Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rated NV for NonViolent

Wired has an interesting story about a new video game that teaches the strategy of nonviolent political resistance.

A Force More Powerful is a new PC game from Maryland game developer BreakAway Games, inspired by 2000 PBS documentary on the history of nonviolent resistance. The game challenges players to lead successful and peaceful political movements from the ground up - putting you at the head of Ghandi's struggle for India's independence, the push for Civil Rights in the American South, or the pro-democracy protests in Serbia. You organize the speeches on college campuses, the sit ins, and the marches. You can even set up your own tense scenarios and experiment with different strategies to produce a peaceful outcome. (ex: So let's say my parents are the repressive regime, would a program of civil disobedience regarding the cleaning of my room lead to increased autonomy?)

A Force More Powerful is part of a growing sector in the video game market of serious educational simulation games, an area that includes military and even emergency room training games. The move to capitalize on the interactive possibilities of video game simulation is long overdue outside of the military realm, and the idea of a "SimPeace" game certainly pulls at the liberal heart strings.

The game's creators see the potential for A Force More Powerful to be used as an international training tool for peaceful conflict resolution - which is why the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict was involved in the development of the game.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Loopty Loop

Pushing the boundaries of modern architecture is not an easy thing to do. In a time of strict building codes and complex engineering guidelines, buildings have to be safe, efficient, and structurally sound before they can be daring and original.

Which is why I assumed that when the engineers first saw the rendering of Rem Koolhaus's design for China's Central Television Headquarters, they were struck with piercing headaches thinking of the challenge ahead. Not to mention that the site in Beijing is also in a seismic zone!

And yet, engineering consultant Ove Arup makes it sound so simple that he even sketches little drawings of how Koolhaus's design will become a reality.

The basement and 10-storey high base of the building are built conventionally from ground level using tower cranes. The construction of the towers continues with climbing cranes.

The heads of the towers are completed and are used to support the first sections of the linking overhang floors. These cantilever out from the towers 163m above ground. The two cantilevers are built further and further out until they form a two storey transfer deck which will carry the other 11 storeys of the overhang, and lock the movements of the two towers together.

Koolhaus, who designed last year's much hyped Seattle Central Library, definitely delivered one of the most novel structures I've seen with his vision for the Central Television building (even if it does resemble a lower case "a"). And Arup's process of erecting the structure is surprisingly intuitive and straightforward, even if I could never quite pull it off successfully with my lincoln logs as a kid.

Via Daily Dose.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Say Jell-O to San Francisco

In just one short month I will be moving out to San Francisco, leaving the DC area, my home for the past 6+ years.

So not only was I really impressed by artist Liz Hickok's gelatinous model of San Francisco, but I found it timely to say the least. The detailed model also features spectacular colors and lighting - bringing the whole sugar-free city to life.

The entire city - note the Transamerica Pyramid in red (center top)

Alamo Square

The Bay Bridge

Of course, her video of the Jell-O city being hit by an earthquake was slightly disconcerting.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Trifling Launch Party

For all the NYC dwellers, Trifling Mental is hosting the launch party for their new webzine this Monday at RIB. Expect delicious pulled pork sandwiches, beats from the TM crew and general debauchery.

If you haven't done so, check out PRADE's exclusive interview with the creative muscle behind TM right here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

55 Water Street Coverage Round Up

I've seen a ton of coverage of the newly-dedicated elevated park at 55 Water Street - a great example of an ugly, wasted plaza being transformed into a useful and vibrant public space, complete with stunning views and an amphitheater that will host year-round public events. The centerpiece of the redevelopment is a 50 foot lantern-like structure called the Beacon of Progress that is equipped with embedded LED lights that can be configured in colorful arrays to coordinate with holidays and seasons.

The concept of the landscaping of the park is to create an "urban dunescape" which it appears to successfully accomplish.

Tropolism has some interesting
insight into the project, as its author, Chad Smith, actually helped judge the competition for the design of the park. It is interesting to note that after seeing the finished project, Smith was even more blown away by the Beacon. However, he has points out that several elements were cut from the original plan for budgetary reasons, and claims that the quality of the construction is underwhelming.

Curbed has been keeping
close tabs on the dedication, and offers up some impressive photos of the Beacon's various lighting schemes.

There is a whole discussion thread chronicling the construction of the project
here, and a NY Times piece that gives you some more background on 55 Water Street (apparently the original plaza was only built as zoning compromise of some sort).

