Thursday, 24 May 2018

buchette del vino

We’ve certainly overlooked this feature of vernacular architectural unique to Florence (Firenze) but on future trips will certainly be on the lookout for wine windows, which enabled passers-by to conveniently purchase a glass or bottle and other staples on the go.
Goods exchanged would have included Chianti bottled in traditional cushioning straw-jacketed vessels, called fiascos—Italian for flask (fiaschi, pedantic plural form) and by extension a humiliating situation for failing to make a bottle properly which ought to be something that is easily accomplished. Unfortunately, none of the remaining artefacts of a post-Renaissance time when wealthy Florentine landowners fell on harder times and turned towards cottage and craft industries to supplement their income remain in service but can still be spotted and appreciated.


Via accomplished internet caretaker Miss Cellania, we’re introduced to the intriguing notion that we are most likely to first detect signs of extra-terrestrial life on worlds tidally-locked (like the Moon to the Earth or Mercury in relation to the Sun) to their host stars.

Rather than necessarily being restricted to a so-called Goldielocks zone of habitability (not so chauvinistic to accommodate life as we know it and our assumptions but rather a sanctuary wherein conditions are stable enough to foster multiple generations of an organism and let Nature runs its course) these exoplanents, dubbed eyeball worlds, because while one hemisphere always faces the star and is arid—perhaps inhospitably so—and the other side is eternally frozen and always experiences night, there’s a narrow meridian that rings the pupil of the planet that could provide the right conditions for life to flourish—in between the two extremes. Eyeball planets are potentially plentiful and might have a bit of the right real estate. Learn more at the links above.

cosmic interlopers

The excitement and wonder surrounding the confirmation of the first known interstellar object, Oumuamua, to just pass through our Solar System was of course just opening up our eyes to the possibility that there may be many more visitors out there, and presently astronomers believe that they have solid evidence for another (albeit on much longer layover) guest from outside of Solar System. Almost all objects in the Solar System orbit the Sun (or planetary hosts) in the same direction with a minority of retrograde orbitals—usually attributed to a reconstructed, violent past—however an asteroid going against the grain, performing a complicated exchange between the tug of Jupiter and the pull of the Sun seems to be a strong candidate for more exotic origins.

inherit the wind

Following Turkey’s and Florida’s decision to strike evolution from its public school curriculum, the state of Arizona is set to order that science textbooks and syllabi be revised to remove references to evolution and the Big Bang and replace them with euphemistic phrases, in order to avoid the appearance of unfairly subjecting students to indoctrination.

Though the possibilities which religious fundamentalists consider conjecture rather than an accepted, progressing fact because they have “theory” (a generalised and consistent description of how things work, contrasted with practise) attached to them are not completely edited out, the awkward language enlisted to avoid the terminology associated with natural selection and current cosmology accomplishes what it was designed to do in failing to impart students with critical-thinking skills and an interest in the sciences. Let’s hope that the kids are more resilient than the forces of regression and devolution.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018


labyrinthine: the hand-rendered mazes and patterns of Polish architect Wacław Szpakowski

american pastoral: acclaimed writer Philip Roth has passed away, aged 85

unanswered questions: a transcript Facebook CEO’s session before the European Union Parliament, just days before the GDPR goes into effect

pivot: geopolitical power shift perhaps captured in the juxtaposition of two seminal summits

grids and greenways: a plush rug maps out the borough of Manhattan

data-points: US leaders analyse the causes of gun violence  

blopper reel: outtakes from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas


Our gratitude to Nag on the Lake for introducing us to the Franco-American industrial design pioneer Raymond Loewy whose multidisciplinary vision informs a magnitude of iconic brands and defining how form follows function.
Among his contributions are the interior of the Boeing Stratoliner, various locomotives, coaches, the Sears Coldspot refrigerator, the Schick electric razor, the Lincoln Continental, a jukebox, a version of the Coca-Cola bottle and the Coke can, Lucky Strikes cigarette packaging, subway cars plus the interior and living space of Skylab and the Concorde. Additionally, Loewy created logos for TWA, SPAR, Exxon, Shell and many others. Go over to Nag on the Lake at the link up top to see an insightful 1979 CBS television interview with Loewy, dubbed by the press as the Man who Shaped America.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018


