Thursday, 31 July 2014
catagories: technology and innovation
The city of Zadar has many fine churches with equally rich treasuries but one of the more curious is a reliquary of Saint Simeon (Sveti Šimun).
While repairing his ship, the merchant re-interred the body in a stone coffin in a graveyard for safekeeping. In the meantime, the merchant fell ill and came under the care of a some hospitable monks, whose churchyard he had covertly used as a hiding place. The monks had a prophetic dream that led them to the fresh grave and upon discovering the saint’s body and the wonders it worked, never allowed the treasure to leave. About two centuries later Elizabeth of Bosnia (Queen of Hungary and Croatia) attended mass where the relic was kept and a finger from the saint's mummified, incorruptible body.
It is hard to say why the queen was so possessed to do this capricious thing, but historically, she seemed like a real nasty character—ambitious and having her rivals' children killed, sort of a wicked step-mother figure who ruled as regent after the deaths of her well-wed husbands.
The story goes that Elizabeth hid the finger in her dress and it immediately started to decompose with squirming maggots and all the rigours of fourteen hundred years of deadness. Elizabeth ran shrieking down the aisle of the church and had to confess what she had done. Mortified, Elizabeth commissioned the finest sarcophagus to seal in the saint's remains (with reliefs depicting his miracles and curiously her attempted theft) and a fine church of his own in Zadar. Just afterwards, Venice loss its claim to its lands in Dalmatia.
As Europe and the United States pledge to ratchet-up sanctions on Russia, making the state a pariah after the tragic airline disaster, which Russia appears to bear responsibility for arming pro-Russian rebellion forces in the Ukrainian Don-Bass region—including Germany’s stoppage of armament sales to Russia, there comes along quietly the provocative and shameful revelation that the US government is currently releasing stockpiles of munitions to Israel. The article is evasive and hardly unbiased but suggests that Israel either did not ask or does not need to ask to be re-supplied, since the rounds (stored in country) were due to expire, and rather than dispose of them, sell them to Israel and then re-stock the warehouses with more missiles and bullets—all consistent with US politic and the safekeeping of its interests, according to one source in the story.
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
BoingBoing features a quite nice and circumspect retrospective of William Barker's Schwa or the Alien Autopsy with an interview with the visionary author. His iconic grey aliens personæ, our avatars, first appeared more than twenty years ago—including in the website's own print 'zine, and the story they told certainly enjoyed a following back then, although somewhat dismissed as fringe and conspiratorial. Find out more and remember this variant on the Have Nice Day smiley face at the link. Today, however, the dystopia of consumables-cartels, vanishing and endenturedness seems even more relevant and a fitting short-hand for the state of things.
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
After a short inter- lude as an independent kingdom (the country had several though not enduring flirtations with soveignty but always quickly fell back into foreign contol), Croatia came under the influence of Italy again with the sale of the country to the thalassocracy of the Republic of Venice.
The icon of the Lion of St. Mark is visible on many old structures, attesting to the Venetians’ presence.
As the incursions of the Ottomans grew bolder, Croatia entered into a personal union with the Empire of the Hapsburgs (Austro-Hungary) surrendering its autonomy in exchange for protection—even allowing vast areas of the country to be governed directly by the Viennese military command, as a buffer-zone in case of attack.
Until the end of WWI, Croatia remained part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before forming the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with other Balkan states during the interbellum period. The Treaty of Rapallo ceded much of Istria and the Dalmatian islands to Italy.
The aftermath of WWII saw the creation of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia—with quite a few mementoes of this time as well. Driving through the mountains near Motovun, we could spy some concrete beams that spelled out TITO to aircraft overhead.
While a part of the Eastern Bloc and governed by an authoritarian figure during this last phase, it was no dictatorship and differed greatly from other satillite states, significantly with the freedom of movement—something which no other residents behind the Iron Curtain enjoyed, and with a progressive industrial and diplomatic stance. Uniting six disparate states until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the region broke into a violent war for independence following the break-up of Yugoslav into its constituent parts, which lasted from 1991 to 1995.
Monday, 28 July 2014
Pula, the administrative anchor and biggest city of Istria since ancient times, has a very long and storied heritage. In addition to archaeological finds that date back twelve thousand years (not to mention fossilised human remains upwards of a million years), Pula was also were Jason and the Argonauts sought refuge while fleeing from the Colchians after he stole their golden fleece (whose legend probably comes from the tradition of “panning” for gold in the fast flowing rivers of Central Europe with a sheep skin as a sieve).
