Saturday, 24 March 2018

우정의 다리, мост дружбы

With a working-group being appointed to explore fording a second link between Russia and North Korea to supplement the Friendship Bridge—the sole crossing built in 1959 to allow train service over the Tumen River by special arrangement only and notably since last year a fibre optic cable, Calvert Journal correspondent Tom Masters candidly shares his railway journal from Pyongyang to Vladivostok. The account makes for an interesting read and the trip is illustrated with a lot of photographs. One of the only other points of entrance and egress for the country is the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge over the Yalu River, originally spanned by the Japanese Imperial Army when it occupied north-eastern China and the Korean peninsula during WWII, which allows both trains and cars but no pedestrian traffic.

their floors are sticky-mart

I was impressed and perhaps inspired when challenged inventor and noted 1970s men’s cologne Elon Musk deleted his Facebook pages for his enterprises—offering that they were pretty lame anyway. I hope others will follow Musk’s example, but while the great and the good can just will it so, it’s harder for most to just sever ties, despite how much it might be in our best interest, and send the message to all and sundry to be better stewards (volunteered or otherwise) of our data, realising that privacy policies begin with each of us. To better appreciate and anticipate the abusive and manipulative cloying that lasts until the final signing-off (and probably well beyond) Boing Boing directs us to a step-by-step narrative and reflection of the hurdles one must negotiate in order to unburden oneself of the social media platform. Your friends will miss you!

Friday, 23 March 2018

garbage in / garbage out

Though it is quite possible that for the present that the boasts of political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica regarding the scope of its role in swaying recent elections is just that—a little immodesty and exaggeration to reinforce their relevance—and perhaps an uncalculated bit of misdirection and subterfuge from the real agents imposing dear costs on rationality and reasonableness, it would nonetheless be ill-advised to be complacent and be unready in the event that such social engineering and manipulation becomes highly effective in the future and that what information we volunteer cannot be used against us.  


From the curated newsfeed of Damn Interesting, we learn that astronomers by reverse engineering present conditions and vectors have worked out that the Solar System was grazed by a passing red dwarf some seventy thousand years ago.
Though fifty thousand times further than the Sun is from the Earth, the flyby of Scholz’s star (named for its discoverer Ralf-Dieter Scholz of the Leibniz-Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam who also worked out the prehistoric trajectory) came within one light year’s distance and was probably visible as a dim red smudge in the night sky. The red dwarf is also suspected to be a binary system, paired with a non-luminous, invisible brown dwarf, or giant planet and those gravitational disruptions the visiting star caused will eventually—in about another million years—send a volley of comets into the inner Solar System. It’s an intriguing comfort to know that humans and Neanderthals that shared the Earth looked up and into the night and made up stories about what that red, marauding blur might be—but that mythology is only conjecture, just as how humans or other beings might interpret the omens of those future comets.

yes, I am the lorax who speaks for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we are introduced to a Berlin-based internet search engine called Ecosia whose simple and transparent business model based on advertisement revenue (if they’re going to profile you, invade your brain and vie for your attention anyway, then let it be at least for a good cause) has so far managed to underwrite the planting of approaching twenty four million trees—with a goal of a billion more trees by 2020.
We’ve grown keenly aware  of the contribution of forests to ecological balance, biodiversity and climate stabilization but we’ve got a long way to go to make up for our thoughtless past behavior. Join the team at Ecosia on their journey to achieve this good turn for the planet.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

horatory subjunctive

Not to draw more attention to the antics of the Trump regime, but by responding to former US vice-president Biden’s retort that he’d rather beat some sense into Trump before he’d deign to debate him with raw violence decontextualized—as Biden framed his “threat” as an abstraction that if they were in high school—a liminal age when such behavioural is not excusable but allowances are to be made and lessons learnt—illustrates that the subtlety was squandered on Trump.
Not that women are damsels in distress and cannot defend themselves from such tormentors, our money’s on Joe rather than the lazy blob of fat-calloused bone-spur who believes that exercise is unhealthy as it’s an unnecessary depletion of a body’s finite amount of energy.

avant garde gothic

To honour visionary typographical founder Herb Lubalin on what would have been his hundredth birthday on Saint Patrick’s Day, as Hyperallergic expertly reports, fellow font fanciers from his alma mater are issuing a hundred day Advent calendar of sorts to showcase the artist’s various contributions, including some rejected work never published before.
Though some of his calligraphy work may appear a bit dated, Lubalin’s most enduring and pervasive gift to graphic design is probably the typeface ITC Avant Garde Gothic, which is surely familiar and everywhere we look and now we can know a bit more about the individual behind it—ITC being the International Typeface Corporation started in 1970 in New York City by Lubalin and partners and responsible for the development of many font families. Lubalin Graph, a derivative font, was created especially for the US Public Broadcasting Service to give the network a brand identity and uniform recognition for their 1974 promotional campaign and developed over the following decades.