And if you didn't get your fix from all of those,
L+L also covers the newest elevated park.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mixtape Vol. 1

There is a great post on Cocaine Blunts and Hip Hop Tapes all about the culture of the hip hop mix tape.

Inspired by a fantastic online collection of images of recordable cassette tapes here, Noz shares a few of his favorites and waxes philosophical on how the new generation of hip hop heads will never know the joy and pain involved in crafting the perfect mixtape.

Noz is completely on point when he reflects, "It pains me to think that the youth of this and future generations will never know what it felt like to have to tape new songs off the radio if the album hadn't drop and you either couldn't find or afford the cassingle. They'll never fret over getting everything perfect on a mixtape for or about a girl you had a crush on, they won't know third generation hiss or cross their fingers in hopes that the drop outs won't be that bad after rerecording over a tape for the sixth time . . . or have a song cut off at the end of the side and have to rush to flip over the tape to get the rest of it"

The post is a great walk down memory lane and I recognized a gang of the old tape designs on the site. But it also made me realize, my generation is probably one of the first that will have all of our childhood memories accessible on the internet. From old Atari and Nintendo games to theme songs from my favorite cartoons, my fellow sons and daughters of the 80's are digitally cataloguing our childhoods and making nostalgic surfing through memory lane instantly available.

When I see these tapes I'm right back at my desk after school, waiting patiently for the radio station to play Boyz II Men one more time so my ultimate Paul's Slow Jamz Mix Tape Vol. 1 would be complete.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Please Skate on Me

Back from the break - refreshed and recharged. PRADE will be getting back into the swing of things this week with more frequent updates.

First up - public spaces that actually embrace urban culture rather than stifle it. These skateable benches from Tom Hawes are specifically designed to provide maximum grind factor for skaters while still offering an attractive seating option for public spaces.

Hawes points out that older kids and teenagers are often ignored in the planning of public spaces - which seems obvious to me the second you walk into any mall and see 30 teenagers hanging out because they have no where else to go.

The only question the design raises for me is - what happens when some people are sitting down and others want to skate? I imagine the temptation to ollie an old lady on the bench might be too irresistible for some to pass up.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

SEED 2.0

I am currently enjoying the sweltering humidity and heat down here in South Florida, so I won't be able to post much today and tomorrow as the beach is calling my name.

However, I wanted to update the loyal PRADE readers on a great publication I picked up for the flight down here.

SEED is a magazine founded on the simple principle that "Science is culture." The magazine is dedicated to exploring the ways that science and technology impact our daily lives, changing our perceptions and even altering our social structures and relationships.

It is a science magazine that is remarkably interesting and readable for the lay person. Most importantly though, all the articles never lose sight of answering the simple question - what will this mean to me? That perspective is fundamental in making the latest scientific breakthroughs and discoveries relevant to every global citizen - something that the editor convincingly argues is extremely necessary in a modern democracy.

And yet SEED doesn't dumb down the concepts at all - in fact even the ads are intelligent and thoughtful. And the editors have found a great balance between feature articles and shorter tidbits to make each issue span a variety of different scientific fields.

SEED actually launched in 2003, but it recently retooled and relaunched with a new layout and structure as part of the SEED Media Group - I picked up the first new issue dated October/November.

You can tell a lot of thought went into the design, with the spine of each issue sporting a chemical absorption spectrum of the element that corresponds to the issue number (ie. #1 is hydrogen). Each page also features a progress bar at the top indicating where you are located in the magazine. I also thought the photo essay in this issue was particularly clever - with the photographer using photos of people to demonstrating complicated chemical properties. Each section is divided by full page photographs, this issue features four species of endangered microscopic organisms from the quickly disappearing Arctic sea ice.

SEED's mission is both honorable and extremely timely, as science and culture intersect with increasing frequency as debates about abortion, stem cell research, evolution, pollution, and space exploration bombard us daily. However, SEED's success is more a product of the magazine's execution - the writing is clear and insightful and ultimately engaging. The layout is clever and the images stimulating. And throughout the magazine, SEED never loses sight of its target audience and its noble mission of being "the first 21st century science magazine for our 21st century science culture."

You can subscribe right
here for only $14.95 for 6 issues.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The iHits Don't iStop

Apple is pumping out new products faster then I can re-check my bank account to find out I don't have enough money to buy any of them.

