Wednesday, 31 January 2018

e.o. 9835

In 1974, Richard Nixon ordered the abolishment of the running compilation of groups considered as subversive and threats to the American way of life referred to as the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organisations (AGLOSO) that was created in 1947 at the behest of the Harry S Truman administration to deflect increasingly vocal criticism by Republicans that the Democrats were tolerant of communists. One prong of the programme and image-campaign, it was drawn up after Truman issued an executive order that established a national litmus test for the leanings and loyalties of federal employees. Another tine provided for the establishment of a Loyalty Review Board to counter the reflex for a witch-hunt or purge by those deputised with the power of confirming and conferring allegiance. Screening could be conducted in the background and netted three hundred certifiable security risks out of three million workers. Though the decree was repealed by Eisenhower six years later—in deed but perhaps not in spirit—it’s immediate successor was the House Un-American Activities Committee and the impugning investigations that the original intent sought to avoid, recognising the danger of staffing a government from top to bottom with those with undeviating political views.

solve for x

With the exception of noted jerks like Edison and Ford, we’d like to think that our forward-looking titans of physics are above reproach and honest-brokers that give credit where credit is due, but I was rather deflated and despondent to learn how Wilhelm Conrad Rรถntgen rather brazenly took all the praise and recognition away from a fellow physicist for the discovery of x-rays.  Ivan Puluj (who did not win the Nobel prize and does not have a chemical element and a mountain in Antarctica named after him) taught with Rรถntgen at the University of Vienna, and Puluj’s focus was on research into the nature of beams of electrons (cathode rays) and how those might be harnessed and designed what was dubbed a Puluj lamp (tube) to produce and direct them. Recognising the potential for medical imaging, Puluj even produced photographs of skeletal structures—at a higher qualities than those that Rรถntgen exhibited—not with electrons but rather with a collateral, hitherto unknown ray and apparently his inability to couch his discovery in the latest terminology cost him the honours.


ะฝะพะฒะฐ ะฝะฐะดะฐ: the Star Wars saga posters of Soviet Europe (plus a notable knock-off)

treemaps: classic oil paintings pixelated algorithmically

turbofolk: Serbia’s kitschy pop-folk music scene runs counter to  Western stereotypes about alternative lifestyles acceptance in the former Yugoslavia

lunchbox on wheels: former Google engineers create a driverless delivery vehicle to counter the last-mile problem

reasonable accommodation: a US airline declines to allow an emotional support peacock to board a flight

lexical gap: a jury of linguists declare “influencer” to be the German import of the year


Possibly inspired by the SURROGATE willing to be an understudy for a wealthy man facing jail time as imagined a decade ago for in the television series Arrested Development, Super Punch introduces us to the ChameleonMask—billed as the Human Uber—from an emerging technologies showcase in Japan. A body-double takes a stint as an avatar for a tele-presence, scrapping a screen to their face. According to developers, their pilot studies confirm that that users are willing to suspend their disbelief and not see beyond the mask and accept the stand-in as the person that they are engaging with and not at all a dissociative nightmare. As the costume is refined, I wonder what repercussions that this might have for the gig economy with humans themselves as peripheral devices and what our standards become for communication and interaction.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


We are certain that the curators over at Coudal Partners are very excited any time that the get to open up a new wing on the Museum of Online Museums (MoOM) and there are quite a few enticing and novel collections to explore—foremost of which was the Sheaff catalogue of ephemera with exhibits on postcards, cabinet cards, marbled paper, stamps, tokens and an assemblage on Anamorphic Writing. To decipher the hidden message, one was meant to tilt the puzzle cards at an angle as to almost look flat across the surface. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

toy building brick

A couple days ago, the world marked International LEGO Day, inscribed on the calendar on the date when Godtfred Kirk Christiansen filed the American patent application for his product sixty years ago. GK Christiansen was the third son of the inventor and founder Ole Kirk Christiansen who began making wooden toys in his workshop in Billund, Denmark in 1932—before moving to plastic as a medium—and was the managing director of the company from 1950 to 1995. The company’s name and line of construction toys is from the Danish words leg godt—“play well.”


