Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Boing Boing furnishes us with an update on the follies of human civic engineers and the grave repercussions of incursions onto elfin habitats.
Numerous times, road construction has been rerouted or scrapped altogether by human advocates for the preservation of elf heritage (possibly even influencing the US Navy’s decision to abandon its base in Keflavík), since—nearly as many times, such ill-fated trespasses have not gone unpunished. The accidental burial of a sacred stone by highway workers riled the elves and their supporters (who sometimes construct wooden façades for them in order to help the more oafish of our kind realise that they are there), and after a series of mishaps were hurled at the offending stretch of road—the boulder was exhumed with due ceremony.

gas, food, lodging

Thanks to the resplendent Kottke, we learn about one man’s personal odyssey and motivational master-class to escape the tethers of mortgage and utilities and being roped to particular plot of real estate (the German and French terms Immobilie betray its Latin roots as something that can’t be moved) and live off (or along perhaps) the grid with a custom camper van.
The entire process is assiduously documented for any of those that might be inspired to do the same, plus follow on adventures cross-country. I particularly liked the poetic juxtaposition in that one of the places he visited was the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California—not only for the sheer delight in realising and then reveling in the fact that one probably would have never seen this place if not for a motoring lifestyle—articulated and embellished endlessly by the heiress to the rifle manufacturer’s fortune in order to confuse and confound the spirits of those who had been killed by fire-arms that haunted the mansion with stairwells to nowhere and labyrinthine architecture: minimalism in contrast to interminable elaboration. Of course, Lady is in a class by herself—but this installation is nearly, nearly as well outfitted.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


regolith explorer: NASA to launch a probe to mine an asteroid and return samples to Earth 

pole of inaccessibility: a visit to the most isolated settlement on Earth, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas on Tristan da Cunha 

greywater: researchers will grow a forest in the Egyptian desert

karadashev type i civilisation: a strong radio signal originating in the direction of a distant star is intriguing alien-hunters 

alice springs: still no resolution for the mysterious dismissal of Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam

ta-ta for now: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was apparently dealt its coup grâce—at least until the next election cycle

gregor samsa: a giant, inflatable cock roach pool float

good night frau blücher

I always assumed that the image of Igor peeking through the chute persisted in the number two slot of the popular posts side-bar due to some glitch or error in the Matrix, but maybe—for whatever reason—people liked that moment from Young Frankenstein and now I’ll look on it in the margins fondly. It was sad to wake up to the news of Mister Wilder’s passing but feel privileged to have been entertained along with countless others by his characters.


Sometimes, you come across a truly mesmerizing animation—the sort you could nod off to, having let your attention be dominated for too long to do anything else, like this one of a running Mario (whose motion is itself an optical illusion generated by the passage of the grate, sort of like the effect of lenticular printing) posted at a site called Mlkshk and spotted by the keen eye of Madame Jujujive of the Everlasting Blört.

Monday, 29 August 2016

juxtaposed controls ou liaison fixe transmanche

As the refugee encampment in Calais known as the Jungle is projected to pass ten-thousand “inmates” soon, the Local’s French edition gives us a primer in the Touquet Treaty, negotiated back in 2003 by then Foreign Minister, Nicolas Sarkosy (once and future presidential contender), who believes it needs to now be reformed or scrapped in the midst of the migrant crisis and the in the aftermath of Brexit.
Broadly, juxtaposed controls (bureaux à contrôles nationaux juxtaposés) are arrangements between France, Belgium and the UK that allow border checks on cross Channel (la Manche, Ärmelkanal) routes before embarkation, rather than at the border or destination and were formalised in the early 1990s when the Chunnel made rail transport possible and ferry-crossings increased in-kind.  Ironically, though the frontier between the UK and the Schengen Area has been pulled forward, immigrants massing at Calais and other port cities can only apply for asylum in the country they are physically located in, despite the entrepôt status of where they are biding their time and border authorities are obliged to stop them.  When Banksy’s dystopian theme park was dismantled and removed from Weston-super-Mare last year, the construction materials were donated to the Jungle.  What do you think?  Remote registration centres for asylum-seekers have been established in other locations in Greece and Italy, so called hot-spots, but Calais is not presently host to the crush of hundreds of thousands of refugees and making and designating the port as such could attract more hopefuls already enduring dangerous and deplorable conditions.

