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.
Monday, 24 April 2017
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
On the occasion of the three hundred fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the epic poem, Benjamin Ramm writing for BBC Culture presents a compelling argument for revisiting John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Influence and legacy is to be found lurking everywhere, perhaps only second to Shakespeare’s inspiration in English traditions though references may not be readily apparent. Informed by the milieu of the English Civil War and republican age, the ten thousand lines of blank verse was indeed meant to “justify the ways of God to men” and help reconcile themselves to these turbulent and revolutionary times, championed of course by a menacingly magnetic Satan who is the most interesting character by far—and signals both allure and repulsion depending on the reader and the reading.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
squeeze-box: Dear Leader finally delivers an enjoyable performance
venzone: an Italian hamlet rebuilt after being devastated by a recent earthquake declared most beautiful in the country
brick & mortar: complimentary to the retail apocalypse, urban centres are seeking relief from bustling mail order services
teach a man to fish: neurosurgeon visiting Tanzania trained a non-medical doctor how to operate on the brain, who in turn taught others, beginning to alleviate a critical shortage—via Super Punch
bespoke: tyre company soon to produce airless wheels for bicycles and other vehicular applications
pale blue dot: as a parting shot as the space probe prepares for its grand finale, Cassini captured an image of the Earth in between Saturn’s rings
Thursday, 20 April 2017
Apparently chuffed from his recent claimed mandate after a referendum passed by a slim margin investing the office of president with executive powers, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has directed the Turkish Ministry of Culture to erect a museum dedicated to the victims of the failed coup d'état of last summer.
Some three hundred people died but it is unclear if those deaths were at the hands of insurrectionists or whether the other victims, the hundreds of thousands of civil servants, educators, artists and journalists that were purged, aren’t also deserving of memorial—and not just damnatio memoriæ. The Museum of 15 July: Martyrs and Democracy as it is to be known will have besides its permanent exhibits a library, café and gift-shop.
Colossal showcases some of the newest apparel from the Berlin-based art collective Raubdruckerin (whom we’ve admired previously) produced by the commandeering of street elements in order to lift, create prints for shirts and accessories. The group is currently on a tour European cities, amassing more improvised and impromptu designs.
Just ahead of the first round of French national elections to take place this Sunday (Jour du Scrutin), Oliver Gee of the Local provides a handy guide to navigating the political jargon and labels for issues bandied about when speaking about the race. Fiercely proud of their language and idioms and rightly so, the only Americanism to bleed into this campaign is “fake news,” though one sometimes encounters a ribald accusation of fausses nouvelles.
The Calvert Journal has an interesting profile of the lesser scrutinised art form, relegated to children’s entertainment, of animation and the role that allegory communicated through this medium played in protest movements in Eastern Europe and Soviet satellite states, particularly in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The study with a gallery of examples (not the ersatz Itchy and Scratchy pictured) from the 1950s onward demonstrates the parabolic reach of the message (the animatic being the synchronised storyboard) considering that in most cases the state was the lone patron of cartoons, looking into the past when puppet theatre and other antecedents could be as covertly subversive, plus how contemporary artists are rediscovering animation as powerful form of commentary.
Amusing Planet features a profile of the mostly abandoned town of Wünsdorf on the periphery of Berlin that once hosted the headquarters of the Soviet military in East Germany.
With large areas of restricted access, Wünsdorf was declared another verbotene Stadt, like the Colossus of Prora after World War II, and of course this was not the only installation to be mothballed with the Reunification and we’ve encountered quite a few former army camps in our travels. The stations of the Allies are much less dense these days (click here for a map that shows the coverage and saturation on both sides) but the Americans have remained.
Wednesday, 19 April 2017
Via Gizmodo, we discover that in the North Korean capital, there is a daily morning broadcast on loudspeakers of a Theremin-sounding leitmotif that resounds throughout the city.
Although reporting appears rather dodgy and some handlers of visitors to the Hermit Kingdom disavow the existence of the routine—the implication being that they are so brain-washed that it no longer registers, this instrumental tune is a little reminiscent of the Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) soundscape composed by Vangelis and is possibly called “Ten Million Human Bombs for Kim Il Sung” but no one knows for sure. It seems eerie and oppressive at first blush but I wonder what message that North Korea intended to send.
Academics looking forensically into the melt-down and subsequent transformation of the chatbot Tay to an obscenity-spewing misanthrope after being exposed to the ravages of internet for only a brief time, finding that the way artificial intelligences learn language—basically digesting the whole of on-line text exchanges—can magnify unconscious word associations and reflect them back at us in a very unflattering way. The tokens and markers of speech that the machines repeat and rely on for guidance contains a lot of latent prejudice but also shows that in context it truly is communication and language that drives consciousness and informs culture.
