Monday, 31 July 2017

grey matter

The Weird Universe labs have been especially prolific of late it seems and now direct us to a February 1951 newspaper article that documents the clinical imaging of the brain of Dr Albert Einstein.
The neuro-tomography was intended to be like a psychiatrist lounge of sort and jotted down his brain activity when thinking about his theory of relativity (special or general not specified unfortunately) and not thinking about relativity in the hopes that future generations of scientists who be able to recognise and read genius encoded. I’m glad Einstein’s thoughts were preserved and reminds us of learning about the secret contributors to the Golden Records committed to the Cosmos in the Voyager space probes and how one segment is the pattern of electrical impulses of the nervous system of a mediating Ann Druyan, writer and explorer and Carl Sagan’s widow.


Back in 2013, professor and biophysicist Jeremy England stirred some controversy with the theory that life is not some happy accident of biology or necessarily the collusion or just the right conditions but rather the natural conclusion of the laws of thermodynamics.
As organised and coherent as life is in comparison to the chaos surrounding it, living things are also the most efficient vehicle, according to Professor England’s on going models, to increase the level of disorder—that desired state of entropy. It is still very much a chicken-or-egg question and I am sure many physicists would be inimical to the suggestion that the follies of biology are the inevitable, highest expression of the rules of physics—rather than just bound by them and the theory does hold that the outcome is universal nor a forgone guarantee but it is something to ponder that the Cosmos might entertain such emergent fine-tuning and flagrancies to conserve energy.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

emily post

Fancy Notions informs of the superstitious etiquette that the best way to rid one’s household of vermin or other pests (like today’s practise of leaving an anonymous notes on the windshields of car to comment and correct the atrocious parking job of others—or the phenomena of pet-shaming) is to take down a letter and put them on notice. For rats, the Ancient Greeks recommended a threatening tone, whilst households of nineteenth century New England took the approach of laying out to the rodents the distinct advantages of decamping their homes and instead taking up residence at their neighbours.

serçe saray

Colossal directs our attention to a photo-essay by Caner Cangül whose work skilfully brings to the fore architectural elements and embellishments that might be lost in the monumental scale of some the buildings and bridges where his subjects are found.
The detail of this particular greebling are the surviving examples of Ottoman-era avian palaces, meant to give shelter to pigeons and sparrows in urban centres that might be lacking in safe accommodations for birds. Not only were households eager to host such guests, the additions also ensured that the façade of the surrounding structure was spared from birds roosting all over the place. These mansions are certainly grand ones and many designers lavish attention on the architecture of birdhouses but we suspect that the next talent showcase—prestige project will be in insect hospitality. Check out the link up top to learn more and see more of Cangül’s photography.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

strongly-worded letter

The copier company has a well-established history of resisting efforts to make its brand a proprietary eponym and not to use it in a generic way—like Kleenex or Q-Tip or Zipper or google—but this letter (via Nag on the Lake) that a long-time literary correspondent for the The New York Times received is surprisingly stern in tone. Ms Kakutani (misidentified as a mister in the missive) is berated for having used the company’s as a verb and in lower case for an article she wrote (now the trademark appears in lower-case since 2008 and with this logo, which itself may be a copy). The veteran reporter is penning a memoir and found the letter among other ephemera whilst researching for her book.

Friday, 28 July 2017

g-mark of approval

In celebration of supporting six decades of competition to improve ergonomics and functionality the Good Design Awards (here’s one of last year’s winner) has opened up a boutique store in Tokyo that features a expertly selected range of the annual contest’s best in show.
With some forty four thousand honoured entrants, the shop couldn’t accommodate the entire inventory but this emporium is surely going to be a place to go to for inspiration. The awards have its origins in the mandate by the country’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1957 to establish a rating system (the G-Mark) to recognise, commend and promote excellence in design and the chief factor for inclusion is whether an object or concept can make people’s lives more prosperous and enriches society as a whole. So many abstract and otherly-versioned things get transformed into amusement park rides, put on stage or otherwise repackaged with questionable judgment but this idea—to showcase talent in a retail setting that’s closer to a museum-going experience—strikes me as brilliant and inviting.

tabula rasa

Apparently not heeding Her Majesty’s earlier wardrobe malfunction, the otherwise unhelpful White House deputy press secretary is giving us the public service reminder not to wear green in front of the camera, lest one tempt public reaction—which I suppose also might be an intentional strategy.

wayback machine

Brilliantly, as Waxy informs, the Internet Archive (previously here and here) is curating daily snapshots of a dozen of major internet properties (CNN, Reddit, YouTube, Amazon, the BBC, Yahoo! News, et al.) of how these web sites looked a decade ago. The historical chronicle elicits a sense of nostalgia and contextualises where we stand now.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

motorama or à la kart

Messy Nessy Chic brings us the profile of George Barris, the late, legendary designer of custom cars who was responsible for nearly all the iconic vehicles featured on film and television throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Though perhaps the contribution of his workshop that’s most easily conjured up would be the original Batmobile, Barris also brought us My Mother the Car (a much maligned sitcom that was premised on the idea that an attorney purchases a used Porter touring car that his mother has been reincarnated as), the dragsters from Mannix, the Dukes of Hazzard and the Banana Splits as well as the signature cars of the Munsters and the Clampetts and another sentient automobile in Knight Rider’s KITT plus his nemesis. Barris’ studio also recreated many novelty vehicles for special exhibitions and designed custom cars for celebrities, including Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elton John and Elvis Presley.


