Monday, 22 October 2018

lending library

The Washington Post gives a kind and circumspect obituary for Todd Herbert Bol (*1956 - † 2018) who passed away over the weekend, succumbing to the cancer that took the life of his mother nearly a decade prior and inspired him to create his global, public bookshelf initiative as a tribute to her memory and generosity.
The first Little Free Library was posted outside his home and Bol’s network eventually would surpass the number of libraries built nation-wide in America by tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie—but that’s not even counting those affiliate champions who found much appeal in this simple concept and a little craft. There’s one in my neighbourhood that’s expanded to baby clothes and shoes as well as children’s books at the foot of a large apartment block, and this repurposed telephone booth that we encountered at a campsite in Switzerland.  The quick but enduring and endearing spread of Bol’s idea means his legacy will go on for a long, long time.  Give your local bookshelf a friendly acknowledgement and donate a good read.

planetary terrestrial analogues library

The European Space Agency has collaborated with numerous museums and university geological departments to curate a collection of rocks and minerals, BLDG Blog reports, as a heuristic tool for future exploration, reasoning out properties of extra terrestrial surfaces and strata by relating it to more mundane and familiar correspondents.
Jarosite, for example, is a rare volcanic rock that is testament to the presence of water on Earth and was found on Mars early on before any evidence of water had been discovered. The growing catalogue of space-prospectors consists of around forty-five hundred known Earth minerals, complimented with three hundred isolated from meteorites, one hundred thirty from the Moon and about eighty Martian samples.


Actual, malicious hacking is of course not the cultural heir to countless generations of superstition that evolved from mischievous spirits to gremlins and system bugs but the fact that the pedigree isn’t always knowable tends to flatten and conflate matters for everyone. It’s hard to know whether at work we’re not under some general assault or whether it’s just a matter of poor design and systemic overburdening whose annoyance over technical difficulties are little consolation insofar as oneself isn’t the target of an attack. Most routine disruptions are just that but lately things—both during work hours and at home—seemed to have turned a touch personal. We feel we reliably understand our catalogue of repertoire for correspondence and creation but when things start to appear to go missing and unindexed, I at least begin to feel gaslighted.
I began noticing that blog posts that I knew I had composed in the past—sometimes far beyond that relative horizon called “recent”—that I wanted to footnote a current topic with weren’t to be found, search internally and externally. Pictorial searches sometimes seem to net better yields but if I didn’t have faith in the fullness of my recollection and didn’t manage an independent archive myself, I would begin to question whether the missing pages existed in the first place. “I wrote about this topic before but Google says I didn’t.” A few other internet caretakers have also mentioned this in passing and I am reasonably sure that they’re experiencing the same sort of emphasis on currency and novelty that I have been—still one has to wonder how to define sabotage and subterfuge (or innocent incompetence and the over-confidence in our abilities) in a space where gravity and the laws of physics are subject to change. We tend to think of the architecture of basic services to be permanent and self-sustaining but there’s an awful amount of behind-the-scenes maintenance that goes into it and maybe we’ve just become too accustomed to a set of expectations, a frustration that betrays our impatience. When I heard of co-workers bemoaning that they were unable to search our email server exchange for older missives as reference, I was a little baffled and dismissive—that is, until I experienced the same glitch, which isn’t consistent seemingly or long-lived enough to properly investigate and work up any sort of relatable or repeatable remedy. Lack of information is a flavour of disinformation. If this undermining (real or perceived) is the work of an Evil Genius to torment, train or trick, it’s a pretty impressive vulnerability to exploit.


This evening and into the next morning marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the deadliest and most destructive bombing attack by the Allied forces on the town of Kassel.
The attack punctuated a series of strategic air raids that had been periodically targeting manufacturing facilities and defensive infrastructure killed an estimated ten thousand civilians and the resulting fire engulfed the city for seven days afterwards. Counted with Dresden, Hamburg, Pforzheim and Darmstadt, Kassel had among the highest number of casualties from aerial bombing.


On this day, fifty years ago President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law the Gun Control Act of 1968, which focused on regulating the firearms industry and owners by restricting interstate trade in guns and weapons to licensed dealers and exporters.
The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy nearly five years earlier prompted the legislation, which still languished in Congress and the Senate, when it was discovered that the president was killed with a rifle purchased by mail-order from a magazine. The murders of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy earlier in 1968 renewed the effort to change the law, which additionally mandated that buyers have licenses for and register their weapons and prohibited categories of persons, including felons and the mentally incompetent, from owning guns.

