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 Blört 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 Doppelgänger, 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.


see? it’s ok. he saw it on the television: sophist and spokesliar Huckabee emblematically argues that Trump can’t be racist because of his long, illustrious career on t.v.

raupe des monats: an 1837 German guide on caterpillars that introduces them calendar-wise through the year

bloodhound gang: in the mid-70s an Ohio public library experimented with a fragrance- based card catalogue system that associated scents with different sections and encouraged readers to follow their noses
mystic krewe: Swedish artist Bror Anders Wikstrom brought fantastic symbolism to Mardi Gras revelry

infinite regression: animated examples of the Droste effect on packaging

philogrobilized: a celebration of outmoded English words (citations needed) just as resonant today as in the past

mi, a name i call myself: an illustrated history of the constructed language Solresol where words are formed from musical notes

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

rogue one

As Phil Plait extols the fact that rogue—or rather free-floating—planets ejected from their metropolitan stars (previously) have moved rather quickly from the realm of the theoretical and stuff of science-fiction to confirmed entities, most likely numerous, is cause for humanity to step back and not only bask a bit in our accomplishments but also reconfigures our perspective.
Space is still surely vast and there’s great emptinesses between our stellar buoys but what if nomadic worlds outnumber the stars. Given the bounty of exoplanets that we know to be out there, it stands to reason that we will encounter civilisations through archæology and artefacts, but it does give one pause to imagine that our first contact—so to speak—is with the ghostly and haunted. It isn’t a forgone conclusion that a wandering planet would necessarily be a sterile fossil, however, since astronomers have also found that in at least one instance (and on cosmological scales, it seems to be the exception that proves the rule) that a planet can retain its satellites and a moon—of sufficient size—could be a source of energy via tidal force heating.

gobierno en el exilio

Having already expressed displeasure with the idea that fugitive Carles Puigedemont attempts to take office in absentia, Madrid is now declaring that it will reinstate direct rule on the autonomous community of Catalonia and is summoning his physical presence.
Since the dissolution of the county government during its independence referendum, president Puigedemont has sought political asylum in Belgium, escaping charges of sedition and embezzlement that have resulted in the confinement of nine members of the Catalan cabinet, and is virtually guaranteed to be arrested should he return. During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco that began with civil war in 1939 and lasted until the restoration of the constitutional monarchy in 1975, the succession of presidents of the Generalitat (the executive branch) was maintained abroad in France, Switzerland and México. There is of course no hint of equivalence in this comparison and we’re trying to better acquaint ourselves with this topic but paternalistic tendencies always carry the best of intentions.

strata and stenograph

A Japanese company whose main business is the production of architectural models brings the thrill of seeing of a vision realised to the broader public with the series of ingenious, laser-cut note pads, which as the sheets are used up, the act of taking and passing notes excavates a famous landscape and building ensemble. Be sure to visit Spoon & Tamago at the link above for further information and exquisite omoshiro (meaning interesting or fun) blocks that reveals miniatures of the Osaka castle and the Kiyomizudera Temple (pictured). These would make fine and useful keepsakes, we think, for any landmark.

Monday, 15 January 2018

dugong show

Despite rejection by the scientific and curatorial community as hoaxes, the manufactured chimera known as Fiji mermaids are stubborn objects of fascination and still prized acquisitions in serious collections, as Hyperallergic contributor Allison Meier experienced.
Marketed to the public like sea-monkeys, perhaps some of that enduring celebrity and academic interest can be sourced to that dissonance between expectation and reality. Specimens are even subjected to a rigorous battery of testing, including DNA and x-rays. What do you think? Plenty of reliquaries have sideshow status as well but we wonder if such spectacles and mascots aren’t contributing to the idea of museums as backdrops over places of scholarship and learning. Perhaps the sense of balance is most important.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


No plunder and tomb-raiding for us of course, but we were taken aback to discover rather casually that there is an ancient Celtic ensemble of burial mounds (Hügelgra- bernfeld) to explore essentially in our backyard. The substantial artefacts and grave-goods recovered here are late iron age and correspond to the ascendency of the Frankish Merovingian dynasty. Apparently this one site is part of a larger trail that extends over sixty kilometres through the region and once the weather turns fairer, I think that that’s a path we’ll embark on.

we have thought proper by these presents, to notify the good citizens of these united states

