Minggu, 31 Mei 2009

0 You Awards (On sticky)


You know, I've thought that I have a really cute butt, but there seems to be no contest for me to join to show off my ... erm... favourite asset! Perhaps you also suffered the agony of braces for years and want more than praises for your teeth? Or perhaps you have a really toned physique and you think you deserve more than just appraising looks for it?

Well congrats then coz it is Watsons' annual YOU AWARDS, the award that's all about you! And you can actually win money for looking good!

Watson came up with a grand total of 8 categories for people to pit against each other! No 'butt' category, but they do have:

Healthy Hair
for hair that gives you confidence throughout the day

Fit Figure
for the body that is taut, toned and full of energy.

Flawless Face
for a face made amazing with make-up magic

Healthy Skin
for a skin that glows with health and radiance

Friendly Face (Female)
for the face that speaks the universal language of friendship

Friendly Face (Male)
for the face that speaks the universal language of friendship

Sunny Smiles
for the smile that lights up the room when you walk in

Sporty Physique
for the body that loves exercise and the great outdoors

So many!

With 8 different awards it's much easier to win isn't it? Honestly, just pick whatever you think has the least people join and go join it! OK I can't decide which one that is... I guess less people have fit figures? But I can't join that...

Ahem. Anyway, to entice you to read on I have to let you know the amazing prizes!

Wait for it...


$2,000 for the winner of each category


1 year modeling contract for Glow magazine


1 year's supply of the sponsors' products!

Great prizes or what!

And to register is surprisingly easy! Check out the simple registation page here.

All you have to do is to keep a Watsons receipt (any amount will do!) and fill up the form by telling Watsons why you think your feature is unique in 400 words or less.

And then post up 2 photos of yourself! Easy right?

Now, just because I'm a Know-it-all like that, here's some pointers on how I think you can have a better chance of winning 2 categories... Flawless Face and Sunny Smiles!!

First, dress up in nice clothes and preferably a noticeable accessory! First step to being shortlisted is to be noticed!! (Mine is the hairband)

You have to put make up though, being bare-faced is obviously lame for a make-up contest.

Ugly without make-up

Everyone who knows me knows I've been using ZA's two way cakes ever since I was 13! It has always been my favourite!

Recently Andie introduced to me Revlon's awesome liquid soft-flex foundation and it has officially joined my make up family!

It's really, really cool! The foundation has a crazy magic formula that lets it stay on your face for HOURS AND HOURS. The texture is a little like... deodorant. You know how when you put deodorant you can't really 'rub' it off? It's like that! But powdery!

And miraculously enough it doesn't ever (EVER) let your t-zone shine, no matter how oily your skin is. Marvellous.

However, I don't like the colour as much as I do ZA's powders, so I do a mixture of Revlon on T-zone and Za all over.

(And btw these are really my own opinions Revlon is totally not paying me to say this)

Put a little on your sponge just like that.

Spread it evenly... Apply ZA...

And your base is done!

Glam up your peekers with loads of mascara!

On my lower lashes - Loreal's lash fibres and Rimmel's mascara as the second coat because it's a nice shade of brown.

And my eyes are done!

Next step is for Sunny Smiles!

First you go brush your teeth real clean!!!

And then...

Remember to apply lip colour because nobody wants to see pale and cracked lips!

You can cam-whore while you are at it:

There! You are all ready to take photos! First for your Flawless Face Award...

Have a few for selection.

You can try the classic act chio pose...

Or I'd suggest a pose more special so that you get noticed!

Like this? :D

And as for the Sunny Smiles Award...

Just make sure you are feeling really happy when you are taking it, because a smile can always reach your eyes, and those are the best kind of smiles!

Now that you've got your photos, make sure the pictures you have are clear, sharp and bright!

Then you can send them in HERE.

Recruitment is open from now till June 10th only so hurry!


If you are not interested to join in the contest, you can still join in the fun by voting!

Voters also get prizes! The 8 lucky voters who correctly vote for the correct category winners will stand to win attractive product hampers each worth up to $50 in value and a $100 Watsons Voucher!

However, voting only starts on the 18th of June so there's a long way to go.

If you are joining, Good luck! =D

Kamis, 28 Mei 2009

0 Bali!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gonna go to Bali for a sponsored 4 day holiday! Lucky or what!

I've always want to go there but this is my virgin trip. *crazed smile*

I'm gonna be honest with you guys... Don't think I'd update the blog blog part of the blog, but for sure I'd update the Photo of the Moment and Twitter!

So come come to check for my holiday pictures before I even blog about them normally! :D

I checked and the roaming data price is 2c per 1kb. How much is that exactly? I guess I just won't be excessive.

Anyway I'm so happy coz I can take beautiful shots with my new camera! So excited!!!

I already put it into a waterproof bag (Juicy, no less) to prevent the same thing from happening to my old Cybershot (ie drowned in sea water together with phone). FML.

p/s: I cannot understand why any of you think that the jerboa is not cute. Just because it looks nothing like we've ever seen before doesn't mean it's not cute what!

Rabu, 27 Mei 2009

0 I want I want I want! Pygmy Jerboa....

Saw this link from Perez Hilton's tweet.

This cannot possibly be real. It's the maddest cutest thing EVER in the WORLD!

