Monday, 31 December 2018


Having adopted the Western solar system of timekeeping as its official civil calendar at the beginning of the Meiji dynasty in 1873, Japanese new year’s customs are a rich fusion of traditional and adopted customs and rituals.
In addition to purification rites and sharing a bowl of long noodles with neighbours that symbolically bridge the span between new and old, areas with a Buddhist temple will ring their bells to atone for the one-hundred and eight earthly temptations that are the cause of human suffering. These enumerated kleshas (煩悩) are mental states (greed, sloth, pulverbatching, being hangry, irusuVemödalen, and so forth) that are the mind-killers and manifest in poor decisions and destructive behaviour, and are in the broadest sense ignorance, attachment and aversion. Though it’s far beyond my cursory familiarity to wade further into the subject, it’s nonetheless comforting to know that the bonshō are tolling for us.

kirchenburg im flammen

H and I joined some friends last night and went into the nearby market town of Ostheim vor der Rhön to once again enjoy the spectacle of the fortified church illuminated by hundreds of torches and candles.
Unlike last year, there was no great and thunderous volley of the fire of hand-cannons from the tower but a very talented fire dancer who worked herself into a frenzy and gave quite a captivating performance.

Sunday, 30 December 2018


Our thanks to Weird Universe for the introduction to the perhaps unfairly maligned 1979 Italo-German space opera Starcrash—written and directed by Lugui Cozzi—accused of being derivative of the wildly successful Star Wars saga that premiered in 1977—dismissed like this later homage, but actually produced in parallel, with Lucas’ film only coming to audiences overseas in December 1978. I suppose we all owe debts of inspiration—and that’s not say the two movies don’t share some common ancestry.
The film, which includes a soundtrack scored by John Barry, stars Caroline Munroe as the protagonist with Christopher Plummer as a benevolent Emperor of the Universe and David Hasselhoff as his rebellious son and heir apparent, was quite a serious undertaking and rather than exactly campy seems like the franchise from an alternate reality. Here is the trailer below and with a little effort, one can find the full feature online, should one be so taken.

jahrgang xxmviii

As this year draws to a close, we again take time to reflect on a selection of things that took place in 2018. Thanks as always for visiting. We've made it through another wild year together.

january: Turkey enters the Syrian conflict in attempts to wrest control in the north from Kurdish rebels.  The US government experiences a partial shutdown over a lapse in funding due to a stand-off regarding the status of immigrants that were brought to the US as children by their parents.  We had to say goodbye to science-fiction and fantasy writer Ursula Le Guin.

february: There are further advances in private-sector rocketry that seem primed to usher in a new age of exploration.  Another school shooting in America fails to get the country to open up to a dialogue on gun-control. The US Federal Communications Commission repeals net neutrality consumer protections.

march: A former Russian double-agent and his daughter are poisoned in Salisbury, England.  In China, term limits for the office of president and general secretary of the Communist party are eliminated.  In the US, a nation-wide school walk-out occurs to protest gun-violence and weak gun-control laws.  Vladimir Putin is re-elected to a fourth consecutive term as president of Russia.  We bid farewell to scientist Stephen Hawking.

april: France, the UK, and the US launch airstrikes on Syria bases following a government sanctioned chemical weapons attack that killed over seventy civilians.

may: The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect in an attempt to wrest back some modicum of control over individuals’ digital dossiers. Donald Trump precipitates a trade war by imposing punitive steel tariff on exporters with other countries responding in kind.

june: At the G-7 summit in Toronto Donald Trump pushes for the reinstatement of Russia before embarking to meet with the leader of North Korea in Singapore for talks on denuclearisation. 

july: A series of climate-change driven heat-waves devastate North America and Europe, causing many deaths and torrents of forest fires.  A boys’ football team and their coach are rescued from a cave in Thailand after a harrow, seventeen-day ordeal.  Researchers confirm the existence of a subglacial lake of liquid water on Mars.  

