Friday, 30 November 2018

my beautiful laundrette

On a quiet day with a peaceful overcast pall, between walks I visited a derelict shopping centre which has a working but very much under-ultilised laundry room attached.
I am happy that it’s there for my personal use.

It’s usually pretty deserted at any time but this day profoundly so and I took the moment to appreciate the aethetics of empty spaces and the symmetry in repetition and redundancy.

I think the fact that was never afforded a glimpse of this place, in contrast, as somewhere bustling or inadequate for demand—just a convenience not yet swept away, makes the stolid lines of machines, prone to breakdown and only now have the “out of order signs” placed by the maintenance staff and angry patrons now gone, just and mostly, and the facilities fully rehabilitated resound as an unintentional art space itself.  I got the washing done in more tranquility than usual.


Having enjoyed the framing and composition of Robert Gรถtzfried beforehand in his series on German bowling lanes, we appreciated learning thanks to our fellow peripatetic Things Magazine that the intrepid photographer is still very much active with new collections including some truly outstanding specimens of pipe organs with other subjects to be found at the referring links above.
A positive or box organ is one built to be more or less mobile if not march—from the Latin ponere “to place”—and wouldn’t be part of the elaborate interior facades of buildings—which themselves were a Mid-Century Modern revival in church and concert hall symphonic architecture (called the Orgelbewegung, the Organ Movement) that was especially strong in the US and Germany in the 1950s.

pirate radio

Digging through the archives (always an advisable course of action) Waxy finds and shares this monograph from Kotaku recalling how listeners in Bristol within the sound of the broadcasted squelch of data could “download” computer programmes to the cassette drive from the Radio West’s show Datarama during the early 1980s.
Can anyone remember doing this?  I certainly recall running a programme from a cassette tape but never one captured on the airwaves.  This and similarly transmissions became a forum for sharing programmes, games, MIDI music and even digitised images before the development of modems and more advanced storage formats for home computing.  Relatedly, I came across another neologism that came a bit after this phenomenon in the form of prosumer—a term that sounds at least to my ears as a more disdainful way of describing an enthusiastic early-adopted.  Carrying some negative connotations of being amateurish and readily surrendering money on something untested, expect through test-marketing, I am kind of glad glad it fell out of use.

Thursday, 29 November 2018


snow globes: a new holiday tradition to us—sending Street View Christmas cards

ammartaggio: a for the nonce Italian Word of the Day in tribute to the InSight touchdown

appellation d’origine contrรดlรฉe: a detail world atlas to explore gustatory landscapes in detail—via Pasa Bon!

condominium: a library straddling the US-Canadian border has become a venue for emotional family reunions for those (we all are) affected by the Trump administration’s immigration policies—via Super Punch 

orden mexicana del รกguila azteca: the Mexican government presents Trump’s son-in-law with its highest honour reserved for foreign dignitaries

jantar mantar: an incredible eighteenth century Indian astronomical observatory whose architecture previsions Brutalism 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

principal organ

Germany’s vice-chancellor suggested to France that the country should turn its permanent seat on the United Nations’ Security Council into one for the European Union as a whole.
The five permanent members, China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—all World War II allies, were appointed to prevent the outbreak of future conflicts and share power with ten other member states that serve on a rotating basis, but the five have the crucial power to veto and block resolutions of the supranational governing body. What do you think about that? It is unclear whether Paris would be willing to abdicate in favour of the EU, and critics of the UN hierarchy call this unconditional power undemocratic and leads to gridlock and inaction. The United States, infamously not a part of the League of Nations (the UN’s predecessor) and the conspicuous absence was considered a big factor in the failings of the organisation, refused to join the UN in 1945 unless it was guaranteed a veto.


