Sunday, 30 September 2018

earth, wind & fire

It escapes me how so many of us missed the twenty-first night of and are now rushing to remember the eponymous 1978 hit on the last day thereof but here is a medley (of two) of homages for your enjoyment. First listen to the musical styling, courtesy of Laughing Squid, of Leonid and Friends perform a fantastic cover of the song with the accompaniment of a string and horn section. Afterward, while the tune is stuck in your head, mediate on these couplets of rejected lyrics from McSweeney’s contributor Gary M Almeter. “Ba de ya—Chrissie Hynde is a Pretender.”

rent gap and rehabilitation

Via the always brilliant Nag on the Lake, we are invited to play an unauthorised edition of the board game Monopoly whose rules and scoring invoke the spirit of the original version of “The Landlord’s Game” far better than the Parker Brothers’ interpretation or regional variants.
The art collective Chinatown Soup’s Chinatown edition features anchoring shops and local businesses rather than more or less desirable properties for development and poses challenges to players to save neighbourhoods from the blight of gentrification rather than be rewarded for it as a virtue and promotes socially responsible growth. One has to rehouse, for example, displaced residents priced-out of their homes—another reason that the board is not given addresses owing to the amorphous nature of gentrification that’s not bounded by certain streets or districts and people are moved to the margins. Learn more about the collective’s activities and activism at the link above.

w1a 1aa

On this day in 1967, the BBC rebranded its Home Service as Radio 4, differentiated the Light Programme into popular music and entertainment, becoming Radio 1 and Radio 2 and made its Third Programme, an arts and culture show, Radio 3. The reorganisation was prompted by increasing competition from continental broadcasts and offered a broader array of programming throughout the day within its constellation of stations.


Yesterday H prepared a fantastic mushroom and pasta dish with what’s called Kräterseitlingen (Pleurotus eryngii, le trumpet royale—elevate your minds!) as the main ingredient—the one in the background, not the psychotropic fly agaric in the foreground—and it turned out to be uniquely flavourful and relatively simple to make.

To serve four, one needs:
250 grams (9 ounces) of band noodles (fresh or dry)
250 grams (9 ounces, three large mushrooms) of King Trumpet mushrooms or substitute button mushrooms or chanterelles (Pfifferlinge)
2 teaspoons of butter
1 container of Crรจme Chantilly (unsweetened whipped cream, Schlagsahne) for texture
1 tablespoon of vegetable broth
A sprig of parsley
A clove of garlic
A large leek (Lauch) or onion
Salt and pepper to season

Begin preparing the pasta according to the instructions, boiling it in slightly salted water. Meanwhile dice the leek, garlic and mushroom, finely chopping the parsley. Braise the garlic and leek slices in a frying pan in the butter until the leeks turn glassy. Introduce the mushrooms and turn until lightly brown. Mix in the crรจme and broth and top with parsley over the pasta.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

visual vernacular

Thanks to Present /&/ Correct, we can now correctly name an art movement known as Suprematism (ะกัƒะฟั€ะตะผะฐั‚ะธ́ะทะผ) through the careful temporary arrangement and proper disposal of trash that washes ashore by Hungarian photographer Balรกzs Csizik as a homage to the style.
Founded by painter Kazimir Severinovich Malevich in 1913, his work garnered international attention and a following after being exhibited in a 1915 show in Saint Petersburg (Petrograd), provocatively called the Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0,10 (like saying version zero point one, having erased the past and inching forward fresh).
Departing from Cubism and Russian Constructivism, Malevich’s art is distinctively anti-material and employed sparse compositions of simple geometric shapes and basic colours and are more akin representationally to a sort of visual grammar rather than a depiction of things. Though not allowed to be displayed per Stalinist cultural policy, Malevich’s work was quite resonant and influential, inspiring among others architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid to create purely abstract buildings.