august: The market value of Apple surpasses one trillion dollars.  The US reimposes sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme (having announced its intention to withdraw from the deal in May) while maintaining support to Saudi Arabia in its retaliatory attack on the Yemen.

september: The National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro is engulfed in flames.  The Supreme Court of India decriminalises homosexuality.  Following a contentious hearing, a controversial justice is appointed to the US Supreme Court, altering its composition.

october: A dissident journalist is kidnapped, murdered and spirited away in pieces at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Canada legalises cannabis possession and use nation-wide.  Trump deploys soldiers to the Mexican border to fend off an approaching caravan of asylum-seekers. While visiting his native China, the chief of INTERPOL goes missing and presumed assassinated. The US signals its intent to leave the International Postal Union and shutters its diplomatic outreach offices for Palestine.

november: Democrats take control of the US House of Representative with Republicans retaining control of the Senate.  The InSight probe lands on Mars, beginning a mission to pierce the surface of the Red Planet. We had to bid farewell to SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg and social justice warrior Harry Leslie Smith.  US ex-president George Herbert Walker Bush passed away, rejoining Barbara Bush, his life partner of seventy-three years, who died in April.

december: The shambles of Brexit and the investigation into the Trump campaign and administration to Russia are ongoing.  US forces withdraw from Syria with plans to also do so for Afghanistan and the country’s defence secretary resigns in protest.  We had to bid farewell to actor and director Penny Marshall.   The US government enters another partial shutdown over Border Wall funding. 

in the land of the silver birch

One forgets how easy it is to access a memory sometimes. I was bopping along to some tune the other day and had a distinct memory of a classmate “Sunshine” Savage (her actual name, I wonder what happened to her) singing with me “Dip, dip and swing them back, flashing with SILVER” quite archly (in Dorian mode it turns out no less, I –♭VI, like Eleanor Rigby) and became curious all of a sudden about what public domain songbook that that was drawn from. I discovered to my delight that it’s considered a traditional Canadian folk staple:

My paddle’s keen and bright
Flashing with silver
Follow the wild goose flight
Dip, dip and swing

Though somewhat disavowed as kind of racist in Canadian school districts of late, apparently it is still a standard part of an American elementary school Thanksgiving pageant. I never experienced that personally but do recall other audience favourites, like the prodigal Señor Don Gato. Meow, meow, meow.

intercalary days

As the calendar winds down and makes ready to welcome a new year, we pause to take a look at a few non-standard dates, evoked for neat calculation and exceptional circumstances. 0 January is the manner for referencing the coordinates of astral bodies—used in tables for stellar navigation and astrology—the day before the start of a calendar year while still keeping the annual ephemeris inclusive.
Furthermore, for practical purposes, the epoch of computing and programming only reaches back to 1900—and though they had intended the starting point of 0 January to be New Year’s Eve 1899, because the year 1900 was erroneous reckoned as a Leap Year (it is a Common Year under the Gregorian Calendar but a Leap Year under the Julian system, in use in some jurisdictions until 1923) 0 January 1900 is actually the penultimate 30 December 1899. While most of Western Europe transitioned from the Julian to Gregorian calendars by excising a week of Sundays—not at all in a coordinated effort either—the Swedish Empire, seeing hardship elsewhere, announced it would gradually catch up, by phasing out leaps days over the following four decades—from 1700 to 1740. Conflict and conquest, however, made keeping an accurate count of cheat days difficult and at one point—in 1712—Sweden observed 30 February. Ultimately, in 1753, and despite the earnest efforts of civil servants calendar synchronisation was complete, by fast-forwarding from 17 February to 1 March.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

kansas is apt to see in new york a greedy city… it inclines to think that the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap

In a bid to secure the affections of an internet retail giant who turned out to be more polyamorous than expected, New York City, in its proposal to the company, modified its letterhead to spell out the sweetheart deal with a special version of the city’s iconic logo—created for the board of tourism by Milton Glaser (previously) in 1977. The artist was not impressed with the adaptation, befuddled as we are by what that’s even supposed to mean other than the commodification and selling-short of Gotham.