Inspired by a transcontinental bicycle trip, we discover via Kottke, covering the US and Canada in a big loop, artist Peter Gorman has created a series of what he describes as barely maps, remixing memories of intersections, boundaries, city layouts, empty spaces and other inventions and interventions of civil engineering. While these minimalist maps may have relinquished some of their value as a guide, they certainly still convey the iconic quirks of the familiar—like the patterns one conjures out of stellar constellations, as Gorman depicts state metropolises relative to each other in the stars. More to explore at the links above.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018


As Slashdot reports, misinformation was chosen as’s word of the year, as a nuanced term hybridised by the times and distinct from disinformation by dint of the intent to mislead.
More reprehensible than the propaganda of latter variety, to be misinformed can mean one is an unwitting participant in forwarding an unscrupulous agenda and demands that we examine more thoroughly and responsibly what and how we share. Honourable mentions include backlash, self-made and representation for growing trends of inclusiveness in media and entertainment and is aligned with Oxford’s choice of toxic. Past emblematic words picked by this organisation were complicit and xenophobia.

trump dump

Writing for Vanity Fair, Bess Levin serves up a predictably unpalatable digest of Carnival Barker in Chief’s antics that you might have missed—including his intensifying anger over a domestic automotive manufacturer reality-based (that is moored to economic factors as opposed to being reality television-based) announcing that it will discontinue more operations in North America, reneging on a campaign promise it was not his to make or keep. We believe he is under the impression that if the campaign can be stretched out in perpetuity, supporters won’t expect delivery.  Trump’s boasts of bullying the car company into submission (Trump’s tariff wars and the lack of government support for green technologies are making the brand less competitive and driving this work force reduction) are bound to backfire magnificently.

the art of the title

Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals directs us to a retrospective appreciation of the recently departed self-taught graphic designer and erstwhile collaborator of Stan Lee, Pablo Ferro (*1935 - †2018).
The brilliantly produced three part multimedia masterclass and interview (part two, part three) on Ferro’s career, influences and contributions reminds that his work goes beyond credit sequences and his visual montages and direction imparts a distinctive for the film, television and advertising campaigns he was part of—creating in a sense a mascot, like he did for NBC in 1957, for each project. His filmography includes the custom typeface for the title sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove, the pioneering use of split-screens in The Thomas Crown Affair and visual consulting for over a hundred more including Woman of Straw, Bullitt, Philadelphia, Beetlejuice, Jesus Christ Superstar and A Clockwork Orange—curated clips from his expansive portfolio to be found at the links up top.

care package

I had used the term and have been the recipient and sometimes (striving to be better) sender of said “care” packages my entire life not realising that it referred to a specific charitable offensive, relief operation, founded on this day in 1945 and in full implementation six months later. Originally the initialism was short for Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, for donation of $10, one could sponsor an individual and help stave off starvation in the war-torn continent. The couriers that delivered the CARE packages had the addressee confirm receipt and often this acknowledgment was the first confirmation that the individual had survived the war, lines of communication ravaged by the fighting.
The first batch of food aid were US army surplus rations used until exhausted that were prepared for the contingent invasion of Japan. By 1948, the board of directors dropped the requirement that donations be directed to a named individual due to an overwhelming number of requests to send the package “to a teacher” or “a hungry person in Europe” and donated items supplemented the Berlin Air Lift during the Soviet Blockade. By the mid-1950s, operations transitioned out of Europe and the relief agency took on a global role, not only fighting hunger but also promoting environmental stewardship, educational opportunities and micro-finance. The acronym presently stands for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.

Monday, 26 November 2018


black mirror: a local Chinese business woman is publicly pilloried when an AI misinterprets an ad on the side of a bus as the jaywalking CEO—via Slashdot

cover art: vintage, non-fiction paperback jackets animated by Henning M Lederer

drainspotting: a memory-match game played with decorative Japanese manhole covers (previously here and here)

wallflower: Cecilia Paredes camouflages her subjects against bold floral patterns

l’anis del mono: artist Omar Aqil models Pablo Picasso’s abstract paintings in three dimensions with everyday objects

christmas evil: White House continues the decorating tradition of transforming the residence into a nightmarish hellscape

christmas is just around the corner

Spotted by Miss Cellania, one town’s art centre (which shall remain anonymous) has been decorated with Christmas festoonery that references Banksy’s famously self-destructing masterstroke (previously here and here) whose performance art and meta-commentary is becoming a meme of its own.  I suppose it follows that a tree would shred into garland after all, sort of like the palm fronds from Palm Sunday burnt for the ashes of Ash Wednesday.


