Wednesday, 20 June 2018

kein mensch ist illegal

While images of families being torn apart at the US-Mexico border are dominating the discussion of immigration and respect and value for human life, on this World Refugee Day, we are also audience to some quieter, nefarious dealings which includes a task force (via Miss Cellania) that is being assembled to strip citizenship from naturalised Americans (and by extension all Americans) found to have obtained citizenship under false pretences.
At the same time, Orbán’s Hungary has passed legislation framed as “STOP SOROS” that would make it a crime to provide aid or asylum in any form to “aliens.” Not to be outdone, factions of the Italian government are calling for the expulsion of thousands of Roma from the country, pledging that “Italians and their security comes first.” The European Union strongly condemns these measures.

india shining

We really appreciated the introduction to photography duo Haubitz+Zoche (EN/DE) by way of a vibrant, polychromatic portfolio of churches of southern India.
Their collection Postcolonial Epiphany (Postkolniale Erleuchtung—sadly Sabine Haubitz passed away in 2014 but Stefanie Zoche maintains the collaborative name), featuring both houses of worship and movie theatres built between the 1950s and 1970s that inform a rather whimsical hybrid of Modernism—dissecting the way that material determines space, is currently being exhibited at a gallery in Mannheim.  Learn more at the links up top.

drug liberalisation

The Canadian Senate has passed, with a clear mandate, a measure to legalise the recreational use of marijuana. Provinces have a buffer period of eight to twelve weeks to prepare for sales and cultivation.

special rapporteur

Unsurprisingly, US has announced its intent to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council following criticism of Trump’s practise of separating children from their families and interning them in concentration camps. Administration officials moreover cite what they characterise as the council’s disproportionate focus on the Israel-Palestine dispute.

turn-down service

As Slashdot reports, electronic assistants are to be added to hotel rooms sometime in the near future.  What do you think?  Unlike Gideons’ Bible, however, Alexa for Hospitality will provide hoteliers a way to “measure engagement through analytics and adapt services based on guest feedback,” with recordings and interactions cleared from the machines’ memories upon check-out.

article 13

doctor, is there something i can take

Frequently I wake up with a song in my head—usually quite random and completely non-sequitur, and this day was no exception with the “Coconut Song” by Harry Edward Nilsson III (1941* - 1994†)—which to be honest I couldn’t name the singer-songwriter behind it until my curiosity was piqued.
Leading a tumultuous, colourful life and career that was tangentially associated with the Beatles and the Monkees, I did some cursory research and learned he was the son of impoverished Swedish circus performers in upstate New York and ran away at an early age to Los Angeles, demonstrating first an aptitude for computers and electronics before pursuing music. Living in Mayfair for almost the entire decade of the 1970s, his flat in Curzon Place was decorated by Ringo Starr’s design company ROR (Ringo or Robin [Cruikshank]) who sublet the place during an extended leave of absence to performer Cass Elliot (former member of the Mamas & the Papas) who died of heart-failure after a strenuous show at the London in 1974. Nilsson ultimately sold the apartment in 1978 to Pete Townshend when band-mate of The Who Keith Moon died of an overdose whilst staying there. Other songs of Nilsson’s include “Me and my Arrow” from The Point!, the theme and incidental music for The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and score for the 1980 film adaptation of Popeye. In any case, one could wake up to far worse musical accompaniment.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

bierkönig

Via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals, we are introduced to a comprehensive and exhaustive collection of drink coasters, beermats and other bar paraphernalia from around the world. A casual curator myself, I was really engrossed with the history—the first non-saucers made from high grammage pasteboard were produced in the town of Magdeburg in1880 as a way to primarily protect tables from condensation but quickly became a vehicle for advertising and other messaging spreading from Europe outward.

logos, pathos and ethos

The company behind the machine learning that bested humans at chess and at trivia and will act as an executive assistant on the International Space Station has now publicly demonstrated for the first time artificial intelligence Turing complete enough to hold its own in a debate with human sparring partners. Instructed to respond to the position put forward by the humans (without prior preparation) the performance was flawless, polished and a little unsettling since equipped with the sum of human knowledge to include rhetoric, the art of discourse, it would know how to best pander to what we want to hear. Such research would be used to augment human policy-planning and decision-making, not supplant it. Learn more and see a video of the deliberations at the link above.

die glocke

A German model toy manufacturer has recalled one of its air crafts and taken it off the market over criticism for suggesting that Nazi Germany was able to achieve space flight with a kit based off a legendary ship. The kit’s liner notes come woefully short of clarifying the ahistorical nature of the design and the project behind it and could mislead impressionable minds.

you sank my battleship!