A suspension point—or an ellipsis comes from the Greek term for omission or falling short and has paradoxically transformed as punctuation mark to signal a continuance rather than a trailing off (aposiopesis, a figure of speech whose literal translation is becoming silent) or something suggestive of an unspoken alternative thanks in part to that shit gibbon occupying the Oval Office who’d prefer to legislate from the bully pulpit in one hundred and forty character conniptions.
Dear Leader’s latest chained but unhinged affront to reason and dignity and human kindness, the ban on transgender personnel from serving in the military, is not indicative itself of course of any larger agenda or policy shift in itself and was only a ploy to secure funding for his Border Wall and more immediately a distraction from the health care debate and the ongoing investigation into Russian interference and collusion. He does not care and has no strategy, but that does not mean his deputies won’t seize on the action to discriminate and discharge whole classes of service members en-masse and won’t continue with their goals of ideological course-correction that will push America to a much darker place that’s far bigger than the volunteer army. Another sad irony of Dear Leader’s announcement was that it fell on the sixty-ninth anniversary of Harry S Truman’s issuance of Executive Order 9981 which abolished racial discrimination and segregation in the Armed Forces and on the fifty-fourth anniversary of the institution of the policy that forbade service members and federal workers from patronising businesses or institutions that practised discrimination, opening up the route for greater equity and social justice in the country as a whole.

inside the actors studio

At a USO sponsored event, I got the opportunity to see the accomplished actor and director Bryan Cranston—of Malcolm and the Middle and Breaking Bad fame—give a motivation talk about his career and the importance of seizing on one’s good fortunes.
Though only subjects adjacent to the discussion and not brought up at large, it was interesting to discover that Cranston, in addition to the numerous credits to his name, was also the vocal artist behind some of the monstrous villains of the American adaption of Mighty Morphing Power Rangers—and made such an impression on the cast, the Blue Ranger was retroactively named Billy Cranston in the actor’s honour and that this autumn Cranston will be starring in a London stage adaptation of the film Network, playing the role of Howard Beale. We’ve been fans of his performances and agree that he’d be perfect for this new part too.

sine, cosine

We are really mesmerised by these sleek animations by Frédéric Vayssouze-Faure that illustrate complex geometric and trigonometric functions by re-combining elements of minimalism and multitude. The source code that regulates these oscillations and harmonic motion plus many more examples can be found at the artist’s website, Wavegrower.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Writing for The Atlantic, correspondent and former member of the US National Security Council Jan M Lodal recalls a pledge shared between Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and Gerald Ford (who as Nixon’s second vice-president took office once Nixon resigned in lieu of impeachment and served out the term until the next election—also having the pleasure of exonerating Nixon of all wrong doing by pardoning him) of the USSR’s support to ensure Ford’s re-election. The exchange took place during the Helsinki Accords—the formal settlement that marked peace in Europe after World War II and helped to limn the rules of engagement for the Cold War—in 1975 during a private moment with only the interpreter present. Some snooping and quick thinking on the part of Lodal, who was part of the presidential entourage during the summit, confirmed that this promise was extended—though the expressed outcome didn’t materialise with the election of Jimmy Carter.


master of the pan-flute: Tedium looks at those compilation albums and other musical genres hocked on late-night television commercials

goldwater rule: the American Psychiatric Association is relaxing its tradition against making comments on the mental stability of public figures

pet sounds: there’s a German-based internet radio stationed designed to keep canine companions company whilst their humans are away

disenchantment: Simpsons’ creator developing new animated series set in medieval times, including elves, wizards and demons

algebraic topography: neuroscientists determine that the brain can cogitate in mental frameworks of up to eleven dimensions

openluchtrecreatie: experimental tiny shelters spring up in Amsterdam

memphis group: an exhibition of Ettore Sottsass’ designs placed in context beside the artefacts the pieces reference or inspired


Researchers have trained a neural network to scour Google Street View (which of course is not limited to urban environs) and frame what it believes to be æsthetic scenes, applying algorithms on cropping, lighting and composition that its acquired in the learning process. The coda to this experiment was to subject the photographs to a sort of human-juried “Turing test.” The judges were not told that a machine had selected and perfected the images and rated nearly half of them to be the work of a professional. Chew more of the scenery over at Twisted Sifter at the link up top and learn more about the exercise in deep learning and wonder about its implications.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


From the stacks of Public Domain Review, we are presented with an English translation of an 1812 illustrated treatise from church author and philanthropist Johannes Evangelista Goßner called Geistlicher Sitten-Spiegel (the Spiritual Mirror of Morality) that was probably derived from earlier Enlightenment works and was given the explanatory subtitle for export audiences The Heart of Man: Either a Temple of God, or a Habitation of Satan: Represented in Ten Emblematical Figures, Calculated to Awaken and Promote a Christian Disposition. Goßner was a reformed minister at a Berlin simultaneum, a shared sacred building where different denominations worshipped, albeit with separate clergy at different times. The administration of such congregations is known as status quo. The guide’s graphical representation is pretty striking with its incrementally increasing facial grief-scale and recalls (or rather previsions) to me the stylings of Edward Gorey and offers explanations of much of the iconography.

