Wednesday, 30 November 2016

geodesy or tectonic fictions

The always brilliant and imaginative BLDGBlog has a feature about Danish geomancers that are getting close to unveiling an “atlas of the underworld,” won through ground x-rays and computerised tomography—that is, CT scanning.
While it’s amazing enough to be able to peer into the depths of what lies beneath (and I thought it would take the whole array of gravitational wave detectors on opposite ends of the globe to bring into any sort of focus what’s under the crust), these early images also narrate an inferred history of continental drift and whole islands, oceans and mountain ranges that are now lost to us ephemeral beings. Realising how short of a time our present map of the world has existed in its recognisable form is really humbling and it makes one wonder what other artefacts—not just fossils or treasure—might have been buried and forgot.


Since seeing that raw tweet put out by one major news organisation—since amended—announcing the death of Fidel Castro with the parenthetical instructions to update the number of US presidents he’s survived if George HW Bush were to perish first, I’ve been thinking about how the media keeps its reckoning for the dead in a very much animated manner, updated continuously for all persons of note. Sadly, this year has seen quite enough in those columns. Kottke takes a look at how another bulwark of journalism has been morbidly drafting and then revising Castro’s obituary for nearly six decades on a set recurring basis as well as every time intrigue or rumours began circulating—the Cuban leader having outlived not only several successive regimes but even print journalism, various formats of media storage and some of the industry’s other institutions.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

free-ride, freifahrt

In the city of Dรผsseldorf (:D), there is an application that allows mass-transit goers to generate bus and tram fare in exchange for a few moments of inattentiveness and letting a few advertisements play on one’s mobile device. Because of few paying sponsors so far, the new service is finite and can only issue a certain number of free ticket per day and has proven wildly popular but that ought to change as more become involved. What do you think? If fare could be redeemed as cash, passengers could technically earn over one hundred euro an hour, but surely the demographics gleaned is even more valuable to marketers and more effective—despite the potential for ignoring them—than traditional billboards and posters.


how about a nice game of chess: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s platform for discussion on the way machines handle moral dilemmas

dantooine: Rogue One to digitally resurrect Peter Cushing to reprise his role as Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin

flippy mcflipface: from Amusing Planet’s archives, a US naval research ship that can flip from a horizontal to vertical orientation

take this job and shove it: what if we’re deluding ourselves by praising the discipline and structure that work supposedly furnishes?

senior superlatives: humourous high school year book quotations and tag-lines from 1911

champagne wishes and caviar dreams: an essay by Dave Pell examining how celebrity distorts the institutions of justice and democracy, via Kottke

treble clef: clever, colourful tableaux illustrated on vintage sheet music from Russia duo People Too


The always fabulous Everlasting Blรถrt introduces us to a classic automobile that’s an absolute Art Deco icon (though considered too pricey at $10,000 and ugly at the time with another beetle more favoured) with the Stout Scarab from 1934, which most credit as the first mass-produced minivan and a later model was the first with modern suspension and a fibreglass chassis. Engineer and contemporary of Buckminster Fuller William Bushnell Stout built his pioneering vehicles—which included a prototype flying car, in Detroit and his line was eventually absorbed by the Ford Motor Company. The source blog, Just a Car Guy, is certainly worth a gander and there’s also a video of a Scarab in operation at the link up top.

Monday, 28 November 2016

the art of the deal or fool me twice, we don’t get fooled again

Via the always brilliant Boing Boing, we are directed (despite the redirections and distractions, “You can call us Aaron Burr from the way we’re dropping Hamiltons) to the New York Times’ massive expose on the president-elect’s outside business interests and potential for conflict of interest. Whilst there’s no law banning a sitting president from having commercial investments and like the expected nicety of disclosing one’s tax returns, it is strongly suggested—per the reasonable person clause, but there’s no teeth to it.
Scholars cite the emolument clause, which was inserted into their constitution to prevent future British monarchs from becoming too cozy with the president, and could be interpreted, abstractly as billeting foreign heads of state at his own hotels rather than the rink-a-dink White House. More than just disdain for tradition and perception (also begging what sort of legal precedence and ruling could be construed in this environment) one needs to ask when leader negotiate with the US president, whom are they addressing: the politician with the American public’s welfare at the fore, or a business man looking after the continued prosperity of private ventures. The reporters believes that this conflict has already been demonstrably challenged by the president-elect’s accord with the government of Agrabah Turkey over its purge following a staged-coup attempt that saved his resorts on Bosporus Riviera and persuaded people to overlook all that talk about banning Muslims—or previously with golf courses in Scotland and Ireland. Of course corruption and graft have always accompanied politics and arguably full-disclosure and transparency in the vein of a media-magnate like Silvio Berlusconi might be preferable to those whose connections are behind the scenes. What do you think? It’s not as if from one day to the next the president-elect’s empire came into being, but to protect those properties, the stakes for the wheeling and dealing just got exponentially higher, trillions to investment valued in the tens of millions and untold fringe benefits for foregoing a salary of a couple hundred thousand dollars per annum.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

