Saturday, 23 March 2019

god help this american kid

Our gratitude to the always excellent Fresh Air (do listen to the entire episode) for acquainting us with the musical stylings of singer song-writer and guitarist Carsie Blanton. Incredibly, Buck Up is Blanton’s sixth album and all of them sound pretty spectacular and empowering. Learn more at the links above and the artist’s website.

Friday, 22 March 2019

kestää käytössä

We enjoyed watching this early 1970s commercial from Finland for the new Lada 1200 (domestically known as the ВАЗ-2101 or as “Kopeyka,” one one-hundredth of a ruble) but take heed as replaying it may summon a demon.


tusalava: life evolves and struggles to survive and thrive in a 1929 animated short from Len Lye—previously

datavis: climate scientists become tastemakers with “warming stripes

sha na na: the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock venue line-up has been announced and some people are not impressed—via Miss Cellania’s Links

a coney island of the mind: ahead of his one hundredth birthday, a look at the uncompromising life and work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

parting expressions: a look into the nuance of saying sayonara (さよなら)

afforestation: the Bonn Challenge is engaging all of us to save the world’s forest—via Maps Mania

a month of type: the studio of Mister Kaplin animates the alphabet—having devoted a day’s work to each letter


Previously we’ve demonstrated—anecdotally—that despots and robots don’t seem to mix well, and whilst people have anxieties over being made redundant through automation and that there are definite trade-offs to be found in unfettered technological progress, tempered by the consul of the past or not, a surprisingly large portion of Europeans recently polled, a solid quarter of respondents, would favour allowing artificial intelligences to craft and execute policy over politicians.
What do you think?  We agree that there’s some share of disillusionment and political estrangement contributing to this outlook and the paternalistic bent as well as the tendency to reflect and amplify our worst inclinations to some advancements shouldn’t be ignored—which is why transparency is vitally important—but we suspect there’s also a vote of confidence to be found here as well—that perhaps in coalition with machines, governance could be a fairer and more equitable process.

båly bay

An undersea restaurant on the Norwegian southern coast whose ground-breaking caught our attention a year and a half ago is celebrating its official grand opening and welcoming diners. Designed by the Snøhetta group to suggest an emerging periscope, Under (that word also means a wonder in Norsk) hosts up to forty guests, for whom I hope the liminal experience makes a lasting and profound impression, and serves a dual purpose as a marine research laboratory when not serving meals. Learn more at the links above, including a peek at the menu and where to book reservations.

to delight and disarm

We enjoyed perusing the extensive portfolio of Atlanta-based artist Rachel Eleanor, courtesy of Plain Magazine, whose illustrations and distinctive picture book style are indeed as resonant as her motto and modus operandi of the title. See more of Eleanor’s repetorie, which includes animation and branding campaigns for local events, at the links above.

ipad evenle

Nineteenth century civil engineer and utopian architect Thomas Stedman Whitwell—best known for his advocacy for model company towns—also wanted to reform toponymy, finding it confounding how there was a profusion of Springfields, Albanys, Clintons and Franklins in the United States, and so though new nomenclature ought to be based on latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.
To that end, Whitwell published this table and accompanying article in 1826 in the gazette for New Harmony (Ipba Veinul located at 38 °11′ N by 87 °55′ W), Indiana (a failed utopian colony). It reminds us of the scheme employed by What-Three-Words though extensive elocution rules—as opposed to the natural language of the latter—had to be laid out to overcome difficulties in pronunciation and recall and in theory would could scale down past minutes and seconds to specific subdivisions, neighbourhoods and addresses with longer and longer garbled names. The idea failed of course to catch on—which is why the capitals aren’t called Lafa Vovutu (London) or Feili Neivul (Washington, DC).

