Friday, 31 August 2018

mariposa grove

Atlas Obscura gives us a fine introduction to the life and extensive portfolio of Uruguayan-born cartoonist and cowboy Joseph “Jo” Jacinto Mora (*1876 - †1947) who lived among the Navajo and Hopi and shared his experiences of California in multiple formats.
During his most productive period, Mora and his family resided at the large art colony in Carmel-by-the-Sea but had an established his talent at art schools in New York and Boston and in several Massachusetts publications. An avid writer, photographer, sculptor and muralist, Mora solidified his reputation as the “Renaissance Man of the West” and we found his series of highly detailed and sometimes idiosyncratic maps and charts (here’s quite another topographic depiction of the Golden State)—commissions of Works Projects Administration—to be particularly appealing celebrations of the grand and quirky and encouraged us to learn more about his wide-range of works.

full frequency range recordings

As a fund-raising event for English Heritage—the caretaker foundation for hundreds of historic sites across England, disc-jockey and record-producer Paul Oakenfold will be allowed to hold an intimate concert next month for an invited audience of fifty at Stonehenge. Known for hosting events in exotic venues, Oakenfold will be the first musician to perform at the location—at least in modern times, researchers having studied the acoustic properties and recreated the soundscapes of Stonehenge as it would have been in ancient times recently.

brand new roman

Hyperallegic directs our attention to a font face from the studios of Hello Velocity whose characters are all corporate logos—which by all aesthetic rights should result in something garish and obnoxious, but somehow they’ve managed not to create a typeface that’s perhaps not perfectly legible, still draws one in. Challenging us to parse pervasive sponsorship, I guess the appeal lies in our ability to recognise the logos out of context and underscores the power of careful graphic design and marketing.

type 57

Last week, we were taken for a test drive in a porcelain Bugatti called L’Or Blanc (White Gold) and now we are given a demonstration of another fully-functional Bugatti model—a Chiron supercar—that was almost entirely built from LEGO Technics pieces, over a million assembled by hand.
The car is a legacy brand first founded by Ettore Bugatti in the city of Molsheim in 1909 that produced a line of high performance luxury and racing automobiles through the 1950s when the company went bankrupt and the factory acquisitioned for the aviation industry. Bugatti saw a comeback in the 1990s when the name and distinctive chassis style saw a revival, with Volkswagen engineering the Chiron, two-seated sports car, which was revealed for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016. See footage of both cars in action at the links above.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

annuario pontificio

If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favour and do give a listen to the Pontifacts podcast. A slightly irreverent romp through all the popes from Paul to Francis with indulgences on offer, each episode gives a biographical, hagiographical overview of each of the Vicars of Christ and some studied explanations of Church hierarchy (from the Greek for president of sacred rites) and other developments in catechism and rates them in the style of another one in our play-list, the Rex Factor.

c+c music factory

Found at The Awesomer, a group of researchers at the University of California’s Berkeley campus have created software for the motion retargeting of video subjects which can—most importantly—transpose dance moves from the source to target. Though the output is not has a few glitches and is not perfectly rotoscoped, it’s really remarkable that the process is nearly instantaneous with no special sensors or studio required.


secret garden: Google Earth leads a team of researchers to an untouched mountaintop rainforest in Mozambique

ultima thule: on its encore mission, Pluto probe beams back its first image of its next target

comnenian period: an exploration of Byzantine architecture from draughtsman Antoine Helbert, via Kottke

amos rex: a subterranean museum opens in Helsinki  

seven points of articulation: a visual history of the past four decades of LEGO Minifigs (previously)

drainspotting: a tour of the manhole covers (elsewhere) of Massachusetts  

hyperpolyglot: what the people who’ve mastered dozens of languages can teach us, via Digg

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

🔣 or extended character set

Thanks to Duck Soup for directing our attention to the first instalment (update: here is part two and part three of the series) of Keith Houston’s investigation into the fascinating history of emoji and its linguistic cachet.
First originating as an unexpected outcome of Japanese teenagers using pervasive pagers (pocket bells, poké beru) in a novel way with messages encoded in numerals, the company that oversaw the country’s largest cellular network conceded to popular pressure and enabled what we would recognise as texting with the number keypad. Eventually the ❤ was added to the vocabulary of possibilities—which is a bit ambiguous in terms of meaning in different contexts. Temporarily abandoned as a frivolity, customers demanded it back and inspired the company to offer more. Be sure to check back with Shady Characters to get the next parts of the story.