far, far away

Properly that little world of one’s own, the Universe of any given fantastic saga is called a paracosm. Though first minted during a study into imaginary friends that some adults felt were lingering too long into the socially formative years when school began conducted in the mid-1970s, the word has since come to embrace all connotations—the spectrum from shy and retreating to those with the gift for engineering civilisations apart that are at the same time archetypal and immensely creative.


miracle on thirty-sixth street: the tangled story of the popularisation of Christmas lights by a Thomas Edison hanger-on, via Strange Company

ground level ozone: following Rotterdam, Beijing has installed an air-pollution scrubbing tower that is improving atmospheric quality and reducing smog, via Nag on the Lake 
gentlemen only, ladies forbidden: for a taste of what a Trump administration might mean for America, one should look to his golf resort in Scotland, via Boing Boing

biomediated structures: Martian rover Spirit has stumbled across a landscape that looks a lot like terrestrial hot springs and may be a sign of ancient life

facepalm: an illustrated 1644 treatise aims to codify the universal language of hand gestures

eat an apple every day then see the doctor anyway: an appreciation of the art of the fruit sticker plus a calendar for this ephemera that might encourage healthier eating habits

Saturday, 26 November 2016

colour by number

Far more than just previsioning the popularity and therapeutic nature of the colouring book for grown-ups, British illustrator Walter Crane was one of the most prolific and influential of his generation and really embodies the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Crane’s contributions were numerous and across many different formats, but Crane found himself increasingly isolated and was blacklisted for his Socialist leanings, his work appearing in many anarchist and social justice publications and scandalised himself by defending his American cousins who incited the riots that lead to the Haymarket Massacre. Unable to curb his compulsion to draw and create—with or without a public outlet, Crane turned to children’s literature, including this 1889 Painting Book of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Although denied a proper voice among his contemporaries, Crane inserted his thoughts on design and composition and what the รฆsthetic of the age ought to be within the details of his complex and allegorical illustrations.


Ahead of next year’s national elections in both France and Germany and just days after accepting Obama’s tacit challenge to the Chancellor to keep on rocking in the Free World and announcing her intent to run for a fourth term, the administration of Angela Merkel is crafting plans to make the acoustics better in the echo chamber of phoney news and scare-mongering.
Of course we can’t really alleviate the situation until or unless we can see ourselves individually as at fault as much all those anonymous demographic, test-audience pastiches of useful idiots or that muckraking and yellow-journalism (I tend bundle all these terms together and toss in carpet-baggers and robber-barons as well) have always been around—just with a higher bar to hurdle to curry interest beyond small groups—and it’s our responsibility to use the same platform to defuse or at least navigate the minefield of exaggeration and slander. One legislative reform—which might be long in coming or a dangerous dismantling of freedom of speech—the German government is open to would be regulating social media in the same way as it does the press, making forums responsible for the veracity of the material that they host. What do you think about that? Social media platforms are our course private entities whose most uncensored model has mostly been profitable for them up until more and not the guarantors of freedom of expression. In as such, they have not been charged with the same degree of integrity and responsibility as traditional journalism. What does independence from government interference mean when an organisation does not need to look after its own repute? Does it become an arm of the state media then and something with an off-switch? If the campaign strategists behind this populist furore in the US are already plotting their succession plans for European elections, perhaps a judicious nudge for democratic principles is in order.