dinosaurier des jahres

Since 1993, Germany’s Naturschutzbund (NABU, Nature Conservancy Corps) in Berlin has been awarding its annual dirisive distinction, its Dinosaur Award, to the group or individual who’s actions are most emblematic of regressive tendencies in environmental stewardship.
This year’s prize went to the chairman of an energy company who pledged to continue the expansion of its strip-mining operations and destroy the remaining sliver of the old growth Hambacher Forst despite massive protests and the gradual phasing out of coal. Earlier in the month, a ceremony was held in the nearby Ruhrgebiet to mark the closing of the country’s last black hard coal mine, also operated by the same energy giant fossil.  There are regrettably too many of such barons (sometimes ourselves included for our lifestyle choices) to contend with but who might you nominate for failure to adapt?


There is an ancient Chinese proverb that posits that while the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the number two best time is today, and via the always excellent Kottke’s Quick Links, we learn about an ambitious consortium of conservators and arborists who have successfully cloned one hundred saplings of giant redwoods from the stumps of five of most majestic trees (previously thought dead) felled in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive—inspired by a near-death experience, aims to re-establish the forests of the North American Pacific Northwest Coast as a bulwark against climate change—though these colossal trees are susceptible to environmental degradation, being extraordinarily long-lived, they could teach humans a thing or two about living on Earth in terms of weathering change and wildfires. The trees sequester as many tonnes of carbon in their trunks as two hundred and fifty regular trees and the cloned specimens are not only seeding the coastline but are also being exported to places around the world. More to explore and learn how to get involved at the links above.

winterval or five gold rings

Probably the most famous example of a cumulative song—The Barley Mow (Oh the company, the brewer, the drayer, the slavey, the daughter, the landlady, the landlord, the barrel, the half-barrel, the gallon, the half-gallon, the quart pot, pint pot, half a pint, gill pot, half a gill, quarter gill, nipperkin, and a round bowl
—Here's good luck, good luck, good luck to the barley mow) and Green Grow the Rushes O being other examples—the Twelve Days of Christmas enumerates a progression of increasingly grander, more ostentatious (generally of the avian variety) gifts exchanged during the interval between Christmas Day and the Feast of Magi.
The standard tune is sourced to a 1909 arrangement by baritone and composer Frederic Austin, prolonging the verse of the fifth iteration that is often rendered golden nowadays. While there has been much speculation without a definitive answer as to the symbolic meaning of the gifts, it is worth noting that there are a round three hundred and sixty-four gifts given all told—one for every day of the year minus Christmas—and the presents may represent a device for memorising the important things that go on in each month over the course of a year (the original French verse was something about ‘‘five rabbits a-running” and probably not a coded mnemonic for a Christian catechism—in which case the rings would represent the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, the expository ones.

Friday, 28 December 2018

sign of the times

Japan’s kanji character of the year was revealed a couple weeks ago in a ceremony with writ large in hand painted calligraphy strokes by Priest Seihan Mori of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, which strikes us as a pretty amazing way of announcing the results.
Pronounced like “sigh,” the word (which appropriately kind of also looks like a stinking pile of poo) means disaster is not only reserved for the natural spate of earthquakes, flooding, heatwaves and tsunamis that visit the land perennially that have grown more frequent and costlier but also for the general geopolitical shambles that define this year.


Recognising that a truly great cinematic experience is one that surpasses the need for a captive audience and the rapt attention of passive consumption, Bryan Boyer—inspired by the quantum strangeness of things designed at scale and at speed—invented a Very Slow Movie Player (VSMP) whose screen is a dithering canvas that cycled through film not at a rate of twenty-four frames per second, the threshold for the illusion of motion though apparently its now at the low end of filmmaking, but rather at a rate of twenty-four frames per hour.
At one thirty-six hundredth of the normal playing speed, each passing frame (one every two and a half minutes) is not watched but rather considered, studied—revealing and deconstructing the elements that went and how those techniques translate to elicit the desired effect in the viewer. Learn more at Kottke and the source—with a tutorial on the methodologies that went into making the VSMP prototypes since we would certainly like one of these digital movie houses to inspect throughout the day—at the links above.

there will be no love except for the love of big brother

There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do no forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

bric-a, brac-a firecracker!