das münchner abkommen

On this day—with negotiations continuing through the night and on to the next morning—in 1938 Italian il Duce Benito Mussolini, France’s Prime Minister ร‰douard Daladier and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler at a conference in Munich to lend a faรงade of legitimacy to Nazi Germany’s long-standing goal of annexing the newly-coined territory of the Sudetenland, lands with an ethnic Germany majority along the borders with the also freshly minted Czechoslovakia.
Despite the conspicuous absence of any representation of the Soviet Union or the Czech government or outlandish claims including Czechoslovakia being accused of plotting to exterminate the Sudeten Germans and being characterised as a vassal state of France created for the express purpose of being a base of operations for the French armed forces to overrun and finally vanquish Germany, afterward Chamberlain praised the summit as heralding “peace in our time,” though many others (including president Edvard Beneลก and the Czech people) saw it as a dangerous and precedential tactic of appeasement. German diaspora who had mostly set up trading operations in Hapsburg lands suddenly found themselves in foreign lands after World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, bereft of much of the freedoms and privilege (reportedly) accorded to Prussian subjects prior. Because of the nature of their import/export business, these Germans living abroad were more affected than the native populations by the economic downturn of the Great Depression and their demands for autonomy—with the backing of the German government—became more and more shrill.

Friday, 28 September 2018

social confirmation

An important and timely instalment of Hidden Brain explores how a movement, a reckoning erupts as a cultural moment and the insufferable becomes no longer tolerated through overcoming or redirecting the discouraging mechanism of social or behavioural confirmation bias that reinforces grudgingly accepted norms by making us blind to the brittleness of custom and to the fortitude of our own convictions and has an interesting post-script, an unsung hero in the figure of Tarana Burke. After interviewing young survivors of sexual violence, Burke found herself without words but gathered resources over the next decade, founded an outreach network and gave her movement a name: Me Too. Another decade later, solidarity reached critical mass and the slogan championed behind a hash tag became a unifying message that the future is not going to look like the past.

tituli picti or norman consequence

On this in 1066, the forces of William, Duke of Normandy (previously) crossed the English Channel (la Manche) and established a beachhead at Pevensey, East Sussex, in order to dispute the claim to the Anglo-Saxon throne by King Harold Godwinson, precipitated by the extinction the Wessex line with the death of Edward the Confessor, who died without issue.
Harold’s elevation was challenged on three separate from by the Norwegian sovereign Harald Hardrada and Harold’s own brother Tostig—whom were repelled divisively (but at a great cost of men and materiel) under the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire on the twenty-fifth of September, but eventually fell to William’s armies at the Battle of Hastings on the fourteenth of October. Norman troop frustrated when their advances were stopped at first and were unable to penetrate English front lines adopted a tactic of pretending to retreat and then—more agile—turn back on their pursuers.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

horizontal transaction or gini coeffienct

Building on the central tenets of chartalism, the belief that legal tender was created out of a ruler’s or government’s desire to direct economic activity through currency manipulation and trade rather than as a solution to make barter and exchange more portable and imperishable, Planet Money introduces us to a school of thought styled Modern Monetary Theory, an macroeconomic idea that one’s pocket change is very different than fiat money and that a country that produces and controls its own currency can fully fund all the goods and services it wishes. Provided it is not indebted with loans in a foreign currency or is not able to create more money (like individual member states of the European Union), it cannot go bankrupt. Rather than to generate revenue for the government, taxation is an effective means to regulate inflation and unemployment. It’s a provocative argument surely and some would call it naรฏve to diminish the role of inflation but it seems that economies are doing this all the time. Do give he episode a listen and let us know what you make of the compelling question and answers.


yokohama-e: early depictions of Westerns (previously) by Japanese illustrators—via the Everlasting Blört

uncanny valley: the secret (related) and sometimes glamourous life of fashion mannequins

periodicals: the Avocado has a regular column on reading vintage and antique magazines—via Things Magazine

spriting: fun and informative pixel-art animation tutorials

millinery: curating the illustrations of Joanna Spicer to celebrate the hatmaking industry of Stockport

reading room: Massimo Listri’s amazing photography of European libraries

what-ifs: illustrator Tom Stults envisions films created in another time and place

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

s. s. minnow

On this day in 1964, as our faithful chronicler Doctor Caligari informs, that among many other events the series Gilligan’s Island has its original release on CBS. Probably most memorable for its theme song, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle,” written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle, was performed to network executives as the pitch for the show, as was sort standard practise in those days as evinced by many programmes (like the Brady Bunch which also first aired on the same date five years later) with expository openings.
The version for the pilot (filmed on the same day as the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the whole project was put on hold until the following fall, with “Marooned” unaired until 1992) had a distinctive calypso theme courtesy future film score composer John Williams who also provided other incidental music for the show. The eponymous vessel was not named for the small bait fish but rather for the Federal Communication Commission chairman Newton Norman “Newt” Minow, that producer Schwartz held in contempt and accused of ruining the US television by characterising it as a “vast wasteland.”  Reforms that Minow helped engineering resulted in the creation of the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio.

