Wednesday, 28 February 2018

now do classical gas

Our gratitude to Kottke for not only disabusing us of the notion that Eric Clapton was the originator of the instrumental composition “Classical Gas”—first released in February of 1968—but introducing us as well to its interesting origins with guitarist and comedy-writer Mason Douglas Williams. Conceived as representative as the fuel of a classically trained guitar repertoire, the title was shortened from “Classical Gasoline” by an amanuensis, Williams came up with the song while working as the head writer of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and performed it as intro- and outro-music on several occasions.

Having already garnered the attention of audiences and critics, Williams wanted to showcase the work in its entirety and recognised that it could be the perfect alternate accompaniment to the experimental, kinestasis montage work of UCLA student filmmaker Dan McLaughlin, a survey of art history in three minutes (with a bit of tweaking with the timing of the transitions as it was originally set to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The short cemented the reputation and cultural moments of both arrangements. Be sure to visit Kottke at the link above to learn more and to discover more fine hypertext products.

big blue

International Business Machines Corporation, as Slashdot reports, has announced it will be deploying its Artificial Intelligence Watson along with German astronaut Alexander Gerst in June for a six month long mission to the International Space Station to act as a personal assistant and companion to its human counterparts—and definitely not refuse to open the pod bay doors.
In order to make the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON) more relatable and not a disembodied voice, the neural network and personality will be contained within a housing described as a hoovering volley ball with a digital face, not unlike Tom Hanks’ Castaway co-star Wilson—and is being developed by Airbus on behalf of the German Aerospace Centre (das Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt).

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


luddites: standing up for dumb (but not dumbed-down) devices, via Naked Capitalism

it’s what’s for dinner: US Cattlemen’s Association declares war on fake, plant-based meat, via Super Punch

rydberg polarons: at extremely low temperatures atoms can be crowded inside other atoms

good ju-ju: an assortment of modern cyber lucky charms

mileștii mici: tour the world’s largest wine-cellar located in Moldova, via Messy Nessy Chic

aurabesh: the alien script of the Star Wars Universe

les shadoks: the cult French cartoon from Jacques Rouxel and René Borg with a fantastic musique concrète theme song

monte carlo method

Notwithstanding the adage that only God can generate truly random numbers—that is outcomes not contingent on some inscrutable or traceable series of prior actions—or the pronouncement that God does not play dice, in 1955 (and reprinted to the playful derision of critics in 2001) the RAND Corporation published its big book of random numbers, one of the last in the genre, under the title A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates. Made obsolete by the ability of computers to generate serviceably pseudo-random numbers (much like logarithmic tables), such endeavours, made with a roulette wheel and a computer, were important and foundational brokers in cryptography and security ciphers.

Monday, 26 February 2018

what’s the frequency kenneth?

Tom Stafford of Mind Hacks has a quite good explanation of what’s known as the spatial frequency effect, a heuristic tool for gauging visual perception.
The gradient of stimuli is measured against the contrast between light and dark and the angle, the point of view. As an illusion or illustration that creates itself, the phenomenon might be best imparted as the trick that superimposes a couple of iconic images of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe whose hybrid, composite picture shifts from one to another depending on the viewer’s distance.  Lean forward, lean back to experience it to the fullest.  I wonder how this interaction between the seer and the seen might be manifested in other ways.

gaspillage alimentaire

US National Public Radio’s European correspondent Eleanor Beardsley reports on some refreshingly positive follow-up on the 2016 legislation that outlaws systemic food waste in France—leveraging hefty fines against grocery stores that throw away edible food.
Without taking into account the negative impacts of agriculture to include indignity to animals, habitat loss, pesticide and intensive water-use, humans throw away about a third of what’s raised or grown, with developed nations disposing of the majority of their food at the final stage when the most time and effort has been invested in it. Not only are struggling families benefited from higher quality and quantity donations to food-banks and other charities, supply-chain-management is also improved with the elimination of the stipulation that suppliers deliver amounts at fixed thresholds and obligating merchants to buy more than they can sell in a timely factor, reducing emissions due not only to surplus transportation but also for food-waste kept from land-fills (as food bio-degrades, it produces methane) and not artificially subsidies over-production. On a purely administrative note, this post is PfRC’s five-thousandth (cinq millième).


The Atlantic takes a preview at what sounds like a pretty engrossing analysis of the evolution and subsequent associations we've bestowed on the concept of craft.  

Craeft by archaeologist and television personality Alexander Langlands explores how in spirit and practise the term, synonymous with manual labour, has stripped down of much of its former esteem of refinement, skill and finished that were co-opted by manufactured goods—though this too shares the same sense of being hand-made. When the Industrial Revolution brought in masses from the countryside, social theorists encouraged workers take up crafts, constructive hobbies, in their off-duty hours out of an abundance of caution that day-labourers and shift-workers had too much unstructured leisure time—a modern, occupational affliction that comes out of automation and mass-production. Without the need to learn a technical skill to maintain hearth and home and with the associated respect and deference lost, the idea of plying one’s craft was disdained as something frivolous and as a prestige project. Meanwhile crafts have become more like kits to be assembled rather than reflecting on the material and means of making and using things.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

full fathom five

Our morning mediations come courtesy of Fancy Notions with a calm but catchy introduction to the cinematography and scoring of a pioneering New Zealander named Len Lye. Combining experimental film with kinetic sculpture and travelling widely through the South Pacific, Lye became a student of Aboriginal cultures and was one of the first European settlers (pākehā is the Māori term for such an outsider) to appreciate and incorporate their art.