Equally awed by the unnoticed taxonomy that go into the everyday with unspoken rules that perhaps an independent observer could best identify, we really enjoyed this latest instalment (previously) of a neural network generating branded identities for imagined sorts of pyrotechnic displays. The database of names were gathered in part from Dutch sources—where Silvester fireworks are a serious matter as well—which makes the output all the more interesting. Some of our favourites were:

Pronk XL
Shark Whistler
Sneaking Veet Box 3
Event Badger One Assortiment

More to explore at the links above and be sure to subscribe so as to never miss an experiment, which are all pretty telling of and revelatory about our own foibles and naming-conventions.


Though never an avid player of games from the first-person shooter perspective, I did always appreciate the world-building work that went into developing the video game franchises.
We’re especially taken just now with the concept that one’s own smart vacuum’s plotted course through one’s living quarters isn’t just a domestic double-agent but can be used to craft rich new terrains and levels for fighting off zombies in space. Given what these robotic vacuums have in terms of creativity and imagination, it seems right that they ought to be rewarded with a new outlet instead of just doing menial tasks—though we’d be better off vanquishing dust bunnies ourselves and gamifying household chores without an avatar.


Wanting a bit of a respite from his War on Christmas that not only has forcibly separated some fourteen thousand young children from their parents who’ve yet to be reunited, a partial government shutdown whose consequences portend untold collateral damage—especially for those living precariously and counting on that one reliable paycheck for the holidays plus some unwelcome disabusing that’s really tarnishing and not in keeping with the spirit of the season, the Grifter-in-Chief decided to take a swing at those who criticised him for failing to visit a combat zone and staged a surprise three hour publicity stunt at a US airbase outside of Baghdad.
Such photo-ops are usually harmless and might otherwise be a nice morale boost, even if we are still reeling from the announcement to withdraw from Syria and the subsequent resignation of the defence secretary—except the detachment that Trump’s handlers chose for him to greet is a group of special operations forces, likely on some covert operation in the region, and revealing their identities seriously compromises their mission if not putting the troops’ own lives at greater risk.  If the social media exposure was not bad enough on its own, Trump further jeopardised the deployed soldiers and the hospitality of their host nation in refusing to meet with Iraqi government officials during his trip but also gave a campaign speech defending his recent military decisions and suggesting that they use Iraqi bases as a staging-ground for the Syrian nation-building that he had pledged to quit. 

take a jumbo across the water, like to see america

The cover art of Supertramp’s 1979 LP is not only famous for its latter day conspiracy lore but also for the contemporaneous success of its design which prompted the band to bring the actress who appeared as Libby the Waitress on tour with them as a master-of-ceremonies.
Kate Murtagh had appeared in numerous roles from Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 to Ed Silverstein’s 1977 horror film The Car before appearing on the cover and going on to feature as a walk-on part to the music video of “It’s Raining Again.” Murtagh continued to have credits to her name, decades later stepping down from show business in 1999 but keeping busy as a student and coach for improvisational classes many years into her retirement, passing away just in 2017, aged ninety-six, ironically given the nature of the conspiracy surrounding the cover, on 10 September.

artistas no figurativos

Born this day in Buenos Aires in 1925 (†2004), we have found ourselves enchanted with the artwork and geometric abstractions of Martha Boto.
Known for exploring reflection through repetition, Boto sought through her work to defuse those anxieties that only art itself can address and considered her pioneering statements to be programmatic, placeholders where the audience might find themselves amongst the kinetics and pattern. Here are some pieces from various collections but Boto’s portfolio is surely deserving a comprehensive gallery of its own.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018


marci playground: an assortment of brilliantly mismatched audio-swapped musical performances 

i’ll level with you, virginia: the one time Trump might have been expected to be liberal with the truth, plus some additional background 

misery loves company: those within the Beltway and beyond are commiserating on the effects of the partial government shutdown

eye on the workforce: exploring the photography of Lewis Hine that transformed the way America and the world regards labour 

regift of the magi: newborns are hard to shop for

bantamweight: check out these portable, pad-like typewriters from the early 1900s, via Messy Nessy Chic

chariots of frolic: incredible Indian wedding carriages

metafilter: Miss Cellania begins curating year-end superlatives with 2018’s top books with the aggregated list available here


