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Thursday, 28 April 2005
Topic: Video Games
Ongoing through Sept. 5, 2005 (I think) at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry is the travelling exhibit, Game On, a historical retrospective of video games.

It's a huge project with examples ranging from Space War and Pong, to X-Box or whatever the kids have today. The first room is basically a free video arcade of the past, with Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Dig Dug, etc. Then it continues with home consoles, mini-systems, and some side attractions, like video game music, one of those nerdy all text-based role playing games, an interactive game for the blind, a section on Japan including Samurai Warriors where you can be Ieyasu Tokugawa and slaughter scores of lesser samurai, etc etc. Expect manic, unruly school groups, but if you get there early (they open at 9:30) and have a little patience (these brats are basically being rushed through there and have minimal attention spans) you can spend all day playing video games for $5. Plus the kids don't appreciate the time-killing endorphin-releasing magic of the first Beatmania (Master Joe knows), or Parappa the Rapper.

A couple complaints: the graphic design around the exhibit is pretty annoying, but I guess it's supposed to be for the kids (who probably don't really care). A lot of the exhibits at the Science and Industry have these overblown spectaclist installations that obscure the content. Lame. Also, I read that in Europe they had some more violent games like Mortal Kombat that they dropped for the Chicago presentation. In fact, no "M"-rated games. LAME!. Can't I just bust out the MK BLOOD CODE for Genesis: A-B-A-C-A-B-B? My right thumb will remember forever. I will take the BLOOD CODE to the grave.


Wednesday, 27 April 2005
Antoine Predock
Topic: Architecture / Travel
Today architect Antoine Predock gave a lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago organized by the museum's Architecture and Design Society. And TAKOTRON was there. The architect spoke mostly of his more recent projects, including two proposals that recently won their respective competitions: The National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan (below), and The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnepeg.

If you're not familiar with Predock's work, it would help to generally think of it as fitting nicely into Kenenth Frampton's outline of Critical Regionalism. Let's bust out that old book (The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Hal Foster, 1983) for some good quotes from the classic "Towards a Critical Regionalism":
Architecture can only be sustained today as a critical practice if it assumes an arriere-garde position, that is to say, one which distances itself equally from the Enlightenment myth of progress and from a reactionary, unrealistic impulse to return to the architectonic forms of the preindustrial past. [...] The fundamental strategy of Critical Regionalism is to mediate the impact of universal civilization with elements derived indirectly from the peculiarities of a particular place. (22-3)

Much of Predock's work is in the Southwest U.S. (his firm's office is in Albequerque) where it makes use of local materials and imagery from the inspirational landscapes and their indigenous cultures. He succeeds in creating powerful and resonant spaces while avoiding the pitfalls Frampton warns against, namely "nostalgic historicism or the glibly decorative" and "the communicative or instrumental sign."

Predock's Shadow House in Santa Fe (above) is built to frame views of the nearby Jemez mountains as it resonates with the desert sun through the use of an edge-lit glass prism and courtyard enclosed by two walls that incorporate copper.

Predock accepts the Critical Regionalist label to a degree, but is careful not to be confined by it. He reponds to the idea, "yeah, but it's portable." The National Palace Museum in Taiwan indirectly references a plethora of cultural symbols and ideas, including the distant peak of "Jade Mountain," early scroll paintings depicting rivers and mountains, and lanterns, as well as borrowed "pan-asian" examples, especially for the surrounding gardens. It is approached from two opposite paths that bridge a surrounding canal. The paths are to remain open after hours, so that pedestrians can travel through the space without actually entering the building. The museum is to house some 650,000 treasures secretely salvaged from mainland China's Forbidden City by Chiang Kai-shek, in addition to contemporary artwork and performance spaces and increasing collections of pieces from other Asian countries.

At the end of the lecture the architect took some questions. I posed an architectural problem I had been thinking about for a while. So you know I represent Long Island, but not a setting of beachfronts overlooking the Sound or nice little towns where you can get good seafood and take the old boat out. I grew up between two commercial highways lined with gas stations and strip malls. There's no train station in my town, but from one a town over it's an hour ride to Manhattan. So my setting was nothing special, nothing too nice. I'm not ashamed, and when away for awhile I even find myself feeling just a little bit of home pride. This is all only slightly relevant, and I certainly didn't bring it up tonight. You can read more about my town on the Takotron images page. What I asked, was something like, "is there a way to build a project that resonates with its setting if the setting is a place that's quotidian and anonymous, like some of our overdeveloped suburbs?" Mr. Predock gave an informed, deep, helpful response (I must paraphrase):
In such a situation (and others as well) it helps to think on archaological time. When you look at a roadcut, you see the layers of different eras, and on the top is a thin section of candy bar wrappers and cans and things. So, on this scale it is possible to think of things like suburban developments as a temporary fluttering. Most of our country is now covered like this, but in a way it is only temporary. We live in a place built on genocide, but underneath are rich layers of different cultures and the real essence of the land. So sometimes, especially in a situation like that, you need to look beyond the scatterings on the surface, to somewhere deeper.


