Sunday 2 June 2024

modern ruins (11. 602)

Via friend of the blog, Nag on the Lake, and an exhibit curated by Hyperallergic we are treated to an extended portfolio of the photography of Phillip Buehler as he performs a post-mortem on a mid-sized mall in New Jersey and the forgotten, inaccessible islands, and triangulated with a third source in this student footage of an abandoned Ellis Island immigration processing centre from 1974, there’s a conversation between documenting histories and urban decay that’s a crucial one to have for both the changed landscape of commerce (see previously) and quarantine and crowd-control as well as the code of ethics for such spelunking, an acknowledged trespassing but with a definite prohibition on vandalism or over-publicising one’s exploits.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

9x9 (11. 196)

mister jingeling: a dozen, beloved department store Christmas characters—see also—via Miss Cellania

bubblenomics: pondering the consequences of when AI goes the way of crypto and NFTs 

indefinite causal order: quantum batteries are powered by paradox—via Damn Interesting  

a winter’s tale: selected readings of Christmas ghost stories—via Things Magazine  

the waitresses: the cynical anti-holiday hit Christmas Wrapping that became a festive classic 

infinite jukebox: a clever AI application that extends songs forever  

high ground: study of the competition for space dominance between the US and China suggests America occupy Lagrange points to counter malign ambitions  

52 snippets: facts gleaned from economics and finance from the past twelve months 

snoopy come home: Gen Z rediscovers and identifies with the Peanuts’ character

Friday 24 November 2023

oh no—my own dog, gone commercial (11. 137)

Via Waxy, we are directed to another soundtrack from Louie Zong (see previously) for a fictional albeit believable 1970s style Peanuts holiday special complete with Vince Guaraldi inspired jazz that captures the ethos not only for the shoppers but those working on Black Friday. Other musical segments include Cyber Monday Blues, Buyer’s Remorse, A New Week and Snoopy vs Capitalism. One could imagine the anti-consumerism messages of the limned out television special plus the harried cashiers and store workers just out the frame speaking with muffled trombone voices.

Friday 3 November 2023

8x8 (11. 093)

outsider art: revisiting the narrative embroidery of Agnes Richter and other works in the Prinzhorn Collection  

market sundries: the paper bag baron of the East End—via Strange Company  

the crispy r: more on rhoticity and unusual consonant 

pentimenti: conservators reveal a hidden demonic figure in Joshua Reynold’s “The Death of Cardinal Beaufort”—see also 

the statistical breviary: an overview of the history of digital design 

uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, cinco, seis: DJ Cummerbund (previously) presents a mashup of the The Offspring and Boney M—with quite a few other musical cameos 

face-hugger: the parasitic crustacean Phronima sedentaria was the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien  

sgraffito: the alleged safe-room where Michelangelo hid from his political enemies, decorated with his anatomical and engineering studies opens to the public

Sunday 20 August 2023

9x9 (10. 954)

cucumber castle: a star-studded promotional film for the Bee-Gee’s medieval-themed, chivalrous 1970 album  

as big as a football pitch: the vague rulers of informal metrology 

good(bye) design: a tribute to the aesthetic of vintage consumer tech by Miki Nemcek with a special focus on Braun  

grand master: World Chess Federation places restrictions on trans competitors  

1:25: a tour inside the scale model of St Paul’s, hidden in a chamber in the attic 

 : like Zuckerburg explored before—in violation of app store policies—Elon Musk is threatening to remove Twitter’s block feature  

magalog: combination magazine-catalogue that was successful print model in the 1970s  

langue รฉtrangรจre: faced with budget-shortfalls, US public university cutting foreign language from its ciriculum 

elephant in the room: the imprint of favourite songs of our formative years and what that says about our capacity for new things

Tuesday 9 May 2023

9x9 (10. 728)

daily double: Jeopardy! had a all-fonts category with answers in the typefaces they were looking for as the question—via Kottke  

on the eighth day: a 1984 BBC documentary on nuclear winter preparedness—see previously 

a la carte: a century of cultural changes captured in restaurant menus—see previously  

ใ‚ซใ‚ฏใƒ†ใƒซ: an award-winning small Tokyo ex-urb defined Japanese cocktail culture 

that’s so fetch: tech retreats from the Metaverse to the new hotness  

exciton condensates: physicists find a link between photosynthesis and strange states of matter  

cabin crew: the argot of airplane travel 

mutually assured destruction: new analysis of the same Cold War  

grundvig: font-founder Reinadlo Camejo transforms a Copenhagen church into a typeface

Thursday 8 December 2022

8x8 (10. 372)

low-poly: needlepoint designs based on vintage video games—see previously 

ghost mall: visiting a virtually abandoned yet very much open for business shopping centre in New Jersey 

zenosyne: from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (previously here and here)—that feeling that time is getting faster  

digichromatography: a survey of the seconds, the raw files, of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky’s documentation of the Russian Empire is a study in the development of colour photography—see also  

the pandoravirus: the melting Siberian permafrost is reviving long dormant but viable germs  

q-zone: a racing timeline of the most popular social media from 2003 to the present  

