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Tuesday, 16 May 2006
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
When I first passed by the Chicago Board of Trade, I thought I recognized its logo from somewhere. Upon reflection, I realized it is extremely similar to that of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the sinister corporation that runs Detroit in the 1987 film Robocop. One or two friends confirmed this similarity, so I thought I would investigate. The website RoboCop Archive has a whole page dedicated to logos used in the films from which the rightmost image was extracted (and modified). As you can see, both logos are octagonal, divided into 3 rings with a center, with the outer 2 rings broken by an extension radiating from the inner ring that is the width of that ring's side. Coincidence or influence?

Posted by thenovakids at 9:57 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:51 PM CDT
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Monday, 15 May 2006
Topic: Food / Chicago
IIT M.Arch Program 3 Year 1 has ended, and I am back on earth, reemerging into society for the summer. It is high time I resume my duty of sharing with the world my discoveries in the complex folds of our contemporary urbanscape.

Let us start with Chicago's Deluxe Diner.
One of Long Island's key features is its plethora of 24 hour diners, complete with neon, chrome, and frosted glass. I remember at one point the short-lived, LI-based little sister of the Village Voice had a feature in which the author and a friend ate at 24 24-hour diners in 24 hours--a masochistic gastrochallenge. Small towns seem to have their own humble analogues in Perkins, Denny's, or Waffle House, but Chicago presents the late-night diner with a multitude of (fried) options: the delicious and ubiquitous Golden Nugget Pancake Houses, IHOPs, and independent greasy spoons like the personal favorite, White Palace Grill.

But if you find yourself on the far north side in the middle of the night, heavily intoxicated and in need of processed meat, pancakes, and/or onion rings, you absolutely must go to Deluxe Diner on Clark and Devon. Their food, accompanied by off-brand soft drinks (left), is a cut above the late-night expectations, and, in my experience, there is almost always an interesting incident. For instance, once a couple got in an argument and the woman threw her plate, smashing it against the wall. Another time there was an African-American man in a Hasidic get-up who kept wandering in and out of the restaurant, twitching and mumbling to himself. That same night a group of extremely drunk college seniors(?) arrived. The boys were all dressed identically in nice jeans and untucked, vertically-striped dress-shirts. One girl kept falling out of her chair and making loud, amorous phone-calls. Another eventually vomited all over the table and left a trail across the floor and out the door. Unfortunately, it also seems the Deluxe Diner was once host to a much less funny, more extreme incident. But don't let that discourage you. The servers are patient and friendly, and the food is tasty at all hours.

Posted by thenovakids at 11:17 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:49 PM CDT
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Sunday, 9 April 2006
Topic: Miscellaneous

There is, of course, also a google moon, which I thought would be less exciting...until I zoomed in past the resolution of available data and found myself facing a screen full of cartoon cheese! Good geek humor!
Straight Dope: How did the moon=green cheese myth start?

Posted by thenovakids at 10:22 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:55 PM CDT
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Topic: Miscellaneous
I suspect this is a long-term investment, so when we get around to colonizing, Google will be raking in fortunes off all the casual map-users.


Posted by thenovakids at 4:09 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:53 PM CDT
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Saturday, 8 April 2006
Topic: Music

"The AZ-1 is a 41-note velocity and aftertouch sensitive performance remote keyboard MIDI controller. 2 wheels, 2 switches and 1 slider are user assignable to different MIDI functions. A row of buttons is used to access 128 program change commands. 2 switchable MIDI channels allow you to switch between two synths or performances on the fly. There are also dedicated sustain and portamento controller buttons. Lightweight and battery-powered. (1986)"

Posted by thenovakids at 3:51 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:55 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Container City

Topic: Architecture / Travel
Another installmant of observations and highlights from London, after a brief hiatus--we've been holed up in our busy workshop.

In the docklands of east London are some architectural suprises. The landscape is former-industrial, with some remaining oil tanks, dumps, and emptied wastelands. Popping up all over are expensive new condos, which seem an odd fit. The Richard Rogers-designed Millenium Dome, the world's largest dome, sits on the Thames, a budget blowout temporarily abandoned. The Greenwich Meridian you set your watch to runs across it.

Across the Thames, near the River Lea, is a complex that harks back to the site's industrial past in a more creative way than the repetitive high-rise condos. Devised by Urban Space Management, Container City is literally just that, a mixed use complex built entirely from corrugated steel shipping containers fitted with spray on insulation and inhabited by various artists' studios, workshops, and small offices (zoning restrictions prohibit straight residential use).

Bright colors and unexpected angles make it more interesting than it might be. Intelligent re-use is found in less obvious manners as well: the newest block is built over a rain collection reservoir that pumps water up through the building for services like toilet-flushing. The site is also home to a lighthouse designed in 1863 for Michael Faraday, who used it in his experiments with optics and light projection.