dustbin, doxbin

Though generally only perceived as a vaguely threatening presence by pets, it turns out that for the past few years robotic vacuums, in their quest to optimise navigating the terrain of one’s home, have also been collecting that telemetry and reporting back to the mother-ship in order for those maps to be sold on to marketers to formulate better-focused furniture advertisements (or scare families into investing in security services) and model virtual smart-houses. Or simply to judge our taste in décor. These domestic double-agents that we welcome into our lives highlights one way that technologies are no longer ours to exploit and benefit from as tools, but rather the merchants of attention undermine our relationship with computers and machines by supplanting it with some Pavlovian bond of button-mashing and push-notifications. What do you think? Albeit arguably robot vacuums are a time-saving convenience but coordination and connectedness come with a cost and perhaps the autonomous appliance market is reaching its true economical zenith—again, not as an instrument or amusement but as pusher, staking out its beat, like that craze with augmented reality games which helped plot out previously uncharted demographics.

la guerre des étoiles

While much of the epic space opera’s influences and homages have been studied and extolled in great detail, including Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and the comic Flash Gordon, there’s been little  acknowledgement for a French series of comics from the early 1970s, as Messy Nessy Chic helps us to uncover, that informed the arch of the story almost scene for scene at points. Artist Jean-Claude Mézières’ creation Valerian and Laureline is now starting to be accredited for its plot and stylistic contributions—including ice, desert and marsh planets, a Millennium Falcon-type ship, a hero encased in a resin and another held hostage by an overweight mobster who is forced to wear a metal bikini—after the characters are getting their own cinematic adaptation with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  Though perhaps four decades overdue, Mézières’ role in establishing the saga is beginning to garner recognition.

Monday, 24 July 2017

hatch act or marching orders

It’s striking how the adjective elite only remains palatable to the general public when speaking of soldiers, and Dear Leader trounced on yet another established norm by encouraging his military to lobby for their own self-interest.
Not only is advocating that service members call their representatives and urge them to support the commander-in-chief’s agenda probably a violation of the Hatch Act (An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities from 1939) that restricts federal employees from engaging in partisan activities, it also sets a very dangerous precedent that causes America to lurch further towards becoming a tin-pot dictatorship—a weaponised tool of incumbency and imparting a privilege to a class above those they have sworn to protect and defend. What do you think?  Dear Leader is a nihilistic moron and an opportunist who has no stake, personal interest or knowledge in his policy decisions and is only pandering to those who might satisfy his unquenchable ego.  Surely honourable men and women are deserving of respect and hopefully the profession of arms attracts individuals of like ilk and ought to held to high standards, but they are not asking to be accorded some superhuman praise reserved for the blindly loyal.  People, however, tend to rise to one’s estimations and expectations and eventually the armed forces might come to demand such esteem.

cuteness overload

From the language desk over at BBC Culture, we are introduced to a perfectly needful term that’s very transparent in the relation of sound and meaning that while in common-parlance to the Tagalog speaking Filipino population—it’s rarely heard outside of that community.
The untranslatable word for the joy elicited from being in the presence of overpowering cuteness is named gigil and is a great way to describe that compulsion experienced—sometimes in spite of one’s self—to share an adorable encounter. Gigil is the debut word of a new series that will highlight some of the lexical gaps of the English language with foreign borrowings that might help bridge them, so check back regularly at the link up top to expand ones vocabulary.

Sunday, 23 July 2017


TYWKIWDBI directs our attention to a rather clever feat of versification that comes in the form of David Shulman’s 1936 anagrammatic poem (boustrophedic writing is something quite different but it seemed to capture the sense of meter somehow) reflecting on the painting of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (whose other famous painting Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way—or the short form, Westward Ho! hanging in the Capitol would probably make another good candidate for this treatment) depicting Washington Crossing the Delaware and composed a sonnet (with rhyming couplets) where every line is an anagram of the title. Here’s the opening stanza:

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
How Cold! Weather stings as in anger.
O silent night shows war ace danger!

Incredibly these are complete, exhaustive anagrams—like Alec Guinness = Genuine Class or Jeremy’s Iron, and a pretty nifty idea to stay within those sorts of constraints, each line having twenty-nine letters like the name of the painting. Of course, all this was accomplished without the aid of computers—so in case you’re needing some electronic inspiring, try out your phrase here. It can be insightful too to find out what apt words might be buried in your name, as well.

foreshortening or draw me like one of your french girls

We were having too much fun with Heloisa’s quite photo-realistic renderings of the felines in her life to not share this delightful discovery by friend of the blog Nag on the Lake. Indeed, one shouldn’t judge another’s sense of perspective and place before getting a look at the artist’s models. Check out more poorly drawn cats at the links a

chanterelles oder pfifferlinge, linge, linge, linge

With Spargelzeit already just a fond memory this season, we are just entering into Pfifferlinge harvest time—called in English chanterelles (it sounds like a Doo-Wop group) and from the Greek κάνθαρος for a drinking tankard, the little yellow mushrooms looking sort of like a loving-cup—and we tried a new recipe for spaghetti with braised Pfifferlinge, onions and sundried tomatoes. It was pretty simple and not too labour intensive to make—plus very tasty, and seems fairly versatile and would work with other varieties of mushrooms, noodles and seasonings.

