The mayor of a sizable village in Abruzzo has conscripted the assistance of the Italian branch of the European Paranormal Activity Society (EPAS) to investigate mysterious sounds haunting the area.
I thought, sadly, that society had become too jaded for claims lacking photographic documentation or peer-review and appropriate adjudication or co-opted by the within-explanation biology and pathology of zombies, and so it is pretty keen to discover that there are still true-believers (despite their public front, reminiscent of faux-documentaries) just rearing to be of service for situations like this. Surely there are phenomena that do not yield for tradition explanations, despite whatever array of chroniclers that ought to be available, at any place or at any time and strangeness that is camera-shy. What do you think? Does your part of the realm of the living need the help of the ghost-busters to help settle accounts? Just remember, don't cross the streams.
Thursday, 29 August 2013
The mayor of a sizable village in Abruzzo has conscripted the assistance of the Italian branch of the European Paranormal Activity Society (EPAS) to investigate mysterious sounds haunting the area.
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
I stumbled over a delightful blog by the name of Ask the Past, full of practical albeit subject to ridicule advice from old publications. Trying to harriedly take stock of what I might need for our weekend-getaway and allay it most efficiently, the following recommendations from an Italian peripatetic from 1480 gave me some solice and direction:
Though we need not worry about the goons at airport security confiscating liquids or foodstuff or undeclared monetary instruments, it is nice to know that patience, over-packed, is an inalienable prescription for any journey. The site is definitely worth the visit and further exploration on topics of all sorts.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Monday, 26 August 2013
Via Jalopnik comes news that the last of the T-2's, which until this year were being produced at a Volkswagen factory in Brazil, will be manufactured and released on 31 December, due mostly to more stringent safety standards for automobiles.
To honour the end of the of the sixty-four year production run of the Bulli, the micro-bus (the hippie van was also known as the vee-dub to English speakers, since, like the world-wide-web, enunciating the W's of the initialism took more time than the whole name), the factory will be producing a special nostalgic line with the classic off-white and baby blue colour scheme of the sixties. In Brazil—which I remember manufactured the classic Beetle along with a plant in Mexico also for decades after it disappeared from US and European markets, the buses are modified to run on sugar-cane and are as popular as ever. It is sad to see such a classic line finally go but I know its legacy will live on.
Sunday, 25 August 2013
Mental Floss featured an interesting round up of eleven creative interpretations of classic films that's a bit above the caliber of the investigative work my friends and I did watching a VHS cassette of Three Men and a Baby one frame at a time to catch a glimpse of the
tortured ghost stage-hand that was caught on a millisecond of the released version of the movie, but still rather implausible though well-constructed. The alternative reading that struck me the most was theories on the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. I had heard the suggestions before that the movie was a veiled allegory of the director's views of the Holocaust or the genocide of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, a significant departure from the book on which its based, but over all not a very compelling argument.
As the author of the original novel posits, however, all writing is a confession although it is not always clear what one is owning up to—though in this case, the author admitted that he had had some dark thoughts about his family when they got on his nerves, the article, referencing a documentary called Room 237, debuted during the Directors' Fortnight of last year's Film Festival at Cannes, entertains the idea that the changes in the screen-adaptation were the esteemed director's secret confessions for his part in the mock-up, staging of the Apollo Moon landings. Conspiracy theorists and Moon-landing deniers have found all sorts of supporting evidence, including, the sweater that Danny Torrence wears bears the Apollo 11 rocket, the lunar mileage was about 237,000 miles—hence the warning to avoid Room 237—and the distinctive hotel carpet pattern that Danny races his Big Wheel across bears some resemblance to the launch pad for the mission. An awful lot of the iconic scenes only come from the film—the wave of blood from the elevator, the ghost twins in the hallway and the writer's block expressed on dozens of typed pages. It seems like a pretty far-fetched explanation and one can surely find hints like these anywhere, if they support one's thesis. What do you think? Do you think there are such admissions lurking in the subtleties of gaffing and artist license?
Saturday, 24 August 2013
It is pretty effortless to order up apparel with any print or slogan that one sees fit nowadays, or even to print a three-dimensional rendering as a keepsake of anything that has transpired. In the past, people have said some pretty obtuse things, which I thought ought to be embroidered on a throw pillow or stitched on a sampler, if I had that talent.