This highlight reel from his 1936 animated short “Rainbow Dance” was filmed in Gasparcolor—one of the forerunners along with Dufaycolor, before Technicolor became the industry standard. You can find a wealth of his other works (including the above titled musical composition, which might have a familiar ring to it) curated by the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre, your local library or via your trusty search engines.

putting your money where your mouth is

Ingeniously, designer Tomo Kihara is offering these Street Debater kits that allow a person between engagements to radically change the reaction of passers-by to pan-handling.
Once soliciting donations becomes a challenge and a conversation starter, people on the streets might become more aware of social inequities and more willing to discuss the big issues that drive them—and perhaps even tip the scales of fortune for those who might need a little extra luck and exposure at the moment. What do you think? It’s fair to question whether such opinion-polling might not invite even more polarisation and divisiveness but we think it’s insightful that voices other than social media influencers and shrillest among us deserve to be heard and benefit from honest debate.

turn-down service

As if it were some heroic, historic re-enactment of the evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon, a team of hotel executives at a Trump-branded property in Panama (which was surely disparaged as a less than optimal place of origin for migration) are apparently barricaded in an office and are shredding files, as Super Punch reports, refusing to concede defeat in an ownership dispute with another developer that has a controlling-share of the dismally unutilised building.
The squabbling continues—including turf-battles which include cutting off the power and communications to the opposing side—amid ongoing litigations between the two parties. The Panamanian courts have not yet interceded, though their hand may be forced so, with this room-to-room threatening to escalate and Trump’s backers apparently destroying records. If Trump is not recognised as the legitimate ruler (it looks like he is not) of this one building and will go to these extremes over a hotel where no one is staying, one wonders what kind of dangerous tantrum might ensue over a real territorial dispute and constitutional crisis. Arguably, we’re already soaking in it.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

courage under fire

Noted sophist and US Federal Communications Commission industry shill who is amazingly foremost contender for individual with the most punchable face (and that says a lot) out of a corrupt, nihilistic regime including Trump and his wastrel spawn, Ajit Pai, was just awarded a prize firearm by the National Rifle Association for doing the organisation’s bidding and permitting them to forward their agenda with his repeal of the protections of afforded under Net Neutrality.
How allowing the propaganda of the highest bidder outshout the rest of the internet increases America’s freedom is a bit of a mystery but as US domestic policy is a domestic issue, I guess we don’t need to wade too far into the fray even though this signals something far more sinister that slower, more expensive internet access where prolefeed is only content on offer. Of course, this is not the most heinous thing that the commissioner nor the NRA has done today surely and others in the administration have earned and been bestowed with such prizes—which by their acceptance, tacit or otherwise, demonstrate that the only thing easier to buy than a gun in America is an elected politician and the political appointees meant to uphold the public value of the agencies that they chair.

fairy lamp

Researchers in Japan, as Slashdot reports, have developed tiny electronic diodes that float in the air, riding ultrasonic sound waves. The darting points of light, because of their resemblance to fireflies, have been named Luciola after the native family of flashing insects and their quiet agility masks some serious decibels of sound holding them aloft and orchestrating their movement—albeit above the range of the human ear and could in the near future appear in applications from mobile holographic displays to projection mapping.


Via Coudal Partners, we’re shown what the state flags of America ought to look like based on the cardinal points of Big Data: a sliding, evolving representation of the categories of population, housing, economy and education. Olivia Johnson’s experiment in True Colors produce banners that are static symbols (nor are they uniquely American) and will change with improving or declining relative socio-economic conditions and are made to be viewed comparatively and not in isolation. Learn about the design decisions and methodology that went into this project and discover more of Ms Johnson’s portfolio at the links above.

daisy, daisy give me your answer do

Though we may be acquainted with tandem variety of a bicycle built for two where the cyclists are positioned fore and aft but we were hitherto unfamiliar with an alternative configuration known as the Sociable or the Side-by-Side (das Nebeneinandem).
Historically employed as a courtship vehicle, the design is credited by some to Australian sportsman, engineer and politician Sir Hubert Ferdinand Opperman, who incidentally was the object of international disdain after garnering the reputation as a cheater for doping for his trials in the Tour la France and other feats of endurance, heralded in the press with the saying “un beau mentir qui vient de loin,” a good lie comes from a great distance. Though always maintaining that “there is no sporting prize worth the use of drugs or stimulants,” Opperman competed at a time when the practise was endemic and an assist for a truly heroic effort was generally a forgivable offense. One’s intent could also be misconstrued when sporting such a contraption. I wonder if it was possible for some cad to going cruising and operate the craft solo—or if a willing partner was required to propel it.

