Friday, 31 July 2015

utc or the living daylights

Via the splendiferous and venerable Presurfer comes an interesting survey of the time zone deviants of the world—those who rejected the original international accords that established Greenwich Mean Time to coordinate a smaller, industrialised planet and those who later came to make being out of sync into a political expression.
The article leads with the complex, bureaucratic chronometer of the Russian Federation, which has undergone numerous changes, tweaks and adaptations that usually go under-reported to the world at large—but surely these alterations and alternations are not insular matters. Though Day-Light Savings Time was famously decreed in 2011 to last all year, and multifarious adjustments took place regionally in the meanwhile, no one seemed to pay it much mind until the IOC asked Russia to go back to Winter Time during the Solchi Winter Olympics for the convenience of the Western European audience. Perhaps another overlooked casualty in the Crimean conflict were the two native Ukrainian time zones who saw their coverage much reduced and re-aligned with Russian Time. This piece made me think of another depiction I came across last year of how much the twenty-four time zone deviate from real time of day, according to the Sun. There are quite a few stories of loitering and malingering to explore and reflect on our convention and what reach change (planes, trains, markets and computers plus for whom it’s tolerable and for whom it’s intolerable and out of the question—as it does seem unthinkable and inviolable for some and no grave matter for others) can have.


m-class: astronomers locate a planetary system in Cassiopeia with suite of three super-Earths

golden ratio: vitrine cabinet with tiling that follows the Fibonacci regression

big in japan: a sleeping bag reminiscent of anatomical hero Slim Goodbody

electric light orchestra: Stephen Orlando makes the scroll and notation jump off the sheet

tornado magnet: state rules that Oklahoma governor must evict his daughter, who is living in a mobile home on the grounds of the governor’s mansion

Thursday, 30 July 2015

caseus formatus

Although I was quite proud of my handiwork with a periodic table of cheeses, though incomplete, I also find this infographic by Pop Chart Labs to be a pretty keen way of representing the casein continuum as well. A gourmet or connoisseur of cheeses has the funny sounding designation of turophile—from the Greek ฯ„ฯ…ฯฯŒฯ‚ (ฯ„ฯ…ฯฮฏ), cheese, which while sounding different from the familiar formaggio, fromaฤo, fromage, Kรคse or queso but compare the word for butter, ฮฒฮฟฯ…ฯ„ฯฯฮฟฯ…, literally cows’ cheese and suggestive of the turning and churning of the process.

lernu! or dum spiro spero

The World Youth Esperanto Summit will be held in Wiesbaden next week (nur auf Deutsch) in order to raise awareness for this constructed auxiliary language. Though fluent speakers are approaching some three million individuals and the principles of lingual harmonisation—not to displace established languages and dialects but to give individuals a third-way (also in the propรฆdeutic—raลญmistoj sense of learning for its own sake and not necessarily for proficiency) of shared communication into hopes of promoting peace and reconciliation, the movement, which began in 1905, faced many challenges and successive totalitarian regimes sought to marginalise its momentum and utility by deeming it subversive or even cultish.

Despite these hardships, however, historically Esperanto was an official language in the condominium of Neutral Moresnet and is presently the language of instruction of San Marino’s institutions of higher education. I wonder to what degree the adherents of the original goal of the widespread use of Esperanto as a lingua franca, incorporating elements of many branches of the Indo-European family of languages and outliers, has been displaced by the dominance of English pidgin and technically enabled dialectic and whether what we’re heir to isn’t far off from the fina venko, the final victory that a universal language could help end wars and cultural jingoism. The name of the language means “one who hopes,” like the Latin phrase dum spiro spero, “while I breath, I hope” or where there’s a will, there’s a way. Kion vi pensas? Is this language a relic for hobbyists or really an instrument for understanding? I hope I get the chance to spy some bilingual signage around town at least while the conference is being held.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


take a look, it’s in a book: WPA-era gallery of library promotional posters

big baby jesus: a study of infants in medieval art, encompassing the idea of the homunculus—that great individuals come fully-formed, via Kottke

torch song: auto-tune robot performs 1990s ballads with emotion

rock lobster: part the first of an homage to the phenomenal B-52s

what’s up doc: celebrating seventy-five years of Bugs Bunny with a look back to his first appearance

birthright or pride and prejudice

The always challenging ร†on magazine, far from raining on anyone’s parade, does introduce a seed of doubt in a sense and circumspection that needs addressing in regards to society’s increasing acceptance of lifestyles that do not fit the standard hetero-normative model and reforms in regulatory frame-works either granted or bidden.

Though contextually there is no direct correspondence and biographies and history is told by people recognising early on that they don’t quite fit with what society expects of them and much hardship can ensue in trying to either conform or be made an outcast, but it’s nonetheless an interesting and contentious to wonder what it means that the community embraces being born with one predilection or other—whereas, for other civil rights movements, to be defined by one’s genes would be an egregious insult and very much counter to their goals. Happily, just as attitudes have shifted from revulsion to tolerance to acceptance for gay rights, so too it has become repugnant to hold attitudes that another’s chances are somehow limited or prejudiced due to their genetic pedigree or gender. Is the nuance something completely different—or is it the same as saying that one’s deficient of mathematical acumen can be attributed to one being born a woman is the equivalent as a born and bred gay individual’s lack of heterosexuality? Such declarations can be unintentionally discriminatory. The politics of identity are still hot items, depending on one’s side and advantage in the matter—whether it is something self-reported or imposed from an outside source.  What do you think?  Is the question of determinism an old vestige of racist-thinking or something becoming obsolete and optional and a cause for celebration for that alone?

