Saturday, 30 June 2018

valhalla

Strange Company’s always engaging weekend link dump directs our attention to a website called “Plodding through the Presidents” and their expertly curated gallery of unexpected commemorative statues of past administrations plus the current pretender to the office. From a nude Zeus-like George Washington, a bronze George W Bush with terrier in a fast food parking lot in South Dakota, to this 1941 shirtless, sexy Abraham Lincoln by artist James Lee Hansen, what’s more striking than the fact that some of these likenesses were created in the first place is that they’ve been given a home that’s accessible to the public—though tracking down some of these might pose more of a challenge than others.

factitious disorder imposed on another

Munchausen syndrome by proxy (previously) is a very real and dire disorder and I suspect one that probably merits greater study particularly in an age when it is arguably manifested in the form of parents endangering their children by withholding vaccinations and being vocal about it and is no laughing matter. We were however rather taken with this 1959 Madame Alexander dark, wrong-handed creation to seemingly teach young girls the art of unhealthy attention-seeking called Marybel the Doll that Gets Well. Marybel’s script includes, “I broke my arm when I stumbled and fell. Now I wear a cast to make it well.”

Friday, 29 June 2018

say hello to your boy—special guy

The son of the Supreme Court associate justice that the Trump administration is pressuring to retire sooner rather than later so Trump will be able to nominate pivotal pick for his replacement was the Deutsche Bank executive, during whose tenure extended the Trump organisation a line of credit of well over a billion dollars—at a time when most other financial institutions were wary of lending to the Trump crime family.
Republicans are urging the Reagan-appointee who has been the swing vote on the court’s many split decisions to step down before the mid-term elections this fall, fearful that the outcome could frustrate the installation of an arch-conservative figure. Perhaps given the relationship with the family that spans nearly two decades, the soon-to-be superannuated member could be persuaded that he is leaving the high court in competent hands.

twelve golden mullets, their points not touching

Though I’d venture that the symbol did not enter into common-parlance nor was readily identifiable until the early 2000s, on this day in 1985 the European Communities (now the Council of Europe) and the European Union adopted its official flag to represent the supranational organisation.
Not displacing the national flags but flown along side them, it is considered a “community logo” rather than an emblem accorded the honours and protection reserved for other symbols of state. The stars do not represent any particular member and rather a sense of unity and equal-standing. Though those who originally designed the flag and calculated its proportions deny the suggestion—at least on a conscious level, there is a golden statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the cathedral of Strasbourg depicted with a golden halo or crown of stars who is displayed in an alcove of a deep blue stained-glass window.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

grain of salt

Although it’s true to argue that inauthentic product reviews and endorsements will become more and more adaptively deceptive, like the fake news problem which looms large over society as a whole which destroys relations built on trust and credibility, it’s nonetheless vital to fight against it and some of the automation tools used to amplify an item or an opinion can be used to combat it.
The always engrossing NPR Planet Money brings us the story of one frustrated consumer’s inspired effort to help counteract that particular bane of the connected world. The outcome of his investigations culminate with the site Review Meta that can help identify likely bogus ratings and evaluations, and it’s well worth the time to listen to the entire vignette (because it is clever and) to gain an understanding about the criteria that helps spot an imposter or corporate shill. Distrust will, unchecked, eventually spell the end of the online marketplace—as well as the forum—once we reach a tipping-point where all confidence is squandered.

6x6

we don’t deserve dogs: a very good boy in Madrid demonstrates his life-saving skills

heat-exchange: we’ve crossed a critical climate point-of-no-return in the Barents Sea

german engineering: a proposal for a solar power plant that’s nearly a century old plus an even older printing-press that ran on sunshine

thinking you’re impervious to the dunning-kruger effect is itself an example of the dunning-kruger effect: more on the psychological observation (previously) that helps explain why we’re all confidently incompetent

pr’s pr award: the World Architectural Festival has announced its finalists for building of the year

the pearl of great price: plans to build a Mormon utopian community of microhousing (based on the biblical Enoch’s exceptional righteous, and rapture-ready city) poses a threat to Vermont’s historic village, via Super Punch

demonstration kitchen

Laughing Squid directs our attention to the wonderfully quiet and uncluttered series of cooking videos that instructs without words. Amateur chef Connor Nelson was inspired to create Silently Cooking after finding himself overwhelmed and annoyed with the ongoing commentary that accompanies most other gastronomic channels. I like this approach (although generally not caring for this whole pivot-to-video trend) and think there would be an audience for other disciplines and communities to take vows of silence.

me and julio


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

free exercise clause

Our antiquarian and historian JF Ptak’s latest post really piqued our interest on the matter of the religious neutrality of the framers of the country’s constitution and of the custom of pledging one’s allegiance. The oath of fealty was originally composed by a Union Army officer to instil a sense of patriotism during the American civil war. CPT George Thatcher Balch’s version was as follows:

We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!