Sunday, 21 October 2018


I took a stroll through the fields to the forest’s edge above our village watch the slow transition of the leaves to their autumn colour palette.  The sunshine was not as forthcoming as yesterday that bathed everything with a blushing golden hue in the mid-afternoon but the woods still put on a spectacular show for this opening act that is to be followed by several encores. 

untitled (questions)

Composed first in 1990, conceptual artist and collagist Barbara Kruger’s massive, declarative mural in Futura Bold Oblique that begs important and resonant questions will be reinstalled on the south wall of Los Angeles’ MOCO Temporary Contemporary building.
An anonymous donor is paying to have the installation recreated ahead of US mid-term elections and will remain up until at least 2020. The nine questions posed are anything but rhetorical devices and are as follows:

Who is beyond the law? Who is bought and sold? Who is free to choose? Who does time? Who follows orders? Who salutes the longest? Who prays the loudest? Who dies first? Who laughs last?

Learn more at Fast Company at the link above.

Saturday, 20 October 2018


a benign and relatively common parasomnia: by an eerie coincidence, I experienced the “exploding head syndrome” drifting out of sleep this morning

let me reach, let me beach on the shores of tripoli: a look at the cultural impact and legacy of Enya Orinoco Flow

buchstabcenschrift: the rise and fall of Nazi Germany’s one time signature font—via Kottke’s Quick Links

moral compass: scenarios that make one wish for two trolleys

head in the sand: we are mostly ignoring dire and immediate climate-change warnings

god bless you, mister rosewater: Kurt Vonnegut, JR—sketch-artist

casualty rate: death by numbers examined from various angles

be a joyful rule-breaker: the reprisals of two interviews from Terry Gross and Pope of Trash, John Waters, made our day

velocità astratta + rumore

Arguably best known for his 1912 painting Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash which encapsulates all of the elements of Futurism—depictions of light, movement and speed, we are introduced to the portfolio of artist and educator Giacomo Balla (*1871 - †1958) via the serendipitous and unexpected discovery of murals from the artist, conserved for decades behind wallpaper and drop-ceilings.
Commissioned to decorate the fashionable and up-and-coming jazz club Bal Tic Tac in Rome in 1921, Balla’s racing vision of things to come matched the experimental nature of the musical acts and were feared lost to the ages when the property became a bank and was repurposed. In the near future, the space will become an exhibit hall. Learn more at the local—Italy’s English language daily at the link above.

whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for congress and ultimately the american people

Tonight forty-five years ago, the Saturday Night Massacre occurred in the Nixon White House when US Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused the direct order to dismiss special prosecutor Archibald Cox, charged with investigating the Watergate scandal. Richardson resigned rather than interfere in the proceedings of the probe which advanced the deputy to the top lawyer position, William Ruckelshaus, who also refused to concede to the president’s wishes and was fired. Turning to the person in the fourth highest post in the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork, Nixon with some reluctance had his command obeyed. This display accrued for the first time a majority (though still very polarised) in favour of impeachment and Nixon two weeks later announced his intention to resign in lieu of being fired the following August

Friday, 19 October 2018


Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals indulges some of our pet peeves with an exhaustive list of grammatical non-errors, not usages that persist despite all attempts to dispel them but rather people’s insistence that they’re mistakes in the first place.
The prohibition against split infinities is particularly pernicious but actually has its roots in classroom Latin lesson. With the emphasis on the America version of English, I wasn’t aware of many of these quibbles and don’t know that I’m totally onboard with all the distinctions but it’s nonetheless worthwhile going through and exploring the idea of nuance in word choice.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