some settings are controlled by your network administrator

Helpfully the custom-edition of Outlook for Windows 10 issued to the US government—and perhaps other discerning clients—by default will analyze one’s sent emails to ascertain frequent contacts and typical subjects and offers to upload that information for no particular reason. Though it looks like one can opt out, I suppose that that would somewhat frustrate future investigations and hamper the identification of leakers if one did.


petrograd: a guided tour of the all the Russian cities playing venues to this summer’s World Cup Games

guidon: a clever little programme that allows you to fly your own flag (try an image with transparency), via Boing Boing

best of show: a world map depicting most of the World Canine Federation’s three-hundred-fifty recognised breeds and their place of origin

outside looking in: Lithuanian design studio pays homage to Soviet style apartment façades with custom washroom tiles

shortlisted: the winners and runners-up of the eleventh Sony World Photography Awards (previously)

off-kilter: the witch-proof windows of Vermont and related architectural elements

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

curiouser and curiouser, hit or miss

Writer and logistician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll (previously), concluded his 1886 The Game of Logic—which challenged readers in an engaging way to parse out Boolean inferences and propositions by means of a table top game that the book instructed players to make—with a chapter subtitled “Thou canst not hit it, hit it, hit it,/Thou canst not hit it, my good man.” Ninety one pairings of seemingly logical premises ensue but there’s no key or solutions to be found, so one is expected to draw his or her own conclusions. Though these aphorisms might be debated at the Mad Hatter’s table, they are also quite poetic and enigmatic. Be sure to check out Futility Closet at the link above to browse the whole list and nominate your favourite.
Some oysters are silent;
No silent creatures are amusing.

No frogs write books;
Some people use ink in writing books.

His songs never last an hour;
A song, that lasts an hour, is tedious.

Some mountains are insurmountable;
All stiles can be surmounted.

All wasps are unfriendly;
No puppies are unfriendly.

All owls are satisfactory;
Some excuses are unsatisfactory.

Caterpillars are not eloquent;
Jones is eloquent.

golden thread or tanglewood tales

Named after a stately mansion whose grounds were the venue for outdoors summer concerts—a tradition in the Berkshires, a prime destination for industrialists in the Gilded Age—that the author had a view of from his humble rented cottage, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the book Tanglewood Tales for Boys and Girls as a sequel to A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys in 1853.
The introduction to Greek mythology’s most celebrated edition was issued in 1921, accompanied with beautiful Art Nouveau illustrations by artist Virginia Frances Sterrett. This image depicts a scene from Circe’s palace—the sorceress who was the sister of Aeetes, keeper of the Golden Fleece, and aunt to the Minotaur—when Odysseus and his crew first enter to investigate, hearing Circe singing sweetly as she worked her handloom, an episode that foreshadows his eventual reunion with his faithful wife Penelope who was forever weaving and unweaving a burial shroud in anticipation of the death of her aged father-in-law Laërtes, offering that she is deferring picking from her many suitors until she is done with that task.

nur bei grün gehen

Boing Boing reports that ahead of the Fifth of May two hundredth anniversary of the birth of native son Karl Marx, the city of Trier has installed special commemorative Ampelmännchen. City officials also plan to unveil a bronze sculpture donated by the government of China on Marx’ birthday.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

boardwalk empire

Messy Nessy Chic USA correspondent Luke Spencer explores the mothballed resorts and casinos of Atlantic City, New Jersey—a city (previously) with an economy briefly revived by world-class shyster Donald J Trump, whose spelunking serves as a vital illustration of how an opportunistic, rentier business model enriches no one but the syndicate itself.

national treasure

Things Magazine directs our attention to a special exhibit that showcases the UK National Gallery’s recollection of the evacuation of its collections during World War II to an abandoned slate quarry in Snowdonia for safe-keeping. Paintings, sculpture and other artefacts were stored in the cavernous shafts of the Manod mines near the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales from 1941 to 1945, fulfilling Winston Churchill’s pledge that “not one picture will leave this island.”

