Friday, 15 February 2019


A research group has trained a neural network that when given a prompt for prose or a news item can extrapolate a whole, plausible sounding passage, which for all its naturalness is wholly a product of machine learning and the computational musings, however, convincing are divorced from reality.
Recognising the potential for propagandise the automation of literature and the press (here’s a less scary example), the group is for now withholding releasing their findings to the public, until such time as we are better equipped to use such abilities in positive ways and not suffer under the abuse of them but I wonder if we’ll ever truly be prepared and sufficiently girded against our own copyediting and desire for a quick turn-over reflected back at us far faster than we could churn it out. Read more at the link up top.

10 us code § 2808

Despite some probably ill-advised concessions to Trump’s monument to white supremacy that secured continuation of government operations—sparing hundreds of thousands the indignities of being played as political pawns, Trump has decided to make up for the funding short-fall by declaring the lack of a border wall (see also here and here) a national emergency, siphoning funds away from other military construction projects. The onus of proof, enumerating how this crusade constitutes an emergency and what other priorities and obligations are to be cut, lies with the administration and legal challenges could yet throw the whole enterprise into limbo and spell further delays and brinkmanship.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

music for airports

Our thanks to the always engrossing and enlightening Open Culture for turning our ears to this special, time-dilated edition of Brian Eno’s electronic music improvisational session from 1978, a collaborative tone poem of meditative incidental music called Ambient 1. Establishing the genre, the artist hoped to produce something as “ignorable as it is interesting” and conducive of reflection amid all the chaos and cacophony of an international terminal. The sound installation was set up in the Marine Air concourse of the LaGuardia airport during the mid-1980s but is not currently soothing anxious passengers—at least not over the public-address system.

sua sponte

Never to be accused of being an old romantic at hear, Pope Paul VI issued on this day in 1969 the Mysterii Pascchalis, reforming the liturgical year and revising the calendar of the saints.
This motu proprio (from the Latin, at one’s own accord) represents an official decree not prompted by another or in response to current developments or findings yet still has the force of law regardless of motivation, among other things struck many figures from the Calendarium Romanum, the cycle of celebrations called the Proper of Saints—to include Saint Valentine, whose feast day coincided with the decree. Only wanting to preserve the rites that were truly of universal importance to the faith, the Pope deleted or transposed nearly fifty solemnities for all our favourites, mostly due to redundancy or their problematic histories, including the saintly family of Maris, Martha, Abachum and Audifax, Canute of Denmark, Dorothy of Caesarea, Faustinus and Jovita, Ursula and her companions, Simeon, the Seven Sleepers and Saint Barbara.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019


art brut: the incredible portfolio of outsider artist (previously here, here and here) Adolf Wölfi

gamalost: Norway’s campaign to re-popularise a crumbly and aromatic cheese with reputed libidinous qualities—via Nag on the Lake

call sign: radio station logos of the Soviet Union—via Coudal Partner’s Fresh Signals

hey! wait! I’ve got a new complaint: a brief history of the heart-shaped box and how it became a Valentine’s staple

mirror, mirror: the label on this sun-screen bottle are printed backwards to be more photogenic

word vectors: advanced translators are an endorsement Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theories on language

course and wythe

One of the more viable indigenous, constructed scripts (see also here and here), the Atlas of Endangered Alphabets profiles the Mandombe system of writing, revealed to its author by a venerated Congolese religious leader in a dream, recognising the sacred serpentine turns along the familiar backdrop of a brick wall.
Inspired, glyphs were developed whose pronunciation and inflection was determined on direction and orientation and is suited for the national languages of the country, with more efforts underway to transcribe neighbouring languages into Mandombe, and is taught in parochial schools affiliated with the church that conceived it in the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola as well as in France and Belgium.