A new version of the iPod just dropped that has a wider screen and video playback capabilities. The design went the direction of the Nano and the new functionality is timed to coincide with the iTunes store now offering video content from ABC and Disney programming.

But Apple can't stop/won't stop there. They also just announced a new iMac G5 with built in iSight and remote control and featuring the latest mulit-media management software from Apple called Front Row.

Check out the latest and realize that Apple is business man.

Via everywhere.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


There are two great reasons to check out this week's entries on Mtume and Kalamu's excellent Breath of Life.

Number one - this week is Marley week, with posts about the man himself, his progeny (AKA. Junior Gong), and his legacy and influence on other performers. The ya Salaam duo break it down on all fronts, holding the man up for who he was and not who others wish him to be.

Number two - your boy gets a nice shout out on the post about Bob Marley right here.

And don't forget to check out the jukebox this week for some great songs from both Marley's and some soothing covers from Brazilian master Gilberto Gil.

Ok, so I lied, there are 3 reasons.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Trifling Mental

The team of Josh Yaffa and Thomas Williams have combined their passion for design and philosophical ruminations to create the premiere online magazine for modern aesthetes, Trifling Mental.

The first issue offers the dynamic duo's thoughts on everything from the Dutch design click Droog to home scent recommendations. They channel Nietzsche to wax philosophical on the need for a modern "cult of beauty" and even give you a breakdown of the latest from the magazine rack - from deconstructing Lil' Wayne's tumultuous upbringing to pointing you towards the best from the latest issues of Harper's and the New Yorker.

What I enjoyed most about the site is its effortless integration of hip hop and pop culture references into its coverage of high-end luxury design. In a time when you find the trendiest spots in NY to be reinvisioned diners full of hipsters and modern speakeasies not bridge and tunnel mega-clubs, Trifling Mental is one of the best publications I've seen that address this new niche audience of "hi-low" style enthusiasts. It is unashamed of its interest in Beanie Siegel's first thoughts after leaving prison and its praise for $50+ home fragrance candles. In TM's call for a modern appreciation of style, they are truly practicing what they preach by unabashedly dropping Pac references in a piece on modern Italian furniture design and touting local spots with no cover and cheap drinks while still advocating dropping considerable change on modern design for the sake of "style."

I got the chance to ask the TM team about their motivation to create the magazine and what they have in store for readers in the future.

Who are the masterminds behind Trifling Mental?

TM is composed of two like-minded devotees to form (and sound, and smell, and…), who've been politicking on these ideas for several years now. Our mothers call us Thomas and Josh, but you can just call us "Maison Trifling Mental."

What inspired you to start the site?

Trifling Mental was originally conceived of two years ago as a physical space. We were both living abroad at the time, France and Russia respectively. We would meet up in different cities and spend a lot of afternoons and evenings kicking it in cafes. While we felt the spots we were frequenting very hard, we had a sense that there was a certain lack of the unexpected, no cultural juxtaposition, which we think are important elements in keeping an environment fresh and stimulating. In the European case, that meant we felt like a dose of urban American flavor (read, hip-hop), slang, and street culture could be added to the mix and appreciated. And here in NYC we think the scene could be at times too self-referential and centered on a few established formulas (Dunks, A.P.C.s, iPod, etc.) - that yes, we do enjoy, but would ultimately like to free ourselves from.

Our initial dream was to open a gallery/lounge/newsstand/restaurant based on these ideals; but that's a project for which we have yet, not surprisingly, to raise the necessary funds. But really, Trifling Mental is essentially just a body of ideas which can manifest in many ways, whether it be a spot, a website, a specific party one night at a BK loft, or a T-shirt. We like to think of TM as a movable feast.

I noticed you mix everything from philosophy to Lil Weezy references - how would you describe your tastes and do you think Trifling Mental's target audience represents a new group of young professionals steeped in modern "hip pop" culture and interested in beauty and design?

We do, indeed. Nowadays everything is about synthesis. People seem less and less inclined to solely identify themselves with one style, with one social group, one genre of music, one favorite cuisine or even one sort of fashion. It is tough to think of a single magazine that completely covers the entire spectrum of interests its readership may possess. It used to be the case that people who liked Metallica also dressed in ways that indicated their overall association with heavy metal and tended to hang-out in the sorts of places frequented by metal heads. Nowadays, it's tougher to pigeon-hole people.

