Sunday, 30 April 2017

bio-beton

Researchers at the Delft University of Technology are engineering a rather brilliant form of self-repairing structural concrete by mixing spores of calcifying (limestone-producing) bacteria into cement paste. Once cracks occur, the oxygen wakens the bacteria and triggers the healing process and after a few weeks the rift is again sealed.
In addition to vastly reducing the cost, the bacteria also leech carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process.

Forscher von der Delfter Universität der Technologie arbeiten eine ziemlich brillante Form von selbstreparierendem Beton. Sporen von verkalkenden (kalksteinbildenden) Bakterien werden in eine Zementpaste gemischt. Wenn Risse auftreten, wacht der Sauerstoff die Bakterien auf und löst den Heilungsprozess aus und nach einigen Wochen wird der Riss wieder versiegelt. Neben der erheblichen Reduzierung der Kosten, nehmen auch die Bakterien auch Kohlendioxid aus der Atmosphäre.

lido deck

In what seems like a scene from an increasingly more daunting and improbable action, demolition movie, as Super Punch informs, luxury automotive manufacturer Ferrari and a Norwegian cruise-line are teaming up to furnish the Shanghai to Tianjin route with a leviathan of a boat which will have a double-decker race track on board, among other amenities. Would you like this sort of vacation experience?  That’s a far cry certainly from a nice and sedate round of shuffle-board.

i am locutus of borg—resistance is futile

Via Gizmodo’s io9, we learn that a committed Star Trek fan’s vehicle insurance policy has been revoked after receiving complaints that his personalised vanity plates “ASIMIL8” is offensive to aboriginal peoples—despite the fact that it is clearly a reference to the cybernetic, Borg collective being framed by the other Borg catch-phrases “We are the Borg” and “Resistance is Futile.”
At first it might seem that people are being too sensitive, trigger-happy but Canada and the area of Manitoba in particular where the driver (also suspiciously named “Troller”) lives is particularly fraught with a history of indigenous people being forced to give up their culture and way of life and assimilate to the ways of European settlers and could despite the owner’s intent be interpreted as a political dog-whistle.  Canada is also embracing immigration, and those not familiar with the franchise might also be getting mixed messages.  It is better, I think, to err on the side of no offense given nor taken.  What do you think? I certainly hope there’s no broader movement afoot to misappropriate the Borg as a symbol of intolerance—I am confident that the Star Trek community wouldn’t allow that.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

foley artists or lyre, lyre pants on fire

Via Marginal Revolution, with just a short voice sample a Canadian start-up company is claiming it can make one with advanced speech synthesising technology appear to say anything.
One could only imagine the nefarious applications quickly outpacing whatever prestige projects or continuity solutions that this service could deliver and thus contributing to the general disdain and distrust for journalism and the tabloidisation of the profession. Being able to quote a source just became a lot more questionable and fraught with doubt, but the potential drawbacks seem to wither compared to their benefits when one indulges in a performance of the eponymous lyrebird of Australia unparalleled mimicry, pitch-perfect for everything from individual human voices to the mechanical recoil of cameras advancing, makes it worthwhile.

arbitration, vendetta

Last week the Turkish diaspora residing in Germany rather incredulously appeared to vote against their self-interests by helping to garner a bald majority in favour of the referendum to imbue the office of the presidency with executive powers.
Ahead of the plebiscite, relations between the two countries strained to the breaking point when German municipalities refused to grant permission for campaign rallies due to concern for public safety. Now that the first resolution has passed an addendum is to follow but this time Germany as a federal republic (not just a venue for a political junket) and as a proponent for human rights would be legally able and morally obligated to block Turkish expatriates from participation in ballots that would involve the reinstatement of capital punishment on German soil—prohibiting set up of voting booths or embassy outreach programmes that would decide this issue that represents a very slippery slope once the recourse is brought back and antithetical to Germany and European Union membership.