Friday, 23 February 2018

oh say did you know?

The notoriously difficult for non-professional singers to assay US national anthem, the Defense of Fort McHenry reflagged as “The Star-Spangled Banner” when it was adopted in 1931 after a few failed attempts and vigorous rallying, finally shamed into passing a bill when cartoonist and sideshow act curator Robert L Ripley entered the debate was not only translated into German to attract recruits for the Union’s war effort during the US Civil War (and several other languages subsequently), that an upset poet and polymath, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Senior added a fifth stanza in protest.

First—here is the former, as hinted at, Das Star-Spangled Banner (not a literal translation and note the old spellings):

O! sagt, könnt ihr seh’n in des Morgenroths Strahl,
Was so stolz wir im scheidenden Ubendroth grüßten?
Die Sterne, die Streifen, die wehend vom Wall,
Im tödtlichen Kampf uns den Unblickt verfüßten?
Hoch flattere die Fahne in herrlicher Pracht,
Beim Leuchten der Bomben durch dunkle Racht.
O! sagt, ob das Banner, mit Sternen befä’t,
Ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weht?

Vom Strand aus zu seh’n durch die Nebel der See,
Wo Feindes Schaar ruhet in drohendem Schweigen,
Was ist’s das die Wind’ auf befestiger Höh’
Mit neckebdem Weh’n bald verhüllen, bald zeigen?
Jetzt faßt es der Sonne hell leuchtenden Strahl,
 Jetzt scheint es vom Berge, jetzt weht’s ueber’s Thal.
O! es ist ja das Banner mit Sternen befä’t,
Das ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weht.

Und wo ist die Band’, die verwegentlich schwor,
Dass die Gräuel des Krieges, das Wüthen der Schlachten,
Sollt’ rauben uns Heimath und Vaterlands Flor?
Ihr Herzblut bezahle das frevelnde Trachten.
Keine Gnade noch Schonung für Herr und für Knecht,
Nur Tod sei die Loosung, dann sind wir gerächt.
Und siegreich das Banner mit Sternen besä’t,
Ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weh’t.

Und wo die Männer für Freiheit und Vaterland
Vereinigt stehn, Da sende von Oben,
Den Kämpfern errettend die mächtige Hand,
Die Freien, die müssen den Vater dort loben.
Gerecht ist die Sache, auf Gott wir vertrau’n.
D'rum sei die Loosung, auf ihn wir fest bau’n
Und siegreich das Banner, mit Sternen besä’t,
Ueber’m Lande der Freien und Braven noch weht.

Holmes’ contribution is not echoed in the German lyric sheet:

When our land is illumined with Liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

After the cessation in fighting, this stanza was dropped but German-speaking (or whatever was appropriate for their immigration background) school children continued to sing the above version in class until the outbreak of World War I.

Play ball!


Operating on the idea that gesture and gesticulation is the common lot of mankind and represents the closest that humans are capable of getting to a universal language, doctor and educator John Bulwer authored a pamphlet in 1644 called Chirologia, or the Naturall Language of the Hand with a number of illustrations to add rhetorical weight to one’s words, gleaned from a variety of historical sources.
Although the good doctor himself never seemed to academically link his earlier works to his later advocacy for the education of the hearing-impaired (one of the first champions of the deaf), Bulwer’s studies were formative to the invention of sign language and remnants can still be found in contemporary parlance. Records show that Bulwer’s spouse and issue—called only the widow of Middleton and adopted a daughter, probably deaf, named fancifully and a bit improbably Chirothea (Gift of the Hands) Johnson—is no relation to Baron Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton who authored a series of best-selling novels in the mid-nineteenth century, coining such phrases as “the great unwashed masses,” “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and perhaps most famously, the opening, “it was a dark and stormy night.” Bulwer-Lytton—who also turned down the crown of Greece when offered and inadvertently informed neo-Nazi esotericism by creating a subterranean master race called the Vril that appear in Wolfenstein and as an earlier, more fascist version of the Morlocks, suffered from deafness during his waning years.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

die weiße rose

On this day, seventy-five years ago, leading members of the intellectual Nazi resistance group the White Rose, were executed by guillotine after a series of hasty show trials conducted after the 18 February 1943 arrests of siblings Hans Scholl (24 years old), Sophie Scholl (21) and Christoph Probst (24), students at the University of München, ending the movement’s activities after less than a year of operations. The capture by the Gestapo followed an attempt by the students to distribute leaflets (EN/DE) critical of the Nazi regime and delivered to the Volksgerichtshof—infamous already for its unfair political trials.