Strange Company features a rather moving and motivational review of a 2006 book on the life and times of a former Royal Navy lieutenant named James Holman who refused to let his handicap define him. Son of a chemist in Exeter who specialised in exotic imports of any substance (medical or otherwise) that could be dried, powdered or prepared for transport from afar, Holman was enchanted from childhood and hoped that a career in the navy would have shown him these remote places.
Though stricken with total blindness at the age of twenty-five after an exhibition in the Arctic in 1810, Holman refused charity and first pursued a course of study in medicine and literature in Edinburgh before departing solo on a classic Grand Tour of Europe, quite confident in his ability to navigate through echolocation. While abroad for three years, he acquired a rather mysterious travelling companion—who was hearing-impaired but also quite the rambler—who made periodic reappearances throughout his life and made some instrumental arrangements that allowed him to continue his journeys. Once back home, his Wanderlust could not be contained for long and penning a travelogue to help finance his adventures, he set off to circumnavigate the Earth, taking whatever means of conveyance that availed itself, and visited every continent except for Antarctica over the next five decades. His description of the flora of India are even cited by contemporary explorer Charles Darwin. Holman’s determination and bravery are pretty outstanding and inspirational, especially at a time when the fully able-bodied would be challenged to face such daunting adventures unscathed and at a time when the blind or the otherwise impaired were dismissed and marginalised by society and his story is one worth retelling.

Monday, 29 January 2018

vila i frid

Visionary entrepreneur and entrepreneur who opened his first furniture store six decades ago this year, Ingvar Kamprad (whose outlet and brand are his initials plus his family farm, Elmtaryd, and the nearby village of Agunnaryd, passed away over the weekend at the age of 91 at his home in Smรฅland. The ability of the corporate culture that Kamprad fostered through the years is impressive not only for the ability to deliver on the vision that the artists and creators behind the Bauhaus movement envisioned—that style should be affordable and accessible—but also in their capacity to reconcile and incorporate the fact that we’ve reached peak curtains and that endless consumption is not the only business model.


Our thanks to Everlasting Blรถrt for putting a name to the artwork through an introduction to the extensive galleries of educator, illustrator and sculptor Gary Taxali.  A graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, his retro works are reminiscent of pop art of 1930s, the Royal Canadian Mint used the renowned artist’s signature font for a special collection of 25 cent pieces back in 2012 as a crowning achievement to complement all his other clients and commissions, which despite their largely commercial nature still manage to underscore consumer insecurities.

ferrules and eyelets

Via Laughing Squid, we enjoyed discovering the portfolio of Los Angeles-based surrealist Alexandra Dillon whose latest project involves evocative portraiture painted on worn paintbrushes (donated by other artists) and other used pieces of hardware, including shovels, padlocks and cleavers. Some of the faces featured reminded me of this Roman scholarWoman with a Stylus from the ashes of Pompeii—and indeed it turns out that she was one of Dillon’s inspirations. Even if paint-brushes are thought of as fragile and disposable, the choice of medium speaks to durability and the biographies that inhabit and haunt our everyday tools.


The always brilliant Nag on the Lake shares a short but rather remarkable video on the efforts to reforest Iceland and return it to the state it was, some twenty to forty percent woodland coverage, before the arrival of the Vikings and the clearing to make room for agriculture and grazing lands. Lack of trees contribute to extreme weather in the country as well as diminishing returns on farming and pastures as soils erodes, threatening to turn the island into a desert. Learn more at the links above.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

