Tuesday, 31 January 2017

it’s in the white of my eyes

Atlas Obscura has a very thorough and well-researched tribute to the so-called leader-ladies or “China Girls” that appeared at the head of film reels in order to help projectionists and developers calibrate the colour saturation and contrast. Each laboratory, studio and cinema had their own signature but unbilled matinee idols that were never mean to be seen by the audience. With the transition from analogue to digital, of course (read about the development of the JPEG format here), this custom is falling out of practise but one archivist with the Chicago Film Society has become their champion with a big gallery of these unsung and mostly unknown models. There’s no consensus on the etymology of the term, however.

Atlas Obscura hat eine sehr gründliche und gut recherchierte Hommage an die sogenannten Leaderdamen oder China Girls, die an der Spitze der Filmrollen erschienen, um Projektoren und Entwicklern dabei zu helfen, die Farbsättigung und den Kontrast zu kalibrieren.  Jedes Labor, Studio und Kino hatten ihre eigene Signatur, aber nicht berechnete Matinee-Idole, die niemals vom Publikum gesehen werden sollten. Mit dem Übergang von analog zu digital, natürlich (gelesen über die Entwicklung des JPEG-Format hier), dieser Brauch ist aus der Praxis, aber ein Archivar mit der Chicago Film Society hat sich ihre Champion mit einer großen Galerie dieser ungesund und vor allem Unbekannte Modelle.  Es gibt jedoch keinen Konsens über die Etymologie des Begriffs.

Monday, 30 January 2017

designated survivor

Not that we’ve seen any evidence that this regime has a modicum of respect for protocol or slow governance, perhaps the first order of business ought to be amending the twenty-fifth amendment of the US constitution to change the presidential line of succession to something more aligned with taking the keys away from Peepaw (that’s ever an unenviable task), since as it currently stands, it’s really some awful Hydra in the making.
In descending order of this American carnage goes first to vice-president, then the presiding officer of the house of congress, next to the second in charge of the senate (as the vice-president is the highest ranking) who is by tradition the most senior elected official of the ruling party, and then, should no one be willing to handle that political hot potato, it falls to members of the cabinet in order of the creation of the office, with Secretary of State being the most venerable and Homeland Security the least tenured posting. The precedence is established in the US constitution but was really defined and codified by the twenty-fifth amendment ratified in 1965, responding to the assassination of JFK but grounded in the incapacitation of Woodrow Wilson in 1919 (a stroke caused by the strain of a combination of arguing for the Treaty Versailles and women’s suffrage and advocating against prohibition) that was covered up by her first ladyship Edith Wilson who was making the executive decisions on his behalf for two years.

taste the rainbow

Thanks to the observant TYWKIWDBI, it’s apparently standard practise in the States to pass off substandard candy as animal feed. Disclosure came when a lorry overturned and spilt a shipment of Skittles destined for the ranch. The digestive systems of ruminants—at least in this instances, apparently are so different from that of humans, dietary concerns and the deleterious effects of so much sugar or food colouring do not apply.
Depending on market-fluctuations and farm subsidies, it’s cheaper sometimes to offload surplus or defective sweets this way. Even if it’s not technically “unhealthy” for the cows, it strikes as cruel and not a treat. What do you think? I wonder how wide-spread the practise is. I feel fairly confident that this wouldn’t be permitted in Ireland but maybe it could have accounted for those flocks of sheep tagged in tie-dyed colours.

swamping the drain or pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

While the world was distracted with the directive to enforce a ban on Muslim travel and immigration, Dear Leader restructured the subcommittee of the National Security Council that enjoys a standing invitation for the daily briefs, to include his chief strategist and minister of disinformation and disinvite the Joint Chiefs of Staff and national intelligence director—meaning they’ll come when summoned.
Past presidents have excluded their private counsels on the basis of not wanting to taint decisions that involve putting the lives of soldiers and civilians at risk with political or business motives. Even that lovable old war-criminal Bush II had the restraint not to let Karl Rove sit at the adults’ table. What this departure foreshadows is disturbing to contemplate, as if this break with tradition is a stress-test to see the tolerance people and officials have for autonomous action without respect for the system of checks and balances or the other branches of the US government. Coups d’État tend to invite counter-insurgencies.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

damnatio memoriæ or diplomatic pouch

Though perhaps not at the levels of the paranoid power-holders of the Roman Empire (yet) nor of more recent lashings out by despots, depleting the ranks at the State Department of senior leadership and repudiating decades of institutional knowledge and highly specialised skills of career consuls without diplomacy or delicacy (no gold watch and pat on the back as they’re ushered out of the building) is very chilling.
While these ranking members of the corps serve at the pleasure of the sitting administration and out of respect tender their resignations, most key division chiefs remain, with many having tenures approaching four decades and beyond and serving both Republicans and Democrats alike, most remain at least until their replacements are vetted to ensure there is little underlap and disruption in the transition and many have remained to ensure continuity. For this purge, however, no one can recall seeing its like in their entire career—damning the memory and progress, it seems, of those that came before and going further to question the department’s role in process and protocol, the arrangements for the first visit by a foreign dignitary carried out (since the first invitee was compelled to stay away, don’t mention the Wall) without the involvement of State whatsoever. I imagine little consultation was sought when enacting the travel ban for Muslims.  What sort of immunities and courtesies can the world be expected to reciprocate when the US is acting-out?

