Tuesday, 20 November 2018

dra mig baklänge

Via the Awesomer, we are introduced to Vanity Fair’s very cosmopolitan series “Slang School” with the episode of actor and director Alexander Skarsgård (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 çüş—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

attaché 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 #ザ壁部 (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 (童絵解万国噺) 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 τοξικόν 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.


lysergsäurediethylamid : 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 Blört, 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 exposés 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.


On this day in 1968, for the first time since its founding in 1701 as an academy dedicated to the study of theology and liturgical language, the Yale board of governors and trustees voted to approve the admittance of women students for the following academic year, referring the matter to faculty for ratification. The resolution passed with near unanimity, with only one vote against out of two hundred senior professors. At the same time, the university’s sister institution, Vassar College (founded as a women’s only school in 1861) announced it would start matriculating male students.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018


Via Kottke, we are confronted with a rather though-provoking, collaborative list of ways that artificially intelligent systems have managed to “cheat” and by-pass their programmers’ intentions in the name of efficiency and seeking the path of least resistance.
To paraphrase the words of a cognitive scientist—because I think the statement has far broader applications (e.g. confirmation bias and the reproducibility crisis in the social sciences) than our current range of experiments and fetishizing: no one will bother with an assigned task that’s more of a challenge than exploiting its reward-function, transforming a bug or loophole into a feature. The findings include: creatures instructed to evolve for speed through re-enforcement learning instead of working on their limbs or other, novel means of propulsion they simply selected to grow very tall and reached high speeds as they fell over, others became indolent cannibals or flatly refused to play at all to avoid losing. Like with all our exposure to pedantic wish-granters in fiction, I hope seeing these sort hacks take place in the sandbox prepares humanity for when it’s time to entreat the genie in earnest.

there is no emoticon for what i’m feeling

Courtesy of Boing Boing, we are having far too much fun with this custom emoji-builder that allows one to mix elements from different glyphs into something new and with a degree of specificity that might be otherwise lacking.
We’re especially enthralled with the randomised feature that generates expressive chimera that rather defy a straightforward definition. What occasions would the pictured suit?  Give it a try and show us what you come up with.


By virtue of geography, our village is a linear settlement, running along a ribbon of road that transverses the valley and bordered by the pastures and the baronial wood—which itself has been preserved in deference to much later political developments and the partition of Germany.
There is a clear centre (not always the case) around the ensemble of buildings that form the chapel, castle and keep—in keeping with the original sense of village, the support-structure for a villa. Another common layout is referred to as an Angerdorf—from the Old High German word for a grassy commons (Am Anger is a common street name even if the place has been built over), usually containing a stream or pond.

Monday, 12 November 2018

requiescat in pace: douglas rain

NPR reports that accomplished Shakespearian actor Douglas Rain passed away, aged ninety in Ontario, with an illustrious career with many hundreds of credits to his name, both on stage and on television, working alongside countless veteran actors—but perhaps the role that Rain will be remembered and appreciated in the widest sense for is that of voicing the Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer that controlled the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft on its voyage to Jupiter in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (previously here, here, here and here). Rain’s calm and measured tones became something menacing and unforgettable, to have lost agency and the ability to countermand a machine. In 2010, HAL is rebooted and Rain reprises his role, this time alongside his twin, SAL 9000, voiced by Candice Bergen.


Following the November Revolution that ignited with the abdication of the Hapsburg and German emperors and subsequent truce, this day marks the centenary of universal suffrage in Austria and Germany with both women and men aged at least twenty (down from twenty-five from prior to Great War) being able to vote and stand for public office in any and all elections.
For the people of Germany, this pronouncement was legally ratified on 30 November 1918 and was to shortly thereafter be tested in the field and at the polls with federal elections called for the Weimar Republic in January 1919. Austria held Constituent Assembly (Konstituierende Nationalversammung) elections in mid-February. Though activists all over had been working towards the enfranchisement of women for years and the struggle for equal representation continues, political will acquiesced in part because so many millions had perished in the fighting and constituencies were more and more reliant on the votes of women to confer confidence and mandate.