My god I totally want one so bad!!!!!! How can there be something real that's so cute?!?!

It's so cute it's actually making me feel a bit sick. Like seriously!

*makings coo-ing noises*

*whips out credit card*

So where do I buy one??

0 Saddam's Palaces: An Interview with Richard Mosse

[Image: Ruined swimming pool at Uday's Palace, Jebel Makhoul, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

Photographer Richard Mosse first appeared on BLDGBLOG last year with his unforgettable visual tour through the air disaster simulations of the international transportation industry.
He and I have since kept in touch—so, when Mosse returned from a trip to Iraq this spring, he emailed again with an unexpectedly intense, and hugely impressive, new body of work.
These extraordinary images—published here for the first time—show the imperial palaces of Saddam Hussein converted into temporary housing for the U.S military. Vast, self-indulgent halls of columned marble and extravagant chandeliers, surrounded by pools, walls, moats, and, beyond that, empty desert, suddenly look more like college dormitories. Weight sets, flags, partition walls, sofas, basketball hoops, and even posters of bikini'd women have been imported to fill Saddam's spatial residuum. The effect is oddly decorative, as if someone has simply moved in for a long weekend, unpacking an assortment of mundane possessions.
The effect is like an ironic form of camouflage, making the perilously foreign seem all the more familiar and habitable—a kind of military twist on postmodern interior design.
Of course, then you notice, in the corner of the image, a stray pair of combat boots or an abandoned barbecue or a machine gun leaned up against a marble wall partially shattered by recent bomb damage—amidst the dust of collapsed ceilings and ruined tiles—and this architecture, and the people who now go to sleep there every night, suddenly takes on a whole new, tragic narrative.
Fascinated by the dozens and dozens of incredible photos Mosse emailed—only a fraction of which appear here—I asked him to describe the experience of being a photographer in Iraq.
The ensuing dialogue appears below.

• • •

BLDGBLOG: What was the basic story behind your visit to Iraq? Was it self-funded or sponsored by a gallery?

Richard Mosse: The trip was backed by a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Performing and Visual Arts, which I received after graduating from Yale last summer with an MFA in photography. The Fellowship provides enough to fund two full years of traveling to make new photographs, and I applied to shoot in a range of places, including Iraq. My proposal was to make work around the idea of the accidental monument. I'm interested in the idea that history is something in a constant state of being written and rewritten—and the way that we write history is often plain to see in how we affect the world around us, in the inscriptions we make on our landscape, and in what stays and what goes.

[Image: Saddam's heads, taken from the roof of the Republican Guard Palace, now located at Al-Salam Palace, Forward Operating Base Prosperity, Baghdad, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

I suppose it's an idea that captured me while traveling through Kosovo in 2004. I saw a building by the side of the road there that lay mined and shattered in a field of flowers. It was almost entirely collapsed—except for a church cupola which lay at a pendulous angle, though otherwise perfectly intact on a pile of rubble. It was a marvelously pictorial vision of the Kosovo Albanian desire to rewrite the history books. In other words, what I saw before me was not an act of mere vandalism, but a decisive act by the Kosovo Albanian community to disavow the fact of Serb Orthodox church heritage in the region. The removal of religious architecture is a terrible crime, and it constitutes an act of ethnic cleansing (remember Kristallnacht); yet I couldn't help but interpret this as an attempt to create a brave new Kosovo Albanian world.

I began to see architecture as something that can reveal the ways in which we alter the past in order to construct a new future, as a site in which past, present, and future come together to be reformed. And it's not the only one: language—our words and the way we use them—are another fine barometer of these things.

But architecture is something I felt I could research and portray using the dumb eye of my camera.

[Image: JDAM bomb damage within Saddam's Palace interior, Jebel Makhoul, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

BLDGBLOG: Beyond the most obvious reasons—for instance, there's a war going on—why did you go to Iraq? Was there something in particular that you were hoping to see? 

Mosse: I had heard plenty about Saddam's palaces. They were the focus of the International Atomic Energy Association's tedious investigations in the years preceding the invasion, and the news was always full of delegations being turned away from this or that palace. Why were we so keen to get inside Saddam's palaces? Because he built so many—81 in total. Surely, we thought, he must be hiding something in those palace complexes. Surely he must be building subterranean particle accelerators. And, in the end, our curiosity got the better of us.

[Image: U.S.-built partition and air-conditioning units within Al-Salam Palace, Forward Operating Base Prosperity, Baghdad, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

In fact, Saddam was building palaces in every city as an expression of his authority. Palace architecture in Iraq served as a constant reminder of Saddam's immanence. A palace in your city simply fed the sense that Saddam was not just nearby—he was everywhere. Saddam was omnipresent.

I once heard a Westerner tell me that, prior to the invasion, Iraqis driving near one of Saddam's palaces would actually avert their eyes—they would refuse to look toward the palace. It was almost as if they were prisoners in a great outdoor version of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon. Curiously, the sentry towers along the perimeter walls of Al-Salam Palace in Baghdad face only outward; they're screened from looking inward at the palace itself. People say it's so the guards could not witness Saddam's eldest son Uday's relations with underage girls, but I rather like to think that it created a sense of the unseen authoritarian staring blankly outwards. It was like those ominous black turrets that the British army constructed over the hills of Belfast, packed with listening devices and telescopic cameras.