Though it is a challenge to find a non-moribund version that complements the original science project—and it's sad to think how precariously curated some brilliant things were handled just a few scant years ago, aping at this strange sort of premature immortality only to be displaced and neglected, looking back from an age just a few years later with the threat that most mundane and uninteresting things will ever be forgot—a clever student basically downloaded the growing database of Wikipedia and developed a route to allow users to enter queries on two desperate and random topics through his server and find the distance (the Kevin Bacon number, the connections, steps it takes to bridge both items) between them in the Wikipedia universe. Six Degrees of Wikipedia, it was called and was introduced in 2007, although it appears there has been no one to maintain the programme. Surely still educational and serendipitous, one sees latter day incarnations as a game with a certain frame work, which I think makes the search more of a trivial pursuit. Research, triangulation and abstraction, however, cannot be replaced by any amount of brute force or compendious collection, nor a sense of anticipation or urgency that spoils the surprise.
I wonder how the project's inventor thinks about browsers and engines, without stint or bias, almost without fail direct questions that have no resale value toward their Wikipedia articles. Since the first speech broadcast to those within ear-shot, the speed of communications has been dangerously out-stripping the speed of comprehension. One writer for Der Spiegel's Eines Tages lost-and-found bureau, invites readers on a monthly adventure with a daisy-chain of nodes and relays from the universal encyclopedia to bring together two topics in seven, possibly specious but always interesting, steps. The latest installment (liediglich nur auf Deustch) by Danny Kringiel links the history and development of rail-transport in Japan with the current state of affairs and exposure with the spying apparatuses of the United States. I am sure such a thesis accepts tangents as well.
Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Moritz, patron of many places in Germany and beyond—other members are venerated as well, including San Fedele (Saint Felix) who ended up in Como, when dispatched to the French-Swiss border to quell an (im)pious uprising and refused to do so.
In response to the growing interest and esteem of the Bitcoin, Der Spiegel reports, the German
Not that contemporary events are not not engaging enough and the roots of greed and corruption are ever so shallow, happening to read a bit of an article on the Fugitive (he kind of reminds me of Shaggy, better get back to the Mystery Machine) while waiting to get a haircut (I am thankful that some places still have a selection of magazines to pass the time and not assume that everyone has or has the compunction to stare at a telephone) read that the place he first sought refuge in Hong Kong was specifically in the district of Kowloon, a pretty posh area in places but also formerly host to one of the strangest, seediest underworlds of history: Kowloon Walled-City.
The British Empire was granted the ninety-nine year lease of the important port city as a result of the Treaty of Nanking that brought a temporary peace to the Opium Wars. Already unhappy with the tariffs and strictures imposed on foreign merchants (transaction were indirect and handled through mediators called hongs and restricted to thirteen factories, industrial parks) by the Chinese Empire, the dissatisfaction was exacerbated for the main player, the royally chartered British East India Company, by having its profitable cotton trade displaced by production in Egypt. To make up for this loss, the corporation turned its focus in the Bengali region to poppy-harvesting and aggressively flooding the market with opium. Chinese objections to this tactic were countered with war that created a rather unbalanced legacy.
Monday, 19 August 2013
The European Union is dispatching a committee to possibly mediate the strife between the UK territory of Gibraltar and the surrounding Kingdom of Spain. Although this contention is nothing new, the promontory ceded to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by the Treaty of Utrecht that settled the Wars of the Spanish Succession in the early eighteenth century and residence of the Rock have roundly rejected measures for devolution. The latest escalating episode that has attracted the attention of the EU is over increased border checks that the Spanish government has imposed. Spain argues that autonomous Gibraltar, whose economy is largely based on financial services and internet-gambling is not doing enough to control smuggling and black-market activities, though employing a lot of Spanish day-labourers besides.
Britain argues it is in retribution for the sinking of several concrete blocks off-shore to create an artificial reef in waters that Spain claims, ostensibly to promote sea-life and the haul in this disputed area. From a mythological point of view, it is interesting that the landmark is interpreted as both an act of ditch-digging to reach open-waters quicker, connecting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic and as an act of narrowing the straits to prevent the ingress of sea-monsters by Hercules. Whether inviting or foreboding, what lie beyond the strait represented uncharted territory. Some contend too that the symbolism of the columns regaled with sash became the dollar sign, $ with two vertical bars from the glyph for pesos. Whatever the real reason behind this dispute and arbitration, whether it be a stance against colonialism or for self-determination and open-borders, is unclear, as British warships enter as they have done some weeks ago in the Falklands, no one is mentioning Spain's own contentious exclaves, the port cities of Ceuta, considered the southern pole of Hercules, and Melilla in Morocco. We will see what happens.