The curatorial staff over at Hyperallergic feature an absolutely amazing collection of board games acquired by ardent collectors Ellen and Arthur Liman that reach back to the conception of the evening’s entertainment in the early nineteenth century. A spinoff from advances in printing technologies, as ephemera, the topics emphasised and values signalled (here are a few other examples of select messaging) offer a rather unique glimpse at the popular imagination of people the UK of Georgian and Victorian eras. Be sure to visit the link up top to peruse a whole gallery of wholesome pastimes and to learn more about the collection’s recent compilation in book form.

but is it art?

The pet cat Docket of confessional and exhibitionist artist Tracey Emin went missing in Spring of 2002, but due her reputation as an artist (probably best remembered for her controversial readymade installation of her unmade, lived-in bed in 1988 and 1999 and a tent whose interior that listed the names of everyone Emin had slept with) the missing cat posters (Docket himself was featured in several works of art) she put up around her neighbourhood were instantly recognised as a potential collectors’ item and spirited away.  Despite her gallery’s issuance of a statement that the missing cat posters were just that, it was difficult for the public afterwards to not include them among her repertoire. Despite the inability to keep this notice and plea posted for long, Docket was found and reunited with his human. What do you think? When does memorabilia become art and vice-versa? This is of course more personal and potentially fraught than some anodyne transaction made famous than for the celebrity involved.


The always intrepid team at Atlas Obscura tracks down and interviews an Alpine sketch artist committed to creating a universal bestiary drawing on the mythological and folkloric sources from around the world.
Like Imam Joy El Shami-Mader, I’ve come across really fantastic, imaginative descriptions but was sometimes at a loss for visualising such beasts and monsters (especially ones outside the Western tradition) for lack of illustration—like the chimera pictured, the artist’s interpretation of the Kotobuki (the long-lived one), a creature composed of parts of all the animals represented by the Japanese zodiac. Be sure to visit Ms El-Shami-Mader’s social media property for more incredible creatures, learn their stories and help her complete her project with your suggestions.


clan of the ice bear: the outsized but possibly overlooked contributions that polar bears made to the development of evolution

hal 90210: Boston Dynamics is teaching its robotic dog to fight back, via Slashdot

one of these things is not like the others: Trump reportedly wears dress shirts with customised cuffs—as a reminder to himself and others, he is the forty-fifth president

tierrechte: Switzerland outlaws boiling living lobsters

we’ll leave the light on for you: a nice, retrospective profile of US National Public Radio essayist and humourist Tom Bodett

service feline: Puffy the cat with hypnotic powers

cultural icon: David Attenborough dance sensation, via Marginal Revolution

glomar explorer

Our gratitude towards Things Magazine for directing our attention to the Central Intelligence Agency’s salvage operation convincingly disguised as the folly of an eccentric billion to mine the ocean floor for manganese nodules (profiled in a later featurette). Having in 1974 located the wreck of a Soviet nuclear submarine, K-129, in a remote part of the Pacific that had gone missing six years earlier, the CIA approached the reclusive Howard Hughes to provide a plausible cover-story for Project Azorian so the Soviets would be none the wiser.
The Soviets did harbour suspicions, however, and had ship deployed to monitor activities—the added scrutiny and the diplomatic pressure of President Nixon’s summit in Moscow (being caught stealing a submarine wouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as an act of good-will) caused the crew to rush to carry out the operation. As the steel claw was pulling up the fuselage of the vessel, however, the strain became too great and only the front section was recovered. The mission was abandoned after details of the project surfaced a year later, with the media rebuffing pleas from the CIA director George HW Bush, the press arguing that there was no commercial or intelligence value to the salvage operation. After articles appeared about the Agency’s efforts to suppress publication circulated, journalists tried to request through a FOIA-filing records on Project Azorian. The agency refused to either confirm or deny the existence of the documents in question (NCND)—what’s become the standard Glomar response, after the name of Hughes’ global marine exploratory vessel. Despite the revelation that the deep sea mining story was a ruse, industry interest was piqued and is sounded out in the subsequent articles from the BBC at the link up top.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

spring cleaning

Conversely to the celebrations that dominate the fifth day that placate the god of wealth, the sixth day of the lunar new year—as our faithful chronicler Doctor Caligari informs—is reserved for the ghost of poverty Gao Yang (颛顼), grandson of the Yellow Emperor.
Credited with the invention of the calendar and zodiac, the legendary ruler garnered the reputation of being a peculiar spendthrift despite enormous wealth and the charity of his subjects, this day marks the end of festivities and the return to business—in order to stave off destitution—in many jurisdictions and involve idiosyncratic domestic rituals to send the spirit packing, including making sure that one’s washroom is presentable for supernatural inspection though major cleaning undertakings happen a few days prior to the New Year. Also, on this day in 1972, just like the old Vulcan proverb proscribes, Richard M Nixon visited China—the first time a US president was hosted in a nation with no formal diplomatic connections—and met with Chairman Mao Zedong in order to normalise Sino-American relations.