Over pledges to endorse the return of capital punishment within its borders and fully drain the swamp after staged coup attempt of the summer, Turkey is vocally protesting EU misgivings about the prospect of every joining the economic bloc over its poor human rights record and the way things are tending that run counter to the principles that Brussels tries to uphold—threatening to throw open its frontiers and no longer impede transit of refugees on to EU territories.
The Turkish government, furthermore, is not pleased with the slow manner in which the EU is disbursing the three billion euro aid package agreed upon in exchange for Turkey’s care-taking and triaging of the refugees. Detecting the potential for corruption, the EU has been judicious in remitting these alimony payments, issuing them in small instalments and directly funding projects rather than paying Turkey to manage it. As uncivil and incredulous as this is and people are being used as pawns in the purge and in the surge, it was as precocious to believe that Turkey would live up to its end of the bargain as it was for Turkey to believe that it could ever really ingratiate itself and be given membership. “Throwing open the floodgates” sounds ominous but I don’t think that Turkey was doing a very good job controlling its borders in the first place—and probably more walls will follow in response. Perhaps with everything else going on in the world, those B-List whingers and their demands, fulminations will be dismissed as merely obnoxious and not to be engaged with diplomacy or plied with politics.

Friday, 25 November 2016

turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay

Reeling collectively still with the news of the untimely but recent natural death of Courage—the first turkey that was graciously pardoned by President Barack Obama in a strange ceremony that annually reasserts the dominance of humans over overfed domesticated fowl, we learn, via a historical newspaper clipping spotted by Weird Universe that the tradition of clemency (and I’d like to see a turkey that could commit capital crimes) is a fairly recent one.
Until the administration Ronald Reagan, turkeys presented to the White House were in general not allowed to retire to greener pastures and were dealt their death knell at the hand of the president. I had believed it was at least as storied and established as some of the other strange folk-practises that the US has cultivated—seemingly for lack of the mythos of other, older nations, like having a groundhog forecast the weather or Columbus Day. On the occasion of Eisenhower’s gala feast, as the article states, an animal psychologist urged him to subject the sacrificial birds to hypnotism in order that they be killed more humanely and so they’d taste better, having not been seized with a rush of adrenaline before going in the oven. With the long life of Tater and Tot secured just yesterday, Obama has set free his last turkey and I wonder if going forward, whoever goes afoul of the court won’t be able to count on its mercy.


The legendary Icelandic band Sigur Rรณs will be remixing one of their most popular songs (which in its original version accompanied the 2006 launch of the first Planet Earth series hosted by Sir David Attenborough) for the next iteration.
Very particular about commercial ventures, the band was however all too pleased to rework one of its signature tunes for the sake of environmental awareness and showcasing some of the spectacular creatures that our presence is imperilling. See teasers for the latest instalment and listen to the song at the Grapevine above and if you’ve not yet seen it, check out this amazing, nail-biting iguana vs snakes chase-scene from the pilot episode of Planet Earth II here.

old glory or oconus

Via Hyperallergic, we’re treated to a gallery of submissions for the radical redesign of the US flag in 1958 in order to accommodate and highlight the incorporation of Hawaii and Alaska as the forty-ninth and fiftieth states as by President Dwight Eisenhower, perhaps as a symbolic end to America’s imperial aspirations—having gone from sea to shining sea and then some.

More than three-thousand entries, some variations on the same theme and others highly abstract, hopeful, patriotic and provocative, came in at the time and though the bulk has gone unseen since examined, considered and dismissed by the jurors, all the designs have been conserved in the archives of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas. A new coffee-table book has collected some of the best of them for your consideration.  Check out the link up top for more information and alternate flags.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

source code

In deference to aspiring human writers and accomplished robotic ones and since if you’ve procrastinated until now, there isn’t enough time left in National Novel Writing Month to crank out your ล“uvre, take a look at this parallel call for submissions that calls for awareness on the subject and nature of sentience and autonomy with National Novel Generation Month.
While apparently not self-aware and just following the protocols of their programmers, the output of this observance is at once both sublime and surreal works of literature—the generative code that participants write as throughput is really something apart, a hybrid that we maybe don’t have it yet in our philosophical quivers to address. Check out the link above to learn more about the project and a curation of a few select entries that demonstrate the profundity and creativity that we’ve managed to tease from ourselves and instantly, inexhaustibly commission a story into existence.