Rummaging through the archives of the intrepid explorers at Amusing Planet, we came across a rather singular decommission of a former US defensive installation that effectively was only in service for a period of one day before being officially mothballed.
The remaining ensemble of buildings, including the pyramid-like housing of the Missile Site Radar and underground silos that held anti-ballistic missiles (rockets designed to disable in-coming weapons), of the Stanley R Mickelsen Safeguard Complex outside of the Grand Forks Air Base in the state of North Dakota were eventually purchased by a local Hutterite Colony (one of the Plain peoples) at an auction for half a million dollars in 2012 and was built in order to defend the arsenal of Minuteman missiles kept at the Air Base. Provisions of the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I treaty) with the Soviet Union allowed signatories to equip themselves with a limited number of such anti-ballistic defences and the base in North Dakota was to be the first component of a large shielding, network. The base came on-line in April 1975 but would not achieve full operational capacity until 1 October 1975; the following day, the US legislature voted to deactivate the programme, recognising that militarily, it had little merit and could not justify the costs. After nearly a decade of development, Congress became convinced that the system devised by Bell Labs was a folly that would not deliver under actual assault and Safeguard was defunded. The new owners—who are attested pacifists—are charged with preserving the historic character of the site but I suppose otherwise are allowed to use it as they see fit. Be sure to visit Amusing Planet at the link up top to learn more and see a whole gallery of pictures of the base.


Though I’d venture that the US has been undergoing its moment of constitutional crisis since installing a morally and financially bankrupt television reality show host and allowing his syndicate family to capture a purchase in government that will be a challenge to excise from their greedy, self-absorbed little hands, and though nothing comes as a surprise anymore in a world dilated by Trumpian times, this latest assault against justice and the primacy of law is pretty chilling.
Backed into a corner, Trump is trying to dismantle and discredit the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling by sewing the suggestion of partisanship behind it (isonomy is the principle that the law applies equally to all and that no one is above it), masking his own treason of unqualified narcissism that even bullying himself into a leadership role and its subsequent abdication of the responsibility that goes with it cannot even sate. Others in government and international observers know it’s the refuge of autocrats to pervert justice for their own gain and to silence dissent but those in a position to do something to reign in Trump are far too deep in the pockets of the lobbyists to speak up and the international community is recognising the fecklessness of faded power and influence. Omission and tacit-approval are indeed how the inviolable is violated.

Monday, 21 May 2018

playbill and pressbook

Though honoured and acknowledged throughout his career that spanned seven decades and intersected with the canon of every major producer, director and actor in Hollywood, the name Bill Gold, who passed away over the weekend at age 97, may not register for many though his signature style as the public face of cinema’s coming-attractions most certainly will be instantly recognisable. Establishing himself with a commission to do the publicity posters for Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942, Gold created thousands of display materials for the box-office and bill-board, most prolific during the 1970s and 1980s—though coming out of semi-retirement to design posters for Mystic River and J. Edgar. Read a retrospective and sample a gallery of more of Gold’s iconic work at this American Film Institute profile from 2016.

homage to the square

Artist and educator Josef Albers (1888* - 1976†) joined the Bauhaus movement (previously) and was celebrated in both the Weimar and the Dessau camps matriculating new members into the principles of handcrafts and was promoted to a full professorship and collaborated with artists like Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky with furniture designs and glassworks, until the artistic cooperative was forced to disperse under pressure from the ascendant Nazi government. Albers immigrated to America and was sponsored by Black Mountain College of North Carolina, offered a teaching position at the new school of arts.
Perhaps best known for his series of mediations, studies—numbering in the hundreds like this “Homage to the Square: Unexpected Turn” (1959) or “Saturated” (1962) that he executed with a palette knife and meticulous recorded the pigments, Albers was completely given to teaching, owing that institutionalised no one was an artist or master and that all were learners and developed an influential treatise on the theory of colour (available as an app) as well as developing the foundational curriculum for the discipline which is now called graphic design.

artists & repertoire

Via Present /&/ Correct, we are introduced to graphic designer and illustrator Regan Ray who carefully curates and shares some of the material he turns towards for inspiration, including catalogues of labels, imprints and logos, like these vintage ones from the recording industry. Be sure to check out Ray’s commissions and collections at the links above.