a marketplace of ideas

Via Boing Boing, we learn that after satisfying the compulsion to google himself—egosurfing if you will—that insufferable occupant of the White House decided that he did not like the results that were presented him and has directed his goons to look into whether and how internet search engine results should be regulated by the government.
Although this is just another in a long line of pathetic tantrums that even has the Republicans clutching their pearls, such bluster erodes societal norms and our collective expectation of integrity and reliability in our institutions, whose reputations are already bruised by reflecting our implicit biases, being manipulative, judgmental, prejudiced and for jumping to conclusions. Though parts of the internet are both echo-chamber and excoriating Star Chamber, the raw and unmediated (and admittedly finding the latter can take some extra effort) facts are out in the ether as well.  This latest grandstanding (using platforms to attack platforms) combined with the unrelenting howls of fake news may well be dread to hear for most but have had real and dire consequence and sets the United States on a course to dictatorship, which is depressingly seeming a more likely outcome.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

great chain of being

Fascinated by the concept for many years and curating outstanding examples of the phenomenon, Jason Kottke has also appended a fitting name to describe the way some individuals can bridge eras and keep generations barely acquainted in fact adjacent: the great span.
Referencing a recollection by the son of Alger Hiss—a US government official implicated as a spy for the Soviet Union by the House Un-American Activities Committee—of the term his father used to describe such lives able to somehow overlap and connect the ages, culturally and technologically as well as in terms of longevity. It’s a far more magical equivalent of those collection of jarring simultaneities of trivia (idem) like Switzerland’s delay in universal suffrage coincided with the first motor vehicle excursion on the Moon or that Star Wars debuted during the same year as the last execution by guillotine.


subraum: underground photography from Gregor Sailer—via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals

hängematte: an inviting house of hammocks in Vienna’s museum district

this too shall pass: inspired biodegradable packaging for foodstuffs

audio artefacts: Conserve the Sound curates disappearing noises of obsolete technology

demersal zone: oceanographers discover a hidden deep water reef off the Carolina coast in the Atlantic, via Slashdot

your show of shows: the New York Times shares a nice tribute to academic and playwright Neil Simon 


Late-stage capitalism with its cloying, insatiate greed is lurching towards its final days, according to research carried out at the behest of the United Nations, we learn via Slashdot, the economics of exploitation no longer sustainable or alluring. Climate change, leveraged indebtedness and the growing gulf of inequality are now being understood as convergent factors and the course of depletion rather than enrichment has been complicit in making the planet a more inhospitable and impoverished place.
We cannot just turn off the compulsion for growth and acquisition—the world’s poor deserve the lifestyle of the well-off just as much as we do—but we can reframe it in a transformative way if government policy supports directing energies to sequestering carbon with as much zeal and abandon as was given to extracting it in the first place, we might not only survive but also thrive going forward. The notion that capitalism always seeks the cheaper alternative over social good is not exactly a false dichotomy but plotted over the landscape of the immediate returns and the fiscal year myopic, mundane short-term thinking rules the moment and casts a seductive net that portrays ruthless cheating and bilking as business acumen.

durchstoßenes herz

On this day in 1988, the until-then world’s worst air-show disaster occurred at the US Air Base in Ramstein when jets of the Italian Air Force display team (Frecce Tricolori) collided while attempting a formation called the piercing-heart (il Cardioide) before a huge crowd of some three-hundred thousand spectators, killing sixty seven audience members and three pilots with hundreds more sustaining serious injuries.
The scope of the disaster revealed some grave logistical and compatibility shortcomings between the coordinated response between German and US military emergency services and this confusion and delay (since redressed through investigations, reform and closer cooperation) were the potential causes for more fatalities. Formed in 1989, Rammstein took its name from the catastrophe, with the original billing for the band being the Rammstein-Flugschau. It is disputed whether the second “m” was a misspelling or a reference to door-stops, Rammsteine.