dongle or airdrop

I knew that the close-proximity wireless data transfer was the namesake of Viking ruler Harald Bluetooth and even bore his runic initials in the medium’s symbol, but I ought not have just been pleased and satisfied with that bit of trivia and not wondered why.
The person of Bluetooth, to whom that moniker was given for his fondness of blueberries, was interestingly the second king of a uniting Denmark and Norway and father of the first canonical Danish king of England, Sven Forkbeard. An engineer at the Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson who was working in 1997 on a way to synchronise devices, mobile phones with computers at the time, at close range was reading a history of Scandinavia at the time and choose “Bluetooth” as the working title for their project—in collaboration with Finnish Nokia. Once the technology had been worked out and they were ready to unveil this new feature, on the advice of marketers they nearly named the ad-hoc networking feature Flirt—close but not touching, but harking back to the original implication behind the name—for the king who brought together diverse tribes into a single united kingdom (and made them all into Christians as well), they wisely and artfully decided to stick with Bluetooth in the end.


utopia planitia: Mars’ plains of paradise host a frozen lake rivalling Lake Superior, via TYWKIWDBI

let’s go out to the lobby: imagining C-SPAN’s Golden Elevator-cam coverage

the star rover: astral projections with Jack London’s final and uniquely philosophic science-fiction novel

airstrip one: vast expansion of UK domestic surveillance powers were rather overshadowed by Brexit and cadet events

the pearlies: the London subculture for charitable works and social justice with impeccable fashion-sense

rassilon imprimatur: celebrate the fifty-third anniversary of Doctor Who by watching all the reincarnations

good old puritan custom: leading lifestyle maven of the 1850s Sarah Josepha Hale’s petition to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, realised as a time for healing and reconciliation during the US Civil War 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

gobble, gobble

We here at PfRC wish you and yours a peaceful and bountiful Thanksgiving. Thanks as always for stopping by.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

the great dictator

As if we aren’t already living in times fraught with chilling and terrifying things, Paleofuture—with a bit of digging—uncovers the reductio ad Hitlerum and finds that the pledge to make Germany great again was indeed uttered sometime prior to the year 1934 by the chief mover and shaker of the moment.
The farewell tour of the incumbent included Obama passing the mantle of protector of the free-world to his counter-part in the person of the chancellor.  Without drawing parallels as nationalist movements tend to resolve the fact that despots are elevated to power not because but rather despite of (or excused for) their less digestible views, quite enough scary things are being proffered in the here and now, threatening to erode the precious progress that American and the world has made for peaceable and responsible co-habitation.

roger ramjet

Though a healthy dose of skepticism lingers, NASA’s propulsion labs are concluding their experimental electromagnetic drive will work—efficiently transporting payloads to the Martian surface in a little over three months instead of a year—despite the small matter of the impulse engine’s apparent violation of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, the classical mechanics assertion that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction.
The demonstration that the engine does work came easier than the compelling reasons it ought not work for going against thermo- dynamics. Like how Quantum Mechanics explained observed anomalies without invoking deus ex machina needed for the Classical model by destroying the Planet Vulcan or the baffling kaon that watching a nuclear pot hinders its boiling, hypothetical pilot-waves may offer an solution, a strange one. The theory suggests that particles have precise space-time coordinates at all times, regardless of whether they’re observed or measured (against the accepted view that they do not) and may mean that in the vacuum of space, nothing is needed to push back.

butlerian jihad

Though there’s no definitive word yet on what form the property may take, it’s pretty exciting to learn that the creative team behind the likes of Pacific Rim (that Kaiju movie with the Voltron battle bots that I could watch over and over again and can’t quite point to what it’s got) has acquired the rights to Frank Herbert’s science-fiction classic Dune.  While I think the entertainment world is drowning in remakes and nostalgia (though it’s obviously appreciated and deserved over originality) and the David Lynch version is simply timeless, I’d be hard pressed to find another work deserving of a revival.
We could have a new film franchise, a Home Box Office-style television series with source material that could run for decades (sometimes I think that binge-watching might be trending in that direction—to occupy whole segments of one’s life) or something else entirely. Reminiscencing and wonder have sparked a lot of speculation what this announcement might mean, but largely absent is the underlining theme of the Dune Universe: the dangers of a cybernetic revolt and the commandment, “thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”

toner and fuser

There’s a brilliant cross-over essay from Tedium on Atlas Obscura that explores the invention of the Xerox machine—the 914 model debuting in 1959 and quickly becoming the most successful commercial product in history, its precedents and antecedents and the influences the new printing press had on the art and literature scene with collage, cut-ups, newsletters and the zine.
I especially enjoyed the fact that patent-attorney Chester Carlson’s inventive genius responsible for xerography (he was arthritic and hated queuing up to make copies of documents and knew that there must be a faster, better way) was a rather unique triangulation of processes that no one had associated prior and the appreciation of the copying techniques that came before—I remember ditto machine duplicates with their purple tint—and being reminded that some of those methods involved destroying the original to make copies.