In the Christmas package from my parents, they included a picture of a young master Johan at seated at the helm of one of my first personal computers—though not the first foray into programming but possibly the first home model that came as a package with floppy disk drives and monitor and not cassette-tape memory that one hooked up to a television set. I don’t recall if the display just didn’t show up on film or if in a fit of intense privacy, I was driven to shut the screen off, but in either case, I still give the same look (according to H) if I’m bothered or feel someone’s looking over my shoulder.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

the beagle has landed

Mars, being a world populated exclusively so far as we know by robots, was visited on Christmas Day (sol five hundred ninety-nine) by the lander unit of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express to conduct an exobiology survey of the Red Planet by digging below the frozen surface, an ambitious feat not attempted again until now with the InSight mission’s dousing for water.
The Beagle 2, named after the HMS Beagle that famously transported Charles Darwin to the Galápagos archipelago, informing his thoughts on natural selection, had an impressive array of instruments but failed to establish contact with the orbiter or mission control after deploying. In February of 2004, the search mission was called off and the rover declared lost and it was not until another ordinance survey of the planet in 2015 that it was spotted in the spot where it ought to have touched-down. The solar panels failed to fully open, eventually starving the machine of power and also prevented the communication antennae from raising. Because the experiments were to begin upon landing under chemical battery reserves, it’s possible that the Beagle searched its immediate surroundings for some weeks before expiring—which perhaps another passing rover could confirm in the future and maybe reboot the original mission.

merry christmas!

We here at PfRC wish you all a have happy and healthy holiday season.  We hope and trust you are able to give and receive all the gifts on your Christmas list.  Thanks as always for stopping by and tune in for more to come.

Monday, 24 December 2018

stille nacht

Composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber and set to lyrics by Father Joseph Mohr in Oberndorf bei Salzburg and first performed in the parish church of Saint Nikola on Christmas Eve two centuries ago, residents are expecting twice the number of holiday tourists to descend on their town for this anniversary spectacle of Silent Night.
Declared an intangible work of cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011, schoolmaster and amateur organist Gruber was only rehabilitated and acknowledged for creating the melody of the carol in 1995 when the lost, original manuscript was recovered, credit having been traditionally attributed to more famous Austrian composers like Haydn or Beethoven. The venue this year’s concert is not exactly made clear as the original choir was demolished around 1890 after a devastating flood sweep through the area, but the chapel curiously (or predictably) was rebuilt as a full-sized replica in the city of Frankenmuth, Michigan, a place settled by a group of disaffected Lutherans from Fürth, near Nürnberg—which bills itself as the Christmas capital of the world. Most of the over three hundred different languages versions of the song are more or less true to the German original though “Round you Virgin Mother and Child, Holy Infant so tender and mild” is better translated “Round yon godly tender Pair, Holy Infant with curly hair”—Nur das traute hoch heilge Paar, Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar

you don’t have to wear that dress tonight

Via Memo of the Air and Miss Cellania, we are happily reminded of how back in 2010 mixmeister mojochronic smashed up The Police’s “Roxanne” with scenes from the Rankin & Bass Reindeerverse (previously) resulting in Rudolph (You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light).