Monday, 27 August 2018

ius gentium or a separate peace

On this day in 1928, the France and US sponsored Kellogg-Briand Pact—officially the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy—was signed in Paris by representatives of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, British India, the Irish Free State, the UK, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa to go into effect the following summer.
Named for the authors and chief negotiators US Secretary of State Frank B Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, as the treaty was framed and acceded to outside of the League of Nations, the treaty remains in effect with Barbados ratifying it (along with most other countries) as late as 1971. Though failing rather spectacularly to prevent World War II (thirty one states had signed on by the 1929 effective date, including Austria, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, China and the Soviet Union), aggressions and occupations continued apace but without any formal declarations by the treaties signatories, it did subsequently encourage diplomacy through its requirement to establish conciliation commissions (normalising sanctions and tariffs as weapons preferable to military force) for conflict resolution and provided the framework to prosecute war-crimes, conceived as crimes against peace.

hazy cosmic jive

Via our peripatetic friend the Everlasting Blört we are introduced to artist and entrepreneur Todd Alcott who creates rather clever, anachronistic pulp fiction/pop culture mash-ups in the form of book covers. With special attention to the generally lurid imagery and typeface, Alcott has employed these compositions to—among other things—encapsulate songs and albums of musicians who arguably were informed by the Midcentury Modern aesthetic themselves to create lovely librettos of David Bowie, The Talking Heads, New Order and others.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

the wombles

While this market and era of television was not exactly my formative and cultural-informing shibboleth, I did nonetheless appreciate Curious British Telly’s analysis of lesser-known vintage children’s programming.
I do recall seeing an episode or two of ITV’s Hattytown Tales (1969 – 1973), which I remember being quite keen and well composed (distributed by the production studio FilmFair who were known for this distinctive style), as stop-motion animation of anthropomorphised hats that recursively resided in hats that resembled themselves. Do you recognise any of these other titles?


Sixth Tone brings us a poignant story about a disappearing tradition whose last caretakers are to a degree contradictory to the reason that the nüshu system of writing was contrived in the first place.
As opposed to the thousands of logographic characters of standard Chinese, nüshu was developed as a syllabaric simplification, a phonetic alphabet, for women to use to communicate and record their thoughts around the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries (the Song and Yuan dynasties) without the benefit of formal education that was afforded to their male counterparts in the county of Jiangyong in Hunan province. As the Cultural Revolution ensured that access to education was universal and equitable, the secret and confessional form of writing became—which locals refer to as “long-legged mosquito script”—antiquated and the last proficient and native user, a woman called Yang Huanyi, passed away in 2004, nüshu is now only known through study and research, instead of being passed on from mother to daughter as a provisional form of literacy Unfortunately, despite its new-found visibility with on bilingual shop signs to appeal to the tourists, it’s no longer the exclusive outlet of the under-valued but initiated (the in-grouping of the out-group) and much of what’s preserved with this resurgence is distorted and incorrect.

rip john mccain

Long-serving US Senator from the state of Arizona and two time presidential candidate John Sidney McCain III has died a day after announcing that he will stop treatments against a particularly cruel and aggressive form of brain cancer at age eighty-one.
One of few members of the Republican Party willing to openly criticise senior leadership and recognise the damage that dereliction of duty does—identifying those to blame rather than root problems and much less solutions, an abiding responsibility that I think was central to his career and outlook. The derision of idiots and cowards have no place in this honourable person’s legacy (it matters where one winds up) and if anything, a voice of dissent that’s not been silenced will serve to give others the grit and the courage of conviction (or shame in some cases—there’s small choice in rotten apples) to do what’s right.

Saturday, 25 August 2018


H and I took a drive in the country and it was not materialising as a day for exploration, it seemed, but just on the Thürginer side of the border we saw that they were holding a kite (Drache, from the Chinese tradition) festival with some professional models and pilots on the Dachsberg.