worth 1000

Messy Nessy Chic interviews Leipzig transplant and surreal photographer Frank Herfort now capturing the ambiance of post-Soviet public spaces and shares the story behind some of the striking images. This picture gave me the impression of a deleted scene from Twin Peaks and the explanation—while not unsettling—is anything but mundane. Peruse a whole gallery of his works at the links above and discover more jarring juxtapositions that those part of the shot don’t seem to regard as unusually photophilic but are nonetheless content to be part of the composition.

chocolate cake

In a last minute mad dash to at least keep the lights on for a few more days, the US legislature passed what’s known as Continuing Resolution, a stop gap, kicking the can appropriations measure that keeps the American federal government funded for another week.  A few days from now, we’ll be witnessing the same histrionics, except afforded more time for debate that probably translates to neither side finding a point of compromise—and, ironically, the US government will close up shop for Cinco de Mayo over among other items, a border wall. Remember the Alamo—that was some beautiful chocolate cake.  Regardless of the outcome, we are only speaking of funding the government through the end of the fiscal year, 30 September, and after that the stakes get much higher.

Friday, 28 April 2017

nestling or radiological dispersal device

Through a FOIA filing, Paleofuture has obtained an orientation, promotional film that the US Department of Energy issued in 1976 to present ostensibly to Congress members in order to justify their budget item for a little programme called Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) but without revealing too much about their covert operations and techniques, which makes an ideal conversation piece for addressing the horrors and abject anxiety that the public is spared when it comes the daily duties of first responders.
Without peeking behind the arras periodically, one might think that the job of governing is a walk in the park. Run of the mill bomb-threats—in many cases hoaxes or attempts at extortion, suddenly in 1970s America became far more serious and fraught, with the menace of a dirty, nuclear-laced explosive being detonated in a crowded urban area. To this day NEST has maintained a low profile and the times it has been deployed to respond to a terrorist-threat involving nuclear materials have been under-reported and handled discreetly, sparing the public the burden of worry. Read more about the history of dirty bomb threats and watch the video at Paleofuture.

pishtaq, iwan

A Hong Kong based design team has constructed a coiling passageway of arches in Sharjah—one of the capital cities of the United Arab Emirates, that portrays the architectural development of the Islamic arch. Like the more familiar Doric, Ionic and Corinthian progression of the Greek column, the Islamic gateway went from the unadorned to the more elaborate over the ages: round, ogee, tented, parabolic, multifoil. Take a video tour with BLDGBlog at the link up top.

one million b.c.

Like forensics experts working on a case that went cold hundreds of thousands of years ago, archæologists are discovering that equipped with the next generation of genetic sequencers that there able to find bits of ancient hominid DNA when sifting through the sediment of practically any old cave.
No fossil evidence nor artefacts, though surely that’s pretty exciting to uncover, is required to trace how our direct ancestors and Neanderthal cousins spread across the continents and perhaps interacted. Surely this can be expanded to the whole of the plant and animal kingdoms, as well.  I wasn’t expecting that our machines were so finely calibrated to detect biochemical markers as so faint a trace, but this is sure to be revolutionary as palæontologists have already managed to extrapolate and reconstruct whole monstrous dinosaurs and more modest primogenitors of our kind out of just a fragment of a tooth or a little toe bone.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

up-cycle/down-cycle

A company called Miniwiz, as The Awesomer informs, has created a mobile, pop-up recycling facility that’s more than just a repository where garbage is sorted but one where waste is actually processed in situ. This first solar-powered station, expected to be deployed to tourist attractions to clean up afterwards but also as a demonstration of the Trashpresso’s potential, coverts plastic and textiles into architectural tiles and other building materials. I can imagine a whole host of other possible applications, digesting a construction site and regenerating it anew.

😱

The theory that Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream (Skrik) has its sky coloured by memories of the eruption of Krakatoa, which made the sunsets very dramatic in the whole of the Western Hemisphere for an entire year a decade prior to the work’s painting has been circulating since 2004 (the year it was stolen from an Oslo museum—to be recovered two years later. Now, however, geoscientists and meteorologists (it’s strange to think that the weather reporter is the only scientist that many of us see on regular basis) believe the swirling clouds may represent a recently classified but rarely occurring formation called a polar stratospheric or mother-of-pearl cloud, which become iridescent when the winter sun dips below the horizon.