For four servings, one needs:

  • 400g Pfifferlinge 
  • 500g Spaghetti 
  • 50g Sundried Tomato 
  • 1 Garlic clove 
  • 4 Spring Onions (Leeks) 
  • 500ml Vegetable Broth 
  • 1 large red onion 
  • 1 bundle of fresh Parsley 
  • 100ml of Crème Fraîche 
  • Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg for seasoning and a bit of oil for frying 

Wash the Pfiferlinge and along with the diced onion, thinly sliced tomato and garlic, fry in a large pan on middle heat, turning often. To the side, prepare the pasta according to the instructions and the vegetable broth. After around ten minutes, when the spaghetti is nearly ready, cut the leaks into rings slice up the parsley and introduce it to the mix. Add the vegetable broth and bring to boil briefly before stirring in the crème fraîche. Season to taste and enjoy with a refreshing white wine.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

ink inc

The Public Domain Review shares a find from 1860—a publication of New York’s Thaddeus Davids and Company—called The History of Ink, Including its Etymology, Chemistry, and Bibliography that seems like a thoroughly modern, deep-dive portrait of a topic, obsessively specific that one might take for granted.
The effort (almost all the content is hand-written with calligraphy), artistry and scholarship (plate after plate of historic reproductions) that went into producing the little tome excuses the fact that said publishers was also one of the leading ink (which for some inexplicable reason, Davids marketed as “chemical writing fluid”) purveyors at the time. It’s comforting, I think, how signatures are what’s binding, by convention, and that those really important documents, like diplomas and certifications aren’t entrusted to the flawless polish of the printers—or at least made to appear so—and that ink is imbued, either by reputation or in deed, as having an archival permanence that does not easily fade away.


Though Germany’s message in support of social justice and democratic reform in Turkey might have withered (as we’ve seen in other milieu) if the country’s economic prosperity were under threat by maintaining its criticism, Germany nonetheless deserves our plaudit for not compromising its values in order to eke out just a little more profit.
Most regimes have no moral qualms when it comes to enabling dictatorships when there’s money and influence to be gained. Even businesses and the robust German tourist industry are showing some character, however, insofar as they’re not—overtly at least, cowing the government to acquiesce to their ambitions and agenda with palaver and ignorance—putting something much bigger at stake than vacation plans or market saturation or even the politics of the present. Though Germany’s foreign minister also enjoys the high-ground in this challenge—the tantrums that Erdoğan is throwing are just as laughable and hollow but far more fraught for the people of Turkey—and authorities have stopped short of saying don’t travel to or invest in (although so much is implied by saying that Germany cannot vouch for one’s safety after multiple arrests and detention of activists, accusations supporting terror and of diplomatic embargoes and restricted access) the setbacks to Turkish relations to the West (Dear Leader’s affinity not counting towards the positive) and for the population are potentially immense and generational. I think Germany can take the name-calling, realising the gravity of the situation.


gingham: revisiting (previously) how innovative homemakers created flour-sack apparel

quis: the diminishing utility of the vanity publication of the Who’s Who annual—plus the deal with quis

doompety doo: every time one of Dear Leader’s team quits, we should cue the Oompa Loompas

animal on drums: retro concert posters for Electric Mayhem

ten after ten: undertaker exhuming the body of Salvador Dalí says that miraculously the artist still retains his signature moustache in perfect form

master class: lessons learnt by spending ten-thousand hours with information theorists Claude Shannon and Vannevar Bush 

Friday, 21 July 2017

collyer’s mansion or messie-syndrom

In Germany, the rather inelegant received translation for a compulsive hoarder is a “Messie,” which neither sounds very clinical nor sympathetic, but this terminology is certainly to be relished by our source that bought us the fascinating and tragic archetypal tale of the brothers who cultivated a dangerous drive for acquisition and an unwillingness to part with anything.
Though by all accounts, at the turn of the century the Collyer family was of the finest pedigree (Columbia-educated, mother an opera-singer and father a gynaecologist and descended from Mayflower-stock) and their two sons were promising in their respective fields, both ended up in 1947 entombed in some one hundred and forty tonnes of junk stuffed to the ceiling of their Harlem brownstone. By inheritance and volition, the sons, Homer and Langley jointly occupying the family home after the death of their parents, began obsessively collecting books, furniture and musical instruments as the two began to withdraw from society, having grown suspect of their neighbourhood during the Great Depression (though never suffering from deprivation) and owing to Homer’s failing eye-sight. Probingly, Langley began saving old newspapers for his brother to catch up on once his sight had been restored—consulting one of the fifteen thousand medical reference books found in the apartment included in the manifest and created a warren—notably booby-trapped, for them both, tunnels and chambers nested within the nearly impenetrable strata of garbage and treasure. Many of the recovered artefacts—many more than were ever catalogued—became curios for other collections (possibly inspiring the same) and after being condemned as unsuitable for habitation, the Collyer’s mansion was razed and transformed into a neatly corralled public garden.

