Tuesday, 18 December 2018

implosion fabrication

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a miniaturisation technique to scale, downsize any physical object to the nanoscopic level whose method and materials most laboratories already have on hand.
The process works by using a laser to etch a frame out of expanded absorbent gel at workable dimensions and then overlay this scaffold with a material skin of the engineer’s choice. After assemble, the gel is then dried out, desiccated, pulling the structure inward, effectively resizing the object. The potential applications seem rather limitless and scientists believe that we might first encounter the technique used to improve optics and to make tiny robots.


We are fans of any method that encourages numeracy and engages and like the concept behind the Albert Clock, which does not surrender the hour without a challenge.  I always liked doing factorials (n!) myself and working out how many ways and with what operators one can reach a given number.  Depending on your target audience—this would be a good addition for a classroom or waiting area, the skill level of the problems to solve can be dialled up or down.

franking privilege

Found on Booooooom, we enjoyed these little figures composed of stamps and cancelations by Sapporo-based artist Baku Maeda. The cut-up typography includes the stylised katakana symbol〒(yūbin kigō, read more here) the service mark of Japan, derived from the word for communications teishin and used to as punctuation to indicate a zip code as well. Explore more of the artist’s portfolio, his collaborations with fellow creative Toru Yoshikawa and peruse a large gallery of his drawings and photography at the links above.

Monday, 17 December 2018

shock and awe

Gleaned from the latest instalment of Kevin Stroud’s excellent History of English podcast, our generic word for firearm entered the English language in the early fourteenth century as gunpowder was gradually making its way to Western Europe as the namesake of a very large and formidable catapult inscribed in the armorial inventory of Windsor Castle called Domina Gunilda.
This practise of naming munitions and engines of war after women is an ancient tradition that still echoes today and sure carries some problematic psychological associations—though recalling that the common female name of Norse extraction might be somewhat fitting, itself derived from Gunnr the Valkyrie, meaning battlefield and the handmaid of Odin assigned the onerous task of separating the heroic from the cowardly casualties and determining who gets into Valhalla. It is unclear if Lady Gunilda herself actually used any of the newly introduced gunpowder as a range-multiplier (early cannons, like their Chinese predecessors relied mainly on their ability to scare and disorientate belligerents by its noise rather than projectiles) though other, contemporary documents mention “gonnylde gnoste”—that is, Gunnild’s spark—and whatever the firepower, the written use of gonnes and handgonne appears shortly thereafter.


Along with laboratory assistant Fritz Straßmann, chemist Otto Hahn, researcher at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, made a breakthrough on this day in 1938 that led to the understanding of the process of splitting the atom.
The results of their experiments were interpreted and explained to them by physicist Lise Meitner a few weeks later—being chemists, they interpreted the change as a chemical one—confirming that they had in fact demonstrated the previously unknown property of nuclear fission after bombarding uranium with neutrons and reducing it to barium—with attendant energy as a by-product, ushering in the Atomic Age.

Sunday, 16 December 2018


To illustrate that even truly awful, jingoistic and pointless maps can be thought-provoking in more than pedantic ways and worth one’s consideration, Big Think reviews a few of the charts and infographics curated by the self-evidently titled Terrible Maps. I would certainly take objection to their map comparing the number of countries with their flag on the Moon (1: the US) with the number of countries with the Moon on their flags (13: Islamic majority countries.
While the US was the only country so far to land human beings on the lunar surface and return them to Earth safely, the first terrestrial flag planted on the Moon was the flag of Soviet Russia and since the Apollo missions, Japan (Hinomaru is the Rising Sun), China (the stars are symbolic of the four classes of worker and the Chinese nation) and India (the round symbol is twenty-four spoked Ashoka Chakra). Though no flags with the Moon on the Moon yet, I count at least twenty-one national flags with crescents. The thirteen ensigns right facing with a star and crescent are based off of the symbol of the Ottoman Empire, though depending on one’s location above or below the Equator and how the flags are hoisted and the way the horns are facing, the orientation of the Moon’s increscence is not a reflection of astronomical reality. What do you think? One has to wonder if this misrepresentation isn’t intentional on an important level and not meant to be emblematic the Earth’s satellite at all. Like discussion and debate about the privileging nature of map projections is conversation that we were late to bring to the table, it’s worth examining one’s geographical and historic biases, which are sometimes presented to us with a key and legend.