์‚ด: South Korea will abandon traditional age-reckoning in favour of an international recognised counting method beginning next year 

akka-arrh: Atari reprises a 1982 arcade game that was never released commercially as it proved too challenging for test-audiences

Friday 12 November 2021

santa claus isn’t coming to town

With an extreme shortage of Santa’s Helpers available and unwilling to work and risk life and limb with a resurgent pandemic expected to get worse before it gets better (many of the usual candidates in character being older and larger individuals considered more vulnerable), many malls—worldwide—are turning towards a new Yuletide tradition and installing the red-light, green-light killer robot from Squid Games (previously). Adults queuing up at a shopping centre in Manchester even were served dalgona—the fragile sugar cookie-cutter candy from one of the challenges—whilst they waited patiently to have their picture taken with the giant doll.  Not to fret, however, since unlike one’s typical Mall Santas, the actual Father Christmas is immune and designated as an essential worker.

Friday 3 January 2020

brick-and-mortem or from mall rat to snap chat

The curatorial team at Hyperallergic showcases the photographic essays documenting, unflinchingly and not just the empty, echoing nostalgia that ghost malls (see previously here, here and here) are usually treated with, the decline and decay of retail spaces after the pivot and paradigm shift away from the shopping centre and high street to online sales and virtual shop fronts of artist Philip Buehler.
The procession through the panels, the exhibits—buffeted with the memories we ourselves burden the scenes of wrack and ruin with—are also a eulogy for the idea of the third place, that oasis that was neither home nor work but a liminal spot for meaningful congregation—one’s social hour previously spent at church and then at the mall (most of the indoors anachronism are mainly food courts with a few anchor stores attached). Despite this gastronomical attempt at rehabilitation, a revanche and reorganisation of cafรฉ culture packaged and commodified in the most tedious and antithetical ways possible has not fulfilled that role of the third place, nor has another dominant technology and lifestyle company with the hubris to try to become the new town square. Though this may be the day we finally put aside that artificial divide we’ve created between worlds on-line and off, it is high time we begin to acknowledge the importance of these oases and transitional places, no matter where they exist. Buehler show runs through January at a gallery in the Lower East Side, Manhattan.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

possibly in michigan

Vacillating between the cute and the grotesque and nicely framing the spirit of the contradictory and the absurd that America leans strongly into, we appreciate the referral to the filmmaker and educator Cecelia Condit through her 1983 eponymous and most viral piece.
Recently rediscovered and championed by a video clip platform that’s usually the reserve of brief lessons or lip-syncing, this musical short about a deranged cannibal who pursues a pair of women through an otherwise empty shopping mall has enjoyed cult-following for the past four decades and no stranger to the experience of memetic infection, having previously been drawn in as a poster child in the moral and Satanic Panic of mid-1980s America and the on-going culture wars—by dent mostly of the closing credits that prominently features the support and patronage of the National Endowment for the Arts. New audiences are sometimes the best audiences.

Friday 17 May 2019


Found among the latest selection of curated links from Pasa Bon! we’re treated to a rather taxing forty minutes of instrumental of mall muzak (previously) from 1974.
Long playing records were distributed as the shopping soundtrack suitable for almost any retail environment—see if you can identify the commercial classics covered such as “Restroom Retreat.” The title is the Netherlandish word for the phenomenon of such background music—muzak having become proprietary eponym or genericised trademark, like Q-Tips and Scotch Tape—and the language, championed by Philips in the 1960s, has a related concept, fumu, from functional music—targeted performances orchestrated to boost sales. I don’t know how scientific the later were but the former does not really put me in the mood for shopping.

Sunday 2 September 2018

the peachdate mall or gruen transfer

Shopping centres all over the world generally have names that reflect a balance between the conservatively familiar and the elegant, exclusive—no matter how humble the location and the anchor stores, and of course artificial intelligence tasked with naming a mall ought not to upstage its human imagineers and nor should it be guilty of the crime of ‘overfitting,’ the tendency of neural networks to sometimes find the most obvious solution through plagiarism. After a few iterations and trial-runs, our friends Lewis & Quark (aka, AI Weirdness, previously) got the hang of the job at hand (with illustrations) and began churning out suggestions like Town Centre at Citylands, Outlets of the Source Mall and South Unit Presence.