zero-player game

Conceived in 1970, the Game of Life is a demonstration of iterative arrays from British polymath and professor John Horton Conway. Categorised as a zero-player game, human involvement or volition only takes place at the initial state, seeding the game’s grid universe, which determines how the board evolves over subsequent generations. Each grid square or cell can be either populated or unpopulated—on or off—and interacts with the eight other cells that frame it according to four basic protocols: an isolated cell perishing from underpopulation, a cell with the right amount of neighbours thrives, a cell with too many neighbours dies from overcrowding, and an unpopulated cell with a precise amount of neighbours becomes populated—as if by reproduction.
Cellular automata such as these have practical applications in encryption and security, owing the unpredictable nature of the outcome though the world and conditions can be fully known, but also produces interesting, stable algorithmic organisms that oscillate and creep across the board. Of course these creatures only evolve by analogy, sort of like how artificial intelligence is an approximation of cognition through pattern-recognition and exploitation, but is a useful tool for visualising how computational routines work and a way to comprehend how machines learn and behave in novel and unexpected ways.

Monday, 19 March 2018


The Arts & Culture department of Google has an interesting, intuitive and playful experimental application to play around with called Art Palette. The colour scheme of billions of paintings and other artefacts have been analysed and users can either browse serendipitously or submit images for comparison to find complimentary compositions.

taiyō no tō

Spoon & Tamago report that after months of repairs and renovations to redress years of neglect and to bring the structure up to earthquake code, the Tower of the Sun (太陽の塔) created by abstract artist Tarō Okamoto as the symbol of Expo ’70—the first world’s fair held in Asia, has been reopened to the public after a lengthy hiatus. The tower is located just outside of Tokyo on the grounds of a purpose-built park, and the interior houses a monumental art and educational display called “The Tree of Life” (which is particularly psychedelic and mind-expanding as well) and educates visitors on evolution and ecology. Be sure to visit the link up top to find out more and arrange a visit.


Our gratitude to Kottke who rummaged up this heartening article from the archives of the Atlantic regarding a municipal project in Melbourne that had some unexpectedly touching outcomes.
The superintendent of the city’s parks and gardens assigned individual, monitored email addresses to every tree on public and private land so that residents could report potential problems—like an errant branch threatening to snap a power line.  Instead, however, Melbourne was rather overwhelmed with affectionate and appreciative correspondence from humans to their arboreal neighbours. Most of the messages were one way, but city officials took the time to answer some of the senders’ inquiries, especially when there was a teachable moment—such as explaining the concept of gender in trees. I wonder if this initiative continues, and it is also positive to note that the interconnected Internet of Things is not just potentially paternalistic and judgmental but can also elicit notice, empathy and protective instincts and elevate things above their utility.


Via Hyperallergic’s required reading, we discover that though overshadowed by other culinary influences presently that Portugal has played an outsized role in world gastronomy. Dishes that we consider a tradition staple of Japanese dining—fried vegetables or tempura (天ぷら)—was introduced by Portuguese traders who had a presence in Japan for about a century until being banished in 1639 for proselytizing, the ruling shogunate believing that Christianity was a threat to a stable society.
The recipe adapted from peixnhos da horta (little fish of the garden) for battered and fried green beans came to be known as tempura is etymologically tied to Christianity, being a Lenten substitute for a filling meal for those too poor to afford actual fish as a break from fasting, coming from the Latin tempora which indicated the time for abstaining. Improvising Portuguese canteen operators also whipped up a spicy, wine marinated pork dish called carne de vinha d’alhos, which in the former colonial outpost of Goa in India informed the reimport vindaloo. Be sure and visit BBC Travel at the link up top for recipes and to learn more.

Sunday, 18 March 2018


A retrospective of the work of the artist Grant Wood, who is now accorded iconic-status for his piece American Gothic, prompts a conversation with the exhibitions curators and a cultural historian whose undertaken an extensive study of the sociological milieu that informs both painting and audience and explores how public reception of Wood has transformed from a generally negative one interpreting Wood’s statement as one of disrespect and disdain for small-town America to something that represents the nation’s deepest-held values.
The motors of this change was both the artist being forced to defend his portrayals and character- isations and a paradigm shift experienced by civil society as a whole that saw honest and hard work arguably ennobled. The exchange, however, does not limit itself to this one portrait and looks across his entire visual repertoire to glean examples of the artist’s sense of irony and playfulness. The 1939 work pictured is called “Parson Weems’ Fable” and indulges some of America’s foundation myths—but so bizarrely, it’s rather beyond interpretation with the Gilbert Stuart version of Washington’s face superimposed on a young boy Invasion of the Body-Snatchers-style and could probably use some unpacking. The title refers to the book agent whom wrote the first unauthorized biography of the president just after his death in 1799 and famously embellished his life’s history with quite a few apocryphal anecdotes. Be sure to visit the link to the whole interview from Hyperallergic at the link up top to learn more.