thurn und taxis

Breaking with a one hundred and forty-four year old convention that regulates postal rates world-wide in order to prevent barriers to entry by poorer nations and promote the ease of cross border communication and commerce, Trump is signalling that the US will withdraw from the treaty that legitimised and continued the Universal Postal Union, an arrangement that has fully one hundred and ninety three signatories with the four outlying states relying on other members to execute their mail delivery.
Drafted at a time when European powers were dominant exporters and much of Asia was agrarian society (also kind of a myth borne out of the idea of exceptionalism), the US believes the conditions of the treaty disadvantages American business by subsidising shipments from China and flooding markets with cheaper wares. Prior to the agreement, countries needed to negotiate separate treaties and issue stamps for each leg of the missive’s journey, often outsourcing mail delivery to forwarding agents under conditions and protocols created during the sixteenth century by the Lombard-German royal house referenced in the title. The US was already given the dispensation to dictate rates for large packages but small parcels (under two kilogrammes—in keeping with the union’s original charter to establish a uniform and affordable flat-rate across currencies and purchasing-parity for sending letters and vendors’ samples) were under the jurisdiction of the international body. The proliferation of on-line shopping translated to opportunities for retail sellers. What do you think?  Maybe the house of Thurn & Taxis were the original postal Illuminati but this recent investigation on the treaty and the Universal Postal Union from Planet Money is helpful and comprehensive primer for understanding what is at stake.

children’s television workshop

Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals refers us to a rather outstanding biography of Caroll Edwin Spinney that comes to us on the occasion of the actor announcing after just short of fifty years of playing the roles his intention.
Jim Henson discovered Spinney at a puppetry festival held in Salt Lake City in the state of Utah in 1969 and impressed with his act invited him to join the cast of a project that he was starting up by the name of Sesame Street, creating the characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Dissatisfied with his salary initially, Spinney was poised to leave after the first season but fellow Muppet performer Kermit Love, who had himself besides not unfortunately being the namesake of the franchise’s master-of-ceremonies gotten his introduction to the craft by dint of employment as marionette maker in the federal Works Progress Administration, convinced him to stay, responsible for the design of not only Spinney’s roles but also Mister Snuffelupagus and Cookie Monster.

momma dollar and papa dollar

Observed in the third Thursday of October since 1948, International Credit Union Day recognising the importance of financial cooperatives globally in terms of advocacy, solidarity and engagement that’s not shared and often undercut by banks and traditional for-profit institutions.
Sponsored by the World Council of Credit Unions, the timing could be in approximate deference to nineteenth century German statesman and economist Franz Hermann Schulze-Delitzch’s (previously) departure from the Prussian National Assembly in October 1851 to devote his time and energy to the foundation and development of people’s banks (Vorschussvereine). By the time of his death in April of 1883, there were over three thousand branches across the Germany Empire, Russia, Austria, Belgium and Italy.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018


dance dance revolution: Waxy reminds us of the classic Gif Dance Party and directs us to an updated 3D version  

colloquium: trippy 1974 poster from UC Berkley announcing a special lecture on artificial intelligence

redundancies: a hauntingly deserted fully automated warehouse operation in Japan

gustatory perception: a museum in Malmo showcasing the world’s most reviled food items invites a conversation on the nature of revulsion and taste (relatedly)

seven square miles: a bird’s eye view of various vistas around the world from the Atlantic’s Alan Taylor

event horizon: a good primer on the project to use the Earth as a giant telescope to image the super-massive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way

uptown spot: a twerking Boston Dynamics’ robot dog challenges us to a dance-off 

dogs playing poker

The latest addition to Everlasting Blört’s expansive tribute Donald Trump is a piece of artwork that’s actually hanging in the White House—minus the Hieronymus Bosch (previously) background that lends an aesthetic merit not otherwise present.

The White House curatorial team has access to collections from museums around the world and can request any number of pieces be loaned for display on the walls of the residence and take the job of decorating quite seriously, given the symbolism and geopolitical undertones art can convey. The Republican Club (see the original here with the subjects labelled, Trump seated at a table joined by Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln, George W Bush, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower—but caution as there is an accompanying video that automatically plays) somehow snuck in. Incidentally, the anonymous out of focus woman in the actual background of the painting represents the first Republican female president. Get more Daily Donald at Everlasting Blört here and at the link up top.

message received, noted, acted on

 “Pulling up at the door the very moment Madame was ready,” Weird Universe gives us a 1961 vision of things to come with a ride-hailing service with a fleet of mini-cabs were dispatched (at a third of the cost of a taxi journey) by radio-telephone, unlicensed operators prevented from accepting fares.