The city features one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world, as well as a forum converted into the main town square, in addition to being the reluctant donor of many treasures and antiquities to the Empire of Venice—though there are on-going archeological digs with finds yet to discover—and was employed as the launching base for the dreadnoughts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I.
Lately, Pula has seen a revival as an industrial power-house as well as a tourist-attraction—though much more than a curious palimpsest of civilisations.
The always impressive BLDGBLOG shares a really fascinating condominium spanning the two member states of Belgium and the Netherlands, in the form of an abandoned ancient Roman limestone quarry, which was later put to use as doom’s day bunker for NATO senior leadership. From the accounts of workers, it was truly an underground maze, and I wonder if it was not intended as a sort of Minotaur’s Labyrinth to sequester at least half of those dogmatists who necessitated such a structure be built.
Sunday, 27 July 2014
Never failing to discover and share—and with a good dose of education and that sparks the curiosity to learn more, brilliant book illustrations, BibliOdyssey presents Le Bestiaire Fabuleux, a mid twentieth century French collaboration among artists and poets, which paired a surreal menagerie with prose—looking almost like a paint-by-number or connect-the-dots, arranged in a calligram (only the idea of a calligram is shown here, not an example from the generous gallery to be found at the link above) that's the wood-cut, as it were, of the creature. It is not just craftily placed letters to complement the painting, but actual blazoning instructions to recreate the image with a little fable to accompany it.
Saturday, 26 July 2014
This lime- stone funda- ment is reminiscent of County Connemara in Ireland, whose sweeping plains are rivulets of the jagged rock face—with little top-soil but still managing to hold fast an ecosystem that supports everything from mosses up to cows—and people, rising also to form pseudo-fjords in parts.
The pools and lakes here and waterfalls are created by sediment that transforms into basically a chalky, soft substance that is much less permanent than what lies beneath and has given rise to wonderland, which was already duly recognised as one of the world's treasures by UNESCO in 1979 as one of the first natural places on the register.
Tourists can visit the park by sticking to these wooden gangways that look like the walkways from the Ewok village on the Moon of Endor. The wildlife here includes wolves, bears, otters, owls, vultures and lynxes but most shy away from the visiting crowds and the trails close promptly at sundown. A bit further south, past the Velebit mountain range, was the nature reserve of Paklenica canyon, and we hiked the trails there as well. It was easy to conjure up any number of adventures transpiring here.
Not too far away are much more arid climes, baked by the Adriatic sun and unrelenting Bora winds (a gust characteristic of the area that barrels downhill and snowballs once it reaches the lowlands), like these desert hills of the Isle of Pag—whose moonscape made me think of Tatooine. They were filming something there, but we suspect it was a car commercial, to appeal to customers' off-road fantasies even though it's doubtful they'll ever be realised.
It turns out that these natural backdrops were indeed made famous on celluloid in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the cinematic adaptations of German adventure-writer Karl May's novels of the Wild West, whose success spurred on other franchises like the Lone Ranger and Zorro.
May came to claim his cowboy-and-Indian stories with such iconic characters as the wise Winnetou, chief of the Apaches, and Old Shatterhand, his white blood-brother and the author's vicarious alter-ego, but May never saw these exotic places for himself—though compensating well with his imagination. It seems appropriate that the wilds of Yugoslavia (at the time) could be a fitting understudy and perhaps more authentic and awe-inspiring than those locations never visited.
Collectors' Weekly has a fantastic article and gallery of vintage images, including odd advertising and incredible temples to the romancing of the South Seas, of the development of Tiki coutre and kitsch and its impact, resonance on Mid-Century Americana. Please be sure to peruse the site for show-and-tell sessions and timely and timeless features on collectibles and antiques.
Beforehand, the lands of Dalmatia had always been either under Byzantine or Frankish rule. Another influential figure from Nin—also captured in sculpture, subsequently threatened to jeopardise that relationship with Rome. Gregorius, Bishop of Nin was constantly courting displeasure by saying mass in his native tongue, instead of Latin, so his congregation could understand and interpret the message of the sermon for themselves.
Here, as powerfully imagined by artist Ivan Meštrović, Grgur ninski looks like a Disney villian or some fire and brimstone preacher but still invites one to rub his toe for a blessing, and the statue was placed in the courtyard outside the Church of the Holy Cross (Crkva svetog Križa), the former seat of the bisphoric. Gregorius' career was obscured by Church politics and during his tenure the bishop of Nin was dissolved, which enjoys the somewhat misleading distincion of being the tinest cathedral in the world.