We enjoyed pouring over this gallery of photographs curated by Plain Magazine that have been nominated to contend for high honours in the annual Sony World Photography Awards (previously) and we were especially intrigued by the symmetry of the scene captured by Eng Chung Tong of an extraction operation in Malaysia entitled Synergy of Humanity. We were also very pleased to see the ethereal submerged choreography of Christy Lee Rogers had made the cut as well for this twelfth iteration of the competition. More to explore at the links above.

alley oop

Though not the first or most famous of its class, learning that the mildly mysterious Coso Artefact was discovered on this date in 1961 by some rock-hounds in California’s Owens Valley did impel us into the strange and contentious realm of out-of-place archaeology. While prospecting for geodes, the group found a spark plug from the 1920s encased in a rock that was estimated to be a half-a-million years old.
Though geological processes could account for the concretion and nodule formation around the clear anachronism, proponents of time-travel, prehistoric alien visitation and lost civilisations of course carried the day—as they do for other anomalous found objects, deemed in the wrong chronological context, that are categorised as OOPArt (Out-of-Place Artefacts). While not all are haunted with the blight of pseudoscience and sometimes there is a honest misinterpretation, wishful-thinking or confirmation-bias over a pet theory, most claims are dubious and tend to be a demerit to human ingenuity and accomplishment, like the Nebra Skydisk or the Antikythera mechanism being the artifice of extra-terrestrials or even gods, pareidolia due to suboptimal inputs and of course outright forgeries and hoaxes meant to embarrass or strengthen an agenda or alternate point-of-view.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019


Maps Mania directs us to a clever application that helps one create custom, emblematic metropolitan street map posters as a scalable vector format (SVG)—which admittedly has a level of flexibility and versatility in programming and dynamic displays that I did not appreciate until this introductory tutorial.
Admittedly too it’s a bit out of my league as well but the coding is not a necessity to play around with the tool and appreciate the patterns of traffic management and civil engineering, especially where it intersects with olden and ancient places. I encircled the Altstadt of Wiesbaden, around the Rathaus and Stadtschloss that houses the state parliament. Give Maptime a try and show us what you create as an icon of your city.

digital first

In a move similar to the investor malfeasance behind the ultimate demise of Sears and many high street anchor stores—rather than the narrative we’ve been sold about the pivot to online retail, an aggressive real estate operation is behind at least some of the rampant dissolution of the press and local media outlets.
The predatory firm is picking off already distressed newsrooms and redeveloping their property footprint—scaling back staff and encouraging tele-work (wrecking cohesion) in order to free up office space, either converted and sold on or retrofitted as a co-working venue. The title (not the same as the management group) refers to the idea in communication theory that breaking news should be channelled through new media (social platforms that direct to a web presence) rather than traditional formats—for the sake of expediency, though polish and rigour are often sacrificed in the process to have a scoop.

Monday, 11 February 2019

vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas

Lush and indulgent, via Things Magazine, we are introduced to the portfolio and gallery showings of artist Andy Dixon, whose paintings are not only homages to classical conceits on the subject of impermanence but are also quite regularly commissions of the houses and tastes of patrons, teasing out the inflection point between wealth and art, as a store of the former and as a ostentatious and conspicuous display of the former.

achievement unlocked

In a move that makes the Olympics seem a little more relevant and meaningful—rather than an expensive showcase whose benefits are very, very fleeting for the venue—the always brilliant Nag on the Lake informs that for the 2020 Tokyo Games, in order to make a bold statement about sustainability and what we toss away with our mounting trash heaps of electronic waste, athlete’s medals will be sourced essentially fully from recovered precious metal. The symbolic recycling reflects Japan’s growing more conscience of the impact that such rampant consumption has for the planet and will hopeful influence more not just to prospect but to reduce buying what’s disposable and apt to be superannuated in the first place.


Reading this account of how one person’s loss of her sense of smell, partial recovery and dealing with dysosmia—though far from suffering in complete solitude (27ᵗʰ February is Anosmia Awareness Day sponsored by the UK charity The Fifth Sense, which advocates for people with smell and taste disorders), left her a sort of shut-in (now rehabilitated) and made us appreciate our noses and taste buds and the even the crudest, simplest bouquet for all its worth.
Not only does a deficit in smell affect diet, routine and hygiene—as well as potentially posing a safety risk bereft of certain warning signals—it also steals away associative, sentimental memories. The author’s determination wrestle back that blessing through training and exercise, despite the rather bleak prognosis, is admirable and we’ll by searching later for our old vials of essential oils—lemon, eucalyptus, rosewater and clove, we knew they would be useful again one of these days—and starting on a vigorous regiment.

howdy arabia!