going native, going naïve

In a surprising experimental set-up that could possibly pose a challenge—and surely many nuances—to the commonly-held theory that memories and learned behaviour resides in the strength of the synapses (sort of a non-space, a gap when one thinks about it), researchers found that non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) transplanted from an acclimated snail to a non-acclimated, naïve snail can seemingly carry and impart training from one to the other.
Long term memories may have an epigenetic—the way the expressions of genes are regulated—component to them, while many are sceptical of the experiments claims, which makes sense to a degree on a chemical level as the transplanted RNA would be primed to encode for a stress-reaction and maybe such primal responses are meant to be contagious and empathetic regardless of direct exposure. No snails were harmed in this experiment but the technique and theory behind it references the research conducted by biologist and animal psychologist James V McConnell in the 1950s and 1960s in which flatworms were trained to solve a maze and then fed to untrained individuals who seemed to take on the knowledge and experience of those they’d just incorporated. Made into fodder for speculative fiction, McConnell’s unorthodox beliefs in the nature and fungibility of memory also made him on the targets of the Unabomber in the mid-1980s, surviving the attack but suffering hearing-loss.

leave the driving to us

Informed via Slashdot that Estonia from 1 July on will make its public mass-transit services essentially fare-free throughout the country—following similar though not encompassing schemes in Paris and Wales—I was relieved to learn that others, even politicians and city-planners, also realise that the future of driver-less, chauffeured transportation has always been with us, even if collective solutions are not as sleek and smug as reinventing the wheel.
Tallinn too has been addressing last-mile conundrums with automated mini-buses to supplement its network as well. Implementation is surprisingly inexpensive, even factoring in on the lost revenue (which might for a time be recouped from tourists), whose blow is dulled by the fact that one can eliminate the administrative cost of managing ticket sales and inspections—not to mention reduced air-pollution, less congestion and increased mobility and self-determination for an ageing rural population.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

rallye und rhön-zügle

For certain holiday week-ends, the historic train station in the town of Fladungen (where we’ve often visited in the past for their now discontinued classic car shows but worth a visit any time) will reanimate its fleet (two) of steam locomotives (built in 1924 by the firm Krauss-Maffei in Munich and the only ones of their kind still in operation) and antique Reichsbahn passenger cars for fun little short-haul whistle-stop tours.
We boarded for a journey to Ostheim and back, a stretch of road that we were familiar with but never quite from this perspective and pace, plus it was interesting to see the feats of practised engineering and mechanical dexterity that went into pulling of the operation and prompted one to reflect on what a revolutionary marvel that such an engine would have been when it first went into service.
It was a funny coincidence that we were best acquainted with Fladungen through an auto show that was no longer held and went next to see an assortment of classic cars reach the finish line (we were not sure who was in the pole-position but I guess it just counted if one could finish intact) and present themselves for inspection in the Kurpark of Bad Kissingen down the road a bit.
The storied spa town has been hosting the Sachs Franken Classic since 2000 in conjunction with Bad Kissingen’s twelve hundredth year since its first documented mentioned and the race, sponsored by ZF (Zahnradfabrik—Gear Factory—but also a mostly-owned subsidiary of Zeppelin Foundation, a manufacturer of automotive parts) runs through the region’s forests and vineyards, and it was inspiring in both instances that with maintenance and care such artefacts can remain active parts of the community.

diploma mills

Though not expressly a campaign promise, to undermine yet another aspect of the legacy of President Obama Trump halted the wide-ranging investigation instigated by his predecessor into the predatory practises of for-profit colleges, universities and trade-schools.
Not only will the dead-end schools that offer worthless degrees, engender no sense of collegiality and charge exorbitant, indenturing tuition fees deferred through federal loan programmes (which are no longer tax deductible) that’s essentially a subsidy for the private school industry—like giant retailors who profit through corporate welfare, paying their employees less than a living wage and relying on government aid to keep labour-costs artificially low, their being allowed to continue defrauding the government takes important funding away from struggling public schools and other cultural and educational programmes—not to mention inflating a market bubble whose inevitable implosion is to no one’s benefit.


Today is the Feast of the Pentecost (Pfingsten, previously)—coming ten days after the Feast of the Assumption (Christi Himmelfahrt, a Thursday observance that’s translated into Fathers’ Day in Germany and a long weekend)—which marks what many to believe is the foundational moment of the Church when the Holy Ghost again descends and speaks to His followers.
We have in our front garden what are known as Pfingstrosen (peony in English and named for Paeon the hapless physician’s apprentice of Asclepius who had a bit of an ego problem and did not want to see the student surpassing the teacher, and was turned into a flower by Zeus to protect him from the healer’s wrath) because they bloom around the time of movable feast—too soon but maybe they’ll open up later today.
This year Pentecost—from the Greek for the fifty(ish) day after Passover—coincides with the saint day of Lucifer of Cagliari, a fourth century bishop of Sardinia, who as a staunch orthodox and fighter against Arianism would be pleased to see that the tripartite being of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost has endured—rather than the heretical belief that Jesus was God’s son and not eternal and coterminous with the divine. While many appreciated Lucifer’s fervent support for one, united theological front, others regarded him as an abrasive bully who did not allow freedom in interpretation. Enjoying fine strawberries on Pfingsten, which we’ll do later, is said to signal a good year for wine.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