Millenium Dome
Container City
Housing Prototypes: Container City

Posted by thenovakids at 12:40 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:53 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Takotron Media

Topic: Site Features
A new, more austere portal to the works of TAKOTRON has been envisioned, engineered, and uploaded. With a white background, of all things. Visit this sexy new thing here:


Posted by thenovakids at 2:13 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:56 PM CDT
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Monday, 13 March 2006
Record Shopping

Topic: Music
Yesterday's entry got a little weighty so we're going to lighten things up a bit with some good old fashioned consumption advice. London has a reputation for being expensive, but once you get your mindset converted to pounds and start thinking of things relative to one another it doesn't seem bad. Just don't mentally convert everything to dollars, or you'll bum yourself out.

One of TAKOTRON's points of pride is the modest but impressive international LP archive hidden deep in our HQ's secret vaults. We've tapped into some great sources here in the USofA, such as Mr Cheapo's (seriously!) back in Commack (props to the Goldberg family) and Reckless Records in Chicago, plus the scavenger heaps of yard sales, eBay and MusicStack.

But travel brings new opportunities to unleash the thrill of the hunt. And London's got some great offerings. First up, there are some places up on Portobello Road, North of Notting Hill. Intoxica has a decent selection for every genre, and lots of obscure/novelty vinyl. A couple blocks North is Honest Johns, which is crammed full with crates of Hip Hop and Reggae. I was on a Dub mission and had huge luck finding some classics there--King Tubby, Scratch Perry, Yabby Yu, and Scientist. The owners also do distribution for some local Dub artists, putting out some interesting small production run stuff. It's a genre that didn't really take off in the States, and next to Kingston, London is the place to find it. Way up and out of the way is the supposedly legendary Rough Trade, the alleged "quintessential model of all independent record shops." Well, it was a bitch getting there and totally not worth it--super hipster, small selection, lots of American stuff. Not up my alley, but if you're a big indie/emo hair-tufts-combed-over-your-ears type and want to have the Wicker Park experience a few thousand miles away, then check this place out.

I had much better luck down on Berwyck street in Soho. Do yourself a big favor and get off at Bond Street and walk up to The Golden Hind at 73 Marlybone Lane W1U 2PN, where I had a transcendental fish and chips experience (and mushy peas). An unpretentious, friendly place. Then walk it off down Oxford Street to Berwyck (near the Oxford Circus tube). Take Berwyck south, where it gets sleazy, and you'll find a cluster of record shops. Sister Ray was amazing--in my opinion, the best record shop in London. They bought Selectadisc's store and moved into it (they used to be a few blocks farther south), and have a gigantic selection of used CDs and LPs, all very reasonably priced. Farther along is Reckless Records, which happens to be owned by the same people as the Chicago stores. It's not a big place, but the basement is full of good vinyl finds, well organized and priced.

Around here is a Music and Video Exchange, one of many. They are pretty grimy, rocking the consignment shop atmosphere. Another place is Cheapo Cheapo Records, again, a longshot place where you might stumble upon some diamonds in the rough. As backup, near the Oxford Circus tube is a huge HMV store. I haven't seen them in the States, but I know they're all over Japan. It's a bigass corporate chain, a la Tower and Virgin, but they are well stocked, inexpensive, and seem to do a good job hiring competent, knowledgable people. They often have staff recommendation corners that make them seem a little more intimate compared to their shinier, more sterile competitors, if that makes sense.

I should have taken more food pictures, but I didn't, so more buildings are on the way at TAKOTRON NEWS. England is supposed to have crappy food, but I didn't have one disappointing meal, and kept a pretty tight budget, too. It helps if you like processed meat, but there's a plethora of cafes, panini joints, and kebab stands. Here's some more helpful record shop info:

Londonnet record shops guide
Another guide
A third, with good links to store's homepages

Posted by thenovakids at 10:04 PM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:57 PM CDT
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Topic: Architecture / Travel
Last week featured TAKOTRON in London, where with my studio we toured fresh new urban landscapes. One highlight was a meeting with the London-based architecture firm, Future Systems. A couple of their completed projects can be found around town. In east London's Docklands is a pedestrian pontoon bridge--a floating lime-green slab that connects India Quay with Canary Wharf (completed in 1996). On the other side of the city they designed a new media center at Lord's Cricket Grounds. Inspired by the form of an SLR camera, the center is a semi-monocoque aluminum pod, offering a panoramic, unobstructed view of the field through it's glass facade (completed in 1999).

Future System's office is housed in a single-story brick building behind a parking lot, rather nondescript save for the neon-orange door. Once inside we found ourselves faced with a secretary who sat behind a gleaming white, curved, fiberglass desk. The huge open space around us was brightly lit, the busy staff shuffling around the fuchsia carpet in their socks.
We were given the huge honor of speaking with the firm's Czech-born ("millions of years ago in the middle of Europe") founder, Jan Kaplicky. He is a soft-spoken man, white-haired, thin, and extremely tall. For decades he has been designing curvy pod-like forms, and in the last several years has earned long-deserved recognition and some major commissions.

Many of these have been for high-design retail clients, such as Comme des Garçons, Maserati, and Selfridges. One question we had was how such innovative forms fit within their architectural context. Tokyo's Comme des Garçons (left) is on a street full of fancy designer's boutiques, but something like the Selfridges in Birmingham has much older, traditional surroundings. Mr. Kaplicky's answer was that the Birmingham store had nothing significant around it--"maybe an old church." Their goal was to create something bold and iconic that would revive a crusty old neighborhood, and from what I understand the new Selfridges, like a UFO plopped in the middle of town, has done exactly that.