The tendency of leadership of the oligarchical petrostate to accrue all attention unto itself does result in the inability to divert one’s focus and to entertain elsewhere the idea of support tempered with criticism. The tribalism and polarisation that has become America’s chief export has blinded the diplomatic corps to the norms of sovereignty and international cooperation and advances the old spectre of nation building, rejecting the idea of policing the world as the US abdicates its position of taking the moral high ground while at the same time embracing the imperialism—both petty and expansive that is a natural consequence of a rising class of oligarchs. As public coffers globally run dry with the consolidation of wealth to a few dynasties that pride themselves in tax-avoidance and garner the clout necessary to ensure that laws are favourable to preserving their status, governments turn towards hard-won public institutions as a way to make up for that revenue and auction them off wholesale—as the rich and powerful brokered for control of formerly state-owned means of production after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
While the phenomenon is certainly not original nor exclusive to America (neither limited to Republicans but to all illiberal and reformed elements as well), it is leading the way in dismantling foundations created and sustained for the benefit of all, in the public lands, the education sector, research, national defence, etc. and this clutching cannibalism has globally transmuted to acceptance and even willingness to rally against publically-held institutions and state run businesses. Oil is the last refuge of scoundrels and a dying industry that only the uncreative want to have truck with, but as Venezuela’s only valuable commodity—and we’ve created strictures within banking and lending system to make sure that such places cannot diversify when faced with challenges—halved in value as global demand flagged and the world pivots towards more sensible and sustainable, corruption and mismanagement were bound to ensue, only exacerbated by sanctions against the country. Pushing unrest to the breaking point, as America has done in Nicaragua, Colombia and Panama, the US is persuading the international community to recognise a usurper whose signalled intent is friendlier to US business interests in the region. What do you think? If America is willing to disregard the concept of self-determination and stoke rebellion and anarchy, it would follow that one has no expectation of trust and stability in other dealings or institutions.

Sunday, 10 February 2019


squala mater: a definitive Latin translation of Baby Shark—via Super Punch

sonovox: watch Lucille Ball demonstrate the “voice-box” technique that Peter Frampton popularised

amplifying random noise: regional terms for carbonated beverages in the United States

the wandering earth: big budget scifi movie from author Liu Cixin (previously) has excellent New Year’s debut

from snowman to gingerbread man: the surprisingly flat dimensions of Ultima Thule (previously) baffles researchers

gregg-ruled: edition of Alice in Wonderland transcribed in shorthand—with illustrations to help the reader keep his or her place

embroidered stories: an exhibition of samplers (previously) from Scotland

Saturday, 9 February 2019


Thanks to the always brilliant Present /&/ Correct, we learn that the traditional curtains that hang in the threshold of Japanese restaurants and shops are called noren.
These bold dividers that also separate rooms as well as covering doorways and windows usually have vertical slits cut in them for easier passage. Hanging them in the morning and taking them down at the close of the business day and signal opening and closing hours and are often decorated with corporate logos—associated by extension with brand-recognition. More to explore at the link above.

point par pouce

From Kottke’s Quick Links, we are directed to a little routine that will convert any image into a mosaic consisting of emojis, matched for shape and colour. There is not quite the level of granularity present to make for a pointillist image and probably works better where it does not have to compensate too much for changes in contrast.
Up close, the results look like a chaotic jumble but at a distance, it does rather capture quite well Georges Seurat’s iconic A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the Bathing Women of Hippolyte Petitjean and the self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh when viewed from a distance, just as the original technique prescribed.
Click on the pictures to see more details and resolve what glyphs are representing each brush stroke. Though the term carries no negative connotations now, pointillism was originally coined by critics to ridicule the style and the artists who experimented with it. Try it yourself with what you think might take well to the mosaic treatment—and take a step back before judging the creation—at the link above.