ailill mac máta

A pair of prodigal County Roscommon residents, interesting in plying their craft brewing experiences in their homeland isolated and fermented a special troglodytic wild yeast from a paleolithic archaeological site and cave complex to provide a point of departure to explore the influence and the background of the story of Queen Medb, also tied to this land.
Not to be confused with Queen Mab, Shakespeare’s invented fairy monarch though perhaps informed by the semi-legendary figure, her name shares its etymology—appropriately—with mead as she who intoxicates and according to ancient sources, Medb was born in the same cave, Oweynagat, held also to be a portal to the Underworld. The warrior queen, as all females in the egalitarian world of the Celts, was liberated and independent and not defined by her gender, unlike most women in other contemporary Western European cultures. The brewster (see also) worked with experts in microbiology to detect the undomesticated varieties of catalyst and bravely—since the divide between the world of the living and the world of the dead is most porous at that time of year—went spelunking in Oweynagat on Samhain to collect the yeast. Read more about the quest for the ingredients of this special ale and discover more strange brews at the link up top.


The above term, from the Ancient Greek πλεονάζω for I am superfluous, can be used to describe the phenomena of unnecessary repetition, like referring to one’s PIN number, saving something in PDF format, or making a visit to the ATM machine (this particular foible is called the RAS syndrome, RAS itself an initialism for “redundant acronym syndrome”).
Pleonasm also occurs especially when it comes to invoking topology or a group that’s customarily named in a different language—such as blaming the incident on the al Qaeda, visiting the Milky Way Galaxy, being extracted from the La Brea Tar Pits, or surveying Table Mesa or the Rock of Gibraltar.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

morph cut

Having seen that child materialise in the background as well, we appreciated this explanation of what’s going on in the editing room with the seamless splicing out of unwanted pauses and hesitations while preserving the essence of the interview—especially when polling for the typical man-on-the-street responses. It’s no sneaky jump cut and nothing is completely extemporaneous and unfiltered but one could well imagine the potential for abuse or deception with the glitches smoothed out. Learn more and see a manipulative example at Waxy at the link above.

wort des jahres

The Zeitgeist and the jury of the Association for the German Language (GfdS—Gesellschaft für deustche Sprache) in Wiesbaden has picked Heißzeit—a neologism that sounds like its opposite Eiszeit, Ice Age—as the Word of the Year for 2018 (DE/EN).
In deference to extreme heat and the drought conditions in Europe and across the globe this summer and acknowledged urgency in addressing climate change, Heißzeit beat out other contenders like Funklochrepublic for spotty, quality cellular network coverage, Pflegeroboter for automated nursing services for the old and infirm, Handelskrieg for trade war and Brexit-Chaos, needing no translation.


One of Weird Universe’s latest entries is a strangeness multiplier, not only introducing us to the art and underlying cosmological theories of painter and sculptor Stanisław Szukalski (*1893 – †1987), who aimed to create a whole new Polish art movement based on his mythos of Zermatism, a theory positing that human civilization can be sourced to a group of antediluvian survivors from Rapa Nui (Easter Island)—from which all of culture and language derives.
Humanity’s ongoing struggle for dominance over competitors like the Yeti and human-yeti hybrids (see also) are what characterizes humans’ uneasy, conflicted relationship with the natural world and their place in it, also bringing related cryptids into popular culture. Most of Szukalski’s work—whose fans and patrons included Leonardo DiCaprio and his father, was informed by these origin stories—but he also interested in other contemporary subjects and the celebrity culture of his adopted homeland of America—having immigrated to Chicago in the 1920s where he honed his artistic skills until deciding to return to Poland in 1934 to further develop his doctrine only to be evacuated (as a US citizenship) the next year when the country was invaded by Nazi Germany, and through this we learn the story behind that image that appears often as catch-penny marginalia: the young woman with the blue chin tattoo.
Szukalski painted a portrait from the well-circulated carte de visit of Olive Ann Oatman (*1837 - †1903). Most of the Oatman family were killed while trying to settle in Arizona territory, well outside of the area where settlement into Native American lands was already incurring. Though circumstances are unclear and Oatman’s story is uncorroborated, she was eventually raised by the Mojave and given this traditional marking—returning to her own society years later and presenting her “memoir” on the speaking circuit along the eastern seaboard of the US.  Though Oatman related her experience ultimately in a favourable light, her account was still far from an enlightened one.  Read more about Szukalsky and see more of his works plus the trailer for a biopic at the link above.


