Thursday, 20 September 2018

game of optional goals

Had I not learned otherwise, I would have thought that this alternative reality version, meritocratic of the board game Monopoly was some sort of commission from some No Such Agency to communicate with its field agents but Careers from Parker Brothers was introduced in 1955. In addition to the outer track, there are several internal loops, career paths to try and many more regular opportunities to draw cards of chance and a rather involved scoring system (recorded on a Magic Slate Paper Saver pad) to monitor progress and achieve a sort of work-life balance with a Success Formula of money, fame and happiness. Designed by sociologist, ethnographer and author James Cooke Brown (*1921 - †2000), players could aspire to be an astronaut, farmer or a uranium prospector among other things and landing on the same square as another knocked the first player to “the park bench”—intimating that they were out of work and fallen on hard times. Later versions of the game were adapted to better reflect the cultural milieu.

ye butcher, ye baker, ye candlestick-maker

Public Domain Review features a slim, quirky volume that at first glance seems like eighteenth century pulp fiction but is actually a 1908 light-hearted lament over the modern state of everyday occupations (to wit), satirising a host of old professions with ballads that address contemporary and resonant scourges—like over-regulation, quackery, fake news and copyfight, some perhaps landing a bit too close to home.
Click on the image to enlarge plus a word on the anachronistic use of “ye olde:” it should be and was always properly pronounced with the th sound, Early Modern English employing the now obsolete Old English letter thorn (þ), which in handwritten form could look like a y, especially when used in the scribal abbreviation of the article, the e a sort of superscript. Be sure to visit the link up top for more discoveries from the world’s print archives.

then and now

I regret not encountering this sooner—plus anything I might have done to make International Talk like a Pirate Day more significant than taking a moment to acknowledge the hard and ongoing struggles of women to achieve political parity with Suffrage Day, which is observed on 19 September to mark the passage of the Electoral Bill in 1893 granting women franchise.
Women were not eligible to stand for Parliament until 1919 but saw significant advances in the meantime and during the ensuing decades. To commemorate this one-hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary, female members of the nation’s legislature plus the prime minister (New Zealand’s third woman to hold the position) plus her infant daughter posed to recreate a photograph from 1905 to illustrate how democracies can evolve and be a force of enlightenment. Seeing the juxtaposition made me happy and relieved to know that there are still places and constituencies that value and cherish progress and diversity.

tomorrow is coming together

Via Boing Boing, we are acquainted with the brilliant and inspired handiwork of artist Future Punk who has imagined a suite of retro intros, outros and logos for internet companies had they existed in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The undertaking was inspired by the original promotional films produced by computer pioneers which can be found at the link above.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

greeks bearing gifts or self-consistency principle

Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, was awarded the gift of prophesy by Apollo but when she ultimately rebuffed his advances, the god cursed her so that no one would believe her portents of doom.
Poor thing even had a twin brother called Helenus that she managed to teach the art of seeing into the future, and like his sister was burdened to always be right—except that people believed Helenus. We can all relate to being the wet blanket sometimes.  We thought we knew the story and understood the frustration until listening to this conversation and series of interviews on Hidden Brain that look a close look at Cassandra’s arch dialogue, spoken in metaphor and abstractions like any good prophet, and come to understand that there was no curse and that people ignored her dire warnings because of the way they were presented. It was not a credibility issue but Cassandra’s omen could not draw the people she warned outside of the frame of reference that they were comfortable and familiar with, and the episode uses Cassandra’s curse as a heuristic tool to explore why we sometimes fail to heed good counsel.

lawnmower man

By way of their latest experiment, an open-world virtual environment mobbed with anonymous, autonomous characters that interact with one playable character called Emergence to really shift one’s perceptions of leader and follower or crowd versus individual, we are introduced to stunning portfolio of projects and digital demonstrations from the cosmopolitan global design collective Universal Everything. There’s not yet an interactive version available to the public but keep checking back at the links above for updates and to explore the studio’s other work.


Though there are quite a few antecedents and parallel traditions, on this day in 1982 Carnegie-Mellon computer scientist Scott Fahlman first proposed the use of the emoticons :-) and :-( to mark tone in electronic communications, posting his recommendation to the university’s bulletin board.

Quite a separate species from emoji—another convention popularised by derived from Japanese culture called kaomoji (顔文字, literally a “face character,” something whose meaning becomes clear when one tilts one’s head), the first use of an emoticon in Western media (though some argue that it is a typographical error) is a 1862 transcript of a speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln in the New York Times, “Fellow citizens: I believe there is no precedent for my appearing before you on this occasion, [applause] but it is also true that there is no precedent for your being here yourselves, (applause and laughter ;)” Whether or not this was intentional, by the next appearance of emoticons in print in an 1881 edition of Puck magazine—suggesting that the type-setting department could do fine on its own and manage without cartoonists.