lady driver

Via the sub-reddit of the same name, today we learned about the intrepid Canadian adventurer who gave herself the appropriate travelling credentials as Aloha Wanderwell. Her family devotedly followed her father as he went off to combat in Ypres in World War I and remained there after he was killed in action. The mother, hoping to turn her daughter from her unladylike ways sent Idris (her given name) off to a series of boarding schools in Belgium and then in Nice—but to little avail. Still a teenager, she heard of an around the world endurance automotive race, a stunt to prove the reliability of the Ford line of vehicles, and met with its organizer a “Captain” Walter Wanderwell (an individual of Polish extraction called Valerian Johannes Pieczynski who was imprisoned during the during of the war under suspicion of being a German spy) to say she wanted to join the exposition.
Rather presumptively, she took the name Wanderwell with the stage-name Aloha, despite the fact that the captain was still married to his first wife Nell (no clear indication that she inspired the Perils of Penelope Pitstop) and became part of the crew in 1922. Learning to operate all manner of conveyance including a seaplane and documenting all the adventures across five continents and through over forty countries on sixty canisters of nitrate film, the team spent three years circumnavigating the globe, earning her the title of the “First Female to Drive Around the World,” doubtless an excellent superlative to have and well-earned but it did rather miss out on the other laudable work she performed as a mechanic, a translator, navigator and film-maker, which includes a lot of unique and rare footage. While on the South American leg of their journey in 1931, the Wanderwells travelled to Brazil and became the first Westerners to contact Borobo tribe while on their main, auxillary mission to track down Colonel Percival Fawcett missing on his own hunt for the legendary Lost City of Z. The Wanderwells failed to find that expedition and picked up a mutineer of their own in the process who murdered the captain once they arrived back in Long Beach, California where they had sent up home. Undaunted, Aloha recovered and re-married, eventually touring (under her own power) over eighty countries and driving over a half a million miles, dying surely restlessly at age 89 in 1996.


Failed Architecture presents an interesting case-study of Thamesmead Housing Estates, one of the primary filming locations of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, and how the community has battled that cultural reference since and tried to divorce itself from modernist architecture’s (largely unfounded) associations with unsuccessful social experiments and indeed post-industrial wastelands.
Before the compound was saved from the wrecking-ball a decade ago—a fate that has befallen too many other housing projects, only exacerbating the crisis of affordable living accom- modations whether or not terrorised by Droogs, its demolition was hailed by Greater London and beyond as “the end of ultraviolence,” even though the building was eventually spared and Thamesmead is not a net-exporter of crime nor contributor to delinquency and truancy. The estate will undergo a different type of transformation at the hands of private developers, however, that is suspected to exploit the property’s prime-location and reform its image ultimately through gentrification—which does not help the availability of affordable homes in the end either.

share your progress with your friends

We’re not quite sure what’s going on here but it appears that if you neglect to switch over the privacy settings on one’s pedometers, they’re quite good at tracing out one’s route, whether that be a running path through the woods or the patrol of a military installation whose layout or existence was supposed to be a secret. This discovery—which is supposedly readily available to the public—of one’s anonymous but unintentional heat-maps reminds me of how the Soviets monitored NATO troop movements and nuclear arsenal deployments with a great degree of accuracy by careful and constant water sampling that tracked an army’s vector by detecting urine levels in streams and rivers.

Saturday, 27 January 2018


Centralia, Pennsylvania has been a subject of fascination for us for a while, depopulated to all but six of its residence due to a coal seam fire that has been smouldering underground since 1962 and there’s little indication that the conflagration will burn itself out soon.
Until receiving this update on one local institution that’s still thriving and creating community despite the want of one, however via Things Magazine, we would have assumed that there was nothing holding the town’s diaspora together. Even after the relocation of members of the congregation to other parts of the state, people kept returning to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for mass and other celebrations, despite the governor claiming imminent domain and the prerogative to evict remaining people. A visit by the major archbishop of the eparchy in 2015 even got the church and ghost town designated as a place of pilgrimage, with officially sanctioned tours scheduled.


hi-res: an interesting exploration into the world of pixels and dots per inch (DPI)

tiki room: Messy Nessy Chic treats us on a tour of one of San Francisco’s last bastions of kitsch and abandon, the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

lipograms: further examples of challenging, experimental works of fiction that seek to avoid one or more of the conventions of writing and usage

potemkin village: a global tour of the fronts and faรงades (previously) of artificial urban environments

°c: ageing but iconic capsule hotel in Tokyo is retrofitted and revitalised

composite-artist: Microsoft neural network draws realistic, imaginary birds based on vocal commands, via Fast Company 