In terms of hip-hop culture, it's become so pervasive in our culture as a whole that it's no longer an interest which sets someone apart from the group. Now it's just sort of a de facto part of being alive and aware in the world. We feel like most people are basically comfortable interacting with the slang and references, but at the same time it's not their be-all, end-all. They can't get everything they're interested in by watching MTV and reading The Source. On the flipside, magazines like Wallpaper* or Metropolis, while containing items of interest, don't take into account an affinity for street culture. There are plenty of people these days who listen to Biggie, appreciate or are capable of appreciating Bauhaus design, and also know who Thomas Keller is. So they don't get all or most of their interests catered to in just one location. TM tries to speak to people on all these levels, without compromising. Our own tastes are all over the board, we're less concerned with traditional distinctions such as "good" and "bad" or "high" and "low" and more concerned with "interesting" and "uninteresting".

What's in store for the coming weeks on Trifling Mental? How often will the content on the site be updated?

We would like to give more of a focus to the "up-and-comers" in the game, the artists, designers, musicians and writers of our generation who will be filling out the mainstream media's "must-have" lists in a decade. The perpetual question we have to answer is why check for TM, what are we giving you that you can't find elsewhere? Because yes, Cappellini is hot, but do you really need to read TM to find that out?

In terms of format, we'd like to stay with the magazine style as much as possible. That is, we want to hit people with new content as one complete package. There are so many interesting and engaging blogs out there that it can be hard to be heard above the traffic in that format. But at the same time, we know it can be hard to keep an audience if you are only hitting them with new content once every two or three weeks. I think you'll see some daily content pop up on the site separate to the more traditional magazine section. Also expect some sort of a forum in the future.

Trifling Mental also goes beyond preaching, and puts their money where their mouths are by offering event planning services and running an underground supper club. What is in store for someone who books your services?

Whether you are having dinner at our place, or we're coming to yours, TM is really about savoring the fleeting moments that collectively comprise our lives.

Modern life is so stripped of any greater meaning, and TM doesn't really try to create any, rather we aim to raise appreciation of the instantaneous to an art form. And that doesn't have to be hedonistic or overly decadent, we hope in the end to make the dining/dancing/whatever experience more human.

And finally, I have to ask a cheesy question that I'm sure you both can reply to with a clever answer. If you could invite any 4 people to your supper club, alive or dead, who would it be?

Martin Margiela, Tyler Brule, Marcel Proust, and a young Fidel Castro.

This is not to say these are necessarily our four favorite people, or the four people who have most inspired us, it really is just a list of the four people we'd most like to have over for a trifling little dinner.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Catsup Contest

Finkbuilt is hosting a contest that offers some interesting prizes for anyone that comes up with a winning design for a new brand of Finkbuilt ketchup. Entering the contest is as easy as posting a comment with an image of your proposed label. I didn't want anyone to be shy, so I took five minutes and threw one together to help remove anyone's stage fright.

Some of the entries are pretty cool, and definitely put my initial effort to shame in terms of how polished they are, but I actually like the entry from Finkbuilt's own Steve Lodefink the best.

Anyway - I encourage all the amateur photoshop addicts out there to enter and look forward to seeing the winning design.

Via Core77.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ikea Pre Fab

Ikea's entrance into the pre fab housing market has proven successful in Sweeden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Now Ikea's BoKlok flat-pack housing system will give lower-income families in Glasgow a chance to get a foot in the door of the home ownership market.

The Glasgow City Council approved a plan last month that will transform the Drumchapel neighborhood on the city's western fringe. That plan includes the construction of 100 of Ikea's easy-to-assemble BoKlok homes complete with balconies, patios, large windows and airy interieors. The homes will be targeted at Glasweigans making between £12,500 and £30,000 with Ikea also providing store vouchers to help furnish the new residences.

This is just a small part of the overall
£100 million re-development plan for Drumchapel that will eventually transform 124 acres of brownfield sites into over 1,200 new homes complete with roads, sidewalks, and green spaces.

Via Treehugger.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Animation

I've never been into the toy collecting game - so I can't really comment on how appealing the opera dude plastic figure is from Tokyo Plastic.

But I do know a cheerful animation when I see one - and anything that brings a smile to my face on a Monday is worth sharing with the public.

So check out the opera dude animation here with your speakers cranked up.

If you live in your parent's basement and still collect toys, you can enter to win a free plastic opera dude figure here. The site credits Nick Faber with the sounds from the little cartoon - and you can learn more about his work at his site.

Via Daily Dose and Core 77.