a moveable beast

Via the enchanting Messy Nessy Chic, we are treated to the rare sight of antique taxidermy specimens from Bergen’s Natural History Museum (the historic Hanseatic trading houses of the Bryggen port are the second from the bottom), as captured by photographer Helge Skodvin, as they are carefully moved to temporary quarters while the museum undergoes extensive restoration. The whole menagerie is really a delight to peruse and this undertaking reminds me of how the first provisional government of West Germany was convened in the Zoological Museum of Bonn, with a similar assortment of creatures in the gallery, as many were too big or delicate to move.

Sunday, 28 August 2016


Although it was known for years that agents and informants were keeping their country’s diaspora under surveillance to uncover any expatriates who might be harbouring critical views of the ruling regime, it seems no one really appreciated the scope and the reach of this network in Germany (which rivalled the Stasi of East Germany) and other European countries with significant Turkish populations until the failed coup.  In fact Ankara’s MİT (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı) had formerly worked closely with counterpart intelligence services in host nations to thwart potential terrorism and smuggling operations (of all sorts), but in the aftermath of the failed coup, spies have been drawn closer to the regime and deployed to menace and intimidate (reminding the exiled that they still have family in the homeland can force anyone to be silent or even rally in the regime’s support) those that probably left the country in the first place over political reasons.
Now, instead of having faith in the intelligence of their partners, the BND and others fear that any information they act on might have been presented to them in order to incriminate individuals (sort of the reserve false testimony of the informant known as Curveball, a dissident who feed the war hawks the salacious details it wanted to hear) who don’t share the Turkish government’s vision of how national and religious identities are to be portrayed and exercised.

meet the warner brothers and the warner sister, dot

Tinkerers Orville and Wilbur Wright had a sister named Katherine, a teacher, suffragan, and alumna of Oberlin College (the only graduate in the family), who very substantially contributed to their (while not seminal—more here and here) important and pioneering demonstrations of powered-flight.
Though there’s no clear documentation whether the unsung Wright had wished herself to be an aviatrix or helped with the design, there is testament to her relatively unacknow- ledged work behind the scenes that included running the brothers’ bicycle shop while they were away experimenting (with no backers, their only source of funding for their trials) better than they had done themselves and acting as their unwavering publicity agent and tour manager, encouraging them to persevere against a doubting public. Be sure to read the full account of the life of the heroine of Kitty Hawk at the link up top.

flotsam and jetsam

As with most infrastructure since the times of the Ancients—the Romans being civil engineers par excellence, urban populations have grown by factors while the means and conveyance to bring in necessities and then to haul it all away only creep along until compelled.  Maybe there is some virtue in building a road to no where.
One again gleaming example comes to us from Hyperallergic’s profile of the Victorian-era Crossness Pumping station, commissioned with the odious task of taking sewage out of London in 1865 in response to a cholera epidemic and a particular stifling summer along the banks of the polluted Thames referred to flatly as the Great Stink. The station was in operation until it was relieved by more modern treatment plants—that didn’t just disperse the problem, and sat derelict and neglected until just this month, reopening after extensive restoration, for visitors to explore and marvel at this feat of engineering.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