bouquet: floral masterpieces recreated with living flowers

plenary session: climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers a powerful message to those gathered at Katowice

coming attractions: a mashup of all the biggest movie trailers of 2018

the notorious rbg: supreme court justice is amazingly resilient

rebel scum: gorgeous, retro Star Wars style propaganda posters

hot neptune: researchers locate an exoplanet that’s slowly being evaporated by its host star—via Slashdot

patchwork pojagi: the beautiful kimonos and accessories of South Korean textile artist and educator Chunghie Lee

please enjoy responsibly: funny suggestion for a Christmas time drinking game

Friday, 14 December 2018

smart compose

Whilst most of the deserved animosity towards technology comes in the flavour of resent towards the busy work it’s created at the margins and the sine cure, meaningless jobs it’s responsible for, the opposing category of directed vitriol is even more fraught, I suppose: that technology is too uncannily clever and works too well, as Atlantic contributor Derek Thompson expounds on predictive powers pervading more and more of our routines. What do you think? Though a lot of automation is meant to spare us from the tedium that’s in part technology’s own creation, so much hinges on anticipation and serving us back our own patterns and preferences.

suomen kuningaskunta

Declaring and securing its independence on 6 December 1917 as it succeeded from the Russia Empire embroiled in revolution and civil war, Finland had originally proclaimed itself republic but the intervention of monarchists elements and Germany—despite being occupied with World War I itself—who thought the newly minted nation should be a protectorate, a client state, as it did with other territories formerly part of Russian Empire by plying them with surplus royalty, Finland was for a short time a constitutional monarchy.
On 9 October of 1918, Prince Friedrich Karl von Hessen (*1868 - †1940) Landgrave and brother-in-law to the soon to abdicate Wilhelm II was voted by Finnish parliament to the throne. In light of the dissolution of other royal houses with the cessation of fighting, the king-elect judged the situation untenable and Friedrich declined his commission on this day just over two months later—having never set foot in his kingdom much less establishing his court. This decision led to democratic reforms and the re-establishment of a republic by the following summer.


While it’s always advisable to fact-check and confirm for yourself, I think it’s rather delightful that when one solicits for weird trivia, the internet rarely fails to deliver.
Our absolute favourite new fact that we can vouch for—perfect for small talk at the office for as an icebreaker or ellipsis during lulls in conversation at holiday family gatherings—is regarding the anatomy of woodpeckers. The birds have quite long, sticky tongues not only for probing and slurping up insects and sap from bored holes but are wound around the skull through a specially evolved cavity to act as a cushion to protect the bird’s brain from the repeated, traumatic impact of pecking wood.

Thursday, 13 December 2018


 Via a Maps Mania post on the topic of place names, we were introduced to an interesting interactive application that allows one to discover geospatial patterns for the naming conventions of human settlements. Like the in the source article, I wanted to illustrate something like the isogloss of the Speyer/Main or Apfel/Appel line (or plotting the different ways we identity navigable passages of mountains), but I couldn’t summon up something as geologically typological (a toponym is a place name and the study of their origin is called typology) for Germany to chart just now.
I’ll be sure to play around some more with “Places” when I do think of a regionalism to examine but for now here is the frequency and concentration of settlements with the prefix Bad (bath, a spa town) in their Ortsname (oikonym) in the top map and those incorporating –stadt (town) in the bottom. Data is beautiful.  Give it a try yourself and show us your cartographic handiwork.

brutalist brussels

Renown for his portfolio of works that includes a pavilion on the flora and fauna of the Congo created for the venue’s 1958 l’Exposition universelle (the one the Atomium was built for) and the city’s cinema museum, Belgian-Polish architect Constantin Brodzki also designed an iconic headquarters for Cimenteries CBR (acquired by HeidelbergCement in 1999) in 1967—comprising seven hundred fifty-six prefabricated oval concrete modules that give it its distinctive façade. Abandoned for some time, the historic building has been restored and conserved—retaining many of the original elements and built-in furniture units—and is reopening as a multistorey coworking and conference space. The revival is being called Office Boitsfort/Bosvoorde, after the Brussels municipality, and you can see more at Curbed at the link above.


