Wednesday, 31 July 2013

once upon a time or märchenland

In a year long celebration of the centennial of the Brothers Grimm publication of an authoritative collection of folklore and fairy-tales, though respected in other subjects such as linguistics and law as well, many places across Europe with an affinity to the pair are honouring their heritage and connection. Mental-Floss also joins in offering a tribute with a few of their tales not yet fully limned with the treatment of popular-culture, featuring duplicitous morals and personified sausages (Würste). These bizarre stories are definitely worth the read.

autogenesis or tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux

Though I am sure to count my progresses as things to be grateful for, it is a very simple matter, as fundamentally apparent as those things that are easily overlooked, to forget and forego the basic lessons. That's why people adopt, however imperfectly, dogmas and mantras because such a manner of conduct and orientation, albeit with more meaning than merely preserving one's sanity and health, can be simpler to adhere to rather than entertaining all sober and sometimes contradictory evaluations of everything at once. I know it is nothing outstanding to turn inward or transform opportunities and advantage into problems—probably because we have grown more accustomed to difficulty and means to success are biased by experience and not readily recognisable, but I try to let go and leave work for another day—when I am being compensated for it with something other than beans, despite assurances that they are magic.

I do not feel under enormous, possessing pressure, regardless whether self-imposed, and do not feel especially stressed by work and its attending worries, but there's always room for improvement. Posing an open-ended question, as it were, I got quite a bit of solicited answers, and what stuck me the most was how relaxation and coping was about striking a balance between engagement and retreat, withdrawal. One of the suggestions that rose above, on the footnotes of predecessors like Émile Coué, a trained apothecary who turned to psychology and self-help after witnessing the placebo-effect in his pharmacy—who introduced the phrase, “Everyday, in every way, I am getting better and better,” was autogenic training, formalised by Johannes Heinrich Schultz, who despite some unforgiving tenets that he was free to prosecute, like advocating euthanizing handicapped people and treating homosexuality with a war of attrition. These methods were sadly en vogue at the time. Schultz went on to devise a regime of visualisations and postures meant to exercise that balance these passive and active functions and appetites—eventually illiciting an appropriate and measured response. I'd like to learn more, I think. Some have even described this latter day extension of yoga and meditation as the breakthrough and bridge that the like of Freud and his school were seeking. Has anyone tried the original techniques, unincorporated into the programme of others?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

founding-father or amazing wonder stories of the imagination

From now until the end of October, there is a special exhibition hosted by the Centre for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe on the work and lasting influence of author, tinkerer and entrepreneur Hugo Gernsback. The namesake of the Hugo literary prize for science-fiction was born in Luxembourg and received training in a German military signals unit in Bingen, establishing his enduring interest in ham radio and helping to grown the network of amateur and hobby radio operators world-wide, before immigrating to America. Settling there, Gernsback entered into the publishing industry, first distributing a catalog-magazine hybrid for wireless accessories and several other popular mechanics-type publications following his interests in emerging technologies and feeding his sense for speculation.

Soon afterwards, Gernsback ventured into specialising in hosting works of science-fiction, first with classic works and then new authors.  Though his stingy business-model tended to stiff his contributing writers—much like some modern day content-mills, gave Gernsback a certain reputation, his move, similar to fostering a social network among radio operators, to include the names and addresses of subscribers, however self-promoting, helped immeasurably to promote the genre and create a fan-base who could reach out to one another. Gernsback was directly responsible for several thoroughly modern and forward-looking novel aspects that are taken for granted, and I would like to visit this exhibit.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

sunday drive: barbarossastadt gelnhausen

Fearful of the shadows cast over the beating rays of the sun which acted with this strange and
uncertain periodicity though I was, I did stop off at a place we had visited once a few years ago, lured by an antique market on the upper and lower market squares of the imperial city of Gelnhausen, which was accorded this status by Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa for its location at the intersection of important trade routes between Frankfurt and Leipzig and interestingly the geographic centre of the European Union by  more contemporary measures and vetting. Aside from the medieval city centre, Gelnhausen's chief draw is its imperial palace grounds, which although were rich with nice ruins of masonry work and well-curated history, was not quite the palatial scene H and I were expecting at the time, and it seemed afterwards we gravivated towards a series of Pfälzer that did not live up to out expectations. There was a lot to explore, I found in the old town, and I except it is well worth another visit. The market, incidentally though a bit top-heavy with porcelain and furniture (larges as opposed to smalls) was the genuine deal, but I did not find anything that might find a home at ours.

rain dance

While I am not certain if historic records were broken all over Germany this weekend as predicted, it was certainly more than hot enough. 

