For four decades of trail-blazing work towards greater equality, a museum in New York is awarding Miss Piggy an honourary achievement prize, cementing her place among the most powerful female luminaries. The Elizabeth A. Sackler Centre for Feminist Art will present this award later on in the summer, to be followed by a panel discussion with author and activist Gloria Steinem.
Thursday, 30 April 2015
zeroth law: looking at the ethics of thinking machines through the classic Trolley Problem
wasei-eigo: twelve Japanese takes on terms with English roots
travelogue: an illustrated 1821 journal by a teenager on holiday
if only you knew the power of the dark side: sometimes indulging arrogance or invoking privilege can inspire creativity and turn out altruistic
I think photography was a little more artful when some measure of restraint was required, though we were no professionals when it came to framing a shot. No matter because such a treasury defies documentation and the bounds of sentiment are more lithe and supple. I did rather enjoy coming across a few images of myself and viewing them through a contemporary lens. Against that background, I look like a meme character about to offer possibly questionable advice.
If I remember right, I was in the process of auditioning for television commercials with a talent-scout. I also like me mugging like a little gangster with that floppy hat. And I recall well that Star Wars Christmas bonanza when I got the entire fleet of battle-craft, but looked to be pretty sleepy and fighting exhaustion. What family photos, vaguely recalled hither and yon and not keepsakes adiabatically kept in some cloud, do you wish you had ready access to?
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Earlier this month, on a small but serviceably large (bigger than the Vatican and Monaco) patch of terra nullius, a disputed area along the borderlands of Serbia and Croatia, an enterprising Czech politician founded a new micronation called Liberland.
street-legal: a look at Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion
escourt-service: pretend to be whisked along by a mysterious companion with the Selfie Arm
blank-on-blank: rediscovered 1972 animated interview with Ray Bradbury
backpedalling: learning to ride a backwards bicycle requires one to unlearn how to ride a normal one
Heard on National Public Radio, I learnt of this quirky and humourous blog project to document the demographic shift in fast-food culture by charting the demise and repurposing of one of the more recognisable architectural follies of a certain franchise. The standard blue-print of a Pizza Hut with its distinctive mansard roof is hard to hide once the former proprietors vacate the building and it is masked by new tenants, ranging from other fast-food restaurants, chapels, car-rentals, to mortuaries.
Tuesday, 28 April 2015
trust building exercise: a retrospective look at vintage corporate board games
franking privileges: more things Maya Angelou never said in stamp form
indian blanket: mid-century map of US of wildflowers, via the Everlasting Blort
reforestation: using drones to help rebuild woodland biotopes
wedge antilles: Hungarian artist Tibor Helényi’s take on Star Wars movie posters
One—for which you’ll need your filthy, filthy imaginations to limn the ellipses—began, “There once was a Queen from Bruges...” …. …. …. “And the King did exclaim, ‘Mon dieu! Après moi, le déluge.’”
While visiting my parents in the state of Georgia, H and I saw Franklin D. Roosevelt’s retreat in Warm Springs, called the Little White House, though not a place for politicking per se and constructed at the beginning of FDR’s political career in 1921 when New York governor Roosevelt was stricken with polio and almost saw his prospects cut-short, whether or not the presidency a decade later was included in his aspirations. Local luminaries and physicians (possibly mistresses as well) gathered at the Little White House but politicians and dignitaries were mostly feted at either Camp David, the big White House or stately Hyde Park. FDR sought out a thermal spa treatment and the clean air of this town, building his private residence and going on the found an institute to try and cure other polio sufferers.
Of course FDR was wheel-chair bound and kept that from public-attention and appropriately, the grounds are handicapped-accessible but I thought it was quite upsetting and telling that there was a fleet of mobility-scooters available that otherwise able-bodied visitors used pretty shamelessly and rather gratuitously. The tour was pretty interesting and engaging but the experience was made even more so by a pair of strange coincidences. First, to the day, our visit fell on the seventieth anniversary of FDR’s death from a stroke suffered while sitting for his official presidential portrait in his study there, which remained unfinished—and that made the experience more poignant.
Second, I happened to be reading the brilliant alternate history novel by Phillip K. Dick set in a present (1960s) where a protracted World War II was won by the Axis Powers.