highlights reel

As much as we’d like to forget sometimes and be done with these petty tyrannies and apolitic apoplexies, the Daily Dot—for the benefit of those playing along at home—has slogged through the first six months of Dear Leader’s regime to bring us the one hundred eighty-nine highlights of the past one hundred and eighty-one days.
From his controversial appointments of individuals not only dangerously unqualified but also antagonistic to the positions of public-trust that they’ve been given, to imagined massacres, die Lügenpresse, blaming the previous administration for all his failings with increasing paranoia, Russian connections and an unending fount of lies, gaffes and embarrassment, it’s all laid out there, but I should imagine that even these omnibus formats might themselves grow unwieldly pretty soon—if they haven’t already. A lot of the sideshows are left out as it is, plus recall—incredible and as distant and academic as it may now seem that the release of the Dear Leader and Billy Bush Access Hollywood incidental recording from 2005, Obama’s warning that Russian agents were meddling in the US election and that Dear Leader’s family were Kompromat and the data-dump of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s emails by Wikileaks all happened on the same day—and we at PfRC were asleep at the wheel.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

superstation or dateline: land of the lost

Before it was home to the CNN Center, the anchoring attraction of the downtown extension of the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia was fleetingly the World of Sid & Marty Krofft—one of the first all-indoors amusement parks.
Despite some of the frenetic, psychedelic rides and attractions, including a multi-storied, variegated carnival atmosphere and a colossal pin-ball game and appearances by signature television characters like the Banana Splits, Witchiepoo and HR Pufnstuf (whose fungibility prompted possibly the intellectual-infringement lawsuit ever with the Krofft’s franchise taking RonaldMcDonaldland to court) plus musical interludes, the park tragically did not prove the drawn that the producers and backers had hoped for—the whole experience could be taken in in just a few hours and after initial positive reception, families questioned whether it made sense to make a trek to a less than reputable section of downtown for less than a full day’s commitment.
Besides, the city’s zoo and aquarium were close by and cheaper alternatives and other amusement parks were cast out into the suburbs—with ample parking. Only six months after its grand opening in May of 1976, the park closed and it wasn’t until a more than a decade later when Ted Turner occupied the complex in 1987. Not many traces remain of the original arcade—other than, that is, the monumental, free-standing escalator (still the largest one in the world) that formerly delivered park guests to the highest levels of the Krofftian universe and are still part of the cable news network headquarters tour.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

frau holle/mother hulda

Fancy Notions presents a wonderful vintage, stop-motion adaptation of the Brothers Grimm morality-, work-ethic tale Frau Holle—or as it’s sometimes rendered in English, Mother Hulda from Cornet studios (1976—purveyors of many fine instructional films as well, as featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000) called The Magic Well. With elements of the Cinderella story (Briar Rose), a studious, hardworking young girl is abused by her step-mother and expected to do all the household chores (whilst her biological daughter is pampered) and spin wool into yarn the rest of her hours until her fingers bled from the effort.

The story was told to Wilhelm Grimm by one interview subject named Henriette Dorothea Wild who lived near Kassel but came from Huguenot roots (famously members of the family accounted for other fairy tales like the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, Rumpelstiltskin, the Cat and Mouse in Partnership, etc.) whom the collector of fables later married. One day, spinning as was her custom outdoors near the well—she pricked her fingers and dropped the spindle while trying to dab the blood away. Fearful of the punishment that would ensue for having lost their chief means of livelihood down the well, the girl launched herself after it. The girl awoke to find herself in an enchanted land and did small kindnesses to some nearly over-baked breads and an over-burdened apple tree she encountered along her way to meet Frau Holle—a kindly old woman she served loyally without stint, cooking for her and making her bed—shaking her bedclothes caused the snows to come in Hesse—central Germany. Frau Holle ist für die Schneemenge im Winter verantwortlich, denn je gründlicher sie ihre Betten ausschüttelt, desto mehr schneit es auf der Erde. The girl leads a charmed life but does eventually grow homesick—to which Frau Holle gladly releases her and restores her to the cottage in the woods with the spindle and an abdundance of gold as if no time had passed at all. Seeing her step daughter so arrayed with gold, the conviving widow tosses the spindle back down the well, pricks her favourite daughter’s finger on a rose thorn and throws her down, rather fearlessly after. To learn more about etiquette, superstition and ephemera and how the other daughter fares, please visit Fancy Notions at the link above.

broadside, broadsheet

Via Design Observer—and though not as timely perhaps if it would have been a few weeks ago but noteworthy nonetheless, we learn that while not a signatory a woman—who was the first postmaster general and major press-agent in Baltimore—was bold enough to include her name just below the other John Hancocks (some more florid than others) on the Declaration of Independence.  Click to magnify and look to the very bottom of the page.