sprezzatura: the philosophical significance of elegnace 

westward ho: artist explores the mythos of the expanded settlement of American territory through miniature landscapes of faux furs

biopic: a look at the life and times of Patrick Wayne 

saints preserve us: let’s not make it a thing to say one’s been blessed by the algorithm

since sixt week j learn the englich and j do not any progress: admirably, whilst in exile on Saint Helena, General Napoleon endeavoured to learn the English language  

the architecture of choice: a data analyst comes forward to reveal how a strategic communications company subverts the democratic process 

rajneeshpuram: they’ve made a documentary featuring that Oregon-based utopian cult of the early 1980s 

night fever: an exhibition on five decades of discos and clubbing opens in Weil am Rhein

the hare of inaba

We find ourselves introduced to a foundational folktale thanks to the stunning illustration by Kureha Rokuro commissioned for a 1943 publication, The Gods of Japan—Nihon no Kamisama, 日本の神さま.
The titular hare of the ancient account, a tale in the origin saga of Japan, who tricks snarks—by appealing to their vanity—to line up for roll-call while the hare bounds over them (counting off as he goes, the sharks sure that the membership of their clan outnumbered that of the population of confined hares) as a bridge to get from the isolated island of Oki to the Hakuto coast, home of present day Tottori. The hare boasts that he has deceived the dumb sharks as he nears the end (possibly the entire rabbit tribe had used this bridge to evacuate the island) and the last shark lashes out at him and rips off his pelt. Bereft of his fur and quite uncomfortable, the hare entreats a passing column of eighty brothers on a courtship embassy to compete for the affections of the Princess of Inaba. To a man, they either had no time for the hapless creature or dismissed it with bad advice. One brother, the lowliest of them all and with the most meagre prospects, took the time however to care for the hare and prepared and applied a poultice that soothed his raw skin and restore his fur. In gratitude, the hare reveals his true nature as a god and promises to elevate the youth who helped him with his kindness and ensured that he would be the one to wed the princess.

floh und trödel

Caught spelunking in the archives of Present /&/ Correct, Things magazine directs our attention to the highlights of four years of visually alluring used books spotted at markets but not necessarily adopted and given a new home. Though I can never quite work up the courage to ask to take just a picture of books, pottery, naïve art or postcards (or sneak one without asking), the dilemma of space and the grief I’ll get when I pretend that it just followed me home is something that I can definitely relate to.

Saturday, 17 March 2018


With the Trump regime already shrinking the size of National Parks in the United States and selling off public lands plus having installed an interior secretary seemingly antithetical and outright hostile to the notion of preserving the country’s natural and historical heritage, a concerned congresswoman inquired about the future funding for the preservation of the camps where US citizens of Japanese heritage (including her own grandfather) were interned after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Flippantly, the secretary thought it an appropriate opportunity to demonstrate his limited Japanese language skills on the congresswoman and replied, “O konnichiwa.” The congresswoman kept her composure in this rather awkward and insulting moment with the gentle correction, stating that it was still “ohayo gozaimasu but that’s OK”—noting it was still morning time and not yet appropriate to use the secretary’s greeting for good afternoon. Though the secretary later conceded that the sites were an important part of the country’s history and the budget cuts were probably an administrative oversight, it is still unclear if any resolution came from this meeting. Another useful phrase that the secretary might want to add to his vocabulary is moushiwake arimasen deshita, I was crude and am profoundly sorry.

Friday, 16 March 2018

media interference

Back for its fourth season, the US National Public Radio podcast Invisibilia (previously) recently released a provocative episode made to make one resort to uncomfortable questions of moral equivalency and whataboutism with the story of the United Nations attempt to undermine the hegemony of an extremist organisation with pageantry, or in other words—to shape reality through reality television.
Somalia, the UN attempted to restore a degree of normalcy with a broadcast talent-show that embodied all the hallmarks of engagement with the liberal democratic process—to include judging on merit, respect for established and agreed-upon parameters and the exercise of free and secret balloting. Relying on an extensive body of research from sociologists who recognised the persuasive value of not only rhetoric but also of the poetic—since our cognition is attuned to storytelling, found that messaging, given the right platform, while it fails to change fundamental beliefs and core values can and does cause a paradigm shift in terms of accepted norms. All of a sudden, it becomes socially acceptable that one’s neighbours might be hauled away as infidels just as elsewhere regressive and racist points of view become again accepted and maybe those outliers are courting retribution down the line. Hosting a Western-style television reality competition maybe did not eliminate extremism in the region, just as the effect of Russian meddling is difficult to gauge for the political landscape of the United States and others, both are examples of social engineering and surely the sewing of discord is in the eye of the opposition. The story of this covert commission is nonetheless an inspiring and transformative one to hear.