[Image: Outdoor gym, Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

But the idea of Iraqis averting their eyes from Saddam's palace architecture also reminds me of something from W.G. Sebald's book On the Natural History of Destruction.

BLDGBLOG: That's an incredible book – I still can't forget his descriptions of tornadoes of fire whirling through bombed cities and melting asphalt.

Mosse: Sebald recounts how the German population, after the end of WWII, would ride the trains, staring into their laps or at the ceiling—anywhere but out the window at the terrible wreckage of their cities. It was as if they were somehow disavowing the war by willing it away, by refusing to perceive it.

It's interesting, then, that, in both instances—in both Iraq and in post-war Germany—it's the tourist, or the outsider, who observes this blindness. I suppose that's why I like to make photographs in foreign places: only the tourist notices the really dumb things that everyone else takes for granted.

[Image: U.S. military telephone kiosks built within Birthday Palace interior, Tikrit, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

BLDGBLOG: The way these structures have been colonized is often amusing and sometimes shocking—the telephones, desks, and instant dormitories that turn an imperial palace into what looks like a suburban office or hospital waiting room. Can you describe some of the spatial details of these soldiers' lives that most struck you? 

Mosse: It was extraordinary how some of the palace interiors had been transformed to accommodate the soldiers. Troops scurried beneath vaulted ceilings and glittering faux-crystal chandeliers. Lofty marble columns towered over rat runs between hastily constructed chipboard cubicles. Obama's face beamed out of televisions overlooking the freezers and microwaves of provisional canteen spaces.

Many of the palaces have already been handed back to the Iraqis—but where Americans troops do remain, they live in very cramped conditions, pissing into a hole in the ground and waiting days just to shower. Life is hard on the front line, and it seems more than a little surreal to be ticking off the days in a dictator's pleasure dome.

[Images: American dormitories built within Saddam's Birthday Palace, Tikrit, Iraq (2009); photos by Richard Mosse].

The most interesting thing about the whole endeavor for me was the very fact that the U.S. had chosen to occupy Saddam's palaces in the first place. If you're trying to convince a population that you have liberated them from a terrible dictator, why would you then sit in his throne? A savvier place to station the garrison would have been a place free from associations with Saddam, and the terror and injustices that the occupying forces were convinced they'd done away with. Instead, they made the mistake of repeating history.

This is why I've titled this body of work Breach. "Breach" is a military maneuver in which the walls of a fortification (or palace) are broken through. But breach also carries the sense of replacement—as in, stepping into the breach. The U.S. stepped into the breach that it had created, replacing the very thing that it sought to destroy.

There are other kinds of breach—such as a breach of faith, a breach of confidence, or the breach of a whale rising above water for air. All of these senses were important to me while working on these photographs.

[Image: Provisional office wall partitions within Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

BLDGBLOG: In several of these photos, the soldiers are literally lifting tiles up from the floor as if the buildings had been left unfinished, or they're peering through cracks in the palace walls. From what you could see, were Saddam's palaces badly constructed or were they just heavily damaged during the war?

Mosse: Tiles simply fell from Al-Faw Palace because the cement used there had been poorly salinated. If that can happen to tiles, think what's happening when the entire palace has been built on similarly salinated foundations! It's just a matter of time before Al-Faw collapses in on itself.

You can already see arches cracking and walls beginning to sag.

[Image: Fallen tiles and chandeliers, Al Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

But I'm reluctant to include images of U.S. soldiers pointing out problems with Saddam's architecture, because it's fairly evident that those could be a form of propaganda—and it's easy to forget that many of these palaces were built during times of terrible sanctions imposed by the West. It might not seem very clear why Saddam was busy building palaces in a time of sanctions, but remember how the WPA was set-up during the Great Depression? I don't want to risk being called an apologist for Saddam, but there are many ways to read a story.

[Image: "Thank you for your service" banner, Al-Faw Palace interior, Camp Victory, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

That said, the palace is a fabulous monument to rushed construction, poor materials, and gaudy pomp. Saddam had apparently insisted that the palace be finished within two years, so many shortcuts were taken during construction. For example, the stairway banisters were made of crystallized gypsum—rather than carved marble—and where pieces didn't quite fit together, they were just sanded down rather than replaced. Marble that was used in the palace (such as in the great spacious bathrooms) was imported from Italy, in spite of the trade embargo. And the plaster cast frescoes in the ceilings were imported from Morocco.

[Image: Stairway, Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

Al-Faw Palace later became the U.S, Army's Command HQ, located at the heart of Camp Victory, near Baghdad International Airport. The palace is now teeming with generals, including General Odierno, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. It's a great, tiered wedding-cake structure, built around an inner hall with possibly the biggest and ugliest chandelier ever made. In fact, the chandelier is not made of crystal, but from a lattice of glass and plastic.

[Image: Chandelier, Al-Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

The palace itself is then surrounded by a lake, which seems a bit like a moat—and it would be tempting to take a swim there, but the moat has been turned into a standing pool for Camp Victory's sewage. In the summer, the place must be rather unpleasant: rank in all senses of the word, both military and sanitary. These artificial lakes surrounding the palace are also populated by the infamous "Saddam Bass." It's said that Saddam would feed the bodies of his political opponents to these monsters. In fact, they're not bass at all, but a breed of asp fish. U.S. troops stationed at Camp Victory love to fish on these lakes, and a 105-pound specimen was recently caught.