Our thanks to the ever brilliant Nag on the Lake for showing us this rather macabre pair of earrings whose cachet would have been quite pervasive in fashion and culture during the French Revolution. A Phrygian or liberty cap, the head gear of manumitted enslaved individuals of ancient Greece and Rome, is perched a top a guillotine, a symbol of the “Reign of Terror” that took place between June 1793 and July 1794, with the decapitated but still crowned heads of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI dangling below—executed “democratically” along with over sixteen thousand others.

Protocol for capital crimes in the Ancien Régime dictated that method of execution was determined by the social status of the guilty, with beheadings reserved for nobility. On 9 October 1789, member of the Assemblée Nationale Constituante, the revolutionary government, Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin commissioned a form of execution that was both brutally efficient and egalitarian—upholding the invention of one surgeon named Antoine Louis. Louis in turn engaged a sub-contractor, a Prussian piano maker named Tobias Schmidt, to build the device. Afterwards, Schmidt and Louis tried to patent their invention that they referred to as a Petite Louison but their application was denied because to grant a monopoly on something lethal would be forfeiting all humanity. I wonder what sort of keepsakes will be popular the next time they come with pitchforks.


A clever artisan in Brooklyn by the name of Rae Swon, as Hyperalleric reports, has successfully buzz-marketed one of her latest creations by modeling it in the subway.
Inspired by a detail from early fourteenth century work by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (previously here and here) who depicted the trope of the mental and spiritual torments suffered by Saint Anthony in triptych form. The visions that Anthony, hailed as the father of monasticism and the champion of facing one’s own demons experienced visited him during his pilgrimage in the desert and included encounters with a centaur and satyr but to my knowledge there is no lore (that is remembered anyway, as I am sure it was some sort of timely reference) tied to the ice-skating beastly bird with a sealed letter in its beak.  

Tuesday, 18 September 2018


Produced by French manufacturer Alstom, the rail route between the towns of Cuxhaven and Buxtehude is now being serviced by the world’s first pair of hydrogen (Wasserstoff) powered commercial locomotives.
Capable of travelling upwards of one thousand kilometres per fuelling at speeds comparable to the old diesel trains they are replacing, this demonstration project—a particularly practical one for numerous commuters (Pendler) that travel between these cities—emits only steam and water in its exhaust and represents just the first stage of a planned, extended network across Europe.


critically endangered: Mona Chalabi illustrates species on the brink of extinction by placing them in subway cars, via Nag on the Lake

secret of the selenites: we have the technology and surplus wealth to build a Moon base right now

wallflower: an artist installs a Putin portrait in a Trump hotel suite for a month and no one batted an eye

ballot measures: a consortium of artists create state-by-state voting guides in comics form for upcoming US elections—via Waxy

i preferred the sequel—also sprach Zarathustra: taking a fresh look at the worldview of Friedrich Nietzsche, who suffered no palliatives, in the age of self-help and search for consolation

aurum potable: anti-aging trends and questionable tonics are nothing new

drosophilia titanus: a selective breeding-program to create fruit-flies that could theoretically survive he harsh conditions on Saturn’s largest satellite, prodding some serious ethical and epistemological questions—via Boing Boing

ansible oder zum gedanken an

Moving house and home a few months ago and by sheer dint of having too many things, we had to cull some of our stuff—including a telephone that belonged to H’s grandmother (it’s funny how landlines in general are referred too as granny phones), which I took with the instructions to dispose of it.
Of course, I didn’t do as I was told—mostly because the dial, enigmatically and I still haven’t figured out why, only went up to eight—though there’s slots for the zero and nine. Now that H’s grandmother has recently passed away, I’m glad we held on to her telephone—especially in keeping with this special telephone booth installed in a town ravaged by the tsunami and Fukushima disaster of 2011 to let people commune with those they’ve lost, and perhaps with those that they never got to say goodbye to. I know I’m conflating metaphors and confusing two histories with their own canons but having grown up in the shadow of Colditz castle and having worked there, I associated her story with the series Hogan’s Heroes—which by coincidence premiered in 1965 on the same day as we lost her.