Often interpreted as a snowflake instead of a flower and universally as shorthand for all things wholesomely wintry and Scandinavian, the knit pattern selburose is an ancient symbol and predates its 1857 appearance on a pair of mittens (vott) that had the whole congregation of the town of Selbu quite smitten with the design.

The popularity of the pattern (selbumรธnster, which also sparked a whole cottage industry and helped women become more economically independent) coincided with the Norwegian independence movement from Sweden and became somewhat of a bold fashion statement as something distinctly Norsk despite the mixed pedigree. Read more on the origins and spread of this icon at The Atlantic and find similar stories about the familiar and everyday syndicated at Object Lessons.


Thanks to a tip from the Map Room, we can now explore Postman Pat’s delivery route and visualise where Dibley and Holby City is in relation to Hollyoaks and Little Whinging—though I suspect none of the listed venues take place in the same fictional universe—with this map of locations of the British isles from books, film and television. How many places do you recognise? A surprising number of places have fairly exacting space-time coordinates but there are a few nebulous and untethered ones as well. Click through for larger versions to pour over. We’re wondering which sagas and series do share reality and wonder what sort of cross-overs there are. I bet some aficionado has created that Venn diagram as well.

the new colossus

In a rather disturbing policy pivot that codifies and brings to the fore the uglier sentiments harboured along with calls for “merit-based” immigration and which does indeed have the undertones of the “social credit” scheme under development but not yet implemented in China, the US Department of Homeland Security—which oversees migration and border controls—is proposing to make eligibility for citizenship contingent on credit-worthiness.
Never mind the perpetuation of the myth that immigrants overburden state welfare systems or what the potential rules change signals to aspiring asylum-seekers about American hospitality and magnanimity, the metrics that credit rating agencies provide are notoriously fraught with problems and heavily skewed and biased—for both individuals and on national levels and would set up serious impositions to people already struggling to establish a new life (much less a history of good credit) for themselves. It seems rather inhumane to assess and pass judgment based on flawed data but it is also emblematic of broader trends that reduce our sphere of determination to a set of demographics.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

we call it maize

Festively we learn thanks to Dave Log v 3.0 that the Trump administration is observing Thanksgiving not only through a brisk round of golf and definitely not in the spirit of gratitude or charity but is in fact actively tearing down one inconvenient pillar of the holiday in unrecognising the aboriginal tribe, the Wampanoag of Massachusetts without whom the pilgrims would have hardly survived the harsh winter in the new land. No tribe has been denied their sovereignty or territory side aside since the Truman presidency but Trump is not acting just out of malice in this case—characterising the group as not Indian enough, but rather, and unabashedly so, out of business interests. At least as far back as 1993, the real estate mogul whose business acumen isn’t sufficient to keep solvent a gambling operation has been using legal means and name-calling to try to get the Department of the Interior, which oversees the office of India Affairs to deascension the tribal lands in that particular area of the state in order to not undercut and compete with his own designs at casino and resort development.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

little red dot

The always interesting Present /&/ Correct directs our attention to a new logographic resource in the Singapore Graphic Archive, showcasing dozens of vintage specimens from epherma like drink coasters and matchbooks to the emblems of corporations and professional associations of the city state. The title isn’t referring to a specific brand or establishment but rather to the way that the relatively diminutive manner in which the country is displayed on maps with its much larger neighbours—which punches culturally and economically well above its comparative stature. There are additional databases and galleries to be found at the links above.

Friday, 23 November 2018

100,000 bc

Understandably overshadowed by news of the tragic assassination of John F Kennedy the day prior, the first episode and story arc of Doctor Who (previously) was broadcast on the BBC on this day in 1963. An Unearthly Child (alternative title above) introduces the first incarnation of the Doctor and his original companion, his granddaughter Susan Foreman.
When Foreman espouses strange views on England in the classroom, her teachers, concerned, think to check on her home life. The address on file led them to a junkyard with a police box in the centre and hearing their pupil’s voice inside, they force their way inside. Fearful that the teachers will betray their secret identities as fourth-dimensional itinerants, the Doctor does not allow them to leave and transports them all back to Palaeolithic times.