city hopper

Though there’s not yet a projected date for the inaugural journey yet, plans are well underway for the first Hyperloop route (previously) in Europe, linking Amsterdam’s Schipol with Frankfurt am Main airport with commissions already being tendered for the design of hub city stations for the movement of people as well as goods.
Moving at nearly the speed of sound, the carriages will be able to cross the four hundred-fifty kilometre distance in under one hour with intervening stops in Bonn, Kรถln, Dรผsseldorf, Eindhoven, den Bosch and Utrecht not only offsetting a significant amount of pollution but also revolutionising business and leisure travel and our approach to commuting as the network expands across the continent.

city dreams

Hyperallergic introduces us to the utopian, Afrofuturist architecture of artist and political observer Bodys Isek Kingelez (*1948 - †2015) with an retrospective exhibition of his model buildings and urban miniatures, which are conversation pieces to prompt audiences to think about infrastructure, globalisation and the character of the megacity, socioeconomic realities that were maturing at pace with Kingelez himself and his native Democratic Republic of the Congo. On display at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art through the new year, one is also afforded the opportunity to explore the elaborate environments in an immersive fashion in a virtual reality helmet. Learn more and see a whole gallery of Kingelez’ visions at the link up top.

petard hoist much?

Howling for years how America had become the laughing-stock of the world, Donald Trump got his comeuppance in the first few lines of his ignorant and arrogant speech to the UN general assembly (previously) when his boasts of having accomplished more than any administration in history drew derisive laughter from the audience of heads of state and the diplomatic corps.
Though pretending to shrug off the response, it seemed to come as a shock to him—outside his usual insulated, self-affirming bubble of supporters who hang on his every lie at his campaign rallies—we suspect that Trump will remain determined to wipe the smiles from their faces and further isolate the US from the international community. “We reject the ideology of globalism,” Trump said, “and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” adding that the US will withhold aid from countries that challenge America’s agenda and fail to show respect—having only kind words for NATO partner Poland, who last week curried favour by suggesting that the proposed US permanent military installation in the country could be called Fort Trump.

how about a nice game of chess?

Undisclosed until well after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and at a time of severely deteriorated relations seeded with deep distrust and suspicion that a first-strike on the part of the United States was eminent, on this day in 1983 duty officer Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (*1939 - †2017) correctly assessed that reports from the early warning satellite network were a false alarm and thus averted an accidental counter-attack.
Despite heightened tensions and hair-trigger attitudes, Petrov appreciated the gravity of his decision and questioned the reliability of the new system and judged that the five missile signatures detected not to be of the calibre of an offensive, which likely would have been comprised of hundreds of warheads launched simultaneously, in accordance with the policy of mutually assured destruction. Subsequent investigations showed that the system was detecting glints of sunlight reflected on high-altitude clouds.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

panda, cyborg, jesus

Though the libretto to the leitmotif “Duel of the Fates” (the recurring theme from the Star Wars prequels) is reportedly a fragment of an ancient, fourteenth century Welsh poem Cad Goddeu (Battle of the Trees) about the legendary enchanter, Gwydion fab Dรดn, who animates the trees of the forest to do his bidding translated and then performed in Sanskrit (unlikely), our thanks to Miss Cellania for revealing to us the true lyrics.  Follow the bouncing ball.


Like when learning there was an algorithm, a certain method to solve for Sudoku, I lost interest in it without really having given a try—dismissing it as an unworthy challenge, I think I was guilty of adopting the same attitude towards Ernล‘ Rubik’s ingeniously engineered, elegant puzzle and could appreciate the correspondent’s initial outlook attending an educational outreach workshop ran under the auspices of the toy.
The brute numbers gave me my dรฉnouement: there are forty three quintillion possible positions, which at a rate of trying each every second (as a computer would do) would take over a trillion years to arrive at the single solution out of those seemingly infinite possibilities. Unsure whether it could even be solved, Rubik played with his prototype for a whole month before arriving at a solution. Some of us are virtuosi while many of us just plod along but with persistence and a willingness to step outside of one’s self we can all be the cube.