Thursday, 21 March 2019

breitling orbiter

After launching three weeks earlier from Chateau-d’Œx in the canton of Vaud, psychiatrist and avid balloonist Bertrand Piccard—hailing from a long-line of adventurers, along with co-captain Brian Jones, became the first team on this day in 1999 to successfully circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon. With the help of a ground-crew of meteorologists, they accomplished this feat by negotiating atmospheric currents and jet-streams and had no means of forward propulsion other than being borne aloft by the winds.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

a stroke of genius

Via The Awesomer, we learn that computer powerhouse nVIDIA has developed a generative adversarial network (previously) they’re calling GauGAN, after the post-impressionist Paul Gauguin, which transforms sketches and doodles into convincingly real but wholly fictitious landscapes, scouring billions of images to make a seamless composite scene. The algorithm and subroutine is still being coached but may be available for the general public soon.

mythos: an object lesson

Via Open Culture, we are treated with a series of short vignettes from animator Chris Guyot that communicate the timelessness and universality of Greek myths with no need for exposition but rather through digital geometric abstractions and a bit of resonant, billiard ball physics, recognising that memes are not only an expansive and wide-ranging format but loyal traveling companions as well. In case any of director Stephen Kelleher’s cautionary tales are not immediately familiar, there’s a helpful synopsis of each act at the link above.

Mythos from Stephen Kelleher on Vimeo.

alles klar herr kommissar

Accused of deporting himself like the “high commissioner of an occupying power” instead of a member of the diplomatic corps, German politicians are calling for the expulsion of US Chief of Mission to Germany, Mister Grenell (previously), citing his continual interference and barrage of criticism as having grown intolerable.


In protest to European Union’s rather fraught and problematic Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, to be brought before Parliament, German-speaking Wikipedia—at the consensus of its contributors and users—will shut down for twenty-four hours on March 21.
The most upsetting articles included in the language of the proposal to be debated are the so called “link tax” on news and content aggregators and the requirement that websites and hosting services employ upload filters that would screen out potentially pirated or non-attributed images and video. Media-rights holding clearinghouses initially supported the enforcement measures but have now been less enthusiastic and a consortium of journalists see it as a threat to press freedoms. We all ought to join in, in solidarity.

turf war

These interventions by Amsterdam-based artist Diana Scherer, Exercises in Root System Domestication—courtesy of Colossal—are not only an interesting heuristic to explore the impositions humans place on the untamed, organically, natively intelligent ways of grasses that we ought to not presume to outwit but this intricately trained latticework of roots at the same time holds out the suggestion that through engineering we might make semi-sensible lawns with better drainage capacity and resistant to erosion or crops that stave off pests and weeds structurally. Perhaps crop rotation in the future would mean a season of fallow fields where grasses till the soil and eliminates the need for tractors to do so.

product placement

In addition to the thousands of scientists and engineers behind the Apollo missions to land a manned mission on the Moon and return them safely, there was also a concerted marketing effort not only to supplement the astronauts and enhance the mission but also out of self-interest and garnering interest for their brand. The always amazing Kottke directs our attention to an incredible curated archive of press kits and presentations put together by NASA contractors that made the journey possible and also strove to keep the crew well stocked with pens, cameras, meals in quarantine after splashdown, watches, etc. Much more to explore at the links above.

the ballad of john and yoko

A week after Linda Louise Eastman (*1941 – †1998) married Paul McCartney, John Lennon (*1940 - †1980) and Yoko Ono had their wedding service in Gibraltar on this day in 1969, traveling to Amsterdam five days later for their honeymoon.
Knowing that their marriage would be a big press event, the couple decided—at the height of the Vietnam War—to put the media attention to good use and staged the first of their weeklong Bed-Ins for Peace. An international contingent of journalists were invited into their bedroom in the presidential suite of the Hilton Hotel daily from nine o’clock in the morning until nine o’clock at night. Afterwards they dashed off to Vienna, sending acorns to heads of state around the world in hopes that they would plant them and rear oaks as symbols of peace.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019


When I first caught the headline of this study, I assumed it meant that Hip Hop did something to stimulate the taste buds rather than having aged wheels of Emmentaler (hobby cheesemaker’s Beat Wampfler’s signature Muttenglück) in immersive soundscapes for six months. I was a bit sceptical about the claims that each sample, exposed to different musical genres, displayed a different taste profile but indeed sonic chemistry is a discipline that researchers are just beginning to appreciate and explore. Reportedly, the cheese aged accompanied by Hip Hop turned out zestier and the quintessentially Swiss cheese had bigger holes—eyes, in the trade.