Though not the first in the world—those honours go to Bolivia and New Zealand—on this day in 1918, in the thralls of revolution and revolt at the conclusion of the Great War, the Imperial Office for Economic Demobilisation (Reichsamt fรผr wirtschaftliche Demobilmachung) tasked as a caretaker government with enacting and enforcing reforms before the establishment of the Weimar Republic issued the decree that the workday would not be in excess of eight-hours without extra compensation.  The roots of the movement reached back nearly a century prior with Welsh philanthropist and welfare activist Robert Owen formulating a plan for his employees (Owen being a textile magnate) of “eight hours’ labour, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest.” The announcement by Germany was ratified as one of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and became an international standard, one of the annexes establishing an office to monitor working conditions among the signatories.


font specimen: a look at the vintage typeface “Choc” that’s come to dominate storefronts all over—via Slashdot

ionic wind: world’s first solid-state aircraft takes flight

southern exposure: the Moon’s orientation flips depending on whether a terrestrial viewer is north or south of the equator

gas, food, lodging: business rules for US interstate next-exit signage—via TYWKIWDBI

wysiwyg: digitally editing reality by Vladimir Tomin

franksgiving: for those of you for whom the holiday snuck up on you, the year of multiple Thanksgiving observances

blue note release: crafting the iconic covers of 1950s and 60s jazz albums 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

gratitude, don't give me no attitude

We here at PfRC wish you and yours a happy, hale and hearty Thanksgiving.  As always, we appreciate your stopping by. 

plato’s stepchildren

Though the act went seemingly unremarked on at the time, Star Trek’s tenth episode of its third season, which aired originally on CBS on this night in 1968, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is notable for portraying one of the first televised interracial kisses. Prospecting for a rare mineral, the crew of the Enterprise encounter an alien, humanoid colony whose culture and hierarchy is based on the philosophy of Plato, their rarefied existence made a bit less of an aesthetic sacrifice by dint of a vein of the rare mineral that imbues them with telekinetic and mind-control abilities.
Having only one victim to torment, the Platonians ostensibly to have playthings at their disposal but also to seek medical help for one of their fellow sadistic interlocutors, but seething from their arrogance and deception, Captain Kirk threatens to begrudge them their treatment—also intimidating that the Enterprise could take away the lode that leverages their powers, eventually usurping those powers by discovering how to wield it within that environment themselves. In retribution and for their entertainment, the Platonians emotional unhinge the crew, including making Mister Spock laugh and cry and compelling Kirk and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols, previously here and here) to embrace and kiss. Though perhaps most memorable, such on screen kisses (by no means commonplace) had occurred on British television and between Asian and Caucasians actors a few years beforehand. It was not without controversy and it remains unclear if reception might have been different if Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura were in control of the situation. In any event, even if Star Trek was not the first portrayal five decades ago, the franchise was able to reawaken the discussion and depiction nearly three decades later in 1995 with the Deep Space Nine episode “Rejoined,” an allegory on the taboos of homosexuality and aired one of the first scenes of a woman kissing a woman sensually, albeit they were to be understood as a symbiotic alien species whose gender identities were layered and complex.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


Having a couple IKEA masterpieces at home and at work ourselves—though not this particular one—but being somehow informed or inspired to frame and shoot a similar scene, we were also intrigued about the story behind this ubiquitous (but joyfully so) poster of a canal in Amsterdam, courtesy friend of the blog Nag on the Lake. Do watch the short investigative documentary by Tom Roes, one of the nearly half a million owners of this picture, and learn what he discovered. You’ll be happy you took the time and won’t be able to glance over or dismiss it as something derivative or commercial again.

einn af hjรถrรฐinni

The BBC Monitoring desk reports that one of the most anticipated annual registries among Icelandic shepherds (and we suppose among eligible sheep as well) has just been published with profiles of the country’s most sought-after ram bachelors, continuing a tradition of two decades of showcasing sires and obituaries for those who passed away since the last issue.
Seeing these impressive sets of horns reminded me that the release of the catalogue is coinciding with a plebiscite—direct democracy in action—taking place in Switzerland over the weekend on animal welfare, with voting finally taking place after an eight-year struggle to hold the referendum. At stake is the right for cow and goat farmers to receive special dispensation and compensation (due to the accommodations and bigger stalls required to safely rear the animals) who choose not to dehorn their herds. About a quarter of Swiss livestock are of the horned variety. The referendum’s human champion wants to take the question of economics out of the decision—which sounds rather ghastly and traumatising—and calls for subsidies instead of indignities.