Monday, 27 July 2015


Via the provocatively peripatetic Dark Roasted Blend (which I’ve sadly overlooked for too long), I learnt that in Gabon in Western Central Africa research on a cluster of sites near abandoned uranium mines confirmed in the early 1970s the primordial existence of a previous hypothesised possibility of sustained field of naturally occurring nuclear fission. While it’s doubtlessly outstanding that some clever geologist might cross disciplines and posit that a spontaneous event and arbitrary arrangement, the composition of the veins of the underground especially so shortly after human had managed to harness this power artificially (in the mid-1950s) and go about finding evidence of it—it makes me think about those coal fires that have gone on smouldering because or despite of our estimation of it (scientists believe that this reaction lasted for hundreds of thousands of years, while our experiment has only gone off for a few decades), it is to my mind even more spectacular that this so far unique event is accessible to science with some degree of surety considering it happened nearly two billion years ago.
Although the geological record can to some degree be rewound back all those epochs—when Gabon and Africa was not where it is today or maybe under the oceans, there’s certainly no archaeological or even hard biological evidence that’s available as a point of reference. Only the mathematically reducible half-life of nuclear isotopes leave a trace that can be extrapolated. I wonder if it’s assumed that there’s a natural aversion to such a set-up, that entropy eschews this arrangement. Other than these obedient numbers that date and betray the rate of decay after the spark is ignited—plus exhausted mines when all the useful stuff is carted away, there’s little trace of this infernal landscape—expect that others have suggested that another, more violent spontaneous event a couple of billions of years earlier might have been responsible for the creation of the Moon. The majority of astronomers believe that a meteoric impact that’s marred in the Gulf of Mexico ejected the mass that’s now our natural satellite into orbit but a nuclear explosion along the Equator could also have produced it—and in Pangaea, Africa and South America were kissing-cousins. I wonder if such natural fission might be taking place on other planets and possible explain some of the unexpected. Be sure to visit Dark Roasted Blend for further wonderments and curiosities.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

cognitive dissonance

By way of a book review that seeks to make the superficially blithe, a link taken for granted really, connection between our emotions and our physical well-being and resilience—these all being popular concepts that are well rooted in modern thinking—the brilliant Maria Popova of Brain Pickings delivers a surprising historical context and development that demonstrates that the relationship is not a straightforward one and not without coups and reversals of fortune.

Rationalist thinkers like Renรฉ Descartes who doubted the world away to rid us of superstitions and preconceptions, unleashed a second rather unintended severing of the medical science, couched in terms of an imbalance in the humours, that was the basis for our understanding of the body and the mind—in the West—since Antiquity. The rejection of such tenets made the scientific method and progress a reality but left the place of emotions and mood untethered and out of place in a sense. Although we might be desirous to view the mind-body link has something continuous, even if presented through metaphor, romanticism and unscientifically, but it really was not until the middle of this past century when the connection was re-established and researchers deigned to take the matter into consideration with the pioneering work of an endocrinologist (one who studies of glands and hormones) from the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Hans Seyle (Seyle Jรกnos). As a professor in the McGill University of Montreal, Seyle formalised the concept of stress as a biological response and driver and was responsible for making the idea pedestrian and accessible as well as international, the word being the same in all European languages. Unlike with present day jargon which is mostly new dressing for old wounds, like calling mobbing or work-place bullying by peers horizontal violence, introducing stress as bridge between emotional and physical health was not giving mankind a new buzzword, but rather re-legitimatizing, not rechristening, of a defunct system of correspondences that had previously only been admitted into health care as negative behavioural neuroses and psychosomatic, self-inflicted illnesses. Be sure to check out Brain Pickings for the full and fulfilling repertoire of literary discoveries.

maelstrom or ta-ta for now

Corporate Europe Observatory handily tackles the the hopelessly, visceral public (though deserved) mistrust on the end-stage rounds of the secret and privileged TTIP negotiations with a selection of fine new charts and graphs that distill the barrage of intentionally confusing and cross-purposed leaked propaganda that shows where the bodies are buried and what business groups have been lobbying most vociferously. Although the appointment of Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrรถm hinged on greater transparency and more public-interest inclusion, this watchdog demonstrates that precious little change is forthcoming and the only arms that the people can take up against this wholesale selling-out is by staying informed through such advocating outlets.

Saturday, 25 July 2015


margrave: picturesque gallery of the borderless borders of Europe

goldielocks: latest achievements from the Kepler Mission’s search for Earth-like exo-planets

stand-alone orchard: an artistic horticulturist is making a tree of forty fruits through grafting

kismet or tempest in a teapot: curated collection of mind-boggling nuclear testing certificates of participation

my beautiful laundrette: nineteenth century washer branded with the enigmatic name Vowel A

Friday, 24 July 2015

die stadt oder can't you smell that smell

From a Liverpudlian of renown (the smell would turn you too), I learnt of the lyrical farewell that Samuel Taylor Coleridge bid Kรถln, titled On My Joyful Departure from the Same City:

As I am a Rhymer,
And now at least a merry one,
Mr. Mum’s Rudesheimer And the church of St. Geryon
Are the two things alone
That deserve to be known In the body-and-soul-stinking town of Cologne.

I am far from sharing that sentiment and rather look forward to visiting again, but thought it a nice collection of lines nonetheless. Aside from the endorsement of the Basilica of Saint Gereon, one of the twelve ancient Romanesque churches of Kรถln, it’s interesting to think about how urban decampments might be remembered, bottled with a certain fragrance—which only one takes away with leaving them.


arbeit-leben-gleichgewicht: having homesteaded myself in Germany for over a decade I can relate to the feeling of being spoiled

fluid dynamics: curtain that turns one’s shower cabinet into a spiked chamber after one exceeds the allotted time to conserve water

tomatillo: miniscule ancestral tomato may save its supersized progeny—all our familiar grains, fruits and vegetables had equally humble beginnings

artisanal landlord price-hike sale: creative campaign to save a beloved Brooklyn corner-shop

cameo, intaglio: curiously shaped record albums


From H’s parents, I received a Venus Flytrap to care for. Although I think we both have been blessed with green-thumbs, I understand that these plants are notoriously hard to care for, and I tried once before but I think I ended up over-feeding the delicate thing, so I’ve embarked on a course of study to improve its chances. I located a very good and comprehensive resource here and will take these lessons to heart, but there’s a pretty interesting story behind these not wholly sessile plants as well. Their native habitat is restricted to marshes in the Carolinas though propagated by fanciers all over the world—with varying success—and after devising the Theory of Evolution, Charles Darwin didn’t exactly call it a day but devoted his attention to the subject of locomotion in these plants—the mechanism and adaptive cultivation still something of a mystery.
And despite their very alien appearance, the plant’s name does not have anything to do with the planet Venus, rather it is the chomping jaws that suggest the clam from which the goddess was birthed. Although adjectival just Venus would, as before science saw the need for terms like Venusian, Martian or Earthling, things pertaining to Venus were unfortunately described as venereal, as Mars was martial. An old-fashioned adjective that’s rarely seen since we have Venusian—to avoid other connotations—comes from the island Cythera in the Ionian archipelago, near where the sea-shell emerged from the sea, buoying up the goddess. Curiously, the plant’s taxonomical name Dionaea muscipula, a daughter of Dione (namely the Greek counterpart Aphrodite) and “mousetrap.”

Thursday, 23 July 2015

mensch und รผbermensch

I’d guess I’d need to categorise this as one of those things the more one thinks about it, the more manifest it becomes, and I had not given much thought to the thesis beforehand that comics as more than caricature or a stock-epithet is an act of cultural reclamation.