lösegeld

Guests and management of a luxury hotel and ski resort outside of the village of Turracherhöhe that bridges the states of Styria and Carinithia recovered from its latest in a spate of ransom-ware assaults by paying a moderate but not insignificant sum of bit coins.
This was the third and final incursion against the hotel’s cyber-infrastructure and management regretted giving into extortion since (as partners in the tourist industry have pointed out, though also plagued with the problem) it only encourages the crime—sort of like the Danegeld, the tribute that the English paid to the Vikings for not raiding their villages, but the last attack was rather more off-putting and potentially dangerous for wealthy guests—this storied establishment originally only hosteled lumberjacks: the electronic key-card system was hijacked where not only could no new key-cards be issued or programmed, guests could neither enter or leave their rooms. The bit coin ransom was paid and the hotel made itself impervious to further attacks but reinstalling good old locks and keys—and not of the skeuomorph kind whose dividends maybe running low.

impoundment of appropriated funds

Though not as instantly fraught with dismay and foreboding as his other pronouncements of royal prerogative including the border wall with Mexico, the immigration ban for some Muslims and eviscerating healthcare for millions with no clear plan to replace it, Dear Leader has also charged the federal government with tightening up its cyber operations and identifying principle adversaries—which smacks as ironic since his own putative Russian dossier emerged and the dossiers of millions of swamp-critters are with China for safe-keeping and they’re not paying for that firewall either.
The other executive order is more contentious and drawing less attention but could eventually herald a massive change in the makeup and wealth of institutional knowledge and mission-readiness in the government: a civilian hiring freeze. Far from nimble and as efficient as possible, the bureaucracy of the executive branch, which includes the president’s armies, ambassadors and spies, is a measure of protection from rash or vaguely worded decisions. What do you think? Despite perceptions of expansion and redundancy, the American federal workforce has remained at about two million since the end of World War II. The scope and timbre of changing missions has been accentuated with government contractors and soldiers-of-fortune that are far more costly in the long run than those under its employ directly. What do you think? Supposedly after the hiring freeze expires, the Office of Personnel Management will have a clear and sober picture of how to proceed in eliminating positions by not filing vacancies after incumbents depart. Of course these decisions are not without broader consequences in terms of delivering the services that the government is still obliged to provide—especially considering that some of biggest welfare benefactors on both ends of the spectrum that were among Dear Leader’s support-base were those in red states that relied on government support and those corporate entities guaranteed government handouts and concessions that maximised their profit-margins. These ordered reassessments also come at a time when the government of the people has been working without a budget for over a decade, making it hard to project future privations. Perhaps that fiduciary guidance ought to have come first.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

this sceptr’d isle

Of course timeless words never ought to be denigrated for a moment’s gain but their lessons obviously resound and need no champions or intermediaries:

This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle,
This Earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves in it the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house
Against the envy of less happier lands—
This blessed plot, the Earth, this realm, this England!

Through the bleary-eyed and hysterical metrics of today Hobbits too for their love of the Shire—and perhaps for their near universal dismissal by other races, are seen as Little Englanders. Any great and enduring work can withstand these ephemeral sights, however, and lasts because, despite they’re often invoked and abused.

6x6

nadir and newel: a gallery of the spiralling stairwells of Bauhaus Budapest

herbarium: wondrous twelfth century guide to medical plants

honeycomb hide-out: hexagonal architecture of avid apiarist who thought right-angles would be the downfall of man

south america: Bowie and Jagger cover of Dancing in the Streets redeemed in Lego format

children of the corn: large scale monoculture and monotonous diets are turning European hamsters into deranged cannibals 

tiger parents, dragon uncle: for the emendation of the uninitiated Shanghai Rainbow Choir presents a parody of judgmental dinner table conversations for Lunar New Year family reunions

#iamwithtacostand

The sound-bite has been replaced by the hashtag, but far from limiting discourse or dissent this platform allows those words to be fed back to the speaker almost instantly.
Re-tweeting is not the same as rehashing, disinterring old arguments, as momentum can nuance the message and make it carry something more than the fading echoes down the corridors of the internet. That’s the recoil of fake-news, but these headlines write themselves and far more outrageous and incredulous than an army of trolls might muster up. The American people and the citizens of this planet want to see Dear Leader’s tax return supposedly in those manila folders, want to feel confident that his decisions aren’t driven by business entanglements, is not deranged, is capable of compassion to those different than him, and none of want that wall as a monument to his ego and insecurities that’ll be an eternal breaking up rocks in a prison yard. It’s the only been the first full week—I’m still with taco stand.