the voyage home: studying whale communication for its own sake and as a gateway to talk to alien life

new car smell: the odour that’s a premium for American customers does not enjoy universal appeal 

the midnight parasites: a surreal 1972 animated short by Yลji Kuri set in Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (previously)

notes on a place: visual artist Kimmo Metsaranta helps us appreciate architecture’s unnoticed corners and angles

casting out demons: US priests find themselves fielding more and more requests for exorcisms

๐Ÿ˜‚: a Swedish word with a quite broad regional variation

mayflower compact

On this day in 1620, adjusted for the late-adoption of the Gregorian calendar by England, whilst anchored in Provincetown Harbor—on the spit of Cape Cod which was most likely initially settled and abandoned by Viking Thorvald Eiriksson six centuries earlier—a congress of religious separatists and tradesmen signed a covenant drafted at sea before traveling on to establish Plymouth Colony.
The vessel, the Mayflower, was originally bound for the Colony of Virginia but bad weather and dwindling supplies forced the ship to divert to Massachusetts territory and disagreement soon erupted among the mixed manifest of pilgrims and non-pilgrims (whom the Puritans, styling themselves “Saints,” referred to as “Strangers”)—with the traders interested in conducting business and not overly concerned with theological liberties which bordered on contempt for the English crown. A governing document would help promote civility and establish norms for the sake of the community and for all the settlers. The original Mayflower Compact was lost but contemporary transcriptions capture what forty-one of the hundred and one passengers assented to and ratified:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

dra mig baklรคnge

Via the Awesomer, we are introduced to Vanity Fair’s very cosmopolitan series “Slang School” with the episode of actor and director Alexander Skarsgรฅrd (Zoolander, True Blood, Tarzan) giving an entertaining lesson on Swedish idiomatic words and phrases that ups one’s knowledge beyond fika and sup dig snygg.

ham and eggs, hammond organs

The ever inspired Things Magazine directs our attention to a fun little diversion from Hatsune Miku and Daniwell (of Nyan Cat Song fame) called Mikutap that transforms one’s keyboard into a musical instrument with unique visualisations and voices attached to each character, combination and gesture. Give it a try and discover more at the links above.

Monday, 19 November 2018


Via Fast Company, we learn that in response to the shocking, precipitous drop in flying insect populations and the consequence that has moving up the food-chain, designer Matilde Boelhouwer—with the consultation of entomologists—has created and installed oases for urban dwelling pollinators who might otherwise find themselves in a food desert.
Rather than copying Nature with her artificial flowers, Boelhouwer has instead studied the ways that butterflies, moths, honey bees and bumblebees feed and created a composite morphology that maximises attractiveness and access. The stations are even self-sustaining, replenishing the food supply with a catchment for rain water and operating through capillary action. It’s hard to say what the long term outcomes of such interventions might be but surely this act of kindness for the small and similar efforts are a step in the right direction to rehabilitate our stewardship of the planet.

jungenwort des jahres

What we found to be most interesting about the shortlisted words and phrases for the German Youth Word of the Year (DE/EN)—previously—was not the winner that the jury of Germany’s young people picked (they selected the fact that Ehrenmann, gentleman, gets a feminine equivalent and that being cavalier of character is not by dint of being wohlgeboren) was among its runners-up was the interjection Sheesh. Although Germans have adopted the English spelling and it still seems to be a pretty fluid expression, rather than a variant for Geez and to communicate annoyance or disbelief, its origins lay with the Turkish word รงรผลŸ—meaning whoa or as a question, really.