Monday, 17 September 2018

orbiter vehicle designation 101

On this day (Constitution Day in the United States of America to mark its ratification in 1787) in 1976 President Gerald Ford christened the Space Shuttle Enterprise, named in response to an overwhelming Trekkie (“one of the most dedicated constituencies in the country”) letter campaign and the event was attended by the creators and cast of Star Trek.
Like the NCC-1701, it was not originally designed for spaceflight with no heat-shield for atmospheric re-entry (absent the expository device of a teleporter), the test vehicle was an important stepping stone to improve next generation vehicle engineering, famously piggy-backing aloft on a Boeing 747 to bring it to attitude and speed and testing its gliding maneuvers. The Enterprise was later retrofitted and flew missions in support of Skylab.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

bella ciao

After more than a two year hiatus, prompted by the disturbing tilt towards fascism that’s captivated many unexpected many lately to include the separation and incarceration of young children from their families, Tom Waits has contributed his voice to the compilation of Songs of Resistance—spanning from World War II until the present—collected and arranged by composer and guitarist Marc Ribot with the Italian lament “Bella Ciao,” Farewell Beautiful, a ballad of much older and universal pedigree. Listen to the song (follow the bouncing ball with the lyrics below) and visit the link above to learn more about the anthology of protest.

One fine morning
I woke up early
o bella ciao, bella ciao
bella ciao, ciao, ciao
One fine morning
I woke up early
to find the fascists at my door

Oh partigiano
take me with you
bella ciao, bella ciao
goodbye, beautiful
oh partigiano
please take me with you
I’m not afraid anymore

And if I die
a partigiano
bella ciao, bella ciao
goodbye, beautiful
Bury me
up on that mountain
beneath the shadow of the flower

So all the people
the people passing
bella ciao, bella ciao
goodbye, beautiful
So all the people
the people passing
will say: “What a beautiful flower”

This is the flower
of the partisan
bella ciao, bella ciao
bella ciao
this is the flower
of the partisan
who died for freedom

this is the flower
of the partisan
who died for freedom

transit hub

Though quite the committed walker myself, I’ve never quite mustered the occasion for the sort of point to point travel on foot from terminal to downtown that Ian Rose has developed into a rather intriguing pastime, sharing his routes and results—as we learn from Nag on the Lake and Things Magazine.
Ages ago I recall out of obstinance walking from Marco Polo airport to Pisa but that was only about an hour’s walk under relatively pedestrian friend conditions, and ages before that being told by a cab driver that he wasn’t licensed to take passengers to the airport servicing Havana and stopped on a parallel road and was told to dash through the intervening field of sugar cane to reach the airport. We don’t fly very often but do pass Frankfurt Flughafen on a pretty regular basis and I’ve wondered about those seemingly hard-to-access areas and industrial estates not meant for human perambulation. I think that this bears some further investigation.


Due to limited hours per semester, a sub-committee of the Texas Board of Education (that was the nickname of the paddle when I was in school) convenes regularly to cull figures from its social studies curriculum that no longer retain the relevance to devote a portion of a lesson to studying.
Among those nominated to be consigned to a memory hole include father of modern political philosophy Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, Republican elder statesman and five term Arizona senator that urged Richard Nixon to resign Barry Morris Goldwater, author and activist that overcame her disabilities to flourish Helen Adams Keller (her inspirational story has become problematic for her support for socialism and civil rights), and First Lady, senator of New York, Secretary of State and presidential contender Hilary Rodham Clinton—to name a few victims of damnatio memoriae. What do you think? The space vacated by Hobbes and Clinton is to be filled with the prophet and lawgiver Moses and the late televangelist Billy Graham respectively, if the recommendations of the committee are enacted. These decisions have far-reaching implications beyond Texas public schools since the state is a large market for textbook publishers and their will be pressure to adapt national standards to the prevailing ones.

Saturday, 15 September 2018


After legalising marijuana throughout the country back in June, it gave its provinces some time to prepare for cultivation and sales when the law goes into effect one month from now on 17 October.
US border control authorities, however, do not recognise the legitimacy of the lifestyle and trade options that this change in the law heralds and reserves its right to bar any individual entry who uses or trafficks in the substance (actual possession or intent to distribute is immaterial), which is illegal on the federal level in America. What if Canada were to retort that they didn’t recognise America’s attitude on firearms as a legitimate and banned visitors accordingly? Though there are no plans presently to interrogate every Canadian visitor about his or her cannabis use at the border, those figures who already have public ties to the emerging markets have received a lifetime ban on entering the US. Despite consternation and at a time when diplomatic relations between America and Canada are under significant strain, Trudeau offers he is in no position to telegraph to another nation how to patrol its borders.

