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Raise a glass to Cthulhu at the Lovecraft Bar
09:24 am



The Lovecraft Bar in New York looks like the perfect place to eat, drink and discuss all things Cthulhu. The eldritch interior design and artwork was created by artist Benjamin Enzfelder, and he has certainly given the bar a great Lovecraftian atmosphere. Certainly on my places to visit next time I’m in NY.

The Lovecraft Bar will officially open in September, details here.
H/T Steal This Singularity, via Dark Corner Books

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Meet the Kuba Komet, the most ass-kicking retro home entertainment system ever made
11:58 am



This remarkable piece of equipment is called the Kuba Komet. It was manufactured by the KUBA Corporation in Wolfenbüttel, West Germany, from 1957 to 1962. The recommended retail price for the Komet was 2,798 Deutschmarks, or roughly $1250, which correlates to about $10,500 in today’s dollars. (According to this Census Bureau report of 1960, the average income for a family in 1958 was $5,100.) It was a hefty item, weighing 289 pounds and is a little more than seven feet wide. It featured a television, a record player, a radio, eight speakers and a “TV tuner” in the bottom cabinet—if you were willing to pay a little extra you could get a “magneto-phone wire recorder” (a forerunner to the reel-to-reel and cassette audio recorders) as well as a remote control.

One of the Komet’s best features was that the big “sail” section of the unit could swivel. The blonde-colored wood is solid maple; the darker wood is wenge, a rare form of timber found only in sub-Saharan Africa.

Here’s a picture of the Kuba Komet with its bottom drawer open:

There are only about ten of them in existence, about half of them in North America. The Early Television Museum in Hilliard, Ohio, has one on display—since I live in Ohio, I should probably make a pilgrimage to check it out.

On this forum, the users complain about the unnecessary internal complexity of German electronics products from that era, as in, “Why use one part when we can use 15?” In 2011 a nonfunctioning Kuba Komet unit was auctioned for $3250, which isn’t such a bad price for the most awesome fixer-upper in the world. Although according to this thread, they’ve also been auctioned for about $8,000.

via Atompunk

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
You knew this would happen: The inevitable Worf-Joy Division mash-up T-shirt
09:48 am



One of the most iconic album covers in pop history meets one of the most iconic foreheads in television history in this T-shirt mashup of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures with Klingon Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The T-shirt is called “Klingon Pleasures” and the mix of album’s original image of radio waves from pulsar CP 1919 seems a perfect fit with Worf’s brow. “Klingon Pleasures” is one of NickOG‘s (Nick O’Gorman) designs on Threadless.
Via Nerdcore

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The 10th Victim’: Violent, campy 1965 battle of the sexes satirizes reality TV decades in advance
08:12 pm



For reasons I cannot fully articulate, even to myself, one of my favorite things ever in life is the (relatively) little-known 1965 French-Italian film, The 10th Victim (La decima vittima) starring Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni and directed by Elio Petri. I have movie posters, lobby cards and various pulp paperback books with different great covers (Part of my fascination with the film, obviously, has to do with Ursula Andress—at the absolute height of her considerable beauty here—that much I do know…)

The plot (clearly the “inspiration” for The Running Man) revolves around the reality show assassins of “The Big Hunt,” a wildly popular futuristic TV spectacle sponsored by the Ming Tea Company of Japan. For five hunts you are the killer, for five hunts the victim.

To win the tournament, the assassins must complete ten kills, but they never know if they are the hunter or the victim. The Andress character’s kills are elaborate—one of them was even ripped-off for an Austin Powers movie—and she becomes the most popular of the contestants. Her kills are used as TV advertisements for the Ming Tea Company and she wants her tenth killer to be a spectacular one.

Next up is Mastroianni’s character, Polletti… or is he? You can’t kill the wrong victim, you see, or else you lose.

You can’t kill the wrong killer in preemptive self-defense, either, or else you lose. What if she is to be his victim? Neither of them know for sure, so of course they have an affair!

The SpyVibe blog calls The 10th Victim a “cocktail of groovy music, op art, pop art, space-age fashion, and modern design.” It’s not even that The 10th Victim is all that good of a film (say, a “six” out of a possible “ten”) but man does it LOOK GREAT. If you’re into things like Danger Diabolik, Fathom, Modesty Blaise or the “Matt Helm” or “Flint” movies, this might be for you. Although not an over the top “funny ha ha” kind of comedy, The 10th Victim is a fun, campy feast for the eyes that was a decades-before-its-time satire of reality TV and our violence-obsessed mass media.