Blathering gate-crasher Trump disrupted a rather sedate Space Council meeting on cleaning up satellite debris to announce the creation of a sixth branch of the US military in the form of a “Space Force.”
Couched in language used at the end of the nineteen century to justify and institutionalise segregation in public schools—he gleefully repeated that “it would be separate but equal” from the Air Force and Navy, which already conduct aerospace activities. Furthermore, Trump urged the defence contractors that deliver most of the US’ space-faring capabilities to “stay apart” since their corporate partnership translates somehow to them bilking the government for more money. Though a branch of the military, there’s no indication as yet how Trump’s latest sideshow will contravene the Outer Space Treaty and start a fresh space-race, but this time not over exploration or engineering competence, and rather instead over arms.

Monday, 18 June 2018

foxy fox on the run

Perhaps to deflect attention from domestic crises which has thousands confined to concentration camps along the southern US border as a deterrent to dissuade others from trying for a better life, Trump lied about the role that liberal immigration policy has had in Germany in terms of crime (statistics are lowest since 1992, no matter how it’s framed) and was openly critical of leadership of the Chancellor—sort of like blaming members of the opposition party for separating migrant families. He’s used this script before.
Knowing the heartless, idiot narcissist thrives on any attention, I am ever more loath to acknowledge his pratfalls and pandering but there’s a lot at stake all around—especially considering the timing, which amplifies the notion that Germany is facing a constitutional crisis over irreconcilable differences between Merkel and Bavarian factions of her party. Governance in Germany is not a cult-of-personality despite how hegemonic perspectives might portray foreign politics, and Merkel managed to buy time in a game of brinksmanship with the country’s interior minister over curbing immigration—one point in a proposal of sixty-three that Merkel determined to be in violation of European Union law, suggesting that Germany could rebuff refugees that had entered the EU at other points—who subsequently acquiesced that the matter should be tabled until a broader, supra-national discussion can take place. Moreover, the malleable Manchurian Candidate’s pronouncement comes after a non-sequitur weekend chat with long-term Hungarian prime-minister over the importance of strong borders, Orbán Viktor being a strong opponent of Merkel’s proposal for a EU-wide distributed quota-system for hosting migrants.

5x5

tune in, turn on, slack-off: employees cultivating mindfulness are less productive, having realised the futility of their jobs

football pitch: Alan Taylor considers some of the more creative placements of soccer fields around the world, via Kottke’s Quick Links

stolen flame: short documentary about about an indigenous racing team at the 1967 Pan-American Games who were not allowed to carry the torch into the stadium

artificial scarcity: an exclusive website with a waiting room, via Weird Universe

hildegard von bingen: an appreciation of the repertoire and canon (previously) of the West’s first named composer  

slingshot

Though understandably a bit cagey on the details for fear that their ideas might be stolen, as Quartz reports, a Silicon Valley start-up has secured the backing of some well-established industry patrons to build a catapult or trebuchet to launch payloads into space, forgoing the expense and inefficiency of rocketry.
Aircraft catapults are already employed as a form of assisted take-offs on some aircraft carriers but the idea to propel objects to orbit is pretty unconventional. What do you think?  Space elevators are still my favourite alternative and do hope that this isn’t some hoax.  Traditional rockets typically only can accommodate a cargo of five percent or less of their total mass with the remainder consisting of fuel and the rocket’s shell.