times are bum and getting bummer, still we have fun

Our thanks to Boing Boing for the timely and annotated reminder of how only a few journalists really were prepared to ask the tough and probing questions in the wake of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, precipitated by one bank’s declaration of bankruptcy that revealed the fantastic nature of six hundred billion dollar portfolio, and most were to believe hard-scrabble legends to keep up the charade. As one of those exceptional reporters, Matt Taibbi, prefaces “history is written by the victors” in his reflection on the lost decade—not hyperbole, especially when one considers the regressive caution and pessimism and the generation caught in risk adverse times—and a legacy we are still very much heir to. An overly elaborate narrative, deflecting and assigning blame, was offered as sort of an allegory to explain something as immediate as a greedy and fraudulent practises, which the public could have easily digested and understood and not find themselves in an even more compromised position later.
It was a truth that one couldn’t squeal to the proletariat since their confidence and complicity in the system—contributing to pension-schemes and the dream of home-ownership—not only generated wealth for those barons of industry that can spin straw into gold but was also already entrenched as a matter of national security and a question of macroeconomics eschatology. As big and over-leveraged as US debt is, supply exceeds demand for foreign countries who would like to park its cash in government-backed bonds, considered as safe an investment as anything and with a guaranteed rate of return but with retirement-funds and pension-schemes competing for a safe bet, foreign governments resort to the next best thing: real estate in the form of home loans and mortgages. In order to keep the faith that internal and external backers have in all bonds, the financial system’s junk bonds have to be buoyed up as well by shielding dishonest brokers from the wages of capitalism. This calculated behaviour on the part of economists was the disdain that fostered the attitude that allowed some to be turned away from experts—lumping in those not worthy of their trust in with legitimate and helpful institutions—and by extension the establishment.  And now we are all living with the effects of that misplaced anger.  

from the annals of improbable research

Ludicrous as some of the entrants may be, none of the laureates of the Ig Noble prize (previously here and here)—a competition started back in 1991, meant to engage and to “first make people laugh and then make them think”—are without scientific merit and this year’s winners have recently been announced.
All of them have something innovative and thought-provoking behind their mad scientist persona but we particularly liked the winner in the category of chemistry, who undertook a serious trial to better understand the efficacy of human saliva as a cleaning agent (or indeed as a styling product) and discovered that the intuition and resourcefulness of mothers and conservators was correct and may even lead to isolating the responsible compound and creating a synthetic version.

evil red janet

We’re fortunate enough to have an old sort variety of apple tree growing in our backyard called der Schöner aus Boskoop (the nice one from Boskoop) or just Boskop for short—in reference to its nineteenth century pedigree from the orchards (in Boskoop, the Netherlands) of noted Dutch pomologist Kornelis Johannes Wilhelm Ottolander, who was responsible for many other fruit types as well—and waiting for the right time to harvest these winter apples (I think they’re keeping ripe), we were quite impressed with some of the names for heirloom apples as suggested by a neural network (previously). The Lady Fallstone, Spitzenborn, Bramboney, Winesour and Galler’s Baldwilling seemed like especially plausible names but do check out all of them and other taxonomical projects at the links above.

Friday, 14 September 2018

18 u.s.c. § 371

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort pled guilty on counts of conspiracy against the United States for failing to register his work on behalf of a foreign agent and obstruction of justice insofar as he tried to convince potential witnesses to not take part in ongoing investigations into wrongdoing and agrees to participate in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort entered his disposition ahead of a second trial that was scheduled for Monday and curries leniency for his decision and willingness to accept responsibility for what he’s enabled in exchange for full, truthful, complete and forthright cooperation though his sentence may mean ten years in prison. Pretending to be pre-occupied with other matters, Trump has so far been silent on the developments.

new style

This day for those subjects of the British Empire in 1752 was proceeded by the second of September due to the calendar reforms of the Chesterfield Act, ratified by Parliament two years prior.
The law synchronised the empire with most of the rest of the Western Europe that had adopted the Gregorian calendar in the late sixteenth century and also decreed that the new year began on the first of January instead of on Lady Day (the Feast of the Annunciation). Possibly exaggerated accounts of rioting with angry mobs demanding, “Give us our eleven days!” inspired cartoonist William Hogarth to satirise the partisan process with the lengthy and heated dispute between Whig and Tory members that prefaced passage.

liner notes

Can our government be competent? Jimmy Carter says yes! More here.

game of domes

The Russian armed forces are soliciting donations to build (in record time—to be completed by the 2020 seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II) a massive cathedral in Patriot Park. Meant to unite and inspire the Russian people, this planned symbol of the role of the Orthodox Church in the army reminds some of the establishing shots of Westeros in the Game of Thrones or an anti-flak battery. Learn more and find more reporting from foreign bureaus at the BBC’s News from Elsewhere at the link above.