You could also see it was an elaborate metaphor for male-female relationships and the battle of the sexes. I’m pretty sure that part was intentional, especially when Marcello’s mistress helps Ursula’s character—who is fucking him—to stalk her philandering lover. How dare he three-time her!

The soundtrack to The 10th Victim was one of my “Holy Grail” records for many years before I was generously gifted with a copy by Pizzicato 5‘s Yasuharu Konishi when I was visiting Tokyo back in 1994. The score by Piero Piccioni is one of my favorite film scores of all time, consisting as it does of an incessantly repeated loopy organ motif and “la la la la” scat singing by the great Italian singer Mina. Piccioni thought this would sound like jazz in the future. I think the maestro was right:


Below, the original trailer for The 10th Victim.

The entire film is online at Daily Motion. Blue Underground have released The 10th Victim on Blu-ray which is the way you really want to want this puppy…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Gorgeous psychedelic handbills and posters from Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, circa 1967-68
02:49 pm

Pop Culture


Simply stunning vintage handbills for Detroit’s historic live music venue The Grande Ballroom. The majority of these trippy handbills and postcards were designed by Gary Grimshaw (who died in January of this year) and Carl Lundgren. Historically significant, yes, but from a design perspective, these are just jaw-droppingly, face-melting goodness, aren’t they?





More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Cardiac Wallpaper
01:49 pm



From the same people who brought you the fantastic Day of the Dead Sugar Skull wallpaper a few years back, comes a new design titled “Cardiac Wallpaper” which features intertwining anatomical human hearts. I dig this. Each roll is “screen printed by hand, reinforcing the exceptional quality.”

I honestly wish this came in more colors, but sadly it appears the only color option so far is red (I guess that does make sense, tho).

Each roll will set you back around $300. I’d advise hiring a professional to hang and paste this if you’re going to spend that kind of money on wallpaper. I mean, you really couldn’t afford any fuck-ups with this…

You can order it at the Street Anatomy Store.

Technical Information:

  • Roll size: 10m x 52cm (32.8 ft x 1.7 ft)
  • Pattern repeat: 53 cm
  • Hand screen printed in the UK



Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Communism in textiles: Soviet fabrics from the 20’s and 30’s
11:31 am



If you walked by a set of curtains made from one of these fabrics, you might not pick up on a communist star or the CCCP acronym. Many of the designs below are thematic of classical Russian art; you see lush color, dense scapes and even the odd Orientalist trope (note the pattern with the camels).

Anything more than a quick glance however, might reveal romantic depictions of farmers and factory workers, often rendered in the angular, geometric lines of Soviet Constructivism. Even more explicit are the references to Soviet ambitions of modernization. We see tractors, cars, airplanes, trains and smoke stacks—all the promise of an industrialized workers state.






More Soviet textiles after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Ultra cool design for a portable standing desk
10:32 am



Okay, so this isn’t a “dangerous” topic or post per se, but I wanted to blog about the StorkStand anyway because not everyone has the dough to spend on an automatic sit-to-stand desk. The StorkStand is a portable standing desk that can be used on the back of any chair. The desk can hold up to 50 lbs. of weight and weighs slightly over 4 lbs. so you can carry this puppy around with ease. Maybe there are other versions of this portable desk—I don’t know—but I think it’s a brilliant idea.

You can pre-order the desk for $199.00 here.


via Like Cool

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
It’s impractical, it’s ugly & rich people love it: Behold the furniture of Italian Radical design!
02:22 pm



Before you get your knickers in a twist and deliver unto me your undergrad thesis on the subjectivity of beauty, rest assured—this furniture is supposed to be ugly, or rather it is intended to be “post-ugly.” The abominations you see here are from a new book, 1968: Radical Italian Furniture, and it’s a mind-bendingly vibrant tour through the late 60’s Italian avant-garde. This is a design movement in which concepts such as “good design” and ‘taste” were actively spurned.

In addition to the jarring aesthetics of Italian Radical Design, you may notice that a lot of what you see here barely resembles anything we might recognize as “furniture,” and what does appears to be completely incompatible with the domestic spaces of actual people—it’s all better understood in the context of art, rather than of utility. If you’re wondering what museum is charged with curating such a hypnotic, aesthetically unholy, fundamentally impractical collection of furniture, you need look no further than those steadfast guardians of the fugly, those perpetual patrons of the hallowed and hideous—the insanely rich. Every piece you see here is owned by a man named Dakis Joannou,a Greek septugenarian billlionaire who has managed to remain unscathed by his country’s economic crisis.

Imagine that.