Saturday 3 February 2018


H and I thought it bad enough when a portion of the remaining Berlin Wall fell victim to gentrification or the travesty of the massive compound called the Colossus of Prora commissioned as part of the Kraft dรผrch Freude (Strength through Joy) programme as a seaside retreat and then existed East German secret military base being turned into luxury apartments, and that they were among examples of the worse ways to pave over the past—that is, until learning of this quite tone-deaf property development firm in Hanseatic Hamburg.
The mixed use residency and deluxe shopping experience refurbishes the Stadthof which once hosted the Gestapos’ regional headquarters and interrogation cells. Originally the layout was to accommodate a museum and memorial to those questioned and disappeared there but the plans were decimated and the monument was reduced to the form of a section in a book shop about Nazi secret police with the possibility of a few plaques. The worse transgression was this wrought iron entry way (next to a table giving the history of the compound) that evokes the look of the lettering dismissive, dehumanising gates of concentration camps and juxtaposed with such a twee and trite message of welcome seems not only wilfully ignorant but an insult to what happened here.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

swap meet

Hyperallergic contributor Mark Dery pens a thoughtful essay lamenting eBay’s transformation to a model more akin to other on-line retailers who specialise in plying wares similar to ones that a given shopper has already expressed an interest in from its origins as an on-line flea market (Flรถhmarkt, les puces), souk, arcade or yard sale.
Rather than trying cater to consumers by gainsaying what they might like, eBay encouraged critical meandering, the bailiwick of the committed flรขneur. The dissonance and the disconnect are essential for experiencing serendipity, the non sequitur, and are patently more character building than having everything that one is interested in or concerned for served to them in tidy package. Ghost malls are a bellwether and a parallel casualty to marketing but in their homogenising brought about their own demise. Old eBay was the emporium that facilitated the exchange of items befitting a Wรผnderkammer like bizarre taxidermy specimens, celebrity detritus or the simulacra of Jesus and Mary in food items and was a source of associated folklore for some of these transaction, but the new eBay hardly has any auctions any more with the trend towards the bourgeoisie smug and no place for the weirder categories.

Saturday 27 August 2016

gruen transfer oder ghost malls

Going home every week, I pass by signs of the future local of “Barbarossa City” shopping centre, that I am supposing will be erected outside of the industrial park of the ancient town of Gelnhausen—home to one of the emperor’s palatial estates, and it makes me moan a little to think about the state of property development in Germany. There perhaps was a legitimate pitch to be made at one point but once there comes a saturation point when we only have ourselves to blame for siphoning off business from the Altstadt and Marktplatz, which still retain their charms, making online shopping commitment-free—delivered to your door via drone, and there quickly comes a point where the appeal and utility of galleries “anchored” by ample parking and a super-market diminishes to the point it’s no longer tenable.
Every other purchase made in the client stores is really just an impulse-buy and the domain who those who couldn’t be bothered to comparison- shop beforehand. There are several ghost malls—completely vacant or nearly so, that are one the periphery of Wiesbaden’s city centre and while the former has been kept because of it auto-garage for as long as I can remember, I’ve watched the rather sharp decline of the latter, whose retail spaces are ninety-percent empty and random (by not a rotation) of car rental outlets, a stationary shop, a t-shirt screen-printing business and a ubiquitous electronic store are all that are left. Even outside city limits, these projects seem designed for ruin after the developers, the barons have made their profit and saddled yet another middling-sized town with reticulated grocery store that steals commerce away from downtown and denying people the ability to shop—or at least the impression thereof, and leaving a landscape of struggling restaurants and shuttered corner shops, boutiques and antique shops to be replaced by mobile telephone and fast-food outlets. What do you think? I don’t care for this zombification, and given the parallel crisis in affordable housing, maybe such flagships of the retail sector might (or rather do) work if (when) they offered accommodation for living as well.

Monday 30 November 2015

viennese sandbox: gasometer city

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the creative ways that municipalities have repurposed gasholders and other industrial behemoths.
Dreamily, I had mentioned the apartment blocks of Vienna as one innovative measure and was surprised to be able to see the site in person. The panoramic installation of four former storage tanks were in operation for eight decades up until 1984 when the city made the transition to natural gas for heating. Bauwerk des Dekonstruktivismus is the designation for architectural ensembles like this. The historic outer-shells were preserved—in part owing to the environmental contamination and the potential difficulties to be faced by new tenants without the support of the government and the city, once the landmark was retired extensive renovations and redesign took place, culminating in 2001.

The complex, joined by sky-bridges, comprises over eight hundred apartments, student dormitories, cinemas, a lecture hall and a shopping centre, and has subsequently fostered a unique sense of community within the four blocks, causing academics, ethnographers and urban-planners to take note with this phenomenon. I think it would be pretty keen to live in such a place, almost like living on an orbiting space station.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

mall rats

In an age of abandoned ghost malls, empty main streets and the gutted department store victim to shingles that are not brick-and-mortar, BLDGBlog turns to look at the pioneer of the original venue that offered an embarrassment of choices in architect, marketer and very much an agoraphile (not under the open skies but rather a lover of the Agora, the bustling, gossipy marketplace of Antiquity) by the name of Victor Gruen. Psychologically-speaking, Gruen lends his name to a phenomenon called the Gruen Transfer, when one’s hunter-gatherer instinct is saturated to a point where one’s original objective is, under a type of manipulation if not duress, diverted and expanded. Even though we may no longer physically congregate in the commons to be subjected to such an experience—which may not be confined to shopping but rather may extended to all of our divisive, distracted decisions—the Gruen Transfer easily translates to the online environment, of bargain-hunting, sharing and haranguing that tend to take place concurrently and with one fell-swoop.