cone of uncertainty

As another potentially deadly and destructive hurricane is poised to ravage the eastern seaboard, Trump is expressing doubts about the death toll in Puerto Rico from last year’s Hurricane Maria, saying that Democrats have inflated numbers in order to make him look bad. We don’t want to draw more attention to this unslaking narcissist and his unabashed departures from reality but this particular lie especially insulting and emblematic of his revolting behaviour in that Trump is only willing to recognise and honour only one victim: himself.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

centre of gravity

In 1910 inventor Antonio Biehl of El Paso Texas registered a patent for an advertising chair of the rocking variety whose back and forth motions caused a mechanism to scroll through a series of sponsored notices. Presumably such seating accommodations might be featured in the reception area of doctors’ offices or other antechambers and demonstrates that our age isn’t the first to pervasively plaster advertisements or to recognise them as a necessary nuisance and counter-balance to creativity.

arc of narrative

From Three-Toed Sloth’s recommended reading list, we encounter the mathematical dissection of the narratology of comparative myth-making in Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale (1928). Drawing on the canon of Russia fairy stories, Propp’s treatment abstracts motifs into thirty one categories (that merit enumerating since that act alone tells a story) and assigns them their own transformative function, distributive property, designed for analysis, as did the Brothers Grimm and Joseph Campbell, and for formulaic writing.

One of the members of a family absents himself from home (β)
An interdiction is addressed to the hero (γ )
The interdiction is violated (δ)
The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance (ϵ)
The villain receives information about his victim (ζ)
The villain attempts to deceive his victim in order to take possession of him or of his belongings (η)
The victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps his enemy (θ)
The villain causes harm or injury to a member of a family (A) or One member of a family either lacks something or desires to have something (a)
Misfortune or poverty is made known; the hero is approached with a request or command; he is allowed to go or he is dispatched (B)
The seeker agrees to or decides upon counteraction (C)
The hero leaves home (↑)
The hero is tested, interrogated, attacked, etc., which prepares the way for receiving either a magical agent or helper (D)
The hero reacts to the actions of the future donor (E)
The hero acquires the use of a magical agent (F)
The hero is transferred, delivered, or led to the whereabouts of an object of search (G)
The hero and the villain join in direct combat (H)
The hero is branded or marked (J)
The villain is defeated (I)
The initial misfortune or lack is liquidated (K)
The hero returns (↓)
The hero is pursued (Pr)
Rescue of the hero from pursuit (Rs)
The hero, unrecognized, arrives home or in another country (o)
A false hero presents unfounded claims (L)
A difficult task is proposed to the hero (M)
The task is resolved (N)
The hero is recognised (Q)
The false hero or villain is exposed (Ex)
The hero acquires a new appearance (T)
The villain goes punished (U)
The hero marries and ascends the throne (W)

The bracketed Roman and Greek letters and symbols are the functions to be combined and recombined, which Propp definitely, exhaustively tries. What stories do you recognise that follow this structure?  It’s well worth a look at the permutations and further commentary at the link up top.

second nature

Regardless if you refer to the messy bundle of influences, incidents and accidents that make up one’s inheritance luck or grace—the question of nature versus nurture ought to be flattened out since those factors that inform our trajectories are just as much outside of our agency as winning or losing the genetic lottery—its role in one’s success ought not to be discounted.  Though I’d like to consider myself enlightened and gracious enough to acknowledge—with due humility—that fact, reading this essay from David Roberts writing for Vox confronted me with an important reminder that my relationship to my own legacy and that of my peers, neighbours and strangers isn’t as generous and empathetic as it should be.
The goal post for that is always being set further back—as it should be too. Agency and willpower are not empty concepts and are what elevates us, but they are nonetheless secondary and demand to be formed and reinforced through habit—just as it is that the majority of merit and honour is to be found in overcoming those baser instincts and snap judgments whose pedigree have obviously paid off over the generations but can be ill-suited for most modern settings. What do you think? It was particularly provoking how the reasoning that removes one from the cycle of bad habits is the same one that generally remains quiet and tardy when greed and sloth are making the executive decisions and comes calling after the fact as regret and recrimination. The ability to stare into the middle distance and muddle through reflecting on that receding goal post is of course influenced by those same heirlooms that are beyond our control and the clarity of vision and resolve is determined by our peers and their willingness to not forgive but rather overlook our trespasses.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals, we are dazzled by a brilliant collaboration among a London-based start-up that specialises in making flying screens, choreographer GMUNK and dancer Zakiya. See the full credits and take a peek behind the scenes at Stash magazine.


