Thursday, 30 April 2015

pour moi?

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. 

five-by-five

zeroth law: looking at the ethics of thinking machines through the classic Trolley Problem

off the grid: the floating, self-sustaining compound Freedom Cove

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

major arcana or juju guru

The absolutely brilliant Dangerous Minds shares this nifty gallery of Haitian artists recreating the classic, esoteric iconography of tarot cards in their neighbourhood slum. The intent behind this project is to highlight the beauty amid the squalor of where they live and dispel some of the preconceptions that outsiders may apply. See the whole suite and find out more at the link.

fun with family photos

During our Spring Break, I was able to devote some time to sifting through a few family photo albums that I had not seen in a long time but remembered well and took the chance to scan in a lot of pictures. It’s funny how it’s the patterns on bedspreads, the fabric of sofas and the pile of carpet that’s nearly as memorable as the different homes, holidays and vacations and how they stand out even though film and developing time and expense usually precluded candid shots of one’s dinner.
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

mikronárod

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.

Although the fledgling nation is not officially recognised by any traditional legitimising authority yet, the boundaries are already on the map thanks to a concerted marketing and branding offensive that rivals those of many well established countries. The profile from Quartz Magazine features links to Liberland’s extensive virtual presence with designs to have a permanent, physical presence in the near future. Given the successful organising charter and faith of volunteers and aspiring citizens, it makes one wonder what constitutes a state and who else might be able to pull it off.  Do the trappings and symbols of state confer statehood alone?  What do you think?

apple-core, baltimore

Quartz Magazine, punctuated with the hashtag #HistoryMatters, presents, I think, an important respectful overview of the dynamics behind urban decay and the general neglect and disdain of white-flight and corporate-flight that has led to the creation of this tense situation, simmering out of mind for decades. Just as onlookers find it incredulous that residents would burn and loot their only grocery outlet in their neighbourhood, no one is asking the more fundamental question why there was only an overpriced drug store and not a grocery market available to them and no one asks why the world is now captivated but hardly concerned with the long history of the city’s decline and the decisions that undermined its institutions and infrastructure.

five-by-five

street-legal: a look at Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion

submitted for your approval: Futility Closet’s clever podcast episodes

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

casual dining

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.

It’s certainly strange to consider how the failure of one market can be mapped due to the figure it limns—though most new franchises are installed in non-custom places now, and in part, I guess the lovely ruins are testament to the shift in diners’ taste, preferring to order-in rather than dining out. Also, while the popularity of pizza is not exactly on the wane, I suppose people are more health conscious—or at least make the requisite noise to pretend to be—what with the campaign against gluten or the reversal on fats, eschewing buffets, etc. and that’s a factor as well. Though it’s far too late for these transformed huts, with charging awareness and created taboos, there also seems (of late at least) a certain degree of fetishising the forbidden that one sees in the deep-fried anything and everything, the glutinous portmanteau of the cronut or making vaping something fashionable but maybe such fixations will make for a neo-classic revival for such red roofs.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

bridges and islands

To alleviate traffic congestion, a law-maker in the State of Washington is proposing lashing together some retired aircraft carriers as sort of a permanent pontoon bridge. If it materialises, it would be a keen enough idea on its own but the suggestion has caused the brilliant author at BLDGblog to launch into some really delightful, signature brainstorming. By leaps and bounds, he imagines how the ships’ hulls could become a unique business environment for all sorts of ventures and more akin to the bustling bridges of the Middle Ages and not just a way to unsnarl one’s commute.

five-by-five

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

quintain

Among all the varied and interesting books in my parents’ library, I discovered an old jewel in this big Playboy Press volume of ribald limericks, vintage 1972. The pictured verse was really the only one I could find safe to share and the poems were organised on all sorts of different subjects and themes, sort of like a cocktail recipe guide, including a very cosmopolitan gazetteer of international cities—should the occasion call for specific and regional innuendo.
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.’”

taking the waters or four freedoms

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

deus ex machina

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

mullets & barry

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.