misirlou: celebrating the life and genre-forming stylings of Dick Dale (RIP *1938 – †2019) and the Del Tones

the people have spoken: voters of a Massachusetts town remove and re-elect their mayor on the same ballot

scarlet letter: Monica Lewinsky on public shaming and cyber-bullying

caturday: a 1986 feline calendar on the Internet Archive—previously

the professor and the madman: preview for a cinematic adaption of the story of one of the Oxford English Dictionary’s foundational contributors

マンホールの蓋: a photographic safari for the most colourful manhole covers (previously) in Japan  

der nerobefehl

Never executed like his earlier orders to reduce Paris to rubble ahead of the city’s liberation, Adolf Hitler issued to Albert Speer, the Minister of Armament and War Production, on this day in 1945 the orders to destroy all remaining industry and infrastructure within Germany to prevent its capture and use by the Allied forces as their incursions into the Reich penetrated deeper and deeper into its territory. After the emperor’s intentional arson of Rome (blaming the fire on Christian upstarts) in order to make room for some prestige projects, the command subsequently became known as the Nero Decree, and Speer undertook full responsibility for its planning and systematic execution, rather than delegate the responsibility in hopes that local leaders would also ignore the order.

gavel-to-gavel coverage

On this day, four decades ago, the US cable and satellite television network C-SPAN first televised congressional proceedings from the floor of the House of Representatives.
The first member featured on the debut broadcast was then-Tennessee representative Al Gore. It was not until June of 1986, however, before the Senate permitted a live-feed that remained independent and wholly out of their control. I have fond memories of watching legislating in progress for hours on end and had it gently explained to me that classical music actually was not piped into the chambers during a vote (I thought that was a nice alternative to muzak or the general din) but that it was rather the doing of the programming manager during a call-in.

Monday, 18 March 2019

hail to the bus driver

Though the scope and scale of public celebrations looks to be limited (though just taking the bus, subway or tram is a good way of keeping this tradition), today—18 March—has been designated since 2009 as Transit Driver Appreciation Day.
This particular date was selected in deference to one of the last great contributions of author and engineer Blaise Pascal (previously) for the inaugural circuit coaches with a fare of five sou (Carrosses à Cinq Sols) launched in Paris on this day in 1662, against the express wishes of the king and parliament who didn’t want the rabble crowding their boulevards and impeding their passage through the city. The enterprise—the first public transport in modern times—was well received and the king relented and allowed the eight-occupant carriages to make their appointed rounds—the first line going from Porte Saint-Antoine to Rue Dauphine via Pont Neuf.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

a higher plane of existence

Any time reason and enlightenment encroach upon superstition and mystery, especially in the late Victorian Era, there will be some notable movements in counter-reformation, as Public Domain Review explores, like in séance and mysticism and perniciously in opening up a new realm as the last refuge of miracles and the supernatural.
Sort of like how the indeterminacy and unknowability of quantum mechanics provides a hold-out for the magical (I’m guilty of this sort of thinking as well, from time to time) in those days, people looked towards the extra dimensionality outside of our perception and experienced—only briefly intersecting as for the denizens of Flatland (1884), not flat-Earthers but rather two-dimensional beings that could not imagine a realm of geometric solids, and these unexplainable encounters inspired maths lecturer William Anthony Granville to author a sort of Euclid’s Elements in 1922 that went about trying to axiomatically prove assertions in Christian text rather than the nature of polygons. Read Granville’s entire The Fourth Dimension and the Bible at the link up top and find out more about the precursor works that led up to it.