i am elmer j. fudd, millionaire, i own a mansion and a yacht

During what could be characterised as the height of the Red Scare in post-war America, fearful over the brittle state of the capitalist model—executives with General Motors commissioned a trio of propaganda cartoons from the creative cast behind Looney Tunes, which marked quite a departure from the usual antics and took a decidedly classroom tone to inculcate impressionable minds.
It’s hard to say how seriously they took their assignment and perhaps only did so as to not draw undue attention to their studios. “By Word of Mouse” (1954) told the tale of a German country mouse, Hans, visiting an American city mouse cousin who lived in a fashionable department store called “Stacy’s” and mostly features Hans being dazzled by the abundance and selection of inventory available to the common worker, with a professor mouse explaining that free market competition of “Rival Department Store” drives prices down to the benefit of both producers and consumers. “Heir Conditioning” (1955) features Elmer Fudd acting as a financial advisor to Sylvester the Cat after inheriting a large sum of money, encouraging him to invest it rather than sharing it with his fellow alley cats. Learn more and watch all the cartoons on Dangerous Minds at the link above.

Monday, 24 September 2018

in order to form a more perfect album

Via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals, we discover the quite brilliant civics project from WNYC (the call-sign of New York’s Public Radio station) studios that curates twenty-seven songs that do a pretty spot-on job of representing each of the amendments to the long-lived and fungible constitution of the United States of America.
Yes—there are songs even about the more obscure ones (perhaps outside of the manumission and franchise clauses and the gun one, most of them are pretty obscure for most) like the Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1903 which provides for the direct election of senators. This working document is testament to a law of the land that can withstand the whims of the moment, yet admit growth and change and this anthology has lessons and footnote that accompany the score and make the objectives and historical milieu and legacy clear and accessible. Many talented artists have lent their voices to this collection, which is a playlist that I certainly would not object to having in my regular circulation.


kinoplex: the dazzling interiors of Berlin’s Delphi Lux cinema

signal corps: over one hundred thousand homing pigeons served in World War I—a tradition dating back to the campaigns of Julius Caesar, via Everlasting Blรถrt

behind the curtains: Mister Rogers dedicated programming to helping children distinguish between fact and fantasy, calling out the television industry for manipulative practises—via Kottke’s Quick Links

music concrรจte: pianist Glenn Gould to be resurrected as a hologram and put on tour we did not know that this was a thing

monopsony: participants in the gig-economy have seen average monthly-earning halved in the past five years

telepresence: in order to fight social isolation, Ory Laboratories has opened a cafรฉ staffed by robotic waiters operated remotely by people with disabilities that would otherwise physically impinge on their chance to interact and hold a job

my word is my bond: an artificial intelligence application that will analyse and profile any Twitter handle—via Motherboard and Digg

penumbra of mainstream legitimacy

It’s during those times when there’s not an obvious best choice that having the courage and the insight to take a stand really become the measure of a person, as one thinker, journalist and activist is committing to by coming to terms with the fact that discourse cannot always trump theatrics in the politics of the present. The forces of regression, masterful in their ability to manipulate and enlist, exploit the norms that are the hallmarks of a free and liberal society by forcing one to either concede a loss on principles—to refute the value of what’s in our quiver—empathy for the other and open-mindedness—or to dignify fascism and xenophobia with a response and elevate that outlook as something valid and equal.
Bending the true tools of identification and compassion to the form of a public debate is of course the stuff of sophistry, since true change happens at the margins and far from the madding crowd when one’s afforded a moment of reflection—again, the sort of meditation of tough choices. Watching the establishment agonise over such decisions (being drawn into the position to do so publicly) has become some sort of pastime for the right-wing, a jeering bit of muscle-memory common to all bad-faith, low-stakes arguments. Those stakes are deflated—at least for the interlocutor who lacks standing and is a dishonest advocate—because the rhetorical tactic invoked, invariably it seems and still with enough appeal to marshal a following, is a deflection along the lines of the justification-suppression model of prejudice, whereby bigots try to resolve their own dissonance with repressed chauvinism and desire to maintain a self-image that’s above it and violently avoid having to face that internal conflict by defending not their own catchment of stereotypes but the rights of others to hold and express those same views or worse—abstracting the conversation away from the context and subtext and yoking it to arguments governing free speech and censorship, often not in question but ever in the quiver of despots.

