Wednesday, 13 November 2019

pavlovian response

Though sadly his predictions about being up to our necks in bugs did not come to pass and by losing the insects we are losing the song birds as well and we’d prefer this method of conditioning feline instincts, I think that it was a pretty noble notion on the part of inventor and erstwhile actor Desmond Slattery to save our avian friends from our domestic ambush by associating a poaching with a violent and memorable explosion through a treacherous decoy that did exactly that. Debuting his prototype in 1968, Slattery hoped that cats and birds would going forward coexist in harmony.

rat race

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we arrive at a nifty bit of programming code that can be modified to accommodate any data set and energise one’s presentations and data-visualisations with a bar chart race (like the one we encountered recently). The comprehensive and patient tutorial from Mike Bostock is a study in the power of clear conveyance (very much diametrically opposed to this overly-enthusiastic and persuasive slide deck, via the New Shelton Wet/Dry) and allows one, with some work and investment of time, to harness this sort of bracing animation that has one rooting for the underdog.

saint brice’s day

Though the feast day is darkened with the 1002 massacre of Danes in England ordered by Æthelred the Unready—probably in part responding to a populace weary of the piracy and appeasement, the commemoration of Saint Brice of Tours has a direct link to a recent celebration. Adopted by the sainted bishop Martin when discovered as an orphaned infant, Brice (Brictius, *370 – †444) was raised within the church under Martin’s tutelage, becoming a monk and eventually an archdeacon and succeeding his mentor Martin as the fourth head of the archdiocese upon Martin’s death in 397. This iconic, generic manuscript miniature illustrates Martin lecturing his pupil and ward Brice comes from the fourteenth century workshop of hagiographer Jacobus de Varagine and his anthology The Golden Legend (Legenda aurea).
Brice’s temperament and focus, however, according to the community was very much in opposition to his teacher’s and fellow clerics dismissed him as worldly and overly-ambitious and certainly did not like the idea of him becoming their spiritual leader. Scandalously, a nun became pregnant and there were persistent rumours that Brice was the father. In order to prove that he was the baby daddy, Brice submitted to a ritual ordeal of carrying hot embers in his cloak to the tomb of Saint Martin and coming out unscathed with his garment none the worse for wear either. This test did not impress and his parishioners banished him—saying that he could not return unless the pope in Rome himself exonerated him. Seven years later, absolved by Innocent I, Brice returned and discharged his duties as a bishop and confessor with such dedication and humility he was not only accepted back into the fold but was, upon his death, venerated as a saint. Brice is depicted with the iconography of glowing coals in his robe and/or a baby in his arms, the paternity issue never really resolved. No particular patronage is attached to Saint Brice (so you’re invited to come up with your own) but he does share this day with Saint Homobonus (Sant’Omobono, Sankt Gutmann, literally “a good man,” †1197) who was a celebrated tailor and cloth-monger of Cremona. A wealthy merchant, Homobonus expressed gratitude for his good fortune and privilege to work at a job he enjoyed by donating to and dressing the poor. Usually represented with a money bag, Homobonus is the patron of business casual and corporate executives.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

technicolor refreshment trailer № 1

Our gratitude once again to friend of the blog Everlasting Blört for directing our attention to this 1970s Pepsi Cola sponsored appeal to head out to the concession stands. This psychedelic ad (see also) was meant for audiences of drive-in venues and even has a brief reference to the original “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” cast of anthropomorphic treats.

fire and brimstone

Though the fallen angels of the Bible are incarcerated and consigned to the same fate as the Titans, there’s no mention of Tartarus in the New Testament, with either the Greek abode of the dead, Hades, or the small valley in Jerusalem where child-sacrifice occurred, Gehenna (Hinnom), invoked for the concept, though the former is more neutral and would be better represented as the underworld.
There is however one instance that it sort of slips in—this homage to Antiquity—in verbal form: in the Second Epistle of Peter, condemning false prophets, the apostle uses the word (making an ensample of wickedness) tartaroo (ταρταρόω) for “to cast into Hell.” The original Greek rendering of the Apostles’ Creed that provides for and establishes among other things the harrowing of Hell, Jesus’ descent into the underworld to rescue all the righteous who had perished and were condemned prior to salvation, took the more pedestrian verb κατελθόντα είς τά κατώτατα (descendit ad inferos—to those below) but was far from unproblematic—prompting the need for a third estate, that of Limbo, a liminal place.