rive droite

Our unconventional Parisien tour guides over at Messy Nessy Chic treat us to a unique side of the imposing sightseer monolith and magnet, the Musée du Louvre, with a detour to an overlooked wing that houses the stately suite of apartments commissioned by Napoléon III. One is free to explore these luxurious salons at one’s own pace without the crush of visitors vying for a backdrop among the galleries and were installed so he could oversee prefect Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s modernisation campaign that the emperor directed after being inspired by his time living in London.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


My Modern Met refers us to a line of attractive and reasonably-priced modular feline furniture, conceived by a couple of human architects attuned to the shelter and comfort of the cats that share their living space. Not only is the design from A Cat Thing expandable and adjustable to hold one’s companion’s attention for longer, it is also expendable should you or your cat grow bored and dismissive of the whole cardboard ensemble and prefer a cosy sock drawer or a laundry hamper (here’s an award-winning thesis on the accommodating nature of the feline form), the material is fully recyclable.

a snappy new day

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the national syndication of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that happened earlier in the week, Public Radio’s Fresh Air has pieced together a very fine retrospective tribute plus an extended interview with creator and host Fred Rogers, who planned to be a diplomat and then an ordained minister before serendipitously given the opportunity to produce a children’s programme for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The homage included Rogers’ signature sympathy and respect for the unspoken worries of young people and how he tried to couch the news—that we tend to only admit hits children with a glancing blow when in reality they’re fall more empathetic—to look for the helpers or diffusing the border war between the kingdoms of Make-Believe and Someplace-Else—or just a year after his show became available all across the US, having to testify on behalf of Public Television before Congress and successfully persuading the committee to fully fund their endeavours and realise the importance of their work. The deserving accolades and recollections are a preview of several celebrations and appreciations planned for this birthday year.

Monday, 19 February 2018

smitten kitchen

I had been eagerly anticipating trying a simple recipe for an avocado and cucumber salad first recommended by Nag on the Lake for a couple of weeks now but found it was well worth the wait and ought to be incorporated into any meal schedule. My presentation is not the loveliest but the taste and the texture are worth pursuing.  Taking a few liberties with the ingredients, I took:

  • 1 large cucumber (Gurke), washed and chopped 
  • A small bunch of scallions (Lauchzweibel) diced 
  • 1 Avocado (I should have gone bigger), pitted and scooped out 
  • For the dressing, 2 tablespoons of Salad Yogurt—the original recipe called for Mayonnaise but I imagine that it or Remoulade would work equally well
  • Spice it up with cayenne and black pepper
Combine cucumber, avocado and scallions and whisk in dressing. Repeat again tomorrow.


Inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in 2016, the priory on the hillside in Éveux near Lyon was commissioned by the local order of Dominican monks from architects Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis back in 1953—construction concluding in 1960, with the compound Sainte Marie de la Tourette coming to represent one of the most exemplary structures of the late Modernist and Brutalist style.
Its one hundred cells and study halls still serve an active though declining population of friars but the with the convent having become one of the pilgrimage destinations of adherents of iconic architecture, it still attracts many visitors and offers overnight accommodations to help offset the costs of upkeep.


a murder most foul: an interactive map of crime scenes and hauntings of Victorian London, via Things Magazine

crying in public: a comparable emotional map of New York City, via Waxy

klimaendring: receding glaciers are revealing ancient artefacts in Norway faster than archaeologists can keep up, via Strange Company

editorial board: moving beyond titles and suggested topics, neural networks are being trained to write Wikipedia articles, via Slashdot

expo 67: Canada Modern archives the early golden age of the country’s contemporary graphic design movement, via Present /&/ Correct

postcards from sakha: photographer documents like in Yakutsk, Russia’s arctic republic

Sunday, 18 February 2018

olive garden of eden

Via DaveLog v 3.0, we are treated to a good primer on the theology surrounding Pastafarianism, sourced directly back to the first prophet of the His Noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, physics student Bobby Henderson, who back in 2005 demanded that classroom curricula be apportioned equally in thirds, reserved amongst creationism and intelligent design, evidentiary conjecture-based scientific disciplines that includes the theory of evolution and the Pastafarian gospel, in protest to the Kansas Board of Education’s decision to give equal time under the law to only the former two perspectives.
Though many of its tenets are gentle parodies of religious fundamentalism, Pastafarianism has earned a place on interfaith panels and its priests and practitioners are afforded equal recognition with more established faiths and has been employed, as His Noodliness intended though ever once and awhile ingratiating falsified evidence and testimony contrary to its own origin story, as a persuasive counter-argument against those laws that would ravage the line that separates Church and State or deny others of freedom from religion altogether. Be sure to visit the links above for more Bible studies. R’amen.