Friday, 26 January 2018


We rather enjoyed this survey of buildings that signal the resurgence or rather endurance of the Postmodern architectural style by student and expert Adam Nathaniel Furman.
Typified by exaggerated reference to touchstones of place reimaged, the once-maligned icons of the age (think the Sydney Opera House or the Petronas Towers), constructed in the past decade, like this residential complex it Amsterdam that evoke both pyramids and the traditional brick townhouses of the Netherlands are symbolic and routes for trying to reconcile the classic and familiar when placed in a new context, the playful over the arch and austere. Some of the examples have had previous appearances (like here and here and here) illustrate how meaning and messaging has become a rather fraught and unforgiving matter but I suppose that each generation, with intervening input and interloping, goes through these moments when culture and artefact resonate or clash.

nemesis and narcissus

In April, Los Angeles will host a temporary exhibit whose aim is to explore the psychology and history of the pervasive art of the self-portrait. The Museum of the Selfie hopes to give visitors pause to reflect on the nature of the cultural phenomenon whose roots are anything but shallow.

your princess is in another castle

Via Kottke, we’re treated to the distraction that we didn’t really need or deserve in this clever JavaScript Nintendo Entertainment System emulation from programmer Ben Firshman. Classic arcade games include the early iterations of Mario, Zelda, Castlevania plus many more.


We really appreciated this formal introduction to one of our favourite pasttimes from the New Yorker on the Japanese therapeutic practise of forest bathing (ๆฃฎๆž—ๆตด) and learning of all the collateral benefits through the soft-focus portfolio of Tokyo-based photographer Yoshinori Mizutani. Both scientists and physicians recognise its spectrum of benefits in curbing stress and anxiety and boosting overall well-being. Learn more about shinrin-yoku at the link above and get inspired to carve space out in your day to commune with the trees in your local greenspace.

pillow-talk or mack the knife

Until reading the disclosure of a tryst by Trump with a porn star (imagine what it would be like trying to convince ourselves a year ago that we would be confronted with such headlines as these) that Trump is obsessed with sharks and wishes them all to die, we had forgotten that then citizen Trump was steered away from portraying the US president in a bad movie about a plague of the shark variety out of fear that it might reflect badly on his upcoming candidacy to be the actual president.

heightened suggestibility

Serial candidate and one-time presidential contender Nick Belluso, whilst in a gubernatorial run-off for the state of Georgia in 1978 (incumbent George Busbee and Atlanta alderman Rodney Mims Cook Senior had secured the backing of the major political parties), had the notion to employ a hypnotist to secure his votes. Despite the claim his candidacy was endorsed by the Force, Belluso’s plot was stymied when all television stations except one outlet refused to air his mesmerising advertisement for fear it might work and the resulting culpability. Learn more and see the campaign ad at the link above.

felis silvestris

Scheduled to be bringing a cat into our lives soon, our gratitude goes to the always brilliant Nag on the Lake for bringing us word of Baloo the feline who retrieves outstanding leaves for his human. We don’t wish to countermand Nature or the instincts of our future companion but I did harbour worries, living at the edge of a forest, about the detrimental effect that introducing a domestic hunter might have on local wildlife but seeing that a cat can curb and re-direct their energies towards being a leaf-peeper or even  a rock-hound is a pretty exciting prospect.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

o grave new world

A collective of guerrilla artists, Hyperallergic reports, under cover of darkness over the weekend consecrated the casualties of the Trump regime’s first year in office on the property of Trump’s own New Jersey golf course—a place where he expressed the wish to be ultimately laid to rest—with tombstones marking the demise of things like Decency and the Last Snowman, over his decision to go against the rest of the world’s commitment to combat climate change, with fitting epitaphs. No one condones trespassing but the mayor of Bedminster did not seem too concerned, saying the act was more mischief than vandalism.

they call me mellow-yellow (quite rightly)

The Atlantic showcases the latest episode of Gastropod which explores the hidden history behind the prized spice saffron. Attaining the reputation of a panacea and versatile staple cosmetic—and taking on tranquillising, addictive properties in large enough quantities, most of the world’s supply comes from Iran but for a period in the sixteenth century England was sourcing its own and the episode goes on report on one individual’s efforts to revive saffron cultivation in the country.