decorative gourd season

Building off an earlier exercise in training a neural network to conjure up extremely plausible sounding names for craft beer and small batch breweries, Janelle Shane (previously here and here) brilliantly tweaked the naming conventions slightly to infuse the results with pumpkin spice and other seasonal trappings. Here are some of our favourites but they whole beer menu is definitely worth sampling:

Bog Porter
Winter Winter This Dead Ale
Warmer Hollow
Ale Gore
Spice Prophecy
Pumpkin Disaster
Faceless Ole Ale
Winter Zuul

Check out AI Weirdness (aka Lewis and Quark) at the link above for more and to study the methodology and learn how to develop an artificial intelligence of your own.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

vacancy announcement

Learning that the social media accounts of the newly elected Iraqi prime minister were absolutely inundated with over thirty thousand applications by those who wanted to join the government after taking to the medium to solicit for appointees, we were reminded of the concept of sortation—rule by lottery—we explored last week. Wanting to disburden himself from a fraught political past of sectarian tensions, corruption and nepotism, Adil Abd al-Mahdi was overwhelmed and heartened by the depth and range of independent applicants interested in cabinet positions, willing to work to rebuild the country.

lumen gentium

Though his feast day is celebrated on 22 October to coincide with his papal inauguration, on this date in 1978 Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła (*1920 - † 2005) was elected by papal conclave and took the regnal name John Paul II in tribute to his predecessor who died after only a month in office.
His nearly three decade reign, the first non-Italian officer-holder in four-hundred and fifty years, is recognised for its influence in the peaceful dissolution of Communist rule in Eastern Europe, a marked improvement in inter-faith relations, diplomacy and a belief that the vocation of holiness was a universal one and a part of human nature, hence his unprecedented number of beatifications and canonisations.


Thanks to this comprehensive primer via Nag on the Lake, we can better appreciate news of this planned restoration of the monumental masterpiece by Rembrandt van Rijn that will take place on display to the world.
One of the most prominent piece in the collection (previously) of the Rijksmuseum, the 1642 commission by company commander Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, dashingly dressed in black with the red sash and depicted at nearly life-sized scales, is a group portrait of his shooting militia guards. According to the museum’s general director, Taco Dibbits, the project—the embodiment of slow television, will take place over several years and involve hundreds of experts from the art world—already captivating the public before it even begins next July. Learn much about the painting’s symbolism, cultural legacy and conservation at the resources above.

holding pattern

Via the ever excellent Everlasting Blört, we are treated to one of the side projects from the extensive portfolio of designer and art director Lauren O’Neill with this curated gallery of airport runways and landing fields captured from above. Working nearly directly under a busy flight path myself, it’s an intriguing idea to contemplate and marvel at the symmetry of safety and logistics and wonder what sorts of aerial imagery I can find myself.

Monday, 15 October 2018

transportation authority

For several weeks now with no intentions of looking back—even I hope when the weather turns a bit wintry since that’s an incentive in itself to not have to fret about icy roads—I’ve been riding the bus to and from work and foregoing the car altogether during the week. Granted, I realise that it ought to make me a bit self-conscious in mentioning this, sort of like on Absolutely Fabulous when Edina says to Patsy, “Yes, but Sweetie, I will not have my daughter thinking she’s so great because she can use public transport.”
And to Saffron, “Anybody can use public transport, Darling!” To which Saffron replies, “I know. That’s the point.” I wonder, however, why it took me so long to realise exactly how convenient it is with even the bear minimum of planning, discipline or pocket-change.
Intrigued by these campaigns to make buses and metro lines free and eliminate fares (we were not part of the trials) and have so far avoided going for less expensive ticketing alternatives to support a service that might be at the liminal reach for others, I wonder how many more passengers we might be able to recruit by offering the same sweep discounts—which are still very, very affordable considering the dividends that one is getting in return.
What do you think? One needs to be willing, I think, to make some outlays to rescue us from ourselves.  I don’t know that I’d have bothered with trying the bus out of a stubborn perception that happily never had the chance to bear out of inconvenience but if the routes and schedules didn’t suit, I guess the alternative to taking the car (which I can report is one the streets fully six to eight times fewer per week) would be less than optimal. I think that the element of synchronicity must be sold (buses need better PR agents since they are vehicles of change far more important than individual electric cars, though our fleet is electric as well) before we can talk about cheaper fares. These images are of upholstery patterns on buses that I’ve recently took.