possibly in michigan

Vacillating between the cute and the grotesque and nicely framing the spirit of the contradictory and the absurd that America leans strongly into, we appreciate the referral to the filmmaker and educator Cecelia Condit through her 1983 eponymous and most viral piece.
Recently rediscovered and championed by a video clip platform that’s usually the reserve of brief lessons or lip-syncing, this musical short about a deranged cannibal who pursues a pair of women through an otherwise empty shopping mall has enjoyed cult-following for the past four decades and no stranger to the experience of memetic infection, having previously been drawn in as a poster child in the moral and Satanic Panic of mid-1980s America and the on-going culture wars—by dent mostly of the closing credits that prominently features the support and patronage of the National Endowment for the Arts. New audiences are sometimes the best audiences.

when the stars allign or flights of fancy

This day of all days back in 1981 would have been an especially auspicious one for space exploration, had public and political captivation been sustained and transformed into something enduring, because the alignment of both Mars and Venus relative to Earth and Moon was optimal for a crewed mission to each planet launching simultaneously.
I can imagine this sling-shot trajectory of the tandem space-flights returned to Earth with gravity-assists, which was presented by NASA administrator Thomas Otten Paine expansively and in exacting detail to a crowd gathered in San Francisco in August of 1969.  With continued advances on nuclear-propelled rockets and fiscal commitments (estimated to be around twenty four billion dollars), Paine promised the audience that such an achievement would indeed be possible by the early eighties.  Though it was after the blast-off deadline had passed, Paine designed a flag for Mars in 1983.

Monday, 11 November 2019


Via Gizmodo, we discover that given enough vigorous backing and cheerleading technologists and futurists have had their ethical concerns assuaged and have reserved their stance (at least some have) on keeping OpenAI corralled and not available for public inspection, fearing that its unchecked capacity for generating plausible sounding disinformation would spell the end of human civilisation.
While I certainly don’t think we were unwise to practise restraint and our fears might not be too premature already, Talk to Transformer (try it live) is profoundly off-putting and it’s hard to gird oneself for an onslaught of generative and adverse narratives if one does not know what one is up against.
These first blocks of copy gleaned from scouring the internet in response to a given prompt (in bold text) were strange yet somehow resonant and current in a strangely pandering sort of way. First, upon hearing that New Zealand’s parliamentary transcription service rendered the wilting retort of a member to out-of-touch pushback as “OK Burma,” I wanted to see if the neural network understood accents—and it seemed to deliver. The artificial intelligence also seemed to understand the euphemistic political response to being made redundant, which Norman Fowler, Baron Fowler the Secretary of State for Employment first cited in January of 1990 as his reason to resign was to “spend more time with my [his] family,” noting that public service can come at private costs. A few further iterations got pretty dark but it was nonetheless fun to experiment with. Give it a turn and share the stories you get.