For the occasion of the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World, the National Education Association commissioned socialist preacher, author and educator Francis Julius Bellamy to compose something which was less juvenile and dignified that could be included not just as opening ablutions in the classroom but also for sessions of congress, sporting events, etc.
Noting the how incorporating documents of America had been carefully crafted to avoid religious terminology, Bellamy wanted to make sure that he was not creating an invocation either. We especially appreciated the succinct and lucid legal citation of the US Supreme Court’s landmark 1878 case Reynolds v. United States as a means to illustrate the government’s legal and proper stance towards religious convictions. Civic law should not be subverted or made to align with religious ones or be allowable as defence for not dutifully discharging one’s legal obligations (the case involved polygamy), for to do otherwise and elevate belief above the law of the land would in effect make every individual “a law unto himself” and remove government regulation and ability to enforce the law altogether. Bellamy’s first version, timed to be recited in fifteen seconds, went as follows:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Following the French cri du coeur, Bellamy had considered using the words equality and fraternity instead but thought it would be highly hypocritical, considering the way African Americans and women were treated in 1892. After much lobbying by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Knights of Columbus, the pledge assumed its present form in 1954 to include the phrase “under God,” the swearing of the pledge no longer punctuated by a salute rendered as that custom was removed by an act of congress in December of 1942, having decided that the gesture was too similar to the Nazi salute.

5:4

In a decision split along liberal and conservative lines, the US high court signalled to its people and executive the legal leeway to uphold America’s sovereign right to be a twerp and bully in general by vindicating Trump’s racially-charged travel ban.
For those of you playing along, this decision—in a series of markedly regressive though possibly not as broad in their applications ones—reaffirms that the coup had its origins long before this crime syndicate lodged itself in the White House. Normally when a seat at the Supreme Court becomes vacant, it is the prerogative of the sitting president (with the ascent of the legislature) to fill that position with a nominee of his or her choice—as was the case when conservative Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February 2016 and President Obama nominated District of Columbia chief circuit judge Merrick Garland. Breaking with a long-standing custom, however, the Republican controlled Senate refused to hold hearings, arguing that the appointment should rest in the hands of the next president—ostensibly hoping that another conservative-minded justice would be awarded a place at the court and would be able to forward their socio-political agenda. With lifetime appointments, the selection of magistrates and the composition of high courts are shielded from the fickleness of the party in power and cannot be easily unseated through democratic means.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

narthex

Listed as a historic and protected building since 2000, the Brutalist-style Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul of the Bristol ward of Clifton has just undergone a major refurbishment to restore it to its original 1970 vision by architect RJ Weeks in collaboration with the Vatican. See a whole gallery of images of this geometric marvel and learn more at the link above.

8x8

radiant babies and deified dogs: hidden behind protective cladding for thirty years, a large Keith Haring, mural to be revealed in Amsterdam, via Nag on the Lake

socios hostes facimus: Latin mottoes for Trump era government agencies and entities

leading by example: municipalities across the US picking up the slack on innovative, responsible energy production where the federal government is failing

illuminated manuscripts: James Joyce’s crayon-coloured drafts of Finnegans Wake

by jove: lightning storms on Jupiter

magnificent modifiers: the history and legacy of the Speak & Spell

star-struck: a vintage scrapbook of the Golden Age of Hollywood, compiled by an anonymous fan

side-scrolling: a short video game vignette that seamlessly combines the best elements of the Mario universe into one

skynet

While perhaps the ominous subtext of this robotics manual from the mind of Isaac Asimov might prefigure the Terminator’s dilemma and not vilify the Cassandras and Sarah Connors of the world could be read as dismissive of ethics in robotics, I think it might have more universal applications in decision-making, large and small, in politics, the sciences (artificial intelligence and genetic modifications) and business dealings. Cinematic time travel usually results in irrevocable paradox and suggests maybe one ought to be discouraged from mucking about with the past, even if we are in the dumbest time-line, and with or with the benefit of hindsight we might do well to pause and pose this question to ourselves before acting.