день святого патрика

The observance of the Feast of Saint Patrick of course spread with the Irish diaspora across the world and was probably readily adopted by surrounding host communities in part due to the fact that it was the one exceptional day during Lent when prohibitions on food and drink were relaxed—though that indulgence has been much abused. Parades and associated festivities have taken place in Russia since 1992 and nearly every year thereafter through the auspices of the Russian Celtic Society. In 2017, the Russian Orthodox Church even added Saint Patrick to their menologium—the liturgical calendar—along with thirteen other post-Schism ancient saints (enlighteners, converters) of Western countries, though the holiday is observed on 30 March [Old Style for 17 March].

Saturday, 16 March 2019

wrong side of the tracks

We are finding ourselves quite a bit conflicted about the new development at Midtown Manhattan’s Hudson Yards in general as a gentrified, cordoned off play area for the well-heeled but are nonetheless impressed with the copper, multi-storeyed pavilion called the Vessel from the studios of Thomas Heatherwick (previously here and here)—whose criss-crossing stairwells and latticework of landings create quite an interesting viewing platform to survey the post-industrial neighbourhood and the tenants. It reminded us of the monumental eighth century stepwell of Chand Baori (nearly on the same scale but with an exterior outlook as well) in Rajasthan. Much more to explore at the links above.


Via Slashdot, we discover that a Leuven-based research team have managed to modify solar cells to decompose water into its component parts and produce hydrogen in situ.
The system harvests moisture from the air while generating photovoltaic power and the dual-application really reveals itself as complete, self-sustaining (if it can be scaled up) and self-sufficient as trials suggest that a small array of panels can procure enough power to light and heat a smallish living space without adding to the household’s carbon footprint. Demonstration projects are already underway in the UK and Belgium that keep homes warm using hydrogen instead of natural gas and can use the alternate fuel with existing pipes and infrastructure with relatively little retrofitting required. If the hydrogen does not need to be pumped in from outside, the process becomes even more efficient.


The 2020 Tokyo Games pictogram family is in homage of that same venue’s 1964 designs to appeal to an increasingly international gathering of athletes and audiences as we’ve previously explored, and now Present /&/ Correct refers us to a document from the Centre of Olympic Studies that profiles all fourteen intervening sets (like this 1988 version for Seoul) and the artists who created them.

shashimi serology

A restaurateur in Tokyo—having trialled the concept at last year’s SXSW conference—is preparing to welcome diners, pre-screened ones, to the Sushi Singularity, which will print food—gelatine pixels—fortified with the nutrients complimentary or otherwise found to be lacking in biological swabs and samples submitted in advance by guests. While the concept seems intriguing, I don’t think I would like sharing that experience with strangers.

Friday, 15 March 2019


: the Keaton typewriter of musical notation

cryogenics: a covertly filmed movie on the urban legend of Walt Disney’s preserved head shot on location

klimatförändring: environmental activist Greta Thunberg nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

jungbauern: a deep dive into the socio-economics and ethnography captured in this 1914 August Sander’s photograph

hecho en méxico: Candida Höfer turns her lens towards the façades and interiors of the country

clapping music: a performance by Steve Reich that challenges you to keep in sync 

return on investment

In a nod to poor taste and having more wealth and privilege than good sense—not nearly enough of the latter to break into a prestigious institute of higher learning Kool-Aid Man style on one’s own merit and not enough of the former to earn a backdoor point of egress by establishing an endowment and legacy for said institution—we are treated to a tour of their homesteads (previously) as a reflection of their integrity and values. It hurts everyone and just reinforces the truth that cheating and bribery aside, the US educational system (like their idea of healthcare) is essentially a big scam it pulls on everyone.  Those of middling means (also hat-tips all around to Miss Cellania) have turned to side door methods to get around pesky admissions standards in order to get their dullard offspring into the elite schools that will help them preserve their place in the social hierarchy and set their heirs on the right career trajectory.