rabble rousing or working the crowd

Hyperallergic’s Sunday Required Reading column points us back towards an Aeon magazine essay on the seemingly opposed forces that tyrants stir in their backers and in others complicit in their rise to power by appealing to one’s self-hatred through the promise of utopia never delivered.
David Livingstone Smith expands on the ideas that psychoanalysis Melanie Klein espoused to explain the sophistical powers of propaganda and charismatism that won over a great swath of Europe broken and recovering after WWI. Decision and motivation, under Klein’s model, are informed and haunted by two kinds of anxiety and how we cope explains volumes: either paranoid, we find ourselves persecuted by malicious, external forces or depressed, we find ourselves faced by being consumed by what we love. Both modes (and the sentiments feed into one another) can lead to the embrace of a totalitarian figurehead as an ego ideal and provokes the response of a manic defence that further solidifies one’s beliefs in the infallibility of the overtures of leadership and confirms that outside verification is superfluous at best by disassociating dependence and the need for something beyond a demagogue vested with omnipotence and omnibenevolence.

tosspot, hydropot

Third in colourful metaphors in the English language and bested only by the topics of sex and money, the term alcohol itself (from the Arabic alchemy word for the coal, any powder won through evaporation and distillation) is a relative new borrowing, compared to the numerous epithets of drinking culture that reach back thousands of years.
Whilst for ages more potent drinks enjoyed a better safety record than plain water—given the fact that there no treatment facilities and the benefits of boiling water were perhaps unknown to most hydropots, as the brave souls were called, tosspots—for those with no reluctance to throw back a beer (or several) might have to deal with a different sort of post-revelry regret in the form of a hangover. Precautions, remedies and cure-alls have equally old provenance, with the gem stone amethyst (from the Greek for sober) believed to be a magical charm to stave off intoxication. A few other borrowings of the language and not mineral variety include lampooning—from the French Lampons! for let us drink (compare to the Michelin mascot Bibendum from Horace’s Odes Nunc est bibendum, or rather It’s Booze Time!) which a night spend carousing—from the German invocation gar aus trinken to empty the glass—might facilitate, either in person or increasingly online. In any case, remember to drink responsibility and be sure to check out the link up top to learn more.

photic zone

Winners and honourable-mentions have just been announced for the British 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest (previously) and My Modern Met has curated a gallery of some of the choice entrants culled from over five thousand submissions with interviews with the photographers about the composition and the preparation that went into capturing the picture. Aside from special categories for UK bodies of water, there were qualifiers from all over the world for Wide Angle, Macrolensing, Shipwrecks and Salvage, Portrait and Behaviour. Explore either link above for many more amazing images—especially stunning are the liminal ones that occupy both the realm above and below.

Friday, 16 February 2018

our russian chauffer, picov andropov

Our thanks to Weird Universe, the elevation of Monsignor Jaime L Sin, archbishop of Manila, to senior ecclesiastical leader, i.e., Cardinal Sin, the career-paths of several high court judges and the Mona Lisa smile of Dona del Giocondo for pointing us towards the term that describes how some individuals gravitate towards a profession that fits their family name, nominative determinism.
While there are surely more examples of people entering a trade where their name has no correspondence, when there is a match, it becomes quite resonant and theories abound regarding that calling, from unconscious wish-fulfilment, obligation or peer-pressure, and even inherited traits of careers passed down from one generation to the next—e.g., families of Smiths, Tailors, Bakers and Carpenters. Though fewer and fewer matriculate through those ranks these days, when one is true to their name, it is noteworthy and earns the neologism aptronym (rather than patronym) for being particularly apt and well-suited. Have you encountered any particularly good examples of this phenomenon? Doctors and lawyers seem really prone to such quirks of destiny.


Depressingly—and without even the need to compare itself to the rest of the world—daily three hundred and fifteen people are shot with a firearm, on balance, and of those two hundred and twenty-two individuals survive. These average figures are staggering already even without invoking those unspeakable tragedies that come about with all too regular recurrence and with a problem as endemic and pervasive, no one needs to be personally affected to appreciate the stakes.
Of those shootings that don’t result in a fatality (though to say nothing of physical and emotional scarring) most, one hundred sixty-four were caught in a gun attack, and of the rest, they are survivors of a suicide attempt (ten), they were shot by accident (forty-five) and three were shoot as part of a sanctioned intervention (out of zealous self-defence, over trespassing). Of the remaining ninety-three incidents daily that do result in death, a third are murdered and nearly two-thirds die from suicide with the remainder being accidental (one) or a legal intercession (also one). On a typical day, seven of the fatalities are children and teenagers. These sobering statistics come across with pointed accuracy despite the fact that Congress (at the behest of the weapons lobby that owns them) has imposed a moratorium on investigative studies by government entities into the causes and possible solutions for gun violence (something blindingly obvious, I should think) and also for the fact that those competent authorities that have oversight and responsibility for gleaning what traceable data there is are in danger of being defunded and will be smothered like so many other nuisances.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

flag day

On this day in 1965, the Canadian Red Ensign—a rather unremarkable design approved for use when it was desirable to fly a distinctively Canadian flag—was officially replaced with the Maple Leaf (l’Unifolié) though the symbol had been used as a patriotic emblem since the mid-1800s in song, minted on coins and for regimental badges. Though the number and arrangement of the points on the leaf at one time corresponded with the number of provinces and territories, the design was chosen after wind-tunnel testing demonstrated that that particular arrangement was least blurry at gale-force conditions.
Adoption involved heated debate with much wrangling over the need to fly something other than the Union Flag which seemed to be working fine for everyone else and one early proposed version featured a blue border in accordance with the country’s motto A mari usque ad mare—from sea to sea.