ich bin ein berliner

On the fifteenth anniversary of the start of the Berlin Airlift (previously) in response to the Soviet blockade of the West German exclave, on this day in 1963 US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy addressed an assembled crowd and the wider world from the portico of Rathaus Schöneberg, nearly two years after the Wall was built to stem mass-immigration from the East to the West.
Inviting Soviet officials to work with NATO allies rather than continue this tense stand-off and posturing, Kennedy intoned, “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ …All free men, wherever they live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’” Outside of the German Sprachraum, it seems quite baffling that there’s a misconception that it would have been understood that Kennedy was proclaiming himself a jelly doughnut—though the article is superfluous and the regionalism exists, Pfannkuchen is the term employed in the Berlin area. Kennedy’s speech is considered to be among the most powerful appeals of the Cold War and would go on the influence and inform many politicians to follow.

Monday, 25 June 2018

to boldly go

The always engrossing Futility Closet podcast introduces us to the eminent figure of the Swiss physicist, explorer and aviation and submarining pioneer Auguste Antoine Piccard (*1884 - †1962) who along with his twin brother and collaborator Jean Felix were the inspirations and the namesake first for Professor Cuthbert Calculus in The Adventures of Tintin and later for Gene Roddenberry’s character, Jean-Luc Picard, implying that the captain is one of their descendants, with their actual lineage continuing in the spirit of exploration and adventure. Within the decades of the 1930s (with some years to spare), Piccard remarkably designed both a pressurised aluminium gondola that allowed him with a hot-air balloon to ascend to an unprecedented altitude of fifteen kilometres above the Earth, taking ground-breaking measurements on atmospheric conditions and newly discovered cosmic rays, and six years later, a bathyscaphe, a free-diving, self-propelled deep sea submersible, ferrying its crew down to a depth of over four-thousand metres and observing some of the alien denizens of the deep in proper context.

zwischenstopp: urspringen

Incorporated as a district of market town Ostheim vor der Rhön, I had passed by the village of Urspringen several times, noting the stone, Gothic Revival steep that dominates the fields and forest from an impressive distance but unable to find much information on it was never drawn to explore.
I ought to know better (by now) that the lack of scholarship or research is never a sign that a place isn’t worth investigating and was pleased that I stopped the car and took a look past the façades of half-timbered houses that line either side of the main street. Referred to as Villa Urspringa for the first time in church records from 811, it is the site where the tributary of the Streu, the Bahra branches in two and is itself the sources of three powerful natural water sources—Quellen or rather Springen, the strongest of which flows from under the church mount and through the village under a covered promenade.
The church itself, which was probably finished at the turn of the last millennium, was rebuilt after it was destroyed in a fire in 1841 and two neighbouring buildings were added, reflecting the architecture of the time, a school house and the parsonage. The village contains far too many historic cross-timbered farmers’ homes (Fachwerkhäuser) to list and along the Hauptstraße and down hidden alleys and would more than merit a follow-up tour, better-armed next time with more history.

drawbridge

Emboldened by geopolitics elsewhere, Saudi Arabia, we learn via Super Punch, is entertaining bids to terraform its escalating, long-standing tensions with neighbouring Qatar (previously) by turning the peninsula the country occupies into an island in the Gulf of Bahrain. The Saudi government plans to dig a two hundred metre wide moat along its sixty kilometre border, at an estimated cost of three-quarters of a billion dollars.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

bowiebranchia

Via fellow internet-caretakers the Everlasting Blört, we find a selection of nudibrachia or other species of marine opisthobranchia (sea slugs, from the Greek for naked gills, having shed their shells after their larval stage) fastidiously matched to the various outfits and personæ of the transcendent Sir David Bowie. All of these side-by-side comparisons (there are over three thousand known varieties though many are endangered) are amazingly elegant, spot-on and very satisfying.

exposure value

Not only were we very impressed with the designer skills of Helen Sham for creating a fully-functional, iconic Hasselblad 503CX medium format cameras out of LEGO (which may be added to its official line of models), we also appreciated the chance to explore the company behind the design.
Founded in 1841, the early years of the Swedish company consisted mostly of being a distributor for Kodak-Eastman products, offering that though the executives didn’t think the venture would be very profitable, at least they’d be able to take pictures for free and really came into its own, making military grade aerial surveillance cameras during the wars. The company’s success continued after the war and was again boosted when NASA began to exclusively use Hasselblad cameras for its Gemini missions in 1962. Prized for their compact size and modular lenses, the space agency continued to use custom-build Hasselblads for the Apollo programme and the images we have of our manned-mission to the Moon were captured with those cameras. Learn more about Sham and her other projects at the link above.