[Image: Tigris Salmon caught at Camp Victory Base, measuring 5 feet 10.5 inches and weighing 105 lbs. Image courtesy of the U.S. Army].

BLDGBLOG: How was your own presence received by those soldiers? Did you present yourself as a photojournalist or as an art photographer?

Mosse: The difference between art and journalism is, for me, of paramount importance—but twenty minutes in Iraq, and the dialectic recedes. I got a vague sense that Americans working there feel a little forgotten—unappreciated by people at home—so they're very grateful for a camera, any camera, coming through. Even a big 8"x10" bellows camera with an Irishman in a cape. There were a lot of rather obvious photographs that I chose not to make, and occasionally someone got offended by this.

[Image: A game of basketball, Birthday Palace, Tikrit, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

BLDGBLOG: What was the soldiers' opinion of these buildings? Did they ever just wander around and explore them, for instance, or was that a safety violation?

Mosse: I got the feeling that soldiers who occupied one of Saddam's palaces were pretty interested in its original function. They seemed a lot more together, and happier with their job, compared with the troops I met on the massive, sprawling, purpose-built military bases in the Iraqi desert. Constant reminders of hierarchy and protocol were everywhere on the bigger bases—but on the more cramped and less comfortable palace bases, soldiers of different ranks seemed much closer and more capable of shooting the shit with each other, to borrow an American turn of phrase.

Though a far tougher environment, there seemed to be real job satisfaction—a sense that they were taking part in a piece of history.

[Image: Detail of U.S. soldier's living quarters, Birthday Palace interior, Tikrit, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

BLDGBLOG: Architect Jeffrey Inaba once joked, in an interview with BLDGBLOG, that Saddam's palaces look a bit like McMansions in the suburbs of New Jersey. He quipped that "the architecture of state power and the architecture of first world residences don’t seem that far apart. Saddam’s palaces, while they’re really supposed to be about state power, look not so different from houses in New Jersey." They're not intimidating, in other words; they're just tacky. They're kitsch. Now that you've actually been inside these palaces, though, what do you think of that comparison? 

Mosse: Well, I've never been inside a New Jersey McMansion, so I can't pass judgment. However, "McMansion" is a term borrowed by us in Ireland, where I'm from. Ireland was hard-hit by English penal laws, from the 17th century onward. One of those laws was the Window Tax. This cruel levy was imposed as a kind of luxury tax, to take money from anyone who had it; the result was that Irish vernacular architecture became windowless. The Irish made good mileage on the half-door, for instance, a kind of door that can be closed halfway down to keep the cattle out but still let the light in.

Aside from this innovation, and from subtleties in the method of thatching, Irish architecture never fully recovered—to the point that, even today, almost everyone in my country chooses their house from a book called Plan-a-Home, which you can buy for 15 euros. And if you have extra cash to throw in, you can flick to the back of the book and choose one of the more spectacular McMansions. Those are truly Saddam-esque.

[Image: Birthday Palace, Tikrit, Iraq (2009); photo by Richard Mosse].

BLDGBLOG: Finally, the "Green Zone," as well as many of these palaces, are notoriously insular, cut-off behind security walls from the rest of Iraq. Did you actually feel like you were in Iraq at all—or in some strange architectural world, of walls and dormitories, surrounded by homesick Americans? 

Mosse: Not all of Saddam's palaces are as isolated from reality as those situated in the green zone (or international zone, as it's now called). One I visited near Tikrit—Saddam's Birthday Palace—was even right at the heart of the city. Saddam was said to visit the palace each year on his birthday.

Wherever you go on the base, you're eminently shootable—a fantastic sniper target—and can hear the coming and going of Iraqis in the surrounding neighborhoods. It's a remarkable experience to go up to the roof with the pigeons at dusk and watch the changing light. You get a palpable impression of the great tragedy of the Iraq war, and you can see for yourself the fencing between neighborhoods, the rubbish strewn everywhere, the emptiness of the place, and you can hear the packs of dogs baying about. But you can also hear occasional shots fired in the distance, and you get the distinct feeling that you're being watched.

I spent a very slow month in Iraq trying to reach as many of these palaces as possible. I only managed to visit six out of eighty-one palaces. It is impossibly slow going over there, working within the war machine. These palaces are currently being handed back to the Iraqis, and many of them will be repurposed, sold to private developers or demolished. If I could get the interest of a publisher, for instance, I would return to Iraq to complete the project before Saddam’s heritage, and the traces of U.S. occupation, are entirely removed.

• • •

Thanks again to Richard Mosse for the incredible opportunity to talk to him about this trip, and for allowing BLDGBLOG to publish these images for the first time.
Be sure to see the rest of Mosse's work on his website. Hopefully the entirety of Breach will be coming soon to a book or gallery near you.

0 Mono-Task And Work More Effectively

A few years ago, “multi-tasking” was a big buzzword. When people wanted to sound busy, the common response was, "I am multi-tasking". However, trying to write emails, talk on the phone, finish that big report and check Twitter all at the same time, is a sure recipe for doing all of them badly. Without focus, results suffer and thus multi-tasking has been relegated to a convenient excuse to procrastinate.