The weather was absolutely oppressive during the past weeks and humid by turns (but probably not enough to illicit much sympathy from readers used to such temperatures), punctuated with brief spells of dramatic but taunting storms. Pink heat lightening was on the horizon many mornings and few drips of rain came down, not as if due to the migration of weather from elsewhere but rather as a consequence, it seemed, of some physical imbalance locally as if Sol Invictus had managed to ring and wither every last drop of moisture out of the land and was obliged to give back a little. Now there's signs that some relief is coming, and while I hope that summer is not called in the coming weeks due to rain, that sort of weather was becoming unbearable, especially for those not on holiday.

double-feature

Usually under the heading It Came from the Cineplex, blogger Bob Canada regularly features some really astute and comical movie reviews. It one of his latest installments about derivative blockbusters, since those who don't learn the history of cinematography are doomed to repeat it and some studios use this to their advantage in subjecting audiences to paired-films, many times within the same season. There's a pretty clever list of twins (plus some of my own), generally one more original and the other noisier and less thought-through:

  • Whitehouse Down and Olympus has Fallen
  • Armageddon and Deep Impact
  • The Prestige and The Illusionist 
  • The Abyss and Leviathan
  • The Truman Show and EdTV
  • The Descent and The Cave
  • After Earth and Oblivion/WALL-E
  • The Road and The Colony (or any number of post-apocalyptic movies) 
  • United 93 and World Trade Center 

This is surely not a new phenomenon—including self-plagiarism, and such coattailing was probably even more widespread in the past. What other movies, classic and contemporary, would you add to this list? Be sure to check out Bob Canada's Blog World for some other funny observations about the entertainment industry and keen, original artwork.





Saturday, 27 July 2013

the real macguffin

Writing for the superb Neat-o-rama, guest blogger, Eddie Deezen, explores the enduring 1994 Pulp Fiction film through one of its abiding and fan-generated mysteries, the contents of the suitcase with the super-natural orange glow. Though primary sources are readily available, not to dispel but rather promote the imagination of the audience, it was intended to be anything and nothing in particular, just a plot-device. The original screenplay called for diamonds but it was decided that it would be a let-down to actually show them and it ought to be left up to the viewer. Good critique and analysis have always managed to maintain an edge on artistic composition, especially once released and with a life and career of its own, enhancing connections and themes that any artist would gladly claim as part of his original purpose. What do you think was in that briefcase?

pandora or who done it

Though the only thing to have definitely been disappeared is a portion of the US administration's public resource and engagement web-site that made the pointed promise for continued protection for so-called Whistle-Blowers—defined aptly as important stewards to mitigate fraud, waste and abuse, it is a very unfortunate time for the page to go off-line. It's not entirely irretrievable, according to the site's web-masters—safely retained in the archives, cheerfully referred to as the Wayback, and not some Orwellian bottomless memory-hole where censored materials are shunted and people are told they never happened and everything has always been this way.

The timing is bad nonetheless, for the collusion of other tragic events—ones that cannot be undone or restored, and if anything—the Fugitive has rather vindicated those conspiracy-theorists who always had the feeling that they were being watched. The timeline is becoming pretty dreary, incidentally just ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington, DC, which probably could never happen in today's environment: the promise went off line just a couple days after the Fugitive's initial announcement of the scope of America's and the UK's spying capabilities, and only a few more days ahead of the death of the journalist, critical of America's stance of late on press-freedoms and the harassment of reporters, who penned among other works that scathing and frank interview from the NATO commanding general in Afghanistan, highly disparaging of the way the war was being prosecuted and led to his immediate dismissal, in a mysterious single-car crash, and only a few weeks prior to the recent mysterious death of a hacker-become-IT security specialist, who had famously demonstrated, among other things, that one can easily commandeer, remotely, such things as automated teller machines, pace-makers and car engines, to reveal inherent and compromising flaws. The world is not a safe and harmonious place, in spite and despite our best efforts, and the upkeep of intelligence and secrets is a necessary thing, over-reach and perception included. Making the presumption that one sees the Big-Picture is a dangerous one and begs back every accusation made against the establishment in doing so. One unequivocal thing that came out of the Civil Rights Movement was that the apparatus was capable of character-assassination, and though I think focus is blurred by many separate pieces and causes in motion here, I do think a reasonable person could connect the dots, and without much imagination. I sympathize with the families of all the individuals involved and sincerely hope that all parties grow ever mindful of those actions that cannot be undone, retracted or disregarded.

teufelsbrücken or a bridge too far

The ever fascinating Atlas Obscura presents a collection of unholy spans, which medieval superstitions credited to master civic planner and engineer, the Devil himself, over the seemingly impossible feats of architecture that ancient crossings imparted to people seeing them for the first time.