mystery machine: a 1999 Scooby-Doo parody of “The Blair Witch Project” from Cartoon Network

the history league: jerseys for fantasy sports teams centred on momentous events, via Shadow Manor’s Art of Darkness

popular science: though presently mostly relegated to children’s literature, pop-up books were once the stuff of serious textbooks

feng shui: the opening of Kyoto’s first dispersed hotel promises visitors an authentic, immersive experience in the old capital

public service announcement: contemporary artists offers updates on the iconic vintage series from the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal organisation

siren song: the micronation of Užpis, an enclave in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius


Sunday, 14 October 2018

embassy row

On learning that Ankara has announced its intentions to rename the street on which the new US embassy compound is being constructed Malcolm X Avenue (with the support of the civil rights activist’s family who President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with last month) after the figure whose reputation remains divisive—particularly I would suppose for those occupying the White House presently, I was reminded how back in February, the street address for the current US diplomatic mission to Turkey had been reflagged as “Olive Branch” after the code-name for one of its military forays into Syria to signal displeasure for what is seen as American meddling. There’s quiet a long history behind casting ambassadorial side-eye (starting at the link above) by forcing one’s ideological foils to accept deliveries at insulting or compromising addresses though the most unabashed proposals have yet to materialise. The new building is scheduled to open in 2020

all would be well if, if, if—say the green bells of cardiff

By touching coincidence, we are acquainted through the help of the always brilliant Nag on the Lake to the haunting lyrics of the American folksinger and political activist Pete Seeger’s ballad “The Bells of Rhymney,” sourced to Welsh miner turned poet Idris Davies on the same day that the worse mining accident in the history of the UK occurred one hundred and five years prior, the Senghenydd colliery disaster (1913).
Following the structure of the English nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons (Say the bells of Saint Clement’s),” Davies and Seeger count off the communities visited by hardship and loss throughout resource-rich but exploited land. In Glamorgan, Wales, the coal mines referenced above near Caerphilly have their own stanza in the original verse:

They will plunder willy-nilly,
Say the bells of Caerphilly.

After Seeger’s introduction of the sad lament, several other artists produced cover versions of the song—most famously The Byrds but also John Denver, Bob Dylan, Murray Head, The Band, Robyn Hitchcock and Sonny and Cher in 1965.

bright phoebus

We could certainly not fault Mister Metzger for resorting to catch-penny, clickbait headline in order to persuade visitors it was a worthwhile dalliance to spare a moment to enjoy listening to the somewhat experimental album from the British folk group The Watersons, hailing from Hull and reliant on harmonisation rather than much in the way of accompaniment to make their music with “Bright Phoebus.”
While this recording is certainly not for everyone just as it was a commercial non-starter of a departure from the idylls that the group’s fans were accustomed to, sometimes songs need champions and cheerleaders to evangelise on their behalf. Do give it a listen (more tracks at the link above—and maybe don’t let your judgment settle on the first time around, which is I suppose a tremendous ask) and let us know what you think.  Discover more songs from the album and the rest of The Watersons’ discography at Dangerous Minds at the link above.

capcom 1

Coincidentally also on this day in 1968, the crew of Apollo 7 mission—the first manned one of the project, broadcast the first live television transmission from an American aircraft in orbit. The eleven day mission was to test and re-engineer equipment that would put Apollo 8 in lunar orbit—and despite “mutinous” grumblings by the crew being confined to such a small space for an unprecedented length of time and not to mention having cameras trained on them the whole time, the mission was technical success.

roundhay garden scene

On this day in 1888, artist and inventor Louis Le Prince (previously) captured a two-second moving tableau with his camera at the estate of Joseph and Sarah Whitley in Leeds, the subjects being Prince’s in-laws plus a friend of the family taking a stroll through the garden. This silent moment, some twenty frames, of footage is developed on paper film is believed to be the oldest surviving recorded motion picture.  Learn more at the link above.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

world, hold on

Released in 2006 by French DJ and producer Bob Sinclar (“Love Generation” and the Rock this Party re-mix of “Everybody Dance Now”) and house music performer Steve Edwards, the music video for “World, Hold On (Children of the Sky)” of a young boy who endeavors to save the planet from an impending cosmic catastrophe with the help of his dog, a science textbook and a rocket ship built in his bedroom.