1812 overture

On this day, two hundred and six years ago, James Madison—at the urging of Andrew Jackson—declared war on British Empire and her allies over a variety of reasons including the policy of impressment of American citizens to fight Napoleon’s armies, British respect for Native American sovereignty, honour, and the desire to expand north into the British territory that would become Canada.
The three year conflict, considered by most to be a minor theatre of the larger Napoleonic wars, ended in stalemate for the chief belligerents with enslaved people and the Native Americans, having lost an ally and advocate in Europe though not necessarily their sympathies, being the losers. The big take away lesson that the best way to maintain peace with the United States for Britain was appeasement and indulge the way it was presented as a victorious “second war of independence” in the popular imagination.

cover story

Via the always vigilant Everlasting Blört, we find ourselves reacquainted with veteran blogger Chris Holmes and his endeavour, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, who has launched a new series on premiere editions periodicals’ first covers. The series opens with the rather sophisticated, jazzy artwork adorning the front cover of the December 1953 issue of Playboy magazine.

the greatest hits

Though more renowned for his provocative, street art social and political gadfly Banksy (previous here, here and here) has also made a mark on canvas, lampooning the world of traditional, popular art—which is being showcased at the LAZ Inc gallery in Mayfair by one of the artists first gallerist. The exhibit will be free to the public. Be sure to visit the link up top to learn more.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

’αλωάδαι

A recent episode of the always engrossing and thoroughly researched History of Ancient Greece podcast told the tale of two belligerents of the Gigantomachy who had some unique and potentially all-conquering attributes. Queen Iphimedia, wife of Aloeus, somehow managed to get herself pregnant with twins by wading out into the surf by her father-in-law the god Poseidon and bore the prodigies Otus and Ephialtes who were possessed of superhuman strength and size, growing at an accelerated rate that made them towering individuals, impervious to attack by the age of nine—which reminded me of Tex Avery’s “King-Sized Canary” where an ensemble of predatory animals discover and fight over a growth-elixir. Had they been allowed to mature into adolescence, they could have reached the Heavens without a step ladder, but for now to act on their plan to storm Olympus and take respectively Artemis and Hera for their wives, the piled three mountains on top of one another and were clever enough to first capture and imprison Ares, the god of war, so the Olympians might not have the appetite for battle. The brothers began their incursion and cornered Artemis who out of cunning desperation offered herself to Otus, immediately transforming herself into a fawn. Dashing between the two Aloadae (sons of the husband of Aleous even though he was not the father) Iphimedia, they both took aim to with their spears to down their quarry and ended up hitting each other as Artemis escaped.

ballungsraum

Not that the journey would be a particularly arduous or lengthy one and there’s no excuse not to visit more often, but it does strike me as odd to live in such proximity to one of the nodes of culture and commerce, an alpha world city, and not be bothered to make it out more often, but I’m going to challenge myself to get to know Frankfurt am Main (previously) a bit better and take advantage of my workweek nearness to the metropolis.
Having heard that the Altstadt was recently reopened after completion of restoration work to the Dom-Römer quarter (the space between the merchant house and the cathedral) to rebuilt structures lost during World War II, I convinced H it was a good excuse to return. We walked down the shaded promenade of the quay of the river Main (Mainkai) and several of its crossings to take in the skyline and get our bearings.
The new seat of the European Central Bank in Ostend had been completed in the meantime and although there was still scaffolding and some structures under construction in the Römer plaza and my memory of it wasn’t exactly photographic (the new addition is the right-most Goldene Waage, the Golden Scale) but it was a pleasant afternoon out in the sunny square.
Learning about the extent of the project and what was still left to do we were curious to see more but were a bit disincentivised due to the fact that just beyond there was a rather complex series of protests and counter-demonstrations going on that involved a right-leaning group trying to appropriate and rebrand a 1953 East German uprising and general strike (der Aufstand vom 17. Juni 1953) against working conditions under the Communist government which was violently suppressed and commemorated in the West as a national holiday observed until reunification as an excuse to rail against immigration policies.
Counter-demonstrators, however, eclipsed members of the Bürgerbündnis (the anti-Islamification group)—which in turn was equally obscured by a police presence which happily was not pressed into service. We’ll return when there’s more time and space for exploration.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