thanatopsis

Though perhaps wholly conjured up in my head, I seem to recall a ban (at least a seasonal one owing maybe to the impenetrability of the ground in winter) on death on parts of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, we nonetheless this overview from Futility Closet on other places where dying was or is currently prohibited, under threat of severe punishment. While some sacred spaces exclude both birth and death to maintain the purity of the place, most cases are enacted when room runs out at local cemeteries and graveyards. Unfortunately, the ban is repealed once the municipalities can secure more land to expand their grounds reserved for burial.  Visit them at the link above to learn more.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

change happens at the edges

Historically—which will also be the first time the Armorial College gets to produce a crest for a same-sex couple though wisely rules were established some time ago—the first gay marriage in the extended royal family will occur later this summer on an estate in Devon.
With the blessings of his third cousin, once removed, the Queen (by statute the monarch must give ascent to the first six unions in the line of succession and in this case, the couple’s too far removed and already have heirs) Lord Ivar Alexander Mountbatten, geologist and gentleman farmer, will wed James Coyle. At the suggestion of their daughters, Mountbatten’s ex-wife will lead Mountbatten down the aisle and give him away.

don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the nazi party

Writing for Gizmodo’s Paleofuture, blogger and correspondent Matt Novak gives us a crucial reminder that too few realised the nature of the ascendant Third Reich’s National Socialist Workers’ Party (and perhaps of that minority, too many were either complicit or silent) when as early as 1933, they had opened their first concentration camps nor as late as 1939 when a Nazi rally was held in Madison Square Garden.
This trans-Atlantic acceptance (which surely translated to diminishing concerns elsewhere as well) was due at least in part to US media moguls and public-relations agents, including Edward L Bernays (previously) who we see receiving retainers as foreign agents to push spin and propaganda similar to, adjusted for inflation, to the fees we are catching wind of today—as testament to how under-valued democracy and freedom is. Change is gradual and we can too easily become inured to it, especially when boundaries are trampled on and such behaviour is normalised by the media and given enough of a narrative that the safest among us are the most precarious and under threat.

Friday, 22 June 2018

story of the week

If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favour and make reading the blog of educator, writer and presenter, Seth Godin a part of your daily practise and digest.
His succinct words of advice reminds that what’s vital, important and true can be communicated lucidly and in a way that is accessible to all and sundry. We can all use this sort of gentle reminder to get our lives in order and to help keep things in perspective. Whatever one’s journey, lasting change for the better requires tremendous effort but the outcome will make one cringe for having settled for less and not improving sooner.  The particular link above directs one to the most viewed and shared post from the week but any place you start I can virtually guarantee you’ll like where you wind up.

money laundering

The US Drug Enforcement Administration has recently raised alarm over the safety of its agents and intermediaries due to the potential for currency seized during drug raids to be covered with deadly chemicals and has been soliciting for contracts to decontaminate fiat tender.  Despite the lack of scientific backing for the dangers, the DEA is vigorously pursuing this initiative and has even expressed an unwillingness to risk counting the cash before sending it off to the cleaners.

cantril’s ladder

Princeton psychology professor Hadley Cantril (*1906 - †1969) made significant contributions to the field, looking into the applications in polling and propaganda and was in a way responsible for making political allegiance a contemporary defining trait—or at least a topic of discussion and amplification.
Studying in Münchin and Berlin in the 1930s and examining the panic that the 1938 Orson Welles’ broadcast of War of the Worlds as a radio drama caused, Cantril devoted his work into public opinion research, building on the work of George Gallop. Working through the seemingly paradoxical results he was discovering—particularly among the American polis—Cantril developed a gauge for self-anchoring, a cognitive bias (previously) that affect decision-making by relying too heavily on initial information at the cost of ignoring subsequent results, which is perniciously difficult to avoid.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

a notable non-human ape

Having imparted a life time of lessons that demonstrates that many of the hallmarks of humanity are far from unique to humans and helped us to understand and appreciate that we are not outside of Nature and the natural world is not ours to exploit, the world pines for one of its most influential and effective ambassadors in Koko the Gorilla, who passed away earlier this week in her sleep at the age of forty-six.
Reading her obituary reduced me to tears, and I hope that we are able to take those aforementioned lessons to heart.  Just shy of her next birthday, she was named Hanabiko (花火子, Fireworks Child) by her care-takers at the San Francisco Zoo because she was born on the Fourth of July—American Independence Day. Koko herself famously had a pet kitten whom she named All Ball and mourned its accidental death, signing “bad, sad, bad—frown, cry, frown, sad.”