star-bellied sneetch

I’d venture that the internet will already have moved beyond this one virulent moment to the next that that makes us reinstate our tribalism and appeal to objective reality, and perhaps the Yanny/Laurel debate (more on auditory hallucinations here) is like anything else in wide circulation and is meant to glean data off us dum-dums, but it probably does bear repeating what we know of the architecture of choice and anticipation (more on suggestibility here) that might limn our decisions in one seemingly irreconcilable way over another.
Our perceptions and memories can drive wedges between groups of people who process the same ploy or appeal in vastly different ways—usually without great consequence like that dress (plus the science behind it) or how one remembers the Berenstein Bears (called the Mandela Affect), but rather than make us cower in doubt of the sturdiness of our senses, we should rather be willing to question our basic assumptions and cultivate more empathy—especially when the stakes are complex and demand attention and effort. One can hear either Yanny or Laurel because the synthesised voice is saying both and neither and one should not let illusion assume and assign membership, including one’s own affiliation.

main street america

Having explored previously the role that goodwill ambassadors played in the geopolitics and image-making during the Cold War for racial-relations and progress (albeit slow, insincere and woefully incomplete) with the grand international tours of the likes of legends like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington as cultural attachés to show the US as an enlightened and equitable society though still tragically treated not much better once back in America, we found this quite well researched and lucid thread—via the inestimable Kottke—involving credentialed ambassadors to be a fascinating, parallel example to consider.
Post World War II saw a tranche of decolonisation in Africa and South East Asia which meant a lot more nations now controlled their own foreign policy and sent ombudsmen off to world capitals and at the UN. In the 1950s and 1960s (and lingering to this day in various forms), segregated restaurants in in the area around Washington, DC and along the corridor connecting Washington to New York City (US Route 40, known as America’s Main Street) refused to serve these newly minted missions to America. Concerned that these African countries might take offense at America’s institutionalised racism and would instead place their fate in Soviet Communism, President Kennedy intervened and demanded that the restaurants make concessions in the name of national interest and relented. The same accommodations were not extended, at least not right away and without more work to be done in the name of civil rights to include an aspirational vision—to locals pretending to be African ambassadors.

Friday, 18 May 2018

mertensian mimicry

Brighton-based illustrator Richard Wilkinson has creatively reimagined insects as vehicles and characters from the Star Wars saga, complete with pseudo-Latin taxonomical designations. These realistically rendered creatures that come to our attention via Colossal are a teaser of sorts for a much larger up-coming volume entitled Arthropoda Iconicus which will reference other characters in popular culture.

sónar calling

Celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, the music, creativity and technology festival Sónar that just concluded in Barcelona, as BLDGBlog informs, is sending transmissions, short samples of electronic music to a potentially inhabited exoplanet via a high-gain radio station in Tromsø, Norway. The second of two signal bursts, it’s projected to arrive at Luyten β (GJ 273b)—orbiting a stable red dwarf star and among the most Earth-like planets discovered to date—by 2030 with a reply another dozen years in the waiting. Listen to the message and playlist at the link above.

Thursday, 17 May 2018


First published and distributed in 1909 by the Wobblies of Spokane, Washington, the Little Red Songbook—officially Songs of the Industrial Workers of the World—was a rousing compilation of standards meant to engender solidarity and lift the spirits of the marginalised. Nearly two hundred different songs were captured in editions that ran until 1973, including the anthem “The Red Flag,” which was adopted in 1945 by the British and Irish Labour parties—later in translation by the North Korean armed forces. Traditionally sung at the conclusion of every party congress—though under the leadership of Tony Blair the practise was discouraged. With the chorus:

Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Beneath its shade we’ll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the Red Flag flying here.

Sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum! (“Oh Christmas Tree” rather disconcertingly) the song’s stanzas (with the choral refrain in between) are as follows:

The People’s Flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts’ blood dyed its every fold.

Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow’s vaults its hymns were sung
Chicago swells the surging throng.

It waved above our infant might,
 When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We must not change its colour now.

It well recalls the triumphs past,
It gives the hope of peace at last;
The banner bright, the symbol plain,
Of human right and human gain.

It suits today the weak and base,
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
To cringe before the rich man’s frown,
And haul the sacred emblem down.

With head uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward ‘til we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.

rolling stock

The departed pair of graphic design pioneers Massimo and Lella Vignelli bequeathed their papers—some sixty years-worth of drawings, layouts and logo ideas, to the Rochester Institute of Technology, where a single archivist is discovering and documenting previously unknown treasures with regularity. Among the latest striking finds includes these circa 1973 proposals for an abstract diagrammatic map for Washington DC’s Metro system. The authorities ultimately opted for another concept but did incorporate some of Massimo’s ideas. Be sure to visit City Lab at the link up top to learn more about the artists and their legacy and to discover more artefacts.


Wanting to establish Nintendo reputation in the arcade—its first games flattering in popularity compared to rival Atari—the original concept for Donkey Kong was to feature Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto as an ensemble of characters.
The legendary video game engineer Shigeru Miyamoto, however, was not able to obtain the rights to these characters (until the following year—that is, and released a forgettable title based on the sailor man) so designed a world with an unnamed protagonist whose mission was to rescue Lady (later to be called Pauline) from a brute ape. Referred to as Jumpman in the instruction booklet and styled Mister Video by Miyamoto himself with the idea he would be a reoccurring character across all games, the character was limned out with a family and profession for his next appearance in Mario Bros., being the namesake of Mario Segale, the real estate developer that owned the warehouse where Nintendo had set up its US division. After a heated exchange between the company’s executives and the landlord over being behind on rent, game developers opted to name the character after him with assurances that they would be caught up on payments soon.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

the betterment of well people

Fresh Air host Terry Gross interviews food ethnographer Michael Pollen (known for the adage “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”) on the history, experimentation, therapeutic application, social impact, suppression and current revival of psychedelic drugs—both natural and synthetic—with some first-hand anecdotal evidence.
Not only do clinical trials seem promising in providing patients and the non-remarkable a way to step outside of their repetitive narrative and re-write it, the general view of society is shifting to one more willing to take the potentially scary step towards self-reflection and dissolving one’s ego. Do listen to the entire programme and check out the author’s book, but one of my favourite take-aways (of several) that can help explain why this once broadly accepted and praised method became so demonised: the rite of passage of young people during the Counter-Culture was in part drug-laced and an experience that the elders had not shared and thus felt threatened by it. Timothy Leary earned the appellation The Most Dangerous Man in America by Richard Nixon for saying that these kids taking LSD aren’t going to be the ones to fight your wars and wholly outlawed all consciousness expanding expedients as having no pharmacological merit and other jurisdictions quickly followed that example.

inland empire

We are finding the wealth of New World charts depicting what’s presently the State of California as an island and separated from the continent to be quite fascinating.
I wonder what other geographic misconceptions have been perpetrated and fossilised in the same fashion (see more examples here—having discussed this very subject before but having quite forgot—plus another island that existed only as a cartographical error)—the a-drift version of California (the name itself coming from a early fourteenth century romance about an earthly paradise) reappearing over the decades despite the fact that explorers had confirmed that the Baja peninsula was in fact firmly attached. See the whole curated selection of maps and learn more at the Public Domain Review at the link up top.


el diablo: a ghoulish gallery of the comic and pulp art of Mexican publications of the 50s and 60s

和菓子: Edo period illustrations of Japanese confections called wagashi

in memoriam: ten stunning structures designed by recently departed architect Will Alsop

red carpet: Star Wars actress dazzles with a Vivienne Westwood original that celebrates increasing diversity in science fiction

landlines: an assortment of vintage telephones from Western Electric, via Weird Universe

from bauhaus to our house: celebrating the wide-ranging contributions and influence of author and journalist Tom Wolfe