Featuring amazing old stone bridges from all over Europe, the article talks about the folklore that grew up around them, with common stories of townspeople striking a deal with Satan to construct a much needed but beyond human-abilities and gravity-defying bridge over rivers and ravines. The Devil agreed to give the mortals their bridge but usually in exchange for the soul of the first to cross it. The Devil was inevitably denied his due because either an over-excited dog ran across first or the villagers sent over a stubborn goat. How they outwitted Satan is preserved in local legend and sometimes commemorated with sculpture and artwork. At one of the hair-pin curves going into a tunnel along the shores of Lugano in Switzerland, there was a relief of the Devil coming out of the cliff-face—I wonder if there was some similar tale about connecting the region overland as well as by sea.

zarathustra's roundelay

Via Nag on the Lake's other blog, there is some interesting background on writer Friedrich Nietzsche's typewriter of choice—at least for a time—the very steam-punk and boldly designed Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. The philosopher ordered this model for portability and quietness—sort of a tablet computer for the late Victorian Age, but lack of manuscripts finished on the Writing Ball, which resembles a brain-scanner with its spherical keyboard suspended over a curved parchment, suggest that Nietzsche had difficulty mastering the interface, which is a contemporary problem too. Be sure to check out Nag on the Lake for a wealth of daily curiosities.

Friday, 26 July 2013

yoknaparawpha county-line

There is an interesting project called Placing Literature that aims to map out the correspondence between real and fictional places. The work in progress is a bit top-heavy with contemporary and anglophone works (who wouldn't mark Dresden with Slaughter House Five or Nordhausen with Gravity's Rainbow, unless they have yet to discover it?), but invites anyone's push-pins. What real-make-believe settings would you add? I wonder how a real-world map might figure in a universe, some cannon of works that only reference humanity and human-conventions sparingly.


cognation or parts-of-speech

A discussion with a linguist on the radio about the tendency not just for minority and endangered languages and dialects not only to cannibalise terminology from overpowering and domineering tongues with a colonial-metropolitan status, incorporating more and more elements of English (the lingua franca), but also of the cannibalism of so-called killer languages.

Beyond encroachment and influence and the convergence and separate goings of languages, which is something evolving while grammar and purity play an assertive game of catch-up, the greater threat to idioms and identity (since the conduits of thought are not always easy work for an interpreter or translator and surely differently formed according to one's native speech) was encapsulated by an older term called glottophagie (a French professor Jean-Louis Calvert coined the word in 1974 after anthropophagy, human cannibalism) that describes the death of a language through the loss of allegiance and functional literacy. Pressure in whatever form to abandon part of one's heritage does not, I think, serve to enhance communication or understanding.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

sehtest or the bundeswehr is everywhere

Walking through my neighbourhood, I found a quite curious piece of detritus in the street. This white flier with a mysterious black square bears the equally inscrutable but unusually polite proclamation (in English und auf Deutsch) this a training (ranging) leaflet of the Bundeswehr—from a battalion for operational information stationed quite a distance from here. The translation reminds the finder of this piece of paper out of consideration for the environment to please litter (but surely they meant to please don't) and in case of questions, to please contact the competent unit—which begs more questions than clarification of what one is now holding.
I wonder about the glossy black square—does it contain an invisible message, like a camouflaged QR-code or something to calibrate drones or satellites? Or is a paper-bomb, really mean to check “our distance abilities” projected like a paper airplane or dropped by a very obliging and careful pigeon? What it just something tossed accidentally along the way to somewhere else? Does the German army hope that people ask questions or return it?  It's a little strange but nice that there is some transparency and explanation, but I suspect it's not enough to prevent imaginative speculation.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

what's the frequency kenneth?