Posted by thenovakids at 10:06 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:32 AM CDT
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Monday, 25 April 2005
Clean Your Filthy Records!
Topic: Music
Today the takotron staff will teach you how to clean your records a.k.a. LPs in an easy and effective manner. Our motives remain confidential.

Here's what you will need:
70% Isopropyl Alcohol Solution
Distilled Water
Some string
A soft towel
A Bathtub
At least 1 Dirty Record
At least 1 hand

And here's what you do:
1. Take your string, and hang the record by it's filthy hole in you bathtub area. How you do this is your business. We have suction cups from the dollar store, but you can use your boy scout knots or whatever. Just do it.

2. Mix a 1:1 solution of your alcohol and distilled water in a bottle or something. Pour some onto your record while holding it horizontally (while still strung), if possible. If it's really old and crusty try to avoid getting it on the label, which isn't too hard because of the grooves. Take your soft towel and pass it along the grooves. Do it on the other side.

3. Rinse it with distilled water, wipe with towel, and let it hang there to dry.

That's it. So this gets rid of almost all the dust on there, and supposedly eliminates a lot of the static, as in static electricity. You might also want to clean the turntable mat with the alc/H20 solution, as well as the inside of the dust cover if you have one of those. The pictured Carnivore record still skips during the line "spread your legs, I'll seed your eggs," but otherwise it sounds like new. There are plenty of suitable products available for you to buy, if consumption makes you feel better about yourself. Our instructions above are a simplified version of a number of more serious sources, some of which are listed below:

Record Cleaning Maintenance

How-to: record cleaning devices and fluids

How to Clean a Vinyl Record: Tips from eHow Users

Posted by thenovakids at 12:22 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:32 AM CDT
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Friday, 22 April 2005
Topic: Site Features
NEW CONTENT!!! The whole staff here at TAKOTRON HQ has been busy all week completing our SOUNDS page, for your pleasure. We have been experimenting with various audible textures over the last several years, and after rejecting numerous offers from several high profile record labels, have decided to submit these projects to the public, for immediate consumption, no monetary exchanges or middlemen involved. All files are in mp3 format. Right click and save to download, or click to play (if your browser is into that kind of thing). Please don't reproduce or play publicly or steal any of this content without are consent. you can email us:

Posted by thenovakids at 12:21 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:31 AM CDT
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Monday, 18 April 2005
Topic: Miscellaneous
Next time you're on the phone trying to read your account number or spell your name to some tired customer service representative, and you get to one of those ambiguous tonalities like "V" or "M," you should refer to the follwing rather than emabarrass yourself by exposing your repugnant subconscious or just saying 'uhh...' for a while as only vulgar anatomical terms come to mind. Plus, you'll need this if you end up in that post-apocalytic concrete bunker with nothing but your short-wave and some canned beans.


The "Lima" and "Papa" are pretty lame, and "Uniform" is a bit clumsy. I guess it's pretty cool otherwise.

Posted by thenovakids at 12:15 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:29 AM CDT
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Saturday, 16 April 2005
Topic: Site Features


visit our friends!

email us and you can join the linkage party:

Posted by thenovakids at 11:53 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:03 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 13 April 2005
Hot German Model
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Here is a photo of that model of Mies' original steel design for the Promontory Point Apartments. It looks like this is looking from the west, towards the lake. Lets listen to the song (source:The Free Information Society):


Sie ist ein Modell und sie sieht gut aus
Ich nehme sie heut' gerne mit zu mir nach Haus
Sie wirkt so kuhl, and sie kommt niemand 'ran
Doch vor der Kamera da zeigt sie was sie kannSie trinkt im Nachtklub immer Sekt (korr-ekt!)
Und hat hier alle Manner abgecheckt
Im Scheinwerferlicht ihr junges Lacheln strahlt
Sie sieht gut aus und Schonheit wird bezahlt
Sie stellt sich zu Schau fur das Konsumprodukt
Und wird von millionen Augen angeguckt
Ihr neues Titelbild ist einfach Fabelhaft
Ich muss sie wiedersehen, ich weiss sie hat's geschaft

Posted by thenovakids at 11:20 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:03 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Topic: Site Features
New release:

*SU700 and EA1 operated by TAKOTRON Motherboard of Directors

*voices by thenovakids

This was produced as a replacement of the original jarring intro song at We are softening ourselves with your comfort in mind...NUDESEXFATBUTT