Early banners were mostly ravaged Union Jacks set on a barry (striped) background, captured during the US war for independence, cobbled together and something like the modern flag of the state of Hawaii—however, raising these improvised standards led the British to believe that the rebels were surrendering on more than one occasion. Statesman Benjamin Franklin, whom also nominated the turkey as the national bird though the bald eagle was more favoured, suggested the Don’t Tread on Me design but was not deemed dignified enough for the ages. A standised and recognisable symbol had to be decided on. And while it is debatable whether Miss Ross’ contribution to the complete achievement which was conceived by a professional armourer was limited to making the mullets (stars—which were not very popular heraldic devices at the time) five-pointed rather than the six-pointed variety the menfolk in conference believed to be easier to stitch, not being practised in the art apparently, or whether she took further liberties with the design, the national flag did become her exclusive bailiwick, holding a virtual monopoly on its production for the first decade of the fledging republic.

Friday, 10 April 2015

sugarbakers or mostly ghostley

While I fully agree that the world would be a richer place for having a Lego diorama set of the Golden Girls, there’s another television series that I’ve always associated with it, Designing Women—known as Sugarbakers: Mann muss nicht sein auf Deutsch and wasn’t aired until 1993 and for only a short time.
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.

five-by-five

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

non-canon or occupational-hazard

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.

The practise of undermining papal authority was not widespread and the Church did not revoke any previous venerations, but the elevation of Saint Walter of Pontoise, a reluctant and rebellious abbot of a Parisian suburb by another unruly archbishop, Hugh of Amiens, struck the pope at the time, Adrian IV, the only English pope as something so improper—after all Walter had abandoned his post several times and tried to flee responsibility, being the whole system to be too corrupted to discipline and founding his own rebel monastery, and the Archbishop of Rouen had after all only made the nomination out of obstinacy, decreed that only the person of the pope could execute the process. Adrian also became known as an apostle to Norway and Sweden with his early missionary work, supported a second wave of the Norman invasion to pacify monastic Ireland and align it with the Church in Rome, and was also to excommunicate Frederich Barbarossa, over his disputed territories in Sicily, but the Pope choked on a fly in his wine before this could be arranged. Disinclined old St. Walter, whose feast day is celebrated 8 April, who caused all this controversy, is the patron of vintners, inmates and prisoners of war and the saint to call upon in duress over job-related stress—Walter having apparently suffered from burnout syndrome himself.

spermaceti

Reflecting on all the terror and ravages of petroleum and how we’d all like to make do with less providing that the industry take the commanding lead, I do suppose fossil-fuels are a better alternative than what sustained humans through the period of mechanisation and urbanisation, whale oil. Before advent of kerosene and the harnessing of vegetable oils, whale oil provided illumination in oil lamps and was a staple in cooking and the product of the waxworks organ in the heads of whales was used for candles and cosmetics. The animals were nearly hunted to extinction until substitute products became cheaper to obtain. And although the legacy of petroleum production and the rampant expansion it has enable probably will cast a longer shadow, at least the inhumanity with the slaughter has relented. We are still jerks but maybe a little more civilised about it.

two left feet but oh so sweet

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

société de pétrochimie

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.

five-by-five

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

jamboree or sieg heil, my coney island baby

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.