It's interesting when phenomena, shared and recognized but impossible to relate in a straightforward way, like the sense of déjà vu, earn a name—even if there was a perfectly sufficient descriptive term before pop-psy decided to call frequency illusion the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. A linguist at Stanford University originally classified the syndrome later given an appropriately pop-culture name where one's reality seems suddenly inundated with an idea just introduced—thinking about buying a boat, for instance, summons up all sorts of unaccountable coincidences, not limited to targeted advertising beckoning at every turn, but noticing more and more boats, a documentary evening on boating, touts from a nautical-school or one's brother-in-law getting a party barge, a sale on Breton striped sailor shirts, and so on. In other words, the 
belief that things one has noticed just recently are in fact recent. Two factors comprise this feeling—one being selective attention paid to a new concept or idea and the resulting confirmation bias that reinforces its importance. That particular name was chosen by a journalist exposed to two unrelated and non-contemporary discussions about the German domestic terror group in one evening. Such an unshakeable feeling contributes to the plots of Repo Man (the plate-of-shrimp-effect), the number forty-two in The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, Jim Carrey's character in The Number 23, as well as our own daily lives, like waking at the same time in the middle of the night. While I strongly do not believe that the universe only has indifferent coincidences on offer and it is nice to have something thematic, it is also good to distance oneself from cogitative partiality.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

mediatisation or heavy is the head that wears the crown

While I am not but delighted for Britain's young princely couple over the birth of an eventual successor to the throne and out-pourings of well-wishes in general, the media frenzy and the general fawning and envy of the people of Germany (not to mention the royal-watchers who hang on every detail of the monarchs of the Nordic lands), I think it is high-time that Germany reinstated a monarchy to satisfy public-demand.

I do not believe that Germans are not engaged in politics, but their own royal family to look after might galvanize participation from more and welcome demographics, and a heredity figure-head, with all its rite and ritual—a source of fascination in itself, could take on the largely ceremonial role of the president of Germany. An heir-apparent could be prepared and preened for the job probably better than any accidental politician (appointed by a secret conclave), and surely the advent would be a boon for tourism, though plenty of intact, lived-in castles are to be found under various ownership. I'd nominate the Thurn-und-Taxis family or the House Hohenzollern but there are numerous other pretenders, each with their own cult-following and traditions vouchsafed. Perhaps there are enough grace-and-favour appointments available locally, something harmless and sine cure to satisfy ambitions and make public-servants vie for the honour.

odyssey or ministry of public order

Greece's on-going troubles are not something to be overcome by merely a hair-cut, like Samson, or like the half-giant Antaeus of the further adventures of Hercules, who lost his invulnerability once lifted off the ground, but such solutions abound. To exacerbate general frustration, expecting a solution with a failed package of austerity and tossing more bales of money on the fire, Greece, via the island of Lesbos and the border with Turkey, is facing a crippling influx of immigrants with unanswered pleas for a more comprehensive EU policy on migration and financial help to support an infrastructure already strained to breaking by a series of unconditional austerity measures.
Far from a ploy to get added economic assistance or to buy time for debt re-negotiations, these overtures from the minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection and UN observers in the face of the scramble and chaos of the migrant camps, maltreatment and insufficient means for integration, is a sombre way of redressing the highly concerning trends in the voting public, which has taken a decided turn towards xenophobia, and attitudes—as important and intimately connected with the welfare of the refugees. Greece is not alone with this nascent predicament and it would be advisable to quell such a choice or excuse for intolerance before it escalates and transforms a country's hospitality and sympathy.  To ignore the problem or wall paper over it with freshly printed euro imperils everyone.

Monday, 22 July 2013

charm-offensive or eye in the sky

While I do not think an adopt-a-drone programme would necessarily change public attitudes towards surveillance and not confuse security with protection and prevention as a civic cause—and perhaps we were not among those early hobbists who experimented with that first wave of spin-offs, playing with our new toy, a surprisingly robust but demanding in terms of navigation helicopter with a tee-tiny video camera (high-definition nonetheless) is proving to be a lot of fun and thought-provoking, given what we're capability of doing, with a bit of practice. It is scary to think what a skilled pilot with a greater budget of duty to inform might accomplish. It was also strange that we started learning how to operate the model just as the hearings into the Euro-Hawk fiascoes have been removed into a public forum and rather than as individual characters, film casts drones as a dread chorus. Maybe the trend peaked too soon, late to the game as we are, but I think that dexterity and availability have something to do with perception: how would the public have reacted to be policed (meaning chiefly preventing people from loitering and idleness) by patrol cars with no one else had such a horseless carriage?
 Even though ours had a personality, through the inscrutable technical manual and quirky behaviour, instantly, it's not a fleet to be batted away by the elements, not legion, nor a personal guardian angel or fairy godmother. I wonder if that's how we think of drones, in a theatrical way—a side-kick or a nemesising force, from the crows of Odin that scanned the universe, to Bubu the clockwork owl, VINcent from the darkly bizarre movie Black Hole, that flying sceptre from Flash Gordon, to the imperial probe that betrayed the rebels' location on Hoth, as sort of something one-off (with an inviolable set of weakness and limitations that is am important plot-point) and not with replacements waiting in the wings and certainly nothing accessible by mere mortals. It's pretty cool to be challenged with the clearance of extra dimensions and pretty fun too to get a glimpse from above without having to budget for imagination.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