dilute to taste

Via the always captivating Present /&/ Correct, we are thoroughly enjoying browsing this expansive vintage archive of food packaging from British grocer Sainsbury’s.
Perhaps especially cringe-worthy now and fitting with this tall drink of orange but in efforts to recover from a long, marked decline after the departure of long-time CEO Baron Sainsbury in 1992 and increased competition, the company launched a recovery plan in 2004 touted as “Making Sainsbury’s Great Again.” While the restructuring was in the beginning viewed favourably by industry partners, moves taken eventually led to the end of independence for the brand with it being acquired by Walmart and subsequently merged with the Asda chain.


By way of a rather violent plan to protest the US electoral system—which was thwarted, TYWKIWDBI reacquaints us with the form of governance called sortition or rule by allotment. There would be no campaigning or focus on re-election and holding on to power (though I guess there’s ever the chance for collusion and cronyism) since representatives and parliamentarians would be chosen at random (by lots) out of a pool of willing and competent citizens who all have the equal chance to govern for a term.  What do you think?
Since there’s no money to be made from this style of selecting our officials and by contrast too much circulating in partisan politics, I doubt it would gain traction anywhere today—though the ancient Athenians considered these chance appointments to be a hallmark of democracy and in many jurisdictions jurors are chosen by such means and asked to discharge their civic duty. Voting, as it’s the only voice we have politically at the moment (I am glad that the protester above failed to blow himself up to call attention to this alternative but I am also pained to think about his bleak prospects in an American gulag), is of course vital and important and not voting counts twice for the opposite party, but I am not seeing the ballot presently as the consent of the governed—a popular mandate to justify the perpetuation of polarising pander and empty promise.

Friday, 12 October 2018


Colossal shares a select gallery of some of the over twenty-five hundred miniature dioramas and landscapes that artist Tatsuya Tanaka has been furnishing on a daily basis for the past seven years.
His cast of tiny figurines and a keen eye for texture, decontext-ualized from everyday objects and office supplies has attracted millions of followers and fans and periodically compiles his best work into books and calendars, which we take a leaf from here. The title refers to the vending machine capsule toys (ガチャポン) where the little model people might have come from—the term being an onomatopoeic one for the cranking sound of turning the wheel and the sound of the capsule landing in the collection tray.


Thanks to Maps Mania we learn that there is range of services covering different but all jurisdictions that can help businesses and home owners to decide whether or not to install solar panels on their roof-tops by illustrating the electricity and heat production potential at any given address. Customisable criteria are feed into the various programmes and return an estimate of how many kilowatt hours could be unlocked and the value of the energy produced at the going rate.


val-eri, val-dera: a fantasy map that put the world’s tallest peaks side by side

downside up: excerpts from a 1984 film that shifts perspectives

still life: a podcast from NPR producer Ian Chillag whose guests are all inanimate objects, via Waxy 

postdictive processing: an audio-visual illusion from Caltech researchers

theatrical properties: stories behind an assortment of iconic film props, via Miss Cellania

feet dragging: a look at America’s despicable inaction on climate change

petunias: a range of cocktails inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings 

Thursday, 11 October 2018


Messy Nessy Chic lures us down a strange rabbit hole with a topic of discussion that I can vaguely recall regarding the perception of plant life with a documentary adaption (six years hence) of the 1973 The Secret Life of Plants by authors Christopher Bird—whose previous works include the authoritative tome on the art of dowsing—and former war-time intelligence officer, journalist Peter Tompkins.
Profiling the careers of nineteenth and twentieth century botanists in a sympathetic manner, the book presented a battery of experiments based on pioneering polygraph tests developed by a Central Intelligence Agency interrogation specialist. Those results which have thus far resisted replication is generally discounted by the fact that plants do not have brains or nervous systems and instead invoke supramaterial, supernatural accounts of plant telepathy and calls to condemn the ideas presented as pseudo-science. What do you think? The notional sense, communication, symbiosis and memory are however found to pan out in the biochemistry and signalling of plants amongst themselves as well as the support network communities establish, so while attributing or recognising sentience might be problematic plants are surely not worth our disdain and abuse and ought to be appreciated for what they provide. Just as appreciation for thought and feelings in animals faced set-backs over hyperbolic claims, we are probably underestimating the complex lives of our vegetative friends in ways we cannot begin to imagine—especially considering the soundtrack by Stevie Wonder.