Friday, 27 January 2017

don’t let it rest on the president’s desk

Dear Leader has disabled the comment line of the White House’s switchboard due to overwhelming call volumes. Do not fret, however, as this patch, Boing Boing informs, re-routes your calls at random to the switchboard of one of his hotels or resorts, so you can still leave customer feedback and urge him divest himself of his business interests, and remind him that until or unless he does so, there’s no distinction between public and private enterprise.

cat-scratch fever

I am always enthralled with the panel-discussions on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time whatever the topic, and this week’s episode on Parisitism was no exception and particularly enjoyed the sidebar about the curiously manipulative micro-organism called the Toxoplasma gondii, which punches way above its weight. Though it can infect any mammal, in most incidents the parasite infests its host by cloning itself and these incursions in turn are generally short-lived as the biological defences of the host can quickly adapt to wear down the infection.
Sexual reproduction—which accords the parasite the evolutionary advantage of diversity and subsequent generations propelling the better traits of the forebears—can also occur but only while dwelling in felines. I had heard of toxoplasmosis once before when the wife of a co-worker, apropos of nothing, shared with me the fact that she had been diagnosed with it at one point, but never knew of its prevalence nor the strange and circuitous path it takes to mate. Seemingly a disease of affluence, some half of the human population are estimated to have been exposed and carry the parasite though most cases are mild, asymptomatic and vary greatly according to culture. In order to get from the wilds into lions, tigers or house-cats and complete its lifestyle, T. gondii, picked up by rodents, has been seen to radically alter their instinctual behaviour. Uninfected rodents demonstrate a visceral aversion to the smell of cat urine out of self-preservation, but those infested will sacrifice themselves to their local mouser, like a Trojan horse. Studies are not terribly conclusive but research suggests that the parasite may induce some of the same neurologic disorders. No offense intended for cat-fanciers but this does make me wonder why so many self-identify with their affinity for either the canine or feline persuasion and if there’s not some underlying pathology.

supernatural or deus ex machina

I recall coming across in the afterward of some assigned reading for a class designed to teach empathy or some such thing whose inspiration and circumspection is doubtless virtuous but tends to wither too quickly a confession on the part of the author of a touch of agnosticism but was more than willing and desirous to entertain there being a God, especially a personal and benevolent one. The author went on—the book was otherwise forgettable and a bit embarrassing to endure—to ponder if civilisation did not only invent the concept of the divine through myth-making and trying to understand the natural world but also (by being worthy) created the gods.
There was no talk of a technological singularity or philosophical mechanism but broached the idea, like the concept of some religious tradition that human beings were not animate with souls from birth but rather earned them in epiphanies. One expert in the field of artificial intelligence, coming from a slightly nuanced angle, conjectures that in order to gain and keep the trust, faith of humans, robots as they become by degrees omnipresent and omnipotent in a non-supernatural fashion, they only way to guarantee that that power will be used wisely and compassionately is if all power is surrendered right away unconditionally. This God-fearing nature in many of us, fretting over idolatry, job-security and future-shock, is fraught with paradox as it is precisely what is holding us back from relinquishing control to an albeit hypothetical artificial god and possibly ensures that the progress of artificial intelligence going forward will appear to humans as rather Old Testament punishing and oppressive—and out of our control altogether. I wonder if all sufficiently sophisticated civilisations create gods such as these and whether these titans are heir to or destroyers of the elder gods. What do you think about this? Like the plot device, a god from the machine, perhaps the resistance, the fear of God is present in part because to be otherwise and more receptive and welcome might betray the blandishments of laziness and masking ineptness with a twist that ensures a happy ending.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

after the disaster oder post-haste

As inimical as Dear Leader is to journalists, it’s a strange irony that his propaganda juggernaut and message point-man are dyed in the wool muckrakers—with parallels to another paradox we’ve explored previously but not quite a one-to-one correspondence but still a strained relation to the press, and that engine is of course looking to expand into other potentially contentious campaigns.
With elections looming in France, Italy and Germany in the upcoming months, media outlets have focused their attention on questions of refugee policies, trade and national sovereignty and seem determine to sway public opinion. Unabashed moves on the part of the official apparatus and media label—in all its tabloid reputation—to install itself in Germany especially highlights the dissonance of selective concern and the pledge for isolationism without introspection. There are of course two dialogues occurring at the same time—one in the native language and the other in English and not necessarily mutually intelligible or bi-curious, and not always having the access and wherewithal to guide the outside discussion puts German voters perhaps at a disadvantage and subject to a great deal of outside pressure and bullying. Respected German journalism eschews in general sensationalism and practises a restraint that can be to an Anglo-Saxon readership frustratingly staid and boring, and whether Germans have a privileged perspective of what fake-news or die Lügenpresse can lead to and have an innate resistance to it or are just loathe to acknowledge it remains to be seen and might soon be tested again.  Reliance on exaggeration can only up to a point produce reliable results and the press is charged with keeping those in power accountable.

figment or playable character

Visionary and legendary video game designer Hideo Kojima suggests that the future format of entertainment will be merging of the film, novel and game.
Instead of different progressive—or regressive, franchises that see a story’s arc pass from page, to stage to screen to costume sequentially, audiences, readers and players will be able to choose their level of interaction within a narrative. A particularly engaging passage of a book or movie could be explored further by entering down a rabbit-hole that let’s one interact as the protagonist. Challenging scenes that are emotionally or physically taxing could be allowed to play themselves through. It’s a curious to think that a novel could be a fungible experience and is hard to imagine how choice and demand works for story-telling. What do you think?  Of course, our imaginations are already quite good at creating fantasy worlds in outsized formats and allowing ourselves to be drawn in to all sorts of situations, and I only hope if such technology comes to pass, paired with the right prose, it would enhance rather than dull our creative and imaginative capacities.