When you’ve got a difficult project to work on, you need to mono-task. Here’s a step-by-step mono-tasking plan to achieve true effectiveness in your work:
  • Step One: Switch Off Distractions
    Whenever you sit down to work on an important task, you need to switch off any distractions. That might be the radio, television, Twitter, messenger programs and – most importantly – your email. Be honest, do you ever get emails that really can’t wait an hour for a response?

    Constantly switching between different applications on your computer drains your ability to concentrate. You lose time whenever you switch – stopping to check your email breaks your concentration, and it can take several minutes to get back into the flow of what you were supposed to be doing.

  • Step Two: Minimize Interruptions
    Even worse than the distractions that you give into are interruptions – outside events that impinge upon your concentration. Depending on your situation, this could be the phone ringing, a colleague coming over to ask a question, a visitor dropping by, a child needing your attention…

    Interruptions can be difficult to deal with, as they involve getting other people on board. Here are some tried and tested methods of minimizing interruptions as much as possible:
    • Let your phone go to voicemail (or tell whoever answers the phone to take a message and tell callers that you’ll ring back later).

    • Put a “do not disturb” sign on your door at home, and let your partner/kids know that you’re only to be interrupted in a real emergency.

    • If you’re at work, try wearing headphones (you don’t need to listen to music – just put them on). This is a good deterrent to people who might otherwise come over to chat…

    • When colleagues do interrupt, get into the habit of saying “I’m right in the middle of something, but I can spare a couple of minutes. What can I do for you?” (This keeps the interruption as brief as possible, and avoids them coming back again later!)
  • Step Three: Set A Timer
    One way to work very efficiently on a single task is to set yourself a time limit. You’ve probably experienced many times in your life how work can expand or contract to fill the time available; perhaps you wrote essays in the two hours before the deadline as a student, or maybe you always manage to clear your backlog of emails just before going on holiday.

    You can make the most of your ability to focus by giving yourself a time limit in which to work on a task. You might be surprised just how many emails you can reply to in an hour, or how far through your report you can get in forty-five minutes. The shorter the time limit you set, the faster you’re likely to work.

  • Step Four: Take Regular Breaks
    None of us can mono-task effectively for long at a time. College students are always advised to take regular breaks whilst studying – most people can only focus intensely for between twenty and forty-five minutes at a stretch. This doesn’t mean you should suggest to your boss that he cuts the length of your work day from eight hours to forty-five … but it does mean you need to break up your mono-tasking.

    After working intensely on your task for (say) forty minutes – using a timer as recommended above – take a break and do something which doesn’t require concentration. This could be a good chance to check your emails, tidy your desk, get a cup of coffee or return a phone call. Just make sure that whatever you do, it won’t take up more than ten minutes or so. Because after your break, you should go back to your mono-task for another timed stretch.
If you feel like you spend most of your days dealing with a series of “emergencies”, or if your email seems to take up all of your time, give mono-tasking a try (it’s particularly effective at the start of the workday, before you’ve checked email and before there are many calls coming in). And if you’ve got a mono-tasking tip – or success story – let us know in the comments.

Written on 5/27/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line (ali) or check out her website at Aliventures.Photo Credit: Beezum

Selasa, 26 Mei 2009

0 Thrilling Wonder Stories

This Friday at the Architectural Association here in London, Liam Young and I will be hosting Thrilling Wonder Stories: Speculative Futures for an Alternate Present: a 6-hour event with an unbelievable line-up, discussing the thematic, imaginative, technical, and even structural connections between science fiction and architectural design.

[Image: Thrilling Wonder Stories: Speculative Futures for an Alternate Present at the Architectural Association. Poster design by Wayne Daly, with art direction by Zak Kyes; view larger for more info].

I've repeatedly asked here on the blog what architects might learn from science fiction – whether this latter term is understood to mean Star Trek, Dune, ancient myth, or The Book of Revelation – but, of course, this also works the other way around. What can producers and fans of sci-fi take away from the offshore utopias, Walking Cities, artificial reefs, vertical farms, genetically-modified living megastructures, intelligent machinery, and reengineered urban rivers of contemporary architectural design?
This symposium, hosted from 11am to 5pm in the Lecture Hall of the Architectural Association (here's a map), will be an incredible way to explore these questions in depth.
From the event description:
    We have always regaled ourselves with speculative tales of a day yet to come. In these polemic visions we furnish the fictional spaces of the near future with objects and ideas that, at the same time, chronicle the contradictions, inconsistencies, flaws and frailties of the everyday. Slipping suggestively between the real and the imagined, they offer a distanced view from which to survey the consequences of various social, environmental and technological scenarios.

    In this symposium we will hear stories from such foreign fields as gaming, film, comics, animation, literature and art. These speculative practitioners present alternative models as test sites for the deployment of the wondrous possibilities, or dark cautionary tales, of our own architectural imaginings. And so we wander off the map to embark on a future safari into the brave new worlds that may evolve from our own.
Following an introduction from Brett Steel, Director of the Architectural Association, and short welcomes from both myself and Liam Young, you'll hear a genuinely fantastic line-up:The event is free, open to the public, takes place at 36 Bedford Square, and will last all day, from 11am to 5pm; definitely feel free to stop in and check it out. The AA will also be opening up their Wifi network for event attendees, so you'll be able to live-blog the proceedings, if you wish – and, even better, the whole thing will be livestreamed, which means that, even if you're not in London, you can still tune-in.
So expect some amazing presentations, live interviews, and open discussions – as well as an ongoing flurry of mind-bending ideas, visuals, and architectural designs. It's not often that Archigram, Half-Life 2, and Transmetropolitan get together in the same room.
Hope to see you there!