Sunday, 18 August 2013
Though far from forthcoming and most deflectionary with their motives, administrators for the city of Berlin (not used as a metonym for the government of Germany entire) are making arguments against service-providers that help connect tourists with residents who have a spare room, sofa or air-mattress to offer, saying that the entrepreneurs are contributing to the shortage of affordable housing through speculative by encouraging speculation and holding onto surplus space, awaiting a turn in the properties market.
That hardly seems like a valid accusation to those who have managed to spin a meagre sum of gold by offering the extra space to visitors to the city at a discount and with the bonus of very personable accommodations and native knowledge. For the price, one does not usually find this at traditional hotels and surely the aggressions against the industry and short-term renters is at the behest of the hotel lobby, who stand to lose profits to more flexible and hospitable individuals and probably also sore that private subleters don't have restrict regulations and a tax regime to adhere to. I've often thought about making my work-week flat available for a song (or my car during the week) on the weekends and know I have the means and infrastructure to do so. People caught renting out their homes or parts of it to vacationers could face fines, but that would do nothing to improve the housing situation, since few to none of the participants are hording space, only offering an alternative to regular billeting.
It is happening in other tourist-destinations as well and the ire of municipalities is running counter to consumer-demand. Hopefully in the end, the service-providers will prevail, but this battle-royale seems like the whinging in the States that introduced internet sales-tax or the bemoaning of the postal service and telephone companies over lost revenue due to more expedient and cheaper alternatives. Though we are happy campers ourselves, to pass such a regulation, I think, would be a dangerous assault against sharing, moonlighting and freelancing in general. What is your opinion? Is this like Ma Bell going after Skype or a legitimate way to ease the housing-crunch in big cities?
My mother recently shared with me this brilliant and unending series of images of landscaping and gardening elements. Gathered from a variety of sources, there a lot of clever and creative ideas that I would like to incorporate. Even without a little plot of land to cultivate right now, I am always drawn to such handiwork and can never resist angling for photos of statues and art work among well tended plants and flowers. Though I know I have hundreds of other photos besides of puti and other personifications posing in gracious gardens, I went back that magical experience we had from not too long ago of exploring the grounds of Villa Carlotta on Lake Como.
Though the planters and statuary on the link are modern and not as ornate and expansive, one can really do a lot with a little space. On exiting the villa grounds, there was a strange group of what appeared to be garden gnomes, half hidden in the hedges, that did not quite fit, I though, with the rest of the style and craftsmanship. The original tenants, however, were Germans, so I suppose that has to be taken into consideration.
Saturday, 17 August 2013
It was really only used as a consecrated place of worship sporadically. The site is more renowned as the venue for Germany's first democratic national assembly, a convention that led to the creation of the Weimar Republic and, after WWII and the reunification.
I never had the chance before to visit the impressive upper, plenary chamber, the assembly hall, and learn about its history, as it was occupied on a previous visit with some awards ceremony. Surely, there is a lot more to discover and to learn about the city, and I am looking forward to my (and our) next chance to visit.
Friday, 16 August 2013
After seeing a street sign like those pictured, featuring a few letters combined as a single glyph, I wondered about what allowances are given to these classy but antiquated examples of paleography. Curiosity yielded former requirements for such presentation in order to maintain a level of economy and to maximise the amount of text that could be fit on a page, though various methods. Researching a little bit, and courtesy of Nag on the Lake, I came across an interesting vignette on the development and history of typography in the West. I wonder what sort of champions are out there in the age of WYSIWYG and without the pressure for brevity in taxonomy.
Thursday, 15 August 2013
Better late than never, but I finally had the chance to visit the city museum exhibit on John Fitzgerald Kennedy's state visit to West Germany, assembled to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the event earlier in the summer and in anticipation of President Obama's visit. Kennedy's visit was wildly popular drawing throngs numbering at a million, and the speech featured a couple of other phrases in German and in Latin.
Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was 'civis romanus sum.' Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'
Kennedy's tour, however, did not only include the divided capital but also the Rhein-Main region where the reception was equally well-attended and well-remembered, with this interesting retrospective on display. Traveling from Köln, to Bonn in quick succession, overnighted in Wiesbaden (now a Dorint but then the Hindenberg Hotel by the train station) before traveling to Frankfurt and then Berlin. Tens of thousands in Wiesbaden alone flocked to follow the US president's parade route.
The impact of the visit was hopeful and hysterical and in contrast to the efforts of French diplomatic efforts, helped to provide resistance to the slip of the balance of power, appeasement (Entspannungspolitik) and independence towards Europe as de Gaulle was hoping to accomplish. I would like to learn more of this “third pole” notion that France advocated and how that affected the political atmosphere at the time and to be displaced by a statement of solidarity.
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
Who knew that pharmaceutical companies get to choose what the generic equivalent (the chemical formula for the active, essential ingredient) of their branded drugs are called—and within well-defined boundaries of pseudo-Latin and truth-in-advertising decided by a commission of grammarians?
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Writing for the Journal of the American Revolution, Tod Andrlik presents a frankly mind-boggling yet surprisingly elementary, knowable list of the ages of the important players, the Founding Fathers and their foils, when independence was declared back in 1776. I suppose that I had my preconceptions of a lot of venerable figures assembled assembled, romancised on the obverse of currency and in other legends, but to survey the facts and figures is really disabusing. Many were quite young at the time:
James Madison was 25 years of age
Marquis de Lafayette, 18
Alexander Hamilton, 21
James Monroe, 18
Aaron Burr, 20
Betsy Ross, 24
I had no idea, and it's like finding out that Juliet and her Romeo are meant to be fourteen and fifteen year olds. George Washington, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were all significantly older, but no ageism was to be found on either side (nor implied here neither). Perhaps the sole exception was in setting the minimum age for presidency at five-and-thirty.
Sunday, 11 August 2013
Saturday, 10 August 2013
Despite codifying the right of expatriation as a fundamental right of all citizens and more contemporary words (and ironic) of criticism for the only other nation in the world to tax its people on income earning world-wide, Eritrea, accusing the practice of presenting a grave economic disadvantage to the country's diaspora, who fled over war, civil-unrest and political persecution, and whose revenue goes involuntarily to support the regimes and conditions that forced them to leave, with a mantle of citizenship not easily doffed, the United States, under the guise of combating tax evasion—though small-holders compared to the billions of untapped wealth that corporate persons shuttle across boarders without taxes or tariffs, is aggressive in their publican activities.
Our little neighbourhood is having a little celebration with live music and a beer-tent called after the community's namesake, St. Lawrence—a Laurentiusfest. It falls on the weekend of his Saint Day and matyrdom. Originally hailing from Aragon, Lawrence went on to study theology and liberal arts at the university of Zaragoza where he became acquainted with Sixtus—the future pope. After completing his studies, the two traveled to Rome in the mid third century. There Lawrence was ordained as a deacon of the Church and given the important office of treasurer, overseeing accounting for the inventory of artefacts (hence his patronage of librarians and accountants, records still exist showing where the diaspora of treasures ended up), donations and charitable disbursement.
All was thrown into disarray, however, when the Roman emperor demanded that the Church offer him all their treasure as tribute. Methodically, Lawrence was able to give away all Church property to the poor and when the legates of the emperor can to demand tribute, Lawrence presented them with the faithful and humble members of the community, announcing that the poor was the Church's greatest treasure and was far richer for them than the Empire will ever be. For this affront, the delegation grilled Lawrence alive on a gridiron (hence his patronage for roasters and comedians, supposedly having asked to be flipped over as he was done on one side). One particular item on the books, a cup hewn out of a piece of agate and regarded by many, including Pope Benedict XVI who used it during a Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Valencia in 2006 and Pope John Paul II in 1982, as the genuine Chalice of Christ used at the Last Supper, the Holy Grail, Lawrence saw fit to entrust to a soldier who was on his way from Rome back to Lawrence's homeland by the Pyrenees. The soldier delivered the relic to Lawrence's parents, and has been since preserved and venerated in various monasteries and churches in Spain, mostly quietly and without the Hollywood treatment or the romance (though with no less reverence) associated with the other contenders for this vessel.
Friday, 9 August 2013
Via Slate Magazine, we find out that the kids' menu is not merely an extension of the atavism of adult palettes—to the same level of maturity for refinement, or an attempt to inculcate young and impressionable adherents but rather come from a strange mix in America of medicine, morality and marketing.