grace and favour or alt-nasa

Dear Leader’s unconfirmed boast that he has managed to assemble an advisory cabinet with the highest intelligence-quotients of all time (mind you, that group includes the anointed, Rick Perry and Betsy DeVos so they must be grading on the curve) smacks of the Enron executives calling themselves the smartest guys in the room.
And while he claims to have filled these positions (appointees historically don’t have the stamina to serve for entire terms as it is) with those with the conviction to disagree with him and make sure the government makes informed decisions, at the same time Dear Leader seems unwilling to defer to the true subject matter experts and agency officials, threatening and in some cases acting to censor science and research that is off-message. Already grants are being rescinded and decisions on conservation and land-use being reversed—and even if the administration relents on suppression of subversive and inconvenient truths, it’s quite chilling that it was even suggested and serves to undermine education and literacy further, just as smoke-filled room meeting with the UK’s Brexit care-taker leadership and clubby deals are not particularly well veiled overtures meant to undermine the EU and socially, civically, environmentally sound and responsible governance.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

7x7

skycots: vintage photographs show how babies travelled in the 1950s on British Airways

franchissant: artificial intelligence working with composite images creates the illusion of Napoleon Crossing the Alps

fret zeppelin: a tutoring guitar that helps you learn finger placement fast


great railway journeys: tracing the new Silk Road, a train travels from China to London

c: like light, does darkness have a speed?

ЗАТО: vintage retro-future welcome signs of Soviet towns of science and industry, via Messy Nessy Chic

parfocal lens: it’s the Powers of Ten of dentistry 

alt-truths or i love a parade

Amidst all the other excitement we missed this detail that apparently Dear Leader—although the story is not fully corroborated despite respectable circulation, modelling his plans off of the military extravaganzas of Pyongyang and Moscow, had requested that the Army to parade tanks and missile launchers down Pennsylvania Avenue.
So as not to appear insubordinate, military chiefs explained the streets of Washington, DC could not bear the weight of combat vehicles. It would have been rather Red Square indeed. What do you think? It certainly seems like a plausible request and suggests a health precedence for the relationship between the Commander-in-Chief and his armies that the favour might be rebuffed, but believing in things without a tether to objective reality is what got us into this mess to begin with. I am wondering if our friends in the UK are feeling as uncomfortable over their caretaker government’s chumminess with the US regime as the American people do over the apparent closeness with the Russian leader. Another demonstration of might, a fly-over of five jets representing each of the branches of armed service, was scheduled for certain but subsequently cancelled due to poor weather conditions and would have been the first time post-9/11 that the air-space restriction over the capital was lifted. Had these alternate courses of action took place, there is still no accurate projection of how the spectacle would have impacted attendance.

doping or spider-sense

Via Marginal Revolution, we are invited to entertain the notion that we could—and are currently, could tune our bodies not just with exercise or fad diets or self-medication but with more sophisticated forms of gene therapy, whose advocates and early-adopters encourage one to try at home.
One experimental method that smacks a little of Frankenstein involves temporarily stimulating cells to produce certain proteins through electro-currents purported to stimulate longevity and overall health—but not anchored in one’s chromosomes and genetic makeup permanently and the effects only last weeks to months before a re-charge is needed. This sort of gene-regulation is radical enough in itself—especially as a DIY project, but as the technology behind gene and DNA editing called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), think of the potential for individuals to understand and successful tweak their biochemistry and mutate themselves to attain super-human abilities.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

emoluments or tldr;

Although the president of the United States is exempt to an extent to the conflict of interest clauses that most other public officials are beholden to, the president cannot recluse himself and declare himself to be above the law and de facto de-conflicted.
It’s important and not something to just roll over for and submit to as part of the new normal or alternative truths because there’s significantly more invested in Dear Leader’s failure to divest himself of his business operations than him merely enriching his own coffers through rank-hypocrisy. Limiting my points to just a pair as this is obviously a difficult concept to grasp, firstly such a branding properties, both foreign and domestic, with the presidential label is a taunt to terrorists and thus commits all of America fiduciarily and militarily, not mentioning how it puts all tenants and guests at risk. Secondly, inasmuch as some find a target for destruction in this product line, visiting and lingering and loitering dignitaries find something to patronise and will gravitate out of obsequiousness or corporate patriotism or defeatism, others find something to patronise—and that invites lawsuit on the part of competitors side-lined because of accorded prestige. In other words, any other hotel within the beltway and beyond is at a serious disadvantage when comes to hostelling anyone. That’s not only a disservice to those expected to pony up immediately but also for the tax-paying population entire. Multi-tasking ought to have never been romanticised and these are not responsibilities that one can juggle.  With those sorts of distractions weighing heavily on one’s mind, how could one be expected to run the country?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

with malice towards none

It took some time for Dear Leader’s anointing speech to resolve into context, as one might be forgiven how words at this juncture are actually tone-setting rather than writ on sand, but this consequence did eventually reveal itself, showing the incumbent being little different than the candidate.
Only addressing his electoral base, Dear Leader made very little concession to reconciliation and the monologue careened towards the ahistorical. Those not already in his constituency were given little solace.  All those former presidents and present wardens of government that shared the dais with the speaker were not just put on notice but moreover denounced and disparaged as failures that led to his elevation and mandate. Only addressing the audience assembled before him, there was no message of unity or sacrifice that credits those thinking differently or those who sacrificed before. What do you think? Read those speeches of resounding significance from Lincoln and Kennedy and the Roosevelts where the quotable lines come from—even those intermediaries or under-studies acknowledged who came before. Surely any reign without milieu cannot be judged favourably by history, which is I think another bugbear tossed out there for one’s consideration and trepidation.