stampa 3d

In a very impressive proof-of-concept demonstration, an engineering firm and architectural studio collaborated to create a 3D-printed house from recycled demolition-site debris that a robot-plotter completed in under a week, and was a pavilion for a Milano design fair. In part of a series of investigative reports that revisit some of these worthy and innovative experiments in sustainable living, Dezeen has returned to the project to document it more fully and examine the careful thought and planning that went into the exposition and execution. Check it out and find related coverage of laudable advances in architecture at the link above. 

liminal beings

Having grown accustomed to immersive experiences with franchised and syndicated universes where consistency and canonicity are inviolate, we really appreciated this reflection on Peter S Beagle’s fantasy The Last Unicorn on the occasion of fifty years since its first publication. There’s refreshingly little world-building, pedigree to the characters or deference to rules or mythology—as compared to the digest of saga that many ascribe to—yet the book and later adaptations are enduring and perhaps ever more resonant. I recall alternately identifying with and being rather haunted by (animated) rather bitter Molly Grue, who eloped with the brigand leader Captain Cully allured by the romance of becoming a woodland fugitive, cursing the Unicorn, “Where have you been? Damn you! Where have you been?” demanding of the creature why she hadn’t come to her when she younger and fairer.
The Unicorn herself would have probably never left her enchanted grove were it not resigned call of a group of hunters, realising that they were pursuing quarry that were protected by the Unicorn’s presence, to be careful as she may be the last of her kind. Though the Unicorn rejects this idea at first, eventually gnawing anxiety drives her out of the safety of the forest and on a quest to find the others. The Unicorn realises that most humans fail to recognise her as something rare and magical and instead see her as a stray mare. Through the indirect counsel of a butterfly, the Unicorn surmises that she must find the Red Bull who has been herding away her kind but is captured by a witch named Mommy Fortuna and made a part of her travelling carnival. Among the menagerie, only the Unicorn and fierce harpy called Celaeno are actual supernatural beings with the rest consisting of regular animals that the witch has enchanted (or the audience) to give the illusion of being legendary. An inept conjurer called Schmendrick (Yiddish for someone out of his depth) travelling with the carnival realises the Unicorn’s true nature and frees who—who in turn frees the other animals and the harpy, who kills the witch while escaping. Schmendrick and the Unicorn continue the journey and approaching the village that supports the castle where the Red Bull is said to reside, Schmendrick is captured by the second-rate band of outlaws that Captain Cully leads. The Unicorn comes to rescue him and attracts the attention of his wife. “It would be the last unicorn that came to Molly Grue,” she sniffed. The trio continues to the castle—and without giving away too much, our misfits end up happily ever after. Maybe this sort of fractured fairy tale is the kind we ought to attend to, not epic but rather applicable.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

attachรฉ with a view

From Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals, we learn about shutter-bug Major Martin Manhoff, who during his two year posting as military support to the US diplomatic Mission to the Soviet Union during the early 1950s, took full advantage of his time and access there to capture Stalin’s Moscow and beyond Red Square.
Suspected of espionage in 1954, Manhoff was expelled from the country and returned to the US Pacific-Northwest with hundreds of reels of film and thousands of photographs, forgotten until it was rediscovered by a Seattle-based archivist. Most famous for his unique, unfiltered perspective on the funeral procession of Josef Stalin, shot from a balcony of the Embassy with exclusive close-up footage, this collection curated and exhibited by Radio Free Europe (previously) in four parts showcases that unofficial documentation as well as many lesser known photographic forays.


The always captivating Spoon & Tamago directs our attention to a social media account that specialises and has amassed an impressive following on the subject of exterior walls in Japan.
It presupposes a certain aesthetic understanding and appreciation to properly frame and convey the complex compositions of gritty pipes and cladding that scale our buildings—and is certainly resonant with thousands hanging their contributions to the label #ใ‚ถๅฃ้ƒจ (the wall club). I suppose I had never considered beforehand that hashtags weren’t the exclusive domain of one script at the exclusion of others. More to explore at the links above.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

life day

Our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari, records that on this day among many, may other momentous events in 1978, CBS aired the two-hour, never to be rebroadcast spectacle, the Star Wars Holiday Special (lest you thought Christmas-creep was a new thing) on this evening.
The nearly unwatchable show (made harder to view by dint of the fact that only bootleg copies of poor fidelity are in circulation) hinges on the plot of Han Solo and Chewbacca travelling to Kashyyk, the Wookie home world, to celebrate Life Day with his family (Itchy, like Chewie, being a nickname and short for Attichitcuk). The special introduces the bounty-hunter Boba Fett as well as Ackmena, a Mos Eisley’s cantina bartender played by Bea Arthur and for the first time credits the voice of Darth Vader to James Earl Jones. The original cast gather at the end to spend the holiday together.