In this parallel reality, Nazi engineering has continued a pace and there are regular excursions to Venus and Mars and one character took a commercial Lufthansa flight (as we did) that took a mere three-quarters of an hour to fly from Scandinavia to San Francisco in the Pacific States of America and it took more time to collect one’s luggage at the baggage claim, but The Man in the High Castle, named after a reclusive author who’s penned a naturally contraband book that wonders how the world might have turned out if the Allies had been victorious, portrays a nasty and brutish dystopia. The Earth has been divided from east of the Caucasus to the western seaboard of America under the control of the Empire of Japan, Europe and the East Coast under control of the Great Nazi Reich—the Mediterranean was drained for reclamation of agricultural land, the Holy Land under Italian control, and most of Africa depopulated—with lesser races enslaved or eliminated. A nominally independent Finland, Canada and the Midwestern states offer some pockets of resistance and neutrality.
Terrible and inverted as it is, it is affecting how some of the same geopolitical prejudices and sentiments, with a few substitute words, are still common-parlance and the world is still a hostile and polarised place.
Though there was a line or two that identified the point-of-departure, the hinge-event that diverged into the present of the story, I don’t think I would have picked up on it without the visit to Warm Springs. There was a time-line of FDR on one of the displays that mentioned the assassination attempt, just months into his first term, at the hand of one Giuseppe Zangara, who missed and killed the mayor of Miami at a speech. In the novel, the assassin’s aim was truer and as a result, there was no New Deal, no economic recovery from the Great Depression that allowed America to bolster its manufacturing capacity, no Lend-Lease policy that allowed a tenaciously isolationist America to undermine the German and Japanese advance while still begging neutrality. Seeing FDR’s achievements and artefacts really made the contributions he was able to impart and his legacy even more extraordinary and made the wonder of how things might have been (and how things become the same) all the more disquieting.
Monday, 27 April 2015
A Jonbar Hinge or a change-point is a literary trope that refers to seemingly inconsequential events whose influences and repercussions are greatly magnified through time-travel. This bone of speculation is introduced in the science-fiction series Legion of Time by Jack Stuart Williamson when the protagonist’s simple choice leads to two very different futures and he gets to witness both outcomes. Alien Space Bats, on the other hand, are counterfactual gremlins that are invoked as sort of a supernatural agent to bridge gaps in a plot, especially when one has painted oneself in a corner in terms of a far-fetched storyline or a spindly scientific explanation. Black holes are portals to the soul or we can mess with the time continuum, because… you know ASBs.
Sunday, 26 April 2015
Although a lot of convenient and flattering myth-making goes into every nation’s founding fable—and America is certainly no exception ranging from the preternatural, the chimerical to Lincoln ate here, the incarnations and the avatars of the so called Continental Colours go through an interesting evolution to arrive at the archetypal flag that’s credited to seamstress Betsy Ross.
Friday, 10 April 2015
Maybe the show’s on my mind as we’re going to be flying into Atlanta soon, and though the sitcom-scenes are not a foremost connection, there was an element of Southernness portrayed and discussed that was not addressed elsewhere. And though it’s not quite of the same vintage as Golden Girls, it did have a lot of talent, sharp dialogue and memorable moments, but I certainly don’t feel it’s gotten its due of nostalgia and following.
The show deserves at least a cast of minifigs for the principles and for the recurring characters, like Suzanne’s housekeeper Consuela—who was never on camera expect when Anthony Bouvier in drag pretended to be her in order to take a citizenship test and avoid deportation, Aunt Bernice (Alice Ghostley), Mark Twain (Hal Holbrook) or maybe even Raydon Simpson, the relentless auditor that went after the Sugarbaker sisters for tax-evasion after Suzanne’s personal accountant, Reggie Mac Dawson, absconded with her funds, and tried to make it up to her with a fairy-tale princess parade with circus elephants. It would be fun to be able to recreate these scenes as well.
torsion: lovely mesmerizing animations from Big Blue Boo
menagerie: humourous dialectic creating a medieval bestiary
reaction faces: British Library exhibits Sino-Japanese war prints
neologism: a look at some of the unique vocabulary of Indian English
which anyone could whip up on a rainy day: nice remembrance of the biographical cookbook of Alice B. Toklas
Thursday, 9 April 2015
Not until the year 1159 did the Papacy claim canonisation as its exclusive bailiwick and other bishops, besides the one of Rome, could bestow sainthood on individuals.