fare-zone or metro-link

Back in 2013, graphic designer Mark Ovenden drafted his concept of a world connected by their existing subway systems, well before the engineers and visionaries behind Hyperloop One might make such an arrangement of swift and environmentally sustainable mass transportation possible. Inspired by Harry Beck’s iconic diagrammatic transport map of the London Underground, this work endures as a useful conversation-starter when it comes to holding a dialogue on investment in infrastructure and what a radical new mode of transportation means for the future where borders are meaningless and commutes rather tractless as well. More of the latest developments on the monumental project can be found at the link up top.

stop, collaborate and listen

I enjoyed reading about these rather timeless tunes that were sampled from elsewhere from Mental Floss.
Though most I think know that the anthems of the US are not original in their scoring and reflect a kind of awkward musical appropriation, I had never known that the carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” or in Charles Wesley’s first composition Hark! how all the welkins (heavens) ring, glory to the King of kings, was set to the tune of the popular Gutenberg cantata (der Festgesang) by Felix Mendelssohn that celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the printing-press, that’s a fitting bombastic torch-song tribute to the printed word, first performed in 1840. The carol’s lyrics were adapted to the tune fifteen years later as part of a Christmas medley.

degenerate art

Predictably, Trump announces that his administration will eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and privatise the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—not because they are particular budgetary drain nor rarefied plaything of the elite but rather because he does not care for them, which is also what he believes his supporters want to hear.
Of course these assaults against government support for the arts are perennial and these institutions have withstood the likes of far more savvy opponents, but we could sure us some help. The financial support is not about dictating taste or indoctrinating the young—which ironically is more amicable to tyrants than the virtues of citizenship and critical thought that they espouse and are charged with exposing people to. As bad as things are and with art under threat, I don’t think that even this regime could compel Elmo and Grover to don their Gestapo uniforms and disappear Mister Johnson in the night. Support your local station and chapter (those smaller museums and expositions that the NEA and the NEH make possible) and spread the word.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

thumbs up or speculation is 20/20

Apparently already thoroughly disgusted with the prospects for world peace and prosperity for the next four years, political augurs are already prognosticating a candidacy for US president on the part of a major social media network founder, whose been rather coy about putting out feelers—at least in their interpretation.
The media billionaire (who’ll be barely of legal age by 2020 to hold the office) is embarking on a tour to engage with people in all fifty states of the Union—which sounds like something an aspiring politician would do—to help all people finding meaning and authenticity in interconnectivity, which also sounds sufficiency rousing. It’s a little soon—maybe, but what do you think? I don’t think that the face of Facebook is exactly the antidote and antithesis to what America is awakening to presently—and the site and the cultural norms it has fostered are certainly not of unimpeachable character, no matter how reflective that they are of us. Perhaps by the time the campaign season begins, it will be a super-human act to refrain from glancing at one’s cheering section and only one who is already acquainted with the dirty laundry and the skeletons in one’s closets might be able to practise restraint and thus appear weirdly disciplined and relatable.

affront national oder petry le pen

Riding a wave of populism, the city of Koblenz is host to a counter-summit of the right-wing hardliner parties from across Europe.
The conference, which is mostly a publicity stunt since by their definition, they seek no grander supra-national coalition, rather than a strategic meeting to spin straw into political capital, was announced under the hashtag #wewillmakeourcountriesgreatagain and aims to redress (or pander to) concerns over lost sovereignty and anxieties regarding security and immigration. Many mainstream media outlets are being disinvited for allegations of bias and labels that sow disdain and dismissal, yet this event is also seen as a staging platform for the news, opinion and commentary network that helped propel Trump to victory expansion to Germany.

at honex, we constantly strive to improve every aspect of bee existence

Coverage of the inauguration ceremony in Washington, DC, whether mediated or immediate, presented a strange compulsion—maybe the aching yearning of the thin crowds that lined segments of the route from the Capitol to the White House who wanted this spectacle to be presidential and dignified—to frame it in such a way, in the tradition of apologists, that the breach and breaking is somehow normal and acceptable. This stunt was none of those things and disturbing to the core on all counts.  It wasn’t enough to eviscerate the Affordable Health Care Act as the first order of business, but to do so without a clear path forward despite having been salivating over this moment for six years makes it even worse.

It was not enough that the ideological tenor of the White House underwent radical changes instantly, white-washing talk of global-warming and climate change (however long or short this reign of terror runs and no matter what other geopolitical blunders are made, the failure to save the environment will be its enduring legacy), emphasising respect for authority over community cohesion and getting rid of its little gay corner, endowments for the arts, public broadcasting, and all mention of civil rights, those messages were replaced with Dear Leader touting his own merchandise. Of course, things are not looking good for education and the sciences either, which are long-term economic-indicators as much as they are there to inspire and uplift.  Repeated mentions of the peaceful transition of power does not make it so and certainly does not dispel the darkness. There are one-thousand four hundred sixty-one days left in this term, and while that segment of his inaugural speech was sadly not plagiarised (though other examples abound) perhaps like that inexplicable editing of that movie about those cartoon bees where they sped up the film every time some character said “bee,” we can accelerate through this with every “great” and “bigly.”