During opening remarks to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that exiled a Western-supported monarchy and installed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader, the marja defended the continued use of his provocative catch-phrase, “Death to America,” saying that the sentiment only applies to Trump and his warmongering associates and not the American people as a whole. Khamenei adds that European leaders are not the most trustworthy lot either.

extended character set

Via Nag on the Lake, we were very pleased to learn that the latest batch of emojis to be released over the course of the year was not only inclusive of people with disabilities, having the vocabulary available and therefore not feeling like outsiders or othered, the combinations of couples, counting the gender neutral and the non-binary, numbers upwards of seventy permutations—to make sure all sorts of relationships are represented. I caught the end of a very clever commentary the other day that really anchored perspective and identity—I think it was through the lens of minorities depicted in superhero films but it’s also universally true: those depictions of a minority character on the screen is not just for those that look like and recognise something of themselves in the portrayal but it’s also for those in the majority who are used to seeing themselves in the movies to help them understand that others can be there too. There’s also underpants, a banjo and an otter.

Friday, 8 February 2019

below the belt selfie

Rather than concede to the badgering and blackmail of a supermarket tabloid with close ties to the Trump administration, a titan of industry who surely owns the network infrastructure that the media enterprise uses to manage all its properties, publically accused the publication of extortion, having a established record of threats and intimidation against the press, through their unsubtle intimation to release more compromising photographs of the magnate intercepted during a liaison.
Stopping short of characterising the tranche of threats as politically motivated or with the help of government agencies—and not to excuse unfaithfulness, such a move could be in retribution and in clear violation of plea deal the publisher reached with federal prosecutors last year, when due to reporting by a highly reputable newspaper owned by the billionaire critical of the Trump regime revealed that the tabloid had paid a not insignificant sum of hush-money to a woman that Trump had an affair with in order not too negatively impact Trump’s campaign, not to prosecute the company for skewing the presidential election.  I don’t think that the Trump syndicate is picking the right fight and calling in the thugs cannot be done without drawing attention.

hic sunt dracones

Thanks to Maps Mania, we are enjoying exploring this watercolour atlas of historic landscapes with the ability to compare them to their current coordinates—like this portrayal of nearby Schloss Biebrich, residence of the Grand Duke of Nassau, by French artist Aegidius Federle, known for his romanticised pastorals of the Rhein valley. I know that I’ve taken multiple pictures from that same vantage point—and who wouldn’t given the chance to frame that scene—and navigating by what’s picturesque and appealing makes me wonder about the monotony of holiday snap-shots and whether we are too harsh on imitation. See if you can find something in your neighbour captured on canvas.


Though the social media giant is begging off the decision saying that the agency does not appreciate the scope of the competition its properties face, the consumer advocacy watchdog, the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) in Bonn has ruled that Facebook cannot aggregate, bundle user data and cannot seed or otherwise inform the demographic model it maintains on each by profile drawing on information it collects from the boutique outlets it has absorbed. This anti-trust verdict demonstrates how the platform abuses user-data through pooling and will hopeful propagate further through the network’s ecosystem, remedying to an extent the regrettable decision to surrender and suborn some genuinely useful applications to the media empire, and moreover shows that the courts and like organisations are capable of catching up.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

a fifth of beethoven

Though our favourite Line Rider doodle remains Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, we also enjoyed very much the intricate slalom to Ludwig von Beethoven’s Opus 67, via Pasa Bon! The familiar and establishing long-long-long-short conceit represents Fate knocking at the door and was suggested by the composer’s amanuensis, Anton Schindler.


We enjoyed very much indulging in this discussion on sound symbolism and phonosemantics that attempts to triangulate humans’ first vocalisations through the focus of what strikes as intuitive.
Though rarer in Western languages—though there’s zigzag, yo-yo, tick-tock, and Charivari to name a few examples—bearing structure and quality through words is universal and the opening exercise in the essay that consisted of choosing the traits that Japanese ideophones described was illustrative and immediately recalled these gourmet and phenomimic chocolates we encountered a few years back.