you’ve been rick-rolled or carry on, constable

Despite increased scrutiny over the rhetoric of fear and derision and waning confidence in expert predictions and said experts presuming to dictate to the stakeholders how to vote, there was still a weight of shock and disappointment that many—at least vocal ones—were begrudging when those forecasts most dire, nor those pledges for prosperity everlasting for Brexit did not quite materialise. As if failing to recognise campaign promises for what they are or to remember what it is that politicians do, no one seemed quite sure what to make of a Ship of State that managed to navigate around both Scylla and Charybdis pretty much unscathed, at least in the immediate aftermath.
I cannot judge whether it was the correct decision or what the narrow margins mean, but insofar that Britain is not instantly free of the yoke of the EU nor neither financially imperilled over this choice, I do think the lack of confirmation of either the worst- or best-case scenarios and the failure (or vulnerability) of public sentiment to be turned by feckless forecasting—no side could truly know what the consequences would—is justification to call for a second referendum on the same subject. I feel it is the same arrogant presumptions that garners distrust in the words of experts that would ask people to second-guess themselves (invalidating or reaffirming their motivations), possibly fuelled by the same outrage and exaggeration of sore-losers, and ask them if they were sure that they wanted to vote that way. What do you think? Alea iacta est. Besides, the UK—in whole or in part, is not seeking a divorce from Europe, it’s rather separating itself from the policies and rules of the European Union, a big distinction. The EU is not Europe, but rather an economic and political experiment—with a raft of rules and regulations that have little to do with identity or partnership, and is not exactly treating the UK like a customer that is trying to switch service-providers. I think we will be exploring more of these models of undo and redo as the national election season creeps closer.

gruen transfer oder ghost malls

Going home every week, I pass by signs of the future local of “Barbarossa City” shopping centre, that I am supposing will be erected outside of the industrial park of the ancient town of Gelnhausen—home to one of the emperor’s palatial estates, and it makes me moan a little to think about the state of property development in Germany. There perhaps was a legitimate pitch to be made at one point but once there comes a saturation point when we only have ourselves to blame for siphoning off business from the Altstadt and Marktplatz, which still retain their charms, making online shopping commitment-free—delivered to your door via drone, and there quickly comes a point where the appeal and utility of galleries “anchored” by ample parking and a super-market diminishes to the point it’s no longer tenable.
Every other purchase made in the client stores is really just an impulse-buy and the domain who those who couldn’t be bothered to comparison- shop beforehand. There are several ghost malls—completely vacant or nearly so, that are one the periphery of Wiesbaden’s city centre and while the former has been kept because of it auto-garage for as long as I can remember, I’ve watched the rather sharp decline of the latter, whose retail spaces are ninety-percent empty and random (by not a rotation) of car rental outlets, a stationary shop, a t-shirt screen-printing business and a ubiquitous electronic store are all that are left. Even outside city limits, these projects seem designed for ruin after the developers, the barons have made their profit and saddled yet another middling-sized town with reticulated grocery store that steals commerce away from downtown and denying people the ability to shop—or at least the impression thereof, and leaving a landscape of struggling restaurants and shuttered corner shops, boutiques and antique shops to be replaced by mobile telephone and fast-food outlets. What do you think? I don’t care for this zombification, and given the parallel crisis in affordable housing, maybe such flagships of the retail sector might (or rather do) work if (when) they offered accommodation for living as well.

Friday, 26 August 2016


purdah: in defiance of statute and accepted cultural norms, an online campaign invites Iranian women to share images of themselves with their heads exposed, and in solidarity, men appear in hijabs

final frontier: the monumental park outside of Moscow honouring the pioneers of space exploration

red dwarf: the hinted at existence of exoplanet Proxima Centauri β is confirmed

goodwill ambassadors: Messy Nessy Chic digs up some vintage pocket guides issued to American service-members fighting overseas

at the third stroke: British Telecom is seeking out the speaking clock’s new voice, via the Presurfer

beyond antares: ladies and gentlemen, presenting the musical stylings of Miss Nichelle Nichols

gestalt or fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on

As an addendum to the spiffy tip we had on the crack-team of super-recognisers that could reform the way police work and mass-surveillance are carried—since what’s the use of closed-circuit television if nobody’s minding the screen, not discounting the progress of biometric markers—Dangerous Minds and Boing Boing offer up a self-assessment (a battery of tests that are like elimination rounds) that lets one find out if he or she might be blessed (or cursed) with this super-power. Science believes about one percent of the population can potentially harness this ability, and I thought it was interesting how some felt odd or embarrassed about having this breed of photographic-memory, and were worried that people might mistake being recalled as being stalked or obsessed.  Although the limited discriminatory powers of people might sometime result in profiling and mistaken identity, spotted and connected with human eyes seems more keen and focused that the indiscriminant use of facial-recognition software. What do you think? How did you score?