New blogskin is up! Currently my designer is still fixing the comments. Like it? Click on the "I like this" button at the bottom.

And give me your comments!!!!!!



Ok now that the site is properly done I've got time to blog more about the skin!

My web designer is none other than Lionel, from Nitro Designs. He also did my friend Ming's webpage, and I really liked what he did with the speech bubble on the banner with the twitter feed in it!

So about 2 months ago, I asked him to help me with the design...

We sorta bounced ideas off each other till it is what you see here!

For years I procrastinated on a new skin because the old one was so good and I felt really pressurized to do something better than that if I wanted a change.

But times has changed and so must blogskins!

I must take credit for the idea of the "twitter feed + Photo of the Moment on top" idea though!!

I've been photoblogging/tweeting on those two so much it's crazy!

Now, because I have a blackberry, it's super duper easy to simply take a photo and send it to blogger!!

The whole process takes less than 1 minute.

Snap, blackberry asks me what I want to do with the photo. I select "email" and send it to a secret blogger email address assigned for that blog, and type in a caption. And I hit send!

Every blogger should have a blackberry!

And because Photo of the Moment and Twitter are updated ALL THE MUTHAFUCKING TIME, you will no longer log into the website and feel annoyed that I didn't update!

Because I definitely would update everyday from now! Yay for us all!

To scroll to the previous photo, just click on the little purple arrow. :)

Cool isn't it?

Other cool stuff!

- 6 different banner photos that rotate everytime you refresh!

- Little "I like it" widget at the bottom lets you express your feelings for entries without having to leave a comment.

- Finally incorporated a search bar

- And an "Older posts" button.

- And and... Look how chio he made my blockquotes!

And good news for advertisers, especially blogshops!

If you wish to have a cheap and efficient ad, the Pixel Grid would be perfect for you.

One square with a tagline of your choice links to your webpage...

And get this...

SGD $100 - and that ad is permanent.

Yes! Forever there! So grab the prominent spots before they are all gone!

It doesn't have to be a small square. You can buy 6 squares to form into a bigass ad and $600 gives you a permanent ad space on xiaxue.blogspot.com! :)

The chio photos are shot quite some time ago by photographer Kenneth Koh. You can see his works here!

So anyway, whether you like the design or not, it's here to stay! Meanwhile, remember to always check on Photo of the Moment because that's updated all the time!

I'm editing photos for the photos I took... Got a lot lah! And I love that now you can see the quality of my LX3 in its full glory because the photos can go to a maximum width of 640 pixels wide!

Meanwhile to placate you all here's a photo of me I like very much:

Chio or what! I totally look like someone shot me unaware but I was the photographer MUAHAHAHAHA! And yes I dyed a patch of my hair pink!

I am comtemplating doing it for my whole head. Yes/No?

And now you can click on the "I like it!" button!!!

0 Zone for Cloud

[Image: Detail of a zoning map for New York City].

Earlier this month, mammoth – just two months old, but already one of the more interesting architecture blogs out there – cited climatological research that certain land use patterns can dramatically affect the formation of clouds above.
In other words, pastures, forests, suburbs, cities, farms, and so on, all affect the skies in very particular spatial ways. Deforestation, for instance, has "substantially altered cloud patterns” in the Amazon; specifically, we read that "patches of trees behave as 'green oceans' while cleared pastures act like 'continents'," generating a new marbling of the local atmosphere.
The same thing can be found to happen above cities, of course.
In fact, possibly sarcastically, mammoth then predicted that BLDGBLOG would use this very research to "suggest a city built with the aim of controlling the cloud patterns above" – and I hate to be so predictable, but I think it's a great idea.
Instead of "being zoned 'R-3 Residential Low Density'," mammoth continued, "a block might be zoned 'Cumulus H-2'." Or Mammatus H-3.
All new buildings have to be cleared with a Meteorological Bureau to ensure that they produce the right types of cloud. Atmospheric retrofitting comes to mean attaching bizarre cantilevers, ramps, and platforms to the roofs and walls of existing houses till the clouds above look just right.
Sky vandals are people who deliberately misengineer the weather through the use of inappropriate roof ornamentation. George Orwell would call it skycrime.
Over generations, you thus sculpt vast, urban-scale volumes of air, guiding seasonal rain events toward certain building types – where, as mammoth's own earlier paper about fog farming suggests, "fog nets" might capture a new water source for the city.

(Incidentally, there is a short vignette in The BLDGBLOG Book about bespoke, privatized, and extremely local climate change – definitely check it out).

0 The Immersive Future of the Architectural Monograph

[Image: A Tribute to Sir Christopher Wren (1838) by Charles Robert Cockerell].