Via Slashdot, we learn that to mark the island’s New Year (Isakawarsa) observance on this Saturday, the government of Bali will suspend internet services so Hindu residents may honour Nyepi, the Day of Silence, a time reserved for quiet reflection, meditation and fasting. The date is determined on the Balinese Saka calendar by the day that falls after the new Moon in the month corresponding with March in Western traditions. The streets are virtually deserted for the day and the island’s airport is closed as well—with exceptions only granted for emergencies.

an overwhelmingly american phenomenon

Earlier this week, activists arranged over seven thousand pairs of empty shoes on the lawn of the US Capitol to memorialise the estimated number of children killed in school shootings since the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and to call out the government for its inaction when it comes to gun control just ahead of the mass-walkout that many, many brave students organised to mark a month since the last tragedy and signal their unwillingness to perpetuate this cycle of violence and hand-wringing. This powerful and direct statement makes the stakes very concrete and not seem abstract at all, no matter one’s distance from such brutality and echoes other times artists and protesters, as Hyperallergic explores, have harnessed the sociological currency that clothes and apparel disembodied or otherwise out of place can impel people to listen and attend and allows people to consider matters otherwise to horrific to contemplate.


Open Culture reintroduces us to the international, interdisciplinary networked movement embraced by artists like Yoko Ono and John Cage engineered in the 1960s called Fluxus.
The experimental intermedia concept was first pioneered and developed by Henry Flynt (anti-artist), Nam June Paik (coining the term “electronic super highway”) and Wolf Vostell (Le Cri, the musical sculpture) and brought performance events and experiences into the realm of what was considered art with the first Fluxfests held in Wiesbaden (plus a number of other European venues) in 1962 with a range of concerts performed on antique instruments which were rather scandalously destroyed in the act. Fluxkits were also produced whose unboxing ceremonies were a thing to behold and take partake in. The guiding principles of the movement included, according to its manifesto, to purge the world of dead culture and promote pragmatic conscience through artistic expression that is accessible to all on all levels. Be sure to visit the link above to learn more and see more examples of the genre.

Thursday, 15 March 2018


drolatic dreams: 1565 series of woodcuts illustrating the bizarre and bawdy figures referenced in François Rabelais’ La vie de Gargantua et Pantagruel

rat race: after a five-year hiatus, Banksy returns to New York City

compagnons: perfect, model staircases made by apprentice French carpenters to showcase their talents

we are, then, gas engines: a selection of some of Alan Turing’s childhood reading

have we left this haunted house: reflections on the fiftieth anniversary of the delivery of Martin Luther King’s last public address

undersea kingdom: amazing claymation display of the ocean floor by Romane Granger synchronized to the music of Stevanna Jackson

mister fusion: Massachusetts Institute of Technology pledges to build a nuclear fusion power plant in fifteen years


Amusing Planet brings us the story of the planet’s loneliest tree, a stunted Sitka spruce, and how this transplant is the perfect candidate to mark the separation of the Anthropocene geological epoch. While on a survey expedition, Uchter Knox, Earl of Ranfurly and Governor of New Zealand, visited the remote Campbell Island and was possessed for to plant a tree on this otherwise treeless piece of land, whose climate is hostile to anything growing above ground level.
The specimen that Knox choose, however, is indigenous to a strip of coast in British Columbia—from the opposite ends of the Earth almost—and while not exactly qualifying as an invasive species, the spruce having taken root but never matured to produce cones, it does demonstrate the effect that humans have on the environment. Moreover, the tree is a contender for a “golden spike,” a symbolic milestone like the ceremonial final spike driven that marked the completion of the North American transcontinental railroad that arraign other epochal transitions like the asteroid strike that ended the Paleocene and age of the dinosaurs sixty-six million years hence, as the tree is also a living record of humanity’s attempt to harness and weaponise nuclear fission and fusion. In order to demonstrate that the impact of nuclear testing was truly pervasive and global—that no one was out of range, no matter how isolated or removed—researchers took core samples of the Sitka spruce and found traces of the radioactive carbon isotope that is the signature sign of atomic explosions especially concentrated in the growth rings that corresponded to the mid-1960s when testing was at its peak.