Posted by thenovakids at 11:56 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:00 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 6 April 2005
Mies Returns
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Several weeks ago we made some comparisons between Mies van der Rohe and his contemporary, Le Corbusier. We also described a connection between his Promontory Apartments and unambitious imitations with different aims, specifically Cabrini Greens. I recently visited the Promontory Apartments, and discovered some impressive qualities not immediately discernable. We are so accustomed to Mies' imitators that it sometimes takes some effort or closer observation to understand his true innovation (I would say 'genius,' but I hate seeing its overuse in describing artists and architects. You would think 20-something years of contemporary art theory that questions ideas of 'mastery' and 'genius' would have made us more cautious about throwing around those terms. But go to the arts section of any book$$$$$tore...oh).

Back to our subject, The Promontory Apartments were completed in 1949, as work was underway at 860-880 N. Lake Shore Dr. Both were to have steel and glass curtain walls, but Mies' original plans for the Hyde Park high-rise were ultimately modified. So I walked around the corner and started taking a couple pictures of these apartments. As you can see, the vertical supports taper as they rise, which adds a touch of formal drama and structural efficiency (they need to support a decreasing load as they go up). From the back we can see through the open lobby to the lake, which the building overlooks, right by pretty little Promontory Point. Then I was politley asked to leave the private property by a building attendant. Bonus pics: The first beautiful day of the season spent at the Point--note the melting ice.

Posted by thenovakids at 5:16 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 5 April 2005
Topic: Science Fiction
Greetings! We are currently transmitting from our executive bunker suite just above the earth's mantle, about 29 km beneath Chicago. Our executives were forced to take evasive action after one of our core reactor's wet storage units collapsed. Like Chicago energy company ComEd (under Mothership Exelon), we have been filling vast, exposed water pools located above our plant to max-capacity for several years, even though they were created to hold a fraction of that waste only temporarily (see: "Exelon: No plans to change its storage of nuclear waste: Science group cites risk of terror attack" Robert Manor ; Chicago Tribune; Apr 1, 2005; pg. 1)

Our new base of operations happens to have a large film library, which we naturally have been accessing frequently given these circumstances. Last week we consumed two science fiction films from the 1970s. They are both ambitious productions with substantial budgets, but the similarities stop there.

Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979) is a masterpiece of subtlety, emotion, and thoughtfullness. The premise is simple and classically science-fictional:

"'What was it? A meteorite? A visit of inhabitants of the cosmic abyss? One way or another, our small country has seen the birth of a miracle--the Zone. We immediately sent troops there. They haven't come back. Then we surrounded the Zone with police cordons...Perhaps that was the right thing to do. Though, I don't know...' -from an interview with Nobel Prize winner Professor Wallace"

In the center of this treacherous Zone (within which conventions of emotion and laws of science are warped) there is rumoured to exist a room, which grants the deepest wish of whoever enters it. "Stalker" is one of the only mean able to traverse the Zone and return safely. His latest assignment is to escort "Professor" and "Writer" to the room. This SF plot allows Tarkovsky to explore the essential meanings of humanity through philosophical dialogues of faith, doubt, reality, being, etc. This is visually empowered through experimental filmmaking techniques--parts are in a deep sepia tone, while other scenes portray the water-logged abandoned industrial zone in drab color. It was made painstakingly. In fact, a whole year was spent filming it with an experimental Kodak film only to be spoiled (perhaps purposely) by inept developers. The whole project was wasted. Though this had a profound impact on the director, the movie was ambitiously redone entirely, this time in two parts (2hrs45min total) with half the necessary budget.

At the other side of the spectrum is Logan's Run. Why did I even rent this--or rather, request its retrieval from our bunker's film library? It is supposed to be good or interesting at least, and perhaps a successful film could be made from its premise, or the book it was based on (Stalker, too, is an adaption, from Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky). This, however was not that movie. Its flashy effects today look cheap, though I don't imagine chrome-painted plastic and explosions that appear to be the result of tampered-with road flares were impressive even in the 70s. Look to THX1138 or Rollerball for more successful sets and effects that portray 70s visions of the future. I understand and even love that future-visions historically depict more about the era in which they were created than that which they attempt to create. But please. Farah Fawcett and poorly-crafted, unconvincing plastic scale models for pan-over shots are not transporting me to any place of the imagination, nor are the awkward, wooden dialogues helping these trite characters.