contemporary scolds: take this quiz and guess whether writers’ are complaining about e-scooters or new-fangled velocipedes

art house cinema: a look at some of the experimental documentaries that defined Icarus Films

dabangs: South Korean “stress cafés” are a revival of an older tradition supplanted by the invasion of Western chains

anatomy of the ai: a smart speaker depicted as an anatomical chart intersected by natural resources, data and human labour by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler

tunteet: a large Finnish research project to identify, classify and map the range of human feelings

slithery sam: the life and work of printmaker, illustrator and upholsterer Enid Marx

a soft murmur: adjustable background noise for any occasion, via Dave Log 3.0

lenticular lens: this thousand piece jigsaw puzzle changes colours depending on the viewers’ angle—via Kottke’s Quick Links  

finger in every pie

Ernie Smith from Tedium has a thoughtful column that argues the case in favour of reducing rather than trying to expand one’s exposure to the unrelenting barrage of information available at one’s finger tips by closing one’s browser tabs.
Like the cult of Inbox Zero or the compulsion to have everything marked as read, it’s an exercise of course emblematic for the search for tranquillity and quiet in whatever context and any given setting and artefacts are bound to change. I really liked how the introduction referenced the concept of tsundoku (積ん読)—letting unread books like good intentions pile up—with a twist on the aggressive panopticon of happenings and updates in tab-sundoku, and I appreciate such mediations, especially when I catch myself getting irritated or anxious or feeling delinquent over things of my own making. Most (if not all) of these sorts of pressures come from within.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

inter alia

While only briefly a signatory to the Treaty of Rome during the final years of the Clinton administration, Bush II withdrawing America along with Israel and the Sudan with the US being only an observer state during the Obama years under contingent provisions that US soldiers were immune from its verdicts or prosecutions, it is still far out of bounds for the US to excoriate the International Criminal Court (ICC) as irrelevant and capricious.
Beyond the gesture of refusal to cooperate (previously here and here), the US government is threatening dire consequences against the ICC should it move forward in investigating allegations against the US for war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan to include sanctions and criminal charges against the members of the court and any parties cooperating with their case. A parallel inquiry into human rights violations and practising a policy of apartheid on the people of Palestine resulted in the US closing off all diplomatic outlets for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)—evicting the group from its offices in Washington, DC—a move also characterised as an assault on sovereignty and a country’s right to self-defence undermined.


Via Slashdot, we are reminded that while there has already been a rather crass slue of space-related advertising tie-ins and governments are not the only participants in pushing exploration forward, but I’d still rather not see astronauts and rockets covered in corporate logos like NASCAR racers as the NASA administrator is directing his staff to look into.
While nothing is official yet, any change in stance towards allowing sponsorship or endorsement would signal a significant shift in ethics rules that prohibit officials using public office for private gain. I suppose it is a natural consequence of allowing a tabloid tyrant occupy high-office.  What do you think? This does not even get into the value of inspiration and aspiration that would be squandered by staring off into the “moral equivalent of the side of a bus.”

miss simpson, do you find something funny about the word tromboner?

For this year’s International Trombone Festival, the talented Christopher Bill brought together a big ensemble of fellow players to produce an epic brass cover of the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Learn more at Laughing Squid about the organiser, contributors and the fest.

north tower

Hoping to gather some stock footage of a placid skyline to illustrate the juxtaposition between expectations and apprehensions surrounding the hysterical build-up and climax to the Millennial Computer Bug and the quieter, calmer realities of the real world, Stuttgarter artist Wolfgang Staehle, an early adopter of technology in creating art, set up a webcam in New York City on 11 September 2001 and inadvertently captured the first plane’s impact into the World Trade Center and the subsequent collapse.
Because of the state of web-cameras seventeen years ago, the images are granular and advance in spans of four seconds. Though not the first time that the unique recording has been shown in remembrance and commemoration, on this anniversary the Brooklyn Historical Society will be projecting the film onto a custom screen and have synchronised the video so it plays out in precise real time. It is hoped that visitors to the screening will be able to incorporate this digital witness to terror in a resilient and circumspect way that recalls how the virtual world can both inform and contradict the real one.

Monday, 10 September 2018

well fiddle!

Our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet, reminds that among many other things that occurred on this day, a quarter of a century hence saw the pilot of The X-Files, whose reboot didn’t seem to fare so well in a post-truth world, aired. Thirty eight before that, CBS broadcast the first episode of Gunsmoke (imagine that mash-up), which ran until 1975, making it the longest running scripted television series of continuing characters in American primetime television until that honour was taken by The Simpsons just in April of this year.