The rise of the genre parallels social and political movements that co-opted and perverted mythological themes, pantheons and notions of bodily perfection not in the classical, athletic and temperate sense but in terms of eugenics and dehumanisation. The bombastic fantasy of Richard Wagner and the Nietzschean รœbermensch had been misappropriated and the medium of comics, drawing on real and imagined legendary sources and superhero avatars, is the taking back of such shared heritage—story-telling separated from propaganda. In the beginning, however, these characters sometimes volunteered for deployment—like in the 1940 first issue of Captain America, where the hero is portrayed as socking Adolf Hitler—sometime before the US had actually entered into the war and bucking popular sentiment—in protest to the country’s isolationist policies. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels even went so far as to ban the distribution of Superman comics under the Third Reich over intentional or perceived Jewish roots in Kal-El (close to the Hebrew phrase for “voice of God,” whom was saved from a dying planet in a space capsule but unlike Moses being found among the reeds), but the Third Reich was also very efficient on accentuating and bestowing otherness on people with traits that they would not readily self-identify with. The universes that comics contain is certainly a reaffirmation of narrative, allegory and inclusion and our alter-egos have a mythos that’s forward-going as well.

wie ein wรผstensohn

Happily after the absolutely brilliant regular podcast Futility Closet introduced a few weeks back to a large portion of its listening audience the German and Eastern European phenomenon bound up in the works and personality of the imaginative adventure writer Karl May—and re-introduced to others with the glad occasion to reflect and wonder a little bit how this author was no longer remembered in some of the exotic lands where his stories took place, the topic has become for the team and commentators a sustained and very productive one.
Branching off to a series of tales set in the Middle East, rendered all the more amazing since like his stories that took place in the American Old West came across as convincing and more culturally sympathetic than those who’d actually experienced those places first hand, another iconic character, akin to Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, comes on scene, in the faithful guide Hadschi Halef Omar Ben Hadschi Abul Abbas Ibn Hadschi Dawud al Gossarah. Notwithstanding that fictional character was the only naming-convention in the Muslim tradition studied and committed to memory by committed fans from a European background, the stories were a lens on the casbah and the souq, which all things considered was not a bad introduction for the 1890s. The German disco band Dschinghis (Genghis) Khan, EuroVision Song Contest contender probably most famous for their party hit Moscow, Moscow—celebrated this literary figure with a particularly catchy number in 1980 (or try here, depending on your location). I hope all the characters in this particular universe eventually get their own treatment and profiles.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


ancient aliens: a look at the three billion year old Klerksdorf Spheres mined in South Africa

: floating, figure-eight ferris wheel under construction in Macau casino

word wars: war reporting presented as a Star Wars opening exposition crawl

i am what i play: once in 1979, BBC 1 was turned over to David Bowie

life-long learning: an exploration of how architecture learns and grows after its been built

drivers’ education

The nonpareil BLDGBlog offers a fascinating and ponderous contrast between autonomous, driverless cars and one of select pilots qualified to operate planetary rovers who ply and steer in a similar sort of headspace.
While the unmanned automobiles navigate through a virtual recreation of our reality, the ensemble of Martian rovers—with the aim of allowing the little robots to ultimately exercise their own innate sense of curiosity, manoeuvres with a unique but directed compromise between their human engineers (the featured pilot honed her skills first operating tractors in India) of projection and instinct, as the distances between worlds are too great for real-time, defensive-driving. As our vehicles of both exploration and personal transit gain greater self-sufficiency, I wonder if those skeuomorphs, placebo-buttons and other vestiges of feeling in control will be retained even after choice or necessity is taken away and people are just back-seat drivers.

Monday, 20 July 2015

the big one or nxnw

Recommended reading from Kottke comes in the form of this absorbing article from the New Yorker on the science behind the hysteria over the North American Pacific Northwest earthquake that’s by the numbers long overdue.

Aside from the convincing and frightening exposition and eloquent, clear explanation of seismology and what geologists fear—as opposed to the fear we’re better at propagandizing (making useful and expedient) or thrilling but non-challenging cinematic spectacles—the discussion of consequences and policies that foreshorten the long view on planning and contingency was also quite thought-provoking, and not in the orthodox ways that dampen self-regard, response and precaution worse than the disaster or otherwise try to make things less scary. One of the more astounding points touched upon was how the expedition of Lewis and Clark did not think to ask the Native Americans that they encountered in the Cascades about seismic events—albeit, how could they know to, not that it’s like not being savvy enough to ask about a home-owners’ association’s by-laws before moving in, but it’s really quite jarring to compare Japan’s millennia of record-keeping (and the historic “orphaned” tsunamis that might give researchers clues about this region’s timeline) and their sobering embrace of reform and change compared to inertia and enthusiasm that might be characterised as geologic.

two hours of pushing broom…king of the grove

I have just started essaying the massive tome (the one volume, abridged paperback version) by the influential Scottish anthropologist Sir James Frazer. This ethnographic undertaking had its first best-selling runs around the turn of the past century and was absolutely devoured by scholastics and the reading public. Modern criticism is mostly directed at what strikes the politically-correct attuned ear as chauvinistic and racist and very much dated, and while contemporaries did wonder that Frazer himself was not as savage (or more so) as the primitives he studied in expounding such a monumental work premised on his own ignorance and confusion (the origins of the cycle of death and rebirth and the metaphoric rituals that have arisen that seem to defy explanation).
In Frazer’s own time, however, his work was most controversial in that Christianity’s customs were not spared from the rigourous analysis of how magical thinking creates totem and taboo and progresses onto religion. Subsequent editions of the Golden Bough, referring to the votive branch that gained ร†neas entry to the Underworld and reminds me of the later parallel occurrence when Henry II (Henry Plantagenet, the Sprig-Bearer—specifically of a hedge called broom that was cultivated to form the enclosures of landholdings and a nickname that came before this encounter) of England and Normandy met with Philip II of France—under a elm tree near the border town of Gisors, between the kingdoms—and violently fell the innocent tree after their failed embassy (perhaps to negotiate a peace-settlement or as some imaginatively suggest the schism among the Western Christian Military Orders), tended to not subject native religion and customs to the same treatment—although it was clearly superfluous at this point since Frazer had already made his point. As I said, I am just getting started and it is a very dense work but I am already struck by the numerous lucid examples, which I think was a time for privileged witness before war and industry wholly swept away native superstitions, and categorisations of magical thinking and had never before appreciated how homeopathy—whether charms, potions or medicine, is based on the principle—misguided belief that ought to be dispelled, according to Frazer, that like engenders or attracts like. The Golden Bough is pretty dismissive of such recourse, no matter how strongly ingrained but is not an exposition on other merits over mechanisms and relations, and really leaves no room for alibis for practitioners other than medicine men. It’s slow-going, but I am excited to see how the argument progresses and to see whether the self-censorship was a faithful omission.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

twenty minutes into the future or now we resume regular programming already in progress