trennung von staat und kirche

Controversially (but one is forgiven for not glomming on to this particular problematic mandate since there are so many others to choose from) Bavaria’s new Minister-President has decreed that crosses must hang in all state government buildings from 1 June on wards. Every city hall I’ve been in already has a crucifix hanging non-obtrusively in an office corner but I think that was out of a personal choice and affirmation, rather than something regulated as explicit symbolic value and a way to show solidarity and “commitment to Bavarian identity and culture.” The president went on to explain that the crosses are not in violation of the principle of government neutrality in religious matters because they are specifically agnostic and instead represent the universal values of charity, human dignity and tolerance. No word if there are to be standard-issue crosses to be displayed or if the manner of participation will be left up to individual municipalities or how compliance will be monitored.
Kontrovers (aber man verzeiht, dass man sich nicht auf dieses spezielle Problem berufen hat, weil so viele andere zur Auswahl stehen) der neue bayerische Ministerpräsident hat angeordnet, dass ab dem 1. Juni in allen Regierungsgebäuden Kreuze hängen müssen. Jedes Rathaus, in dem ich schon war, hat ein Kruzifix, das nicht aufdringlich in einer Büroecke hängt, aber ich denke, das war eine persönliche Entscheidung und Bestätigung, anstatt etwas als ausdrücklichen symbolischen Wert und eine Art Solidarität und ,,Engagement zu regeln zur bayerischen Identität und Kultur.” Der Präsident erklärte weiter, dass die Kreuze nicht gegen das Prinzip der Regierungsneutralität in religiösen Angelegenheiten verstoßen, weil sie spezifisch agnostisch sind und stattdessen die universellen Werte der Nächstenliebe, Menschenwürde und Toleranz darstellen. Aber keine Angabe, ob Standardkreuzungen angezeigt werden sollen oder ob die Art der Beteiligung den einzelnen Gemeinden überlassen bleibt oder wie die Einhaltung überwacht wird.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

kobe hyakkei

Rummaging through the archives of Present /&/ Correct, we discover latter day reprisal of One Hundred Scenes of Kobe (Kobe Hyakkei, 百景 digging how there is a concise way of saying one hundred views of something) by woodblock print artist Hide Kawanishi.  His first edition depicted his native city as it appeared between 1933 and 1936, and later in the early 1950s Kawanishi produced a second collection, reflecting on post-war Japan.
The municipal website hosting Kawanishi’s renderings and accompanying essays (also available in English) on each location also matches each artistic impression with a photograph of the site, viewed from the same vantage point.

top priority

Despite having yet to formulate a clear and comprehensive divorce settlement from the European Union with crucial deadlines approaching, law-makers in the UK have devised a somewhat elegant solution to another crisis of their own making: namely, to prevent underage people from accessing on-line pornography, as Gizmodo reports, by enlisting kiosks and corner shops to sell passes for £10 (cheaper than identity-theft but still a strange, arbitrary sort of surcharge) with a sixteen digit code that will allow the bearer to access adult websites.
The newsstand agent (previously), purveyors of all sorts of vices, will verify that the purchaser is of majority age and is a filthy, raunchy deviant. While this method seems far preferable to having the government maintain a database on all of its porn-lookers (primed to fall into the hands of extortionists and opportunists) or demanding credit card information as a means of authentication with the exchange being essentially anonymous, it is still the lesser of two evils to implement and enforce a rather needless, ridiculous and unenforceable response to the latest moral panic.


Via Hyperallergic, we learn that the Victoria and Albert Museum recently published the sole known complete copy of the catalogue inventorying of the works of art and the artists considered degenerate (entartete) by the Nazi regime’s Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which meticulously catalogued of sixteen thousand works in 1942 as a final record after the sale and disposals of the confiscated works.
There’s no comprehensive gallery of the pieces, many of which leave no trace afterwards (and many others that were thought lost to history until the trove of paintings was found in a Munich apartment of the son of one of the curators whose name pops up again and again), but with a little triangulation and desire to further the story of these ostracised objects and their blacklisted creators, like the author, one can access a Berlin reference library’s database and enter the catalogue numbers to retrieve a record. You should research and champion one of these once rejected pieces of art yourself, like this 1912 woodcut by Franz Marc (EN/DE) of Springing Horses, Entartete Kunst (EK) number 1847. A founding member of the German Expressionism movement and contributor to the influential art journal Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Knight) at the turn of the century, the iconic artist died in the Battle of Verdun in 1916 at age thirty-six but having already produced a body of nearly a thousand prints. A 1936 exhibition marking twenty years since the artist’s passing attracted negative attention and were declared subversive with the Gestapo seizing works from public and private collections around Germany and selling them to buyers abroad.