During the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned voyage to orbit the Moon, astronaut William Anders (it was a collaborative among him and his crewmates) on Christmas Eve 1968 photographed the emerging penumbra of the Earth rising into daybreak with nightfall crossing at the Sahara. This breath-taking image is credited as one of the most influential pacifistic and environmental photographs taken up until that point, preceding Voyager’s Pale Blue Dot by two decades, and brought with it acute awareness of the fragile beauty of our planet.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

rebel for life

Prior to the formation and demonstrations of the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion at the end of October this year, I thought I recognised the symbol suggestive of an hourglass somewhere before—finally recalling this bleak and powerful installation that pealed out a dirge for each taxon of life as they blinked out of existence at the hand of man.
The group had recently made headlines over its blockading the headquarters of one influential media outlet for its policies that accommodate climate change denial and advocate for the status quo under the auspices of equal-time. Working towards a culture and economy that is regenerative and sustainable, the group’s manifesto must acknowledge the hard truths of ecological collapse and empower those they govern the means to reframe their consumer and lifestyle choices in the significant and enduring ways that will affect real and radical change for the better.

flickering signifier

Reporting for the New York Times, Caity Weaver takes us down a rather unexpectedly fascinating rabbit-hole with an investigative piece on the nature and source of glitter that proved unexpectedly controversial and secretive for an ostensibly frivolous product. The product is examined in all facets, from its festive sparkle, surprising applications, cultural use and connotations to its environmental impact. As Weaver found out, it is anything but a flippant business and remains on some levels an enduring and abiding mystery.


Though not officially recognised as part of the Calendar of the Saints until Pope John Paul II made it official in 1984 and followed up with a visit to the island, Saint Þorlákur Þórhallsson—Thorlak Thornhallsson, Bishop of Skálholt, had been considered the patron of Iceland for the greater part of a millennia.

His feast day, today, the anniversary of his death in 1193, marked the end of the customary Christmas time of fasting and signaled for households to prepare for Christmas in earnest, doing the last-minute shopping and finishing decorating the tree. Traditionally, Icelanders have skate, a sort of ray-like fish, on this evening—Thorlak also being the patron of fisherman and currently under consideration, informal investigation for being nominated as the patron saint of Autism, apparently as his interventions (we’re not exactly sure why but everyone needs a cause and a champion) have proved especially helpful for those on the spectrum.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

wiener methode der bildstatistik

Having had a previous encounter with the ISOTYPEs of Marie and Otto Neurath (*1882 – †1945), we appreciated revisiting this subject in depth exploration from Open Culture that regards the universal character set as yet another among many earnest attempts to foster peace and empathy through an international language, a utopian effort like Esperanto and others. With the help of woodcut artist Gerd Arntz, this visual vocabulary grew to over four thousand pictograms to structure and address every facet of society and of course prefigures our contemporary use of symbols and data visualisations.

latimeria chalumnae

On this day in 1938, the a trawler on a fishing expedition in South Africa caught the first specimen of what would later be identified as an extant species of a type of primitive, limbed fish though to have died out in the Cretaceous Era, some sixty-five million years ago. Having more than a passing interest in the sciences, the captain of the vessel often shared unusual finds with the curator of a local natural history museum, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, who eventually recognised the sample as a coelacanth, coining the phrase a “living fossil.”


their santatanic majesties request: the Rolling Stone album had the working title of Cosmic Christmas

tinsel: a gallery of Mid-Century Modern aluminum Christmas trees

tinsel town: 1930s Hollywood in its heydays recreated as a diorama

brick & mortar: a bookshop in Tokyo now has a cover-charge

aðventuljós: a handy guide to the holidays in Iceland

Friday, 21 December 2018

twelfth night

Driving home for the holidays, we really enjoyed listening to this Royal Christmas Special from Rex Factor (previously) that examines the celebration, traditions and historical happenstance—births, coronations, etc.—from a courtly point of view. We think you’ll like this entertaining and informative episode as well, travelling or otherwise.

early modern

Though the buildings’ host nation rather disturbingly broke ranks with the international body that has not stopped eight examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture from being nominated for inclusion on the registry of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, possibly to be inscribed during the next year. If approved Wright’s iconic structures, including the Falling Water House and the Guggenheim, will join a panoply of architectural wonders both ancient and more contemporary.

contact print

Our thanks to the always terrific Nag on the Lake for the introduction to the impressive portfolio of artist and photographer Damion Berger through his series of compositions Black Power that re-contextualise pyrotechnic displays by presenting them as black-and-white negatives, whose exposure properties can be chalked up to a chemical reaction like the subjects. Pictured is a scene from the annual fete of Saint Clair (patroness of laundry, television and needleworkers) celebrated in Sant Pau on the French Riviera.   Much more to explore at the links above.