29 dresses or the tele-screens have no off switch

On offer by invitation only, there’s an electronic eye for the wardrobe, changing stalls and locker rooms that will judge your clothes and sense of style, making recommended changes based on one’s existing catalogue of apparel and surely it could direct the individual receiving the dressing-down to a host of places for retail-therapy. It will also offer advice on which of two outfits might be a better fit for a certain occasion, based on algorithms and perhaps consulting with the panopticon of other web cameras to save us the embarrassment of showing up in the same dress as another.

poker-face or the zeroth law

Via Gizmodo, we learn that a pair of Swiss futurists, realising that technology is advancing to a point where it can essential read human minds by analysing tells and galvanic responses in the background—non-obtrusively but without our submission, have chartered four proposed inalienable rights to give us some safe-guards when it comes to reading and/or planting thoughts.
The neuroethicist and human rights lawyer suggest that we retain the rights to cognitive liberty (opting-out), mental privacy (consent required), mental integrity (mind-hacking or Inception-style inserting the germ of a thought), and psychological continuity (the right of individuals to refuse procedures and enhancements that might impact their personality or sense of self). What do you think? It may seem a little premature to being fretting over a legal framework to vouchsafe our inner thoughts—especially when we haven’t yet codified the rules of engagement for robots or genetic-tinkering—but we absolutely cannot afford further underlap in terms of privacy and volition for inevitable conflicts.

der kuss oder glasnost coast to coast

This kiss that has launched a thousand homages occurred during the fraternal encounter between Soviet statesman Leonid Brezhnev and DDR General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party Erich Honecker in October of 1979—celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the creation of East Germany with pledges of mutual support.


The graffiti version that features prominently on the Berlin Wall (My God, help me to survive this deadly love), however, came much later. Dmitri Vrubel completed his mural on this date in 1990 and has been conserved as a testament to the times since. The photographer who captured the kiss on film, a French free-lancer named Régis Bossu, and the artist Vruble met themselves in March of 2009 when the curators of the East Side Gallery invited back all the still living artists to repaint their works in more durable colours and undo thirty years of vandalism and weathering—and the updated attribution credits them both.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

wag the dog

Persuasive maps, as the always marvellous Nag on the Lake informs, is the term used for images such as the one pictured of the run up to the 1896 contested presidential election (William McKinley versus William Jennings Bryan that gets allegorical mention in the Wizard of Oz) meant as a vehicle for propaganda rather than impart geopolitical information.
We’ve encountered such illustrations beforehand but didn’t know that that particular genre had a name—and though it’s obvious that there is an implicit message, sometimes we’re so far removed from events that it’s hard to appreciate a caricature as anything other than silly or bigoted or mean-spirited—much less a dedicated collection and expanding digital archive to peruse at the Cornell University Library. Perhaps in context and well curated we will be able decipher these symbols better, and maybe we’ll do a better job recognising contemporary hoopla presented as skewed statistics and shock-infographics.

gischt

Designated as a Führerstadt along with Nürnberg, München, Hamburg and Berlin, the city of Linz had a formative connection to Adolf Hitler as his place of residence in his teen years and resolved to bestow the city with a gift in the form of a bronze by noted Nazi sculptor Wilhelm Wandschneider to adorn a rotunda in a park, pledging to make the city the cultural capital of the Reich.
Considering his patronage, most of Wandschneider’s works were melted down after the war—among the few exceptions being a 1913 commission for Saint Louis, Missouri called “The Naked Truth,” but this statue escaped that fate for sixty years until some art students realised the provenance and it was sequestered in a museum warehouse since 2008. Linz’ mayor has, not without controversy, decided to restore the bronze of Aphrodite (from the Greek word for sea foam, die Gischt)—with a detailed plaque explaining its history. What do you think? Especially against the backdrop of some places in America going in the opposite direction in taking down memorials to the confederate states, does this seem like historic sanitation or otherwise? The mayor defended her plan to put this uncomfortable heritage back on display to make an “active effort at remembrance.”

sınırı

Whilst arguably an improvement to the mine-field that formerly separated Turkey from Syria (an arrangement drawn up by our old ombudsmen friends Sykes and Picot from the vanquished Ottoman Empire), the world seemed to take far less exception with the wall now half completed that effectively cordons off the war-torn region than with Dear Leader’s imaginary one. Once the nine hundred kilometre long border is secure, the wall will be the world’s second longest structure, second only to the Great Wall of China. The circumstances are very different on each frontier but it’s strange how both dictators couch the threats from the barbarians at the gate with the same language and from the characterisations, one would think neighbours could be easily transposed.