don’t seem to rouse themselves for anything besides the birth and death days of idolised rock stars: a Stasi guide of negative-decadent youth subcultures in East Germany

backboard: neglected community basket ball courts revived and rehabilitated as canvases for monumental paintings

sandbox: the development of electronic music owes a debt to songs aimed at a very young demographic

what pedantry is this: more questions and answers from the Chicago Manual of Style—via Coudal Partners

i’ll be waiting for you on the dark side of the moon: Earthrise from above the lunar far-side from the Longjiang-2 orbiter

tilt-shift: an immersive tour of the North Korean capital

worshipful company of stationers and newspaper makers

Via the always excellent Boing Boing, we are given a taste of the dazzling collection of ephemera of a confessed letterhead obsessive.
There are quite a few amazing Art Deco specimens to consider that are not only the height of typography but also serves as important historical record of millions of aggregated business correspondence of decades past. A blog, in itself and as a landing page, is certainly informed in terms of layout and format by the sheet banner, masthead, body and background and we bloggers should cultivate such aesthetics.

haut de gamme

We really enjoyed this retrospective review of 1960s fashion that ought to be revived from vintage maven Messy Nessy Chic. In addition to the pictured attire suitable for Star Fleet cadets from “Moon Girl” and Go-Go boot originators André Courrèges (*1923 – †2016) and Dame Mary Quant, the decade’s trends included paper dresses, outlandish eyewear and experimentation with new materials, including the use of Polymerising Vinyl Chloride (PVC) for weather-proof clothing and accessories. Much more to explore at the link up top.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

freedom river

Via Kottke, we are directed towards a 1971 animated parable narrated by Orson Welles that illustrates how creeping intolerance (metaphorically and in tandem with actual erosion and ruination) undermines democracy and the exercise of liberty that attends free and fair societies.
Some of the script is a bit reductive and jingoistic and there’s an underlying current of patriotism American-style that reflects the milieu of fear at the time with the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration, but the overall message is as resonant today as it was back then, the inuring forces of regression and xenophobia as much of a threat to be vigilant against as they were nearly fifty years ago.

captain america

The US Army is scheduled to introduce retro-style service uniforms with an initial issue of some two hundred of the World War II era service dress first to military recruiters before general distribution.
Presently, in all settings outside of formal social events, the standard attire is camouflaged fatigues and combat boots (previously here and here), drawing some derision in non-combat situations and the “Greens” would be worn in the office and during conferences. Soldier reception to the new professional look is reportedly positive but at the same time were not eager to add more to their service wardrobe.

oh border where art thou?

After presenting an interesting tutorial on how to use map and satellite telemetry as movie narrative, Maps Mania was directed towards the work of Keith O’Faoláin—who took a break from surveying ring forts to consider the soft and porous border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (previously) and how uncertain Brexit outcomes exacerbate the situation immensely. More to explore at the link above including resources to learn more about the border in decades past.

the valley and bailiwick

Having declared independence once before only to have it reigned back in, the Caribbean island of Anguilla held a second referendum whose votes nearly unanimously favoured disassociating itself from the colonial governor of Saint Kitts and proclaimed itself a republic on this day in 1969.
The chairman of the freshly constituted Island Council expelled the British envoy and for about forty days basked in its freedom. On 18 March, a contingent of paratroopers and London constables peacefully occupied the island and restored order. Disappointed by this denial for self-determination, negotiations ensued and Anguilla was granted the right to “secede” from Saint Kitts, which ironically gained full independence as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis in 1983 while Anguilla remains an overseas territory. The triskelion of dolphins on the flag and coat of arms reminds one of the Manx flag, itself a crown dependency and neither part of the United Kingdom nor a part of the former empire.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019


From the always excellent Nag on the Lake, we learn about a rather rare weather phenomenon—not often encountered due to the exacting conditions necessary and first described during Roald Amundsen during his 1911 expedition to the South Pole but now that everyone carries a camera at all times, we are treated to ample evidence—called snow rollers. A modest gust of wind propels a kernel of snow near the melting pointing across a wet, loose surface and collects layers, tubular formations that leave tread rather than a typical snowball. Be sure to visit the link above to learn more and see video footage of snow rollers in action.