atlas der abgelegenen inseln

We are enjoying Things Magazine’s series of appreciations for Judith Schalansky’s award-winning Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will.
These are pretty remote, far-flung places and I think to a degree ought to remain inaccessible or at least more of a challenge than we’re accustomed to (distant in every sense and although mostly out of range and out of mind, all have unique stories and qualities that tie them to the known world) but one should have aspirations and for now some vicarious adventures are on order. We were surprised, however, of the number of the places mentioned on the atlas that we’d visited (though perhaps not in the strictly geographical sense) already by dint of blogging: Campbell Island, Easter Island, Tristan da Cunha and Saint Helena to recall a few. Explore more at the link up top which expands on the fantasy travelogue.

Sunday, 23 September 2018


Named after a dragon king’s underwater palace in Japanese folklore, the target diamond-shaped asteroid 162173 Ryugu was visited by two small probes bounding over its low-gravity surface, deployed this weekend by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) space mission Hayabusa2, launched nearly four years ago.
The two small landers  will study and survey the surface in preparation for the arrival a third joint French and German engineered unit which will drill into the surface of the asteroid and collect a sample to return to Earth for study by 2020. The castle, according to legend was sought out by fisherman Urashima Tarล on the back of a sea turtle and returns (away for much longer than he expected or perceived) to shore with a mysterious box, much like the goals of Hayabusa2.

family values

The Republican politician and dentist representing the rural west of the state of Arizona in Congress since 2011 whose seat will be contested in the upcoming election, we learn via Cynical-C, does not enjoy the support of his siblings, who believe that their brother has not only seriously compromised the values that were part of their upbringing but is also no faithful servant of his constituency. 

The opposition campaign has attracted their support and endorsement in this rather (but justifiably) scathing political advertisement, where the identity of the critics is not revealed until the end. In rebuttal, the congress member said, “My siblings who chose to film ads against me are all liberal Democrats who hate President [sic] Trump. These disgruntled Hillary supporters are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put ideology before family. Stalin would be proud,” punctuating his statement with some appropriately repulsive but unsurprising hashtags.


Our thanks to Things Magazine for reintroducing us to an old obsession with a keen, juried resource that makes becoming wholly and irretrievably enticed too easy with an overview of number stations and the accompanying service Priyom (ะฟั€ะธะตะผ, reception) monitoring on all channels.
These high-frequency shortwave signals bounce off the Earth’s ionosphere (relatedly, here’s a secret Cold War undertaking to maintain vital communications in case of sabotage of undersea cables) of strings of formatted numbers are presumably for (since no one knows for sure aside from some anecdotal admissions) intelligence agencies to communicate with field operatives. I can remember turning the dial on an old multiband unit and coming across voices reciting random numbers and finding it a quite unaccountable let down (one mostly got static) until learning it might be an artefact of spycraft. I certainly didn’t have the luxury of an online directory and simulcast. Decoded at the receiving end with a single-use key, the messages relayed are pretty resistant to cryptological scrutiny (should one practise good housekeeping and not reuse codes) and this low technology way of passing information and instructions maintains a low profile. Check out the schedule of regularly reoccurring broadcasts at Priyom at the link above to “eavesdrop” on matters of world security or perhaps barge in on an ad hoc conversation.

welcoming autumn

Saturday, 22 September 2018

minshara class

Subject to confirmation when the patch of sky occupied by the star system undergoes detailed inspection by the TESS programme later in November, exoplanet hunting astronomers believe that they have found a rocky, terrestrial world (M-Class, spelled out from the Vulcan term above, in Star Trek parlance but not a scientific designation) approximately seventeen light years away from Earth orbiting a triennial star called 40 Eridani (in the Southern constellation Eridanus—a river in Hades that is thought to correspond with the Po or the Rhône) or properly Keid (from the Arabic qayd for eggshells) that matches the canonical location of the Vulcan home world.
There’s quite some range of possibilities for the planet and surely reality will prove more fantastic than fiction but it is within reason to believe that 40 Eridani A ฮฒ (there was already one other planet found there before this suspected Super Earth) might have similar conditions to those imaged for Vulcan, arid and higher gravity. Long before Star Trek, Vulcan was the designation for the planet that astronomy needed to be subaltern of Mercury to explain its anomalous orbit, until Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity dispensed with that hypothetical world.