bluff and blunderbuss

Not that America had not already squandered any modicum of faith and confidence that the rest of the world might have held for it, Trump managed to destroy all traces of esteem and trust in a rambling, confusing speech at a party fund-raising event—having never made the transition from campaigning to governing—with the boast that he fabricated the trade imbalance between the US and Canada while meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, claiming that America had been put at a disadvantage when the opposite was true and the country’s northern neighbour had been an honest and true broker all along.
Though it’s to be expected that the Grifter in Chief and his apologists will traffic in lies and low-information, repute (especially one based on garbage and insincerity) does not replace facts and the rest of the world is not having it and will not suffer these dumb antics. Aside from this maneuver, Trump lashed out at other allies and trading-partners, including South Korea with the implied threat that the US would recall its thirty-thousand service members from the peninsula if the country does not pivot towards more American exports and Japan for its unreasonable (and imaginary) bowling ball impact standard that keeps American-made cars out of its markets but failed to address the protectionist embargo he enacted to impose tariffs on steel imports, which conversely make manufacturing outside of the US more attractive to industry and will most certainly translate to more jobs going overseas. His remarks also omitted the dismissal of his chief diplomat, the dangerous repeal of banking regulations put in place after the last global recession to try to stave off another one, the ongoing investigation into his regime’s ties to Russia, his affair with a porn star and rebuffed any hint of blame for the state of the Republican Party.


In circulation from 1883 to 2011, Inland Printer was among the first periodical to change its cover with every new issue and was instrumental in spreading the Art Nouveau movement in the US, itself launched in response to the booming Mid-Western print industry. The venerable trade magazine highlighted and heralded changes in design and style, showcasing new talent, and helped usher in other movements as it kept publishers abreast of the latest advances in colour printing and engraving—both for promotional ephemera and books meant to last. Check out a whole gallery of cover art and vintage advertisements from the magazine curated by Dangerous Minds at the link up top.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

in the temple of science there are many mansions

To mark what would have been his one hundred-thirty-ninth birthday, Aeon magazine features an engrossing and retrospective essay on the life and times of Albert Einstein and his contributions to science and social justice and his rather fraught and puzzled relationship to fame and celebrity. Speculating on why such rarified pursuits touching the nature of the Cosmos with rather destructive practical application resonated with the public, Einstein eschewed worship and was himself highly skeptical of appeal to authority, though owning he’d been duly punished for his distrust by becoming the expert witness for himself.

grøtmelet or the breakfast of champions

We enjoyed learning of the great Norwegian Porridge Feud of the mid-nineteenth century that was sparked by “scientific” thought encroaching on traditional foods. Domestic science—which did not always ascribe rigorously to the scientific method with opium and cocaine and sugar considered safe active ingredients or breakfast cereals promoted as a remedy against autoerotic excess and has a history of crazes, ulterior motives and a rather spotty reputation—sought to overhaul kitchen-witchery and folkways.
The first perceived assault came in the form of a cookbook that presumed to tell housewives that they’ve been making their porridge (grøt) and other staples wrong all along, authored by the well-meaning Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (under the pseudonym Clemens Bonifacius—the Gentle Helper). Would you have taken sides? This controversy, seen by many to be a grave insult to homemakers but alternately drew many to companion the new science, forwarded the debate between traditional wisdom and expert application in view of the evolving realities of the way we live and eat—both ushering in a greater variety for Scandinavian diets but also the ills of processed and refined foods.

ad astra

As we mark the passing of Professor Hawking, we are confident that his legacy and inspiration will endure for ages to come and it’s a testament to human perseverance and advances in health care that he survived and thrived for decades and upheld a career both as a scientist and personality.
While we’re of course privileged and richer for having shared this existence with Professor Hawking, it is also a bit disheartening to imagine what’s left unfinished, bittersweet knowing there are others to come to champion mathematics and the sciences and take up the gauntlet of pondering the mysteries of the Universe. Although plenty of marvels (some by his own contributions) have been revealed—like our conception of Black Holes, gravitational waves and the profusion of exoplanets—we had hoped that Professor Hawking would have lived to see planetary colonisation and first contact. And while most of his charismatic appearances have been cameos, Professor Hawking’s final role (that we were just enjoying yesterday, in fact) was playing the next edition of the eponymous Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (the audio book version of the guide) in BBC’s radio drama of Douglas Adams’ work—reprised with continuing adventures forty years after the original serialisation. Per aspera ad astra. Per ardua ad astra.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


First shown as part of a comprehensive exhibition on the artist in the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2013, Open Culture pays a tribute to Paul Robertson’s Periodic Table of David Bowie as its twelve city gallery tour is coming to a close in Brooklyn. Each period and series feature figures that Bowie has either inspired or credits as influencers. Be sure to visit the link above to learn more and to watch a video summary of the arrangement.