night flight

With a nod to the nostalgic look and feel of the Stranger Things phenomena—which strikes me as something liminal, almost familiar but not quite—Boing Boing shares a cache of 1980s animated production logos from film and television that are sure to incite a flood of memories over these faithful, old taglines. “Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog!”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

concourse oder down in the underground

The ever intrepid explorers at Atlas Obscura treat us to a stunning gallery of the urban-spelunking project Manhattan-extract artist Claudio Galamini’s framed and thorough discovery of Berlin’s metro system (die Berliner U-Bahn). Since opening first in 1902, the expansion of the network to one hundred seventy stations sprawling over a distance of over a hundred and fifty kilometers, each one of the terminals (and methodically, Galamini visited every one) are unique preserved expressions of the tenor of the county, style and the economy. Be sure to visit the links above and travel along the whole line, with more to explore through the artist’s lens at each stop.

for the nonce

Thanks to our friends the OED, we learn that today, the Saint Day of Bartholomew the Apostle, patron of bookbinders, butchers and cheese-mongers, was traditional feted with a charter fair in London (chartered in the sense the market days were established to help raise fund for religious and municipal buildings, namely the priory of Saint Bartholomew) and marked the end of Summer. The evening’s repast for members of the printing guild (this day also marking the anniversary of the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1456 in Mainz) was concluded with a special banquet given by a publishing house proprietor for the benefit of his apprentices.
After this break, called a wayzgoose, with the days waning shorter, scribes and later typesetters would now by working by candle-light. Although I much prefer the folk-etymology of “wase-goose”—that is a sheaf or wayward goose, for the way it sort of links the traditional dinner to customs attached to Saint Martin’s day in November, the goose being a creature that meanders aimless and betrayed the reluctant saint’s hiding spot, and in the sense of a sheaf of paper, the practise of paper-makers to use the last of the season’s pulp for making windows to be hung by Saint Martin’s Day (in commemoration to his selfless act of giving his cloak to a beggar to protect him from the element—however, it probably is a corruption of the Danish word for Weghuis—that is, an inn or guesthouse where these banquets were held. In modern parlance, the term occasionally appears when speaking of an annual outing or Organisational Day for a Fourth Estate institution. In any case, we all ought to celebrate with a little wayzgoose this evening.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

sisyphean or gravity-assist

One of the sad ironies of electrical infrastructure is that the places, like Germany, with the highest utilisation rates of renewable energy also have the highest incidence of air pollution, due to fact when there’s not enough wind or sunshine, there’s only recourse to burning coal or natural gas and no large-scale means to store excess production for use when it’s needed.
The impediments lie in not only not being able to save energy for a later time, unpredictable vectors like the Sun and the wind can easily over-burden a distributed grid whose output has to be spent, along those wires, in one way or another. There are some methods to harness this abundance, however, like the sluices that store potential energy (please don’t mind my bad German)—or project in the state of Utah called the Sisyphus Train, where excess aggregate of electricity is used to power a locomotive to the summit of a hill, and there it rests like the accursed boastful king’s eternal task to roll a boulder uphill. This labour is not futile or in vain as when needed the turbine rolls back downhill, generating electricity during its descent.

finger-licking good

Though perhaps the efficacy is in line with what it ought to be, I imagine that there was no need for this sort of product tie-in, which certainly would not be a good shark-repellent and perhaps as good a lure as a bucket of chum. The idea that marketers (who should be made to sit in a corner and think about what they have done) had for this gimmick is that the “skin that should be extra crispy this summer is on your fried chicken.” This revolts me on several levels at once, but apparently the campaign was effective with the sun-screen having already sold-out. I guess when you hit the beaches and are wafted not by the smell of salty air but another, rather intrusive aroma, you know right away who to avoid.