A team of researchers Lausanne Polytech’s Laboratory of Engineering Mechanics of Soft Interfaces are developing a method to reconstruct detailed slow-motion videos from blurry still photographs.
The title references the cinematic term for capturing extra frames, hand-cranking the camera at a faster than normal rate, but playing it back at speed. Whereas formerly blurred photos were chiefly caused by being out of focus, the autofocus speeds of modern cameras have eliminated that and instead the problem is one of shutter speed, with the smeared image captured as an action shot. As of now the method only can reverse-engineer high-contrast vignettes but could one day interpolate and forensically rebuild entire scenes.

a blend of nordic boosterism and fearmongering

Writing for the Atlantic Adam Serwer compels us to take a long and uncomfortable look at the ideology of xenophobia that tragically does not expire with its vocal and violent ideologues. Through the lens of a 1916 screed that promoted the inherently false doctrine of “race suicide” by appealing to concerns about immigration, which in turn informed the addled thinking of Adolf Hitler—who credited US policy in that regard as the template for Nazism, we hit every revolting point that still has traction and tread and speak to a certain audience and perhaps come closer to understanding the durability of such hatred and closer to living in a world where such behaviour is not tolerated.

meet cute

Via Coudal Partner’s Fresh Signals, we are greeted by the disembodied and non-gendered voice of Q, meant to be the identity overlaying the interactions of virtual assistants who’ve been so far unable to distance themselves from a female persona.

Though decidedly feminine if one is looking to assign gender (and with Q, depending on how hard one, I suppose, wants a voice to be either or and it seems to modulate between the two), it reminds us of the ship’s computer on Star Trek, warm and authoritative and voiced by actor and producer Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (*1932 - †2008) who also played Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxnan Troi on three series of the franchise.

Thursday, 14 March 2019


Though these allowances for cross-border commuters post the UK’s seemingly imminent departure from the European Union seem rather niche, we’re pretty confident that the ex-patriate community who live and work on opposite sides of the Øresund/Öresund strait that separates Denmark from Sweden is not quite the unique situation that it seems at first glance and illustrates how fraught and precarious that Brexit has been for UK citizens living on the continent. Swedish residents working Copenhagen will be allowed to keep their jobs and move from country to country without impediment and even change Danish jobs but no guarantees are extended for the right to seek employment elsewhere or in Sweden.

equilateral-curve heptagon

As part of an ongoing series to recognise significant contributions to the sciences and humanities in UK coinage, the Royal Mint is issued a commem-orative fifty pence piece with a reverse honouring the late Professor Stephen Hawking, with the seven-sided coin depicting one of his most important formulations—aside that is from making astrophysics accessible and increasing general literacy and numeracy—that the conservation of information is not a constant and dissipates as does an aging black hole.

the world situation in 1970

The intrepid team at Muckrock debriefs us regarding the Central Intelligence Agency’s geopolitical assessment and projections and how that narrative was packaged and presented to Nixon and Kissinger—previously.
Facing the fact that universal goodwill and wartime capital were finite and fickle things, notwithstanding the country’s already demonstrable bad behaviour on the world stage—the CIA was more prone to rely on soft power and was willing to factor in the proliferation of soft drink sales, American music and cinema in its quiver of statecraft and as a measure of diplomatic success. When told, however, that cooler heads would prevail in Eastern Europe and that tensions would settle, Nixon asked instead what could be done to sew more chaos and discontent in the region—proposing a recalibration of Radio Free Europe.

outro music

Via Dave Log Version 3, we are treated to the sign-off, closedown message that HBO sent to its viewers to thank them for their patronage and to bid them a goodnight from 1975 to 1981. I quite like how there’s a responsible ritual portrayed to divide the broadcasting day from overnight (I was never up so late) and reinforces that we ought to have a routine and regard for our respective bedtimes.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

hurdling the language-barrier

Via Nag on the Lake, we are privileged with a preview of the pictogram set from graphic desiger Masaaki Hiromura for the 2020 Tokyo Games. The artist, back in 2004, famously exhibited his Kitasenju—rebus symbols (below) to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain and focus one’s attention. These Gestalt sports symbols conveying athletes in action have a long tradition, first created in response to the growing international character of participants and spectators and each Olympiad gets their own bespoke signage.
This current offering is nearly as visually compelling, captivating and reflective of a certain vernacular of place and venue as Lance Wyman’s iconography (the transport connection is worth considering) for the 1968 Mexico City Games. Much more to explore at the links above.