Though preliminary articles of peace were drawn up by the Continental Congress the previous April, the American Revolutionary War did not officially end until this in 1784 with the ratification of the Treaty of Paris by the colonies’ assent in the Maryland State House in Annapolis, the then capitol. According to the rules on entering into treaties and accords established in the Articles of Confederation, delegates from at least nine colonies (states) were needed to comprise a quorum but due to the severity of the winter weather, only seven were present and it seemed unlikely any more could make the arduous journey.
The reason that more than a simple majority was stipulated and the cause for Thomas Jefferson’s insistence was that with only a bald majority’s acquiescing, Britain could later reasonably declare the terms of the treaty invalid and renege on the deal. Going ahead with just seven and compromising constitutional law this early on in the nation’s history was, according to Jefferson, a dishonourable prostitution of the Great Seal of the United States. Finally, a deal was reached whereby a stay of three months would be requested until such time as other representatives could arrive, or that if Great Britain were to sue for immediate resolution, that the matter be agreed to with seven members but without the competency of precedence nor of the legislature.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

orange julius

It’s true what they say about history repeating—the first time as tragedy and then as farce what with the US and the rest of the world being terrorised now by another soi-disant intellectual-heir and all around hate-mongerer it might be profitable to inspect another Federal Bureau of Investigations casefile that documents the rise and fall of Fritz Julius Kuhn, the would-be American Fuhrer, steadfast despite a tepid reception by the actual Führer of Nazi Germany who wanted nothing to do with him. Founder of the explicitly fascist political organisation called the German-American Bund, Fritz went on to in 1939 make arrangements for and headline that terrifying and infamous rally at Madison Square Garden.
Hoping to avoid further demonstrations, New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia enlisted the help of the bureau to look into the already suspect finances of the Bund and found that Kuhn had not only embezzled and absconded with a rather paltry portion of the organisation’s funds to retain the affections of his mistress, Kuhn also used it as a vehicle for tax avoidance and tax evasion. Kuhn was sent to Ossining Correctional Facility (Sing Sing prison) for a two-year stint, which was extended after a genius but unrealised plan of his to extort money from a wealthy toiletries heiress (who happened to be Jewish with family in Germany) was discovered. In 1943 while still behind bars, Kuhn was stripped of his American citizenship and repatriated to West Germany in 1945, dying obscure and forgotten in 1951 in Munich.

keep moving from this mountain

This coming Monday—for the first time in nearly five decades since the civil rights reformer’s assassination, the city of Biloxi, Mississippi will officially observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day under the name it goes by across the United States rather than “Great Americans Day,” as Sarah Holder reports for Citylab. I wonder if the addition or omission of a plural apostrophe carries a significance—like with Presidents’ Day.
The choice of name was a compromise and a way to distance the holiday from conflating it with Confederate General Robert E Lee—as other neighbouring municipalities had done—and illustrates how fraught with controversy that the occasion has been since declared a federal holiday in 1986 with universal adoption being a slow and contentious battle. The spectre of the Confederacy and the attitudes and values it enshrined still haunting the present and frustration those dreams and visions that we fight for and uphold, it seems counter to the adage that history is something inscribed by the winners—lest we concede all is lost to the forces of hate and regression—but perhaps now because at least all places across that country (it’s also celebrated internationally in Toronto, Hiroshima and the Hague) can share the same celebration, we will have the strength to fight another day.

Friday, 12 January 2018

mot-clic francophone

Not only do we learn that rather than surrender to the hegemon of the English language, the French speaking world ought to meditate on their mobile multifonction rather than their smart phone and have a critical eye open for so called infox or faux info (fake news), we find that to varying public reception and adoption that the Journal Officiel has added to its register several pernicious tech terms that French has found preferred substitute for. A hacker, for instance, would be un fouineur, crowdfunding and derivatives become financement participatif, and an emoji is more properly une frimousse, a sweet little face.


Though Trump’s belief that his predecessor sold the Mayfair prime real estate that was former home of the US diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom for a mere pittance and therefore in protest of this mismanaged transaction will not be cutting the ribbon when the new facility opens for business is rather misleading as this backwater Borg Cube was planned under the Bush II administration as part of plans to modernise America’s presence abroad once it was determined that the ageing building in its central location could not be retrofitted to security standards, he did manage to get kind of close on one detail: the United States never owned the compound in the posh London neighbourhood but rather rented it from the Marquess of Westminster, for which America paid a symbolic annual fee of a peppercorn.