Monday, 14 May 2018

saor ó dhleacht

Having passed through the gates of Shannon Airport ourselves a few times, we found it quite fascinating to learn that the terminal in western Ireland on the river’s estuary was home to the world’s first duty free shop and will be sure to make special notice of it next time around.  Planet Money fills us in on the life and times of consummate hospitality professional and marketing expert Brendan O’Regan (1917* - 2008 †) whose talents intersected with the limitations of early trans-Atlantic air travel and recognised a business opportunity.
After realising the popularity of Irish Coffee (his first contribution to the world), O’Regan catered to regular arrivals of weary, battered travellers whom had just made the rather arduous hop from North America to Europe and had to land at the first opportunity or were outbound for the same daunting journey, since early planes lacked modern amenities and range and had to make landfall at the first and last opportunity for re-fuelling—which Ireland geographically availed herself of—and saw that his rather captive consumers, elite jet-setters to a person, whose money was burning holes in their pockets, and O’Regan wanted to alleviate their boredom on this layover leg of their trip. Referencing an ancient custom still codified in the law books of allowing sailors to purchase booze without taxes if it was for export and personal consumption, O’Regan successfully pled his case to the Irish government in 1947 to allow him to experiment with an exercise that undercut the government itself by not collecting taxes and losing out on revenue with the promise that by showcasing local items, keepsakes and souvenirs including speciality Irish whiskeys—and manufacturing provenance after a fashion—at a discount, the scheme would encourage local tourism and more than make up for lost revenue on the trinkets.

The model was an instant success and proliferated quickly to airports worldwide—then cruise ships, border-crossings, etc. with some products, like Toblerone (previously) owing its cosmopolitan success to careful product-placement in duty-free stores. O’Regan’s third act was as peace ambassador, helping to end the strife in Northern Ireland and promoting cooperation between Ireland and the UK.

lieber wütend als traurig

Dangerous Minds features the unaired made-for-television screenplay by Ulrike Meinhof that went into production in February of 1970, just before the journalist turned towards a campaign of terror.
Incorporating previous research and reporting assignments on the state of child- and adolescent aid organisations and juvenile detention and custody homes, borstals (Jugend-fürsorge means care for youth but to have “Sorge für” is to agonise about something) in West Germany, Bambule (referring to prisoners rioting behind bars by banging and drumming any items at hand that will make a loud noise—but in French, bamboula has become a kind of slur and shouldn’t be used) was fictionalised account of troubled, institutionalised teens and was filmed in its entirety but never broadcast due to prison-break of Rote Armee Faktion (previously) leader Andreas Baader from facilities in West Berlin on 14 May of that year. Having covered Baader’s protests against the Vietnam War in Frankfurt prior to his incarceration, Meinhof had previously met the charismatic figure’s acquaintance and was convinced to take part in his escape by advocating for his transfer to lower-security research centre under the guise of collaborating on an ethnographic work on the psyche of protest. When the planned peaceful operation turned violent (there were supposed to be no guns) and a by-stander was shot and injured, Meinhof decided to join with Baader and both became fugitives. Read more about Meinhof and the movement as well as watch an English subtitled version of Bambule at the link up top.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

sock caramel

Super Punch redirects our attention to our old companion and ongoing experiment (previously here and there and everywhere) in neural network learning with the challenge this time to name flavours of ice cream. While the host’s training yielded rather dark and dubious results to include:

Strawberry Cream Disease
Sock Caramel
Chocolate Raven
Colon Bane

Some inspired middle school pupils learning coding were able to far exceed their programming with:

Cherry Poet
Bubble Bun
Vanilla Nettle

The latter selection seemed more like a treat though Toffee Frog and Funge Ecide also came up in the students’ algorithms.

eisheilige oder in like a lion, out like a lamb

This day marks the last in the triplet of saints’ days, commemorating early martyrs and bishops of the fourth and fifth centuries, traditionally part of weather lore throughout much of central and northern Europe known collectively as the time of the ice saints, when Spring had begun in earnest but there was yet the danger of a cold snap.
Though there’s some variance according to one’s whereabouts, the consensus seems to give the title to Boniface (Saint Mamertus in Nordic countries), Pancras and Servatius whose feast days fall on the 11th, 12th and 13th. Respectively patrons of bachelors and converts, service-sector jobs and health, rheumatism and foot problems, this cadre seem to have little to do weather prognostication, like groundhogs (Candlemas) or the Seven Sleepers (used to forecast summer weather) and their dates were all shifted a bit to the left when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian way of reckoning dates and we all lost ten days but there is certainly the chance for strange, destructive weather this late in the season—especially for the micro-climates that cleave to the valleys and foothills, which asserted itself just the day before yesterday by dumping a frightening large amount of hail on a village just a few kilometres away and causing storm surges in Hamburg.