the creeping devil

A native of Baja California, we find ourselves acquainted with another succulent uniquely sessile in its motility. Colonies of the species Stenocereis Eruca grow recumbently and live up to their common nomenclature as they advance across the desert floor, growing from one terminus, up to a metre and a half per year, as the tail end dies, disintegrates and re-fertilises the sandy soil as it deposits a trail behind. Learn more about the cactus’ distinctive lifecycle at the link above.

signal-to-noise ratio

Mathematical modelling on the part of a research team at Boston University have produced a muting, sound muffling device (really more of a function than a gadget) that deflects virtually all unwanted acoustic smog back towards its source, instead of absorbing it—the usual method of dealing with errant noises.
The sound is channelled from its source along a tube where it’s silenced on the other end by this echoing ring with no membrane to obscure the view (or non-carrier-wave flow of air) back and beyond and could be scaled up or down to make offices, apartments and other shared spaces a bit more tranquil and adjustable, perhaps even as earplugs. As much as I’d like to be able to press a mute button sometimes and relish my peace and quiet, I’m a little afraid we’d grow overly sensitive to the general din of background noise, cushioned by our filters, and we’d wither without them.


While working at CERN, having helped established the world’s then largest networked node of computers, Tim Berners-Lee (previously here and here) recognised the opportunity to merge hypertext with their internet, in efforts to make his job easier and more transparent for his collaborators.
On this day in 1989, he submitted his proposal to the laboratory’s communications office, whose abstract contained the concept of the world-wide web, later distributed and received as “vague but exciting,” the abstract linking disparate but already existing technologies in ways no one else had though to beforehand. The image is the coat of arms for the British Computer Society—of which Berners-Lee is a distinguished fellow, and was founded in 1956 as a professional body and learned association for the advancement of computer science, receiving a royal charter in 1984.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

rose of jericho

Via the always wonderful and inspiring Nag on the Lake we are introduced to a shrub called Selaginella lepidophylla—a type of resurrection plant—that can cope with the arid and punishing conditions of its native habitat, the deserts of Chihuahua, and survive unscathed near complete desiccation.
During periods of drought—and researchers are looking into how they might reactivate the same dormant genes in food crops to make them sturdier under dry conditions—the plant, also known as the (False) Rose of Jericho, curls up into a ball when dry and unfurls its fronds upon re-hydration and has evolved another clever trick as has its North African cousin—Anastatica hierochuntica, the (True) Rose of Jericho—and can form tumbleweeds to be whisked away to a more favourable location. Since ancient times, farmers (and hucksters) have recognised resurrection plants as vegetable hygrometer to predict oncoming rain. See a time-lapse of the thirsty plant getting a drink at the link above.

Monday, 11 March 2019


Never failing to at least furnish if not revive a moribund term from the annals of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary sometimes also often delivers the resonant, relevant and perhaps what may hit a little too close to home—as with this word which last appeared in an 1881 article from our Manchester Guardian: “‘Scripturiency’ appears to vary greatly in different nations. The United States claim 2,800 of these medical authors; France and her colonies, 2,600…” The obsolete word coined in the mid-seventeenth century refers to a compulsion for writing which leads to the urgent publication of the trivial and inferior.


pizzo: the Trump Crime Syndicate is expecting host nation partners to pay a big premium for US troops stationed there—via Miss Cellania’s Links

big and heavy: industrial pamphlets, 1932-1941

reef of silence: an underwater necropolis is proposed as a funerary venue that will rehabilitate coral habitats

chichén itzá: researchers uncover a trove of ancient Mayan artefacts in the Cave of the Jaguar God

shūnyatā: a few moments of guided meditation from Alan Watts

do you know the way to san jose: Silicon Valley plans a monument to Silicon Valley—via Digg

tit-for-tat: though short of needing special entry- and tourist-visas US travellers to Europe will need to pre-register, like with the American ESTA programme 

standard bearer

Via the always brilliant Nag on the Lake, we discover that filmmaker Daniel McKee has selected, identified and carefully arranged over two thousand flags, banners and ensigns from all ages into a montage with fluid transformations as the vexillological elements (see also here, here, here and here) blend into one another synchronised to the sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Sunday, 10 March 2019


News of singer and vocalist of The Prodigy Keith Flint’s suicide (RIP, *1969 – †2019) earlier in the week was a sad shock for both H and me and enjoyed reading about the outpouring of memories and testimonials in the former Soviet satellite states whose music and engagement came just at the crux of societal upheaval and finding new footing. I had not realised what sort of ambassadors the band were, playing in Belgrade scant days before the Bosnian War came to an end. Read more tributes at the link up top.