dominions, virtues and authorities

Though probably not a wholly innocent or prudent plea, patience, and not meaning license to defer problems until after federal elections, is not a bad idea in situations where in the first place the rank hypocrisy of doing what can be done elevated and uncontrollably spread the magnitude, post-haste and without regard for the consequences, the German leadership, despite accusations to the contrary and attendant dangers of being caught in a lie, is calling for public calm over the stewardship of its data.

Mounting evidence, however, is indicating, contrary to claims of ignorance or at least omission, a rather prolific partnership among the Bundes- nachrichten- dienst (BND, the Federal Intelligence Service, which is devoted to foreign intelligence gathering) and the Bundesamt für Verfassungschütz (BfV, the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution, the domestic counterpart, whose name is a bit strange since Germany has not had a constitution in name since the days of the Weimar Republic and rather a lexicon of by-laws—nonetheless complete). The willingness, degree and mutual benefit, cognizance aside, of this collaboration is an open question and will likely remain so for some time. No one ought to be subjected with arbitrary interference to personal matters, no matter how low the common-denominator. The outrage (lack thereof) seems sort of selective.

your free trial of the internet (inter alia) has expired

After the allure of free congress and enough free samples of everything imaginable, on-line culture is being slowly given a new paradigm that buries much of what the public has become addicted to, casually and without turning back, behind water-marks, clearing-houses, functionality splintered into thousands of idiosyncratic applications, paywalls, subscriptions and compartmentalized by various services that compete rather than communicate with one another, as Buzzfeed's Charlie Warzel presents in a brillant essay on this shift in attitudes and accessibility.

Of course, this pushers' modus operandi developed gradually, and having crossed the threshold of this gateway long ago (which the internet was never intended to be but no more and no less than a resource bridging connections among people and ideas), and the engineers maintaining the network, as well as the general public are not really noticing the drabness descending. It's probably beyond the scope of the article and smacks of tinny and misplaced nostalgia or neo-luddism (Luddismus, angst vor dem Neuland), but the trend seems like a metaphor for a lot of other movements and disclaimers draining the wholesomeness and fun out of things, displaced with approximations of safety, convenience and community, like the surveillance state and its litany of justifications or the empowered lobbies that peddle free samples of genetically-modified food and pharmaand general re-packaging and sponsorship that makes it hard to anything without submitting to some inscrutable authority. What do you think? If it is truly something that people are willing to accept, is this drift tolerated in the on-line world necessarily spilling over into everything else?

billow or augmented triad

Who knew that augmented reality (AR) technologies were making advances on the other senses, and in ways that were more than revivals of already-proven techniques—like 3-D movies?
Now one, instead of bi-coloured cardboard and stage-light gel glasses, wears Dr. Strangelove's spectacles, though there has been improvements by tweaks, if not bounds. A researcher at the University of Illinois has teamed up with Disney's imagineering laboratories to create a device, Airreal, that can resonate at specific vibrations and broadcast, project as puffs of air phantom sensations.
I suppose an array could be set up like surround-sound speakers, giving all members of the audience the feeling of being caught in a rainstorm, pelted with snow flakes, over having a bullet wiz by. In closer quarters, the device can toss one a virtual coin, seen through some other means, with the feeling of it landing in one's palm, plus replicating any given tactile sense or texture. That is pretty far-out, and makes me remember the first time that I wore 3-D glasses, which weren't red and blue, was when my family and I visited Epcot Center and saw Michael Jackson in the film Captain EO way back in 1987.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