auto-stitch: winners and honourable-mentions in the Epson panoramic photography competition

members elect: a set of emojis illustrates the stark contrast in diversity between the newly elected Democrat and Republican representatives matriculating in the 116th US Congress in January

peak curtains: IKEA updates its 2002 lamp advertisement with the same principal prop

introducing the hemimastix: researchers in Nova Scotia uncover a microbe radically out of place in defined biological kingdoms, via Marginal Revolution

drei haselnüsse für aschenbrödel: legendary German actor Rolf Hoppe, who played iconic and memorable roles as fairy tale kings, cowboys and frightful villains, has passed away

coal in your stocking: classy company (previously—not really I think but just as tasteless) is producing a knock LEGO set of Trump’s border wall

fully-interlocking: jigsaw puzzle manufacturers tend to use the same patterns for multiple puzzles—resulting in surreal compositions, via Nag on the Lake 

a sucker born every minute

Scams that appeal to one’s vanity or the hopeful and resourceful spirits of inventors are of course nothing new and we’re all prone to be had in one way or another, but this investigation by Planet Money at the instigation of a local journalist who has dedicated months to this story is really telling of the mindset of people who’ll go to extraordinary lengths to cheat and deceive and defend what they’ve done.
While the adage if it’s free then you’re the product is patently true and gratuitous services are ubiquitous with the corollary that one pays for quality might make us blind to obvious rackets, it’s telling that the individual that the US Grifter-in-Chief installed after he fired his obsequious Attorney General as acting chief of the Department of Justice was a paid shill for the fraudulent invention promotion firm and evangelised for the company to lend it an air of legimacy. Do give the whole episode a listen and subscribe to their podcast.

founding fathers

Historian of Japan Nick Kapur shares his discovery of an 1861 publication called Osananetoki Bankokubanashi (็ซฅ็ตต่งฃไธ‡ๅ›ฝๅ™บ) by writer Kanagaki Robun and artist Utagawa Yoshitora that brilliantly indulge America’s foundational myths from a very different perspective (previously), filling in details that did not quite translate.
Here is a relatively sedate scene of George Washington and his wife “Carol consulting with a young and spry Benjamin Franklin but other, more fantastic scenes include Washington and John Adams battling fiercesome tigers and an enormous serpent—that earlier devoured Adams’ aged mother during a picnic and a younger Washington taught the skill of archery by the Goddess of America. This book show that interest in the fledgling republic were still enduring at the cusps of its own civil war and nearly a decade since US Commodore Matthew Perry forcibly opened up Japanese ports to trade. Be sure to visit Nag on the Lake and Open Culture at the links above to learn more.

Friday, 16 November 2018

imbued with poison

The Oxford English Dictionary has announced its selection for word of the year (previously) as toxic.
With etymological roots in the Greek warrior practise of applying poison to arrowheads (though ฯ„ฮฟฮพฮนฮบฯŒฮฝ refers instead to the bow), the word has depressingly gained exponentially more cachet in several contexts including toxic masculinity, toxic workplace and toxic relationship and beat out other shortlisted terms such as  gaslighting and neologisms like incel (involuntary celibate), cakeism (having one’s cake and eating it too) techlash and overtourism.