This day is held in celebration of the funeral of Martin of Tours, recreating the procession originally held in 397 AD. The holiday coinciding with the end of harvest time, the festival celebrates the life of a former Roman centurion stationed in Gaul who converted to Christianity and was reluctantly ordained bishop after encountering a freezing beggar during a blizzard at the gates of Amiens (Samarobriva—bridge of the Somme) clad in rags only and charitably—without hesitation, rent his cloak in two and shared it with him.
That evening Martin had a vision that the beggar revealed Himself to be Jesus Christ and on awaking found his cloak miraculously made whole. The word chapel (Kapelle) and derived terms like chaplain come from the short cape (capella) that Martin had draped over his shoulder after the bit of tailoring. Like other celebrations that occur during winter’s bleak months (see also here and here), there’s an element of an abiding glimmer of light in the darkness to give the motivation to go on. A time of slaughter and feasting—it being untenable to feed some livestock and keep them through to spring—geese, the same that gave away Martin’s whereabouts to the conclave that nominated him for bishop, were killed at this time and like with Thanksgiving, it became traditional fare for this day. The timing of the holiday moreover saw a syncretism with Martin inheriting the attributes and patronage formerly held by the minor deity Aristaeus—son of Cyrene and Apollo, credited with discovering and then sharing some of the useful and agrarian arts like beekeeping, viniculture, shearing, cheesemaking, pickling, curing and herding. All of these professions fall under the guardianship of Martin—with a few more thrown in for good measure, like reformed alcoholics. Though today Saint Martin’s Day marks the beginning of the Karneval season in Germany, it was formerly one last feast before a fasting that was to be observed through the Feast of the Epiphany, like the fast of Lent. In some places, the parade and singing takes place a day early to also mark the birthday of reformer and namesake Martin Luther (*1483 — †1546).  Over time this period was shortened and rebranded as Advent.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

children's television workshop

On this day half a century ago, Sesame Street (see previously) made its debut on the US public television network to a rather high viewership (considering less than seventy percent of households at the time owned a television) and generally positive reception.
It represented the first educational programming aimed for young audiences based on laboratory trials and with a curriculum informed by the input and feedback of teachers and social-workers.  By its second year, it had been nominated for over twenty accolades and has earned more awards than any other programme for children and by the tenth anniversary, over nine million under-six year olds were watching it daily, generations growing up with the characters of this cultural touchstone now having gone international.  The pilot episode as it was originally broadcast can be viewed below.

weekly top forty

Via Miss Cellania, we really enjoyed seeing the meteoric rise of Elton John, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Queen (plus their retreat and eventual resurgence) and the tenacity of The Beatles, ABBA, etc. in this presentation charting the best-selling artists (from aggregated certified sales world-wide, adjusted by a twelve-month trailing average) of the past fifty years, and admittedly we’re a bit out of touch with the music scene today, we found ourselves, after the turn of the century a bit bewildered and baffled by the bands vying for the pole position and the not so much of a photo-finish. Were there surprises for you? See previously.  Probably not spoilers and bombshells for anyone else, but we were pleased to learn that the career of a Canadian child star of Degrassi: TNG carried its own nearly as well as some of the confirmed legends in the running.

secret agent man

While better known for his role as the music director for the Godfather franchise of film and for his award-winning score for Pizza Connection (1985, originally called The Sicilian Connection until realising that that title had already been taken, composer Carlo Savina (*1919 – †2002) was incredibly prolific, behind the soundtracks of dozens and dozens of movies, including for numerous Spaghetti Westerns, Sword-and-Sandal dramas (previously, known as pepla in Italian, after the Greek full body gown, ὁ πέπλος, a period costume from those movies) and the later profusion of Eurospy features of the mid 1960s. This 1966 Goldsnake ‘Anonima Killers’ (with plenty of alternate titles for foreign markets) is a good number to start with. More to explore at the link above.

kandinsky park

The always inspired Keir Clarke, as part of an on-going challenge that follows in the tradition, spirit of Inktober, showcases her next cartographical creation that rather beautifully overlays Manhattan’s Central Park and environs with a symphonic palette of colours informed by the style of painter Wassily Kandinsky (*1866 – †1944), who executed some of the first European purely abstract compositions and taught at the Bauhaus until the institute was closed. Learn more about the methodology of generated charts and graphs and the Thirty Day Map Challenge (with previous entries) at the link up top.