Friday, 20 January 2017

6x6

heart-shaped box: as part of its forgotten formats series, Ars Technica explores the history of the 8-track cartridge and its links to the Lear jet and Kurt Cobain

mall-walkers: sculpt one’s figure among the sculptures with a workout at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, via the always aesthetic Nag on the Lake

good fences make good neighbours: social media entrepreneur, eschewing privacy, sues hundreds to keep his Hawaiian estate pristine, via Boing Boing

road to nowhere: celebrating architectural fossils preserved despite apparent lack of historical value

assuage party: conservatives members of a Danish archipelago volunteer to host rumoured but inevitable US-Russo summit

yavin base: 1977 theatre audience reacting to Star Wars’ trench run

superior orders

I wonder how promptly the Chain of Command portrait wall will be updated to reflect Dear Leader and his minions, surely a sore and unenviable task. I bet like there will be incentivised snitching in place to catch those government bureaus out of compliance—like Domino’s Pizza ran when they updated their logo and encouraged the public to report on franchises still using the old shingle with vouchers for a free pizza. I wonder what the prize might be for ratting-out your co-workers for dragging their feet.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

the bicameral xor

One house of the legislature of the US state of Georgia passed a bill in February 1953 to make “andor” the legal successor to the awkward conjunction and/or—the new term signifying all the meanings and nuance championed by the former including “either, or, both, and or or, and and or.” The proposal however was struck down by the upper house and “andor” perished ignobly on the senate floor. Xor is the so-called “exclusive or” in logical operations that only holds true when conditions differ: the law passed one chamber but failed in the other. I wonder if there has been any linguistic lobby for the novel ways that intervening bit of punctuation, the slash, has taken on.

zener cards

Among the massive cache of documents recently declassified by the US Central Intelligence Agency one can find glosses of the research programme into remote viewing and the identification and recruitment efforts of psychic warriors. One such mental pugilist was Uri Geller—who was a bit taken aback one hearing the news that the project called Stargate was now in the public domain, considering that studies were still on-going, but he could corroborate at least some of his special assignments, like standing outside the Soviet Embassy building in Mexico City and trying to erase floppy disks telepathically or arresting the heartbeat of a hapless pig in preparation for larger prey, in addition to him being asked to produce clairvoyant sketches.

the day the earth stood still

It’s quite a coincidence that it’s almost exactly to the day five years ago, the internet went off-line in solidarity and protest to the US Congress censorship bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that would have place grave strictures on the open internet and free-exchange. By resisting, the people eventually won and Congress relented but the victory came at a high costs and we have to remain ever vigilant—hopefully, we are not so inured to creeping change that we haven’t quietly surrendered those freedoms in the intervening years. Liberties are always at peril and we ought to be vocal and owe it to ourselves to be our best and truest selves, but perhaps this is not the occasion for a black-out, as after the shut-down, we might not be allowed to come back on-line.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

like flies to wanton boys or pew-pew-pew

Capitalising on a property of refraction known as the Kerr Effect, defence contractors are developing lensing techniques that would from orbit turn a patch of sky into a temporary magnifying glass by heating the atmosphere with laser beams.
Not only would this technique from on-high allow for finer detail in surveillance, it introduces the art of designing sequences of moves and manœuvres for a choreography that will be executed at the speed of light. Harnessing the same properties, advancing columns or whole cities could cloak or distort themselves, tossing out mirages to cause systems to fire on the wrong targets. At a distance, vanishingly narrow defensive measures would also include the ability to cast a disruptive index back at an incoming laser. Either pitched battles—or surprise attacks, would either literally be Blitzkrieg or go on indefinitely, robot strategists perfectly matched. I can’t think of any non-defence applications for this technology but surely there’s something out there. Maybe we could observe alien environments on intimate terms without being obtrusive or seen ourselves, and I suppose it is kind of a solace to know that one could dodge a laser beam and there’s a way to countermand even what we experience as instantaneous, though I suppose you couldn’t escape, by extension, the cruel conceit of focusing the sun’s rays on some unsuspecting insects.

atlantic wall

Messy Nessy Chic’s indices are always ripe with interesting findings and we found this week’s edition to be no exception—being especially taken by the extensive gallery of images captured by photographer Marc Wilson, curating the relics and ruins of warfare along Europe’s coasts in a four year sojourn that spanned over thirty-six thousand kilometres of beaches and rocky shores. Avoiding the better known fortifications—some of which we’ve explored here in Norway and here in France, Wilson’s work documents these stark reminders of the not so distant past, which might be fading obstacles sometimes not seen but are steadfast memorials all the same.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

purchasing power or less than zero

On the first day of the World Economic Forum in Davos amidst discussion on grave income disparity, Oxfam presents a thought-provoking corollary to the already sobering news that half the wealth in the world is concentrated in the estates of eight individuals: if one, minus debt, can clear the net worth of one penny, then one has a greater fortune than forty percent of the people in the world.
Of course this claim needs some unpacking and context in order for it not to seem glib and relativistic since just like those figures about populations subsisting on less than a dollar a day, savings and loans are not the same everywhere. The poorest tenth because of indebtedness, usually generational, have a net worth of a negative trillion dollars and one has to climb several rungs of deciles just to get to zero. Nearly three billion souls are already excluded from the reckoning of those invested eight because they have no money or its all already spent and that elect-percentile need only control the half of the money in circulation that’s not leveraged—not that that gap isn’t already obscene and beckoning the pitchforks.