Monday, 21 November 2016

a scanner darkly

The colour background that one sees when one closes one’s eyes is called Eigengrau (German for intrinsically gray) and is brighter than what we perceive as the blackest black because there’s no contrast behind our eyelids.
The term was coined by experimental psychologist Gustav Theodor Fechner in the 1860s while working at the University of Leipzig whilst studying the relationship between sensation and perception, famously recognising that not everyone will see the same colours as demonstrated by contemporary and toy-maker Charles Benham with his top. Just as the Eigengrau that people report is hard to measure and is subjective, the subtle arcs of colour (called Fechner colours or flicker colours) are not the same for every observer—and no one can quite say why. The flashing image might make some people dizzy, so click here to view it. What colour are the tracers that you see? Is it the same for this one too?


Via Colossal, we are treated to the serendipitous sketches of Belgian film-maker and illustrator Vincent Bal who has transformed the shadows cast by various objects resting in the sun into creative, artistic Rorschach ink-blot interpretations. We really ought to banish harsh, shadow-dispelling overhead lights in the work-place if a stray item could inspire like this.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

wag the dog

Though there’s already been no shortage of controversy and upset in this presidential campaign and subsequent regime-building—and I hope the world’s karmic balance won’t be tabulated against all the tin-pot dictatorships that US and partners have propped up over the years, government offices and government-controlled industries entrusted to family members—the choice of chief strategist, administration’s mouthpiece and sophist is facing the probably the single greatest amount of scrutiny and derision—that is, aside from the choice of president itself.
Pre- post-truth and foremost, Steven Bannon’s message crafting is what cost the opposition victory, although the conservation is forward-focussed—incredulously—and concerns what his continued presence and counsel might mean. With a career that began as a naval officer, then post-graduate studies at Harvard and a stint as an investment banker, independently wealthy through royalties off a popular television series (one that would needs be heavily bracketed) before taking up the golden-ring of yellow-journalism with the mission of giving an under-represented but not necessarily disenfranchised demographic a perspective. What do you think? If this assessment is true and advisors are capable of channelling rants and raves, Bannon sounds more trumpian than Trump.

pam 21-41

Covering the entire gamut of good manners and etiquette becoming to both an officer and a gentleman, in 1949 the US Army issued a fantastically illustrated Personal Code of Conduct publication for soldiers, not just acclimating those who found themselves newly stationed in strange and exotic locations but also a day to day guide for common courtesies like tact, self-control, respect for women and being ambassadors of good will. I agree that we especially need this sort of civics manual to fall back on in these times.


Billed to fans as indeed the exhibition that they are looking for, London’s O2 arena is host to a show called Star Wars Identities, the Londonist informs, that features costumes, models and props from the saga as well as extensive biographies and profiles of the different life forms that populate that Universe. There’s even a sciency aspect to the exhibition in collaboration with neurologists, sociologists and exo-biologists to reach an understanding about the cultural cachet of the franchise and find your Star Wars spirit animal—figuratively and not literally a Womp Rat or Nerf-herder.

he asked for a thirteen but they drew a thirty-one

Whether ironically, nostalgically or embarrassingly just catching up, the jury of teens and tweens that pick the German Youth Word of the Year chose Fly sein.
To be fly, that is—as in the Offspring song Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) from 1998. In all fairness, they had other contenders which included Hopfensmoothie (for a beer and one has to be sixteen to drink after all) and Tindergarten but they didn’t want to be seen as endorsing vice and it’s possible with the recent GEMA concessions, a whole new young generation was just now introduced to that year in music.