Born this day in 1859 (†1923) in Lausanne, Art Nouveau printmaker Théophile Alexandre Steinlen first apprenticed as designer in a textile mill in Mulhouse before joining an artist colony in the Montmarte quarter, where he was introduced to the cabaret owner and entertainer Aristide Bruant (the dashing man in the bold red scarf who was the subject of many Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec paintings), helping to secure Steinlen commissions for poster art in Paris and beyond.
Le Chat Noir (Bruant performed there as well and his most well-known ballad was eponymously titled) itself was the pioneering enterprise, established in 1881, of fellow impresario Louis Rodlphe Salis and is considered the first modern night club, with food, drinks and live entertainment and which soon outgrow its original venue, and the revue was taken on the road and held in music halls across the city.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

das tritt nach meiner kenntnis …ist das sofort… unverzüglich

On this night in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down through the cumulative actions of countless brave individuals and a shift towards political reform and market liberalisation but the flash point occurred due to a press-conference held earlier in the day with a spokesperson who hadn’t bothered to attend the full internal party briefing.
Having just forced out long-term party leader Erich Honecker in favour of Egon Krenz, Günter Schabowski (*1929 – †2015), chief of the Politbüro and trained journalist, was installed as the care-taker government’s public affairs officer. Schabowski took a cigarette break during discussions that outlined proposals for a temporary relaxing of travel restriction and was given notes by Krenz to prepare him for reporters’ questions. Schabowski, however, improvised under pressure and built up expectations that the East German government had not intended. One reporter asked when would these new travel policies go into effect—to which Schabowski replied, “Right away, as far as I know—effective immediately without delay.” Upon on hearing this, thousands massed at border access points in Berlin, demanding that they be let through.

Friday, 8 November 2019


a gender-neutral zombie: representation is important, via Kottke’s Quick Links

flotsam and jetsam: an ingenious barrier of air bubbles traps plastic waste in Amsterdam’s canals

ok boomer: a powerful and withering epithet

rurikids and romanovs: traditional Russian female garb, via Everlasting Blört

book of dreams: Argos back-catalogues from 1974 on, via Things Magazine  

merijää: a combination of rare weather conditions converged to cover a beach on Bothnia bay with ice eggs 

equine anatomy: rating every horse emoji across different platforms (see also), via Waxy

Thursday, 7 November 2019

minor arcana

For the eighteenth iteration of James Bond in the film Live and Let Die (1973), producer Albert Romolo Broccoli (not to be confused with an Alan Smithee credit, a pseudonym adopted by individuals wanting to disown the movie) commissioned from Salvador Dalí a deck of tarot cards to be used as a prop for a pivotal scene featuring a psychic played by Jane Seymour. Over budget, the studio went with another artist in the end but Dalí nonetheless completed his assignment, limning all the seventy-eight trump and numbered suites.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

geometria et perspectiva

From Public Domain Review, we are introduced to the strikingly modern and abstract art work of illustrator and scholar in the traditions established by Albrecht Dürer in his only known, extant publication, Lorentz Stöer (*1530 - †1621).
The 1567 volume is thin on words, the full title being Hier Jnn Etliche Zerbrochnen Gebeẅ, den Schreiner in eingelegter Arbait dienstlich, auch vil andern Liebhabern zu sonder gefallen geordnet vnd gestalt, Durch Lorentz Stöer Maller Burger Jnn Augspurg—that is, Geometry and Perspective: containing various ruined buildings useful for parquetry as well as for the enjoyment of other aficionados, so arranged and presented by the painter and Augsburger himself, and the colophon that labels the polygons and with the oddly challenging motto “Who would do right by everyone? No one would dare try!” and no other text, just a series of brilliantly coloured architectural studies, the geometric solids ideal subjects to demonstrate multi-point perspective, shadowing and foreshortening. Explore the entire book at the link above and learn how to order these images as prints.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019


A bit late to the party for International Caps Lock Day, a social engineering media giant has announced its new preferred form of address, a shouty, all majuscule style, the preferred copy of over-amplified right-leaning demagogues and their supporters, who assuredly need more accommodation.
And a platform—representation is important. Though brand-redesigns (see also here and here) are not always the bellwether of imminent collapse, one can pray for the sweet release of oblivion and hope that FACEBOOK will go the way of once-pioneering, ubiquitous America Online, that brought in mixed case plus punctuation, stylised as Aol., a decade ago shortly before its downfall.