6x6

novum organum: Æon ponders if scientific discovery could be automated as well

stay gold, ponyboy: the Vault marks the anniversary of the publication of The Outsiders, which is arguably the first in the YA genre

hoffbot: though not the first surreal film script written by an artificial intelligence, It’s No Game is the first machine-written piece to star David Hasselhoff

deface the nation: in case your daily digest of Dear Leader’s antics was wanting

money laundering: coin-washing tradition of a posh San Francisco hotel that dates back to the 1930s, and considering the micro-biomes in our pockets and purses, it was probably good for public health

captain dallas: bubble gum trading cards for the 1979 release of Alien

gazette

Via Kottke’s quick links we discover that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is launching an evidence-based journalism platform to combat the yellow press and fake-news. Advertisement-free and with original, reliable sources highlighted and not buried and de-contextualised references, Wikitribune aims to put reader and reporter on the same level. Given that the online community of encyclopædists is already proving itself more resistant to vandalism, rumour and fantasy than other outlets, we think that the new venture will succeed and thrive.

drainspotting

Unlike in most other places where the æsthetic of manhole covers tends towards purely utility and economy, in Japan it’s a matter of community engagement with some nineteen thousand designs reflective of local industry, culture and history. Visit the link up top for a tour of the Nagashima Imono casting factory where many of the manhole covers for Japanese municipalities are made.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

gläserne decke oder the apple of his eye

Number One Daughter unabashedly indulged her shared delusion of prominence and validity with her first foray as a good will ambassador, sharing a platform with imminently qualified world leaders at a G20 subcommittee meeting on women in leadership positions.
The presumption by that classless twit that she belongs at the adult-table was bad enough in itself, but she went on to defend her father’s advocacy for families and women, eliciting boos and hisses from the audience that had gathered to observe this panel. We don’t even know where to start and we can’t reconcile the fact that this is even worth the mention—Angela Merkel, noted physicist and chancellor, on the occasion of her second encounter with Dear Leader’s offspring was not available for comment.

would you like freedom-fries with that?

We appreciated this essay from Gizmodo correspondent Matt Novak on how the media is subtly and not so subtly preparing American (and world) audiences for a hot war with North Korea, marching lock-step with the war drums of Dear Leader.
Though ostensibly elected for his pledge to end America’s role as the global police force and with assurances that his competitor would surely lurch the country into conflict, the change in narrative and the language that it’s couched in renders (so far as sophistry is an effective tool) anyone who might question why the Hermit Kingdom is suddenly an existential threat to the US and its NATO allies or even point out how this back-peddles campaign promises a condemned traitor, whose credibility and geopolitical grasp is forever more suspect. We were eager to catch Curveball lobbed to the intelligence community and no one spoke of the aftermath. Indeed, as with the hearts-and-minds drive of Iraq Attacky II that had its share of cheerleaders in the press to silent the contrarian cads, we ought to be critical of the profusion of coverage of North Korea and ask ourselves if we’re being informed or re-educated.

boardwalk empire

The ever-intrepid explorers at Atlas Obscura treat us to a rather gloomy tour of faded glory that permeates the once bustling Atlantic City, New Jersey—whose real estate is reflected in the Monopoly board game. Considering how this collapse in the jobs market and touristic draw was in part precipitated by Dear Leader’s personal mismanagement, it does seem rather fitting that the iconic game itself was plagiarised from an earlier game meant to teach economic-literacy and warn players of the dangers of slum lords and concentrated wealth.

graphic charter

The beleaguered but persistent US Environmental Protection Agency is reissuing the 1977 edition of its design manual. This style book—as were many other projects, was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Federal Graphics Improvement Programme, which was created under the Nixon administration. Sadly, it’s not the US military that needs to host a bake-sale to stay solvent but perhaps interest in this re-printing could help the agency keep its lights on.

dnd oder locksmith

In an age when a carelessly flashed peace-sign in a decades old photograph can potentially be used as a way to bypass the security of finger-print scanning devices, traditional keys and locks are not impervious to same sort of scanning and reconstruction. A Swiss manufacturer has come up with at least a partial solution to make keys less prone to being forged by hiding their teeth and groves inside a pair of brackets.

