Bruce Sterling: The Hypersurface of this Decade

Simultaneously hilarious and mind-expanding (one of my favorite combinations).

Freedom is just another word for nothing! There is no dead weight in my urban spatiality. No clotted semiotics, cajoling me to behave in the stereotyped haute-bourgeois manner that Deirdre once used to stifle me.

Dematerialisation is defined by its interfaces. That which was product will become a service. That which was a service will accelerate at warp speed toward de-monetisation on the Path-to-Free. So this is not so much a post-divorce flat as a vibrant zone of interactive transaction.

Bruce Sterling: The Hypersurface of this Decade | ICON MAGAZINE ONLINE.

Resurrect dead on planet Jupiter

Nearly all the credit for this little project should go to John Young and Chris Thompson – a month or so ago they posted some pictures of a linoleum QR Code to Flickr and I started thinking…  John and Chris’ intent, I believe, is to place QR Code tiles around their stomping grounds and link them – via John’s p8tch redirection server – to local info. My idea was less useful – useless, even – and goofily self-referential. First, two definitions:

QR Codes – a matrix code or two dimensional bar code. QR Codes are big in Japan; they’re used to feed URLs to cell phones.

Toynbee Tiles – “are messages of mysterious origin found embedded in asphalt in about two dozen major cities in the United States and three South American capitals.” *


My idea:

With Chris’ help, make some QR Code Toynbee tiles and deploy them here and there (if I can get this going, I’ll be looking for tile droppers world wide). When and if someone scans the tile, they are taken to a web site where they are presented with a random image of a real Toynbee Tile. Not only would it be a cool bauble, it would also bring together a couple threads I’ve been thinking about – the almost unnoticed human extension via gadgets that’s happening ever more quickly and the slightly slower machine info embedding that’s rolling out here and there.

The web site – – is up and running. The ‘m’ stands for mediated or meta or messed-up or whatever else you care to force fit. You can click on the picture of the tile to access the blog where I’m stashing more info – n.b. – the QR Code post is sticky (at least for now); it will stay on top and the most recent post will be directly below it. The current sub-project is adhesive testing; the QRCode Toynbee Tiles need to stay intact and well-aligned. We humans, with our great pattern recognition skills, can pull meaning out of a tile that’s pretty bunged up – bar code scanners are nowhere near as good.

I’ll post little updates here, pointing over to the Mediated Toynbee blog, when we hit milestones.


Enormous lacuna

How in the world did I not know about this? Trains, model making and everything shitty about the 70’s – SUPERTRAIN!

The series took place on the “Supertrain”, an imagined nuclear-powered bullet train that was equipped with amenities more appropriate to a cruise ship than a train, such as swimming pools and shopping centers. It was so big it had to run on very broad gauge track (not two sets of tracks as depicted in some advertising). The train took 36 hours to go from New York City to Los Angeles. Much like its contemporary The Love Boat, the plots concerned the passengers’ social lives, usually with multiple intertwining storylines, and most of the cast was composed of guest stars. The production was elaborate, with huge sets and a high-tech model train for outside shots.

At the time, Supertrain was the most expensive series ever aired in the United States. The production was beset by problems, including a model train that crashed, and while it was heavily advertised during the 1978-1979 season, it suffered from bad reviews and low viewership; despite attempts to salvage the show by reworking the cast, it never took off and left the air after only three months. *


Special guest stars: Dandy Don Meredith, Vickie Lawrence, and George Hamilton. It’s got success smeared all over it!


The only other atomic locomotive that I can think of offhand is the mighty Dreadnought in Harry Harrison’s A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! ATTH is both a good piece of alt history (as I’ve said before, a genre prone to “what if the Spartans had a nuke?” crapola) and a bit of proto-steampunk (I guess by IDing it as steampunk, the alt history is a given).

Googling ‘atomic train locomotive’ turns up a late-50s ‘how I stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb’ train set – the Kusan KF-100 Atomic Train. A youtube clip of the train in action (sorry, pas de mushroom clouds):

Another bit of brilliance

I discovered Anonymous Postcard via a tweet from @MarsPhoenix. What does AP do? From the FAQ:

Anyone who wants to express feedback to any third party submits a claim. Claims can take the form of praise, suggestions or criticism. We process the most compelling claims by turning them into postcards and then figure out the best person to send them to. We post images of what we sent along with the original claim in the gallery.

What does it look like in practice?

To: His Excellency Mr Robert Mugabe, Harare


Congratulations on ending the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe! Let’s toast the occasion together with a glass of local tap water!

(By the way, we’re glad to see the new house has been completed.)

Resulting postcard:



To: The City of London


I counted 36 cranes on your skyline on October 17, 2008. That’s too many.



(more than) A couple links

Signor Poletti puts up a kaiju Fickrset. Worth a look or two or three (also – check out COOP’s vinyls in comments).


Bookride runs down prices on one of my top ‘want it, but can’t afford it’ books – Ricky Jay’s Cards as Weapons. Sigh.


Peacay, at the always excellent BibliOdyssey, posts one that’s right up my alley:

The book’s [Topographische und naturwissenschaftliche Reisen durch Java] author was an enigmatic character by the name of Franz Junghuhn (1809-1864). He overcame depression and a suicide attempt as a medical student, a prison sentence following a pistol duel (he escaped), and a stint in the French Foreign Legion on his path to becoming one of the foremost naturalists in 19th century Indonesia.

This  plate reminds me a bit of a much later artist – O’Keefe:


Click over and read – beautiful illustrations and a fascinating character.

Go Steam Venture!

Maybe it’s just the zeitgeist in the corner of the universe I inhabit, but I gotta admit, last night’s Venture Bros. episode made me do a little victory dance. First off, we got to meet Col. Venture – Hank and Dean’s great (great-great?) grandfather – a guy who flies around in an airship with Sam Clemens, Fantomas, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley and Sandow pursued by Nikola Tesla. Cement the retrofuture-steampunk-Venture connection? I’d say so. Also – a glimpse at the origin of the Guild of Calamitous Intent. Then, during a commecial break, this ad for Scion.


Say what you will about the Scion line (I understand many are put off by the officialitude of the Scion factory mod parts) the fact remains that what they are trying to do is to tap into the customizer vibe – something that I noted earlier.
Update – I predict the orb is either a seed (universal self-replicator as in The Diamond Age) or a complete kludge/failure – or both. If it’s a seed, I really appreciate its incremental genesis – like the Cryptonomicon in the eponymous novel. Is Jackson Publick a fan of Neal Stephenson?