Winner of the UK James Dyson Award, which recognises excellence in innovative designs and engineering, the O-Wind (o for omnidirectional) Turbine captures any random breeze or gale from all vectors and could prove especially revolutionary in dense urban environments where traditional windmills could not go.  Small enough to be used by individual apartment dwellers dangling them outside on their balconies, the prototype taps into a power source that previously went unharvested. See a video demonstration and learn more about the awards competition at Dezeen at the link above.


According to Slashdot, Dubai is exploring the possibility of towing an Antarctic iceberg to the rapidly expanding desert megacity to supply its populace with fresh water. What do you think about that?
I don’t know what the environmental consequences are to nibbling at the margins of the last apolitical refuges of the Earth but it doesn’t strike as a particularly good, far-sighted idea. An engineering firm is in the process of selecting an appropriate candidate—somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred million tonnes—and is working out the logistics, though it’s unclear about the finer points of storage or sale to the government.

the truth is out there

Rather than the usual under construction signs begging off any inconvenience caused, the authorities at Denver International are instead embracing the lore that’s been built up since its opening in 1995 while major renovations are undertaken at the airport’s Jeppesen Terminal.
Conspiracy theories abound and the airport expressed a willingness to parody itself, including its apocalyptic murals, “Templar” marking, coded Masonic words printed on the carpet (which are questionable transliterations of Navajo topographical terms), and a purported network of subterranean passageways that connect world leaders with aliens lodged at the relatively nearby military installation colloquially known as Area 51. See more of the publicity boards at the link above.

Sunday, 9 September 2018


Thanks to a tip from the always excellent Everlasting Blört, we’re treated to a fun and hopefully expanding project made by Tim Holman and Claudio Guglieri. Called the Pattern Library, one is invited to scroll through bolts of repeating geometries of tiles, meanders, waves, tiles, rotations and reflections with more information about the designers of each motif available as well as the option to download the wallpaper as a template. Give it a spin yourself to appreciate the variety of designs.

ausländische militärstandorte

Though less than a tenth of US troop presence remains from levels around the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and stationing the American military has been fraught for both host and sending nations at times, the army’s announcement to add fifteen hundred troops to the roughly thirty thousand currently in Germany is a far more welcome alternative to what the Commander-in-Chief’s druthers—threatening to remove all troops from Germany if the country failed to pay its membership dues. America’s footprint got significant smaller in Europe in 2012 with the closure of several outposts and the announced re-basing of the headquarters in Heidelberg but this announcement, which will deploy soldiers to Ansbach, Grafenwöhr, Hohenfels and Baumholder in 2020 may signal a re-strengthening of a presence and partnership that is welcome by many.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

paradise gardens

Messy Nessy Chic correspondent Francky Knapp delivers a nice retrospective look at eccentric Baptist minister Howard Finster (*1916 - †2001) called to spread the gospel through Paradise Gardens, open air church office, home and studio in Summerville, Georgia in the southern US, peopled with nearly fifty thousand pieces of outsider, naïve and visionary art—genres which overlapped in Finster’s repertoire but he was largely responsible for gaining their purchase in in popular culture.
In the mid-1970s, Finster’s sculpture garden began receiving national attention and was commissioned to execute four painting for the Library of Congress, acting on divine orders to create sacred art, the subjects being as diverse and iconic as aliens, UFOs, Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley, etc. In 1983, the band REM filmed their music video for “Radio Free Europe” on the grounds of Paradise Gardens and two years later, Talking Heads commissioned cover art (pictured) from Finster for their album Little Creatures (“And She Was,” “Road to Nowhere”).
Notwithstanding Finster’s success in introducing millions to his style and inspiring the likes of fellow artists Keith Haring and Purvis Young, he remained committed to this mission of religious outreach, saying he’d managed to sneak in twenty-six verses of scripture into that cover and to think of the millions it’s reached. Learn more and see a whole gallery of Finster’s works at the links up top.

the manila pact

Though considered ineffectual and was formerly dissolved in 1977 after key members withdrew their support, on this day in 1954 the Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan as well as France, the US and the UK formed the mutual defence collective called the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) as force to countermand the spread of Communism in the region. Although failing to halt Soviet influence and the existence of the treaty was cited as the US and Australia as justification for involvement against North Vietnam and large-scale military intervention, SEATO leaves a legacy of educational and vocational endowments that support research and outreach projects to this day.