freundschaft ist magisch

The president-elect’s recent interview with the European media (Bild and the Times of London—the former not exactly a bastion of journalism with the reputation of being tabloid press) praising Brexit and calling NATO obsolete have been causing much consternation, especially in Germany. Perhaps the good cop/bad cop routine with cabinet appointees not of the same mind meant to assuage fears is another pathetic prop or ill-advised piece of theatre to distract from more fundamental issues—which frankly no one needs or has time for: it didn’t take Sarah Palin long to see through Trump’s job-creation claims as gimmickry—or to divert attention from other opposed but equally laden agendas.
The individual points argued here I’d defer to the readers (Germany’s resolution to abandon nuclear energy was already public sentiment and was not engineered to make Europe dependent on Russia oil and gas, and I think that world security is of far more weight and consequence than of fooling some of the people all of the time), but it is nonetheless interesting to recall that from the opposite end of the political spectrum, Germany’s last chancellor became quite chummy with the leader of Russia. It is hard to say if this relationship influenced any of his policy decisions before vacating office in 2005 for his successor Angela Merkel, but Gerhardt Schröder took on a special project with a Gazprom subsidiary right after retiring from government, defended Russia’s actions in Ukraine—likening it UN intervention in Kosovo, and has been seen partying with Mister Putin. Maybe Mister Putin is just fun to pal around with and as a private citizen Herr Schröder could do whatever he wants but I wonder if certain things weren’t set in motion based on this friendship—and it’s better to cultivate that rather than animosity, unless the price of that bond becomes too dear. Incidentally (and it’s rather hard to draw these comparisons with some who led a grand party coalition with the Greens for seven years and assembled a pretty astute cabinet of ministers) but now that I think about it, Schröder is four times divorced and once sued a newspaper for intimating that he dyed his hair. I’d wager that Trump, despite the vast political chasm, would be far less critical of the former chancellor than he is towards the current.

Monday, 16 January 2017

foot-lights, foot-soldiers

The world of stage theatre is joining myriad other organisations in solidarity and protest that the inauguration of the president-elect at the close of this week does not herald in an era of greater oppression for those already marginalised and vulnerable.
Various troupes have come together and call the project Ghost Light after the convention of leaving a lone bulb burning centre-stage of an empty theatre. Aside from its obvious practical role of preventing a body stumbling into the orchestra pit of a darkened hall and its symbolic safety-net, there are other bits of lore associated with the ghost light—respect for those departed players that haunt theatres and even a spotlight for the performances of astral-actors, accounting for why theatres are traditionally closed one day out of the week. How will you make this occasion? Not all of us have such overpowering and resonating voices, but we can all do something to speak for those threatened with silence or the wrong idea of help so they know they aren’t standing alone.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

late-stage parochialism

Even if Donald Trump is impeached just after a bald two months into his presidency, he’ll still have attained his life-long aspiration of being a bona-fide billionaire (even if the denomination becomes on the level Silvio Berlusconi’s quintillions in lira)—thanks in no small part to the bully-pulpit and the Gordian knot of business connections that he and his cabinet members are incapable of extricating themselves from. By way of loophole, that failing pile of garbage that dares call itself a news outlet is inviting all of us to help triangulate more synapses in the some fifteen hundred side-deals so far identified and what’s anything but transparent and independent.

executive order 9066

Via Bad Ethnography, here is a moving and powerful narrative of the experience of the more than one hundred thousand American citizens of Japanese extraction made to relocate from the Pacific coast to internment camps in the interior of the country under very austere and uncertain conditions as told with the help of the keen lens of Dorthea Lange.
Under contract for the American Farm Security Administration during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression the pioneering photographer is probably best known for those iconic images, but Lange also sought capture this tragic episode when people’s loyalty was conflated with their ancestry and both were held in contempt in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbour. Germans and Italians were also detained but in far fewer numbers. Her photographs were seized however for being obviously critical of the forced evacuation policies and remained censored and unknown to the public until 2006. The whole exhibit is well-curated and makes effective use of the extensive amount of scenes from that time and personal stories. All of it is a chilling reminder of extraordinary times and the responsibility that comes with might but one of Lange’s early photographs of children reciting the pledge of allegiance just before being dispatched to a camp far from home delivers an especially poignant message of prejudice.

taking owls to athens

I knew a lot of the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder were allegorical and depicted the foibles and follies of human conventions and his Nederlandse Spreekwoorden—translated by turns as the Flemish Proverbs or The Blue Cloak (for that shock of colour in the middle of the scene, where a woman is shrouding her cuckolded husband so he doesn’t see her adulterous ways—pulling the wool over one’s eyes) is no exception. I was unfamiliar with the fact, however, that some one hundred ten idioms were represented in the painting, many with near equivalents in English, like swimming against the tide, to be armed to the teeth, killing two birds with one stone or banging one’s head against a brick wall. Some of the bawdier sayings also captured have fortunately become outmoded.