Saturday, 9 March 2019


As our faithful chronicler informs, on this day among many other premieres, anniversaries and occasions of pith and moment, in 1959 Barbie had her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York City. The first doll with adult features for sale in the US (that is, not an infant to care for but rather a role model), Barbie was modelled by Ruth Handler off of her more mature German cousin Bild Lilli, who graced the funny-pages of a Hamburg tabloid before being marketed to adults and sold in figurine form.

kenyér varázslat

Our thanks to always bewitching Art of Darkness for revealing to us a common trope through Hungarian folklore in the apotropaic magic of bread. To ward off impending evil, tradition dictates that one simply place a loaf of bread in a windowsill and allow the bread to speak for itself:

First they buried me under the ground, and I survived. When I sprouted and thrived they cruelly cut me down with by sickle, yet I survived. They threshed me with the flails and I survived. They ground me to flower with their millstone yet I survived. They kneaded me in a bowl, and then they put me in a hot over to bake me and I have survived. Have you done all these things? Until you live through all these things, you have no power here.

Though this stems from the same superstitions that cause one to fret over vampire pumpkins (which would seem to kind of cancel things out), I do like imagining some twee croissant standing up to maleficent forces demanding admission into one’s house and being roundly rebuffed.


see saw margery daw: a look at the illustrated Nursery Songs of William Darton, Jr

i know you are but what am i: an AI designed to detect bot-written text—previously

bespoke: a fun round-up of design oddities

ziegelei: a private brick museum (with eighteen hundred unique specimens) in Berlin documents the history of industry and architectural growth in German and beyond

simpson, eh? yes sir—all the recent events in your life have revolved around him in some way: Apple’s patient CEO has not been the only name that Trump has forgotten

colombophilie militarire: the past, present and future use of pigeons for espionage and wartime communications—via the New Shelton Wet/Dry

wither shall I wander: an epistolary look at the character Mother Goose—via Strange Company 

krusty gets kancelled

We’ll strive for some karmic balance again through The Simpsons but this time with a fonder portrayal of someone recently departed with the fourth season episode (1993) where the Krusty the Clown Show is upstaged by a newcomer ventriloquist act and in order to get his show reinstated on the air, Lisa and Bart Simpson arrange a comeback special with a cast of celebrity cameos.
Having lost the rights to Itchy and Scratchy to the competition, Krusty runs an Eastern European cartoon called “Worker and Parasite” as ratings drop and his show is cancelled. In response to the overtures of the Simpsons kids, Luke Perry (RIP *1966 - †2019, who helps Krusty reunite with his estranged co-host Sideshow Mel, is joined by an ensemble cast including Johnny Carson, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hugh Hefner and Bette Midler.  

philosophy of the world

Encouraged by a rather underhanded, fly-by-night record label that billed itself as a talent-scout and dream factory, band manager and stage father of the sister act The Shaggs Austin Wiggin, Jr rounded up his daughters, Helen, Betty, Rachel and Dot, and drove them to a recording studio in Boston to produce their one and only album on this day in 1969. Critical reception was harsh—unduly so, we think—directing such vitriol at teenagers that their dad wanted to showcase, but have been rehabilitated and gained status in later years as a cult sensation and even had a stage musical, off-Broadway tribute in 2011. Check out the full record below.

