote in this excerpt from “the eagle” . . .

it was one of those clear, sharp.mustless days
        that summer and man delight in.
never had heaven seemed quite so high,
never had earth seemed quite so green,
never had the world seemed quite so clean
or sky so nigh.
        and I heard the deity's voice in
            the sun's warm rays,
        and the white cloud's intricate maze,
and the blue sky's beautiful sheen. 

here's what i saw when i lifted my head up from my book . . . .