draw me like one of your french girls

Through the lens of a controversial announcement on the recent acquisition of a Picasso “The Girl with the Red Beret and Pompom”—which is one of several depictions of the artist’s mistress and model Marie-Thérèse Walter—that the new owner will rename it Annabel after his Mayfair nightclub where it will be displayed, Hyperallergic takes a look at historic examples of the appropriation of works of art by non-artists, driven perhaps by the desire to give an otherwise unknown or forgotten figure (though not the case in the former) a backstory.
Mona Lisa (the wife of the merchant Francesco del Giocondo, whose surname happens to mean “the happy one,” like her French title, La Joconde, the jocund—referencing her enigmatic expression) is an interesting case as she was a historical figure—according to most theories—but was only identified centuries after its execution. What’s now known commercially as Whistler’s Mother was called by the artist “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1” and while it is his mother sitting for the portrait, she was reportedly a last-minute understudy for another model who couldn’t make it, and Whistler never intended his “arrangement” to become an iconic representation of motherhood. I suppose it is a little pedantic to insist that we not use the broadly accepted colloquial names for works of art as consumers of it but it does seem a big presumption and imposition to actually give something a whole new name contrary to its identity out of narcissism. What do you think? I don’t feel that possession entitles one the privilege to rebrand the creation of another when no contractual arrangement exists between artist and patron.

key frames

We enjoyed very much being introduced to the Madrid-extract currently based in Toronto named Pablo Lozano. Having matriculated with London’s Golden Wolf animation studio and worked for clients such as Disney, Adult Swim and a couple of prominent sports apparel companies, Lozano is now finding his fortunes as a free-agent and a free-lancer. A key frame, incidentally, in filmmaking or animation is a rendering that defines the start and end points of a smooth transition. Be sure to check out more of Lozano’s personal work and commissions at the link up top.


screen time: a curated collection of flip-books that delivered movies that fit in the palm of one’s hand a century before smart phones

star wars, nothing but star wars: Meco Monardo’s disco remakes of Hollywood film scores

first ladies: gender reassignments for all the US presidents

blue planet: stunning underwater photography competition winners and honourable-mentions

dot-matrix: computer-generated artwork from 1969 by Frederick Hammersley

virtue signalling: White House budget proposal (again) is very disaspirational and sets the US even further behind in the sciences

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

odonym or diplomatic cul-de-sac

Via Tyler Cowen’s always engrossing Marginal Revolution, we find ourselves acquainted with the Cold War-era brinksmanship that’s currently undergoing a resurgence in the form of insulting street-naming. Though the provocation is probably best exemplified by Moscow’s proposal to re-designate the square where the US embassy is located as “1 North American Dead End,” Russia isn’t acting alone and not on the offensive.
A month prior, the US reflagged the block of Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, DC that hosts the Russian mission as Boris Nemtsov Plaza, after the opposition leader that was gunned down just outside the Kremlin in 2015. Moreover former Super Powers are not the only Titanics fighting over one iceberg—with Beijing having suggested to re-name the street passing in front of America’s diplomatic headquarters after Edward Snowden. While there’s enough petulance to go around, there’s apparently also sometimes a few overtures towards bridge-building—as it were—with Ankara calling the address of the US embassy “Olive Branch” ahead of a scheduled visit by the—as it were—top diplomat of the Trump regime, a rather backhanded welcome as it is the codename for the offensive against the US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. It is doubtful anything good comes of that and the rebuke at large is bound to continue.


Tip of the hat to The Awesomer for directing our attention to a group of retronauts at Squirrel Monkey who imagine how the user-experience would be for contemporary social media platforms (see other nostalgic examples here), applications and personal assistants had they had their debut in the early to mid 1990s.
How would interacting with Siri (which isn’t the backronym Speech Interpretation & Recognition Interface incidentally but rather the namesake of the Menlo Park Stanford Research Institute founded in 1946 under the auspices of the university to attract computation talent to the area and more directly as a spin-off from a DARPA programme) for instance be if it required switching out floppy discs and operating at a low baud rate?

secretum de thesauro experimentorum ymaginationis hominum

Having missed out on the earlier furore and excitement over speculation that Star Wars battleship designs might have been inspired by the work of a late medieval Italian draughtsman, we appreciated how Super Punch brought us up to speed.
While the pareidolia of seeing a fully-operational Death Star escorted by an array of Star Destroyers (plus earlier conceptions of the Imperial and Rebel fleets) is lure enough on its own, the imagination and career of the fifteenth-century Venetian surgeon and engineer, Giovanni Fontana (Johannes de Fontana), is pretty engrossing as well. Though only illustrations have survived the ages, Fontana invented and built functioning prototypes of what we’d recognise as the bicycle, the magic lantern, the torpedo plus many innovations in hydraulics and trigonometry and cryptography. Fontana’s overarching goal was to recreate those machines and devices of great antiquity, the stuff of legend, and some see a similarity between his style of illustration and the baffling pictures and text of the mysterious Voynich manuscript.