At the same time as Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the North American eastern seaboard, the deadly Typhoon Mangkhut was roiling in the Pacific with both areas still dealing with the consequences. The latter refers to the Thai form of the purple citrus-like exotic fruit the mangosteen—as we learn from Oxford Words blog, native to the Malaysia and anticyclones do not share the naming conventions that the World Meteorological Organisation has established for storms in the Atlantic, alternating alphabetically between boys’ and girls’ names, like Irma, Katrina, Maria and Harvey.
This tradition started in the US in September 1950 when three hurricanes made landfall simultaneously and there was confusion within the public and weather centres, using exclusively female names at first (male names were added in 1979) derived from the Air Force’s phonetic alphabet. And while member nations are not required in the context of local reporting and coverage to keep to the assigned designation (the WMO is the final arbiter one whether particular names should be retired after a particularly disastrous event, ninety so far so I guess by necessity we’ll have to start including more non-traditional ones soon), in the West where personal names are employed, we are generally at a consensus and use the one standard. In Asia, however, different jurisdictions modify the storms’ designation to fit local language and customs. Quite sensibly, in the Philippines, they taunted it with the name Omlong (the toothless, the feckless one) in hopes it would crumple from the insult—rather than giving a common name that might potentially stigmatise later on.

survivery 101

Over at the labs of AI Weirdness (previously) with the academic year just beginning, researcher and handler Janelle Shane wondered how a neutral network might interpret a college course catalogue and the major and minor courses of study that this virtual institution might have on offer.
While I am not sure I’d take any of these electives (though many sound pretty metaphysical and part of the core-curriculum) many of the titles have my curiosity piqued. We especially liked:

Language of Circus Processing
Marine Writing
The Sun Programpineerstance and Development

It’s well worth reviewing the whole list and see if you can figure out what human conventions the artificial intelligence is drawing from and check out Shane’s past experiments.


Though on first reading it struck me as a little bit like those gimmicky techniques touted to cure male-pattern baldness or maybe Frankenstein’s Monster jolted back to life apparently, via Slashdot, it’s sound and proven that one can accelerate coral growth and hasten the rebuilding of the ecosystems that they support by stimulating them with electricity.
The matrices of surviving coral in areas that have been ravaged by cyclones, heat-waves and other destructive acts are scaffolded with galvanised steel frame in order to rehabilitate the colonies, having previously shown that re-growth occurs at a rate three to four times faster than normal due to the current attracting free floating minerals which the coral incorporate. Even with this rapid growth, however, it will take decades for the reefs to fully heal. Visit the links above to learn more and for a video demonstration of divers constructing the underwater frames.

Friday, 21 September 2018

no hypnosis like a mass hypnosis because a mass hypnosis isn’t happening

Part of their growing Dial-a-Song repertoire, “Lake Monsters” by They Might be Giants is set to a cute music video crafted by artist Hinรฉ Mizushima with stop-motion needlepoint and embroidery. The song reminded me of MST3K’s Kaiju Rap. Learn more about the band’s projects and the artist at Laughing Squid and at the links above


More tone-deaf than the spec-script for an all female version of Lord of the Flies, this predictably sexist Sexy Handmaiden Brave Red Maiden Costume really does project the message “I am aware of popular culture, but I don’t understand it” (as one commented) or worse doesn’t care. I’m a bit nauseated and I think it’s in awfully bad taste. What do you think? I recall reading that a cosmetic company pulled its witchcraft starter kits after backlash from the Wiccan community. Maybe together we rally for more refinement from businesses that peddle crudeness.


deuterocanonical: ranking depictions of Judith beheading Holofernes, via Things Magazine

miami vice: a look inside the Mutiny Hotel where Scarface was filmed

stylite: an investigation into the doctored photograph of an ancient ruin reveals an ascetic tradition

knight industries two thousand: a banjo version of the Knight Rider theme

second skin: special membrane that transforms inanimate objects into multifunctional robots

plosive fricative: in English, counting from zero upwards, one’s lips won’t touch before one million, via Kottke’s Quick Links

biggs is right, i’m never getting out of here: animator Dmitry Grozov creates a brilliant anime trailer for Star Wars: A New Hope

pigpen: researchers isolate the chemical, microbial shadow that accompanies all of us

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 (รพ), 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 (้ก”ๆ–‡ๅญ—, 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 Rรฉgime 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 Assemblรฉe 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 the 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.