Friday, 7 September 2018

snap pack

Danish pilsner Carlsberg will replace the usual plastic ring binding used to secure multipacks of beer with a specially formulated glue that’s has both the properties to hold the aluminium cans together securely for transport but are still easy to separate and with no residual stickiness. Reducing its plastic use by the equivalent of sixty million plastic bags a year, the global brewery ought to be applauded for demonstrating that with just a little ingenuity, we can be better stewards of the environment. Skål!


Thanks to Super Punch, we learn that there is a class of highly-specialised trees that have evolved a particular affinity for normally toxic metals.
As the appropriately named Doctor Antony van der Ent explains to the BBC’s science desk, a species that they are studying in New Caledonia has high concentrations of nickel in its sap (latex) that researchers speculate may be a defence against insect predation. Under threat from deforestation from strip mining activities and slash and burn farming, scientists hope to study how the mechanism, called hyperaccumulation, works and perhaps to harness it to purify soils contaminated by industry or waste or even passively mine the ground for metals, harvesting the accrued resources with the plant—an extraction strategy called phytomining.

when life gives you lemons

Derived ultimately from the Arabic word for swindler, mafioso did not necessarily carry the negative connotations on the island of Sicily where it took on the qualities of swagger and fearlessness and the mafia itself arose, as presented quite fascinatingly by Æon Magazine, due at least in part to the success of another Arabic transplant, the lemon.
The unification of Italy (previously Sicily was ruled by a Bourbon dynasty and the residents of the island probably viewed the mainland as just another in a long succession of colonial powers) intersected with the medical insight that citrus would prevent scurvy in sailors on long ocean voyages and translated to a huge windfall for those who kept orchards on the island. More and more groves were planted to keep up with demand and in order to prevent loss of the valuable fruit through theft, guards were employed to supplement the unreliable or non-existent defence that local police or the courts could provide. Eventually such protection, merited or otherwise, became customary with a growing cut of the proceeds going to wardens who had established themselves as fixtures of the marketplace and de facto authority.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

thunderbirds are go!

Messy Nessy Chic delivers an amazing appreciation of the universe of Supermarionation, conceived by puppeteers Sylvia and Gerry Anderson, whose sets and scenery are truly something to behold even if one might dismiss the preternatural uncanniness of the cast, marionettes whose faces referenced contemporary celebrities.
Spanning several stand-alone series and broadcast throughout the 1960s and later in syndication and homage, one iteration became the first television programme in the UK filmed entirely in colour and Thunderbirds itself, considered the most commercially successful series of the genre, enjoyed a merchandising success unrivaled until that of Star Wars. Visit the link above to learn more and to see more clips of the shows.

lodestar or ship of state

Nearly as good as when fired FBI director James Comey projected rather arch dialogue, quite generously, into the head of Trump, the anonymous contributor of a New York Times editorial piece, whom everyone wants to identify, peppered his missive with some distinct language including the term lodestar, figuratively, an individual who serves as a role model or guide—referencing the loss of John McCain but the endurance of his example, which may help reveal authorship.
Speculation does not even discount the possibility that it might be the viceroy Pence himself, having used the word on several occasions. Ironic were it true, the apparent courage of conviction that Pence has for Trump’s pandering policies is probably the one thing preventing the legislator from moving towards impeachment since it would mean the ascendancy of this or another creatures of Trump’s court and perhaps there’s evidence forthcoming damning enough (and incontrovertible enough) to not just impeach but annul this regime and every thing it’s undone.


au bout du fil: a surreal animated short by Paul Driessen from the National Film Board of Canada

busytown 2018: mansplainers and swamp drainers (previously), via Kottke 

creative commons: potential changes to European Union’s intellectual property law could give rise to censorship machines and a link tax

off the wall: an analysis of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”

foremal: IKEA partners with Per B Sundberg to create a line of homewares with a gothic aesthetic

going up: researchers at Shizuoka University to conduct a proof of concept trial for a space elevator, via Slashdot 

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

kunst und kohle

A consortium of museums in Germany’s post-industrial heartland, das Ruhrgebiet (previously), is bidding a conflicted adieu to its withering coal-powered past.  Still the world’s largest producer of the particularly dirty variety of lignite (a very dubious honour) and amid ongoing protests to retire extraction and burning of coal altogether, the museums curate a fascinating, nostalgic reflection on the culture informed by coal towns and mining communities through a variety of artefacts that attest to working conditions and the relationships forged by the families whose daily routines included confronting mortality—either through accident or backbreaking labour. Read more about the retrospective of exhibits at Hyperallergic at the link above.