monster mash

While somewhat deflated to learn that the secret ingredients of horror icons Boris Karloff’s and Vincent Price’s respective recipes for guacamole sauce (a redundancy since the spread is Nahuatl for avocado sauce) was not the exotica of a magic potion or witches brew, I was quite happy to encounter another instance of people engaged and enraptured not by what’s on the menu per se but rather by how one does food and how there are given set of norms for behaviour and etiquette.
I can’t say whether or not it’s a phenomenon specific to any one culture or subset but it strikes me that Americans are particularly sensitive to it—with the deportment of presidential candidates scruntised for “authenticity” by the way they wield fairground fare more memorable than any excerpts from debates. I wonder what that says about the state of the polity. Do check out the recipes at the link up top but also know that placing the avocado pit in the bowl of guacamole, contrary to testimony, will not keep it from turning brown.


Some six years after its companion probe (a lot of erata and embarrassment here but worth remembering for the government shutdown) crossed the threshold into interstellar space, Voyager 2 (having taken the scenic route) some nineteen billion kilometres (sixteen light hours) from Earth exited the heliosphere, the protective envelop of charged particles emanating from the Sun that demarcates our star’s sphere of influence, one year ago. Transmitting valuable telemetry on the shape and nature of this bubble that in one sense defines the Solar System, researchers have been pouring over the data from Voyager 2 during the ensuing months and have gained some insights what little eddies and gyres that our Sun produces in the vastness of space.

don’t you remember the fifth of november

Enshrined the following year as a commemoration of thanksgiving for the failure of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords and reinstate a Catholic monarchy and exported to America as Election Day, the once rabidly puritanical celebration and partisan scapegoating (previously) has evolved into a festival recognising the role of the subversive underdog and donning the mask of Guy Fawkes, the chief co-conspirator has become a symbol of protest and rebellion for any number of causes.
The preamble for the parliamentary act set forth that “many malignant and devilish Papists, Jesuits and Seminary Priests, much envying and fear, conspired most horribly, when the King’s most excellent Majesty, the Queen, the Prince, and he Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, should have been assembled in the Upper House of Parliament upon the Fifth Day of November in the Year of our Lord One thousand six hundred and five, suddenly to have blown up the said whole House with Gunpowder: An Invention so inhuman, barbarous and cruel, as the like was never before heard of.” Though no penalties were prescribed or meted out for failure to participate, the associated legislation directs church ministers to hold a special service on this anniversary and read the text to the parishioners. This requirement was annulled with the repealing of the Act in 1859, a decade after the Universalis Ecclesiæ was issued by the Vatican, restoring episcopal hierarchy in the country and recognising the legitimacy of the royal family. Though like Guy Fawkes Day the parade and associated events (Operation Vendetta) has transcended its founders’ and organisers’ original mission: at first meant to protest the secrecy and censorship of the Church of Scientology, marchers now rally for social justice.

Monday, 4 November 2019


From the Greek for the study of peebles (used for ballots in ancient Athens—the English word itself having Italic origins, ballotta, a little ball and hence the phrase “blackballing”), psephology is a sub-branch of political science that tries to account for election outcomes in language of socio-historic studies through research and reporting on voting registries, franchisement, polling and the influence of lobbies and special interest groups in politics.
Coined for the nonce in the late 1940s, the word term was introduced by Scottish classicist WFR Hardie when fellow academic and member of JRR Tolkein’s roundtable (the Inklings) Ronald Buchanan McCallum called on him for a word to denote the study of referenda. Poltical correspondents, analysts, demographers, policy wonks and pundits could all be called psephologtist—that is, pebble-counters.