The campgrounds were opened in 1936, like several other sites in America during the 1930s, under the auspices of groups sympathetic to Nazi ideologies—going by different names and not always successor organisations, called things like the Free Society of Teutonia, Gau-USA, Friends of New Germany (FONG) and finally the German-American Federation (Amerikadeutscher Volksbund). Their banner looks like something out of a Flash Gordon comic but still sinister and embarrassing enough. These camps and the sentiment that they promoted were not just in areas with a high proportion of German immigrants but also attracted membership from the disaffected and those unhappy with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Policies that grew out of the global economic Depression that followed WWI; Germany was in a shambles and the group’s aim was to convince people that certain elements would led America down the same path.
The federation, however, was rather one-sided, as the Nazi government did not endorse the American organisation and especially disdained its leadership, one disenfranchised reactionary named Fritz Julius Kuhn. The Nazi Chancellery did not give the Bundesführer a very welcoming reception when a delegation visited during the 1936 München Olympiad, and eventually forbade any German national from holding membership in the Federation. Nonetheless, Kuhn still attracted followers, culminating in a huge and frightening rally of some thirty-thousand supporters in Madison Square. The group and cadet associations were eventually dissolved in 1941 as the US was compelled to formally enter the fray, and in addition to facing charges of tax-evasion and embezzling from the Bund, Kuhn and his partners got in trouble for counselling young people on how to avoid conscription and dodge the draft, but there is always a surplus of demagogues and charismatics.  

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

much coin, much care

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.

five-by-five

inside voice: dogs in Japan taught to soft-bark

staring-contest: crystal lattice whose patterns appear when one blinks

relocation: an interesting podcast on chaotic Moving Day in New York City, the annual event when all tenants’ leases expired simultaneously

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

depalletised oder unverpackt

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.

It’s not exactly as if we shopped in some old timey general store when I was little, but I do remember that the concept of buying in bulk, which seems now only retained for candies and nuts, was more common—at least for generic brands and maybe that’s why it went away. I hope that this movement takes hold elsewhere, since even if for the sake of vanity and brand-loyalty and in an ideal world where nothing goes to waste and is properly recycled, a lot of thoughtless cost goes into something just tossed away. Besides I think it would be fun to come up with creative storage solutions or revive quality tins worth saving.

five-by-five

forest primeval: amazing Białowieża National Park of Poland with the vestiges of the ancient, once pan-European wood

jesteros: only one can rule

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

cat-burglar or level-boss

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.

Worth operated at a time when associates referred to “baby-face,” gums, sister, lumpy—or by some other physical attribute in case of any eavesdroppers, and though while based in Paris, Worth was faced with none of those stakes that fostered a criminal underworld in America with Prohibition, Worth did open and run the first Bar Americain in the city, which held on its upper-storey an illicit gambling hall that could be transformed in an instant into a sedate salon peopled by figures lounging and reading newspapers through some ingenious pneumatic works that hid the gaming tables when trouble approached. There was also a sense of respect above this honour among thieves displayed by Worth’s own arch-nemesis in the personage of Allen Pinkerton, who had spearheaded the hunt for Worth for decades in the US (where he regularly chanced to visit his parents, who knew nothing about his exploits), London, Paris, Greece and Constantinople, who was relentless like Inspector Javert’s relentless chase for fugitive Jean Valjean but ultimately held the outlaw in high esteem.

Monday, 6 April 2015

johnny-scoff-law oder mannheim steam-roller

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.

I also knew a smattering about the city’s mechanised and innovative heritage as well, what with Mannheim being intimately connected with automotive pioneers Karl and Bertha Benz, but I discovered that that association is really barely scratching the surface. Besides the car, Mannheim was also instrumental in the development of the zeppelin airships and the jet engine for civilian applications, but the forerunner of all of these inventions too came about in Mannheim, I learned over the name of a campus adjacent to our venue, Drais—for Grand Duke Karl Drais, whose acumen and engineering skills produced the first so called Laufmaschine, Running-Machine, dubbed the dandy-horse, before becoming known as the modern Velocipide, the bicycle. Supposedly bizarre weather in the year 1816, just before Drais’ inaugural bike ride from Mannheim to Schwetzingen and then from Gernsbach to Baden-Baden, famous routes we were partially retracing that late evening from the Autobahn, had resulted in a poor harvest and prompted the population to resort to slaughtering all the horses for sustenance—or at least unable to share any of their grain with livestock however useful, and in turn inspired the professor of agriculture and physics to find a substitute for individual transportation.
As an after-though, Drais developed the keyboard as an input-device for the typewriter, as well. I will have to look into that further, since something known as well as the back of one’s hand as cliqued as never forgetting how to ride a bike is hardly something to just pass up.  The bit about Citizen Drais being elevated with a dukedom was so that he might be able to profit from his genius and enjoy a bit of a monopoly on his bicycle, being that this German state did not recognise patent-law at this time, but personal intrigues and war made Drais renounce his title and the idea fell into public domain and was championed by many others as a bridge for later discoveries, like the above automobile and the airplane, Benz and the Wright Brothers both first in bicycle manufacture. Not only was the introducing of the bicycle a touchstone of democratising and liberation, pedal-power also indispensably shaped the world as we know it.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