We stopped and watched for a while and the sea creatures dove and undulated as if they were swimming. People were flying their kites in the open field on the hill’s slope below a former East German border patrol tower that’s been conserved alongside a peace cross (das Weltsfriedenkreuz).

danza de la lluvia

Apparently not contended with contributing to the respiratory distress of millions by manipulating its emissions data, one German automotive manufacturer operating in Cuautlancingo in the Mexican state of Puebla has decided to go full on evil mad scientist with a weather-control machine.
The plant (the largest outside of Germany) employed sonic cannons to disrupt the formation of hail, which threatens to ruin the shiny new paint jobs of cars made there. Local farmers complain of the practise saying it has exacerbated drought conditions and ruined their harvest. Developed over a century ago and mostly used to protect crops from hail damage, scientists are skeptical if the sonic cannons have any effect at all, intended or otherwise. For its part, the automobile manufacturer is reaching out to the community and pledges that the disruptors, which were apparently on stand-by at all times, will only be operated manually as weather forecasts indicate and the company will be hanging a protective netting over its lot as a long-term solution.

we do hope marbles turns up

A concerned citizen went down an idiomatic rabbit hole, attempting to recreate the roots of the expression of “having lost one’s marbles.” Very much adrift from a straightforward explanation, there are several layers of cultural intersections to be peeled back to arrive at the phrase’s etymology and meaning. From the late seventeenth century until the 1950s, the human mind was described as a lumber room—lumber metaphorically meaning unused furniture, a clutter and chaos of old, staid knowledge and anxieties that cluttered the brain and made it less limber.
While the notion that one’s memory banks can become full and new ideas and experiences can’t be imprinted until we’ve cleared out something old and useless is now largely stood to be incorrect, there is some truth to the perception that older, experienced people are sometimes slower recalling or processing information because there’s simply so much more of it to sift through. The idea of mind lumber seems utterly alien nowadays but if one reads carefully, we can find the dead metaphor employed by Arthur Conan Doyle and Virginia Woolfe. Drawing on the French word for furniture, les meubles—that is something movable as opposed to real estate, bien immobilier—as slang for household accoutrements in the late nineteenth century. Around the same time, reaching back to the earlier furniture metaphor for the contents of one’s head, marbles started being used as a substitute for wits—the idiom of “losing one’s marbles” outliving the slang senses that preceded it.


First published on this date in 1937, I recall having read through W H Auden’s and Louis MacNeice’s collaboration Letters from Iceland in preparation for a short trip there years ago—fascination for Iceland is nothing new or novel but before selfies and social media, I turned to the inter-war pastoral’s section marked “For Tourists.” I don’t have an enduring impression of the correspondence or the travelogue but remember the advice to avoid Reykjavík—which I didn’t heed, but we do think it’s a good occasion to revisit the book and plan a return excursion Iceland itself.

for the nonce

Rounding out a whole year’s worth of Weekly Word Watches, the always vigilant crew at Oxford Words blog introduces some trending—perhaps one-off—concepts including the concept of identity condiments, prompted in response to the premature requiem for mayonnaise that demonstrates the strength of connection that individuals have to their sides and dips.

Also in this issue’s word bank is the indictment of so-called woke-washing—a portmanteau of two themes that are very much rooted in current politics, diluting the power and presence of being aware and enlightened through misappropriation as a marketing ploy, like greenwashing and similarly constructed superficial uprightnesses. We’ll be sure to keep checking out this logophilic regular feature and hope you will as well.

Friday, 24 August 2018

mcdol ou le maire mccheese

We learn that the town of Dolus-d’Oléron has staged a four year legal battle to keep one fast food franchise off the picturesque and pristine Île d’Oléron (previously here and here), and amid contentions the courts may arrive at a decision soon.
Opponents, hoping to continue to foster a culture of environmental sustainability and minimising the deleterious effects of human enterprise, present some rather compelling arguments against the famously unwelcome franchise. Above and beyond reasons of aesthetics and how the competition hurts local business, the opposition group, led by the mayor of Dolus, offers that the business model of fast food and drive-thru service is a relic that’s done quite enough damage and has no place in the future. France has had a rather fraught relationship with the fast food giant over the decades not only as an assault on the palette but also a symbol of unchecked globalisation, protests and dialogues prompted over a trade dispute in 1990s when the US retaliated against an array of French products, including Roquefort cheese, over Europe’s refusal to allow hormone-treated beef into its markets.


