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 sh’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 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 devour 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.

Sunday, 11 February 2018


Though popularity and thus signalled acceptance for the concept of heavier than air propulsion as a viable and reliable form of conveyance took some time to cement itself in the minds’ of the public—as told through product tie-ins—was more gradual than, say, the appetite for all things space related. Nonetheless by 1912, there was a parlour game, a version of roulette, which in this variation had a tethered propeller-powered plane that was wound up and stayed aloft for around thirty circuits. The winner of the wager was the player who choose the correct world capital that the craft would touch down in. In the illustration, it looks to me like a dispute is about to ensue with the plane landing exactly on the line between Berlin and Wien.

persistence of vision

Professor and lecturer at the Chinese Academy of Art in Hangzhou, Cao Shu, has produced a visually captivating short animation comprised of a few disposable motions that typify what we do in those moments when we’re waiting for what’s next—taking a sip of a drink, glancing at one’s watch rotoscoped to take in the entire sweeping survey of art history from the Ancient Egyptians to the Post Modern era all in less than a minute. Visit the link up top to learn more about the styles and movements and to watch the entire video.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

how to adult

When the Grateful Dead lyricist and founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (previously) passed away earlier this week, John Perry Barlow’s legacy came into sharper focus, which aside from his concerns about shifting paradigms for privacy and building the organisational framework to articulate that trend, also included a succinct and circumspect set of mature principles to aspire to live by.

• Be patient. No matter what. • Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him. • Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you. • Expand your sense of the possible. • Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
• Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself. • Tolerate ambiguity. • Laugh at yourself frequently. • Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right. • Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong. • Give up blood sports. • Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously. • Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.) • Learn the needs of those around you and respect them. • Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that. • Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun. • Praise at least as often as you disparage. • Admit your errors freely and soon. • Become less suspicious of joy. • Understand humility. • Remember that love forgives everything. • Foster dignity. • Live memorably. • Love yourself. • Endure.

Does Barlow leave anything out? What else would you add? The reminder is of course important and when Barlow originally complied his guidelines over forty years ago, he included the provision for any of his peers to point out his shortcomings when failing to uphold his ideal deportment.

process of bioremediation

Via the ever estimable Kottke, we learn about the enduring landscaping of ecological Finnish artist Agnes Denes, whose Tree Mountain was dedicated in 1996 atop the gravel pits of Pinziö near Ylöjärvi, Finland.
This monumental earthworks is meant to last for four hundred years at minimum or until its artificial nature is forgot and whose eleven thousand trees are carefully planted along an upwards spiral that follows the Golden Ratio will repair the scars left by human mining and restore the habitat for native species. The article on Kottke at the link up top also explains a rather pleasantly incongruous sight that I can remember seeing in the distance when coming into New York City’s Port Authority by bus from points south, a wheat field in Manhattan that Denes also sewed in 1982 and remains undisturbed.

Friday, 9 February 2018

unmarked white vans

Though not the first time while scavenging for a free-wifi connection I’ve perhaps innocently blundered through a covert operation and not potentially as damaging as the disclosure of seemingly innocuous and anodyne exercise routines, it does nonetheless to me seem rather uncreative to advertise one’s hotspot for all and sundry, even if password protected.

you’re doing fine oklahoma

I’ve been ruminating over an article from The Economist that I first came across on Super Punch but seen it syndicated elsewhere but felt a bit guilty at first for indulging poverty voyeurism, like slum tourism or ogling urban blight in the US Rust Belt, but finally did decide to share my thoughts, realising that this tragedy that has befallen the state of Oklahoma is a foretaste of the Trumpian, de Vosian hellscape that the rest of the nation has in store for it under a regime whose champions are antithetical to those institutions and values that they are charged with upholding. The state has dismantled its environmental regulations and subjugated its taxation scheme to attract fracking outfits that have not only ravaged the ecology but have left the landscape scarred and buildings and infrastructure damaged with public coffers empty and raided and no funds for repairs.
Above and beyond this acquiescence to oil barons, the state legislature is administratively embargoed from imposing new taxes to generate public revenue by falling for a political compact similar to the experiment that Colorado instituted, which left constituents soured on that libertine utopia. As a result of the collusion of these factors over a decade, the state’s education budget has stagnated and the state’s public school students are woefully underserved. Teachers’ starting salaries have remained the same for the past ten years and there’s a marked drain of talent and loyalty, and the only tool that districts have at the disposal to offset these atrocious and unattractive conditions of employment is to increasingly shift to four day academic weeks.  Ostensibly, educators might be willing to forego a living salary in exchange for an extra day off but the case is usually that teachers use the long weekends to take a second or third job at some fast food franchise or retailer who benefit from the corporate welfare of masses who'll subsidize their unnaturally low prices.  Of course, a four-day school week also has knock-on effects for working parents and probably means an extra day-care expense, without even addressing the disadvantage that it means for the students.  For businesses and families thinking of coming to precarious Oklahoma, this is a grave embarrassment and surely a major dissuasive factor.  What do you think?  Elections have consequences.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