hammajang or synonymous

Via Slashdot, we learn that the Oxford English Dictionary has broadened its search for regional linguistic delicacies from around the globe. The title is a Hawaiian term for shambolic, and the Words Where You Are appeal has already netted agley, catawampous, antigodlin and ahoo as ways to describe a pictured that’s hung crookedly. The OED since its first edition, however, has been keen on the inclusion of regionalisms submitted by the public, examples being ginnel for a back alley, clarty for really muddy and far-welted to describe a sheep lying on its back.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

kein mensch ist illegal

While images of families being torn apart at the US-Mexico border are dominating the discussion of immigration and respect and value for human life, on this World Refugee Day, we are also audience to some quieter, nefarious dealings which includes a task force (via Miss Cellania) that is being assembled to strip citizenship from naturalised Americans (and by extension all Americans) found to have obtained citizenship under false pretences.
At the same time, Orbán’s Hungary has passed legislation framed as “STOP SOROS” that would make it a crime to provide aid or asylum in any form to “aliens.” Not to be outdone, factions of the Italian government are calling for the expulsion of thousands of Roma from the country, pledging that “Italians and their security comes first.” The European Union strongly condemns these measures.

india shining

We really appreciated the introduction to photography duo Haubitz+Zoche (EN/DE) by way of a vibrant, polychromatic portfolio of churches of southern India.
Their collection Postcolonial Epiphany (Postkolniale Erleuchtung—sadly Sabine Haubitz passed away in 2014 but Stefanie Zoche maintains the collaborative name), featuring both houses of worship and movie theatres built between the 1950s and 1970s that inform a rather whimsical hybrid of Modernism—dissecting the way that material determines space, is currently being exhibited at a gallery in Mannheim.  Learn more at the links up top.

drug liberalisation

The Canadian Senate has passed, with a clear mandate, a measure to legalise the recreational use of marijuana. Provinces have a buffer period of eight to twelve weeks to prepare for sales and cultivation.

special rapporteur

Unsurprisingly, US has announced its intent to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council following criticism of Trump’s practise of separating children from their families and interning them in concentration camps. Administration officials moreover cite what they characterise as the council’s disproportionate focus on the Israel-Palestine dispute.

turn-down service

As Slashdot reports, electronic assistants are to be added to hotel rooms sometime in the near future.  What do you think?  Unlike Gideons’ Bible, however, Alexa for Hospitality will provide hoteliers a way to “measure engagement through analytics and adapt services based on guest feedback,” with recordings and interactions cleared from the machines’ memories upon check-out.

article 13

doctor, is there something i can take

Frequently I wake up with a song in my head—usually quite random and completely non-sequitur, and this day was no exception with the “Coconut Song” by Harry Edward Nilsson III (1941* - 1994†)—which to be honest I couldn’t name the singer-songwriter behind it until my curiosity was piqued.
Leading a tumultuous, colourful life and career that was tangentially associated with the Beatles and the Monkees, I did some cursory research and learned he was the son of impoverished Swedish circus performers in upstate New York and ran away at an early age to Los Angeles, demonstrating first an aptitude for computers and electronics before pursuing music. Living in Mayfair for almost the entire decade of the 1970s, his flat in Curzon Place was decorated by Ringo Starr’s design company ROR (Ringo or Robin [Cruikshank]) who sublet the place during an extended leave of absence to performer Cass Elliot (former member of the Mamas & the Papas) who died of heart-failure after a strenuous show at the London in 1974. Nilsson ultimately sold the apartment in 1978 to Pete Townshend when band-mate of The Who Keith Moon died of an overdose whilst staying there. Other songs of Nilsson’s include “Me and my Arrow” from The Point!, the theme and incidental music for The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and score for the 1980 film adaptation of Popeye. In any case, one could wake up to far worse musical accompaniment.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

bierkönig

Via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals, we are introduced to a comprehensive and exhaustive collection of drink coasters, beermats and other bar paraphernalia from around the world. A casual curator myself, I was really engrossed with the history—the first non-saucers made from high grammage pasteboard were produced in the town of Magdeburg in1880 as a way to primarily protect tables from condensation but quickly became a vehicle for advertising and other messaging spreading from Europe outward.