Weeks of drought conditions have precipitated significant drops in the water level in rivers and lakes across Europe, including the Elbe (Labe), where near the border between Germany and the Czech Republic at Děčín carved boulders, normally submerged, have been exposed. Known as hunger stones, the engravings mark historic droughts and thus failed harvests that have occurred over the past six centuries. While such memorials lends some perspective to our times, the extremes we are experiencing now and unprecedented in combination with intense temperatures that overtax the resilience of ecosystems when there’s no relenting.

press corps

Via Misscellania, we are presented with the crew at Bad Lip Reading’s treatment of the typically disdainful White House press conference. Spokesliar Huckabee Sanders is more nasty and evasive in reality than she is in this lampoon but at least she’s got a wider range of responses and comebacks than her usual blather.

иж 2125

Arms manufacturer Kalashnikov is apparently diversifying its business and has presented its version of an electric automobile capable of speeds upwards of eighty kilometres per hour and a range of three hundred and fifty kilometres per charge called the CV-1.
The chassis is based on the classic IZh 2125 (ИЖ-2125), nicknamed “Kombi,” which was produced in the Soviet Union from 1973 until 1997. Considered the country’s first hatchback, the “Комби” stood for combination but referenced the Combi coupé make and model, which in German signifies a station wagon (an estate car) though the Russian term for that design of body is universal (универса́л).

Thursday, 23 August 2018


window dressing: a growing gallery of the store front of Tokyo, via Everlasting Blört

via galactica: the short-run Broadway space opera whose plot left audiences baffled

outsider art: the musical stylings of Superstar & Star

hand play: hyper-realistic digital animation from Jesper Lindborg

jornada del muerto: an arresting photographic essay of atomic tests, via Nag on the Lake

autohagiography: staging an adaptation of the first English confessional autobiography, the non-traditional saint Margery Kempe, whose first aspirations were as to become an alewife

patteran: a comprehensive primer on the coded hieroglyphics of vagrants and migratory workers (previously)

claim-jumping: meet the man who owns the Moon

customary units

Always a treat to indulge in the comprehensive, guided romps through etymology and colloquialism, The History of the English Language’s last thematic instalment was particularly interesting and just bursting with facts and anecdotes that seem glancingly familiar but are often decontextualized with trivia, like the origin of author Samuel Clements nom de plume, a bakers’ dozen, or why there are an inelegant number of feet to the mile.
For those answers, you’ll need to attend to the podcast but a bit more on the last term with the idiomatic phrase, “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile,” which was originally not so hyperbolic. Supplanting the cubit (from the Latin cubitus for elbow and retained in the word recumbent) as a measurement of length, the ell or double ell (from ulna, the forearm) came into common-parlance in the thirteenth century. Despite differing national definitions and anatomical considerations, the unit of measurement was useful in trade, especially for parcelling out bolts of fabric and measuring textiles and was one of the first to be standardised with Edward I requiring all market towns to keep on hand an official ellwand—a rod that kept brokers honest in their dealings. Metonymically a yard, the same length as an ell, comes from the stick or stave itself. An inch (from the Roman uncia, one twelfth part, that also gave us the ounce) was after a fashion something that could be independently derived as three barleycorns and scalable for reckoning greater lengths. The original saying, replaced by “mile” once the ell became obsolete, was to the effect “Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell.”

parish polity

Not realising that the historic church at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway had such an extensive real estate endowment and remains one of the chief property-holders in Manhattan with a significant acreage and Hudson Square in its portfolio, we really enjoyed reading this well-researched article on New York City’s Trinity Church.
Originally Dutch-held farm land of New Amsterdam, the area was conferred to the English Crown in 1671 and chartered by Queen Anne in 1705 as a royal grant for the establishment of an Anglican church for the Episcopal Diocese. Though more enlightened and civic-minded presently, the church once had the reputation of a predatory slumlord and an engine of gentrification—with the later still being a perennial source of contention. When Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip visited in 1976, the vestrymen of the church paid off nearly three hundred years of rent in arrears in peppercorns.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