black hole sun

Using a super computer to model a complex and exotic star system, Universe Today reports, a physics professor worked out a theoretical arrangement wherein that a modestly-sized black hole could be the centre holding in stable orbit nine sustaining Sun-like stars with upwards of five hundred planets (plus their own satellites), a good portion of them under conditions (experimentally) suited for life.
Calculations demonstrate that such a fantastic solar system could exist—or various permutations thereof including a sufficiently advanced civilisation that could engineer such compact and neighbourly systems and tow them around the Universe—and that denizens of those places would experience frequent close-encounters with other worlds and see their skies (inexplicably to them or perhaps scientifically grasped) periodically distorted, objects gravitational lensed by the marauding black hole (which surely informs its own mysterious mythology as well) that groups them all together.

burg sonnenberg

H and I are in Wiesbaden (the main boulevard that runs past the storied State Opera, wellness spa and casino usually is lined with international flags but the banners have been replaced for this month with pride flags) this weekend while he chairs a few seminars and I had the chance to take a long hike through the city via the Kurpark and Garten (previously).
Walking along a short segment of the Höhenrhein trail following the Rambach valley to the district of Sonnenberg, I was rather deep in a an urban woodland until arriving at the foothills of the Taunus and dominated by the ruins of Burg Sonnenberg hewn into a mountainous spur.
Although much of the thirteenth fortification has crumbed and was cannibalised as a quarry when the settlement below was devastated by a fire during the Thirty Years War one can still see the intact tower of the Bergfried and extensive defensive walls and imagine the castle protecting the Count of Nassau’s domain from raids of the Dukes of Eppstein.
The two neighbouring and competing houses  never settled a border dispute amongst themselves owing to overlapping jurisdictions that arose out of Wiesbaden’s imperial immediacy, a distinction that the city fought to keep for over a thousand years since the time of Charlemagne. Now the area is a venue for a series of open-air events and quite the staging arena especially in the summertime.

the purge

Courtesy of Miss Cellania’s links, we learn that a US State Department advisor, formerly a food industry lobbyist turned wine-blogger who goes by the handle “Vino Vixen” has been surreptitiously vetting the political sympathies and loyalty to cult leader Trump’s of career employees at the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and the Department of State itself. Her primary investigatory strategy, which is only compounding the exodus of veteran diplomats and an irreplaceable wealth of institutional knowledge, apparently consist primarily of nosing around staff members’ social media accounts for signals of lingering faith in the policies of Obama or the potential for independent, critical thought.

Friday, 15 June 2018

scientists’ corner

Preeminent scientist Stephen Hawking’s ashes were interred with honours in the royal peculiar and hall of fame, Westminster Abbey today. In addition to recognising his contributions to the understanding of the Cosmos by according his mortal remains a special place (between Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton), the European Space Agency—after the service—beamed a recording of one of Hawking’s lectures, a missive of peace and hope, into outer space aimed at the nearest known black hole, designated 1A 0620-00, with his voice expected to reach the event horizon in thirty-five hundred years.

logophilia

We were hoping to enrich our vocabulary with this word of the day from Fancy Notions but then were a little deflated to verify that in fact aibohphobia is a deliberately constructed palindrome and part of a family of humorous phobias rather than a serious term describing the actual fear of things read the same in either direction.  It’s strange that we tend to give scary or adverse things Greek names. I think the term is ingratiating itself, nonetheless, as well as another word I came across while investigating: semordnilap. Palindrome spelt backwards, an example of a pair of semordnilaps would be stressed and desserts. Curiously, it should also be noted that there’s a genus of spiders native to Africa called Palindroma whose five species all have palindromic names, which I suppose would elicit a fear response in those disposed to arachnophobia.

low rent, high stakes

We were temporarily in denial about the images circulating—courtesy of the US Department of Health and Human Services—of the Trump mural prominently displayed in a detention centre for young boys housed in a former Wal-Mart in Texas, wishing it weren’t true but knowing deep down that there is not irony too dumb or cruel for that regime who are presently defending separating some of the same adolescents from their families by citing a Bible passage that was also used to justify slavery. The quotation on the mural—helpfully bilingual—is from the book ghost-written for the sub-literate slob The Art of the Deal, chapter ten, seemingly to inculcate the youths with aspirations for the American Dream shortly before their deportation.