On this day back in 1985, the Microsoft corporation introduced the graphical interface, DOS-overlay known as Windows 1.0 in order to complete with the popular Macintosh released a year prior—think of that seminal Big Brother, Nineteen Eighty-Four advertisement whose revolt promised to free us from the tyranny of the PC.
I wonder when cultural the geneology of version n-point-o of something became idiomatic. Back then the battle for dominance between Microsoft and Apple struck me as something not very much different than the Cola Wars—one has to wonder if innovation comes because or despite the branding, and it doesn’t strike me as very much different nowadays, excepting who’s Tab and who’s Royal Crown may have flipped.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

ford v carter

The other day I came across this logo for US election night 1976, and was surprised by how contemporary the design seemed. On closer investigation, however, this convention developed by television anchor-men at the time was not the standard adopted by broadcasters universally and was in fact the opposite to the colour-coding in use today.
Until the 1980s, following the European system with red being associated with Communism and the left-leaning politics, the relatively and presently liberal Democratic Party was symbolised with that colour—though not by all media, and the Grand Old Party was represented by blue—harking back, according to some sources, to the blue uniforms of Unionist soldiers during the American Civil War. The colour schemes remained relatively mixed—with some outlets assigning one colour to the incumbent party and the other to the challenger, without respect for affiliation—until the contested outcome of the 2000 that took weeks to resolve and to less than a majority’s satisfaction between Al Gore and George W Bush. When the interpretation of the prevailing votes mattered not only state by state but county by county and precinct by precinct, all networks had to get it right (too much was at stake) and so adopted the same protocols for reporting and calling. The convention of Red States and Blue States for the media has held since.

inherit the wind or john henry was a steel-driving man

Though polls placing the United States between Latvia and Turkey when it came to tolerance for the concept of evolution and natural selection—simple scientific curiosity with or without decrying that it’s only a theory, were sampled well before the farce of democracy that was the US election, I am sure that the vice-president elect inserting his sanctimonious nose into the halls of academia and reaffirming his beliefs (unbidden by the scientific community) only goes to reinforce the incuriousness of his constituency, secure in having their foundations unrattled.
This does not bode well for the state of American education, nor for those institutions that drive progress, no matter how support might be spun to curry favour with certain parts of the industry. One’s rose-tinted convictions have little to do with mastery of the extant, rentier economy—that of branding, trademarks and profits gleaned off the friction of moving assets around, and these models are easily given over to machines that would indubitably conspire to out-perform humans. I wonder how it feels to encourage and reach out to those with the world view that is in danger of becoming redundant. I’m wagering that when manufacturing returns to America, it won’t be with the attendant jobs as expected but rather with more automation. Artificial intelligence will surely be innovative as well in ways we cannot imagine or possibly understand (and robots are not surrogates for gods and angels) but I do not think we could factor in at all unless scientifically literate.  Not only might business-driven science be more reckless with trying the untested, public health and environmental degradation globally will pass the tipping point and become unsalvageable as we’ve known it. It’s going to be a long, painful regime, with the swapping of titles, ร  la russe to skirt or trounce term limits. Even though entering his fifth term Trump will be in his nineties, he be as spry as ever, having regenerated and taken a donor body.


Amsterdam can proudly boast the world’s first hangover recovery bar—that requires patrons fail a breathalyser test to get inside, as Dangerous Minds informs.
Once granted entry, to separate those nursing a bad night out from those who’d simply like a bit of quiet pampering—though I can’t imagine that they are that strict and one has to make an absolute wreck of themselves to go inside, patrons are triaged and put into comfy beds—the whole arrangement conceived by an enterprising mattress salesman, to rehydrate and sleep it off and later enjoy some traditional and proven remedies—including an oxygen bar. I am glad that we didn’t require such services during our recent visit—although it would have been nice to be brought a nice, late breakfast in bed.

Friday, 18 November 2016


Honoured with the James Dyson Award for innovative design, Isis Shiffer’s EcoHelmet is a fully recyclable, collapsing bicycle helmet made of paper that folds flat for easy transport. An elegant solution to an obvious problem, these helmets are cheap to produce so riders wouldn’t be put off in donning one (especially for urban bike-sharing schemes or ad-hoc, unexpected jaunts) but durable and robust enough to provide real protection.  Be sure to visit the link up top to find out more about Shiffer’s design and review other Dyson Award laureates from years past.

archival quality

While there’s certainly something worthy in the slower (see how impatient we’ve become even though we’re on the cusps of a virtual utopia by any standards of the past) methods of conservation and reinvigorating pre-digital albums of photographs, this new application that allows one scan old pictures effortlessly seems pretty revolutionary. One is not taking a picture of a picture precisely but rather an enhanced image scan that finds the edges automatically and corrects for distortion and blur. I detect a weekend project that we’ve been meaning to get to for some time.