kommandozentrale 5001: Berlin’s newest techno music fest to be held in a Cold War-era bunker

concrete jungle: a tour of the photogenic Quarry Bay residential compound of Hong Kong

a bridge too far: Northern Ireland proposes a crossing to Scotland in response to the UK Foreign Minister’s suggest spanning the English Channel and linking England to Normandy

overclock: sounds can be passively recovered from video footage of subtle vibrations

humanity star: a private rocketry company secretly launches a temporary piece of art to inspire us to keep looking up

green blood, green women: in anticipation of his possible directorial take on the film franchise, Boing Boing shares a trailer of the original series cut in the style of Quentin Tarantino

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

stone-hearted local man scrolls past jesus meme without sharing

Via Dave Log v. 3.0, we are directed to the Babylon Bee, one’s most trusted news source for Christian satire, and quite enjoyed browsing through the headlines. Some of our best friends are Christians, so please don’t misconstrue our sentiments but, Christ, save us from Your followers—or, especially pertinent now as evangelicals and holy-rollers are seeming rather hollow and insincere at the moment, as one wise person once quipped “Canon Jesus is better than Fandom Jesus.” Amen.

house of the gavins

Daily Dot reports that Botnik studios have conducted an experiment with its neural network, tasking it to invent plausible-sound indie band names for the line-up an upcoming real music and arts festival held in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Having come across some improbably titled groups ourselves and with the knowledge the computer system was drawing off a data set of real-world opening acts, I am sure that we will soon be hearing the release of the first album from Bing the Bung or we see Otherfax headlining for Dinotot.

lathe of heaven

Our gratitude to Boing Boing for bringing to our attention sad news of the passing of one of our favourite authors, influential and inspiring writer of speculative fiction writer Ursula Kroeber Le Guin. Raised by anthropologists who fostered her talents, Le Guin’s body of works addresses matters of sociology, ethnography, psychology and conservation as allegorical exercises not only of the fantastic but also of the political and identitarian imagination, making a distinct impression on many readers and fellow writers. Surely she had many more stories to tell and we hope that more take this opportunity to revisit or to discover her novels.


I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that some of the traffic to PfRC is robot-driven, like everywhere else—especially since prostituting my posts on social media—but part of the appeal of blogging for me was being privy to the analytics and demographics (which are carefully guarded trade-secrets on any other platform) and finding out what accidental, organic readership was curious about and what might have brought them here.
The top search key words of all time remain things like “knecht rupert” (the name for the Simpsons’ dog Santa’s Little Helper in the German Sprachraum or “satanic symbols” but narrowing the window to any lesser period of time just yield these bizarre three character alpha-numeric strings, like those spooky, inscrutable numbers stations. Is anyone else receiving these transmissions? If it is just random noise, I hope it doesn’t continue to out shout human inquisitiveness.

jet programme or english as she is spoke

We enjoyed this introduction from Public Domain Review to the woodcuts executed in 1887 by Kamekichi Tsunajima for an instructional series titled “Ryลซkล eigo zukushi” (A Fashionable Melange of English Words) that depict a sampler of everyday objects, plants, animals, people and activities with their English and Japanese names. The undertakings “looking moon,” “cross child,” “shampooer,” “game of ches” and “cuting rice” struck us as meditative and very zen-like and a refreshing departure from the usual Western foreign language primers.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018


We are finding ourselves spoiled to distraction with Present /&/ Correct’s latest batch of postings which are all pretty visually stunning but we found ourselves especially taken with the photography of the award-winning, Hong Kong based Tugo Cheng whose keen eye captures (refined with a background in architecture) the contrasting and complementary symmetry and geometry of China’s coastal fishery operations. Find more images at the links above.

import/export or war and cheese

The Atlantic features a short documentary from Ben Garfield on the self-proclaimed saviour to Russian turophiles named Oleg Sirota, a former IT professional who realised his true-calling once trade embargos were enacted on all sides in response to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the importation of European cheese was banned.
While I’m pretty sure that this is very much against the spirit of the legal protections extended to geographically distinct food products, Sirota is supplying otherwise unavailable varieties of Italian, French and English cheeses from his factory, the profile does present some interesting questions on patriotism, nativism and opportunism. Cheese is an especially interesting item to “traffic” because of its cultural resonance and attachment to a specific location and given the fact that for a perishable item, it is pretty portable and was among one of the first food traditions that people exported.