sisyphean task

The always engrossing Kottke directs our attention to a classic, low-tech solution to a very modern problem with renewable energy generation: an innovative Swiss demonstration project that illustrates the efficient storage of energy in stacking heavy blocks.
We’ve previously explored how surplus energy (the excess over and above demand when the sun is shiny or it’s windy) can be “saved” for the doldrums by converting it from kinetic to potential energy, a controlled surrender to the struggle against gravity hard won in times of plenty with other applications—including dams and the Sisyphus Train—but this proposal which involves constructing and dismantling a tower seems especially precise and calibrated to needs. In its fully-charged state, a central crane would be surrounded with a block tower it built up using excess energy and when the power supply runs low, blocks are removed one by one and descend to the ground slowly, churning out electricity with a turbine in the process.


Thanks to a clever member of the Twitterati, we learn to our delight that there was a sixth century consort of the king of the Neustrain Franks of the Merovingian dynasty (previously here, here and here), wife of Chodebert I who ruled Paris and the western part of Gaul, called Ultragoth.
Charitably, Childebert is credited for bringing Roman Catholicism to Spain, at the request of his sister Chlortilde who claimed she was being berated and abused for her faith by King Amalaric of the Visigoths (an attested follower of Arius), who brought an army to settle this domestic dispute and invaded the peninsula, ousting the heretical Visigoths in favour of a dynasty more closely aligned with the Church.  Childebert also plundered some relics from Spain, including the dalmatic vestments of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, which Ultragoth found suitable homes for. Likely spelt Ultrogothe (or Vulthrogotha, which is also cool) in Franconian, not to be a spoil-sport, there’s no indication of frequency or popularity for the name but other female regnants and consorts (which seem to never be repeated) included Ermengarde, Himiltrude, Chimnechild, Radegund, Amalberga, Bilichild, Waldrada, Fulberte, Wulfegundis and Wisigard. Nothing else is known of Childebert’s wife other than that she, having failed to produce sons and therefore heirs, and her daughters, Chrodoberge and Chrodesinde, were sent into exile after the king’s death—as was their custom, and his share of the kingdom reverted to his younger brother, Chlothar.


As former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pled guilty to eight charges levied against him including silencing two women that Trump had affairs with (implicating Trump in the deed in violation of campaign finance rules) in a federal courthouse in Manhattan, nearly simultaneous a jury in Washington, DC announced its verdicts for Paul Manafort, finding the former campaign chairman guilty on eight of eighteen counts.
Declaring mistrial on some of the accusations—those he was found guilty for include tax evasion, obtaining lines of credit on false pretences and bank fraud—speaks to the fairness of the court proceedings and impartiality of the jurors. Next on the docket for Manafort, he will stand trial next month for failure to declare himself as acting on behalf of a foreign agent when he lobbied for Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, ousted by the Orange Revolution of 2014 and wanted in the country for crimes of high treason, malversation and murder. While the later had less to do with Trump than the former, the outcome does confer more protections on the Special Council’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia against interference on the part of Republicans who would like to see the matter closed by demonstrating conspiracy and the charges materialised and were substantiated directly as a result of the Special Council’s work.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

rolling stock

Via Londonist, we are treated to the handiwork of Matthew Sommerville who has made a real-time map of the trains moving through the London Underground. Each yellow dot represents a carriage winding its way from station to station, drawing its telemetry from the same public data sets that inform time-tables and station information boards, and will at a click reveal more information about its route and one can toggle between geographic and schematic projections.


Financed during the inter-war period by the Germany Ministry of Transportation partially to circumvent peace treaty conditions which limited the range and speed of aircraft produced and to captivate the public—who were impressed with this feat of engineering but it never proved commercially viable—the prototype Dornier Do X had its first test-flight in July of 1929 on the Swiss part of Lake Constance (die Bodensee). The largest and heaviest flying boat (Flugschiff) ever built, it was designed to accommodate a compliment of fourteen crew members and between sixty-six (long-haul) and one hundred (short-haul) passengers and after trials that achieved the requisite altitude for a trans-Atlantic crossing, the craft began a tour of Europe with the aim being to introduce the flying boat to North American markets.
A series of accidents and mishaps instead diverted the plane to meandering course to Brazil via the Azores and Cape Verde and north to Puerto Rico and finally landing ten months later in New York City and Newfoundland before a return flight to Berlin. Public jubilation could not overcome financing hurdles (made all the more difficult to secure due to the burgeoning Great Depression) and further botched excursions, though the Dornier Do X concept demonstrated what could be done with amphibious aircraft and opened up business to the idea of international passenger service.