H and I will be detouring in America very soon and are very excited to visit my family in Georgia. It’s been far too long, and it is going to be a real treat and surely some culture-shock for the both of us too. PfRC will be on hiatus but please visit our friends over at the Smörgåsblog and stay-tuned to our little travel blog for further adventures. Georgia named her, Georgia claimed her.
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
As the giants of the petroleum industry—and there be only giants these days, are set to devour one another—this internecine struggle couched in the usual regional conflicts but probably more owing to plummeting oil prices and potential for profit, I wondered where this industry’s and culture’s roots lie. As recently as the 1970s, I found, before the series of mergers that created Big Oil—too big to fail and top of the food-chain, there was still a remnant of the world’s first petrochemical concern.
Though oil has become inextricably associated with the Middle East, with a spate of other contenders for seconds and for most of the modern history that this commodity has fuelled and lubricated, European deposits were acknowledged to be primarily in the Carpathian planes that spreads from present-day Poland in the west and Ukraine in the east, the discovery as it were and recognition as a valuable commodity can be more or less credited to the Alsatian enterprise, Antar, originally incorporated in 1745. The French interpreter to their ambassadorial mission to Switzerland, a man called Louis Pierre Ancillon de la Sablonnière, was exposed to a small pitch-mining operation near Neuchâtel and learnt of a similar natural bitumen spring on the French-German border, near his homeland. Sablonnière bought the estate with its dirty brown streams. Early uses for this substance included pavement, water-proofing ships’ hulls and sewer-systems—later in the development of photography and synthetic dyes but evidence of its use and understanding reaches far back to the practise of mummification in Ancient Egypt and the mysterious formula for Greek fire. Centuries passed before the refining process was advanced enough to harness the energy latent in petroleum, but progress marches onwards and the belief that enthralled certain individuals for the tar-pits never faltered. Sablonnière began prospecting around his new far and sold stocks to support his venture. The name Antar was a much later addition to the original charter, coming in the aftermath of World War I and the rise of the automobile, with the company specialising in petroleum and motor oils, opting to drop its old identity named after the commune where the first mine was located.
Antar may get its name from the pre-Islamic Arab hero and chanticleer Antarah ibn Shaddad (The sons of the prophet were valiant and bold, and quite unaccustomed to fear, but of all the most reckless, or so I am told, was Abdul Abulbul Amir) whose memory was popularised at the time with a symphony by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov. I would have guess the super-giant star Antares (meaning equal-to-Mars due to its relative brightness and reddish hue) but the celestial body is named for the poet too. It is also interesting to note how the logo evolved from something generically heraldic that could represent anything but in fact is not a device associated with anything at all to a little mascot who is either supposed to be a Gaulish warrior or one of our old friends, the long-haired, blond Merovingians. Moreover, the family that traditionally keeps the keys to the Church of the Nativity since centuries are held to be of the extraction of the clan of Antarah himself. These connections, however rarefied, are much finer things I think than some leviathan of Exxon-Mobil-Esso-Shell-Fina-Total-Total-BP.
cock-and-bull: Wall Street’s iconic charging bronze began as a guerilla art installation
within the lines: colouring books for adults
pet-sounds: anti-nurturing games impart lessons on mortality and fortitude
body-politic: vintage caricature maps of Europe
subject to your approval: niche blogs for your perusal
Dangerous Minds curated an engrossing gallery of letters home from Summer Camp Siegfried on Long Island, New York that’s plenty to pique the curiosity about such a dark and unwholesome milieu.
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
Though I would not describe myself as a dedicated and studied numismatist—albeit perhaps somewhat more reasoned the collectors of com- memorative coin sets, which is exactly for whom they’re issued but I do admit to having a cigar box heavy with a small fortune, at face-value at least, of the special national series of the euro-zone members, the Bundesländer, and various defunct currencies. I was never before given in change a Cypriot coin, however, and it did take a moment to register, remembering that only Greece had formerly been accorded with using something aside from Latin script but that was before Cyprus joined the Union, the name of the island displayed in Greek and Turkish. The totem depicted on the obverse, nearly worn away since 2008, the idol of Pomos, is a prehistoric talisman of fertility and the seven thousand year old figure is wearing a charm of herself around her neck—the portable versions being popular in the day. Given the events of that year, I hope Cyprus picked an auspicious time to adopt the euro.