fungus among us: spore- and nutrient-infused concrete could create self-healing structures

his master’s voice: speech-recognition-based surveillance poses concern for digital assistants

vermicular control: a consideration of the in-house espionage network of the once largest residential complex in Europe, Moscow’s House on the Embankment

power to the polls: a selection of creative and powerful protest signs from the 2018 Women’s March

ugly duckling: a bevy of robot swans have been deployed in Singapore to monitor water quality

comfy cosy are we: an inviting cinema in Japan recreates the experience of watching a movie curled up in bed

diffraction: still life photographs of food distorted by water and glass

Monday, 22 January 2018

domino effect

We’ve encountered the commercial artwork of Theodore Geisel (Doctor Seuss) beforehand, including advertising for Exxon/Esso, but we hadn’t seen this series of signature complex contraptions from cartoonists and engineer Rube Goldberg, commissioned by a motor-oil company to promote fuel-efficiency and automotive maintenance during World War II. See more at the link above.

parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Ever since learning to my horror that a seemingly innocent and well-intentioned campaign by a breakfast cereal company to include seeds to help the bees spread invasive plants that would actually cause more harm to their environment, I’ve been a little wary of consumables that purport to support the ecosystem, but these clever lollipops that we discover via Everlasting Blรถrt seem to be the genuine article. After enjoying the candy (certainly more appetising than these ecological treats)—whose flavour is the essence of the heirloom seeds that come with it—one can plant the biodegradable stick to grow flowers and herbs.


Via the always brilliant Nag on the Lake, we are referred to The Awl—for what may sadly be one of the last times with the property’s announcement that it will cease publication at the end of this month—for another lesson on colours with a non-specific hue called haint blue.

Like the folklore traditions that inform the vague but undoubtedly menacing concept of a haint, which may be etymologically related to haunt but has developed but has come to signify something other than the syncretic meanings it has taken on, the colour too isn’t defined as a shade but rather by how its employed. The analogy to the collected palette classed as Millennial Pink is a good one that underscores how we privilege such trends. Plantation houses in the southern United States, appropriating and blending the lore of the enslaved Gullah population—and upheld by custom many designers and decorators are unaware of—often painted the ceilings of porches and verandas blue—to trick restless spirits, haints, into believing that the nooks and corners were exposed to the sky above or surrounded by water and affording the home a degree of protection, like a talisman to ward off the evil eye.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

operation chrome dome

Fifty years ago today, a nuclear-armed B-52 stratofortress bomber was flying an alert mission over Greenland (well after America’s overtures to purchase the world’s largest island) and experienced a cabin fire that prompted six out of seven crew members to safely jettison and abandon the aircraft and its payload of four hydrogen bombs before it could reach the landing field at Thule.
The craft went down in the icy North Star Bay and the ensuing explosion of the fuselage and the conventional munitions on board caused the nuclear shells to rupture and contaminate the wider Bay of Baffin. The US and Denmark launched a massive containment and recovery effort that cost the equivalent of a billion dollars and one warhead was never recovered and the country’s tacit support of the deterrence exercises that kept twelve of such bombers aloft at all times (the US Strategic Air Command’s Chrome Dome) on the periphery of Soviet airspace was in direct violation of Denmark’s official anti-nuclear stance. Responders worked quickly to remove radioactive ice before the summer thaw that would have caused an even larger area to be impacted and hauled away tonnes of ice and debris during the extreme arctic winter in what was deemed officially Project Crested Ice (our faithful chronicler Doctor Caligari links to some news reel footage) but referred to by workers—many of whom later suffered radiation sickness—as Dr Freezelove in homage to the 1964 Stanley Kubrick release.