Saturday, 12 May 2018


and in flew enza: an encyclopaedic investigation into the estimated six-hundred-fifty thousand US deaths—out of fifty million globally—of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, via Kottke’s Quick Links

deconstructivist tendencies: postmodern architectural wonders of the 1970s and 1980s added to the UK’s National Heritage List—according them protected status, via Things Magazine

one year times two: the musical art installations of Trond Nicholas Perry, via ibidem

sundries for the modern workspace: contemplating the function of colour in defining manufacture, learning and healing in 1930s schematics, via Nag on the Lake

let’s try to get our core business right before trying something else: Facebook exploring minting its own cryptocurrency

pneumonic spelunking: a look at Elon Musk’s boring project beneath Los Angeles

dies irae, dies illa: a trio of (possibly not ordained) Catholic priests form a hard rock band in 1974 to broaden their missionary work

but our princess is in another castle

 I was impressed to see that our old hometown, which was undergoing quite some extensive construction work under the streets of the historic old town to modernise its gas lines and feed it from a biofuel processing plant, had been creative enough to canvas over the site with a Super Mario Brothers’ theme—sort of like the neat frieze of refrigerator magnets that my sister had given us a few years back. Each panel represented a different level and told about renovation challenges, timelines and the benefits that would eventually materialise. Mario’s companion is a sea-monster called Nesi—which is also the namesake for the fleet of buses that comprise the local public transportation (NES being the license plate designation for that county—Neu Stadt an der Saale) and the video game segment even incorporated the landmark gate towers of the Altstadt.

Friday, 11 May 2018


Our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet, informs that among many other momentous occasions, on this day in 1944, director George Cukor debuted what would be the second cinematic adaptation based of playwright Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 psychological thriller, Gaslight (previously, when the term obtained its clinical sense). Featuring the acting talents of Joseph Cotton, Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Angela Lansbury, the main theme of the film centres on a husband (Boyer) who tries to unmoor his wife’s (Bergman) sense of reality in order to distract her from his criminal enterprise.

intern’yet or press “like” to help jesus win

Earlier this week, Democratic party members of the US House of Representatives obtained and released a cache of some thirty four hundred targeted advertisements produced and distributed by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency via social media giant Facebook and Instagram. While I will admit that none of us (not just the American voters) are immune to the architecture of choice and propaganda and that ignorance and churlishness leveraged are force-multipliers, it is a sobering reminder how pathetic the counter-messaging was and how vulnerable we’ve allowed our democratic institutions to become and how through our neglect, we risk to lose them forever. Elections and inaction has consequences, and I suppose now the question is not who was to blame (everyone is) but whether we who were careless are yet redeemable and whether we might one day be able to restore civil society and get back our on-line privileges. Though we don’t always recognise it, we’ve been on restriction for quite some time.

geocentric or keeping up appearances

Via Open Culture and through the medium of rather beautiful star charts that rallied against the Copernican revolution that unseated the Earth as the centre of the Cosmos, we met the adherents of Muggletonianism.
The namesake of Lodowicke Muggleton, championed by his cousin John Reeve—tailors both—the sect started in 1651 London (Muggleton was styled as the last prophet as foretold in the Bible) as a refutation of scientific method, philosophical discourse and conversely did not believe in sermonising (a self-described, most disorganised religion) or that there was any sort of divine intervention until God choose to destroy the world, though infamously, they practised public praise and denunciation, believing that they could reduce one’s social standing with a curse. Their maps (there is a more extension gallery plus links to other resources to be found at the source up above) and cosmological hierarchy may have influenced the style of William Blake.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

no filter

My Modern Met has a nice appreciation of the effortlessly whimsical portfolio of New York-based photographer Rodney Lewis Smith (1946* - 2016 †), who insisted on remaining on remaining true to the art and discipline, setting up his subjects with only natural light and relying on his trusted Leica 35 mm camera and his refined vision to tease order out of chaos. With a career spanning over four decades, Smith has influenced many portrait and fashion photographers that followed as well as leaving a vast archive of sentimental and surreal snapshots that represent a cross-section of moments—especially punctuated by the artist’s own sense of spontaneity that complements his talent for composition.