shorthand: deaf researchers are innovating science communication

inventas∙vitam∙iuvat∙excoluisse∙per∙artes: the questionable rebranding the of the Nobel prize (see also)

the shape of water: aerial photography reveals the beauty of meandering streams, rivers and water courses

fairytale of new york: an appreciation of The Pogues’ classic ballad

kobe hyakkei: more on the woodblock print artist Hide Kawanishi’s impressions of post-war Kobe compared to contemporary photographs

the glories of science: winners of the Royal Society photography contest—a scholarly association for the advancement of knowledge of the natural world 

immer bereit

Named in tribute to the former leader of the Communist party of Germany Ernst Thälmann who was murdered at Buchenwald concentration camp, the East German youth organisation, modelled on the international scouting movement, die Jungpioniere and die Pioniere, was officially founded on this day in 1948.

Margot Feist—the future Missus Erich Honecker—became chairwoman of the group the next year and remained its leader until its dissolution in 1990—at the endpoint, nearly two million pupils, ninety-eight percent of all schoolchildren in East Germany. H was a member, and I have seen his old uniform, at least the blue neckerchief (Halstuch). The pioneers’ slogan and greeting was usually shortened to the call from the leader to “Be ready!” with the response from the group saluting “Always ready!” from the motto—Für Frieden und Sozialismus seid bereit—immer bereit, For Peace and Socialism, be ready—always ready! Matriculation ceremonies for new members took place on the anniversary (Pioniergeburtstag) of the organisation’s establishment.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018


German multinational Puma would like to remind everyone that digital pedometers and quantifiable data aren’t exactly the newest thing under the sun with the revival of its vintage 1986 RS running shoe.
Cables are required, however, for changing the module in the heel and not for interfacing with one’s home computer. Steps and other fitness telemetry will be transmitted over Bluetooth for the limited reissue. Only eighty-six pairs will be made available worldwide and will probably unfortunately never see any actual street wear.


With the season of annual superlatives upon us, we quite enjoyed this curated gallery culled from the submissions to the National Geographic Photography Competition. The grand prize went to Jassen Todorov, violinist, photographer and flight instructor, who snapped this stunningly tragic image of thousands of automotive exiles, mothballed in the Mojave Desert.
An aircraft boneyard is just out of the frame and the assembled field of cars represent just a fraction of the millions that had to be idled. These Volkswagens and Audis from the model years 2009 to 2015 were not only not compliant with US Environmental Protection Agency and EU emissions for nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide standards but the engines were moreover designed to cheat—with so called defeat devices—during trials to pass testing. This is certainly a powerful and iconic reminder on how we all pay dearly for something so cheaply underestimated. See more stirring winners and worthies at the link up top.

use proxy

Via Kottke’s curated Quick Links, we enjoyed this collection of hypertext transfer protocol standard response codes illustrated with GIFs of entertainer Beyoncé. Here’s the one for client error code 408: Request Timeout. Check out more of the status codes at HTTBey that includes the two-hundreds, the success series and the three hundreds—the redirects.

the guardians

TIME magazine honours those fighting and dying on the front lines of the War on Truth as its figures of the year, highlighting the fact that coverage does not come without costs.
In addition to the murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi revealing the disdain that Saudi Arabia has for human rights despite a veneer of progressive reforms, three more covers highlight the sacrifice and insult that the press has faced this year—a mass-shooting on a newsroom in Annapolis, uncovering genocide taking place Myanmar and human rights abuses and disappearings in the Philippines in face of unrelenting adversity. Even more insidious than the open campaign of slurring the media, we offer for your consideration the dismantling of local news outlets, the watchdogs and implications that that has for its jurisdiction.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018


Dezeen shares an obituary of the pioneering industrial designer and department store executive Charles “Chuck” Harrison (*1931 - †2018) who recently passed away.
Pictured here with one of his most iconic contributions, the 1958 update to the View-Master that popularised he children’s toy immensely, Harrison rose in the ranks of Sears, Roebuck and Company and eventually managed the department store and catalogue business’s entire design group, creating consumer products that ranged from the first plastic trash can—significantly for the garbage disposal and collection insofar as it became a somewhat quieter affair, home electronics, lawn mowers, cordless razors and the company’s line of Craftsman power tools—over seven hundred innovative items all told. Learn more about Harrison’s education and career at the link above.