Monday, 24 April 2017

westermarck effect

Something that I can’t quite identify really resonated with me about this clever bit of re-imagining how author Frank Herbert might ghost-write the autobiography of Chelsea Clinton.
I suppose it struck me as something that ought to be more fully developed and I wanted more than just a page, which was enough to limn the exchange between Lady Jessica Atreides and Mother Superior of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood is re-scripted for Hilary Clinton, whose match-making decisions may have compromised both blood lines in the shadowy organisations goal to breed a superhuman ruling class. The Westermarck Effect is the opposite of the sexual imprinting that the Bene Gesserit excel at, referring to the desensitisation, friend-zoning that comes from familiarity. In any case, I hope the Clintons’ daughter continues the dynasty.

flotus and flotsam

Unlike her husband’s social media leavings, Dear Leader’s wife and geographical bachelorette has not shared mountains of likes and preferences for the public to shift through and speculate on.
What few photographs out there that the titular first lady appears to have taken herself—and for herself, as Kate Imbach discovers through her meta-analysis of the only unguarded, unmediated insight into her subject’s life, reveal volumes about her personality and outlook. What do you think? By refusing a public-role, is her private life out of bounds? First spotted by Hyperallergic, I’m not certain that such a condition ought to be qualified as Stockholm Syndrome if one was always a fervent adherent and a willing captive, and the characterisation of a Rapunzel without the prince charming nor the long braids seems rather pitch-perfect. There’s only the isolation of the Tower, and she seems to prefer it that way—even holiday photos gloomy, double-paned and snapped from the safety of a passing car.

sprecherauthentifizierung

Controversially, German immigration authorities have announced plans to utilise speaker- and speech-recognition software to screen refugees applying for asylum. Automated analytics can help expedite the applications of individuals and families from war-zones but could also as expeditiously disqualify those that the algorithm determines don’t have the speech markers and regionalism that corroborate claims that they are fleeing from Syria but are rather seeking better economic opportunities or welfare.
Having used voice samples and linguistic analysis since the 1990s to screen refugees, the idea is not a new one and human experts have demonstrated a high error rate and many worry that those misjudgements might only be magnified by automation. Affecting a semester-abroad accent is one thing but native speakers are also apt to adopt the expressions and pronunciation of those around them unconsciously out of deference fairly swiftly. Though immigrants have people advocating for them and arguing that the process is prone to error, but I think Germany’s plan has elicited less apprehension than a similar process might soon judge our fitness for employment. Both potential applications are of great consequence and deserve equal scrutiny.

hanami or casting shade

Æon magazine features an excellent essay by conservationist and philosopher Rebecca Gibbs on the celebration of Sakura (サクラ) , the short season of cherry trees going to blossom in Japan (read more about Japan’s concept of microseasons here), that’s customarily attended with hanami (花見) that is holding family and company picnics to enjoy and appreciate the transient beauty of the explosive over-abundance of Nature.
Informed in part by Buddhist teachings stressing the pathos or empathy toward the surrounding world, Gibb argues that these traditions that have been fostered for centuries does a better job in encouraging the public to care about environmental stewardship than the more tone-deaf and abstract campaigns that the West usually rely on. Appreciating a tree like the Lorax as a biome, a source of shade, oxygen, a home for birds and bugs is the message of Sakura, and it doesn’t demand one acknowledge a deeper beauty or go in search of one—after all, there are other well-established and familiar Japanese customs in gardening and pruning that speak to the cultural aesthetic, and seems like one that we are failing to grasp and adopt. What do you think? Perhaps we are all beginning to realise that Nature is not something separate from ourselves and our experience.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

now there’s only love in the dark

Via Curious Brain, we are treated to Billy Butcher’s little collection of 1980s love ballads presented in style of Steven King horror paperback covers—or rather VHS cassette  boxes. Aside from Bonnie Tyler’s torch song, titles with lyrics and cover-notes include Nazareth’s Love Hurts, Chris de Burgh’s The Lady in Red and Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order.