punky brewster

While there’s no definitive link between the stereotypical image of a witch and the business attire, signpost and shingle of the medieval alewives (braciatrix, brewess, brewster) that dominated beer brewing as a cottage industry from Antiquity to the early Middle Ages does certainly seem to inform the Western world’s conception with the distinguishing calling-cards of a tall, pointy hat, cauldron, broomstick and a feline familiar.
Despite inconclusive scholarship and myriad neighbourhood jealousies that can set off a flurry of accusations, that men—seeing a business opportunity and wanting to dispose of the competition, would resort to calling their established counterparts enchantresses and in league with the Devil does not surprise. The first outbreaks of the Plague across Europe caused significant shifts in the production of beer and spirits, taking it out of the home and making it a larger scale enterprise, often under the charter of the Church and a venture for monasteries to make beer to standard and making independent women entrepreneurs more and more marginalised. An empowered beer wench could certainly push a man to behave below his station, driving him to make poor choices and spend all his money on drink, and once women were forced to abandon their craft brew, they maintained their treacherous wiles by more unnatural means.

Monday, 20 August 2018

pražská jar

Fifty years ago, the reform efforts of the government of Czechoslovakia were brought to a standstill and reversed with the invasion of the Soviet Union with the materiel support from three other Warsaw Pact nations, with some two-hundred thousand troops and two thousand tanks and the arrest of First Secretary Alexander Dubček, with many more fleeing into exile, who spearheaded the movement known as the Prague Spring.
Over time, a half a million troops would occupy the country, advancing from beyond the country’s borders after an ostensibly successful round of negotiations concluded earlier in the month, coming an unexpected shock to the people of Czechoslovakia who believed that their interpretation of socialism, a mixed system that held protections for individual freedoms of expression might be the way forward. The Soviets saw the push for political liberalisation and move towards decentralisation of economic and foreign policy as a threat to the Eastern Bloc’s cohesion as a unified front against bourgeois values.

baby’s on fire

Duck Soup directs our attention to an interesting meta-study whose aim is to explore the notion of a winning-streak and whether or not there’s something to idea of success having momentum.
I’ve been wondering myself about the more accustomed inertia of regression and how much of a boost one win can give one to persevere—which to a degree makes sense as a universal truth but research inserts factor chance back into the equation, demonstrating that perhaps counterintuitively that successes come at random intervals. Surveying the careers of thousands through the lens of one of the biggest winning-streaks of science, Albert Einstein’s prolific Annus Mirabilis (previously here, here and here), researchers found that despite the overarching random nature of when fortune visits, back-to-back triumphs do indeed seem to occur and accrue in all fields.

canonical consent

Though possibly polyandrous on the actress’ part in light of her earlier, coerced nuptials with Betelgeuse, we learn that the co-stars of the 1992 Francis Ford Coppula adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula—Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder—might have actually been married during the movie’s production.  Shot in Romania, the ceremony was reportedly presided over by an authentic priest who may or may not have understood his role on set. While the likelihood of a marriage considered legal and binding without the backing of substantiating documents strikes one as the stuff of sitcom tropes, it’s nonetheless a fun bit of trivia to consider and speculate if there are instances of fictional matrimony having legal consequence.

think different

Though we are all probably intimately familiar with his branding work, we might not have recognised the name of the individual Paul Rand (Peretz Rosenbaum, *1914 - †1996) who was one of the first Americans to adopt and champion the Swiss Style, a typographical offshoot of the Bauhaus movement, of graphic design without news of an upcoming auction of his creations. Rand fashioned iconic logos, the cohesive and unifying stuff of corporate identities, and advertising campaigns for Westinghouse, Yale University Press, the United States Postal Service, and Apple as well as for IBM and ABC television, whose emblems in one form or another are still in use.

rosy fingered dawn

Reopened to visitors after restrictions were lifted due to damage sustained by an earthquake strike two years hence, an inaugural group of photographers hiked into Kikuchi Valley nature preserve before the sun rose to capture the elusive effect of rising mists broken by divine beams of light. Known as kobo (光芒), witnessing such rays certainly provide a transfixing experience and would be well worth the early morning trek to experience and share. Visit Spoon & Tamago at the link above for more.