Whilst the international community is struggling to make meaningful progress that might avert the destruction and consummation of civilisation as we know it by committing to being less garbage tenets of this planet, the United States has not just backed out of global compacts that nudge in the right direction but has now assumed the mantle of profligate troll by counter-messaging the United Nations sponsored conference in Katowice (coat of arms pictured, the region known historically for its industry and coal reserves) with a pavilion extolling fossil fuels.
The US, despite the fact that antiquated oil barons can curry favour with the Trump administration and embarrassingly promote dirty fuel as a means to curb climate change, is certainly not alone in not upholding their end of the bargain and affecting real and saving change will require dramatic transitions away from not only traditional means of powering society but the ways in which society consumes resources itself. Activists chanting “keep in the ground” disrupted the start of the event with the remaining audience looking noticeably thinner after the protest.


Plain Magazine directs our attention to the magical portfolio of artist Geoffroy de Crecy through a diverting and highly satisfying animated series called Empty Places—showcasing machines dutifully cycling through the motions absent human presence or interaction. The series was a deliberate aesthetic departure from his commercial commissions and experiments with the way gallery-goers might engage with the static-dynamic, set on repeat. More to discover at the links above.

morlocks and eloi

Via Slashdot, the Guardian reports on a massive and thriving subterranean ecosystem that rivals life above ground and in the oceans. Though unclear whether life first welled up to the surface or burrowed down, the cycles which the buried biomes follow are not the ephemeral or seasonal shifts that we observe on land but truly on geological scales with some microorganisms with life spans reaching into centuries, if not beyond. Findings and samples from nearly a decade’s long study from the Deep Carbon Observatory—a consortium of over twelve hundred biologists, chemists and geologists—are to be presented to the American Geophysical Union’s annual conference in the upcoming weeks.


With everything going on at such a frantic pace, we’ve been more than a little remiss in trying to report on current affairs. Notwithstanding developments in the Special Counsel investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia and further potential for Kompromat, by this day were it not for the intercession of the death of an ex-president and state funeral, the US government would have been at least partially shutdown, having essentially defunded itself with no provision for continuing operations. Instead that fiscal showdown was deferred until the week before Christmas and the Winter Recess—ostensibly when a deal might be reached by dint of representatives wanting to return to their constituencies for the holidays.

Also by today, there was to be a “meaningful” vote in the House of Commons on the EU divorce deal that the prime minister had negotiated to the satisfaction of no one. The prime minister, however, chose to postpone debate and dashed off to the continent in search of more concrete reassurance to telegraph to her party and coalition that there would be an open border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. In response to this perceived dereliction of duty—leaving legislators even less time to negotiate the tranche of new laws and regulations that have to be in place when the UK leaves—a member with Labour cam forward and grabbed the chamber’s ceremonial mace in objection. Kept in the Tower of London, the maces (the House of Lords has two) the mace represents the monarch’s authority as the “third part of Parliament” who assents to the constitution and signs bills into law (the Queen, not the Mace) and is placed in a tripod in front of the Speaker of House by the Serjeant-at-Arms while in session—the Parliament legally not allowed to convene in its absence. While I understand the sentiment and frustration, it does strike one as a rather typically Brexit-shambles thing to do: seizing a symbol of power and not knowing quite what to do with it afterwards.  The US House of Representatives also has a mace, displayed on a green marble pedestal to the right of the Speaker—to be used, brandished in front of offenders, in accordance with House Rules, to restore order when Congress becomes unruly.It is rarely implemented. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

diesel dazzle

Just ahead of the release of a documentary film on the obscure genre, NPR’s Fresh Air host par-excellance Terry Gross reprises her clever interview with an book author, composer and performer of industrial musicals—elaborate productions staged only for an internal, corporate audience and to train, build cohesion and motivate the sales force. There are numerous catchy numbers a very resourceful rhyming-lyrics—given the nature of the commissions.


Via the ever outstanding Kottke, we are treated once again to the imaginative creations of art Roberto Benavidez (previously, channelling the bestiaries of Hiernoymous Bosch in piñata form) whose latest project consists of a series of legendary creatures and chimera that populate the illustrations and marginalia of the fourteenth century illuminated volume called the Luttrell Psalter as metallic ornaments. The intricate drawings of hybridised avians transformed into sculpture that accompany each psalm are referred to as grotesques.