8x8

i’m ready for my close-up: a selection of vintage Hollywood test shots

emeco: a look at the indestructible chair commissioned by the US navy in 1940 that could withstand the blast of a torpedo 
columbo: US ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrinch, returns a pilfered letter penned by Christopher Columbus to the Vatican Library

fjallkona: Iceland picks a drag queen to be its national personification, the Lady of the Mountain

flare-up: periodically the Sun erupts

jankó layout: an alternative keyboard to the traditional piano format

pitchforks: main-stream media is ignoring the protests of poor peoples in the US

x-ray vision: Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers harness ambient radio signals and WiFi to see through walls

Thursday, 14 June 2018

signs and symptoms

Though yet to implement as far as we know, back in 2016 an exploitative ride-hailing company (previously) applied for a patent for non-invasive artificial intelligence technology that would be enlisted to distinguish drunk passengers from sober ones. What do you think about that? In theory through the passive screening process, the company would hope to mitigate undesired outcomes.

cantiche

Though well within our rights to read Purgatory and the Inferno described in Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy (previously) as metaphorical there have been nonetheless earnest and noble attempts, as Open Culture informs, from the Renaissance to modern times to diagram and map out Dante’s decent, guided by the Roman poet Virgil, into the lands of the departed. Check out more charts and infographics that illustrated Dante’s vision of Hell at the link above.

deep state

The always brilliant Nag on the Lake directs our attention to a very interesting Cold War chronicle, an office artefact that I’m regretting not having taken up and created during my own tenure, something reminiscent of medieval manuscripts or the Bayeux tapestry. Click the images to enlarge.
An anonymous general schedule (GS) analyst and conscientious bureaucrat like myself working at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas back in the 1980s during the Reagan-era illuminated his government-issued desk calendar (something which I usually rejected for reasons of unnecessary clutter and not necessarily speaking to my organisational skills) noting momentous occasions, personal achievements and airing his grievances with higher headquarters. Find more months in detail documenting the decade at the link above.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

a destiny pictures production

The pool of reporters gathered (including those who could speak Korean since apparently that iteration played before the English version) in Singapore covering the meeting between Trump and Kim could have been easily forgiven for thinking that the clip that heralded Trump’s entrance was a propaganda video crafted by the North, having a similar look and feel to it, when in fact this mess of a message was a gift that Trump had produced for Kim to mark the occasion of their historic summit.

Watch closely to spot the stock footage of a Trump property in Florida. No one is owning up to having cleared this for use in statecraft (especially after all those riffs on “America First” but [Insert Your Country Here] Second came out) and Trump attempted to preclude further questioning by saying that the effort could be recycled and reused for another country—possibly with Canada to get the action film treatment next.

legal-ade

Though we’re usually wary about posting such things as it’s just amplifying a company’s marketing gimmick, I do feel the sentiment in which it was presented on Kottke is a good one, bearing repeating.

Commenting on how a soft-drink manufacturer will pay the fines of young scoff-laws for operating lemonade stands over the summer without a permit (which—not to be a total kill-joy—are also required for reasons of health and safety) and relatedly how a pizzeria franchise (previously) has pledged to donate some of its proceeds to repairing potholes, the blogger lamented how corporations—which go to extremes to be stateless and unbeholden to any taxation that might help modernise legal frameworks and improve crumbling infrastructure—are now portraying themselves as heroes for offering a showy solution for a host of problems that they’ve helped to create in the first place.

father of many seeds

Unlike the Little Prince who considered them an existential threat to his tiny planet, we’ve been cultivators of baobabs for quite some time and have many clones around the house grown from errant leaves and branches and it was quite distressing and depressing to learn that after millennia of existence, we’re living through a time (with our much more modest lifespans) when many of Africa’s monumental trees have succumbed to the ill affects of manmade climate change. The title is the etymological root for the plant, borrowing from the Arabic name abū ḥibāb (أبو حباب). Hopefully it’s not too late for those majestic and sheltering landmarks that remain.