We know it’s an advertisement for a major food manufacturer but this spot from Japanese conglomerate Ezaki Glico (probably best known globally for their pocky snacks) that illustrates the stages and milestones of life with seven-two actresses (aged the year of life that they each portray) is really rather a poignant one. Even though Japan enjoys a much longer life-span, the company choose the number to highlight the fact that the world-wide average life-span for women is 71.8 years—though an astronomical improvement over what it was a century ago at a mere thirty-one years.

don’t confuse me with the facts. i’ve got a closed mind.

Serving as a reminder that even in these dark days, the arc of history bends towards justice, we would do good to recall the infamous gaffe of Indiana congressman and noted Nixonian sycophant Earl Fredrick Landgrebe.
Staunchly defending the seemingly indefensible actions of Richard Nixon throughout the Watergate Hearings even as documents surfaced demonstrating that Nixon himself directed aids to hinder the investigation of the break-in, Landgrebe pledged, “I am going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.” In lieu of impeachment, the very next day (8 August 1974) Nixon tendered his resignation and stepped down from high office. For his pledge of loyalty, Landgrebe was voted out of the House of Representatives a few months later. While such historical anecdotes are heartening, we’d also do well to remember that Americans—as well as dozens of other nations past and present—have systematically surrendered their political will and power by consenting to allow governments to work towards the advantage of business and personal enrichment rather than for the betterment of society.

Monday, 12 March 2018


media diet: what a journalist gleaned by restricting himself to print sources for a period of two months, via Swiss Miss

firmitas, utilitas, venustas: Doctor Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, noted for forwarding architectural dialogue and vision in South Asia, is the first Indian awarded the prestigious Pritzker prize—whose motto is founding father Vitruvius’ own

miss congeniality: a look at vintage prom royalty, via Everlasting Blört

theliving daylights: an overview of some of the world’s stranger time zones

ombudsman: Wikipedia’s carefully considered editorial decision on how to best illustrate its entry on “human,” via Slashdot

student thesis: thematic parallels between Jurassic Park (1993) and The Towering Inferno (1974)

night on bald mountain: long exposure shots of circling drones create halos in the sky 


Literally meaning “group land,” we are given a visually striking introductory tour of Japan’s danchi—large clusters of apartment towers executed in concrete (previously here, here and here) meant to offset the housing pressures experienced in the 1950s through the 1970s from the country’s then growing population—from Tokyo-based photographer Cody Ellingham.
Though many of the structures are aging, maintained either by the local authorities to provide public housing or by large corporations to provide places to live for their staff and promote workforce cohesion, rent for danchi units is either nominal or non-existent and interested parties apply for residency through a lottery programme. Check out the link above from Spoon & Tamago to learn more and peruse a whole gallery of apartment blocks.

medical model, social model

In order to raise awareness for individuals with physical handicaps and promote how advanced three-dimensional printing technology are making prosthetic limbs accessible to more people, an advocacy organisation in based in Paris have outfitted several statues from Antiquity and more recent times—including a life-sized replica of the famously disarming Venus de Milo—who’ve sustained some damage over the centuries with artificial arms and legs.
The campaign is operating under the principle that no body in the world should have to wait so long before being made whole—not that the fractured, whom because of their flaws like Venus epitomise perfection, but rather to urge reflection on how we frame being able-bodied and how assistive devices (as spectacles and hearing-aides have done) might shed their associated stigmas.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

midge at the mic

Earlier this week marked the anniversary of the identification and arrest of broadcast personality “Axis Sally” employed by Nazi Germany in order to spread propaganda and engineer public opinion and reception of the Allied war effort in 1949. Mildred Elizabeth Gillars, originally from Portland, Maine, was one of those Lost Generation types that came of age between the wars and was quite disaffected by the failure of her aspirations to become an actress. Not able to sustain a career in New York City, Gillars moved to Paris and then to Algiers before finding stable employment in Dresden in 1934 first as an English teacher and then with the Reichs-Rundfunk state media outlet.

The pursuit of fame often is expressed as infamy and Gillars’ case is perfect example. Though protesting that she signed an oath of allegiance under great duress after the attack on Pearl Harbor which pulled the US into the war and that she had no truck with Nazi ideology, under the influence of various Svengalis, Gillars’ prolific programmes turned pointedly vile, broadcasting under several pseudonyms and conflated with other parallel campaigns of disinformation and demotivation, with arcs of narrative aimed to engender homesickness for troops stationed overseas and suggest that prolonged absence did not make the heart grow fonder with sensational stories of infidelity while husbands were away at the front. For Midge at the Mic, Gillars would DJ a music hour with American songs with interstitials attacking the US government. Here is a link to an audio recording hosted on YouTube. Gillars was apprehended in Berlin running a second-hand furniture operation and was tried and convicted on a single count of treason (despite a litany of charges brought against her) for a broadcast that preceded the storming of the beach at Normandy by just a few days designed to make families question the worth of their sacrifice. Once discharged after serving a sentence of eleven years, Gillars confined herself to a convent and taught German, French and drama classes in an attached academy.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