cloud № 81: Dangerous Minds’ Richard Metzger interviews “prophet of the piano” Lubomyr Melnyk 

eviation: the electric airliner revolution may be here sooner than we think—via Slashdot

opera chirurgica: from our antiquarian, various anatomical charts to contemplate

stupid, twitsy remainers: found-footage from the Prime Minster’s residence

whitey sense: the unfortunate trend of calling out people minding their own business

yule log: an assortment of relaxing fireplace videos—previously

Sunday, 9 December 2018

hallmark holiday or that’s what christmas is all about, charlie brown

Our faithful chronclier, Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet, informs that today in 1843—coinciding with the serial publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which very much rehabilitated the festive season in England and beyond, industrial designer and museum administrator Sir Henry Cole (*1808 - †1882) too busy to pen personalised messages to all his friends and colleagues for the holidays commissioned Royal Academy illustrator John Callcott Horsely to create for him a set of pre-printed greetings on cardstock.
Still working out its franking system—the first postage stamp only introduced two and a half years earlier, Horsely also designed pre-paid postages envelopes that allowed well-wishers to post the cards for a penny throughout the Empire. Also on this day in 1965—perhaps with this bit of history in mind, CBS first aired the A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Reportedly, producers and the network were convinced that the special would prove to be a monumental failure and threaten the Peanuts franchise, fretting over the pacing, tones, lack of canned laughter (a television standard at the time), the unconventional, jazzy soundtrack and the rather incongruent moment of reading Bible verse. The first commercial Christmas cards were mired in controversary and considered blasphemous in part for depicting a child imbibing an adult beverage along with his parents, probably contributing to their commercial success. Enjoy the Vince Guaraldi Trio perform the Linus and Lucy suite and other songs for the programme.


Our ever intrepid adventurer over at Amusing Planet takes us on a surprising tour of an abdandoned mine tunnel converted during the early 1970s under the Hague Convention for the “Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” into a bunker for historically significant documents, dating back to the tenth century up to modern times with some one and a half million contextual artefacts (originals like the blueprints for the Dom zu Köln or Pope Leo X’s communique threatening to excommunicate a monk named Martin Luther) contributing from archivists across Germany coming in annually.
This shelter, called the Barbarastollen, named after Saint Barbara—the patroness of miners among others—and for the support beams of the unfinished mine shaft, which the Christmas, like the traditional German fruit-cake like Christmas bread, Stollen, is  near Freiburg im Breisgau in the Black Forest, and one of five world-wide with the others being Vatican City and three vast underground chambers in the Netherlands, has foregone modern formats which could surely accommodate the breadth and depth of human knowledge up to the moment in the seven hundred metre long stacks, instead keeping with the tried and tested method of document storage and retrieval, barrel upon barrel of microfilm—the media positioned to weather a nuclear war and at least a millennium, readable by means only of a magnifying glass and a little sunshine. Read more at the link up top.

the mother of all demos

Fifty years ago on this day, computer engineer and inventor addressed a gathering of fellow enthusiasts at conference in San Francisco and presented a comprehensive introduction of nearly everything that we would come to expect personal and business computing to deliver over the following decades and up to the present—except perhaps not imagining to speed or to scale.
The ninety minute hardware and software demonstration, inspired by the work of Vannevar Bush (here and here), was a rather extemporaneous display on mouse-usage, multiple tabs and windows, hypertext links, graphic interface, tele-conferencing, word-processing and version-control (collaborative editing). The vaunted title is itself a snowclone of the a translation of a warning issued by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 1991 that presaged that the US would face the “mother of all battles” should it choose to counter the country’s annexation of Kuwait, the turn-of-phrase itself sourced to the 636 AD battle of al-Qadisiyyah when the Arabs defeated the Persians and brought Islam to their newly annexed territories. The working title of the presentation was the more prosaic A Research Centre for Augmenting the Human Intellect and Mother of All Demos was appended far after the fact.

Friday, 7 December 2018


Via Colossal, we are introduced to compositional gifted photographer RK, who has a particular eye for framing and capturing the juxtaposing and the disorientating.  A dualphoto is actually the technique of taking a picture with two cameras facing in opposite directions to capture a comprehensive image but the term seemed to fit.  A portal-plane variation is a geographical remote one with synchronised picture-taking.  We were especially taken with the scenes from Japan that contrast traditional trappings with the encroaching modern world—which looks to be kept sufficiently in abeyance to ensure that the timeless is not forgotten. View more of the artist’s portfolio at the links up top.

font specimen

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we rather enjoyed indulging this in depth analysis of the visual references, typographical and architectural, that are to be teased out, scene-by-scene, in the Pixar animated film WALL·E.
By the way that’s an interpunct in the middle of the robot’s name and not a dot nor dash since in space, no one can hear you kern—and our protagonist, navigating through his world manages to pull off embracing both the ruin of over-consumption and the giddy hope that is something akin to the NASA style book that branded the latter decades of the Space Race.  In both sweeping vistas and details too splendid to overlook even though they only appear for a fraction of a beat, there is quite an impressive amount of attention to design, gags and marketing baked into each background to appreciate.  Much more to explore at the link up top.