Though perhaps counter-intuitive but bridging nonetheless the great chasm between the microscopic and macroscopic, Oxford researcher and doctoral candidate David Nadlinger was awarded a national science photography prize, as Twisted Sifter reports, for capturing a pale point of light in a laboratory apparatus, captioned “Single Atom in an Ion Trap.” For scale, the distance between the electrodes there in the centre is two millimetres. Laser illumination and the particular chemical properties of the element strontium and a bit of patience set up conditions where the lone atom could be photographed with a normal camera set to a long exposure. Read more about how this picture was possible and about the applications of studying the behaviour of free-floating atoms at the links above.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

contamination hazard urban disposal

To commemorate and publicise the Museum of London’s acquisition and exposition of a small piece of the infamous one hundred and forty tonne Whitechapel Fatberg, the curators commissioned a series of short, low-budget horror movies starring the congealed blockage found in the sewers of East London in September of 2017.
The remarkable and durable engineering and infrastructure of the Victorian-era has allowed people to grow oblivious about plumbing and waste in general—that is, until the systems that have proven reliable become over-burdened, and the exhibit hopes to persuade visitors otherwise and to think about the consequences of what gets flushed away. Deposits such as these can be structurally as tough as concrete, requiring specialists to remove them, but the bulk of the Whitechapel mass was successfully recovered and converted into a biofuel.

les aveux de la chair

Prompted by the culture shift that is soundly rejecting the objectification and diminishment of women in order to boost chauvinistic urges and insecurities, the literary executors of the estate of Michel Foucault will publish the unfinished fourth volume (translated “Confessions of the Flesh”) of The History of Sexuality which addresses the topical subjects of power and consent over four decades after the release of the first instalment. Suffering from complications of AIDS, Foucault worked on the subsequent volumes in the early 1980s at an accelerated pace and was able to comprehensively address the totem and taboo of human sexuality through the lens of relativism and repression, questioning why contemporary culture asserts a level of sophistication and maturity over the past that modernity can’t honestly claim until or unless it comes to terms with the constructs we’ve created to manage people and population.


Writing for the Guardian, former environment editor John Vidal extols the very welcome global shift in attitude towards the practical and effective campaign to reforest areas previously cleared of trees. Beforehand we’ve mentioned efforts underway in England and Iceland to bring back the woodlands for their own sake but we failed to recognise how pervasive the movement is and the ulterior incentives, which include mitigating climate change and soil erosion and cites some success stories fostered by intensive planting of trees.


shuffleboard: some interesting facts about the sport of curling

wait, wait—don’t tell me: a public television programme or something Liam Neeson would say to a burrito right before eating it

official portraits: artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald commissioned by the Smithsonian to create paintings of the Obamas

nocturlabe: an instrument to determine local time at night based on the relative position of the stars

suffragetto: a century’s old board game that pits equal-rights activists against the police

hermetically open: Amsterdam’s private Ritman Library brings over sixteen hundred occult manuscripts on-line with the help of Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown

how u hot: a neural network generates phrases for chalky candy hearts


Having himself matriculated through the patent offices in Bern, Albert Einstein surely saw some proposals with potential though perhaps not commercially viable, so we enjoyed—via Miss Cellania—learning about some of the genius’ forgotten inventions, as documented through his intellectual property filings.
After articulating the General Theory of Relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize or discovering the photoelectric effect and discovering a new phase of matter, Einstein invented, among other things, a refrigerator designed to operate without electricity and only required a heat-source, making it suited for developing countries, and interestingly a tunic, a waistcoat that’s scalable and can expand to accommodate added dimensions.

Monday, 12 February 2018


Though probably better remembered for his later career as an industrial designer and architect for his contributions to the Walt Disney Studios compound in Burbank, California and a few neighbourhoods of surrounding Hollywoodland, Kem Weber helped to inform the stylistic sleek and iconic “Streamline” look. Moreover, though not a commercial success despite inclusion in the 1928 International Exposition of Art in Industry due to the Great Depression and outbreak of war, Weber introduced the idea of furniture to be assembled by the consumer, rather than transporting a finished piece from the showroom floor a decade before IKEA grew from a workshop into a single outlet and then going on to become a global brand. Weber’s Airline Chair of 1934 was shipped in a cardboard box that was easily toted away, to be put together (with confidence) at home.
Years ahead of the mid-century whose style he defined, Weber was a pioneer but with the infusion of the talent of fellow creative individuals fleeing totalitarian regimes in Europe (of Berlin-extraction, his adopted first name was composed of the initial letters of Karl Emmanuel Martin, wanting to make a less Germanic new persona for himself) and materials and designs derivative of the war-effort, he was not considered on the cutting edge for very long, supplanted by subsequent generations, indebted to his vision.