On the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, The Atlantic’s senior editor Alan Taylor regales his readers with the gift of retrospective covering the events and attitudes of the year of his birth.
If anything, a survey of 1968 lends perspective and insight on the times that we’re living through presently with violent protests erupting in France, Germany, Czecho- slovakia, Mexico and the United States, the Vietnam war, the absence of civil rights and social justice, disruptive technologies, assassinations and the Moon landing—all told in powerful images, in chronological order.

Thursday, 11 January 2018


coming attractions: Bob Canada’s box office predictions for the winter and spring

reforestation: the UK plans to repopulate the sparsely wooded area of northern England and create a coast-to-coast band of trees, from Hull to Liverpool

la dame aux chats: director Jean Cocteau’s affinity for felines

sundvik: IKEA advertisement for a bassinet is also a pregnancy-test

a mosquito, my libido: switched from a minor to major key, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit becomes a upbeat pop song

split-flap: an internet-enabled mechanical message board harks back to a bygone era

marble run: patient artist DoodleChaos, who previously synchronised Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, now assays Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers”

universal constant or halt and catch fire

Researchers in Bilbao and Salamanca proffer a rather radical theory that tidily dispenses with the need—surely not without controversy—for invoking dark energy to explain our Cosmos and the accelerated rate of expansion of the Universe.
The speeding up of the motion or retreat is only apparent and it’s that time itself is slowly, slowly winding down. The accelerated expansion is illusionary as we’re not further away from our galactic neighbours but light is taking longer to reach us as time drags on. Not being able to get my head around the idea, I am not sure how it stands up to scrutiny but we’ve gone to great lengths before for the sake of keeping up appearances. I wonder how this idea might be independently verified. The clock started with the Big Bang but as that burst becomes more diffuse, time over æons is degrading into a physical dimension (like the three were familiar with) and the Universe will freeze and coalesce into a dimensionless point, presumably ready to start the cycle all over again.

dance for me, tartar woman

Previously we’ve learned that Spaghetti Westerns were often filmed in exotic, far-flung locations and now, via Super Punch, we discover that the desert of Utah has at least once been a stand-in for the steppe of Mongolia in the 1956 Howard Hughes production, The Conqueror, starring John Wayne as Temujin (nom de guerre, Genghis Khan), Susan Hayward as his first wife, Börte Üjin, and Agnes Moorehead as his mother, Hunlun.
The film was critically panned and a financial flop (Hughes’ last cinematic venture) and never attained a cult following due to a weak plot and what was recognised as gross miscasting (plus general unavailability—more to follow), but there’s a dark and unexpected footnote in the movie’s production, which spanned three years and leaves a greater legacy of questions. Weeks were spent on location shooting outdoors and establishing scenes and once the cast was ready to return to the studio, Howard Hughes shipped sixty tonnes of native dirt back to Hollywood in order to make sure that the terrain’s appearance matched and ensure continuity. Cast, filmmakers and residents knew that the filming site (and imported soil) was directly downwind from the Nevada proving grounds where the military had tested eleven surface nuclear bombs and munitions a couple of years previously but any concerns that they had were placated by assurances from the government that there was no risk to public health. Nearly half of the two hundred member crew, however, developed cancer, which a quarter succumbed to. Wayne and Moorehead both died of cancer in the 1970s and were heavy smokers (Wayne’s habit was six packs a day) but the actual cause remains a mystery. In the aftermath, anguishing over his decision to shoot in a dangerous and radioactive site, Hughes bought every copy of the film and kept it out of circulation for several years—until the studio re-acquired it from Hughes’ estate after his death. Reportedly, it was one movie that Hughes watched endlessly during his final years.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

worshipful company of stationers and newspaper makers

Thanks to the latest instalment of the wonderful and engrossing History of English podcast, we learn why cut paper—and in general writing materials—is referred to as stationery.
From the thirteenth century on, booksellers who set up shop in a fixed spot, as opposed to itinerant peddlers and chapmen who frequented markets and had pop-up stalls but not a permanent location, were called stationers. In exchange for upholding pledges not to gouge students on required text books, universities allowed stationers a virtual monopoly on copyrights, and in the era before the printing press would loan students original manuscripts for use in exchange for producing a faithful duplicate that the stationer could later resell. Their wares and the tools that produced them were referred to a stationery.