logos, pathos and ethos

The company behind the machine learning that bested humans at chess and at trivia and will act as an executive assistant on the International Space Station has now publicly demonstrated for the first time artificial intelligence Turing complete enough to hold its own in a debate with human sparring partners. Instructed to respond to the position put forward by the humans (without prior preparation) the performance was flawless, polished and a little unsettling since equipped with the sum of human knowledge to include rhetoric, the art of discourse, it would know how to best pander to what we want to hear. Such research would be used to augment human policy-planning and decision-making, not supplant it. Learn more and see a video of the deliberations at the link above.

die glocke

A German model toy manufacturer has recalled one of its air crafts and taken it off the market over criticism for suggesting that Nazi Germany was able to achieve space flight with a kit based off a legendary ship. The kit’s liner notes come woefully short of clarifying the ahistorical nature of the design and the project behind it and could mislead impressionable minds.

you sank my battleship!

Blathering gate-crasher Trump disrupted a rather sedate Space Council meeting on cleaning up satellite debris to announce the creation of a sixth branch of the US military in the form of a “Space Force.”
Couched in language used at the end of the nineteen century to justify and institutionalise segregation in public schools—he gleefully repeated that “it would be separate but equal” from the Air Force and Navy, which already conduct aerospace activities. Furthermore, Trump urged the defence contractors that deliver most of the US’ space-faring capabilities to “stay apart” since their corporate partnership translates somehow to them bilking the government for more money. Though a branch of the military, there’s no indication as yet how Trump’s latest sideshow will contravene the Outer Space Treaty and start a fresh space-race, but this time not over exploration or engineering competence, and rather instead over arms.

Monday, 18 June 2018

foxy fox on the run

Perhaps to deflect attention from domestic crises which has thousands confined to concentration camps along the southern US border as a deterrent to dissuade others from trying for a better life, Trump lied about the role that liberal immigration policy has had in Germany in terms of crime (statistics are lowest since 1992, no matter how it’s framed) and was openly critical of leadership of the Chancellor—sort of like blaming members of the opposition party for separating migrant families. He’s used this script before.
Knowing the heartless, idiot narcissist thrives on any attention, I am ever more loath to acknowledge his pratfalls and pandering but there’s a lot at stake all around—especially considering the timing, which amplifies the notion that Germany is facing a constitutional crisis over irreconcilable differences between Merkel and Bavarian factions of her party. Governance in Germany is not a cult-of-personality despite how hegemonic perspectives might portray foreign politics, and Merkel managed to buy time in a game of brinksmanship with the country’s interior minister over curbing immigration—one point in a proposal of sixty-three that Merkel determined to be in violation of European Union law, suggesting that Germany could rebuff refugees that had entered the EU at other points—who subsequently acquiesced that the matter should be tabled until a broader, supra-national discussion can take place. Moreover, the malleable Manchurian Candidate’s pronouncement comes after a non-sequitur weekend chat with long-term Hungarian prime-minister over the importance of strong borders, Orbán Viktor being a strong opponent of Merkel’s proposal for a EU-wide distributed quota-system for hosting migrants.

5x5

tune in, turn on, slack-off: employees cultivating mindfulness are less productive, having realised the futility of their jobs

football pitch: Alan Taylor considers some of the more creative placements of soccer fields around the world, via Kottke’s Quick Links

stolen flame: short documentary about about an indigenous racing team at the 1967 Pan-American Games who were not allowed to carry the torch into the stadium

artificial scarcity: an exclusive website with a waiting room, via Weird Universe

hildegard von bingen: an appreciation of the repertoire and canon (previously) of the West’s first named composer  

slingshot

Though understandably a bit cagey on the details for fear that their ideas might be stolen, as Quartz reports, a Silicon Valley start-up has secured the backing of some well-established industry patrons to build a catapult or trebuchet to launch payloads into space, forgoing the expense and inefficiency of rocketry.
Aircraft catapults are already employed as a form of assisted take-offs on some aircraft carriers but the idea to propel objects to orbit is pretty unconventional. What do you think?  Space elevators are still my favourite alternative and do hope that this isn’t some hoax.  Traditional rockets typically only can accommodate a cargo of five percent or less of their total mass with the remainder consisting of fuel and the rocket’s shell.