One of the premiere moments for animation—that is, when it came to the small screen and was widely broadcast in syndication—was infamously introduced in 1959 with a distinct lack of animated sequences with the adventures of Clutch Cargo and friends.
Higher art with greater production value was reserved for the cinema, featurettes like Gerald McBoing-Boing to be shown along with news reels to the audience before the film began, and many great animators honed their talents, debuting on the air-waves later in the following decade, like Chuck Jones and the team of Hanna-Barbera. Utilising a process called Syncro-Vox that superimposed the moving images of the voice-actors’ mouths on to a cartoon visage, a lot of live action and stock footage transitions, the studio could produce episodes at a fraction of the cost, and although this series seems crude and decidedly inanimate compared to the next generation (Jones derided that early stage as “illustrated radio” and it was really rather not much more than a comic strip) but in defense of this flatness, the stories were quite involving and imaginative and offered a chain of cliff-hanger chapters to be resolved Saturday mornings and had quite a cult following.
Before universal audiences were exposed to a reference in passing in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction—the flashback scene when a young Butch (Bruce Willis) is presented his treasured watch nearly left behind as they fled and there’s an cartoon Eskimo with a human mouth on the television set, there was a more garbled and chaotic and perhaps more localised with the 1987 incident called the Max Headroom Signal Interruption in Chicago. An unknown man with at least one accomplice (disguised as the recently created British character Max Headroom and as a French maid, respectively) hijacked two broadcast stations in the city—I guess as a demonstration to show that they could but no one knows as they were never caught and their identities are still a mystery, ranted on air and hummed the theme from Clutch Cargo and made a few references to its final episode—which seemed to resonate with the otherwise bewildered at home audience.

Saturday, 18 July 2015


The editors at Public Domain Review are treated to the grand tour of the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments by its curators and invite us to tag along.
One might suppose that instruments never created either due to impracticality, impossibility or cruelty (there are sadistic specimens of an organ and a clavier that were to produce notes and chords from the torture of humans and cats respectively) would not have much truck with with reality or cultural currency, having not existed, but there is an interesting under-current championed by writers throughout several ages that use hypothetical horns, woodwinds and acoustic chambers as a philosophical lens and prevision all manner of things, from electronic music, music therapy and technological progress, just as much ones you’d encounter in the orchestra pit.

oh weal, oh woe and quid pro quo, so little time, so much to know

Via the peripatetic par excellence Dangerous Minds, comes this interesting and provocative book review from the Guardian of the encroaching post-capitalist era that’s taking place almost despite of ourselves. I hope against hope that the prognosis and synthesis is correct—that it is time for us to be utopians and maybe no longer be ingrates to the comforts that we’ve inherited that past visionaries would have surely deemed realised. The capitalists system is failing us and will moreover be our downfall if not more carefully mitigated, but it seems that no lessons from the distant or recent past have made much of an impression. I fear that revolutionaries and reformers have woefully underestimated the insidiously opportunist and adaptive nature of their opponent. The wealth gap, the disparity between rich and poor, is a significant measure—but I am starting to think that it is only that, a measure.

While certainly a problem and has enabled modern day slavery and serfdom to continue and grow unabated, I wonder if computer-generated alternatives, the sharing economy won’t just be creating more capitalist-controls in different guises. The creation of markets always results in winners and losers. Something that’s very dear but dangerously under-priced I think might be the engine that keeps the old system of avarice going. Governments and corporate influence through lobbying comes cheap and it’s the working classes and environment that pay. Peddling a little influence has led to massive deregulation and a virtual defanging of those mechanism meant to protect those loser disadvantaged by emerging markets, off-shoring, outsourcing, tax avoidance (that makes the position of the scoff-laws stronger) and most importantly, in my opinion, the dismantling and privatisation of public institutions and services contracted out. The battlefield is littered with all sorts of examples that have resulted in monumental miscarriages of the public good—from mercenaries in Iraq to the horrendous response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans—but the phenomenon perhaps most disturbing and far-reaching consequences is the breakdown of the educational system with rising tuition costs, for-profit colleges, defunding public schools, and sponsored educational material. Without even addressing the hardships and degradations that teachers face, the students themselves are matriculating into a system where competition goes unquestioned (because the classes are over-priced but obviously will deliver the same riches in kind upon graduation) and critical thinking is discouraged in favour of obsequiousness and thus the system is perpetuated. What do you think? Can the Sharing Economy run rings around old-money or will computers simply put us all out of our jobs?


sweded, swissted: minimal, moderne typographic calling cards for punk bands

shibui: fourteen Japanese words that make any language complete

trollface: candid photographs of the Der Fuhrer deemed unfit for public release

29 dresses: a look at the life and career of Bohemian designer Emilie Flรถge who costumed Gustav Klimt’s models

the sphinx without a riddle: fascinating and comprehensive article on the Egyptian landmark

noonie, noonie, noonie, noo

For your viewing pleasure, here is the Typewriter Tip Tip Tip! sequence from the 1970 Merchant Ivory Bollywood musical Bombay Talkie—nearly as good as anything Busby Berkley could dream up.  *** Updated video montage.

Friday, 17 July 2015

noble lies oder lรผggenpresse

Madame Chancellor is getting quite the armchair beating and baiting lately. Not to say that her response to an unscripted plea was measured in reducing a young girl to tears or that her views of marriage equality—rather matrimony as defined, are either correct or callous, instead those interpretations are reflective (and very much so, I think) of the realities of European Union bureaucracy—unable to act on any resolution without unanimity that failed to address a Greek tragedy that was not inevitable (another source of vitriol, deservedly or not)—and populism, both broad and narrow. For economic reasons, Germany enjoys this strange type of mandate that’s lost on other member governments, whose politicians—despite the will of the public that they represent—are instead beholden to the Union and regimes and coalitions topple over curried-disfavour.
This encounter with a young refugee was unexpected and I believe was conducted in a human and sympathetic manner—insofar as possible, but maybe politicians ought not stop seeking out such photo-opportunities to portray themselves as kind aunties and uncles and instead pledge to do more to build prospects in the places where these asylum-seekers come from, but was constrained by her support-base, the polls. I bet the Chancellor was ashamed of herself but by the way she snapped at the minder, I think she didn’t care much for her image at that moment and did not try to backtrack. In the domestic arena, there would be a revolt among her political partners, not as an excuse or being an apologist for such attitudes, and alienation of a substantial voting bloc if she expressed more progressive views on gay marriage. As with an immigration policy which is at its core quite accommodating and is attacked for being too liberal, the Chancellor’s positive reforms towards greater tolerance and equality have really been in-stead with much of the rest of the world, but some factions become fixated on the word marriage—which the twice-married Chancellor reserved as a matter of choice and to placate her party. The same EU that’s the Sword of Damocles hanging over Greece could also dictate, by the same mechanisms or lack thereof, that marriage equality be universal among members. What do you think? Might does not confer sole entitlement to the exercise of democracy—or the illusion of such—and it becomes the tyranny of the privileged and useful.