plat diagram

Via Present /&/ Correct, we’re treated to these clever and cosmopolitan bars of chocolate that are partitioned out to match the layout of world capital cities’ centres. Inside the wrapper there’s a legend to the map of landmarks.

global research political analysis strategic insight

Bowing to pressure from the interview subjects of the firm that was retained by first a conservative publication and then by the Clinton campaign to conduct oppositional research on Trump who insisted that their sworn testimony be made a matter of public-record, panel member Senator Feinstein released the full transcript of the Judiciary Committee’s dialogue with the strategic intelligence group responsible for compiling the infamous and damning dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia.
While many of the allegations levied against Trump and his cohorts have already been independently corroborated (with disappointingly little incriminating impact) and much of the material contained therein was procedural boiler-plater, the release of the transcript, which was strongly opposed by Republican members of the investigation, does discredit one central tenant of the conspiracy narrative that Trump and his supporters are weaving: that the Federal Bureau of Investigations is biased against Trump and that the dossier was a politically-motivated fabrication. The FBI was in fact looking into Trump run for presidency and his business-dealings, the documents reveal, well before the file was pieced together and the FBI was even warned by the former-spy gathering background on Trump and associates and the bureau believed that at least some of the reporting was credible. There is no witch-hunt.  The entity responsible for leaking the story to the press is unknown. What stands out to you? Possibly no amount of evidence could convince some of collusion but perhaps with the claims of conspiracy on the part of the FBI somewhat defanged, perhaps now the inquiry can continue unfettered.


Though we are intrigued past the point of relief and hope to joy and exuberance at the prospect of Winfrey running for US high office we’d all do well to remember that enthusiasm ought to be conditional and contingent. As exhausting as last year’s campaigns were—and in the case of the US, delivering an incredulously atrocious outcome—the notion of an extended, three-year ordeal makes one shudder and illustrates how bad the present is to even entertain the idea that voters are possessed of such stamina.
We draw no equivalence, despite the celebrity stature, and are confident that Winfrey would be humble and surround herself with and defer to subject-matter experts and would be a far better representative of the America public to the rest of the world and would be compassionate and inclusive. These are all very fine and agreeable things that Winfrey incorporates into the empire and brand that she has established, but governance by fame and affinity is probably more alike on both ends of the spectrum than we are comfortable with admitting. Having a platform and agenda separates our Oprah from the indifference, laziness and nihilism of the doltish, criminal syndicate of Trump’s camp to be sure, but I have to wonder if lurching (blowback that’s systemic to democracy) to the other extreme isn’t just a continuation of baiting cultural warfare and stark polarisation and raises the question of what the role of politicians and being governed means. Is statecraft without experience (however that is gauged) or as a chosen career-path just brand-loyalty?  Probably both Trump’s and Winfrey’s relation to their fan-base—not constituencies—are similar and while the latter is certainly preferable to the former, neither I’d venture to wager will attain the political and civic maturity needed to work together and affect real and enduring change until the American president acquires the preparation and experience to govern.  Granted, we would be content with an America that exudes just a modicum of confidence that it won’t start World War III or further savage the environment and if they’re electing celebrities, they might as well elect good ones.  Trump has demonstrated that he is unwilling and incapable of rising to the occasion, no matter what his handlers and surrogate try, but Winfrey, like other personalities that have taken up the mantle of public-service, can, if she chooses, fill her quiver with the tools of state. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018


Once again Colossal commandeers our attention the work of the crafty Swiss artist Ulla-Stina Wikander who lovingly and ceremoniously retires household objects by enveloping them in cross-stitch.  Here’s an alternate tradition for recognising the career of long, faithful service of domestic artefacts from Japanese folklore. Like a bronzed baby shoe, is there some everyday item that you’d like to have encased and memorialised in such a fashion? See a whole gallery of her creations plus her personal collection of traditional, inspiring patterns at the links up top.


Since the late nineteenth century, Japan’s official civil calendar has followed the Gregorian, Western one but retains many traditional elements of the luni-solar cycle, including dispatching new year’s greeting cards, often based on the zodiacal character of the coming year.
Beginning 16 February, we leave behind the Fire Rooster and enter the time of the Earth Dog. Spoon & Tamago have nearly completed a whole cycle of animals, having rung in the season by posting an assortment of post cards for a decade and among their selection this time, we really liked this salutation from Individual Locker whose kanji arrangement of the characters for 2018 suggest a rising sun over Mount Fuji.