The copy in Thomas Jefferson’s own hand is probably the more famous version of the document that kicked off the Revolutionary War for Britain and its thirteen colonies but if it wasn’t for the commission by congress for the print-job from Mary Katherine Goddard’s publishing house in 1777 (this was a second-run but the first to disclose the names of the treasonous who remained anonymous shitposters previously) the rebellion might have never gotten into circulation. Of course, even this level of association was risky and Goddard intentional threw her support behind the Republic—serving congress and Constitutional Conventions with printing and distribution services as well as press-coverage throughout the war—until forced out of her office as postmaster and later as newspaper editor in favour of male stewardship. Some things behind the Beltway and beyond are sadly slow to change.

out to pasture

Professor and conceptual artist Pippin Bar has created a browser-based simulation, as Hyperallergic informs, that recaptures the tremolo sense of accomplishment of clicking things away and tedium of unrelenting but mild distractions of a real office-setting whose output is constantly under siege by work-motivators (commission-forming, superfluous meetings and other forms of pep-rallies) for human workers to wean themselves on once automation takes over these skeuomorphic tasks once and for all. While some workplace applications may have grown a bit more predictive and proactive in their behaviours since, it’s telling how the 1990s backdrop for It is as if you were doing work instantly dates it but there’s precious little process-improvement in the intervening decades and certainly not the sort that wins extra leisure-time (if anything, the opposite) for the worker. What do you think? Does it already feel like your job is keep up the pretence for a Potemkin office?


This piece of engraved cutlery bearing a benediction with musical notation to be sung before and after a meal as a digestif dates from Renaissance era Italy.
And while it may it would have been below the station of such a wealthy family who could afford such a fine table service to deign to slice their own food, the Victoria and Albert Museum helps us to imagine how such a repast might play out by setting the lyrics to a choral arrangement. Be sure to visit Colossal at the link up top to learn more and discover more artistic artefacts.


For World Emoji Day earlier this week (we’re still on the hunt for whoever is behind these endless and arbitrary celebrations) Apple released a preview of the way it’s rendering some of the cache of newly approved icons from the late June meeting of the Unicode Consortium—in case some of this seems familiar, it ought to. Though it was mostly squeezing some extra mileage out of old news, there was one fine coda to the story that no one could have anticipated by reminding the world that added to our visual lexicon, there’s now a zombie—coinciding with the death of the filmmaker George A Romero who famously gave culture its undead touchstone first directing the independently produced Night of the Living Dead (zombies were never mentioned in that movie, only ghouls) in 1968 and five subsequent spin-offs plus hundreds of homages. Thank you for all the nightmarish inspiration and requiescat in pace (seriously, do that), Mister Romero.

Monday, 17 July 2017

sea of time

Though not quite the phantas- magorical conveyance of the Beatles that had its animated debut on this day back in 1968 at the London Pavilion, a former dance hall in Piccadilly Circus that was the venue for many film premieres, the Golden Submarine is a race car that is celebrating its centennial this year—we learn via Messy Nessy Chic. The stream-lined, steam-punk dragster was built for the Illinois circuit back in 1917 by Barney Oldfield and Harry Miller with rigorous safety components added to the aerodynamic foil (actually put through the paces in a wind-tunnel) and enclosed, protective cockpit.

aye, aye captain!

Speaking of Bikini Bottoms (which makes one wonder if there’s not some sinister message behind the world crafted by a marine biologist turned animator), our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari, points out that today among many other things in 1999 (not counting the pilot that first aired in May of that year), the Nickelodeon network premiered SpongeBob SquarePants as a regularly scheduled programme. Whatever opinion one has formed for the show, its longevity, I’d venture, does demand some respect.


The circulation desk at Public Domain Review recommends the seminal work of short-fiction by satirist and philosopher Voltaire (the nom de plume of François-Marie Arouet adopted after his release from the Bastille in 1718) called Micromégas (1752), which enjoins a common trope of scrutinising human foibles allegorically with the eyes of outsiders but the other worldly titans of this story also comprise one of the first instances of science-fiction in the Age of Enlightenment.
The eponymous Micromégas, a thirty-seven-kilometre (eight leagues) tall individual from a giant planet orbiting the star Sirius, finds himself at the receiving end of a heresy complaint for advocating that the “insects” of his home word need to be studied—though impossibly small and inconsequential—probably something parallel to the early proponents of the “germ theory” of diseases (first suggested in 1546 but not widely accepted until the 1850s) and is banished for a spell—though generations in human terms, an instance given the lifespan of Sirians that stretches into the millions of Earth years. During his exile, Micromégas decides to explore neighbouring constellations and comes to our solar system, first meeting an interlocutor on Saturn—a pocket sized one, relatively, at less than two kilometres in stature. The two take a pleasant stroll around the Earth but find the miniscule planet unremarkable until the discovery of a beached whale leads to a second find of a stranded boat—carrying a retinue of philosophers. Amazed but doubtful that anything so imaginably tiny could be intelligent, the alien visitors fashion an ear trumpet to amplify the words of the shipwrecked crew. With equal incredulity and nearly reaffirming the Sirians initial dismissal of the Earthlings, they announce that the Cosmos was created for men—sort of like modern-day views of the Anthropic Principle and our seeming privileged place in the Universe. Taking pity on humanity, Micromégas promises to give them a book with all the answers but once it is unrevealed back at the Academy, the pages are blank. Read the short story in its entirety at the link up top and discover more treasure from art and literature at Public Domain Review.