stick insect

We enjoyed seeing this collection of moths, butterflies, mantises and beetles created by Montreal-based fashion designer Raku Inoue out of seasonal foliage. This series was inspired from studying ikebana or kadō (華道, the way of flowers)—the art of floral arrangement considered one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement along with kōdō (香道, the Way of Fragrance) or incense appreciation and chadō (茶道), the ritual of the tea ceremony, and taught the artist to respect and work with Nature, selecting bounty over beauty.

bratři v triku

Active from 1945 to 1965, influential Czech illustrator and animator Jiří Trnka was heralded as the Walt Disney of Eastern Europe for his manner of storytelling that drew on classic folktales but his distinctive stop-motion short films were allegories intended for adult audiences and a vehicle for satire.  Trnka found two partners and started an animation studio called Bratři v Triku (Brothers in Tricks) and eventually discovered his style, returning to the puppets that he used to entertain friends and family in his childhood.
Their early productions received international acclaim, recognised at the Cannes and Venice film festivals and Trnka managed to skirt the censors with messages that were mild to pointed rebukes of the Communist government. In his final years, however, Trnka’s output became more cynical and bolder in challenging the regime. His crowning achievement—and sadly his last work, dying four years later and banned as subversive after his death—was a short called Ruka (The Hand), which depicts a potter commissioned unwillingly to sculpt a likeness of the all-powerful Hand. Despite being pressured and plied awards and commendations, the potter views this as an unwelcome imposition (he’d rather be left to craft pots for his friends the flowers) turning into persecution as the Hand won’t relent. The potter escapes briefly and runs back home, tossing off his burden of medals and tries to barricade himself in his closet but as he does so, a flowerpot crashes down on his head—killing him. The Hand, afterward, holds a pompous funeral for the potter just as Trnka’s native Plzeň honoured him with a large public event. Only posthumously censored, The Hand may have been a prelude of the Prague Spring of 1968 and signal of a gradual socio-political thawing in the East.

monster of the week

While perhaps best known for his controversial cologne advertisement of kissing sailors in the midst of on-going debates about the US military doctrine of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell regarding the fitness of gay and lesbian to serve openly in the armed forces in 1995, amanuensis and apprentice to Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol David LaChapelle was also famous for his indulgent and wild photography sessions with celebrities. Apparently in circulation again is this exemplary series that encapsulates a certain look of the 1990s (possibly a little cringe-worthy) featuring X-Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson posed against immersive bright backdrops (perhaps an exploit of audience speculation on the duo’s platonic relationship) that look pretty astonishing for any decade. Visit LaChapelle’s studio to rediscover his work, which really informed the 90s and continues to make bold statements.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Recently my subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day (read about the founding contributors to the living document here) introduced me to the delightfully Latinate nonce word, uttered—or rather—committed to paper only once by Scottish epigrammist and translator Sir Thomas Urquhart of Comarty, quomodocunquizing. The term is defined as the act of making money by any means possible and appears in his 1652 work Ekskybalauron (Greek for gold out of dung and subtitled Or, the Discovery of the Most Exquisite Jewel, a prospectus on constructing a universal language) in the context, “those quomodocunquizing clusterfists and rapacious varlets.” On a side note, staunch Royalist and erstwhile political prisoner during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, Urquhart’s cause of death is listed as laughter, dying in a fit after having received the news of the restoration of the Stuart crown.


city mouse, country mouse: sociable chat bots reinforce linguistic theory that a bigger population of speakers simplifies grammar

anakongda: a fun text adventure from Neil Cicerga, via Waxy

night flight: Düsseldorfer Jakob Wagner takes us on a tour of nocturnal urban environments across the globe, via Twisted Sifter

silver bells and cockle shells: browsing seed catalogues with Lambert Strether

astray in a wood: Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell for semantic trespasses

park life: a photographer in Kiev documents a decade of a bench’s service to the community

inebriated narration: a drunk history lesson on rocketry pioneer and notable occultist Jack Parsons