Monday, 8 January 2018

urban blight

Via Messy Nessy Chic, we’re introduced to the digitally enhanced photography of Bucharest based Andrei Lacatusu whose series called Social Decay depicts social media platforms as run-down neon signage. I wonder if these realistic relics aren’t a prelude of a coming shift away from the attention-economy.

stará, stará night

Inspired by more venerable horologes in Prague and Rouen, the village of Stará Bystrica (stará means old) in Northern Slovakia incorporated an astronomical clock into its central square under major reconstruction in 2009.
The modern clockwork is satellite- and radio-controlled, informed by atomic clocks and is the most accurate of its type, with an astrolabe displaying the phases of the Moon and the march of the constellations. The rippling, billowing design of the tower is a stylised form of Maria Dolorosa, patroness of the country and the tolling of the hour is accompanied by a procession of saints connected with the area—including brothers Cyril and Methodius.

border stories

Always with a weakness for unusual ways of interpreting and expressing territoriality (read more about exclaves, enclaves and such here, here and here), we really enjoyed this brilliant chart by a Reddit contributor courtesy of Nag on the Lake that illustrates the world’s ten shortest national borders and a bit of the geographic, climatic and historic context that went into their creation. Click on the image to zoom in. Rückslag near the German town of Konzen is close enough for a visit and it looks like an away-mission will be organised soon.

Sunday, 7 January 2018


In order to make visiting a charging station less of a chore and more of a treat (though I imagine that such a congregating place might be short-lived with exponential improvements to battery life and duration of recharging times), the entrepreneur behind Tesla electric vehicles and several other enterprises besides will transform one of his service points in the Los Angeles area into a classic bit of Americana, making it into a drive-in restaurant, complete with a (robotic?) waitstaff/pit-crew on roller skates. That’s a pretty clever idea—we think, the set-up is already familiar and seems conducive to powering-up one’s car and we wonder if a resurgence of drive-in theatres might not be in the offering soon.

Saturday, 6 January 2018


mother will protect you: Billy Butcher re-imagines Black Mirror episodes as comic book covers

memory hole: the fickleness of contemporary media and format-shifting could create a digital dark ages for future historians

attitude polarisation: the elusive nature of the backfire effect

gorillas in our midst: despite how plausible it may seem, White House staff did not fall over one another to create a custom entertainment channel for Dear Leader

to tell the truth: ladies and gentlemen, Miss Kitty Carlisle

dammit janet: become an flight attendant for the US’s most secret airline, the one that shuttles employees between Las Vegas, Nevada and Area 51

take two of these and call me in the morning: vintage Bank of America spot for “Instant Money”—caution auto-play

much amaze: a crypto-currency based off an internet meme created in 2013 has a market-capitalisation of over a billion dollars, via Slashdot 

universal favourite

As a spinoff for a project that they did for a particular client, an Australian design studio and local confectionary experts collaborated to create gourmet chocolate stair-step wedges in exotic flavours that are paired with a complementary piece to form a cube, Universal Favourites, that’s not only pleasing to the palette but aesthetically as well, since food ought to be photogenic and look too good to part with casually.

category: athletes with maps

The intrepid team at Lewis & Quark have run some notable experiments with neural networks in the past year (previously here, here, and here) and begins 2018 with an equally insightful drill that invited their AI familiar to come up with plausible Wikipedia articles—based of course on the contributions of human encyclopaedists, and the results were predictably weird though revealing about our own editorial conventions.
Parallel to the headings that the machine will generate, we learn that Wikipedia has curated a collection of submitted articles that humorously failed to adhere to the site’s standards and were consequently never published, which could have been the product of the machine itself but Wikipedia’s rejects could not hold a candle (we think) to some of the ones in the computer-generated sandbox: Monster Diseases, Tire bear (country), Near Dogs and Tree Wars. Be sure and visit Lewis & Quark on Tumblr at the link above for more of computers trying and subscribe so you’ll never miss a post.


Here is a sample of the kinetic, magical artwork of Seattle-based illustrator Jonathan Stroh. One should browse his entire, extensive portfolio here for more exotic destinations and more multifaceted animations. There are ducks, I believe, somewhere in every composition.