Thursday, 20 December 2018


Examining the beleaguered missteps of a social media platform through the lens of the integrity dividend, Evan Osnos’ analysis in The New Yorker is a sobering reminder that when the service is free, you are the product and that none of us are immune to the manipulation and exploitation until we’ve attained the tipping point of herd immunity that unseats those outlying, extreme opinions.
I think the graver danger lies in the fact that many dismiss the latest in a tranche of scandals—with surely more to follow—as people getting what they deserved. One so easily swayed by sophistry doesn’t deserve to participate in politics in the first place, one might argue, ignorant of their own selective bias. In general, people are not poles apart on issues and reasonable civility would otherwise prevail but by amplifying small differences in opinion we all become polarised and made to take sides. In a business model based on trust and reputation, it seems perhaps something too easily squandered and forgiven.


Via Kottke, we are treated to the extensive and evocative portfolio of artist and advocate Lenka Clayton through her ongoing series of drawings created on a Smith-Corona Skyriter. Clayton’s art and interventions nudge conventions and propel one to the poetic and inspired, like getting to know every resident of a small Slovakian town that shares her name or her Artists’ Residency in Motherhood project that helps to empower and recognise gifted moms. See more of Clayton’s work at the links above.

quod erat demonstrandum

Having devoted a rather joyful semester of study to Oliver Byrne’s masterful and lucid textbook adaptation of Euclid’s Elements during college, I am finding myself genuinely delighted and nostalgic to see that there’s going to be a re-issue of the authoritative 1847 tome on geometry, illustrating his proofs with colours rather than letters.
The geometer himself provided no pictures and relied on his pupils’ imagination—causing poet Edna St. Vincent Millay to extol that “Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare” and I even semi-seriously contemplated getting a tattoo of the Pythagorean theorem or another of Byrne’s elegant diagrams—across my back where if I flexed and brought my shoulder blades together (or some such nonsense) the axiom would reveal itself—QED. More to explore at the link above, including a nice primer on the subject.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

we have defeated isis in syria, my only reason for being there during the trump presidency

To the consternation and concern of US military top brass that have been pushing for a continued troop presence for stabilisation, rebuilding and not to afford the Cosplay Caliphate another chance to regain a purchase, Trump announced his intentions to redeploy all soldiers from Syria, some two thousand individuals.
While the majority of the territory once held by the terrorist group in a sliver of what it once was, the situation is still precarious and the likelihood of a revanchment seems in the realm of possibilities. Aside from the suffering of the Syrian population that might be forestalled, geopolitically Trump’s announcement—which he perhaps offers as a human-shield to deflect the ratcheting up of the Special Counsel Investigation into the campaign and administration’s ties to Russia and easing sanctions in exchange for real estate development opportunities but only serves to reaffirm the relationship—is a huge concession to Putin and Russian interests in the country and ensures that the rebellion will be quashed. Also by withdrawing from their base near the Turkish border, the US is abandoning its at least nominal ally in the Kurds and inadvertently (given the diplomatic tensions and trade disputes) by affording the Erdoğan government the chance to further marginalise this group.


Dezeen reports that precision audio equipment corporation Bose will be entering the wearables market with an innovative pair of sunglasses whose earpieces contain speakers primed to deliver a sonic augmented reality experience in addition to playing music and podcast feeds.
There is also a microphone for summoning up one’s digital assistant. Unveiled over the summer as a concept design, the glasses should be on the market next month with an array of AR applications available on the company’s platform to follow. More information at the link above.