happy Easter, fröhe Ostern!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

wampum or echo base

Some are criticising the 2008 decision by the Norwegian Ministry of Defense with the approval of NATO to mothball and sell its secret arctic seaport at Olavsvern, three-decades in the making at a cost of over half a billion dollars, at less than one percent of the construction price as one of the biggest blunders of recent military history. 
These apparent pangs of remorse of not having any ready presence near the North Pole are much compounded by the fact that the bargain-hunting holding group have sublet the property—now off-bounds from any government oversight—to a fleet of Russian research vessels, ostensibly prospecting for untapped sources of petroleum in the contested reigon, that wintered in cavernous compound. Given, however, that the privatisation took place under the auspices of a government whose then leader now heads the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a whole, I wonder if there is not something else going on here. Despite the complete lack of economic necessity to divest itself from any of its holdings, whether or not of dubious strategic value five years ago, the transaction seemed to belong to a buyers’ market and no vanity environmentalist, troll-cordonnier, film-crew, patient investor or even a mad-scientists seeking a hidden lair materialised at the time—for the first public auction of such an installation was advertised online. I wonder if there is not some sort of game of entrapment going on here.

five-by-five

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

salonnière or narrative structure

The ever intriguing BLDGBlog has a marvelously curated preview of an upcoming series of seminars chaired by the Flea Folly Architects of London on narrative architecture, inviting one to imagine a cityscape made with the vision and distinct styles of story-tellers in all media. The group’s own venture to create a serpentine plot “disguised” as an incredible, geometric urban-setting—as illustrated through Grimm City, wherein a fairy-tale Gotham sprawls as projections of the eponymous folklorist’s own enchantments, and rather the opposite of being inspired by the some of the places associated with their research and story-gathering, I think gives prospective acolytes a taste of what the workshop might offer.

columbian exchange

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

five-by-five

chizukigou: check out these lovely Japanese map legend symbols

système vidéo domestique: French artist repackages contemporary series and films in VHS wrapping


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

cartogram or far, far away

Some additional two-thousand fantastic pictorial maps of all subjects and styles have recently been acquired to supplement the already impressive resource and collections of Cartographer David Rumsey. There are endless curated galleries to wander down on his website and too many jewels to showcase so don’t pass up the chance to visit.

long-haul or get your kicks

The first trans-continental road-trip across North America—from San Francisco to New York City, was undertaken by pioneer and doctor Horatio Nelson Jackson on a bet and as a publicity stunt to demonstrate that the automobile was not just a passing-craze. In 1903, when he and his driving partner got off to a start, there was only about three hundred kilometers of paved roadways between the end points, virtually no maps and naturally no filling- or service-stations along the way. Once, a ranch hand misdirected the travelers on a lengthy, dangerous detour so her family, it was later revealed, could see a real live car. After some harrowing adventures and many break-downs, the company—which now included a mascot—arrived on the East Coast to fanfare. Jackson’s feat was certainly an impressive one and parallels the trail-blazing journey of Bertha Benz, whose hundred kilometer trip in the summer of 1888 from Mannheim to Pforzheim marked the first time in history anyone had driven a significant distance in an automobile.
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.