Yesterday in the architecture galleries of the V&A, I found myself looking at a painting by Charles Robert Cockerell called A Tribute to Christopher Wren, from 1838.
The image is a spatially overwhelming lamination of various buildings all designed by the legendary English architect; in a way, it's an early predecessor of today's total city renderings by firms like Foster & Partners and OMA: a complete metropolis designed in one fell swoop by a master architect.
What first came to mind, though, when seeing Cockerell's image, was something that I've mentioned on the blog before – as recently as in the interview with Jim Rossignol – which is that the era of the architectural monograph is over: perhaps we will soon enter the age of the architectural videogame.
In other words, what if Charles Robert Cockerell had not been a painter at all, but a senior games designer at Electronic Arts? His "tribute to Christopher Wren" would thus have looked quite different.
The architect's buildings would still be visually represented, all standing in the same place, but thanks to the effects of immersive digital media and not the intensely beautiful but nonetheless materially obsolete techniques of a different phase of art history.
Might we yet see, for instance, A Tribute to Sir John Soane, complete with scenes of zombie warfare beneath the arches of ruined bank halls, released by Joseph Gandy Designs Corporation™?
When it comes time to release a major monograph, MVRDV instead releases a videogame.
Bjarke Ingels has already released a comic book – the game, as another narrative medium, as simply another option for architectural publishing, can't be far off.
Learning about the buildings of Erich Mendelsohn... by hurling virtual grenades at them.

[Image: The Professor's Dream (1848) by Charles Robert Cockerell, courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts].

Until then, here are some more or less unrelated close-up views of another of Cockerell's works, the otherworldly pyramids, domes, and steeples from The Professor's Dream (1848), courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts.

[Images: The Professor's Dream (1848), and several details thereof, by Charles Robert Cockerell, courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts; say what you like about pastiche, but a part of me wishes that all cities looked like this].

Gaming our way through the future of architectural history.

Senin, 25 Mei 2009

0 London Yields: Urban Agriculture

[Image: The King's Vineyard, London, by Soonil Kim, one of many projects featured in London Yields: Urban Agriculture].

One of the many benefits of being in London this week is that I get to stop by the Building Centre, one of my favorite urban galleries and architectural exhibition spaces, to check out their new show London Yields: Urban Agriculture.
While imagining what it might be like to eat extremely local food, grown right there in your city – a line of 96th Street Honey, for instance, or, in light of Times Square's recent (but unfortunately temporary) pedestrianization, perhaps a Times Square Tomato (why not agriculturalize parts of Times Square?) – we also need to ask how we might make such a vision come true.
How can a city like London be at least partially turned over to food production – so that London Fields might produce southeast England's newest yields of meat, fruit, and vegetables?
I have to admit that urban agri-utopianism is easily one of the most seductive visions of the 21st century city that I've yet seen – from farming new medicinal plants on the rooftops of schools to hybridizing sci-fi flowers on vast and heavily perfumed highway-farms stretching across one borough to another – and it's hard not to get excited when thinking about such things.

[Images: From Ian Douglas-Jones's awesome Towards New Capital project, also featured in London Yields. Douglas-Jones asks us to project ahead to London in 2070 A.D.: "Food imports dried up 20 years ago when oil peaked at $1000 a barrel. Our new self-reliance has necessitated the development of dense enclaves of self-subsistence, and self sustenance; each enclave provides the optimum population density with the exact amount of energy and food," he writes].

Even better, tomorrow morning the Building Centre will be hosting a related event called London Yields: Getting Urban Agriculture off the Ground. Featuring Mark Brearley (Design for London), Jamie Dean (East London Green Grid), architect Carolyn Steel (author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives), architects Bohn & Andre Viljoen, Mikey Tomkins and Ruth Coulson (Croydon Council), and a representative from Sustain ("the alliance for better food and farming"), the whole thing will be hosted by none other than David Barrie.
Coincidentally, my wife and I picked up a copy of Steel's book yesterday; it looks fantastic. From the food supply infrastructure of ancient Rome to today's exurban British megamarkets, by way of a brief feminist history of cooking (the TV dinner as misguided step toward female liberation) and the carefully engineered landscapes of London waste processing (including a short tour through the city's eastern marshes), it seems to have no shortage of general interest.
So the event tomorrow costs £35, unfortunately, but if you're up for it, stop by; if not, consider checking out the exhibition before it comes down on May 30!

(Note: Check out the other work on Ian Douglas-Jones's site, including his Aeronautica Sovereign State).

0 Sound-Sensitive Maze Labs of a Sewer-Spelunking Blog

While standing in the check-out line of a grocery store the other day, I remembered that the new issue of Wired might feature a review of The BLDGBLOG Book.