If you even want to know, in three millenia all of society exists enclosed in a vast bubble (apparently, 2.5 feet in diameter and made of cheap plastic). Everything's pretty groovy, with silk robes, orgies, and shopping malls. However, when you turn 30 you are sacrificed in a big cult-ish spectacle called "carousel," and promised reincarnation by the giant computer that runs society (like in Rollerball, kinda, without commentary on beaurocratic censorship/incompetence or corporate power). If you run away you (in the future they cleverly call these people "runners") you will be tracked and killed by "sandmen," a.k.a. bladerunners that suck. Our hero is a sandman who betrays the system and runs himself, with the chick, and they escape outside the bubble, find an old guy (remember, people can't age within society), bring him back to bubbleworld, blow up computer, display old man to masses, revolution and freedom ensue. FIN. THE END. OWARI. Now you needn't see it. Please rent something worthwhile, something that brings dignity to SF. Rent Bladerunner, THX1138, Rollerball (with James Caan, not that lousy remake), Brazil, Solaris (also Tarkovsky, not that lousy remake), Alphaville: Une Etrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution (for Godard's 60s future vision) etc. Make a movie out of ideas and talent, not lame-ass effects. Be like George Lucas in 1971, not in 2$$5.

Posted by thenovakids at 8:32 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:59 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 30 March 2005
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Today our small elite research team searched for an odd Chicago secret: a monument to Fascism still standing in our fair democratic city! That's right. Here's our official press release. Just east of Soldier Field, along a bike/jogging path stands a Roman pillar presented to Chicago on behalf of Benito Mussolini at the 1933/34 World Exposition. It still stands there, evidence of an awkward alliance. A translation of its inscriptions reads:


Perhaps you recognize the name Balbo--there's a Chicago street named after him (7th St). Naughty naughty, Chicago, in with the wrong crowd, apparently.

Posted by thenovakids at 9:29 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:05 AM CDT
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Sunday, 27 March 2005
The Parakeets of Hyde Park
Topic: Chicago
From time to time the personnel here at Takotron ruminate on their location in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. It's a quick ride to downtown, but with a lot of friends and action going on up North, on might begin to question the merits of living down here. There are many attributes to this neighborhood, but here's one you might not have known: Hyde Park (and no other part of Chicago) is occupied by a large population of WILD PARAKEETS. They are of courese indigenous to South America, but somehow 2 Adam and Eve parakeets escaped captivity and started a whole population that has lived here for more than 20 years. They are totally feral now, and like to stir things up, blocking ComEd's power transformers, and making tons of noise. Former mayor Harold Washington (who represented Hyde Park) was fond of them and protected them from the US Dept of Agriculture's attempts to remove them. A few weeks ago I saw them in a tree--I hadn't heard about them and was puzzled and suprised. I suppressed the memory, thinking I was either mistaken or going nuts. But the other day I spoke with a woman from work who told me all about them. Encouraged, I went out searching for them today. A bunch of them live in a tree on the east side of Woodlawn, just north of 55th street. The Parakeets will rule Hyde Park forever, bringing a taste of the tropical to our fair city.

Here are some links to people with more info on our beloved birds:
Hyde Park Parakeets
U of Chicago Magazine
Harold Washinton Park

Parakeets and Takotron - Represent Hyde Park

Posted by thenovakids at 6:34 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:06 AM CDT
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Topic: Site Features




Posted by thenovakids at 2:11 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:05 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 23 March 2005
Topic: Site Features

Posted by thenovakids at 8:38 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:02 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 22 March 2005
Thom Mayne
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
While making a recycling run at work I skimmed the cover of the NY Times from a couple days ago. It turns out Thom Mayne, principal of the architectural firm Morphosis, just received the 2005 Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious award in the field. Here is the press release: 2005 Pritzker Prize Media Kit

Kei's dad, who is always on top of things going on in the artistic world, lent me an article on Mayne from the NYT Magazine last month. Then it turned out that the Chicago Architecture Foundation's current (excellent) show on New Federal Architecture features 2 or 3 Morphosis projects. i had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Mayne give an inspiring, informative lecture several weeks ago. He seemed, like his work, to be both innovative and practical, showing rationality and passion. If I were the Times, I would describe his style and shoes ("salt-and-pepper beard," I believe the article said). i'll say he had a brown scarf, and then we can move one. A major section of a federal building Morphosis designed in SF is A/C-free, employing a "breathing skin' exterior. i guess 2 weeks in a year it's uncomfortably hot (over 75 F), but the rest of the time it works quite well, naturally and efficiently. He said, people retort that it's in the bay area, where you don't have extreme temperature variances. But he responds by explaining that that is precisely what makes it an ideal project to experiment with such an innovative design--if it can be made to work in SF, we can move on from there. I know that's not a perfect example, but hopefully you can see the way rationality and innovation dovetail with his work/philosophy. If you're in the area you should check out the exhibit. It's free. Then in May the official presentation of the prize will take place in Chicago's Millenium Park at the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion. DO IT.

Posted by thenovakids at 1:37 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 1:02 AM CDT
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