bad bank or off-shoring

While international agreements have framed regulations to persecute and burden smallholders and the domestic business entities and financial houses have employed in order to institution willing to accommodate the routine banking needs of US expatriates or those accidental Yanks, like the Lord Mayor of London, for example, who perhaps has not sufficiently renounced his dual-citizenship (due to being born in America to diplomatic parents) to the satisfaction of the tax-man and competent authorities to be able to forego the reporting requirements, unrequited as they may be, precious little attention has been paid to the lengths and loopholes that they will go to in order to mask their corporate citizenship. Via Boing Boing, here is a very thorough and interactive illustration to show the convoluted network, business apparently not subject to the same kind of scrutiny as the public when it comes to AMT usage or grocery shopping. Maybe a better stress-test (applied to banks operating in the EU exclusively) would be to subject them to a theoretical insolvency and time how long it took to them to make themselves whole, what kind of collateral would take to back up the mortgage against their demur pseudopodia. Such behaviour, faking right and left, is enshrined and even encouraged, not by business culture alone but also by omission on the part of the US government.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

green grow the rushes ho, tell us of your GOOG-O

It is already been noted how the mass surveillance and spreading confessionals of intelligence agencies could well have a disastrous chilling effect when it comes to the early adoption of the latest gadgets and our understanding, relationship with mobility and convenience. Though by nature, equally as gimmicky and peripheral to the architecture of the internet, which ought not be co-opted and re-worked as a for-profit enterprise exclusively, I wonder what opportunities and threats will come if the mood of the surveyed is extended further, making seeking out advertising-space and market-intelligence more difficult, if not an anathema, with the public retreating into closed systems, forgoing the ability to triangulate.
If one does not look at them, do they go away?  Certainly the profit-motive and the creation of niche-markets has done much in the name of progress and ease of propagating ideas, even for those panhandlers that collect the crumbs of the advertising industry and including those Great-Souled individuals who expect nothing. What do you think? Targeted ads, when they hit the mark, can be disturbing in their own right, without considering the full dossier that others may have—and considering those tangential commercials that are laughably off-target, one has to wonder what computer-driven assumptions might be conspiring to form one's persona of record.

Monday, 15 July 2013

adult literacy

A happy mutant reader of Boing Boing shares the artwork from an Russian illustrator (a bit risque for workplace viewing, take caution since what is seen cannot be unseen and the art is sort of reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley) active during the 1920s and 1930s which is basically a primer, an alphabet book, to encourage literacy in adults through erotic images by making Cyrillic letters memorable. It reminds me of the exploration of cognition and mind-hacks presented in Moonwalking with Einstein, advising that one of the chief rules of curating one's galleries of memory is with exhibitions too violent and obscene to share with polite company and always illicit at least a blush. Though it is not a hard and fast rule for every constitution, one probably cannot argue with the efficacy of such an approach, however.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

sunday drive: bad homburg von der höhe

Not discouraged by a sprawling but terrible flea-market (I did however resolve to note these particular organisers that have disappointed before and avoid them in the future) I drove a few kilometers further on the path to explore the town of Bad Homburg, a bedroom community and the wealthiest in Germany due to its proximity to the financial centre but away from the hectic pace, just beyond the city limits of Frankfurt am Main.
 There was a lot of things to see besides, but I focused my windshield tour first at the Schloss and surrounding park that was chosen late in its long and storied career as a summer residence for Emperor Wilhelm II. This designation at the beginning of the twentieth century afforded the town a lot of acclaim, which grew its spa (Kur) and casino—whose directors went on to manage the casino of Monte Carlo in Monaco.
I enjoyed walking through the park, peopled with classic and modern art sculptures. I especially like the stretched motor-scooter, an East Germany NSU model, that looked like it got too close to a blackhole or neutron star, and the Red Boy by comtemporary artist Kenny Hunter.
Among the imperial influences, the Protestant Church of Christ the Redeemer (Erlöserkirche, the problem-solver) was built in 1901, that is resoundingly Art Nouveau in style and a very distinctive fusion of Celtic symbols and mosaics that are reminiscent of the Near East. I enjoyed exploring this building as well, which reminded me of the lobby of the Empire State Building too—finished in 1908, the positive public reception initiated the Wiesbadner Programme, which saw other churches build in this style.
The Altstadt was comprised of grand avenues and narrow alleyways of half-timbered homes.
 A little lost, I regret not having ventured into the spa part of the town, with an equally large public park in the style of English Garden and its own ensemble of stories and historic buildings. 
I admit, I was a little turned- off to exploring further by the Kurhaus and Rathaus that resembled shopping centres more than civic institutions, but what lays beyond that one street ist something for H and I to see together for ourselves, next time.