PET-project: plastic bottles beautifully repurposed as artificial plants
playland: restaurant in Italy has an amusement park that’s powered by the momentum of thrill-seekers
The roving reporters of Quartz Magazine send word that a new market has opened in Berlin called Unverpackt that’s been designed to showcase how we can manage our grocery shopping without sleek and resource intensive packaging.
forest primeval: amazing Białowieża National Park of Poland with the vestiges of the ancient, once pan-European wood
bees and bombs: more lovely minimalist animation from Dave Whyte
^^: iconography and shorthand are encouraging though in how we communicate and what we adopt
sympathetic design: organic Aspen dwelling from the 1970s
Though often subtly alluded to and perhaps the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, nineteenth century gentleman burglar turned international criminal syndicate mastermind, Adam Worth, is virtually unknown. Celebrated in his day—albeit no one knew his true identity as he hob-knobbed with Europe’s elite and discreetly ran a network of underlings who committed the actual robberies, and always without violence—the cardinal code of his organisation being never to use firearms, Worth managed to elude capture by Scotland Yard and other national police forces, as well as the sleuths of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Some one ought to make a movie about this original gangster.
Monday, 6 April 2015
Over the holiday weekend, we flagrantly violated the prohibition on dancing during Easter when H and I went to the Time Warp event held in the massive May Market Halls (Maimarktgelande) of the industrial zone of Mannheim. I think that transgression is forgivable; H captured far superior foottage of the DJs, music and dazzling light shows. I was somewhat familiar with the city, though during this visit, we weren’t really afforded the chance to explore—just possibly to eliminate anything we’d might regret having not seen, had we partied until dawn.
Sunday, 5 April 2015
Saturday, 4 April 2015
huldufólk: elf-conservationists are stalling construction projects all over Iceland
pink punk: fun renditions of the theme from Blake Edwards’s Pink Panther
upstairs, downstairs: amazing and intricate stairwell concept models
the ballad of max headroom: rewritten by machine on new technology
pick-ups, perfume and pasta: fifteen commercial ventures directed by David Lynch
Friday, 3 April 2015
A pairing of thoughtful articles from Vox and Æon magazines present some really interesting insights and unresolved questions about ushering in the Anthropocene epoch.
There are many contenders for when the handiwork of man might have outstripped, outpaced geological change, from the nebulous reaches of time when early humans first hunted giant mammals to extinction—although the Holocene Age (Greek for wholly new) seems to me to include the rise of man, the landing of the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria that introduced global trade and New World transplants to the Old, a point in 1610 when green-house gases began an uptick due to land-management practice, the Industrial Revolution, the atomic bomb, to the nuclear winter of 1964. While it is an arbitrary distinction to some extent and many researchers will continue to champion their favourites in terms of delineation once—if a consensus is reached, what’s nearly as significant as the change that man is imparting on the environment is that we’re adverse, maybe unable to recognise or reconcile is when and how man became estranged from Nature—fancied as no longer of Nature but rather Nature was made man’s ward, with us as not very fit caretakers. What do you think? For all the eons that have gone before, is this debate a reasonable one? It can nonetheless become a helpful one, I believe.
Thursday, 2 April 2015
SMPTE bars: a look behind the scenes at the calibration tools of our seemingly seamless electronic world
maki-maki: sushi roll bath-towel concept
mirror, mirror: a look at Star Trek’s departures into an alternate reality
Jackson’s wife, who was also called Bertha but no relation, was a wealthy heiress who helped him finance his hobbies—as was the business partner and later wife of inventor Karl Benz, but Bertha Benz is credited as an accomplished mechanic and expert promoter, feeling her husband was inadequately marketing his prototypes. With the excuse of going to pop off to visit her mother, Benz gathered her children and off they went, without telling her husband. They made quite an impression, and although they fewer hardships that Jackson’s team, did run out of petrol—for which Benz had the wherewithal to get a suitable catalyst from a pharmacy. The success was a great boon for the name and the industry. Incidentally, the make of the car Jackson drove was a Winton—a name not around anymore, though insanely popular after Jackson’s road-trip, was vindictively driven out of business by an upstart named Henry Ford, who the proprietor of the motor carriage company would not hire. Both accomplishments transformed the landscape of the world, how we work and live and paved the paths in between.