Sunday, 19 August 2018


tarnkappe: world’s first graphene jacket gives it wearer super-powers

like my mom used to say, if you need calcium, eat a milkman—yep, she said it: Ze Frank (previously) returns with true facts about carnivorous plants, via The Art of Darkness

67/p churyumov-gerasimenko: peruse one hundred thousand striking images of the alien landscape of the comet that the Rosetta probe rendezvoused with

global statesman: former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel laureate Kofi Annan has passed away

forever blowing bubbles: a look back at the financial crash of 2008 and realising how little things have changed

pulsars: instructive and interactive coding tutorials on creating generative art (previously here and here), via Waxy

take care, tcb: some superlative obituaries and appreciations on the passing of Aretha Franklin 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

attention generative adversarial network

Miss Cellania has given us a home work assignment that’s going to occupy us for the next few hours at least in the form of Cris Valenzuela’s laboratory’s latest artificial intelligence generative image maker. Earlier iterations of its kind sought to caption images submitted but this programme attempts to paint abstractions of text entered. Here are a few that I requested. Learn more about the methodology behind the demonstration project, and give it a try yourself (I think it might be overwhelmed at the moment so do give it a go later) at the links above and be sure to share some of your results.


Channeling the inventive spirit of World War II English mad scientist Geoffrey Pyke (previously) who among other suggestions to the Admiralty, recommended that bombing runs be staged from aircraft carriers with runways made of ice, reinforced with a mixture of sawdust and wood pulp called Pykrete, a London-based food studio has developed an assortment of frozen treats able to resist melting in 24°C heat for one hour, substituting fruit fibre for sawdust.
It might at first glance seem a frivolous thing to worry about but this second look at a composite material that was abandoned during the war due to other priorities and pressures could indeed translate to other applications from ways to keep foods and medications cooler for longer in places without reliable refrigeration or even something more ambitious that what Pyke envisioned himself as girders and frames to help stabilise and hold together ice sheets and icebergs until they can heal themselves. Pyke’s cousin, incidentally, Magnus was a radio and television presenter and celebrity, hosting many programmes on the topic of nutrition and food science and was the Home Doctor for Thomas Dolby’s 1982 song, She Blinded Me with Science—the one who interjects, “Science!” Maybe science and innovation can indeed save us yet.

internet caretakers

Via the Awesomer, we are directed back to Wikimedia’s Gift Shop (previously) for a look at its further adventures into street apparel with the foundation’s collaboration with Advisory Board Crystals. All proceeds go to funding the foundation and its many projects—beyond its flagship undertaking of free knowledge for all.


We learn that Icelanders have a catchy-sounding colloquial term, bongóblíða—bongo weather, to describe this rather pleasant respite from the sweltering heat we’re currently enjoying, though still quite seasonable and hot conditions. The word is a lyric from the 1988 Eurovision entry Sólarsamba (Sunny Samba) from father-daughter duo Magnús Kjartansson and Margrét Gauja Magnúsdóttir. Check out the link above to see a music video of the song for pronunciation help.

island one

The always engrossing and thematic Things Magazine directs our attention to a visionary and indulgent overview about how we’ll need to reassess our geometric conceits when outer space is no longer the beyond and we are living in orbit or in transit or as colonists on world’s where constants lose their consistency due to our perceptions warped by scale.  A series of studies held at Stanford University from 1975 to 1976 invited speculation on the form that future space stations might take and produced some fantastically ambitious illustrations for insular habitats composed of toruses and Bernal spheres which were self-sustaining environments and generated artificial gravity from rotation.
The article and images invites one to imagine what will it be like to live under a wrap-around sky with the horizon at the vanishing point and gravity is not an obstacle but rather a force harnessed in one’s favour and making us a bit superhuman in our strengths and capabilities..