alpha predator

Via the always brilliant Nag on the Lake, we learn of the successful trial run of a robotic monster to mitigate human and wildlife competition for resources that’s a sort of next generation of scarecrow. Orchard-keepers and rice farmers in Japan can now summon the juggernaut Super Monster Wolf as a means of keeping wild boars out of their chestnut groves and rice paddies without resorting to more lethal countermeasures.
Its prowling and howls are adaptive so its quarry does not grow inured to its presence and the terrifying turns into the laughable. Having had a close-call with one of these hulking beasts (not pictured—this one was relatively tame and confined to a wild park), we wonder if Super Monster Wolf could be persuaded to patrol different beats besides safeguarding crops in order to keep animals away from busy roads and out of harm’s way. Be sure to visit the links up top to learn more and see a video demonstration of Super Wolf in action.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

railroaded or letter of the law

The legal fiction of natural and corporate personhood—apparently with all benefits and responsibilities appertaining to, including the right to unimpeded free speech and no abridgement of religious liberties (though it is difficult to envision what that looks like for a corporation) has probably the basest and most twisted phoney, flimsy precedence that I’ve encountered since perhaps the selling of papal indulgences—and given the kleptocracy, kraterocracy that we’ve inherited, that speaks volumes.
About a decade after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution that provided that no person can be denied the citizenship and civil rights afforded to anyone without due legislative process that applies to every individual equally in the summer of 1868, a train magnate and Civil War Reconstructionist Robber Baron and a corruptible justice who fabricated accounts of deliberations of the constitutional amendment that ensured formerly enslaved people would be less systematically marginalized be testifying that the original version of the draft used the term “citizen” instead of person and by a patently sophistical argument by extrapolation if it was unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of identified or attributed racial background, it stood to reason that it was equally a protected category when it came to natural versus agglomerated personhood—otherwise corporate citizenship. Though many landmark and recognisable cases appeal to the standard set by the Fourteenth Amendment: Plessy v Ferguson, Brown v Board of Education, Dred Scott v Sandford (the impetuous for the amendment that it overturned, an earlier finding that proffered Americans descended from enslaved people could not participate fully in civil society) and even latter day decisions like Gore v Bush in the disputed outcome of the 2000 presidential election or the bevvy of cases pertaining to marriage equality, the celebrity is overshadowed by the rather dull realm of the infringement by state or private institutions on corporate mission and vision whose litigations (despite the speciousness of the argument) make up the bulk of its legal exercise.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018


Tuesday, 6 March 2018


By way of Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day, we’re drawn to perhaps summon a demon or two. The first exorcise is in deference to a maleficent entity, who is either facing redundancy owing to the eternal, infernal memory of the internet or is now finding himself racing to beat the devil for a backlog of old business, by the name of Tutivillius, the Worthless One.
Tutivillius is charged with maintaining one’s permanent record, as it were, recording one’s misdeeds—specifically the sack of syllables that represent the mumblings, grumblings, gossips and complaints dropped unwitnessed—like so many crumbled cookies of one’s digital footprint—during church service, when one’s thoughts were supposed to be at their most refined and rarified. This recorded testimony is used against an individual on Judgement Day. A second—related or conflated demon and the creation of his own handywork—is called Titivillus, whose duty which he gladly discharges on behalf of Lucifer is to introduce errata into copy and text that escapes the keen eyes of scribes and editors and is the bane of proofreaders: namely in infamous publications like the 1631 edition known as the Wicked Bible since some of the Commandments omitted the not part from thou shalt. The two are probably one and the same—owing to a typo which the demon trafficks in. Titvillus is also blamed for mispronunciation and other slips of the tongue. The superstition that the latter possessed orators and haunted the presses is the reason a printer’s apprentice is referred to a printer’s devil, charged with the most onerous of tasks and was the brunt of blame (perhaps nowadays a jamming, problematic laser-printer) when an error popped up.


Enjoying a brief two year run from 1968, Teen Look was a weekly publication brilliantly illustrated by Satsuku Okamoto meant to promote a harmonising dialogue (which I guess all teen interest magazines are and always were) between adolescents and their parents.
We liked exploring the gallery of covers curated by Dangerous Minds and appreciated—as this is the case with many captivating works of graphic design (especially foreign ones) that are circulated widely but often without background or context—moreover the appeal for more information (nothing easily retrievable), both on the magazine and its readership and on the artist.