the shape of water

This meditative, pioneering 1929 “cinepoem” that explores water on film in a its states and excitations by photographer and filmmaker Ralph Steiner strikes me as a forerunner to those strangely alluring, repetitive autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos that galvanise some viewers with a tactile frisson. “H₂O” is one of the earliest art shorts to come out of America and is accompanied in the version at the linked article to a score by William Pearson commissioned by Æon magazine (the original below is silent), and early works such as this have inspired whole genres of filmmaking. Learn more and find much more to explore at the link above.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

add a caption, if you like

Via the Daily Dot, we discover that a Twitter bot accrues the work’s granularity by apprising and apportioning with posts sections of Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights (previously), as the title bestowed on a late fifteenth-century oil painted succession of oak panels and is proving itself to be an accomplished meme-maker by inviting followers to examine the details to be found within this fantastic and vast allegory.  Whilst art historians might still be puzzling over the artist’s message and symbolism, the internet has no such qualms about opening itself up to interpretation.
While there may not be any synthesis yet and we find our criticisms and sensibilities confronted and with informed by no corroborating explanation, we still manage to eke meaning of these small parcels of characters. I wonder if that was the artists intent.  Let us know what these weird vignettes signify to you.


that’s like comparing apples and mass shootings: idioms updated for American contemporary culture

store brand: Christmas advertisement aimed to educate the public on habitat-loss due to palm-oil plantations banned for being “too political”

across the stars: John Williams’ fresh arrangement for the Star Wars prequels—which if nothing else continued the tradition of arch and on point scores

perhaps not forty-two after all: the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe and everything is instead one hundred and thirty-seven, the fine-structure constant that haunted Richard Feynmann and Wolfgang Pauli—via Strange Company

sacred and profane architecture: this is the church you go to when God is in the volcano forging a ring of power, a Twitter thread via Art of Darkness

bauhaus 100: the next instalment profiling Herbert Bayer who helped create a universal typographic identity for the movement


Previous ceasefire agreements already had pulled out belligerents Bulgaria, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires from the fighting but the Armistice of 11 November 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) formally ended the Great War with Imperial Germany’s defeat and withdrawal jenseits the Rhein, holding the peace until the Treaty of Versailles could be negotiated.
Terms of what was technically not a surrender to the Allied powers were largely determined by Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch and parties to the truce were transported incognito across war-torn northern France to the marshal’s private carriage on a secluded railway siding in the Forest of Compiègne and representatives came to an agreement and signed pre-dawn—with the armistice effective noon German time, eleven o’clock in Paris (France was on Greenwich Mean Time until World War II when it came under German occupation and decided not to switch back afterwards).
From the field, there was a sense of relief and hope but little jubilation as fifty-two months of fierce fighting and over seventeen million lives lost had left many hollow and exhausted. This post has featured a few images from our visit to the memorial site in the summer of 2008. I remember that being the year that the last surviving veterans passed away and the war slipped from living memory.  The act of contrition and cooperation was later characterised as betrayal and facilitated the rise of more terrors but for now there is peace and that is holy.

Saturday, 10 November 2018


Sadly, as Paleofuture reports, the Paramount Ranch, the location of a number of large scale-sets that was a major actor in a number of film and television productions since its 1927 acquisition as a film ranch—falling within the traditional bounds of the studio zone, a thirty-mile zone (TMZ) that radiates out from West Beverly in Los Angeles and an easy drive from Hollywood—has been engulfed by the Woolsey wildfire, sustaining significant damage. The allure of this spot, backdrop for 1981’s Reds and 1968’s Herbie the Love Bug plus many others and numerous television shows like Westworld, The Bachelor and Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman was that it was also open for public inspection, provided that nothing was filming at the time. Wildfires devastating the region are burning California from both ends, with at least twenty-five fatalities and thousands of homes and businesses burned.

i want my lavender spats, and in addition to them, i want my honey-coloured gusset with the herringbone hem

Having been a reader of Damn Interesting for many years, I was pleased to find that they’ve significantly revamped their website and their investigations into the weird and wonderful and now for your convenience, their stories are narrated and syndicated in podcast format (est’d in 2012).
Having a vague memory of seeing this movie on television when I was pretty young, I was pleased to have the details limned in (though still so many questions) behind the making of Theodore Geisel’s (Doctor Seuss’) only feature, the Technicolor, 1953 musical fantasy The Five Thousand Fingers of Doctor T. Granted the chance to make a full-length film after the award-winning success of his featurette Gerald McBoing-Boing, the author came to describe the undertaking as a most debaculous fiasco. Though Seuss’ style could be seen in the costuming, choreography and set-designs, the majority of the musical numbers were cut—the best one in the score, the Dressing Song (Do-mi-Do-Duds) that is quite in the same spirit as Mister Burns’ See My Vest from “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” was kept in—and the screenplay went through so many rewrites that Seuss’ original themes of dominance, oppression and austerity that marked the world recently were also excised. Despite later enjoying somewhat of a revival as a cult-classic, Seuss disowned the film and didn’t mention it in his biography, eliding to his string of successful book adaptations that were to follow.