jam yesterday, jam tomorrow

Bloomberg has thoughtful editorial critiquing the calls of one US senator, who urges de-vamping the financial sector by portraying it as the utility company it ought to be, as something dull and dutiful to discourage risky behaviour and swash-buckling.
While certainly individuals should not be lured into the industry over false-idols and misguided perceptions—rather than providers of a basic service, but the business of banking is inherently a gamble, and always has been, and corporate captains were able to transform something mundane and reliable, like the Electric Company, into the aphrodisiac called Enron, and it is an easy matter to portray banking, to fellow loan-officers and the public alike, as something sexy and promising. It would be an improvement, definitely, if there was just the aversion of boredom and not much chance to reap profits to be realised here, causing people to move along, but being boring may just be another institutional veil and a reform in image that does not go far enough. Using concrete examples, the Bloomberg piece suggests that people should not be shielded from the native terrors and hazards on trying to skim an honest transaction fee off the differentials between savings and loans. Industry collusion for cheap and easy credit and governmental assurances, depositor-insurance, the American-Dream, bail-outs and monetary policy have not mitigated the peril of tight margins but rather made people forget about how really frightening the consequences of this pyramid-scheme can be when it does not work out.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

zing, zing, zing went my heart-strings or grey hat

Although the technical capability to unduly deputize one's electronic cachet into accessories of snitching and surveillance has probably been with consumers since the beginning, in one form or another. Now, however, it does not sound so hare-brained or paranoid to think that one's mobile device, which makes one constantly reachable is forever reached and pinged—by professionals and not stalkers or opportunists to listen to whatever ambient conversion is within earshot, or that the cameras embedded in everything else are not surreptitiously switched-on, to record from the other side of the looking-glass. Unresolved and disputed as it is, the fact that technology manufacturers have been complicit in making their networks and devices privy to prying eyes and ears can be roundly accepted.
It's amazing how the pitch of marketing to embrace the latest versions, like there's no looking back, has this extravagant fervor, choreographed like a Busby Berkeley musical number, something unbridled and detestable as a tactic in the advertising world, in which a single product—much less an awkward operating system, can make someone alive with pleasure and depict someone having more fun and more at ease than is possible. Maybe such a ploy, besides encouraging people to flock to the latest de-bugged edition and not have to operate in troublesome compatibility- or legacy-mode, is enough to dissuade end-users from putting a band-aid, fig-leaf over the cameras on their computers and phones or keeping said phones in the refrigerator or tin-foil wrappers when not being actively used. What do you think? Is that court-stenography in your pocket a little bit disconcerting? Or are such worries still the egotism of conspiracy theorists?

imago dei

The superb and thought-provoking blog about neuroscience and psychiatry, Mind Hacks, makes an interesting observation on the process to sainthood that John-Paul the Great is currently undergoing:
the requisite pair of miracles investigated and countered by the Devil's Advocate attributed to the pope both had to do with neurological conditions—healed without explanation, other than prayers of intercession to the recently departed pope. Considering that in times past, such ailments would have been treated as the handiwork of demons, and not diagnosable diseases, the pope was interested in neuroscience himself, the heuristics of the brain and metaphysics of the mind, and reversed the advance of Parkinson’s Disease for one nun—a condition the pope himself suffered from, shows, I think, not just John-Paul's qualifications for sainthood, giving hope to other sufferers, but also signals the maturity of the Church to work within a scientific and clinical framework.

fe-fi-furlough or a series of tubes

The last time the majority of federal workers in the US were made to take unpaid leave was back in late 1995 when a divided congress withheld funding for environmental, healthcare and social support programs and refused to raise the US government's statutory debt-ceiling, prompting a shutdown of non-essential services. Though the United States has come close to the same situation several times in between and there was never any true deal reached or pledge that rescued or at least deferred budget crises in between, there is certainly an inharmonious legacy to that and future jousting matches.

One tragic charter, article of association that while not enduring in itself, the Contract with America, did set a certain tone of uncompromising loyalty and culling, hollowing out independent institutions. One such bureau that was a casualty of the prevailing attitudes biases of the time was the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, created in 1976 as a non-partisan body to advise the legislature and the public on emergent issues and help politicians build adequate frameworks of regulation to keep apace with innovation and change, free from business lobbies and the jargon of rocket-surgeons.
It was a repository, much like the Library of Congress, to keep knowledge accessible and transparent, and read and research bills before passage—bridging technocracy and democracy. Such institutions and consumer advocacy, inspired by this office, still exist for the parliaments of Europe and other countries to try to gives politics the means to make informed decisions and there is growing reason, evidenced by some willful ignorance, omissions and support for bad science in specious programmes, with assurances from the sectors vying to secure government contracts, like fracking, infatuations with drones and broad surveillance, scuttling the space shuttle, ineffective porno-scanners, the digital rights management cabal, genetic manipulation, and the like, to reinstate an organisation that worked to make science accessible to the public, championed by private experts and some US politicians.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

everybody comes to rick's or don't tread on me

I am reminded of the exchange from Casablanca between the the conscientious bureaucrat and the croupier:

“I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here,” at which point he his given his take, “Your winnings, sir,” to which the inspector replies, “Oh—thank you very much.”