Though I can’t claim to have had any direct experience with Oregon Trail (“You have died of dysentery”) and was quite fond of Carmen Sandiego (albeit mostly due to the later television game show adaptation with catchy musical interludes by Rockapella but I don’t think the edutainment software was terribly sustaining), I did enjoy this reminiscence and appreciation of the fusion of entertainment and education—described as chocolate-covered broccoli as that’s the resulting palate in most cases.
In elementary school, moreover, I do remember weekly visits to the computer lab to sit before terminals connected to a mainframe that cycled through some human-interest stories of made-up newspaper that I supposed tested for reading comprehension but none of it was particularly engaging. Once we matriculated to Computer Literacy class, outfitted with Macintosh IIe models that one could program and communicate with rival middle schools with a modem, things did rather grow interesting and our attention was rapt. I think people take for granted that conversation that they have with themselves once they resolve to allow technology into their lives and homes. The novelty, entertainment value of technology was a poor decoy for the recalcitrant learner, but its capacity as a vehicle for education comes out in the tinkering—like with the ownership that comes from working on a jalopy—and to find oneself confined within a world of bounded possibilities that makes risk-taking paradoxically less risky. Fortune still favours the bold and awards those able to step outside themselves.
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
The Local’s French edition has a rather detailed map of the adult beverages of the various regions and localities of the country, accompanied by an equally detailed key, legend that gives the story behind the various liqueurs, ciders, beers, tonics, brandies and whiskies. The wines of France, however, are deserving of their own cartographic treatment as are the cheeses.
Aside from the way that the main course and dessert are arranged, the series is an interesting snap-shot about differences in palate, familiarity and notions of nutrition and sustenance. Visit the website via the link above for a full gallery of army rations, both packed and unfurled, from across the globe and video documenting the creative process.
Monday, 17 April 2017
Whilst the sentiments of Turkish citizens voting abroad from embassies in Germany and Austria were solidly in favour of constitutional reforms that would give the country’s executive broader, consolidated powers more in line with those of the president of the United States, there was no clear majority among domestic polling stations.
Though the election commissioner is expected to release in ten days, the party of Erdoğan is already claiming victory with a bare fifty-one to forty-eight percent majority in the contested referendum. The opposition party is to launch an investigation over voting irregularities. With campaign pledges certain to derail any hope of Turkey’s pending membership in the European Union, it would seem that the expatriate community would not vote against their own self-interests but with relatives and in some cases whole families left back in Turkey, I suppose these voters are also among those that could be easily intimidated, just enough to nudge the outcome.
It never occurred to me that Bärlauch—the leaves of which we’ve gathered in the woods before—signified anything else but a kind of wild garlic but it translates quite literally (reflected too in its scientific Latin name Allium ursinum) to bears’ leek for bears’ taste for these plants. Also known as buckrams, I guess the closest equivalent outside Europe to this broad leaved plant is chives. It makes a good base for pesto and with a few other ingredients, makes an excellent, fresh spaghetti dish.
For two servings, one will need:
- Approximately 225 grams of dry spaghetti noodles
- 150 grams of fresh Bärlauch leaves (washed, and use extra caution if one is gathering them oneself as they can be easily mistaken for poisonous plants that thrive in the same setting)
- One dried chili pepper or one tablespoon of ground
- Salt, black pepper for seasoning
- Vegetable broth
- Parmesan cheese for garnish
- 100 millilitre of good olive oil for cooking
Following the directions on the pasta packaging, prepare the spaghetti to al dente consistency in a pot of vegetable broth (this is a way to make all pasta dishes a little more flavourful). In the meantime, dice the garlic, the chili pepper (use caution as this can make one’s meal very spicy) and the Bärlauch leaves (without the stems) and fry in the olive oil for approximately two minutes (the garlic ought not to brown). Drain the pasta and serve immediately topped with parmesan.
Sunday, 16 April 2017
In response to new legislation that stipulates that bars and similar establishments in India must be separated from highways by no less than half a kilometre, one existing pub has successfully skirted the law by compacting that space and time into a series of barrier mazes—like those set up for queuing at airports and amusement parks. As the purpose of the law is not necessarily to limit access and egress but to prevent patrons from stumbling into to traffic—which seems like a long way to stumble, local authorities let the innovative solution stand.