motherboard or decision-tree

Applying the most advanced and universally accepted principles of neuro-science (arising out of the hubris that computational powers could begin to map out every possible neural daisy and we’d soon understand how the brain works) to a system that humans (as inventors) understand better by degrees, the microprocessor yielded some fruitfully disappointing results.
The failure of the model of a sophisticated neural network (not a neural network itself but the parameters by which one is made) to understand arcade games—despite the demonstrations that machine-learning was able to give with little to no supervision—illustrates, I think, that despite the mechanical and philosophical differences between brains and circuits perhaps we still don’t have the framework and the context to glean meaningful, correlated results. What do you think?  Perhaps we cannot analyse the system we are in with the quiver of tools arising from the same.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

skyfall ranch

BBC Future shares the story of the unassuming retreat called Drumintoul Lodge in the Scottish highlands that during World War II was covert host to an international commando school under the auspices of the Special Operations Executive for resistance fighters from all countries threatened by the Axis powers, defectors and spies.
The campus was particularly a good training ground to its contingent of Norwegian guerrillas that matriculated on this estate in the Cairngorms as the barren, wind-swept plateau was a lot like the native homeland that they sought to protect. The Norwegians trained in sabotage techniques which proved vital in ultimately preventing the Nazis from developing a nuclear bomb. Deuterium (heavy water) is needed to moderate fission reactions (it being less prone to strip away neutrons and enable a run-away reaction) so the detonation could be controlled and only one hydro-electric plant in the world was capable of producing heavy water at the time—in Nazi-occupied Norway. Raids that operatives trained for in Drumintoul were launched against the facilities at the base of the Rjukan waterfall in Telemark, which stopped production capability.

kwyjibo

We discover, through the work of faithful chronicler Doctor Caligari, that among many things, The Simpsons had aired its pilot episode on this day in 1990.
The episode, Bart the Genius, was written before Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire which was considered a special and not to many a canonical instalment, and therefore doesn’t include Santa’s Little Helper, and is the first one to include the opening sequence. Having cheated on an intelligence test, Bart finds himself sent to a school for the gifted and talented, although quickly discovered, he found himself inspired to turn the phrase “eat my shorts” and classify a kwyjibo as a dumb, balding North American ape with no chin.

7x7

cryptolocker: knowing it would face the loss of all its records otherwise, a community college ponied up a hefty ransom to hackers

call me gavin: revolutionary presidential grandson who bridged the gap between Walt Whitman and the Summer of Love, commune-founder and muse Chester A Arthur III was quite an astounding individual

by any memes necessary: chat-bot and desktop assistant that communicates exclusively through GIFs


tilting at windmills: decommissioned, obsolete turbine blades repurposed as architectural elements

hyper-realism: painted portraits that surpass photography

back in the habit: a Dutch fashion designer collaborated with the Dominican order to update their traditional garb

weepuls: the story behind those promotional balls of fuzz with googly eyes from the 1970s and 80s

tranvía

As part of a broader discussion on borders and boundaries, Citylab presents the fascinating semi-legendary story of the streetcar line that used to connect the metropolises of El Paso, Texas with Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua as it evolved from mule to monorail (proposed at least on paper) over seven decades.

The trolley-tracks were finally dismantled in the early 1970s—when many municipalities were abandoning streetcars and in some cases mass-transit altogether—at the urging of shopkeepers on the Mexican side who complained that it was too easy and tempting for their customers to do their shopping across the border, but there were hundreds of intervening stories to gather and tell, which a member of the El Paso city council is trying to do, also hoping to restore if not a transnational trolley (and they’re not giving up on that dream without a fight) at least a corridor of public transport with vintage streetcars.

media circus or cause célèbre

Now that the press has managed to censor its own agency to report on the dirty laundry of the newly installed regime—squandered I suspect even when it becomes vital to do so in the future since the constituency that stands behind him seems unphased no matter what’s the scandal of the day, these words of experience from a Russian reporter, Alexey Kovalev—sometimes contributor to The Guardian, about journalism under a climate of control, disdain for the profession and hampered investigations I think is an important and chilling cautionary-tale.
There are a lot of points made here and of course the parallels aren’t perfect and there’s no one to one corres- pondence—at least he made the trains run on time—but one thing did particularly strike me as something that we can expect to see in future audiences that leadership deigns to grant to the Fourth Estate: favouring those soft-ball sorts of questions lobbed from plants in the gallery, “Mister President, Mister President—there are too many vagrants in our neighbourhood.” “Why are the streets in such bad conditions?” Certainly not matters for the president but as he’s ever only a tweet away and thus infinitely accessible, he’ll get to appear like a hero for directing a clean-up operation regardless of the costs and how it might impact other projects in the community (it coming out of the local budget of course) and he’ll get to shame the municipal authorities for letting this happen. What do you think? It’s early yet but we’ve already been treated to several highly choreographed events and at least one with the floor packed with shills to do the cheering and out-shout the boos and groans.

Friday, 13 January 2017

upscale or lossless

The dominant internet search engine and several other platforms are utilising machine-learning to fetch images on mobile devices and maintain high-resolution quality but only use a quarter of the data volume to do so, thus being less taxing on users’ plans. The technique is an established one of inserting pixels to make up for lost details but instead of following a fixed formula, the routine has fast enough processing-speeds to adapt to each images as it comes and may even be able to re-enhance video in real-time.