NPR’s latest thematic TED Talks digest covers a variety of topics on the circular economy, as modelled by the natural world where nothing goes to waste and systems are regenerative, as opposed to growth-oriented linear industries.
One key principle is of course resource recovery—which is exemplified by one entrepreneurial venture known as Plastic Bank. Based in underserved communities, the programme that incentives clean up operations in an earnest and transformative way that pays people for bringing in and sorting and separating packaging with a bankable virtual currency that can be redeemed for food, tuition and other essentials. This salvaged raw material is resold at a premium to manufacturers and plastic is not only kept out of the oceans and food-chain, the planet also benefits by needing less new material, tightening the loop, and the people who take part in it are given more financial independence. There’s a whole medley of good ideas discussed in the podcast.

anders als die andern

Artist Shelby Criswell, syndicated in The Nib, introduces us to the one of the early pioneers of studying human sexuality and gender identity in a comic about the life and career of Doctor Magnus Hirschfeld (*1868 - †1935), a physician and outspoken advocate for homosexual and transgender rights.
Hirschfeld set up a pioneering research facility in Berlin-Charlottenburg under the more liberal and enlightened auspices of the Weimar Republic and even co-produced a film, Different from the Others, which was a vehicle for legal reform and featured one of the first portrayals of a gay man in cinema. The rise of Nazism saw the end of his work and outreach—with his institute’s records being ransacked and used to track down undesirables. Dying of a heart-attack while in exile in Nice just as the Nazi government was becoming entrenched, the slab of his tomb bears his personal motto, “Per Scientiam ad Justitiam”—through Science to Justice.  Learn more at the link above. 

miles gloriosus

We learn from Oxford Words blog the etymology of the word chauvinism can be sourced to an apocryphal French soldier in La Grand Armée of Napoleon called Nicolas Chauvin of Rochefort. The eponym of the legendary character was used to lampoon the exploits and loyalty of the Bonapartists who upheld their general as a leader even in defeat and disgrace—expanding from a term that narrowly was associated with nationalistic fervour to a broader bias towards othering and boastfulness.

Thursday, 6 December 2018


betamax xmas: we get reintroduced to a nostalgic, internet classic—via Waxy

optician sans: a sleek free font from ANTI Hamar and Fábio Duarte Martins

i heard you on the wireless back in ‘sixty-two: a whole universe of pre-MTV music videos

première arabesque: guitarist Kyle Schaefer arranges and performs Claude Debussy’s early masterpiece in progressive rock style

modernistmas: an updated gallery (previously) of Brutalist and Post Modernism gingerbread houses for the holidays 

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Doing some Christmas shopping, I managed to complete the circuit through the capitals of Wiesbaden and Mainz, inspecting the high streets and markets and seasonal decorations besides. Conceding a bit of magic that one experiences at night with all the lights, it was nice to walk through the squares without so much of the crush from the crowd and take in the Nativity Scenes (Krippe) and Christmas carousels (Weihnachtspyramide), especially liking how the seat of the Second German Broadcaster (ZDF oder Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) incorporated one its mascots, the Mainzelmännchen that signal station identification, into the decoration.

I also took the chance to re-visit St Stephan zu Mainz, a Baroque church heavily damaged during the aerial bombing of the city during World War II but rebuilt in the early 1970 and showcasing stained glass windows designed by artist Marc Chagall in the nave and quires. A tour led by a deacon invited us to bask and mediate in the uniquely cobalt light.
I then visited the monumental Christuskirche, a Renaissance-revival building that was also severely damaged during the war—whose high dome is visible from the other side of the Rhein.
Back in Wiesbaden, I walked through the Christmas market held in the square in front of the Rathaus and around the red brick Marktkirche and later went to see how the Kurhaus had decorated for Christmas and its upcoming balls and fêtes and found this stunning poinsettia tree in the casino’s foyer.