itsy, bitsy or swimsuit edition

Over at Weird Universe, they’ve posted a pair of newspaper clipping from 1939 and 1940 that show models sporting a sun dress and hula skirt (respectively as the term bikini was not coined until 1946 as a rather dark reference to the Bikini Atoll, a captured Nazi Pacific outpost—in German it was known formally as the Eschholtzinseln whereas bikini meant the place of coconuts in Marshallese—where the US, in Operation Cross-Roads, carried out its first peace-time nuclear test) that celebrate the bounty of the harvest and local vegetation.
The prickly cactus two-piece swimwear model apparently in fact made it into the annuls of contemporary German propaganda as an indictment against America for its lack of good taste and sophistication, although those associated with the shoot were more upset that the dateline was wrongly attributed to Florida rather than the desert southwest of Arizona where members of the sponsoring Sunshine Club gathered.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

polyglotinous or said no one ever

A linguistic curiosity plucked from the vast archives of Futility Closet comes in the form grammarian and instructor Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff whom, following the cues of education reformer Jean Manesca who believed that the classic scholastics that taught moribund languages like Latin and Ancient Greek was not the best approach for imparting fluency in pupils of a living one, refined his methods and published his grammars and foreign study guides in the 1840s that contain the familiarly stilted and strange sounding scenarios that one is unlikely to encounter outside of a foreign language class or ever utter verbatim.

One wonders if bi-lingualism was not frowned upon prior to Ollendorff, borne in part out of personal frustrations while travelling.  Sort of like a googlewhack—inputting a search-query that yields exactly one or zero results or a hapax legomenon, those practise sentences (you know the sort) that are well-intended and for Ollendorff’s students at least accurate and possibly memorable for their strangeness—and not like those one might find in that infamous Portuguese primer, “English as she is Spoke.” His signature, repetitive syntax earned him an immortal literary epithet in HG Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (a bit like something out of Dick and Jane but far more arch)—“Yesterday he bled and wept,” said the Satyr (presumable ESL). “You never bleed nor weep. The Master does not bleep or weep.” “Ollendorffian beggar!” said Montgomery, “you’ll bleed and weep if you don’t look out!”

Saturday, 15 July 2017

post-modern prometheus

Over the coming year ahead of the bicentennial anniversary of its publication, we learn courtesy of BCC’s Inside Science, that Arizona State University in collaboration with many other thinkers are releasing a special annotated, transmedia edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus to encourage the vital political dialogue that is corollary to ethics and literacy in the sciences as well as celebrating all its influences and derivative works. The prescience of this cautionary tale has yet to be fully unpacked and its resonance and currency in today’s scientific milieu when one can without asking permission but perhaps forgiveness seemingly easily de-extinct not only woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers but also Neanderthals is certainly to be heeded.

doxbin of history

With predictable irony, the White House’s election integrity commission charged with the prevention of voter fraud that it intends to fulfil by doing away with the right to a secret ballot allayed fears of the public that the registry would disclose personally identifiable information of private citizens by revealing the details (to include full names, emails and phone numbers in some cases as the on-line form to lodge a complaint asked for this information) to the public in raw form, not bothering to mask any of the personal information. While it’s unclear whether the commission’s webmaster was careless or vindictive towards those who wrote in to express their dissenting opinions of this initiative (and actively encourage a bit of vigilantism), it seems to definitely reaffirm the fact that government ought not to be trusted with this scope and breadth of data—which they surely already are in possession of, but contempt for domestic intelligence agencies has made this regime thankfully far from omniscient.

dunkle materie

In the 1930s Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky (building upon some significant antecedents with Lord Kelvin measurements and Henri Poincaré’s matiére obscure) accounted for the exponentially different observed velocity of the galactic clusters he was watching due to the presence of some “dunkle Materie.” Consistent but predictable discrepancies in similar measurements over the intervening decades had persuaded science that there was there was a mysterious form of matter that comprised most of the substance of the Cosmos, which was conveniently allusive and unobservable was necessarily for how we understood the Universe to work—which does sound a bit forced.
Justin Khoury, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Pennsylvania, proffers a new way of understanding dark matter that while not substituting it for the classic idea of æther, a pervading continuum, does invite us to imagine dark matter as not particular or cloud-like (exclusively, at least) but something more fluid in nature. Specifically, we’re to think of dark matter like something called a Bose Einstein Condensate, an exotic state of matter that takes on the quantum property of superfludity. Some particles (and we can only create it in the laboratory under temporary, microscopic conditions) that make up the matrix take on the properties of losing all viscosity—like a super-conductor having no resistance to current—and at the same time other particles retain the sort of fluid dynamics that we are used to. Though we are most comfortable with witnessing or being baffled by quantum weirdness on very small scales, perhaps dark matter and dark energy are macroscopic manifestations of quantum effects at close-range—say just beyond the limits of human reach—and frictionless and virtually undetectable but stretching across vast distances of time and space, dark matter forms pools on galactic-scales that can be seen to influence the way clusters of galaxies and super-structures interact and hold stable. Some hold that dark matter is no better than superstitious preserving appearances—but to abandon it would mean modifying General Relativity—which like the quantum question of scale, has been demonstrated to work very well in our own solar system but remains not so rigorously tested in grander schemes.