The uncanny visual acuity of our friend the Mantis Shrimp (who’ve been blessed with a whole range of super powers including battle claws whose joust can create a sonic boom) could teach scientists how to make more advanced polarised lenses that could discriminate between the signatures of diseased and healthy tissue. Their compound eyes, described as hexnocular, allow the shrimp to communicate and flirt at a spectrum that no other creatures are privy to are inspiring engineers to replicate the optics which may lead to remarkable early detection of cancer and dementia, able to study what goes on in organs and neurons just with a superficial glance.

helen van patterson patton

From Nellie Oleson of Little House on the Prairie fame to Peanuts’ Lucy van Pelt, Rebecca Jennings (via Kottke) presents an interesting examination and appreciation in defense of the oft maligned and neglected “Little Fancy Bitch ร†sthetic.”
Usually inserted as foils to highlight how good and noble the protagonist is in comparison—without necessarily being a true villain and antagonising the main character—and never as a character to emulate. But there’s certainly more going on than just this surface prissiness or manipulative scheming and one has to wonder how it feels, beyond the fourth wall, to have been created and introduced as a plot device of deflected glory, like a sidekick that embodies the author’s repressed frilliness that’s really anything but frivolous. Can you name any more Little Fancy Bitch role-models?

time and tide

Via Colossal, we are treated to wonderful, modern and almost brutalist at times sandcastles of sculptor Calvin Seibert. Spending part of the summer beachcombing at Rockaway in New York, Seibert reflected on the nature of his temporary edifices and how their construction is a race against time that defies advanced planning and develops rather organically. Explore more of Seibert’s amazing geometric sculptures at the link above.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

google doodle or quick draw mcgraw

We learn of another novel mentorship opportunity of machine-learning that we can all interact with the form of the experiment called Quick Draw from the search engine’s labs—thanks to the Presurfer. It’s a challenging few rounds of play with assignments that aren’t quite the easiest concepts to limn with a mouse but you should really give it a try—with the Control Voice shouting out guesses as you sketch like celebrity contestants on that television game show Win, Lose or Draw.
It always strikes me as a little strange to consider how—when engaging in this sort of crowd-sourced science, that we might be ultimately outwitting ourselves, but then again, one wouldn’t withhold wisdom from a fellow human. It’s quite a dilemma that were stumbling into. Relatedly, I noticed recently that the image search of Google has become a bit more literate of late: often I use it to search PfRC for pictures I can vaguely recall but have no idea what I saved them under and found if I typed in a colour—even if that had nothing to do with the filename but remembered that the background was purple, the query would yield what I was looking for. Also, I noticed without nudging that on my mobile device I could set not a temporal but rather a spatial reminder—like a shopping list that would go off when one’s in the supermarket. I wonder if those features, those talents came about all without the intervention of programmers and were the fruits of artificial intelligence. When that does happen, would we even realise it?


no bueno: a look at the evolution of the logo of a Tex-Mex-ish fast food chain via Super Punch

pleasure capsule: the pimped out Panthermobile, from the creator of KITT and the Bat Mobile, is finally street-legal—via Nag on the Lake

omoshirogara: the private propaganda kimonos en vogue from 1900 to 1945

ur-fascism: an examination of the key features of totalitarianism

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


If you’re gullible enough to believe the so-called experts in their Ivory Towers, Oxford dictionaries has pronounced “post-truth” as the international word of the year. 

The formal definition for the adjective that beat out the terms alt-right, Brexiteer, and hygge and the polar opposite of last year’s honouring of an emoji reads “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Though seemingly born of the moment, post-truth has been in parlance since 1992 essay addressing the Iran-Contra Affair and the first Gulf War.

dead letter office or dashing off to the post

Listening to an editor bemoaning the lost art of correspondence whilst trying to turn his readership’s interest to the epistolary novel—or rather the collected letters of a particular personality, I agreed that there’d be little merit in or love for a compendium of tweets or the bulk of emails—although there’s plenty of room for sentiment and composure there that I imagine has as much to do with legacy as the fact that one’s retrospective isn’t immediately served up with each engagement.
I did, however, find myself contending the assertion that the letter is wholly unassailable. Not because there are notable exceptions in our untaxing communications landscape since it’s always a personal choice whether or not to devote more or less energy in sharing a story, but rather due to another format for whom the rumours of death are at least slightly premature strikes me as proof that the art form is not yet moribund, and I’m given to wonder if the lowly blog isn’t somehow the successor to sending out missives. Not quite journalism and not quite a diary, maybe this hybrid, a bit abused and sometimes the subject of ridicule for being outmoded and without the audience shares of other social media, is letter writing transmogrified. The updates and outreach of that the retired format is of course not the exclusive reserve of blogging but I think that maybe the notion behind crafting something—hopefully thoughtful and worthwhile for both author and audience—well compliments the deferred satisfaction of reaching across time in penning a letter, even one that goes undelivered.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