Russian intelligence agency seeks out vintage typewriters to stay off the net 

United Stasi of America



limes

Photographer Kai Wiedenhöfen has a series of panoramic images of walls, borders from around the world on the canvas—the flip side, of the longest extant stretch of the Berlin Wall, the other side of the wall that hosts the East Side Gallery, the memorial itself threatened with disassembly. The artist's objective is to illustrate such divisive relics should be relegated to the past and are no means to solve or contain political and social disputes. The exhibit will be on display through September.

lexical extraction

Always worth the daily gander for its compilations and master-sessions, Mental Floss, has an illustrated list of graffiti art terminology for different genre, techniques and media for street art. Though the terms are unconventional and probably not standardised and adopted by all artists, that such categories exist shows respect and maturity for such works.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

cri de couer or you can't handle the truth

Although I still declare that anyone truly shocked by learning that the world is the prying, groping place is a measure naïve or even complacent or complicit, public attention and outrage ought not be placated by life intimato Ars, the words of prophets of doom, or by practicality, commonality—offensive aspirations.

As more is revealed, everyone will have transgressions against the public trust to confess and defend. Arguing that tolerance and reciprocation do not justify the ends invite the same kind of arrogance of seeing the Big Picture, omnipresence, as does the intelligence Manifest Destiny of the US and conspirators. The disabusing quality of the former is far from palatable and probably inures one to the successive headlines—not only in bed with the telecommunication utilities, foreign intelligence agencies but also trawling from the series of tubes, upstream, that make up the internet and now there is an apparent mandate for snitching that's a free-pass for going beyond regular nosiness and jumping to conclusions and this mass-deputization is bound to go above and beyond—and may go far, in a social sense, of explaining why there is a poignant absence of rage on the perpetrating and perpetrated public—that and a convenient coalescing of economic conditions and conditional victories that deflect securities as a very—be-not-proud personal choice.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

percentile or blue-screen

The press seemingly have an obligation to announce their special-coverage with an infographic or a dramatic-photo montage and an orchestral strike. For continuing development concerning the government budget sequestration and mitigating measures, like furloughing defense department employees—with the caveat that contracted, conscripted or otherwise exempt personnel should not be utilised to make up for lost work, one publication went with, I think, a very unfortunate symbol to illustrate a cut in 20% in pay for affected workers—evocative of a time when the Pentagon was really and truly lamed. Perhaps in some ways, it is good to trim back the rhetoric with such stoppage and temporary estoppel but from the perspective of personal hardships and future knock-on effects, it quickly reveals itself as unacceptable and counterproductive.

scaramouche

There is a little guesthouse, called the Schwendenschanze—the name itself, meaning a Swedish Wall, sort of a catch all folk etymology for defensive barriers and trenches constructed not just by that country's conquest of much of Germany (more in keeping with living memory) but also for much older fortifications built by the Celts and the Romans, like the mysterious Schrazelloch (goblin holes) to be found everywhere—that is set at the summit of the high road through the Rhön mountains.
I always like reaching this place because then I know I am almost home but I have not really paid much attention to the building itself, except for a bit of scowling at the out-of-proportion house number it bears—something oversized, green and white that makes the place look like a truck stop along the Autobahn and by this point, I've had my fill of trucks, as I creep behind them up the steep climb. I just realised, however, that it is not just some plaque but rather the UNESCO stele for the world heritage biosphere site of this region. It occurred to me upon seeing the marker at another site. Now I recall seeing them elsewhere too, although camouflaged. This design is practical, I'm sure, but to call it a stele, a cartouche (the belief that if a name was written somewhere, the owner could never disappear) I was expecting something a bit more classic and for the ages, although it is fitting as the United Nations awards this honour but sometimes also takes it away when not enough is done to preserve it. The English daily, the local, features a nice series of World Heritage Sites all around Germany.