And, lo! In a moment of brief mania, I saw that The BLDGBLOG Book is right there on on p. 66.
As a very long-term reader of Wired – since at least 1995 – it's hard to exaggerate how cool it was to see that, especially as it's still hard to believe that the book has really been published and that it actually will be out on people's shelves this summer.
So what does Wired think of The BLDGBLOG Book?
    Geoff Manaugh's long-form riff on his building blog skips through Soviet sleep labs, sound-sensitive rice genes, transborder mazes, and the life of a sewer-spelunker. His energy and imagination make him an excellent tour guide: Manaugh sees architecture – past, future, and fantasy – through an arts-and-culture lens. By pondering how humans shape the environment with, say, fiction or film, he turns his enthusiasm into our own.
So exciting to see that!
Meanwhile, if you'll excuse this obvious commercial interlude, the book is beginning to get good reviews from sources as diverse as Sunset magazine and Joerg Colberg's widely-read photography blog, Conscientious.
Allison Arieff, Editor-at-Large of Sunset and author of the New York Times blog By Design, writes:
    Trapped icebergs, Dollywood, fossil rivers, and the "undiscovered bedrooms of Manhattan." These are just a few of the million preoccupations writer/blogger Geoff Manaugh explores in The BLDGBLOG Book, just published by Chronicle Books. Driven by unfettered curiosity, Manaugh delves into pet obsessions including but not limited to 19th century paintings of ruins, the architecture of video games, the Garden Museum of London, and storms on demand... Highly recommended reading.
The book itself starts shipping in North America on June 10, I believe, and a bit later – in early July - in the UK and Australia. Amazon has it for sale at a pretty steep discount right now, so definitely take advantage of the price and preorder a copy soon – that, or order the book directly through Chronicle.
Finally, I hope to have information about some public events that will take place around the book release coming up soon. And, of course, expect more info about the book itself.
So thanks again to everyone who's seen and reviewed the book so far!

0 London Future Green

Note: This is a guest post by Nicola Twilley.

During a brief Tube journey earlier today, this image stood out against a backdrop of mobile phone advertisements, travel insurance offers, and posters for English-language schools.

[Image: "Above Ground" by Nils Norman, commissioned by Platform for Art for Transport for London; view it as a 2.6MB PDF].

Designed by artist and architect Nils Norman, this fantasy map traces the Piccadilly line's route through an alternate London whose landmarks consist of utopian eco-fantasies (mushroom farms and geothermal energy platforms) alongside various post-war avant-garde architects' unrealized projects for the city.

Mike Webb's Sin Centre and Cedric Price's Fun Palace sit next to the Westminster Bog and Wetland Chain, while Thomas Affleck Greeves' Monument to Commemorate the Passing of the Good Old Days of Architecture nestles in the shadow of a dual purpose algae factory and housing tower not far from George Orwell's Ministries of Love, Peace and Plenty. The result is an interesting juxtaposition of hypothetical projects designed as critique or provocation, and equally imaginary proposals rooted in a utopian impulse toward sustainability: Superstudio's Continuous Monument is set alongside the North London Turbine Fields and the South Kensington Vegetable Oil Refinery.

It turns out that the map dates from summer 2007, and was part of a year-long celebration of the Piccadilly line's centenary. Transport for London commissioned multiple public art projects to mark the occasion, under the curatorial title "Thin Cities"—a reference to Italo Calvino's invisible city of Armilla, in which a "forest of pipes... rise[s] vertically where the houses should be and spread[s] out horizontally where the floors should be." This striking description highlights the Tube's structural centrality to London—even if Calvino's "underground veins" carry water, not commuters or tourists.

Other projects from the series include the first ever whole-Tube wrap, as well as the calls of fifty-two different migratory species (one per week) broadcast every twenty minutes over the Knightsbridge station tannoy. Taken from the British Library's sound archive, these included the clicks of a bottle-nosed dolphin and the honks of a Whooper swan—and they were each introduced by the official voice of the Tube, Emma Clarke.

All the Thin Cities projects are now archived online; they're presented alongside photos and anecdotes from each station on the Piccadilly line, such as the best place to watch planes take off and land at Heathrow (hint: it's a small footbridge outside Hatton Cross) and the fate of Alfie the cat (he was adopted by a Station Supervisor after 10 years' independent living at Cockfosters).

[Check out Archinect's interview with Nils Norman for more. Also vaguely related: Just Add Water. Previous posts by Nicola Twilley include Atmospheric Intoxication, Park Stories, and Zones of Exclusion].

0 Blah blah blah

All the comments are going on about how lazy I am and little prophecies about how I am going to lose my popularity etc!

I mean, on the whole I AM lazy, undeniably, but I've been busy these few days working on the new blogskin! I mean, that is part of blogging also right! Hmpf! Kena accused of being lazy when I am actually working hard! I even missed a KTV session ok!

I know you are salivating (you are that excited), but it will only be launched in maybe 2 days' time.

And the reason why I polled whether you guys want short posts or long posts is because I bought a Blackberry!!

Therefore, I'm connected to the internet all the time and I can twitter/post photos with a short caption anytime I want!

Since most of you choose long posts over short posts, I've actually came up with the perfect skin for that. I think it's fab anyway!!! It will be like... revolutionary!!

Meanwhile, excuse me while I go work on the skin and an advertorial for Watsons.

If you are that bored, you can sign up for Twitter and follow me here: LINK.

The 300 or so kiasu people who are already following me got a little glimpse of the new blogskin yesterday. :D

AND............ Watch videos!



Happy Mother's Day to the best Mom!

I know. So long overdue it's almost Father's day.


Watch KK and Paul attempt the impossible.


A woman who claims she can see angels!

Ding dong or some sort of messiah? Decide for yourself.

And a little bonus.

Asia Uncut on Star World interviewed me ages ago but I had not mentioned it yet. You can watch my interview here:

I totally deserved being forced to use a mac for the show.

They told me to bring my laptop but I forgot.
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