Gregorius and the partitioners of Nin were not punished with this diminutive gathering place for their vernacular rebellion (and since there is no longer the office of the bishop in Nin, it cannot really be called a cathedral), as it was rather built probably as a private chapel for the neighbouring ducal residence originally. Research into its design and orientation also suggest that the structure functioned as an ingenious sun-dial and calendar (with the placement of the portals along the roof and wall) to trace the sun's path throughout the day and year.
More on what we did for our summer vacation is coming with reflections on travels in Istria and along the Dalmatian coast. Više doći.
A new social networking service hopes to encourage participants to live more in the moment—whatever that means—by pledging to rake over the coals of any status updates, posing, shouts, blurbs and friendships fostered and erase them after twenty-four hours have passed. Users, without the nagging realisation that everything one thinks, does and says was in that pill that one took yesterday and will become an indelible part of one's permanent record—whatever that means—the start-up hopes, can be engineered to interact more spontaneously in this sandbox, this hour-glass and behave more like people do in real life.
Friday, 11 July 2014
Thursday, 10 July 2014
Bawden certainly was not alone in experimenting with this material—the technique having been first employed by the Dresdener avant-garde collective Die Brücke and then tried by others, including Picasso and Matisse. Linotype, as a process, on the other hand, means “line of type” as a single slug of text that spanned the whole page could be composed at once and then assembled, line by line. The invention of the linotype machine in 1884 revolutionized the newspaper business with quicker type-setting; before its introduction, no daily edition in the world offered readers more than eight pages.
Wednesday, 9 July 2014
Though never claiming to be the moral successor to the Montagsdemonstrationen, those peaceful rallies that took place in the late eighties in the public square of the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, spreading to other cities, protesting the ruling party in East Germany and instrumental in making imminent the reunification, the German press is drawing parallels to a movement began this Spring in Hamburg called Vigils for Peace (Mahnwachen für den Frieden).
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Stars and Stripes’ article reporting on the border that Turkey shares with the Levant is described with the same characteristic fright as many outlets are reserving for the situation at the US border with Mexico. Western officials are very concerned about this NATO march’s ability to secure a border designated as porous, as it has been used as a point of entry (and egress) for militants to join in arms the insurrection against the governments of Syria and Iraq. The border itself is described as a thousand kilometer expanse of rugged wilderness—with a few population centres straddling the shallow basin of the River Euphrates that marks the boundary. This area at the crossroads of several trade routes has held a pivotal position and hosted a variety of people throughout history, and one of those population centres is the ancient city of Gaziantep, which has over a million residents from all sorts of backgrounds and confessions and also hosts an outpost of the US military and a missile battery.
Monday, 7 July 2014
Although the destruction of the cultural hertitage of Afghanistan, like the unique Greco-Buddhist statues at Bamiyan was commissioned because they were deemed idolatrous, rather than being spared due to liquidity like museum treasures that can be pawned off to a string of private collectors, the West at that time failed to heed an important warning and bought wholesale into a contrived fable.
Such a revisionist history is taking place for a second time in just the span of a few years in Iraq, as ISIS is storming through the land. Already many places holy to the Shi'ites have been obliterated and again Iraq's curators are seeing their galleries occupied by minions awaiting orders whether the graven images ought to be smashed or offered to the highest-bidder. Either way, the loss is terrible to contemplate, but the greater objective, which was already achieved in making the West believe that Afghanistan or any selected population is monolithic and was always so, is to rewrite history and to eliminate any stray fact that does not fulfill this prophesy. No nation is completely frank about its past and history never goes without bias, but to become completely intolerant of the formative and ancient past is an open invitation for repetition.
Via Fast Company, Take Part features the innovative work of a design firm in Slovakia that hopes of inspiring others to come up with creative ways of addressing homelessness. The architects have taken advantage of the typical East European electrified two-sided billboard—known as a hoarding to much of the rest of the world, to create a nook, a shelter for the country's vagrant population with amenities.
The design firm has gifted its basic plan to the world, certain that others could improve upon these ideas for dignified quarters and adapt them to local conditions. Urban-centres in Germany as have these suspended boxes but also on ground level, squat columns for posting bills, and it always occurred to me that such opportunities abound. Elsewhere, spikes like those designed to keep pigeons from perching have been installed in entryways to prevent people from taking up temporary residence and out of sight. The really clever—though possibly ethically-questionable, having the homeless sponsored by big businesses, like some race-car or potentially a corporate zoo—part is that the costs are calculated to pay for themselves from advertising revenue. I really like this idea and it seems to be a good way to create a real transition, a boot-strap from vagrancy. There are far worse ways to try to get a foot up.