sapience: engineering students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute may have created a trio of robots that are self-aware, tested with a proverbial riddle adapted for machines

geoponica: fascinating look at underground urban agriculture and its potential for growth

banishment: Atlas Obscura explores historical locations for exiled leaders with contemporary equivalents

bubbler: interesting survey of the history of drinking fountains and what their decline means, via Super Punch

for the queen to use: gorgeous vintage science fiction and space images from the British Library, via the Everlasting Blort

Thursday, 16 July 2015

mad dash or beyond thunderdome

Via the incomparable Dangerous Minds, comes a brilliant and believable blending of the 1963 mad-cap comedic treasure hunt directed by Stanley Kramer, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the latest Mad Max instalment, Fury Road. There is a good plot synopsis at the link and the classic is worth revisiting in its own right.  The mashup is really wonderfully choreographed and one of my new favourites from this genre—previously the best, in my opinion, in the cinematic category was Broke Back to the Future. What are some of your nominees for best contender for imaginative trailers?

pentathlon or gin and conics

The surprise, unsought for confirmation of hitherto theoretical exotic quark combinations from the laboratories of CERN was certainly noteworthy, but I personally had a very difficult time penetrating what the discovery meant. As best as I understand it—and with no reserves about revealing my ignorance or misapprehension, the fact that quarks can be conduced to form up this way for a fleeting instance—it is not a state found in nature outside the lab except perhaps in exploding stars or the mind of God, could led to important insights about what’s called the strong-nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces that govern physics on a cosmological scale, according to the current Standard Model.

Scientists believe that the four forces, the other complementary ones being electro-magnetism, gravity, and the weak-nuclear force which is responsible for radioactive decay, the glow of half-life, were united a moment after the Big Bang and split into their respective specialities as the Universe cooled. This mysterious and inaccessible strong force creates bonds that are virtually unbreakable but only at an impossibly small range—that gap between quarks, however their arranged, that allows subatomic particles to stick together. With different charges and spin (rotation, like a spinning top) and energy, these components would repel one another rather than form into anything solid or enduring. The hypothetical possibility of pentaquarks was predicted first over a half-century prior and perhaps proves that we’re at least understanding some things right about the way the Universe works and could forward our understanding, through breaking things, of the interstitial matter. Nonetheless, I think it’s not untoward to be a little suspicious about our congratulatory cleverness—physicists say that there is a menagerie of sixty-one elementary particles, some carriers of force and others carriers of substance, that can’t be arranged in a neat manner, unlike say the periodic table of the elements, and the current understanding can’t be explained in very elegant terms. Maybe we are privileged to live on an oasis.  Reality may not be symmetrical and รฆsthetically pleasing in human terms, of course, and we seem to be in possession of proof of our convictions and progress but there’s yet peril in trying to preserve the appearances. It was the prevailing consensus until the Copernican Revolution of the sixteenth century that the stars and planets turned on complicated system of circles within circles (deferents, cycles and epicycles) to account for the observed backwards motion of planets closer to the Sun than Earth. Two millennia earlier Apollonius of Perga, one of the chief perpetrators of this convention, observed that we wouldn’t have needed to worry with all of these elaborate orrery contraptions if only the Earth weren’t at the centre of the cosmos.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


extended family: wild horses in the Falklands adopt a penguin

fido: the second day of Nepalese Festival of Lights, Tihar, is honours the trusted friendship of dogs

box-office bombs: why don’t we remake awful movies better instead of trying to improve upon the classics?

footlights: beautiful gallery of European opera houses from on stage

toupee: internet challenges pet owners to trump it up

surface features: xkcd lampoons the latest telemetry from Pluto

namely: plutographic

Not to take any wind out of the sails of our celestial celebrity, via the Oxford English Dictionary’s daily vocabulary teaser comes a little jewel of a word, coined by the writer Tom Wolfe, plutography.

Though we are enduring another Gilded Age of extravagance, conspicuous-consumption and wealth disparity that really revivals the uneven landscape of the 1980s, the term by author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities it seems particularly useful and adept at describing the fascination held for the elites, especially as captured in the tabloid press and the syndicated series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous of that time. Of course, we like to think that we’ve matured beyond such enthralments—but they’re still very much with us and romanced in myriad ways. Contemporary word-smiths would much more readily wield the unbound and blunt morpheme porn (as in poverty-porn for urban blight) to describe something we all recognise as vulgar and provocative in our social betters. Next time I see such an ostentatious display, I’ll call it plutography.

hella throughput

One other state assess to undergo privatisation, despite protests and public sentiment is the historic and busy port Pirรฆus in Attica, one of the largest in the world and fount of Greece’s thalassocracy—a sea-going empire and later shipping tycoons and trade magnates and island-hopping around the archipelago. Pirรฆus also happens to be the name of our second favourite Greek restaurant—having been recently unseated by a new favourite called Athen, being the German form of the great city ฮ‘ฮธฮทฮฝฮฑ and it strikes me as curious how different name cases come across in different languages with different conjugations and declinations, Athens sounding something akin to, “Let’s go to Walmart’s.”
Having the public relinquish a controlling stake in this venture is really torturous and I wonder how the past and the future will judge this decision.  Pirรฆus is also known as the Lion’s Port—referencing a monumental fountain that stood at the harbour’s entrance from the third century BC to the late seventeenth century, when it was looted along with other spoils by invading Venetians during the War of the Holy League, the belligerents being Western Europe and Balkan rebels against the Ottoman Empire of the east. This ancient lion, somewhat defaced by the graffiti Nordic mercenaries excited over their war trophies, was delivered to the Arsenal (shipyard) of Venice—where it still stands along with other captive lions. The sobriquet is also still in place, despite the lion’s three centuries of absence, and I wonder if Greece has asked for it to be returned.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

meanwhile, back at the agora oder unsichbares hand

I fear that the Greek people are being saddled with a curse that will survive many generations, sort of like predatory pay-day loan storefront lent legitimacy by central banks’ underwriting that traps people down on their luck in a vicious and unending cycle, pushed into a coup d’Etat. The most optimistic estimates predict, I heard, for repayment—just getting back to zero and being broke again (the condition that most countries cling precariously to) and not in arrears or receivership—is at best a hundred years and that is contingent on a period of peace and stability that has not been enjoyed in a long, long time.