fortress of solitude

The UK has just minted a new cabinet position for the May government to redress “the sad reality of modern life”: loneliness.
There’s some rather alarming and sobering statistics behind this move which seems an efficient way of countering a whole host of potential (I add this for the misanthropes out there who would need to be persuaded that the cure is worse than the ailment with some random do-gooder popping round to keep you company) mental and physical ills and the office would be comprehensive and multidisciplinary, working across different public spheres to ensure mobility and genuine contact, perhaps even starting early on and pre-empting the pressure to self-segregate in schools not by kind or class but rather by a single-sighted push for competitiveness and modelling resolute and determined quitters—forever seeking out the next big thing. While I agree that it is a mark of maturity to recognise that we’ve moulded our society in such ways as to minimise casual human interaction—even investing more time and money into gadgets, occupations and industries that make actually talking to one another infinitely avoidable and superfluous, with the same party advocating austerity measures that undermined the commons and other civic institutions, I wonder how the work of the ministry will manifest itself. What do you think? I think trying to legislate togetherness and involvement over vanity projects is admirable but I hope the outreach is not through gimmickry—awareness pamphlets and a calendar’s worth of neighbourhood fetes that have just become venues for fly-by-night profiteers—and perhaps rather a bit of the isolating hair-of-the-dog that turns one’s network into a true social safety net.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

who are the people in your neighbourhood?

We enjoyed indulging a bit in Quartz’ latest obsession—nostalgia for the early internet before the rise of social media as distilled through GeoCities (previously)—later to be acquired by Yahoo!—as the dominate platform for user-generated content and interaction. We, like the article, had fun speculating on the dilettante nature of the early internet as a cul-de-sac for the weird and lament that loss—as for niche eBay—and wonder how it might have been without unnamed monoliths with too many adherents. How would our on-line landscape look today had secondary web generations never had arisen? Admittedly the decentralised web looks pretty raw and idiosyncratic and perhaps isolated but I still feel those labours of love are preferable to the atrocious and unreadable magazine that you and everyone you know rushes to print everyday.


Our antiquarian JF Ptak directs our attention to a 1923 pamphlet from one Mister William Dee of Willimantic, Connecticut that outlines fifty-seven theses on “Things that Weaken the American”—offered mostly without explanation or elaboration.
I am not sure if I could be called a reliable narrator exactly given the adumbration of present rhetoricians but a lot of these snap judgments (and we’re not sure why Mister Dee stopped at fifty-seven—but perhaps there was to be a follow-on volume—or why indeed that none of these enumerated woes actually were threats to America or in fact any nation) had a strangely familiar off-the-cuff ring to them and a few pearls of wisdom bear repeating.

  • Love Letter Writing: “Very bad. Marry the girl.” 
  • Home Talent Shows: “Utterly ruinous to those who work for a living.” 
  • Hard Study: “Avoid as much as possible.” 
  • Houses: “They should be small and easy to burn in case they become infected by germs.” 
  • Public Opinion: “Bad if against you.” 
  • Exercise: “Hurtful to those who are already over-exercised, by a hundred times, from modern efficiency.”

lapse in appropriations

Having been designated as emergency-essential employees, Robert Mueller and the staff of the Special Counsel’s Office are excepted from the furlough (previously) and will be allowed to continue their investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential campaign. The timing of this failure to reach a fiduciary compromise is rather impeccable, falling on the one year anniversary since Trump delivered his inaugural address and took high office.

Friday, 19 January 2018

franking privilege

A leading pro-BREXIT campaigner chided Royal Mail for issuing a set of commemorative stamps celebrating the career of Pink Floyd, as Kottke informs, whilst refusing to do the same to mark the occasion of the UK’s departure from the European Union. The internet quickly obliged to fulfil that glaring philatelic niche.

Fed up with exponentially increasing prices for staple medication due to the popularity of the rentier business model and supply-chain disruptions that lead to shortages—exacerbating the pricing regime even more—a group of US hospitals and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs have banded together to fight Big Pharma by having their own dispensaries and making their own generic drugs. We applaud them for standing up to heartless greed and doing something to redress the broken healthcare system besides just offering more concessions to drug companies and make the bill the scariest part of any medical diagnosis, but we fully too expect them to be in for a truly heroic battle since they won’t relinquish their monopoly eagerly.

clapback or twitstorm

Not to minimise what’s genuinely really awful and tone-deaf things that are hurtful and reinforce negative stereotypes and worthy of outrage, these twenty-nine stages of an unfolding tweetstorm (via Waxy) by Tom Phillips is really a fine and biting piece of satire that perfectly captures the vicious and lurid landscape we’re capable of creating if we’re not careful. Of course social media is heavily tilted towards manufacturing such tantrums but it’s important to appreciate that its isn’t only Trump (who jumps on this bandwagon at stage twenty-one) or other polemists who are conducted into a fugue state and any one of us can be easily baited. Rehashing—hook, line and sinker—eventually passes over as the next paroxysm displaces it but surely not without causing damage that’s more enduring and deleterious than the aforementioned slight.  Do check out the whole unravelling on BuzzFeed at the link above.