Besides his filthy riches, Dakis Joannou is known for two things—his enormous private collection of contemporary art and furniture, and his possession of the ugliest fucking boat in the universe. The “mega-yacht,” over 39 meters long, is christened “Guilty,” and its design is inspired by World War One era British Naval camouflage. (Perhaps Joannou is worried some one might try to blow him out of the water?) Curiously, if you look at Guilty from above, you’ll see a giant picture of Iggy Pop—not the artist that usually comes to mind when one hears the phrase, “yacht rock.”

Guilty was co-designed by some Italian yacht designer and contemporary artist Jeff Koons. Koons and Joannou have maintained a relationship since the mid-80s, when the yachting enthusiast purchased Koons’ Total Equilibrium Tank for for $2,700. The piece, by the way, is three basketballs in an aquarium. No word if there are any Koons originals stowing away aboard Guilty, but the main deck “living room” is decorated in (you guessed it), Italian Radical Design.

Shockingly, Joannou has received some criticism from his countrymen, who believe he’s more interested in being an art collector than actually supporting the arts, especially in his native Greece. Despite the tragic state of the Greek economy, Joannou stands by a mission statement that conveniently absolves him from any funding responsibilities, saying:

“Support isn’t helping anybody. In the beginning, a lot of people thought that’s what I was doing, and they would ask for funding for this or that. I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not into that.’ It’s about creating a platform.”


I wouldn’t worry though—Joannou assures us he is helping in other ways. For example, two years ago he put on a show entitled, “Animal Spirits,” a reference to the theories of “soft capitalist” economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynes believed that a man’s “animal spirit” compromises his rationality, that much of what we do is motivated by “spontaneous optimism rather than mathematical expectations.”  Oh, and the show featured Joannou’s own shitty drawings. From the mission statement:

The economic crisis faced by the world today is not only extensive and multifaceted, but its implications for our future are profound. “Animal Spirits,” the collection of drawings from the Dakis Joannou Drawing Collection presented in the Hydra Slaughterhouse, is intended to invoke comment and trigger reflection on our current global dilemma.


It goes on to say that the exhibit intends to “[provoke] acknowledgment of the looming international crisis,” leaving one to imagine how easy it must be to avoid political provocation whilst captaining the world’s ugliest fucking yacht.. The Italian Radical collection is not to my taste (to say the least), but it’s weird and exciting and dangerous, and any retching it might inspire doesn’t diminish its artistic and historical significance. It may be a little more difficult to “expropriate the expropriators” when they’re bobbing on a lurid, nautical Versailles, but I think we can still do it.

Come on comrades, let’s commandeer the Guilty—for art, for justice, and for ugly, uncomfortable chairs!










Via yatzer

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
England’s eccentric ‘New Brutalist’ architects, The Smithsons
01:52 pm



Though they only designed a handful of buildings during their four decades career, British architects Alison and Peter Smithson were amongst the most influential and controversial pioneers of the New Brutalist movement. The husband and wife partnership achieved early success by winning a competition to design Hunstanton Secondary Modern School in Norfolk, England in May 1950, but due to post-war steel shortages, the school was not constructed until 1954.

Their design of a “single oblong with three internal courtyards—the middle of which is roofed to provide the school with a hall” was made from steel, concrete and glass and owed much to Mies van der Rohe for its style and structure. The construction was highly praised by fellow architects, including Philip Johnson who wrote in the Architectural Review in 1954:

...the plan is not only radical but good Mies van der Rohe, yet the architects have never seen Mies’s work. And though the Smithsons may not agree, much of the excellence of their work is a tribute not only to themselves but also to the genius of Mies van der Rohe.

Johnson was wrong on one point, the Smithsons had seen the work of van der Rohe. However the building also had its detractors in particular the children and teachers who used the building claimed it was too hot in summer and unbearably cold in winter.
When the completed school was photographed for architectural journals Peter had every piece of furniture removed from the interior to best show the building in its pristine glory. There of course is the problem, for what makes architecture seem good on paper, is often foiled the moment humans inhabit the space.

The Smithsons moved away from van der Rohe and embraced Le Corbusier and his ideas for urban planning as propagated through the Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM). They described themselves as the “New Brutalists,” and their early success was followed by almost a decade without commissions. This may have been in part due to the institutionalized sexism of the day—in a world where a woman architect was almost unheard of—and also to the couple’s didactic and over-bearing personalities. As Rachel Cooke put it in her essay on Alison Smithson in her excellent book Her Brilliant Career:

[Alison] and Peter were increasingly convinced that, at bottom, the drought was personal—that competition judges and planning officers had only to see their names on a drawing to lose interest. It had been a political statement, of sorts, to call their partnership ‘Alison and Peter Smithson’, and Alison now suggested, only half-jokingly, that they should start using only Peter’s name, or even a pseudonym.