Friday, 8 March 2019

stark raving dad

While not supportive of a biblioclasm or revision history in any sense, the production team behind The Simpsons has decided to pull from regular rotation a season three episode (1991) from the programme’s rotation in syndication—claiming their right as creators of the long-running series and as descent and upstanding human beings their right to choose what chapters of their story they share.
Some radio stations are taking Jackson’s songs out of circulation.  In the bottle-episode, Homer Simpson, Bart’s father, was confined to a mental institution on suspicion of being an anarchist and has a roommate named Leon Kompowsky who claims to be the pop star Michael Jackson—whose actual cameo was not disclosed until many years afterwards. A sequel was scripted but went unproduced over creative differences that had the character of Kompowsky reprised—but this time claiming to be Prince.

cumulonimbus or blue plate special

We enjoying reading this appreciation of the London heritage Blue Plaque scheme that shows the city’s affinity and relationship with historic personalities and properties and were delighted to learn that some commemorations have a decidedly poetic and flair.
For instance, take the plaque that marks the Tottenham home of Royal Society fellow Luke Howard hailed as “the father of meteorology” for his assiduous record keeping of early nineteenth century climate patterns but is instead given the epithet “Namer of Clouds” recalling his role in scientific nomenclature. “Clouds are subject to certain distinct modifications, produced by the general causes that affect all variations of the atmosphere; they are commonly as good visible indicators of the operation of these causes, as is the countenance of the state of a person’s mind or body,” Howard wrote, inventing a Latin-based and modular convention for identifying formations. The new stadium of Tottenham Hotspur has stands named “Stratus East” and “Stratus West” in Howard’s honour.

zwarte beertjes

Browsing the archives of Present /&/ Correct—always an advisable pastime—Coudal Partners’ Fresh Links has us cottoning onto the fantastic book cover art work of illustrator and author Dick Bruna (*1927 – †2017). Best known for his beloved character Miffy (Nijntje in the original Dutch), Bruna amassed an impressive catalogue of children’s stories and other commissions—despite being told early on that he had no talent as a painter. Peruse a gallery of dozens of posters, greeting cards and book covers at the link up top.


Associated with socialist movements until championed by the United Nations in 1975 and this year (the UN sanctioned theme being “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”) Woman’s Day is still mostly observed as a holiday in Communist or former-Communist countries—albeit a big swath of the planet—and has historically been mostly ignored in the West.
Though some source the day back to a likely apocryphal protest (possibly suggested out of a desire to connect its origin with America, like with the First of May) on the part of garment workers in New York City, significant protests that marked the beginning of the February Revolution (on the Julian Calendar) of 1917 in Saint Petersburg with women textile workers staging a strike for “bread and peace” cemented the date. Coinciding with the centenary of the first general election in the country in which women could vote and stand for office, the federal state (Land) of Berlin has declared the day an official holiday for the city, German states setting their public holidays independently, with a “Frauenkampftag.”

Thursday, 7 March 2019

too school for cool

Fusing the Tiny House movement with the culture of Van Life, we are introduced to a new but growing subculture of post-modern nomads called Skoolies, who live in refurbished buses, retired from the fleets that service public schools and municipalities. Correspondent for Curbed Britta Lokting infiltrates an encampment and delivers an interesting and insightful profile of some of the members of this tribe, their homes (which are far from rustic and austere) and their lifestyle.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

думай иначе

Curated by the always interesting Things Magazine, we are finding ourselves quite capitvated with the visionary, revolutionary prototype computer system conceived and presented by Soviet computer scientist Dmitri Azrikan of the VNIITE (ВНИИТЭ, Всероссийский научно-исследовательский институт технической эстетики, All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Industrial Design) campus in Leningrad in 1987.
Never commercially available, the device known as Project SPHINX would nonetheless prefigure the smart homes of three decades later and ought to be a recognised precursor and would have been a major industry disruptor had we been ready for the idea of mobility and collaborative computing, with the design to integrate automation into domestic life and the work place with tele-conferencing capabilities as well for use as home entertainment, expandable memory modules, the redundancy to support several terminals and a remote control that could be used as a handheld device, different wireless components connected via radio waves, but the whole system dialled up to the rest of the world via modem. More technical specifications and more to explore at the links above.