duck and cover

Despite the status accorded them as nostalgic, pervasive cultural anchors, the fallout shelter it seems has been magnified by the popular imagination and just over one percent of US households (as opposed to civil and governmental constructions) in the early 1960s had such emergency accommodations.
Paleofuture presents a rather interesting survey that polled people’s attitudes at the height of the Cold War, speaking to collected fears and wafts of the toxic masculinity and the paternalistic patriotism that not a statistically insignificant amount of respondents invoked as reasons to not construct a bunker or otherwise prepare for a nuclear disaster. Contrary arguments included what the neighbours might think of their architectural folly, that only a coward would try to hide from an atomic blast or perhaps most disturbingly that to do so would somehow contravene the will of God and Country, undermining faith in the nation and that it was not within man’s power to destroy himself or the world. The majority took a more philosophic tact, questioning the ability to withstand an attack or whether they would want to be heir to the aftermath.  Imagine there was a time when only the dissolute polluters and climate-change deniers needed to be disabused and the preppers weren’t playing the long game.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

we don’t need no stinking patches

The fallout and negative public reception towards the National Reconnaissance Office’s choosing a world devouring octopus (which is a trope all on its own) as a mission patch for its launch and delivery of a classified payload into orbit back in 2013 was exemplary of the sort of obliviousness that dominates that culture and work environment and nearly prompted the White House to demand oversight and creative input on logos and slogans for all future missions.
Several other tone deaf, in-jokes have followed, however, and there’s no push for improving image and relations, of course, and it’s probably too high of a demand to expect anything coming from the NRO or any intelligence service to not be sinister. Though I cannot personally vouch for the authenticity—and wonder what might possess to label something so covert with a scary and inscrutable that only invites speculation escapes me—it would seem that the embargo against Latin mottos (the agency’s own is simply Supra et Ultra—Above and Beyond) might be at least a little premature with this emblem gracing the NRO’s latest launch on a Delta 4 rocket. The watch-word of the Florentine knight slaying the dragon is “evil will never prevail.”

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

the picture of dorian gray

Despite being available for the past year and half and having genuine educational merits aside from the tout that propelled it popularity, I found myself enthralled with the idea of finding my own digital Doppelgรคnger, having not been one of those privileged museum-goers to be instantly paired with their portrait gallery twin-strangers, but felt quite inept when I wasn’t able to find the feature as advertised.
Seeing the fun echoed, I wondered at my apparent technical difficulties until I learned that the selfie-comparison was only available in (most) of the United States, due to potential concerns over privacy and the ability to steal one’s digital soul via a willing relinquishing. By hook or by crook, a VPN (virtual private network) is needed for now to access the feature and to  convince the app-emporium otherwise. While I believe that the company behind the application does not have nefarious intentions, I am also grateful that I live in a jurisdiction that will fault on protecting us from ourselves, even if all the cool kids are doing it.

independent counsel

Twenty years ago on this day, the internet news and gossip aggregator Drudge Report beat Newsweek and the mainstream press to the punch by breaking reports of the scandalous affair between President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton’s initial denial, clamouring for answers whilst the administration was mired in a few other personal affairs (Whitewater, Travelgate) eventually led to Clinton’s impeachment by Congress in December of the same year. Acquitted of the impeachable offenses of perjury and obstruction of justice, Clinton was allowed to remain in office or the remainder of his second term. We cannot know of course the collateral scandals that were either obscured through fatigue or propelled to the fore of public consciousness because of the manner in which this played out nor image how on-line media and personas might have been otherwise informed if their moment had not been limned by the salacious and the scornful. What do you think? We can’t condemn the follies of two decades hence on balance of where that’s landed us but times seem strikingly inverted and while welcome progress is evident in many areas in terms of what we as a culture will tolerate, the forces of regression have taken hold elsewhere.