benedictine beatnik

A self-described “monknik,” Hyperallergic introduces us to the concrete poetry and cut-up style of Dom Sylvester Houédard, a Benedictine priest and theologian who regularly slipped away from his abbey in the Cotswolds to spend weekends in London, helping to inform the particular genre and scene.
Artfully presented and visually stunning, Houédard’s works are replete with religious references but reflect a view broader than his own tradition, having an affinity for Eastern philosophy as well. Like the poems of his friends and correspondents William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg (who objected to the label beatnik, coined by journalist Herb Caen after the launch of Sputnik), Houédard was interested in acquainting writer and reader “in maximum communication with minimum words,” composing terse and polished little stumbling blocks to cause one to question semantic trappings.

small blows

It’s vital to remember that in the face of dispiriting, soul-crushing contemporary civics and politics that we have allies against the forces of regression—and indeed allies worth celebrating, including the witty and insightful contributors to McSweeney’s. Since 2016, the publishing house has been offering a regular feature that helps cope with the paralysing apoplexy that uncivil discourse can bring about in an anthology of thoughtful, modest and inspiring essays on the theme of One Small Blow Against Encroaching Totalitarianism. Be sure to visit and indulge in their expansive archive fighting for social justice, for yourself and for the greater good.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

it takes one to know one

We’ll see how much history is determined by the historic meeting between the leadership of the US and North Korea but it does already strike me as a little hollow and quite asymmetrical with the regime of Kim Jung-un being accorded the legitimatising recognition that it’s sought for some time and preternaturally under the same terms and conditions that Trump bewailed his predecessor as concessions to Iran, making America look weak and dopey.
Much in the same way that the Manchurian Candidate’s revolting behaviour has markedly improved the image of loveable, old war-criminal Bush II, not only does his eagerness to meet with Kim deflect attention from the hermit kingdom’s atrocious human rights standards (zero freedom of movement, zero freedom of speech and mandatory, universal adoration—not to give Dear Leader any more ideas) with the optics, this plum bargain asks little in concrete terms from North Korea while having US military presence on the peninsula characterised as “provocative” (after so much mutual sabre-rattling) and pledges to suspend large-scale training exercises with the South and Japan.

tear down this wall

Our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet, that on this day—among many other momentous occasions—the US president Ronald Reagan, speaking at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin in 1987, publicly challenged General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev to open up the barrier that had physically divided the city since 1961.
Though not the first time the Wall itself was the subject of an address—having previously made similar overtures to the “evil empire” from 1982 onwards and not accorded with its legacy and influence until the Wall actually came down a year and a half later and was criticized at the time respectively by US and Soviet advisors as extreme and unpresidential and provocative and war-mongering, the speech looms large in the popular imagination, perhaps at the expense of appreciating the complexities of geopolitical undercurrents in East and West Germany and the Soviet Union.

zone out

Having hosted the debut of the first film script written by a neural network, Ars Technica was already versed with the screen-writing talents of an artificial intelligence named Benjamin, who is now re-enlisted the acting talents of the cast of his first short film, Sunspring, for a bolder experiment in which Benjamin was given full creative control and nearly single-handedly responsible for production from start to finish. Sponsored by the recently concluded Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Challenge, Benjamin adhered to a few basic movie prompts and a few other criteria and drawing on footage from public domain cult classics The Brain that Wouldn’t Die and The Last Man on Earth and digitally inserted the performers into his film.

blogosphere

Chillingly, via Slashdot, we learn that Tanzania is besting its neighbours Uganda and Kenya in severely curtailing internet freedoms, requiring all blogs and online forums to be registered or suspend all operations immediately, on pain of high fines or imprisonment. For a website to continue posting, authors or moderators must pay a licensing fee that just tops the average annual salary for a Tanzanian labourer and one would suppose further acquiescing to not being a general nuisance to the government.