1812 overture

On this day, two hundred and six years ago, James Madison—at the urging of Andrew Jackson—declared war on British Empire and her allies over a variety of reasons including the policy of impressment of American citizens to fight Napoleon’s armies, British respect for Native American sovereignty, honour, and the desire to expand north into the British territory that would become Canada.
The three year conflict, considered by most to be a minor theatre of the larger Napoleonic wars, ended in stalemate for the chief belligerents with enslaved people and the Native Americans, having lost an ally and advocate in Europe though not necessarily their sympathies, being the losers. The big take away lesson that the best way to maintain peace with the United States for Britain was appeasement and indulge the way it was presented as a victorious “second war of independence” in the popular imagination.

cover story

Via the always vigilant Everlasting Blört, we find ourselves reacquainted with veteran blogger Chris Holmes and his endeavour, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, who has launched a new series on premiere editions periodicals’ first covers. The series opens with the rather sophisticated, jazzy artwork adorning the front cover of the December 1953 issue of Playboy magazine.

the greatest hits

Though more renowned for his provocative, street art social and political gadfly Banksy (previous here, here and here) has also made a mark on canvas, lampooning the world of traditional, popular art—which is being showcased at the LAZ Inc gallery in Mayfair by one of the artists first gallerist. The exhibit will be free to the public. Be sure to visit the link up top to learn more.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

’αλωάδαι

A recent episode of the always engrossing and thoroughly researched History of Ancient Greece podcast told the tale of two belligerents of the Gigantomachy who had some unique and potentially all-conquering attributes. Queen Iphimedia, wife of Aloeus, somehow managed to get herself pregnant with twins by wading out into the surf by her father-in-law the god Poseidon and bore the prodigies Otus and Ephialtes who were possessed of superhuman strength and size, growing at an accelerated rate that made them towering individuals, impervious to attack by the age of nine—which reminded me of Tex Avery’s “King-Sized Canary” where an ensemble of predatory animals discover and fight over a growth-elixir. Had they been allowed to mature into adolescence, they could have reached the Heavens without a step ladder, but for now to act on their plan to storm Olympus and take respectively Artemis and Hera for their wives, the piled three mountains on top of one another and were clever enough to first capture and imprison Ares, the god of war, so the Olympians might not have the appetite for battle. The brothers began their incursion and cornered Artemis who out of cunning desperation offered herself to Otus, immediately transforming herself into a fawn. Dashing between the two Aloadae (sons of the husband of Aleous even though he was not the father) Iphimedia, they both took aim to with their spears to down their quarry and ended up hitting each other as Artemis escaped.

ballungsraum

Not that the journey would be a particularly arduous or lengthy one and there’s no excuse not to visit more often, but it does strike me as odd to live in such proximity to one of the nodes of culture and commerce, an alpha world city, and not be bothered to make it out more often, but I’m going to challenge myself to get to know Frankfurt am Main (previously) a bit better and take advantage of my workweek nearness to the metropolis.
Having heard that the Altstadt was recently reopened after completion of restoration work to the Dom-Römer quarter (the space between the merchant house and the cathedral) to rebuilt structures lost during World War II, I convinced H it was a good excuse to return. We walked down the shaded promenade of the quay of the river Main (Mainkai) and several of its crossings to take in the skyline and get our bearings.
The new seat of the European Central Bank in Ostend had been completed in the meantime and although there was still scaffolding and some structures under construction in the Römer plaza and my memory of it wasn’t exactly photographic (the new addition is the right-most Goldene Waage, the Golden Scale) but it was a pleasant afternoon out in the sunny square.
Learning about the extent of the project and what was still left to do we were curious to see more but were a bit disincentivised due to the fact that just beyond there was a rather complex series of protests and counter-demonstrations going on that involved a right-leaning group trying to appropriate and rebrand a 1953 East German uprising and general strike (der Aufstand vom 17. Juni 1953) against working conditions under the Communist government which was violently suppressed and commemorated in the West as a national holiday observed until reunification as an excuse to rail against immigration policies.
Counter-demonstrators, however, eclipsed members of the Bürgerbündnis (the anti-Islamification group)—which in turn was equally obscured by a police presence which happily was not pressed into service. We’ll return when there’s more time and space for exploration.