extra, extra

Teaming up with a pair of correspondents from the network’s finance desk, Janelle Shane (previously)—considering that one Chinese news agency looks posed to replace its anchors altogether with artificial intelligences (I wonder how the human anchor this tireless clone feels about making himself possibly redundant)—fed her neural network thousands of CNN headlines to see how it might reinterpret them and highlight trends that were otherwise invisible against all the noise.
The output was somewhat bleakly nihilistic and highlighted businesses behaving corruptly. Some of our favourites were:

Its iPhone Look it
Million do Regret
The US China Trade War is so Middle Class
The Best Way to Avoid Your Money

See the whole list and learn more about the methodology behind this and other experiments—with a lot more weirdness to discover—at the links above.

drawing board

We had encountered the proposal to put a triumphal ziggurat in Trafalgar Square beforehand but until now—thanks to Things magazine, we had not appreciated the whole scope and scale of London’s alternative monuments and transport plans. Visualised and superimposed over the modern city, the gallery contains rejected and rather fantastic architectural ideas like an elevated runway for a Westminster airport pitched in 1934 or the 1967 plans for monorail servicing central London. Check out the whole collection at the links above and discover more on the theme of unbuilt cities.

Friday, 9 November 2018


Acting on the pretext of the assassination of a Nazi Germany diplomat in Paris by a teenaged refugee of Polish-Jewish descent, and with mobs already worked into a furore over the commemoration of the failed putsch of 1923, on this night in 1938—five years after the Nazis overthrew the Weimar Republic (founded on the same date in 1918)—riots broke out across Germany and Austria with stormtroopers as well as German civilians engaged in plunder and violence against Jewish owned businesses, places of worship and homes.
Laws were already in place that excluded the Jewish population from engaging in social and political life, but Kristallnacht (so called after the shards of broken glass) became a turning point with the neighbours and the global community attending more closely to the horrors that people were capable of and how we can stand by and allow such things to happen. At least ninety-one people were killed overnight and over thirty-thousand individuals arrested and sent to concentration camps the next day in what Reichsminster of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels characterised to the world press as “spontaneous manifestations of indignation over the murder of Herr vom Rath”—the Paris-based diplomat by Herschel Grynszpan, whom were rumoured to have been lovers. The power of shame and insecurity are not to be underestimated either and usually result in foisting otherness on others.  This dread incitement precipitated in something far worse but also showed the world that stances of containment and appeasement were no longer tenable. 

nasty, brutish and short

Building off of a long tradition of social contracts and utilitarianism, philosopher John Rawls developed his original position hypothesis as a thought experiment in order to temper our thinking towards discourse and a way from a savage state of nature as the impetus for the polis and social conventions, introducing the heuristic tool of a “veil of ignorance” in order to gauge the morality and empathy of policy decisions.
Perhaps we do slide into anarchy but order and concord are not the consequence of chaos necessarily. Politicians and decision-makers, donning this veil, become blind to their place in the hierarchy and don’t know if they will fall into the category of haves or have-nots, until the veil is lifted, and would in theory make equitable decisions that maximises welfare for all, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum. One can immediately appreciate the urgency of justice and equanimity should one be weighing decisions with the insight of ignorance that disfavours or privileges the rights of the enslaved over slave-owners and vice versa.

throw-away society

Via Boing Boing, we learn that Collins Dictionary—edging out other runners-up including the complimentary plogging—has selected single-use as their word of the year (“WotY”), noting a four-fold increase in the frequency of the term applied to consumable, disposable products, usually plastic, whose unchecked proliferation are wrecking ecosystems and working their way up the food-chain since 2013. Hopefully that increase in print correlates with an increased public understanding and acknowledgement of how we’re rubbishing the planet. Stay tuned for more lexical superlatives as they are announced.


Rummaging through the archives—which is an always advisable activity—Things Magazine directs our attention to the Haludovo Palace hotel, an abandoned resort on the island of Krk. This swank, swinging Penthouse Adriatic Club casino was built in 1971 with the investment of the adult magazine founder Bob Guccione and maintained by a Yugoslav holding-company due to restrictions on foreign-ownership in the country. The magnate saw an opportunity to create a new, untrammelled playground for the jet-set but attendance was precipitously lower than expected and the venture went bankrupt the next year.
During the ethnic conflicts and wars for independence with the dissolution of the state, the hotel became a refugee camp and subsequently went through many owners until being fully left to wrack and ruin in 2001. Just last month, there was an announcement that a private investor would restore and revitalise the resort (samo na hrvatskom jeziku) which has a whole fresh set of comparison pictures from then and now.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