positive externalities

Though we are familiar with the concept of sin-taxes and the notion of factoring in social cost into the price regime of consumption by means of a carbon-tax which has a diverse cast of proponents (and conversely incentives to make the more expensive choices for the sake of greater society), we had never heard of a Pigovian subsidy broadly applied as the name of this corrective measure.
Conceived nearly a century ago by Cambridge economics professor Arthur Cecil Pigou (*1877 – †1959), its first incarnation was a proposal to reveal and offset the hidden costs of alcohol on civil societies by levying taxes that would help fund law enforcement, first responders and insurance underwriters who have had to foot the extra bill of accident and absenteeism from intoxication. People then and now are reluctant to find correlation outside of their immediate horizons, and Pigou tried couching the argument in more concrete terms, social benefits and ills being notoriously hard to measure in a field that lobbies in numbers, citing unregulated industry for creating the deadly smog that beset London with direct costs built-in for inaction in terms of health and sustainability. Do give the entire podcast a listen and learn more about a real-world experiment whose time has finally come around.

wende ohne wenn und aber

On this day in East Berlin’s Alexanderplatz (previously) in 1989, up to a million demonstrators peaceably assembled for the largest rally registered and tolerated by the authorities.
Riding on the momentum of the Montagsdemos and shocked by the police violence committed against those who had demonstrated during the celebrations of the DDR’s fortieth anniversary a month beforehand, members of East Berlin’s theatre industry sought and were surprisingly granted permission to organise the event—hoping that official sanction would refuse the potential for injury.
The party was also invited to send speakers to address the crowd and deliver a defence for the status quo, the aims were to bring about democratic reforms in East Germany and enforce those provisions in the constitution that enshrined freedom of speech and assembly in theory but were lacking in practise and nothing so grand as opening the border or reuniting the divided nation. Party officers withered before the jeering masses. Parade marshals were dispatched to work the throngs with bright yellow sashes calling for “Keine Gewalt”—No Violence—and attendees were encouraged to bring signs, whose slogans included Bürgerrechte nicht nur auf Papier (Civil rights not only on paper) and Change – No Ifs, Ands or Buts.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

share this page

Coder Neal Agarwal, whose mission is to help restore the web to its bold weirdness of days gone by, invites us to socialise, commune and channel with the greater world around us by exploring those lesser known platforms below the fold of the top-tier social media buttons. Check out more of Agarwal’s other projects—including taking in perspective the size of space and a call for submissions on drawing corporate logos (see also) from memory.

card catalogue

Via another peripatetic friend, Things Magazine, we are introduced to the cautionary stacks of Awful Library Books and reminded of the importance of culling for the sake of circulation and that “hoarding is not collection development.”
Among recent submissions that have thus far eluded the curatorial eyes of professional bibliothecopgraphers we really enjoyed discovering that God loves Mimes through Susie Kelly Toomey’s 1986 instruction book on silent but potentially equally obnoxious evangelism, The Psychotherapy Maze (1991): A Consumers’ Guide to Getting In and Out of Therapy, the volumes on crafting for niche audiences, obsolete technology, fad diets and beauty treatments are to be uncovered in the site’s extensive archives maintained by a consortium of librarians.  A lot of the jackets and covers could be from today’s self-published marketplace. I think I’ll be returning for more exploration and to check for regular updates real soon.

when i woke

This 1994 hit single from the worldbeat band Rusted Root enjoyed a huge cultural moment in 1996, featuring as the soundtrack for the television series Party of Five and in no fewer than three feature films including Pie in the Sky, Race the Sky and Matilda. Later part of the playlists (excused for that flourish that’s a rather poor imitation of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and imbued with that special status of elusive earworm that one knows but may be struggles to place) of the movies Ice Age, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, a long-running car-rental advertising campaign, and the wake-up music for the Opportunity Rover on at least one occasion, the upbeat song has proved to be an enduring one.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

shadow cards

Via the venerable Card House, we’re not only acquainted with the pantomime entertainment of casting shadow-puppetry but moreover that the characters were intellectual property and subject to rather vicious copyright battles from the house of E K Dunbar & Co. “I am Such a Dorg!”
It’s as if the creative urge itself were dependent on subscribing and contentious commodification, sort of like ubiquitous watermarking, the fights erupting over a proprietary palette of eye-shadow, dance moves or the favoured way to promote a loyal viewership to watch one play arcade games. I’m not one to talk but it seems that the less actual talent at stake, the more accelerated and pitched the hostilities for the stakeholders.