sock-puppet, sine cure

Although it is not unusual for hold-over appointees from the previous administration to serve in caretaker capacity until an incoming regime can fill positions, the fact that Dear Leader abruptly called for the dismissal of the incumbent Surgeon General of the United States on a Friday afternoon so the news might get buried and with no replacement waiting in the wings (and few lined up in general) seems a bit suspect.
Dear Leader, on the eve of the March against Alternative Facts, might have decided to fire America’s Top Doctor for a number of reasons, including labelling gun-violence and opioid-use a matter of public health or for saying that vaping was not such a stupendous alternative and may prove a gateway to other more damaging habits, but it was most likely his recent appearance with puppet and stooge (and degenerate) of the immunizations racket to argue that vaccinations keep us all safe and healthy. Many of Dear Leader’s core supporters, we’ve heard tell, are of the conviction that immunizations cause autism and a whole host of ills and would rather tempt the ravages of medieval diseases that had been all but eliminated in the West, and so the physician had to be replaced with one of his lieutenants—making her the first individual to hold the office without a medical background, which seems a bit important.

kittyhawk oder wo ist mein fligendes auto?

At an airstrip outside of München, Lilium Aviation, Dezeen informs, undertook its first maiden voyage earlier this week with its electric powered prototype, a two-seater vertical take-off and landing personal jet.
The Bavarian start-up certainly has some robust competition, but they are pulling out ahead of the pack with this feat. With future plans for allowing a fleet to be summoned via cell-phone, like hailing a taxi, the aerial vehicle has a range of three hundred kilometres and can travel as fast per hour, and can either be piloted by its passengers or can fly autonomously with human remote supervision, as was done for this test-flight. Learn more and see video footage of the at the links above.

leerverkauft oder going-long

History’s non-events, those disasters thwarted by accident or fortune, always figure strangely in a milieu that’s supposedly both nimble and lame with near-misses and we are still trying to wrap our heads around on what transpired in Dortmund on 11 April when the number two German football club’s tour caravan and the rival Monacan national team were targeted with roadside bombs.
Reinforced glass on Borussia Dortmund’s bus and a hedgerow ultimately prevented loss of life and limb which would have surely precipitated an unimaginable tragedy for both countries. Though the attack was diffused the same script was trotted out, with the Cosplay Caliphate immediately taking credit—with most of the public willing to grant it them—and a radical left-wing anti-fascist was accused of trying to pull off this mass-murder because hooligan fans of team represented intolerance. Some formulated that the extreme right AfD would have Borussia Dortmund martyred in order to strengthen their anti-immigration platform. The true-crime truth is indeed stranger and is an outlier for what we expect in this environment: as common as the refrain is that greed is cause of all sorrows, we are surprised to find that that motive lie behind this calculated murder attempt. An individual identified as Sergej W had bought up fifteen thousand team stock market shares with the option of selling them short (Leerverkauft), since the portfolio of the team would plummet in value in the aftermath and was staying in the same hotel as the teams at the time of the attack with a room with a view of where the bombs were planted. Had Sergej W’s plan succeeded, his speculation would have yielded him four million euro off of an initial investment of eighty thousand.