The Greeks, of course, have a term for such hegemony already in their philosophical quiver—though in a different context—namely, Frankocratia, the period of rule by the Germans and the French (the Franks) with the mission-spill of the Crusades, and while I think it behooves one to have an abundance of caution when assigning blame, not because the affairs awash with pure intentions, but pointing the fingers at a an obvious villain tends to deflect attention from the real Putsch and even absolve the corporate interests behind everything. The Invisible Hand of the market. Meanwhile, Athens is in the process of readying a fire-sale of its heirlooms and heritage as collateral just to have permission to re-open their banks—including institutions that were profitable for the state, like the national lottery, airport administration and even becoming more restrictive to public right-of-way and beach access. Who knows what’s to follow? The privatisation process will be overseen by Germany, which has some experience in this field, having had established the so-called Treuhandanstalt (trust agency) to administer the transition of state-controlled industry into to the capitalist system after the reunification and four decades of East German pension funds and business paradigms had to be integrated. This programme has not been without its contentious detractors, hardships and heart-ache as well.


helm’s deep: South-westerns brace themselves for large-scale US military training exercise

jello submarine: iconic Beatles’ classic in gelatine form

freejack: via the mesmerising Mind Hacks, thieves come closer to prising open mental wallets

senor-shooter-interoperability: scary report about a German missile battery briefly commandeered

mappyland: a Swedish based service that renders stylish, sleek schematics of any place in the world

last stand, last straw

Although no excuse for unconscionably cruel and dishonest behaviour, a constellation of events coalesced in a prefigured, post-Civil War United States of America which saw the undoing of the aboriginal population in its near destruction with the years of Reconstruction. Of course, the introduction of Old World diseases and the conquest of land and treasure had been continuing a pace for centuries already but the disruption of factional fighting, subsequent redundancy of soldiers and redefined economies encouraged growth and expansion. Starting from the eastern seaboard, American Indians were being displaced farther and farther westward, with American territorial gains from the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican-American War. With a sight towards realising Manifest Destiny and control from sea to shining sea, suddenly those plains and prairies where the natives were exiled to were starting to look not so far beneath them.  Moreover many tribal leaders—as they had done during the Revolutionary War with Britain, had also chosen to back the wrong side in the Civil War, supporting the Confederacy not for ideological reasons or that they seemed necessarily more palatable, it was just that the Union had treated them so badly and trounced on all former promises.

This retroactive treason did not earn them much sympathy in the eyes of white America. The Industrial Revolution, with America pulling ahead of Europe for the first time with the production of steel, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad also hastened settlement and re-settlement. Confined to ever-shrinking reservations, the Native Americans’ nomadic way of life, especially for the plains Indians and recent transplants who must have gone through their own trauma and shock in a strange environment, following the herds and rhythms of seasons was under threat. Said railroad cut across the remaining open spaces and brought ranchers who further delineated their parcels. As if it was not enough that these cultures clashed, with the ideal life of a settler becoming a farmer or cattleman tethered to one spot and homestead, the passengers riding the trains crossing Indian lands were encouraged to slaughter buffalo (bison)—not after they got to their destination or like being reminded to please have their pets spayed or neutered—but actively and from the window of the rail-car, mowing down as many of the beasts as possible as an act of aggression against the way of life of the Indians and to clear the area for ranch land. Though perhaps understandable, stories of savages attacking settlements and convoys were probably greatly exaggerated, but expansion and removal needed justification and all those Civil War veterans needed something to occupy themselves. Regiments took to protecting the settlers from potential raiding parties and to policing the reserves, in some cases establishing permanent forts and barracks located right on the reservation, as was the case in Little Big Horn. And surprise—there was gold in them there hills (the Black Hills being sacred to the Lakota peoples), according to one prospecting expedition escorted under the guard of the army—though that cache was greatly over-estimated as well. When the chiefs failed to avail their tribes to move along of their own accord, the Bureau of Indian Affairs handed the whole matter over to the army to dispatch with these malingers. In no sense was this pitch-battle in 1876 a last stand for Bvt. Major General George Armstrong Custer, but the Dakota, Cheyenne and the Sioux and compatriots fighting for their existence. Although this defeat of the US army has formerly been a co-opted as a rallying-cry, like “Remember the Alamo” (a battle sparked over the right to of white Texians to keep slaves), the victory, routing an entire advancing column, of the Native Americans was a pyrrhic one and just fuelled more resentment and fear in the public eye. In the immediate aftermath, a larger scale war ensued, making promises even more fragile and inspired America to later (with the death of Custer’s widow) hewn four colossal presidential busts in one of those hallowed hills—called the Six Grandfathers in their language—to promote tourism in the region.

Monday, 13 July 2015

celluloid ceiling or poison-pen

Via the always curious TYWKIWDBI, I learned about a new subtle way of gauging rather overt biases and sexism there is in cinema and storytelling in general, called the Bechdel test—named after a militant comic-strip but the creators acknowledge that the principle of the rule was already present in Virginia Woolf’s lament A Room of One’s Own.
The test has three simple criteria, which an astonishing amount of film cannot pass, whole or in part: 1) at least two women characters 2) the two women must have some sort of dialogue 3) the subject of that exchange must be about some topic aside from men—marriage or babies. It is really pretty amazing to think how in the exposition of the Star Wars saga or Lord of the Rings, there is no significant interaction among women.  Of course, it’s not meant to be an absolute  nor any sort of casting guideline and can be a template to examine inclusion and composition in other areas—and probably most importantly, it is a tool for advocacy and raising awareness of something that could pass as invisible and unchallenged.

missed connection

I am justifiably miffed and disappointed with myself for having missed the visit of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama right here in Wiesbaden—for a dialogue on the occasion of his eightieth birthday (news article in German).