The dry spell would continue for the rest of the Fifties. But it wasn’t only their designs that caused people to baulk. Somewhere along the way the Smithsons gained a reputation for being difficult. Specifically, Alison gained a reputation for being difficult. ‘The problem was that she could upset clients,’ says a former assistant. ‘It wasn’t just the case that she thought she was right; the client should do what she said too. That didn’t go down well.’ Another architect: ‘Alison whined. She was relentless. Her voice was relentless. She had a chip on her shoulder.’ And another: ‘I found her difficult. She had a beastly temper, and she could be horrid to people.’ And here is Jane Drew: ‘I thought her voice always had a moan in it somewhere.’ I take all of these comments with a pinch of salt; visible women in male-dominated professions are often characterised as shrill, bossy, chippy, stubborn and complaining, even by other visible women. On the other hand, Alison could be exasperating. Even those who loved her will tell you so.

The Smithsons next major project was “The Economist Building” (1959-62) in London, which proved to be successful with both commissioner (chairman of The Economist, Sir Geoffrey Crowther) and the magazine’s staff. The Smithsons wrote of the project:

[The Economist] had the nerve to commission and to build their own building, without any previous experience of how to do such a thing; allowing their architects to shape their work space with its presence in St. James’s Street, Piccadilly, to its filling systems and taps in the lavatories.

Some consider “The Economist Building” to be the Smithson’s masterpiece that has “withstood the flow of time.” But yet again, the success of a concrete and glass building did not last long and the couple were faced with another spell without commissions.
This changed at the end of the decade, when Alison and Peter bagged their biggest public commission from the London County Council to build a modern housing estate, consisting of two long concrete tower blocks.

The scheme had a pretty name: Robin Hood Gardens. But though it looked fabulously arresting in photographs, as such egg boxes always do, it was not at all pretty in the flesh. It consisted of two non-identical slab blocks of pre-cast concrete, ‘split like a kipper’ as Peter put it, and bent around a green mound made with the spoil of the buildings it replaced. There were 213 [apartments] in all, access to which was provided by [elevators] at the end of every block and continuous decks that ran the full length.

Robin Hood Gardens was occupied in 1971, and completed in 1972, at a cost of £1,845,585. Vandals began their angry work soon after the first residents moved in. The facilities at the base of the building—the social centre and the laundrette among them—closed just weeks later.

In 1970, novelist B. S. Johnson was commissioned by the BBC to make a documentary on Alison and Peter Smithson and the building of Robin Hood Gardens. Called The Smithsons on Housing, the documentary was damningly criticized on its screening by both BBC management (who thought it disappointing and amateurish) and by critics. Johnson was a fan of the Smithsons but one would never guess it from his documentary, the main fault of which is the manner in which he collaborated with the couple in presenting them in horrendous mid-close-up, talking directly and endlessly to camera. They come across as unsympathetic and unlikable and it perhaps explains why they were often unsuccessful in their careers. Or, as Jonathan Coe described the film in his biography on Johnson Like a Fiery Elephant:

Watching it today is a positively eerie experience. This is not just a question of hindsight—of knowing that the brave new housing project which these two theorists discuss with such daunting intellectual fervour would come to be regarded, by many, as a social and architectural disaster—but of the whole atmosphere of the film, an atmosphere dictated by the screen presence of Peter and Alison Smithson themselves. Never can late ‘60s fashions have looked so eccentric, for one thing. Sitting upright at what appears to be a kitchen table in extreme close-up, reading cue cards with all the expressive variety of a dalek with a PhD, Alison Smithson appears to be wearing a child’s spacesuit improvised out of tin foil for much of the film. The effect is frankly terrifying, and it’s frequently hard to concentrate on what either of them is saying.

Over-earnestness can undermine the most well intentioned speaker and here the Smithson’s veer between Monty Python’s “most boring man” and one of Eleanor Bron’s satirical characters, which is unfortunate, as in amongst the suggestion of making London a future Venice or admitting that they “maybe asking people to live in a way that is stupid,” there are some interesting ideas. However, Johnson’s film is a powerful presentation of why the Smithsons were perceived so unsympathetically by their critics, as they come across as zealots, who cared more for the theory of architecture than the practice of living.

More of The Smithsons after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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