Sunday, 6 July 2014
Spiegel's International Desk (auf Englisch) features an interview with the one of the Fugitive’s lawyers and another former agency contractor regarding the US intelligence apparatchik's unflagging pursuit of complete, omnipotent surveillance and Germany's relationship as a junior partner. The short but insightful piece equates that drive to a form of state-sanctioned religion, having one self-same loftier aim of population-control, foiled with another much more mundane and human of having the economic upper-hand and influence over government regulation in business and for emerging technologies. Of course I rationally understood these sort of goals, especially being able to poll the mood of mergers and acquisitions or trade agreements before they were put before national assemblies or eked out to a public, with or without any input into the proposal, and adjust language and sciency-sounding reviews accordingly.
Saturday, 5 July 2014
Friday, 4 July 2014
Leadership in the Italian navy has fears that terrorists may be trying to seek anonymously into Europe by migrant boats, refugee processing centres and camps having been over-whelmed for some time by the huge numbers of people fleeing strife and poverty in Africa. Thousands are risking their lives on a very difficult and dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to a safe haven island, and then, having survived, are greeted with an uncertain reception.
Although there have been recent developments in the court room that seem to favour hyper-capitalism, I suspect that litigation between the government of Argentina and a hedge-fund manager is far from over. When the South American nation's economy was down-and-out and on the verge of collapse, a band of merry angel investors bought up bonds at a few pennies on the dollar. Now that the Argentine economy is back on its feet and the bonds have matured, from being not worth the paper they were printed on to being worth billions of dollars (on paper) and the hedge-fund team is demanding payment in full. Never mind that making this payment would destroy the Argentine market all over again and the their initial predatory investment did not in anyway help the country to extract itself from the financial mess, which is ostensibly why countries expose themselves to such vultures in the first place. US judges have again ruled that the hedge-fund manager has the right to his claim—though it would be nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory. Though smug and satisfied with this impossible ruling, I think that they would like nothing more than to see the proceedings drag on and only threaten to foreclose on Argentina, since that's what banks do best. As sad as this tale is, it is not unique.
With historically low interest rates, banks are disinclined still to lend to mere mortals when or conduct the non-swash-buckling daily work of the institutions, being that the banks themselves can afford to borrow money from central banks the world over at say one percent interest and use that loan to purchase government bonds and securities, which pays dividends back to the bank of two to three percent, effectively making the government pay banks for this bit of the banksters' entertainment. Why would the bother with anything else than this safe and secure scheme? Government and the markets conspire to keep this economic theatre going, making cosmetic adjustments here and there when the system looks in danger of collapse.
Thursday, 3 July 2014
I wonder when and why 'tis, archaic but a formal elision in the English language—for it is and possibly with a grammatical mandate that one finds in other languages, like French and German, was transformed into the more familiar, yet considered acceptable only in speech and not committed to paper (though those standards are generally relaxed), contraction it's.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Already facing bullying by US authorities for violating (US) economic sanctions imposed against certain unfriendly nations during the past decade, France's diplomatic judgment and will is being freshly questioned by America. It’s a tragic irony that a nation’s banks and military-industrial complex, instead of the crown and sceptre, have become the synecdoche for a government, people and posture. Told it would be unwise to allow the sale of a new warship to Russia, the French government appears to be the victim of blackmail—by some estimations. Given that the fines for sanctions, in the billions and far exceeding the bank’s annual profits, were already reduced in exchange for pleading guilty to charges of falsifying records and conspiracy (bad behavior certainly, but unrelated to the indictment of doing business with Iran, Cuba et. al) and the punitive scolding of denying the bank the ability to conduct dollar transactions was dropped, it seems like it can’t be anything else than extortion and backing out of a deal with Russia might bring the judgment down further.
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
I have managed to keep up quite a lot of routines that are giving myself a good turn, and hopefully those small virtues outweigh the vices—if I take time to count. The yoga and taking time to meditate and relax, however, have become shadows of their former regiments. It’s never comfortable (nor necessary, fortunately) trying to account for why one stopped cultivating a good habit, but introspection is something that I hope to rediscover. Looking for a mantra to repeat in my head, I came across this website (one carefully and genuinely tended, which sadly seems kind of rare nowadays)that presents the fundamental mechanics of yogic meditation and rewarding practises that one ought to develop in a clear and accessible way.