don’t know much geology, don’t know much psychology

In Chichibu Japan there is a lovingly curated collection of stones that resemble faces—and not just your usual run-of-the-mill pareidolia either but specific celebrities—amassed over a half a century.
I know that the forces that shape evolution and stuff that looks like things is very different and human agency is limited—though bias is magnified—in both, but taking a brief tour of this museum made me think of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and his particularly convincing though gentle as one arrives at the conclusion all on one’s own of the fishermen and the samurai crabs of the Heike clan. Haunted by superstition and ancient lore, people were compelled to toss back any of their catch whose shell resembled a human face and over the centuries, human intervention helped select for this trait. What do you think? It’s interesting how we will automatically prise out patterns.

first we take manhattan, then we take berlin

The Local’s Spanish edition has a nice tribute for Leonard Cohen that explores the extent to which Spanish poetry and music influenced his own.
Radical futurist poet and playwright (Salvador Dalรญ was his set designer) Federico Garcรญa Lorca who was executed for sedition at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War lends Cohen’s daughter her given name and made a strong, lasting impression on the artist. Seminal so too was Cohen’s fated encounter with a flamenco guitarist in Montreal who taught him a few chords and awakened something inside. Be sure to visit the link above for more of the story and see Cohen honoured with the prestigious Prince Asturias Award for literature in 2011.

sic transit gloria mundi

Avid photographer and friendly neighbourhood paramedic Chris Porsz of Cambridge- shire sampled much of the local colour nearly four decades hence and framed a sizable collection of stunningly candid images of the people he’d encounter. Amazingly, in these last few years, Porsz has started tracking down his subjects from way back then and convinced them to pose one more time for a new anthology that bridges the intervening decades called “Reunions.”


Via the Awesomer, we learn about this delightfully, rollie-pollie pedestrian bridge installed in Paddington back in 2004. Distinct from a draw-bridge, the design is called a rolling one technically though it looks more like curling. The perhaps unnecessary but wonderful articulation makes me think of the Paternostra elevators I’ve yet to ride in. The footbridge was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, who is also working to realise the “garden bridge” to brook the Thames.

Monday, 14 November 2016

wewelsburg oder brennpunkt

I still find myself reeling with the same feeling of creeping disbelief that I first encountered not so long ago in finding that the exploits and the ambitions of the followers of the Nazi party in regards to the esoteric (as portrayed in the Indiana Jones franchise) was not wholly a Hollywood conceit and much of the occult practises to this day rather defy popular portrayal.
On our way back from a trip to Amsterdam (more on this experience to come), H and I stopped at the enigmatic castle of Wewelsburg by Paderborn in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The uniquely triangular Renaissance structure was leased in perpetuity after 1933 by Schutzstaffel—abbreviated with the stylised runes SS—leader Heinrich Himmler as a school-house for cadets but was soon convinced by mystic Karl Maria Wiligut who conflated an otherwise ordinary piece of real estate due to its proximity to the Battle of the Teutoburger Wald to declare and expand this site as the centre of the world, specifically radiating from the norther tower, reconstructed with forced labour from a dedicated concentration camp as a crypt below and meeting hall above for the upper echelons of instructors and mentors.  Neither chamber was used to purpose.
Although no records exist that speak to the exact plans and use and proctors ordered the castle’s demolition at the end of the war, the tower for the most part remained intact (due to the reinforcement during reconstruction), the inlaid of dark green marble that represents black sun, the wheel of the sun—a triad of swastikas that form the months of the year and which may or may not have historical provenance beyond the Nazis.
The power of the symbol was defused by a collection of bean-bags and reading material that told of the more distant architectural history of Wewelsburg, and this is perhaps as it should be, though the fount of inspiration and mystery beyond romance is disdained completely at the peril of future generations, whom can be hosteled here too.