Though I can’t say for certain that many hikers will cross our path, we discovered that our new home, remote and rather secluded as it is, lies just behind the intersection of two of the European Long Distance Routes (the nearest point of reference shared by both trails is the City of Coburg), marked and maintained hiking paths that follows ancient trade and pilgrimage routes. From north to south, one stretches from Lapland through Finland and Sweden through Germany and Austria to the Adriatic coast, and from west to east, the other spans from Spain following el Camino de Santiago (der Jakobsweg) through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic onto the shores of the Black Sea in Bulgaria. What an amazing journey to embark on and to think we are at if not the centre-point at least a nexus of sorts.
Saturday, 15 April 2017
Thanks to the always fabulous Everlasting Blört, we are introduced to the illustrations of Boris Artzybasheff (1899-1965) whose grotesques of anthropo- morphised machines as self-toiling beings with distinctly human traits—though suspiciously cheerful, like cartoon depictions of happy and obliging livestock. Find more of Artzybashneff’s Machinalia at the links above, though keen-eyed, long-time readers may have come across his artwork here before with inventor and engineer Buckminster Fuller portrayed as one of his own signature geodesic domes.
Friday, 14 April 2017
Via the ever inspiring Nag on the Lake comes a series of prints based on the original US National Parks promotional posters produced as a part of the federal arts offensive of the Works Progress Administration—except that Hannah Rothstein’s work shows what the fate of these treasured places will be if nothing is done to halt and reverse climate change. It’s a bit bleak but there’s hope yet, since if we work together and are truly committed, this vision is not an inevitable one.
Not to attribute any redeeming qualities to the regime’s First Trumpet, but it turns out that while serving as assistant US trade representative for media and public affairs under the administration of Bush II, he volunteered as assistant to the Easter Bunny multiple times. This fact, I think, makes it all the more incredulous that no one thought to make any arrangements for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll until the last minute—which makes me a little sad that some kids will get to miss out on the experience but also a little gleeful that Dear Leader and his repulsive family don’t get another platform, especially on the back of a holiday.
Whilst it is unclear whether the very un-surgical and indiscriminately destructive bombing raid on Cosplay Caliphate caves on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that Dear Leader authorised was just another costly (that initial figure of three hundred fourteen million dollars was not the price of the single operation but rather the entire arsenal of Massive Ordnance Air Blasts and the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the untested bunker-busting bombs that have three times the explosives on what was dropped on Thursday) but hollow publicity-stunt, it would do us all some good to stop to reflect on the past four decades of history in the land that’s been called on multiple occasions the graveyard of empires. Fearing the growth of Soviet influence in that country, the US Central Intelligence Agency (under the codename Operation Cyclone) financed and supported the Jihadi resistance to communist ideology and gave rise to the mujahideen directly and its cadet-branches indirectly. Many argue that it was the expense of carrying out the fight to retain a toe-hold in Afghanistan that bankrupted the Soviet Union and precipitated its dissolution. After the success of their proxy-war, the US quickly shifted its interests elsewhere and this sudden abandonment allowed more radical jihadi elements to take control—creating al Qaeda, the Taliban and successor groups.
Thursday, 13 April 2017
A self-funded team in Philadelphia won the international X Prize Tricorder consumer medical competition, under the leadership of an innovator and emergency-room doctor whose only prior invention was a cotton candy machine that he made with his siblings during grade school. Like on the franchise, the hand-held scanner can diagnose and interpret multiple health conditions and monitor vital signs. The prototype could revolutionise home health care and bring treatment and prevention to places under-served by medical professionals. I still think there’s ample need for an Emergency Medical Hologram, however.
Via Laughing Squid, we learn that there’s another tool in Google’s sandbox (an advance on this previous version) that’s like an autocomplete, spell-check feature for crude sketches. Whether or not one has any talent for drawering it can be arduous and awkward to try to trace something on screen, but this experimental, predictive algorithm (which gets smarter the more its used) delivers really polished illustrations and icons.
This summer, as the always interesting Collectors’ Weekly informs, will be fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love, orchestrated by an ad-hoc council of advocates and artistic entrepreneurs, in San Francisco. In order to appreciate how much that event transformed the city, they reach back a decade more to view the various districts and neighbourhoods through the insiders’ travel guide by columnist Herb Caen, who pierced through the general mid-century squareness to find the emergent and incubating haunts of counter-culture.
An advocate for independent space exploration launched a weather balloon into the upper reaches of the stratosphere to send Dear Leader a missive and hopefully some perspective—though sadly the message is over the heads of him and his supporters who’ve been steadfast no matter what outrage is unleashed.
Though seemingly discourteous at first or a squandered opportunity “Look at that, you soon of a bitch” is actually a rather poignant quote from astronaut Edgar Mitchell, expressed when he first went in orbit and experienced the overview effect, a shift in awareness when one hangs naked in the void of space and sees how tiny and fragile the Earth is. Mitchell, after his moment of awaking said that he wanted to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch!”