popular imagination

A small specialist publishing house in Burgos with a penchant for the palindrome, the Local’s Spanish edition reports, has been granted permission to recreate exact replicas of the enigmatic and mysterious Voynich manuscript, named after the Polish antiquarian who acquired the fifteenth century document from Italian Jesuits just before the start of WWI. Scholars, collectors and cryptographers have been bewitched by this inscrutable tome ever since it came to light—having baffled all and successfully thwarted every attempt to decipher it or deduce it’s authorship—or even its purpose.
The text consists of a score of unique glyphs that has all the hallmarks of an alphabet and natural language but cannot be decoded, adorned by bizarre and beautiful illustrations that provide little in the way of context clues—naked women and plants that don’t exist, leading some to suggest it is a book of magic spells or a treatise on alchemy, rendered so, covertly by one of the respected and orthodox luminaries of the age—or even the artefact of a visiting extra-terrestrial or temporal tourist. What is your theory? Images of the entire book has been available online for some time (the original is kept safe in a vault at Yale University), but the publishers home that exact copies that capture the weight of the parchment, every tear and stain might just embolden the wit of academics in the near future to take that leap and be able to intuit its meaning.

Monday, 22 August 2016


fungus among us: a look into the amazing, networked lives of fungi, including the potential for living bricks made out of mushrooms and pistachio husks

one hot minute: Koko the Gorilla shows bassist Flea how it’s done

gumshoe: Scotland Yard’s new task-force of super-recognisers could revolutionise the force, via the always marvelous Nag on the Lake

we represent the folly cove guild: the unsung graphic designers of Cape Ann Massachusetts and their stunning, iconic prints and patterns

the ocean’s hotdog: the tale behind the origin of fish-fingers, the convenience food no one asked for

amber room: excavations begin for legendary Nazi gold train—which could also be carrying proto-type weapons, via Hyperallergic  


While it is always sound advice to “prepare appropriately for a development that could threaten our existence and cannot be categorically ruled out in the future” it does smack as pretty frightening and foreboding (especially in German), and the directive to citizens to stockpile food as an element of a broader civil defense plan does raise one’s spider-senses.
The timing of the announcement, which was last issued during the Cold War, does not, I think, indicate some imminent attack but rather a general precaution—especially as it is customary to make a trip to the neighbourhood market an almost daily occurrence and not buying in bulk—nor cue people to change their lifestyles. What do think? While not down Tornado Alley exactly or contending with tremours, German does have its share of natural catastrophes as well, without leaning on the threat of war or terrorism. Surely this plan was months in development and includes increasing the budget for emergency services and increasing hospital capacity, and there was no intent to cause panic or stoke conspiracies or the admission that multiculturism and inclusion is something to cower before.

Sunday, 21 August 2016


I think that most of us are willing to accept than the constellation of microbes that accompany us throughout our lives, the trillions of viruses, bacteria and other germs, are more than mere hitchhikers or pathogens but are really in many ways the ones at the helm and we are in a sense the stowaways—though that’s poorly processed with statements like a bacterial imbalance is responsible for what we’re unable to overcome through willpower or in the form of gimmicky probiotics. Listening to an excellent conversation on Fresh Air from NPR (listen to the entire talk—there’s much more in it than my humble take-away), that truth was made clearer to me plus that we are just beginning to appreciate the complexity of the ecology within us.
While searching for the edges, we find things like the proven yet poorly understood therapy of fæcal transplants for treatment of certain chronic gastro-intestinal ailments and the digest that surrounds the deleterious effects of non-discriminatory anti-biotics and over keeping too clean and hermetically-sealed, it struck me how the mechanism and relationship is better illustrated in the perhaps more straightforward insect world—where we’re not caught up in pride and hygiene. Fully forty percent of the insects and arthropods in Nature (quite a lot of the world’s life but just a fraction of the whole, considering the population of bacteria and archaea) host a truly remarkable and versatile bacteria called Wolbachia, which seems to have as much influence on the bugs it resides in as their genetic makeup. Inherited—or rather passed (the research helping us realise that a robust immune system is passed from mothers to babies indirectly by compounds in breast milk that only helpful bacteria can eat), along matrilineal lines only, the bacteria are responsible for shaping the society of termites, ants and bees by controlling the breeding-stock and according that rarefied privilege to a select few or even facilitating the ability for others to reproduce by cloning. Perhaps contrary or an alternative to the method of propagation and self-preservation that hosting pesky pathogens imparts (and how that might operate and might have granted an advantage is also poorly understood), that same bacterium also inhibits mosquitoes from acting as disease vectors when introduced to a population without fumbling around with their DNA. That really speaks to me and suggests that we ought not to try for the low-hanging fruit before understanding the whole ecosystem and also what might opportunities might be won in small nudges.