the big guava

Although multi-coloured motifs certainly have their place as with the rainbow pride flag or the banner of the Sámi peoples, the city flag of Tampa (the Big Guava as it was called in 1970 for introducing that fruit to America)—as Weird Universe informs, from a vexillographer’s view violates a lot of the guiding principles of design, particularly its odd pennant shape that makes it prohibitively expensive to reproduce in number.
There are a multitude of other state and local flags that could benefit from a re-vamping, but despite being the official symbol of the city for seven decades, residents seem taken aback and a little embarrassed to learn of this jumble that’s unfurled daily at city hall. There’s reasoning behind F Grant Whitney’s vision—which is an homage to the flags of the six powers that have controlled Florida but those elements could have perhaps been better represented. What do you think? Would you recognise your town’s regalia especially in a different context?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

ux or peer-review

Albeit the ubiquitous and public institution has weathered criticisms by academia in the past citing the platform for unreliable references and is constantly under siege by vandals and revisionists, Wikipedia’s record for dealing and dispatching with fake-news (following Cunningham’s Law) is far better than that of other social media networks.  Without question consumers of such streams of likes and like-mindedness ought to be encouraged to be more savvy, critical and literate when it comes journalism.
Like the argument espoused by Big Thinker Katherine Maher, social media users would be as quick to extinguish a self-serving falsehood as an encyclopædist in many cases but the difference in virality and endurance is not in giving users a means to conduct fact-checking but diverges much earlier—in the sequestered and opaque (probably even as unclear to the merchants of doom that profit from them) decisions of algorithms and market-models to promote one particular news item to one particular individual over another. Each user experience (UX) is of course unique and personal and no two people would be able to share that same tailored barrage of content, unlike being spectators at a sports event or rally or even being exposed to a suite of commercials on television. Until social engineers and mediators can be more forthcoming about the profit-motives and why, to the best of their knowledge, one headline, advertisement was served to you instead of another.

agente provocatrice

Though I am sure that such an endorsement rings as hollow as the phoney pretence of populism as something by and for the people (it has always been so) and will have the same stamina as mutual support from and for Russian, Turkish or Egyptian leadership, Dear Leader’s declaration for Marine Le Pen as being the strongest candidate is rather a breach of custom—not that foreign influence-peddling in the national elections of others isn’t a done thing these days, as world leaders traditionally refrained from siding with one contender over another. While governmental systems outside of the United States may have more mechanisms to avoid gridlock and can dissolve the legislature, the fact remains that Dear Leader’s aspiration platform is failing and the only successes it can celebrate are in its violent death-throes—which may still be the death of all of us. Systemic mistrust untethers identity and unity as much as any disruptive force—real or abstracted, and all are due careful scrutiny, lest we fawn over the solution that the easiest to obtain but comes at the cost of empathy and cooperation.

dollar $hark

Via Boing Boing, we learn that one of the masters of photo-shopped cultural epherma and effluvia, Sean Tejaratchi will be releasing a soft-cover review in the Autumn of the first four years of Liartown, USA (previously here, here, here and here). The publishers and underwriters have been no source of frustration or censorship to the process of putting this edition together, having honoured the author’s wishes to retain all the bad words, blasphemy and naughty bits.

dschungel book

I came across this curiosity at the local recycling centre, a paper back, coffee table format (Bilderband) travelogue of one Jürgen Hansen’s adventures across the Dark Continent. It was a somewhat paternalistic portrait of colonial African from 1952 (possibly daring for the first time, however, to look at Africa with an eye towards reconciliation, having lost its toehold on the continent), published in Hamburg, but contained the most amazing, vibrant little picture-postcard prints pasted on the pages.
It turns out that this promotional item, sponsored by the Sanella brand and the West German Margarine Union, was offered as the text only and in order to complete the album, one needed to acquire one hundred little lithographs—presumably as a bonus with a package of margarine. This volume was complete (two cards had come loose over the years) but they were all there and in pretty good condition, and it was a pleasure to look through and imagine how (most likely) a house wife doing the shopping was eagerly waiting for the next instalment to hit the shelves and paste the cards in her book that taught her all about Africa.  Click on any image for a larger picture. The shadows are less obvious then as well.






Friday, 21 April 2017

recharging station

Acknowledging that furniture shopping can be a very fraught activity, especially in the labyrinthine confines of an IKEA, as we learn from Swiss Miss, we liked this emergency relationship station that ought to be installed in every store to triage and diffuse those tense moments of indecision and commitment hot-potato. Click through at the links up top to see more of the work of Jeff Wyaski, the comedian behind the Obvious Plant solicitous, thought-provoking pranks.