der bürgerbräu-putsch

Inspired by Benito Mussolini’s successful March on Rome of October of the previous year, on this night in 1923 Adolf Hitler, former quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff and members of the Kampfbund (a patriotic, rather revanchistic society crafted by Hitler a month prior in Nuremberg) and a sizable paramilitary detachment (Sturmabteilung) massed at the Bürgerbräukeller, a vast drinking hall in Munich where the state commissioner and ombudsman of the Weimar Republic was addressing an assembly of some three thousand.
After witnessing the rabid ferocity that the disaffected veterans could summon from the crowd, the same commissar had banned the Kampfbund from organising such assemblies by reason of public menace and in response, Hitler commandeered the platform and took the entire crowd hostage with machine guns, proclaiming a coup d’état. Having felt he won the sympathy of the captive audience, the plotters were emboldened and advanced to capture government ministries and ransom members of the city council. Their progress was thwarted by the state police and many participants were arrested on the following day. Hitler had been delivered to the countryside where he managed to allude authorities for two days until he was captured, jailed and stood trial in a broadly publicised case of sedition along with fellow co-conspirators. His subsequent prison sentence—after capitalising on media coverage of his trial—gave Hitler the forum to radicalise others to his cause and develop a strategy of propaganda as a path to power, rather than violent insurrection.


Contributing writer for Muckrock Emma Best reports on a recently declassified State Department cable from the US ambassador to the Netherlands to Henry Kissinger warning off the Church Committee’s widespread 1975 investigation into intelligence abuses and strongly admonishing to keep findings out of public purview.
Documents obtained talk around the potential scandal but research indicates that the conclusions might present corroborating evidence for the kick-back scheme that royal consort Prince Bernhard was implicated in. Although his highness stated to reporters’ questions when the story broke two years later, “I am above such things,” he nonetheless stepped down as head of the country’s armed forces over the allegations. According to the communique issued at the time, whatever the controversy, the interlocutors believed it would have repercussions serious enough to destabilise NATO and possibly transform the government of the Netherlands, intimating the royal couple might abdicate in disgrace. Though I really hope that the annual, mysterious gathering is about something more esoteric than grift and pay-offs, that Prince Bernhard is the same figure who in 1954 held the first conference at the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, establishing an annual trans-Atlantic meeting meant to foster cooperation on political, economic and academic issues between Europe and the US. Learn more at the link up top.

østenfor sol og vestenfor måne

Public Domain Review introduces us to the Norwegian folk tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon via the sumptuously illustrated version translated and published for English markets in 1914 by artist Danish Kay Rasmus Nielsen (*1886 – †1957).
Classified under the Aarne-Thompson system as “the search for the lost husband,” the story references universal motifs and to a degree informs “Beauty and the Beast.” A poor peasant is approached by the White Bear with a proposition: in exchange for his fair, young daughter, the bear will make the peasant wealthy. The father is persuaded and the daughter is spirited away to an enchanted castle. At night, the bear transforms back into a human to be with the young woman but under cover of darkness, she never catches his unursine visage. The woman grows homesick and the bear will allow her to visit her family, provided that she promises never to speak with her mother alone. Her mother is persistent about addressing her situation one-on-one and eventually corners her and presses her for details.
Without getting much more out of her daughter, the mother proclaims that the White Bear must really be a gruesome troll and gives her daughter three candles to investigate. Curiosity getting the better of her, she lights the candle one even after she returns to the enchanted castle to find the White Bear’s true form is that of a handsome prince. Dripping hot tallow on the sleeping prince accidentally, he bolts upright, bleary-eyed and bemoans the fate that he’s now consigned to: his wicked stepmother bargaining that the prince could not sustain the love, trust of another for a whole year and keep his true appearance from them. Now instead of being free from the curse, the prince must now journey to the stepmother’s castle, east of the Sun and west of the Moon where he is to be wed to his step-sister a troll princess. Read the rest of the story (which ends happily ever after) and learn more about the illustrator—who contributed to Fantasia (1940) and posthumously to The Little Mermaid (1989)—at Public Domain Review at the link up top.


Being very well acquainted with the city (check the label for Saxony for more), we enjoyed indulging in this film artefact, courtesy of TYWKIWDBI, that delivers a whistle-stop tour of Leipzig by street car (Straßenbahn) from 1931 and did recognise several streets and landmarks in passing. As the source recommends, use your imagination to create an immersive experience as you transverse the city at speed.