Thanks to Neatorama for introducing us to wonderfully crazed cacophonous taxidermy of custom instrument designer David Cranmer. In addition to his latest interactive Owl Theremin, one can find musical demonstrations of a badger version of the Moog kit or a hurdy-gurdy made from the innards of the must-have robotic pet of the late 1990s at the link up top.

dog & butterfly

While I like to pretend that I usually find these cross-species animal friendship stories a little dopey, sometimes they just resonate with me. Like with the story of this duck that appeared out of nowhere for counseling and companionship for this depressed and anxious dog—there was just something to the narrative and storyboard that struck me as genuine and heart-warming.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

saplings or wingdings

While on our recent holiday in France, we noticed quite a few very majestic trees that ornamented the campsites and other grounds. Judging from the seed-pods, I thought they were perhaps vanilla but a friendly British couple told us that they believed they were Indian Bean Trees. We brought home the gossamer seeds from an old husk and set them aside for a few weeks. Meanwhile, I began noticing several cultivars, especially around Wiesbaden.
The plant is native to the American south—that sort of Indian, and with the taxonomical designation of Catalpa bignoniodes after the Muskogee and Cherokee for it, wing-headed for the distinctive shape of their big, heart-shaped leaves, which unusually secrete their own nectar. The wood of the tree was chiefly used for railroad ties, as it was solid and resistant to rotting. H did a bit of research, and after a patient few days (approximately a week before the first green shoots appeared, being kept in terrarium-like, hot-house conditions), we started to get a few seedlings, and then more and more. I know that one day, they’ll out-grow house and home but we’ll be sure that there’s a little grove of them in the future.


Although the team comprised of refugees and asylum-seekers competing for the first time on the world stage in the Olympics marched under the banner of the Olympic flag, accompanied by the anthem of the Games, a group called Refugee Nation founded under the auspices of Amnesty International has commissioned a flag for these forcibly displaced peoples in orange and black, recalling the life-vests that saved many on their dangerous and desperate crossing and the many lives lost on the journey. The organization hopes that this will be a symbol of solidarity and good will after the event ends and the immigration crisis continues.


With understandably more exuberance than expected an as yet to be confirmed finding, Der Spiegel’s English edition is reporting that astronomers may have detected an exoplanet (not such a novelty these days with over three thousand verified sightings and a conservative estimate of a billion planets in our galaxy) with a proximity to its host star that we believe would create conditions ideal for life as we know it (there are dozens of these candidates as well—not to be sniffy about it), and lastly the possible planet was spied just in the star system closest to us.
When I first saw the headline, I admit that I kind of dismissed it—vaguely remembering, as Universe Today expands on, that we had found a planet already four years ago in this projection of the constellation Centaurus that we would aim to reach, with the technology of yesterday, within the next fifty years. Supposedly sighted by the same Chilean observatory under the auspices of the European Space Agency, the article quotes unnamed sources ahead of the official announcement to come within days. The 2012 detection was found to be a false-positive though I don’t remember anyone rolling back the fanfare—and probably rightly so, and although the astronomy community is cautious, that did not stop the writer from speculating on the types of flora and fauna that might thrive there, under the feeble light of the red dwarf, Proxima Centauri. We will be spacefarers no matter the outcome, but having a port on the horizon this tantalisingly close is a great motivator.  Be sure to watch for the announcement; watch the skies. 

Friday, 19 August 2016


hop’n gator: interesting trivia about Gatorade and beer and their short-lived unholy merger

enter the dragon: the philosophical notebooks of Bruce Lee

 lullaby: parent finches signal to the unhatched broods about global warming

unwaxed: maybe there are benefits to flossing after all, if our simian friends are so keen to do it

history, ink: an interesting look at the last surviving tattoo parlour in Jerusalem that original catered to medieval pilgrims to the Holy Land 

silent gesture

That white medalist in the iconic and controversial 1968 Summer Games Black Power salute was not just some witless by-stander, as the always engrossing Kottke informs, and although the second-place didn’t raise his hand in protest, Peter Norman from Australia, wore a human rights badge and suffered consequences like his fellow athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Norman was sensitive to the plight of minorities as well, having witnessed apartheid in his native land that included forced adoption of aboriginal babies to white families and other atrocities. When in 2005 the University of San Jose immortalised the moment with a statue—Smith and Carlos both former students, Norman was approached about inclusion. Norman respectfully declined, but not because he didn’t want to be associated with their defiant statement any longer—rather he wanted anyone visiting the statue to have the opportunity to stand in that vacant spot and express their solidarity too.