gilded age or singapore sling

Though a beautifully brooding building, Parkview Square of downtown Singapore, the office complex that hosts embassies and art galleries on its twenty-four storeys, also boasts a multi-level bar at its core, complete with a “library” of some thirteen-hundred varieties of gin from around the globe (the signature cocktail was invented at the venerable, nearby and more authentically Art Deco Raffles Hotel on Beach Road). Prior to acquiring its current theme—which offers no less of an experience, the space hosted a wine bar with the sommelier on duty magically hoisted up and down by a wire to retrieve bottles from the high stack of shelves.

two-thousand zero zero

Apropos of finding ourselves presently bumping up against epochs (depressingly, see also) of science-fiction and science-fantasy that once seemed impossibly distant and removed, Austin Kleon directs our attention to a lengthy list of remembrances of futures past.
A lot of these stories set in a future now passing we have encountered beforehand (all vehicles, all genres) though we’d somehow been spared the 1991 made-for-television Knight Rider 2000 when US President Dan Quayle wages war on the UK over Bermuda and criminals are cryogenically frozen for future generations to deal with (which is seeming a rather preferably time-line now), but had our world a bit shaken when early on in that catalogue it included 1999 (Song), referring to Prince’s 1982 hit that predicts a forthcoming nuclear apocalypse. Wikipedia even classifies it as an anti-war anthem. I had to re-watch the video while facing the lyrics but I still didn’t find myself wholly convinced that the song had any sort of doomsday narrative. What do you think?  You can judge for yourselves. 

Everybody’s got a bomb
We could all die any day, Oh
But before I’ll let that happen
I’ll dance my life away!

Friday, 1 November 2019

the future is now

pilzfund ii

Having had less success up until this point and a bit envious of neighbours who return after foraging with mushrooms by the crateload, H and I went exploring in the forest again and had some fortune gathering some edible specimens.
Careful to collect discriminately and not spoil the woodland ecology (responsible, surgical removal affords the chance for the fruiting body to regrow) and more careful research so as not to end up poisoning ourselves, we were able to identify, along with the usual fare, Goldröhrling (Suillus grevillea, the larch bolete—for the root of the tree it is often found), Steinpilze (previously) and Birkenpilze (Leccinum sabrum, the birch bolete) mostly.
Though by no means is this rule-of-thumb universal or not without exceptions but broadly, mushrooms with stalks and a spongy, porous underside of its cap, called boletes, literally from the Latin for edible mushroom—as opposed to gills underneath—can signify that it is safe for human consumption.  Please, however, consult the experts before trying to harvest wild mushrooms and know how to contact poison-control, just in case.

We were pretty selective and not more adventurous than is advisable and once H sautéed the mushrooms, that bucket reduced down to a small but very flavourful portion.

world vegan day

In honour of the anniversary of the founding of the animal rights society and publication of the movement’s first newsletter with its first coinage of the term in November of 1944 by English activist and advocate Donald Watson (*1910 – †2005), this day amidst the harvesting (and slaughter), feasting and revelry of this transitional time of year is set aside for education and outreach on living without exploiting fellow animals.
We’re getting there slowly and really admire and respect those who questioned our imagined station and dominion all those decades hence and how easily many of us have it now with the luxury of choice and mainstream alternatives. This older event poster, directly inspired by the banner of Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Ingsoc (Newspeak for English Socialism) Party, strikes me as deliciously ironic, especially for those who seek and attribute cultish overtones to the lifestyle choice out of fear. One party slogan is after all, “Proles and Animals are free.” Do read some of the literature and lean into the science and come to your own conclusions.  