Thursday, 8 August 2013
While I am very happy that the forced vacation of the majority of Defense Department workers ending some the hardships incurred on individuals and families and the discontinuity of work, faced now with the alternative, layoffs and a reduction in force seem even more unpalatable.
Wednesday, 7 August 2013
I had the chance to visit a pretty neat and inspired exhibit hosted by the city archives of three decades of local posters, documenting the history of all sorts of cultural movements through a select series.
I had the gallery all to myself and it was quite the place and time for reflection about the power of the printed and kerned word. It was nice to pass along the history, with its notes of nostalgia and anachronism. The exhibit included the workspaces of designers and some governing guidance on expression via this medium with some clever and memorable aphorisms about print and its endurance from respected typographer for the New York Herald Tribune, Beatrice Warde, accomplished and influential at foreign desks and domestic bureaus alike.
It proved to be a very arresting display, however limited to the point of view of one city that saw its perspective recede year after year—as a natural consequence of macroscopic changes. In the quiet and walking past a hand full of staff who did not notice my presence beyond their monitors, I also had the opportunity to explore the rest of the facility and examine the stacks and shelves of this office charged with remembering. It was strange to be able to wander unnoticed but I suppose visitors are rare and usually not without a defined mission, and it is interesting to ponder what kind of genealogy one's residence takes in.
Members of the Green Party coalition of the German parliament are urging workplace canteens (cafeterias or Mensen) offer and promote on one day a week vegetarian fare, in the name of environmental sustainability and health and to introduce those never otherwise habituated to the idea of reducing consumption of animal products.
Tuesday, 6 August 2013
Many municipalities across Germany, but particularly in the smaller Länder, are poised to challenge the findings of the national census conducted back in 2011 but the results of the number-crunching have not been previewed until recently. Despite very cautious calculations and withholding of demographics until outcomes were relatively certain—not revealed for two years, the canvasing has provoked dispute, as federal funding is proportional to population and many places are seeing their accustomed support cut, maintaining that the sampling method was biased and did not retrieve an accurate picture of their population. There is no talk of gerrymandering in the complaint, and while I am far from having full-faith in the demographic process, I do wonder what standards elicited both the results and the follow-on dissent.
Monday, 5 August 2013
The World Geography has an amazing collection of breath-taking staircases from around the world. The images really presented an embarrassment of choices, the likes of which I never imagined existed or would be primed to race up and down. It was hard to pick just one image: find out more about this Moses Bridge Stairs in the Netherlands, the Stage of Dreams in Japan, the stepwell in Jaipur India and the pedestrian rollercoaster, the Tiger and Turtle in Duisburg, Germany at the link. Be sure to check out the website for more galleries devoted to outstanding themes.
Sunday, 4 August 2013
On way way back to begin the workweek, just one turn away from my apartment, I was redirected by signs for a massive monthly flea market. Passing through the parking area, I saw that the Omani Sultanate's diplomatic mission to Germany could not resist a good sale either. Perhaps they had some tschotskies to unload. I was first exposed to this distinctive license plate a few weeks ago on seeing a fancy fleet of sedans stop on a side-street in my neighbourhood while walking to the local grocery store, and curious, discovered what the null meant on car tags. I sprinted up and down the endless aisles and found just one piece that caught my eye—a little silver-plate bowl that is proving somewhat of a mystery.
Slate has an excerpt from Daniel Tammet's new book on thinking in numbers, in which the author experiences the cultural nuance, chiefly while visiting Iceland, where amounts are treated as something qualitative as well as quantitative and not something separate and abstract.
For the numbers one through five, there are different forms for years, sheep (it reminds me of the shepherd’s rhyme and special number system for counting sheep and stitches for knitting—Yan Tan Tethera, and probably also useful for sending someone off to slumber-land), people, naming trains and highways and houses—reflecting declination and something categorical that has no equivalent English despite the occasional encounter with twain, deuce, score and murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, etc. The fourth sheep is called something like “Sheep Number Four,” as if it were a city-bus—preserving a sense of cardinal bias, something not strictly ordinal, since four follows three only by the reckoning of the counter, unlike the passage of time. Bigger numbers are not elaborated in the same kind of way. I would like to read this book and find out how ways of counting influence the cognitive process and possible assumptions made about the significance upon encountering the unusual.