synchronicity or does not divide the sunday from the rest of the week

What if the first thing that Sky Net changes is not eliminating humankind in order to save the environment but rather something more insidiously straightforward like reforming the calendar and the naïve, inherited way to reckon time?
While I am sure that computers, even without being imbued with intelligence, can handle the foibles of human time-keeping, it would probably be more efficient to dispense with all of those sabbaths, zodiac-signs, leap-years and Moon-sightings—and even weekends since the wicked get no rest. What do you think? Maybe even deference to our home-star might be discounted, since a robotic workforce’s clockwork don’t respect circadian-rhythms and perhaps recognise that there’s little tribal utility and investment left in keeping the weekend sacred or holidays holy. What would machine punch-cards look like?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

put away the candle, the book and the broom

Though together we both enjoyed watching Christopher and his Kind, the 2011 BBC adaptation based on Isherwood’s memoir Goodbye to Berlin, I think it might be a bridge too far to get H to watch Cabaret, but I stand by the suggestion.
The first time we saw the made for television movie about a newly-found freedom soon to be crushed by the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany, I caught myself thinking that one character was a lot like the great Sallie Bowles and did a bit of research before being able to reconcile this similarity. The parallels between Apocalypse Now! and Heart of Darkness would make a really good thesis paper… I suppose the those in the know knew the nods. After seeing this resonant, expatriate appreciation from Dangerous Minds with a divine gallery of candid behind the scenes images, I think I’ll try again in earnest to arrange a screening of the award-winning musical. That’s Liza with a Z.


post-mortem estate planning: last wills, Old Testament and ghosts make for an intriguing unexplained mystery

same as it ever was: Kermit the Frog, with accompaniment from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, perform Talking Heads

mothra: a profile of the incredible Humming Bird Hawk Moth—I’ve spied these things in the garden and no one believed me

gesticulate: a glossary of essential hand gestures—especially useful for debates, via the brilliant Blört Everlasting 

expletive attributive: “Swear Trek” provides the profanity that ought to accompany interstellar exploration

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The Guardian encapsulates the past century and a score of Russian history with a gallery of photographs whose moments show the changes as the decades pass.
This glimpse, however, is not from the archives of a single museum but just a slice of the material collected by an ambitious project called “Russia in Photo” that has solicited submissions from museums and private collections all across the country. Individuals are encouraged to share their historic photographs as well.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

imperial immediacy

The old, medieval centre of Goslar has been accorded World Heritage status and rightly so with its preserved lanes of half-timbered houses and canals along the streaming Abzucht—possibly named for the run-off, discharge of the silver mines of Rammelsberg that had secured this city’s wealth up until the discovery of even greater lodes in South America—and favoured residence of the Holy and Roman Emperor of the Germans.
Most reasons are clearly manifest but it’s interesting to note what sort of scholarship and rediscoveries lie behind it. This pair of Brunswick Lions (Braunschweig Löwe) are reproductions installed (of several around Germany) to celebrate the oldest and largest example of such Middle Age sculpture produced north of the Alps, but Germany had its own undiscovered heritage. Presently sheltered in the bowels of the imperial palace is the symbol of the city, the griffin, once thought to be an 19th century embellishment, like much of the restorative work done to the palace itself, replete with murals depicting German mythology and the rise of the nation-state and empire, but researchers revealed in 1988 that the object dated back nearly a thousand years, which was then just a weather-vein on some gable.
After the piece was studied and dated, it became the symbol of Goslar and a golden version of the Imperial “Eagle” of Henry I adorns the fountain in the main square amidst the old gothic Rathaus and the city’s other iconic landmark, the Hotel Kaiserworth with its wooden figures—including some rather lewd allegory, which I would have appreciated explanation for, like the random local in Trier who at length told us about the veiled meaning of the central fountain’s decorations. Another element of forgotten and re-discovered awaited us in the City Hall.
Over five hundred years ago, the Hall of Homage was created as a council chamber, at the height of the region’s economic prosperity—finely decorated by anonymous artists as tribute to municipal leaders and patrons who were answerable only to the person of the Emperor.
The upper storey of the Rathaus, however, was perhaps a bit much for a series of Bürgermeister to confront and contemplate on a daily basis and at some point, the hall was turned into an archive and storage space. Like the griffin, the rich decorations were only rediscovered in the late 1800s and is now visited by tens of thousands each year.  In order to preserve the artwork from so much traffic, however, one can only experience the chamber by climbing into a plastic porthole.