I saw the posters at least a week in advance—but, and I don’t know what I thought, like lions would be falling from the sky and that’s all anyone would be talking about, I guessed it was a telecast birthday greeting beamed from different gatherings around the world. After the fact—and I was even in town while it was going on in the Kurpark, I can see why the hosting of such an event might be kept low-key so as to not jeopardise any tenuous political- or business-relations. Happy belated birthday.  I ought have investigated and planned more carefully, especially if I am expecting the mountain come to me and then be absent myself. It’s nearly paramount to missing out on a visit by the Pope. This city always has something in the wings and next time, I’ll need to be more gracious and forthcoming—especially considering what others might have given for such an audience.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

dwarf-planet or plutocrat

This week, the New Horizons space probe will have achieved its primary mission, after a journey of over nine years, powered by a plutonium reactor and carrying the ashes of its discoverer, and deliver the first detailed images and measurements of the planet that was downgraded after its launch, but will be traveling around fifty thousand kilometers an hour and barely have time to blink before it sails past. On its approach, it’s already beaming some amazing pictures back so astronomers believe that this one pass will afford them with a great trove of data to last for years. It is really remarkable that for the first time in decades, we’re going to be presented with an accurate portrait of another world—and not just an imaginative artist’s conception, with geographical features to be named. The hunt for Pluto began in earnest in the late 1920s when physicists grew fretful over the unexpected sideways orbit of Neptune that did not fit into the model of the solar system as described by the reliable, certain Newtonian mechanics that had been a sustaining grace for centuries.
The scientific community feared it would lend too much credence to that new physics of uncertainties and probabilities. Not wanting more revolt and upturning just yet—what with the age and world affairs and the ideas of Darwin still being fully masticated—astronomers hypothesised the existence of a yet unknown Planet X beyond that could account for Neptune’s odd behaviour. Fortunately (for Newton since the fate of scientific thought hung in the balance) the hunt yielded Uranus and it did mostly explain the outer planets’ orbits—however, there was a need (and public excitement to forward the cause and exploration) to call for a second scavenger hunt in the night skies for a consolation prize. The competition was fierce—since the discovery of yet another planet and immortality to be gained lay in the realm of immediate possibility, and interestingly as the hunt was on, science-fiction and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft captured it in his own mythos, calling it Yuggoth, before the planet was ever sighted (though naming-conventions were strict and there was probably no movement to name it as the Cthultu author had done). Planet X´ was first spotted by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930—while working at an observatory in Arizona—endowed by a wealthy Bostonian by the name of Percival Lowell expressly built to save the Newtonian system (as above, the naming-conventions were strict and one could not very well call a planet after a benefactor, no matter how generous—although it looks pretty sly how the astronomical symbol ♇ adopted was basically a monogram of Lowell’s name, once Pluto got its designation, suggested by an eleven year old from Oxford, Venetia Burney, grandniece incidentally of the Eton professor who named the moons of Mars Phobos and Deimos), whose ashes are being ferried to his discovery. That this mission even got off the launch pad at all is also a story of coincidence, timing and politics—more on these plutocrats at the link above. Afterwards, for as long as its plutonium battery lasts, New Horizons will pass into the Kuiper belt and study some of the nebulous, icy objects in this mysterious hatchery for comets.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

genesis or รฆolian dust

The always intriguing ร†on magazine invites us to imagine an ecosystem that’s parallel to our own familiarly flourishing one but possibly quite independent—not quite like the writhing, invisible world of microscopic beings that Anton van Leeuwenhoek saw for the first time in the 1670s as this discovery did not have immediately recognisable and world-shattering consequences, since these animalcules seemed to have less to do with the majesty of man than anything imaginable—and along side the life that we know in such a radically different and unorthodox way so as to be completely alien in organisation and expression.
I think there are good indicators that our prejudice is slowly succumbing to surprise and serendipity—the resourcefulness of biology, as the search continues for extra-terrestrial intelligence and we find niches of creeping and reproducing beings in the most unexpected of places, but for all these positive developments, we still could fail if our criteria for thriving only cleaves to what we know and expect. Of course it would be more exciting and apparent to be confronted with the mute artefacts of an otherworldly civilisation or megafauna lopping across far-away plains—rather than enigmatic crystals, sludge, erosion, curious matter circling the drain, or creatures perpetuated by human belief in numerology or patent medicines and are happy hitchhikers. One concrete example given of a seemingly biogenic phenomena (that may have originated in a genesis before the one that’s our creation narrative or afterwards, like viruses, plasmids and preons that seem to prey on our weaknesses) is in the patina called desert varnish, debated since before the time of Darwin whether vegetable or mineral, of a sheen that forms on the surface of rocks, that’s extremely hydrophobic and contains elements not native to the local environment. The varnish, however, is inchoate, endemic to deserts around the world, from Africa to the Antarctic, and is even that verdigris that was scrapped away by our ancestors to produce the most ancient and enduring petroglyphs as signs that we were here too.

huginn and munnin

Though it is probably more likely that the later Czech sociologist Karl Deutsch expressed the sentiment to the effect that, “the essential part about nationhood is getting one’s past all wrong,” rather than the earlier French historian and orientalist Joseph Ernest Renan (whom it’s been attributed to), Renan did certainly write that the coalescing of a state requires that people have a lot in common as well as a collective amnesia—remarking that no respecting member of the New Republic dare own up to the frenzied, shameful massacre of the Albigensian Crusade.
This theologian who had a crisis of faith while looking deeper into the historical personage of Jesus and was unable to reconcile Church doctrine with the time-line was writing during a period of transition, the late nineteenth century, generations from the French Revolution, the terrors and resurgence with the Napoleonic Wars and during a time sadly insatiate for what was called progress. Posthumously, and despite Renan’s own critique of tribalism, certain elements of his readership championed his works as justification for colonialism, empire-building, and later eagerly advocating fascism and the politics of race. It nonetheless rings true, I think, that it’s an essential part of a founding, abiding myth—from Rome, England and to America—that a people joined or lumped together be mistaken about certain contexts and have heroes to worship. The later Deutsch, inheritor to all this misguided zeal, in contrast, helped people realise their folly and installed counter-measures.  Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Remembrance) are the pair of cosmic ravens that surveyed the Earth and roosted with and reported to the Norse god Odin—sort of like the private counsel of a conscience or complimentary set of shoulder-angels.