Our studio was impressed with the amount of new, quality, exciting buildings that have been successfully developed in London. This is something largely missing in America, and we all want to know why. Mr. Kaplicky is outwardly dismayed that of the 20 or 30 magazine covers he has landed, only one has been in the States (New York Times Magazine), which he sees as a reflection of the US's architectural conservatism. He described being horrifed, riding to Manhattan and seeing the skyline (post 9-11) that "hasn't changed since the 30s," it's highlights still being the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. To a degree this is true. Why does America have such trouble putting forth new, innovative buildings? We invented the elevator, skyscraper, microchip, and the blues, but are awestruck by the UK's computer-designed experimental structures and Rock in Roll. So what's our problem? Is it America's puritanical cultural conservatism holding us back? Is it economic? Political?

NYC's recent massive planning attempts have been utter failures, the Olympic bid imploding and the WTC project stagnating. Both have been plagued with bickering committees and private interest groups, with no one able to agree on anything. My theory is that one major ingredient in successful, innovative urban development is a powerful, progressive politician. Paris benefited hugely from President François Mitterand's grands projets, and London similarly under Mayor Ken Livingstone. Chicago has had more luck under Mayor Richard M. Daly's political machine than New York under its conservative counterparts Giuliani and Bloomberg.

Europe's grand cities are completely different animals from America's, and evidently their planning approaches as well. But whatever the reasons, America has got some issues and could benefit from looking to London's exciting urban environment (and Paris's, too, for that matter), before we're totally put to shame.

Future Systems: Official Site

Posted by thenovakids at 12:25 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:57 PM CDT
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Friday, 24 February 2006
Topic: Food

You can keep your "nun-bun" mother teresa cinnamon bun and grilled cheese baby jesus. This secular miracle appeared in my sister's coffee. He's jovial, non-demoninational, and caffeinated.

Posted by thenovakids at 8:11 PM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:57 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Topic: Kei

Posted by thenovakids at 10:12 PM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:57 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 7 February 2006
3,000+ Years of the Fembot
Topic: Science Fiction
In book 18 of the Iliad Achilles' divine mother, Thetis, visits the vulcan metalsmith god Hephaistos where she receives a new suit of armor for her son and the famous shield depicting all the universe with detailed scenes of two cities, one democratic and the other in violent disarray. An interesting detail easily overlooked in this incredible chapter of Homer's epic is what is perhaps the first description of the "fembot" we have become familiar with through popular media, some serious, like Fritz Lang's powerful 1927 film Metropolis), and some kitschy, like the graphic art of Sorayama Hajime, who is sort of what Patrick Nagel would be with an airbrush and an obsession with robots.

Then with a sponge he wiped clean his forehead, and both hands,
and his massive neck and hairy chest, and put on a tunic,
and took up a heavy stick in his hand, and went to the doorway
limping. And in support of their master moved his attendants.
These are golden, and in appearance like living young women.
There is intelligence in their hearts, and there is speech in them
and strength, and from the immortal gods they have learned how to do things.

Chapter 18 lines 417-421
trans. Richmond Lattimore

Posted by thenovakids at 2:21 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:03 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 31 January 2006
Pilgrim Baptist Church
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Old news, but a few weeks ago a culturally invaluable and architecturally important church burnt down. Here are some eulogies and testaments to its significance. I knew it was near campus, and finding myself unexpectedly right in front of it one day last week, took a couple pictures.
Chicago Landmarks
Repeat, architectural critic Lynn Becker's page
The Bronzeville neighborhood's reaction
Sun-Times report

Posted by thenovakids at 12:49 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:58 PM CDT
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Saturday, 28 January 2006
Topic: Site Features

Takotron's grip expands through cyberspace--as webMASTER/project-archivists we present: Visual Training: Kufi Blocks
for Professor Ben Nicholson's Arch 430/431 course.

Posted by thenovakids at 8:09 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:02 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 24 January 2006
Giving in to the iD: NIKE DUNKS
Topic: Miscellaneous
*This post is a tribute to Joe, who is king of the BAPESTA.*

I try to make the most of the wearable goods I purchase, using them well past their point of aesthetic and functional failure. So this winter, after once again patching up the pockets of my army coat from 9th grade, I gave in to the pressure of my girlfriend, mom, and secret inner feelings, and bought a nice warm parka that, according to Kei, will make people hesitant to "mess with me."

I recently noticed my sneakers deteriorating and decided to scout out a replacement that suited my style, palette, and active lifestyle. What it came to was Nike's iD website, which allows you to design your own pair of DUNKS. And that's just what I did.

So yesterday I received an anonymous box from a man in Vietnam. Inside was an intricate sliding velvet-lined Nike box with a velvet bag, and inside my customized creation. Good job Mr. Nguyen and co.! It's interesting that Nike allows this direct connection between consumer and producer--no official warehouse, distributer, processing office, etc. But a great smell.

Posted by thenovakids at 9:38 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:05 AM CDT
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