Monday, 11 June 2018

4,645

Eight months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, devastating the island and many residents in remote areas are still without basic utilities, the official government tally of fatalities has stood at sixty-four.
An impromptu memorial two weeks ago (and we’re all ashamed for having overlooked such a powerful and important gesture, which illustrates how beastly and uncaring and so easily called away we can be) on the marble courtyard of the San Juan capitol grew into thousands of pairs of empty shoes being neatly lined up to represent a truer number of the number lost in the storm.

6x6

empanelment: ten anti-Trump cartoons that the Pittsburgh Post Gazette refuses to publish

won’t you be my neighbour: Anthony Bourdain was like Mister Rogers (previously) for adults, plus the article that launched his career, via Coudal Parners

binney & smith: Crayola launches a cosmetic line based on its crayons

race to the bottom: a business-model based on the destruction of the resources it relies on is strikingly uneconomic

here we come on the run with a burger in a bun: dinosaur taco-butlers

bodyguard: a profile of the elite Nepalese Gurkha contingent protecting the Kim-Trump summit in Singapore

the use of words of good omen

Boing Boing’s archives directs our attention to a useful resource for copy-writers who’ve run out of innocuous, weasel words to mask the unpleasant realities of fascism and white supremacy that’s encroached on civics and politics and has gotten quite the unsettling foothold. Give it a try and see what doublespeak headlines are generated.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

posture pals or the whispered ah!

During the late nineteenth century—well before yoga and mindfulness enjoyed a resurgence in Western medicine and overall thinking, there were some important and seemingly organic precursors that came in campaigns to promote mind-body interventions through postural awareness methodologies. While many of the exercise regiments may have been modish for a time to be subsequent forgotten and while none have been accorded the full faith and credit of the health insurance industry, one technique in particular developed by Australian Frederick Matthias Alexander, later expanded by students of his method, medically and scientifically described in neutral terms and which still has adherents struck me as rather intriguing.
Motivated to help himself during moments of debilitating stage-fright, absent a somatic cause, Alexander believed his habitual patterns of tensing up and seizing up certain parts of his body and physically recoiling from anxiety was disrupting his oration and probably similar conditioned patterns in stance and gait were either aiding or hindering other aspects of his life as well. Alexander believed that careful self-observation (noticing how one flinches and deports one’s neck, head and gaze when confronted with a stressful situation) and the will to change, he and others could restore their natural statures and after some testimonials from celebrities of his day, Alexander formalised and shared his method, encouraging students to explore a wide range of motions but prescribed no specific exercises so as not to suggest that bodies were built the same and that there was a best way to do things, save two: lying on one’s side at about a forty-five degree from the supine to learn how to rest constructively before a session and the “whispered ah!”a way to get rid of bad habits that inhibit our innate abilities to breath properly. The unlearning has a few steps, first calling for one to think of something funny to elicit a smile (so one is not pulling downward on the facial muscles as we’d be apt to do otherwise), let one’s jaw fall open and place the tip of one’s tongue on one’s bottom teeth, where ever one is during inhalation or exhalation, whisper “ah!” (that is a refreshing beverage!)  as long as one can until feeling the breath squeezed out of one. Once the whisper has become ragged an unsustained close one’s mouth and the breathing reflex triggers one to draw breath through one’s nose and the expansion of the lungs.

Repeat as much as one cares to on exhaling and reap improvements in vocal and breath control. The rest of Alexander’s technique focusses broadly on refining one’s sense of intention and discipline in recapturing an efficiency of motion in accord with gravity and how one is built and is apparently a proper and popular coaching technique. Health care providers and science takes issue with what’s lumped into the category of alternative medicine—as they should—when gurus, either the originator or latter day promoter, begin to make extraordinary or downright dangerous claims that erode trust in sound and rigorously-tested procedures and make suffers think that asthma or sleep apnea is condition that can only be solved through willpower. Resetting to factory-mode (or at least the attempt to question one’s own defaults), however, does not seem objectionable and worth the self-investment.