Friday, 10 July 2015


vapour-lock: intoxicating atmosphere of the breathable cocktail chamber

cachepots: origami planters that grow with the plants they hold

loving-cup: whimsical, personal hand-crafted trophies (not pictured)

shiver ye timbers: EU Pirate Partei representatives save freedom of panorama

dot-dash-diss: in 1903 a white-hat hacker disrupts Marconi’s telegraph demonstration, via Kottke

bagful of wits or the fox and the hedgehog

Greek poet Archilochus, reflecting on the perils of being too clever, said of the fabled fox that he knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
I wonder which character society finds more palatable, to be peripatetic and know a hundred means of escape, evasion, succeeding that we can adapt—or try to in the moment—to a given situation or be content, hunkered down with one sure and reliable idea. Reflecting on the ongoing centennial of the Great War and the horrors that followed, ideologies that took root in the scorched pastures of Europe where God and King were beforehand disbanded by terror and revolt and brief revanchment by Napoleon and the brittle empire of the Hapsburgs that couldn’t hold the centre led us down terrible paths that put us off outwitting ourselves—for a generation at least. Maybe ideologues do admit of one core idea driving their agenda but in practise and execution, it’s only maybe a fox disguised as a hedgehog. Presently, I fear we’ve again acquired a taste to be clever and forgotten about the dangers of nationalism and rank hypocrisy in wealth and technologies. We don’t need to dart down those manifold paths—a hundred routes to utopia—another time and hopefully we’ve learned enough from history to restrain and humble ourselves.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

crocodile creek, neverspeak mountain and the piccaninny tribe

The ever intrepid team of Atlas Obscura presents an illuminating, nostalgic glimpse at the stellar rise and equally rapid decline of a gargantuan amusement park built in the southern marshes of New York state that opened in June of 1960 and closed after just four seasons, called Freedomland U.S.A. Civil engineer and architect of such ambitious family playgrounds named Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood, recently dismissed from his last project of putting another but more enduring pleasure estate in an orange grove—the successor would again be built in a swamp—and his role ultimately denied and disavowed, designed a huge area in the shape of the continental United States and placed several historical and cultural attractions and rides within those borders.

The park celebrated the cheerier side of manifest destiny, mercantilism and American exceptionalism, including the Great Fire of Chicago, the San Francisco Earthquake, the launch pad and mission-control at Cape Canaveral—plus a New Orleans where it was always Mardi Gras and live music acts for adults to enjoy. In order to attract and retain more, the educational character was quickly supplanted by more conventional rides but its decline was swift—despite the number of guests and a lot of fond memories. Some of the more conspiratorial-minded believe that Freedomland U.S.A. was never meant to be a commercial success but rather an experiment in urban development by real-estate magnates and large landowners in New York and was undertaken to demonstrate that the marshland could safely support large-scale construction projects—and in fact, just after the park was razed, a public housing and a shopping centre went up. I think it is more likely the case that people became much disillusioned with the notion of what their country was becoming with the string of political assassinations of those waning years, not to mention the competition from the nearby venue of the 1964 World’s Fair that was meant to cheer everyone up again. The in depth look at Atlas Obscura furthermore bounces the demise of Freedomland off of the other ruins of theme parks and presents an interesting retrospective on the culture and the times.

zoinks, jinkies and denouement

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon franchise Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was conceived in response to parental concerns that the particular Saturday morning line-up, which consisted of Space Ghost, the Herculoids and Tom and Jerry, was too violent. Producers were initially infatuated with the idea of doing a spin-off of the Archie syndicate that featured a teen band who happened to slip off fight crime and solve mysteries in between gigs. The whole concept still needed re-working because these bandmates (with a cowardly mascot) were in pursuit of actual ghouls—rather than some villainous human disguised that those meddling kids would unmask at the end of each episode—and came across as rather too scary. The second, familiar version had its cast of characters drawn directly from the old-teenagers portrayed on the series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis—Norville “Shaggy” Rogers voiced by DJ Casey Kasem and based on the template of beatnik Maynard G Krebs (Bob Denver, later of Gilligan’s Island fame) and Velma Dinkley is lifted from the tomboyish Zelda Gilroy (portrayed by Shelia James Kuehl presently a member of the California State Senate) as a couple examples.
It’s strange to think how all supernatural and superstitious elements were debunked by the show’s finishing scene—excepting the canine sidekick who was retained from the original proposal, of course, and one that could talk (I don’t recall a musical inclination, the Archies’ dog played the bongos)—and I suppose that expectation, moral placated fretful parents. The title character was named reportedly after the scatting verse at the end of Strangers in the Night rather than Detective Chief Inspector Walter Dew, who investigated the Jack the Ripper murders and some other gruesome crimes in turn of the century London, plus cases cat-burglary and forgery. It would not have even occurred to me to connect these two sleuths and wonder, had not I learned that the Inspector, in pursuit of a fugitive, had once travelled under the name Mister Dewhurst. It made me think of some of the reoccurring distant relations (this series was keen on extended families, too, it seemed and everyone had their pedigree) like those who lived on Doo Manor, or cousin Scooby-Dee, Dixie-Doo or Sandy Duncan.

namely: absquatulate

I came across a new, perfectly cromulent word—as it’s not marked up by teacher’s red ink when put out there in the รฆther, in absquatulate. Although the term to abscond is more classical and synonymous to a degree, to absquatulate—suggestive of not only fleeing or to decamp, taking the money and run, it also implies abdication, shirking one’s duties, like some tinpot dictator—came into colloquial use in American English around the 1830s, as part of a larger, slightly baffling wave of pseudo-Latin vocabulary that lasted for a few decades. Other examples from this trend include perambulate (to have a stroll), discombobulate (to confuse), bloviate (to speak boastfully) and infamously sockdologising (an ambiguous word for something rude or to make a back-handed compliment, a corruption of doxology) which made the audience at Ford’s Theatre burst into laughter and was the cue for John Wilkes-Booth to assassinate president Abraham Lincoln. No wonder some vocabulary has gone the way of hornswoggle and skedaddle.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

mall rats

In an age of abandoned ghost malls, empty main streets and the gutted department store victim to shingles that are not brick-and-mortar, BLDGBlog turns to look at the pioneer of the original venue that offered an embarrassment of choices in architect, marketer and very much an agoraphile (not under the open skies but rather a lover of the Agora, the bustling, gossipy marketplace of Antiquity) by the name of Victor Gruen. Psychologically-speaking, Gruen lends his name to a phenomenon called the Gruen Transfer, when one’s hunter-gatherer instinct is saturated to a point where one’s original objective is, under a type of manipulation if not duress, diverted and expanded. Even though we may no longer physically congregate in the commons to be subjected to such an experience—which may not be confined to shopping but rather may extended to all of our divisive, distracted decisions—the Gruen Transfer easily translates to the online environment, of bargain-hunting, sharing and haranguing that tend to take place concurrently and with one fell-swoop.