much coin, much care or the beagle boys versus the money bin

Part of the unintended but certainly foreseen consequences of holding interest-rates at historic lows has not provided the incentive for banks to loan money rather than hoard it.
And now faced with negative interest rates and the prospects of penalties on liquid assets with no end in sight, as Boing Boing reports, financial institutions are not backed into a corner but are rather redeeming their æthereal electronic funds for hard currency to avoid the fines put in place to stimulate the economy. The commercial bankers don’t strike me as protesting the policies of central banks—or even smugly side-stepping the regulators, merely taking the next logical step. Maybe we do not get to rush them with pitch-forks after all.  Though somewhat of a liability and inconvenience, banks are looking to secure all that physical cash in hidden vaults, just waiting for the tipping-point when negative interest becomes more costly than the price of guarding and moving around all that coinage. What do you think? I wonder if such an evasive manoeuver might hasten the demise and access to physical tender. I guess the next step would be to store one’s wealth in real-estate and start the boom and bust cycle all over again.

shoo fly or hectoring vectors

Business Insider has a pretty comprehensive primer on the facts and fictions on the ablutions and rituals that we perform to nudge away mosquitos.
Unfortunately, the majority of myths that we hold close are shown to be demonstrably wrong-headed and either a waste of time and effort or counter-productive. I would add one item to the list, which probably could be similarly debunked, but I think it works: mosquitos are not the most aerodynamically robust insects—that’s why they have their preferred hunting schedule and range, habitats and haunts themselves, and having a small oscillating fan blowing a breeze seems to knock them off course fairly tidily.


Amusing Planet has a touching and gentle appreciation of Survivor Trees from all corners of the globe that bore witness all sort of human catastrophe and crime, but withstood the wreckage brought to its boughs and remained standing as a memorial. One of the more poignant profiles is that of the Miracle Pine that somehow made it through the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011 when everything else was washed away. This lone sentinel sadly too succumbed to the aftermath of the massive flood, poisoned slowly over the following months by salt water. An artificial tribute was put in its place and a high lookout tower surrounds it.

bandwidth and broomsticks

This latest item from the always brilliant BLDGBlog about the US Department of Defense exploring the “controlled enhancement” of the ionosphere by deploying fleets of tiny satellites high into the sky that would effectively self-destruct in bursts of plasma to create a temporary conduit for the propagation of radio waves made me immediately think of Project West-Ford—in that very special episode, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, under warrant of the government, seeded the upper atmosphere with hundreds of thousands of microscopic needles as a contingency measure in case the trans-Atlantic cables were cut.
The earlier project didn’t go over so well (it is cheeky to seek forgiveness rather than ask for permission), and with satellite com- munication having advanced so far, I had to wonder if this avenue was still a potentially profitable one. I suppose that greater accuracy in targeting signals and reducing some of the deteriorating effects of radio turbulence might prove useful and tending to essential in controlling larger fleets of aerial and autonomous drones. Moreover, relayed aloft by plasmatic mirrors, the curvature of the Earth would, in theory, no longer be a limiting factor in terms of range. What do you think? Be sure to check out the whole article for more synthesis and speculation. I also wondered if such a stratospheric infrastructure already being put into place might not also be used to reflect away some of the Sun’s radiation and combat global warming.