Friday, 14 July 2017


The curators over at My Modern Met direct our attention to the striking “time slice” photography of artist Fong Qi Wei, who has honed his talent and patience for years to create these evocative composite images of a single subject or landscape throughout the day and night. As the artist states, these limnal—somewhere between a painting and snapshot—but also harmonising works engage the viewers more the longer it is considered and appreciated. It also makes me wonder what it means to take ourselves outside of time as much as we do out of nature and authentic experiences. And naturally, the also take well to animated treatment. Be sure to visit either of the links above to peruse the entire gallery and for related creations.


Of course we’re hurtling towards the moment (accelerating, I suspect if the US Federal Communication Commission gets its way and kills net neutrality) when the whole on-line experience and thus the way our personalities and world-view is informed will just be one vanity mirror to reaffirm our ignorances and prejudice, we are probably not quite there yet.
One platform that’s helping us lurch closer to that sort of dumb, narcissistic Singularity, essayist Paul Bisceglio writing for The Atlantic, explores at length with a rather brilliant, cautionary look at the personality quiz in all its incarnations—which, like many things, has taken a bit of a sinister, prying turn in the digital age. Not to spoil the fun and perhaps something insightful to be learned by which spirit-animal, Disney princess, or silent film star one is, but all these data-points feed algorithms that are destined when mediated through bogus psychologically projective tests inevitably become unreliable, judgmental and often flawed or dangerous. Couched in uncertain and unscientific terms as they are, such demographics are irresponsible and ought not be captured for marketers and political-handlers to use but that’s stopping no one from collecting that information and manipulating digital scenery with it. Instead, if one needs to indulge in some reflection, I’d advise one to stick to the horoscopes—and preferably by hard-copy.

grey poupon or an american in paris

Though nothing of substance is to be gained by entertaining Dear Leader at least while pacified by the pomp and circumstance and thronging crowds he demanded for his own inauguration—and while I can only hope in the same circumstance, we’d be noble enough to take one for the team and lure him away (Germany’s already gotten her lumps), he cannot concentrate on dismantling the tenuous gains towards a more equitable, charitable and cherished world we’ve made in the past decades. France’s traditions too are made of stronger stuff that this blemish will fade fast, and though the temporary relief is surely a welcome one for the US the cost does seem rather steep for a sleep-over. Superficially, some are comparing France’s new maverick president to Dear Leader for a shared flair for optics and betraying favouritism for certain journalists, but I think it’s huge stretch and insult other than to contrast Monsieur Macron from this classless Enfant Terrible and his mobster family.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

münzkabinett oder endangered specie

Authorities in Berlin are investigating a rather brazen heist but the pilfered commemorative coin—one of five created by the Royal Canadian Mint (for no particular reasons) in 2007 and acquired in 2010 by the city’s storied Bode museum, was loot too hard to resist.
In late March, a Big Maple Leaf, as they’re known with the Queen’s effigy on the obverse and the national symbol on the reverse , a gold coin weighing in at one hundred kilograms and with a face value of one million Canadian dollars but with a market value over four times higher as bullion. The investigation is continuing and arrests have been made—including one of the museum’s watchmen—and a crime family is under suspicion but police, given the nature of the liquidity of the haul, are not hopeful that the coin will be recovered, even in pieces.


fish and visitors: Icelanders are growing weary of insensitive tourists

meal-ticket: clever man works hospitality loopholes to eat for free for nearly a year before people got wise to his scheme

by jove: amazing, arresting images of the Giant Red Spot of Jupiter

je pense, donc je suis: our sense of self understood through the power of attention

theatre-in-the-round: the workshop of a LEGO expert constructs a zoetrope with minifigs, plus an original precursor to animation encoded as a GIF in bacterial DNA

sanli tu: medieval abridged guide to the Chinese classics of protocol and divination goes on display alongside some of the artefacts pictured therein

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

my son is a high-quality person and i applaud his transparency

Never mind that the honeypot was most definitely a trap and that the Russians are quite skilled at cultivating useful idiots and that most people would have had the presence of mind to not rush in on a lark or the fact that Junior’s venture was considered worth pursuing for what it might’ve yielded in terms of dirty laundry—beyond the pale of normal oppositional investigation—but at the same time excused for its apparent failure to yield actionable intelligence as much ado about nothing, this voluntary disclosure, thanks to unrelenting pressure from the press, drastically reframes the past narrative of having no connections with foreign agents.
No member of Dear Leader’s crime syndicate has owned up to meeting with Russia officials and intermediaries until being outed by journalists. Moreover, Dear Leader certified that the encounter in question was over the embargo for American adoption of Russian orphans, ostensibly over the legislation that legalised same-sex marriage rather than rescinding economic sanctions for the invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. Whether or not Russia had incriminating evidence on candidate Clinton or on their Manchurian Candidate, it is becoming more and more clear that Dear Leader was currying favour as a way to access the Russian property market. A potential business opportunity was capitalised upon back in 2013 when hosting a beauty pageant in Moscow and Dear Leader deigned to appear in a music video (far more awkward than Macaulay Culkin and George Wendt on Michael Jackson’s Black or White) of a business partner’s son. We don’t expect a neat coda of this fugue any time soon.