thus spake zarathustra

We had missed this rather significant directorial choice regarding Stanley Kubrick’s timeless and iconic adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey (see previously) and are grateful to the emendation from Open Culture.
Before deciding on scoring his film with the orchestral classics of Strauss (the above tone poem, fanfare was also used as walk-on music by Elvis Presley from 1971 to his death in 1977), Mozart and Brahms, Kubrick had commissioned composer Alex North (*1910 – †1991) to write a full soundtrack (listen to the playlist in its entirety at the link above) which was ultimately rejected. What do you think about the decision? Of course we are used to the setting as produced but North’s tracks have a different connection and emotional response. North, who had received accolades and Oscar nominations for his music in such films as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cleopatra, The Misfits, Death of a Salesman, and Spartacus did not take the rejection well—especially having put so much effort into it and not discovering the fact he was cut out of the picture until its New York preview—but was able to incorporate some of the music into later projects, like the score for The Shoes of the Fisherman and Dragon Slayer.

Thursday, 31 October 2019


In what was self-described as a sad day in Congress and an onerous though urgent distraction from conducting the business of good governance and vouchsafing freedom and prosperity, the House of Representatives formalised its impeachment inquiry by putting the matter to a general member vote. Though expectedly partisan, a clear and mandated majority indicated openly, tempting the great wroth of the Great Leader, their support for the process. The endorsement could result in short-order for the depositions which have been mostly taking place during closed-door sessions to be heard in public.

you need to write out a thousand times, ‘i will behave myself at prime minister’s questions’

Among the cadre of some fifty members who are stepping down or will not seek reelection in the December general election, John Bercow's departure (previously) as Speaker of the House of Commons will perhaps be the most conspicuous absence.
Marshaling order and discipline in an unruly and contentious chamber, Bercow's signature cry was buffeted by a vocal and vociferous vocabulary that he did hesitate to unleash on his collegues. Analysing parliamentary transcripts that span over a century then drilling down to his own decade-long tenure produces a profile of frequency in rarity and turn of phrase—including for the nonce susurration for the calming sound of whispers and murmurs, perhaps just ones indoors voice, Demosthenian for aspiring to the rhetorical skill of the Athenian orator and statesman to his far more recurrent chuntering, speaking of the grunts and murmurs of the assembled.

dy’ halan gwav

Celebrated in Cornwall and Bretagne as the eve and first day of winter, Allantide (for the Arlan, the sainted bishop of Quimper) is a feast of remembrance and to give comfort to the souls of the departed yet in that transitional state between this world and the hereafter. Local traditions vary greatly but it was customary to exchange big, polished apples that were achieving peak ripeness at the time, carve turnip jack-o’-lanterns and play divination games—some of which have been advanced to mark the change not in the season but rather the calendar year.


Via the always resourceful Kottke, we are directed to a speciality site called Metrobits curating the branding, routes, technology and fare-schemes of public transit systems from major cities around the world. In addition to the expertly annotated legend and key to the icons, there’s also an extensive gallery of metro stations (see also) that are sacred celebrations of public infrastructure.

happy halloween!

Thanks as always for stopping by. Spooky tidings and ghoulish good fortunes to you and yours!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

who dat?

There is no longer a dative case (cāsus datīvus, a case for giving) in the English language, the grammatical role having been displaced by the preposition to in order to indicate the indirect object—that is, the beneficiary of the sentence’s action.
Whereas in languages like German, the recipient is expressed through declination: Ich gab dem Kind ein Geschenk, modifying the noun and its article from the das form it takes in the nominative, I gave the child a present (Gift, confusingly, being the German word for poison). Though the preposition is still needed, the pronouns whom and him are relics of the old dative endings with one fossilised expression in methinks—meaning “it seems to me” (from the Old English verb þyncan—to seem) appearing in the works of Shakespeare over one-hundred fifty times, including in the Saint Crispin’s Day speech, delivered on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, of Queen Gertrude and obsequiously I always thought during a cloud-gazing exchange between Hamlet and Polonius. That particular likeness that they settled on “Methinks it is like a weasel” was selected by Richard Dawkins as more accessible thought experiment than an infinitude of monkeys banging out the complete works of the Bard to illustrate a common misconception regarding the “randomness” of evolution, demonstrating even a computer running billions of iterations per second would unlikely match the phrase given all the time in the world.