lysergsรคurediethylamid : Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann first synthesised LSD at Sandoz Labs on this day in 1938, taking his first trip four and a half years later

under construction: photographer Peter Steinhauer captures the colourful bamboo scaffolding of Hong Kong

delay, deny and deflect: a look at the devious playbook of a social media giant

omnishambles: continued Brexit chaos

minimals: animated block creatures from Lucas Zanotto

excelsior: celebrating the incredible career of Stan Lee

Thursday, 15 November 2018

vanilla, strawberry, knickerbocker glory

Via the always excellent Everlasting Blรถrt, we are introduced to the musical stylings of the band Fujiya & Miyagi, hailing from Brighton-by-the-Sea.
Perhaps not news to anyone else—especially the audience of the Great British Bake-Off—but a knickerbocker glory is a superlative name for a particularly fancy kind of ice cream parfait with alternating strata of ingredients (cream, fruit, jellies) popularised in England in the 1930s—though possibly owing its inspiration to Manhattan soda-jerks after a float they concocted, Knickerbocker being the moniker given to the descendants of Dutch settlers of Old New York as New Amsterdam.

little orphant annie

On this day in 1885, an Indianapolis newspaper printed the eponymous poem by James Whitcomb Riley with spellings that reflected the Hoosier dialect of the region, admonishing children to obey their guardians lest goblins snatch them away, bearing no semblance to the franchise that it would go on to spawn with a comic panel, radio drama, a Broadway musical and two films—not to mention the obligatory school productions though apparently the Addams Family has unseated Annie in recent years—that spanned the century and decades in between.
Though it may seem as if we are living through a time of unprecedented call-backs of properties that are not especially worthy of our nostalgia or fiddling with the original but I suppose we also enjoy the privileged perspective of being told what’s the definitive adaptation and what’s canon through licensing and closely guarded rights and the luxury of forgetting about the plethora of early Titanic movies—for example. Things like the libretto, nonetheless, do seem a bit sacrosanct but I suppose concessions to language are necessary, like in “Hard-Knock Life” original to the updated version:

No one cares for you a smidge
When you’re in an orphanage

No one cares for you a bit
When you’re a foster kid

Wednesday, 14 November 2018


Plain magazine introduces us to the expansive, creative portfolio of Thomas Olliver through one of his latest projects that imagines social media platforms given traction and parlance in the media res of the gadgetry of pagers and disposable cameras, making a really provocative statement on the idea of delayed gratification and what we were formerly content to occupy ourselves with. What do you think? Sometimes nostalgia can be good counsel. A skeuomorph almost certainly is. Is the greater sophistication of our figeting a true refinement or were we better off knowing time spent doodling in fuss and frustration is our own and perhaps not a masterpiece?


A Minsk-based agri-business start-up called OneSoil, we learn via Big Think, has fused satellite telemetry and artificial intelligence to create rather beautiful land-use visualisations (covering North America and Europe with plans for expansion) and deliver efficient and “precision farming.”
It’s really telling of the dreadful excellence of humans to contemplate how we’ve transformed the planet through landscaping and how big our collective footprints are, but hopefully data can impart a sense of responsibility and stewardship as well as tool for mitigating the effects that a warmer, wetter Earth means for ecosystems and our food supply. There’s also a feature that treats visitors to a randomised gallery of particularly striking fields—and though maybe not the most beautiful composition, we appreciated studying the overview of pastures and croplands near by broken up by forested areas.

phileas fogg

Though a far more serious investigative journalist earning her credentials for her undercover exposรฉs on working conditions in factories and mental institutions, reporter and foreign correspondent Nellie Bly (the nom de plume of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) was dispatched on this day in 1889 on a round-the-world voyage—with only two-days’ notice, to match or best the record established by the Jules Verne novel.
Editors at Bly’s newspaper had been contemplating this sort of publicity race (at Bly’s suggestion) for some time and the last-minute dash materialised once a competing New York publication announced that they’d be sending out their writer Elizabeth Bisland also on a quest to circumnavigate the globe—but in the opposite direction, westward-bound and then steaming across the Pacific.
A missed connection in England ultimately cost Bisland the contest, with Bly returning triumphant (only informed of her competitor by the time she arrived in Hong Kong) in New York after seventy-two days. Bly’s sponsorship by a daily newspaper rather than a monthly magazine as Bisland with constant coverage and a prize on offer for the reader who could guess the date and time of her return was also a motivating factor for the intrepid traveller.  Bisland finished four-and-a-half days later, both adventurers beating the benchmark set by Verne.