Though the final arbiter of such things will be left in the capable hands if the International Astronomical Union, researchers have already hit upon a perfectly acceptable and sensible term for a natural satellite with its own sub-satellite: a moonmoon.
Despite the lack of such an arrangement present in our solar system, scientists have recently confirmed the existence of exomoons and believe that arrangements where smaller moons orbit larger one could indeed occur. The proposed term is also reviving a very silly meme in circulation last year about how the combination of one’s initials yielded an unfortunately derpy spirit animal name.


Having encountered the idea of chindōgu (珍道具) previously, we appreciated coming across this deeper dive into the design conventions of the inventions, interventions and other “curious tools” that are categorized as unusually useless. These obsessive, eccentric and otherwise over-engineered gadgets adhere to a set of principles including:

  • There must be the Spirit of Anarchy in Every Chindōgu
  • Chindōgu are not Propaganda
  • Chindōgu cannot be Patented

Discover a whole gallery of inventions created in this spirit at Open Culture and at the links above. The Selfie Stick was probably created according to these design commandments but broke through like so many backscratchers, shoehorns and other as seen on TV items to more mainstream retail.

i want the world to know—got to let it show

Observed on this day to commemorate the March on Washington of the previous year, the second one rallying for lesbian and gay rights and greater activism for the AIDS crisis in the US capital, National Coming Out Day was first held in 1988 and the annual awareness day—under the principle that close-mindedness and homophobia thrive in silence and prejudice and ignorance are quickly disarmed once people know that a loved one, friend or acquaintance have a gender identity that’s other than heteronormative—prompting a world where all individuals can live openly and truthfully. In the past three decades, it has expanded internationally with events held also in Ireland, Switzerland and the UK.


Though perhaps not as wholesomely shareable as the Danish concept of hygge and perhaps not as resonant as another word in the language jingfin that has prompted millions of Chinese to declare themselves spiritually Finnish, we appreciate that the Finns also celebrate the concept called kalsarikännit—roughly translated as the state of pants-drunkenness, extolled in a book by journalist Miska Rantanen subtitled the path to relaxation.
The government of Finland (which back in 2015 also created a pair of emojis to convey the concept) offers the definition of “the feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear—with no intention of going out.” Anecdotal evidence plus the country’s consistently high global rankings for happiness, openness, equality and egalitarianism suggests that there’s something to the practise and the balance it brings. Read more at Kottke at the link above.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

galvanic response

Not to be outdone by one traditional retailer’s patent of a shopping cart that registers biometric feedback of customers via sensors embedded in the handle to gauge and assess one’s response to various stimuli and better tailor advertisements and enticements according to one’s mood, a virtual re-seller whom consumers voluntarily erect a shrine to in their homes will use aggregate data to determine and detect if suppliants might not be feeling a bit under the weather or nursing a cold and peddle an appropriate prescription to them.
The proprietary personal assistant foregoes the need of a consultation since it could detect an encroaching hoarseness in one’s voice or signals that betray a cognitive delay from a bad night’s sleep that could portent something serious. What do you think? While gimmicky, phoney artificial intelligence might be an easy and attractive thing for businesses to foist on people, this tawdry and manipulative deportment engenders distrust and justified creepiness for actual smartness.

ōsaka banpaku

Via Dark Roasted Blend, we discover a virtual menagerie of cybernetic beings and early robots through an appreciation of the demonstration models created by famed architect and engineer Arata Isozaki.
The duo Deme and Deku were created for Expo’70 Osaka pavilion (previously) had heads with separate control rooms mounted in eye stalks—one which perceives the environment and relays telemetry to the other which instructs the robot how to perform its repertoire of movements and expressions and standing, tower above seven meters in height. Additionally, the world’s fair featured the first spherical concert hall, designed by Karlheinz Stockhausen (previously), debuted the first IMAX film and had exhibits of early mobile phones, local networking and Maglev trains. Learn more at the link above and find a whole gallery of images including video footage of the robots in action, plus maybe find other robot pals we might have forgotten.