suburbia: Eliza Gosse paints Australian Mid-Century modern homes

emancipation of the dissonance: economist and performer Merle Hazard delivers an atonal tune

threadstories: crocheted masks and headdresses examine our online avatars and personæ

autoglyphs: Michael Light takes an aerial survey of the arid American west

forget about it: a versatile Italian word to know

needs more salt: a seasonings purveyor and a tech company collaborate to optimise spicing up your recipes

byggeskikk: a photographer becomes quite taken with a picturesque cabin 

indy films

Dissatisfied with the studio system of Hollywood and its stifling of the creative process, veteran actors and stakeholders Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith incorporated United Artists on this day in 1919 as a joint venture. The label and library have changed hands many times over the ensuing decades, a subsidiary of the production and distribution hegemony that they tried to liberate themselves from, but still represent the rebellious and the unfettered in moviemaking.

Monday, 4 February 2019

the mike curb congregation

Our thanks to Weird Universe for the civics lesson and introduction to musician, record label executive, and one-time Lieutenant Governor of the State of California under the first administration of Jerry Brown, Michael Curb.
Though while the governor is outside of the state, the Lieutenant Governor becomes the acting executor and can rather incredibly work to reverse legislation, the two officer holders are elected separately and are not running-mates, like a vice-president—as is the case in seventeen other US states. While the musical stylings of Curb’s group were not overtly political, collaborating with several musical acts and Lalo Schifrin and winning commendations for the below score for Clint Eastwood’s Kelly’s Heroes and the Liza Minnelli musical Liza with a Z, learning that Curb scored the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon—“Nixon Now (More than Ever)”—and Ronald Reagan “Together, A New Beginning” gave some pause, though that’s far from career-defining, and nonetheless, California remains a magical place, and there’s more.


The reliably engrossing and entertaining Futility Closet delivers with its latest podcast episode a real object lesson in sociology confirmed with real world observations that really lay bare the concept of cognitive dissonance and how it infiltrates the human psyche.
Not only are we loathe to acknowledge sunk costs and move away from a system of belief that we’ve invested a lot or a little in, we also seek to justify our fear and trepidation, confident that ritual was our saving grace. Infiltrating a doomsday cult that arose as Leon Festinger (*1919 – †1989) and his academic colleagues were theorising about how the human mind copes with the chasm between expectation and reality and the behaviour that manifests in the mid-1950s, their ideas that were a sharp departure from the received wisdom of accounting for hysteria and panic but were vindicated through a mental narrative of members reframing the failure of their dire prophesies to materialise. Festinger was also a pioneer in networking theory, coining the term propinquity (from the Latin for nearness—and by extension familiarity) in kinship-forming and establishing in- and out-groups, which is now of course not limited by physical presence.

ultra vires

The US state of Washington have introduced legislation (pending debate in the chamber) that would make the Sasquatch the official state cryptid. While on the surface, it’s hard to deny the bill and ceremony as frivolous, we are all for people paying more attention to the environment and the ecosystem by any means necessary—including belief in Bigfoot (relatedly), which I think resonates as an extension of heightened awareness over the effects of humans encroaching on the wild places of the Earth.
There are marketing and fund-raising opportunities to consider besides. National and sub-national symbols can of course be politically and ideologically charged items—notably with the contention surround the selection of state fossils for places that ascribe to Creationism. Read more about the bill at Lowering the Bar at the link up top. Do you have local legendary beasts you’d care to nominate for inscription into officialdom? We would support designating the habitat of chupacabras under threat if that helped prevent that awful massive monument to white nationalism planned for the US southern border.

lido deck

In addition to knowing how to keep their owners’ yachts ship-safe and seaworthy, captains and crews now expected to have better than rudimentary knowledge when it custody of priceless works of art.
As Super Punch informs, there’s a trend among the ultra-wealth to keep their masterpieces on board, prompting conservators to instruct shipmates on the art protection and preservation. While it is ostensibly better that the work is enjoyed rather than locked away as a store of value, it does seem to court disaster and a quick means to bring about ruination.

open access

We enjoyed perusing the curated, select gallery of some of the highlights from a trove of over thirty-four thousand artworks and artefacts that the venerable Cleveland Museum of Art has just released to the public wholly royalty-free and without restrictions.
While such proclamations are common-place and some may doubt their newsworthiness—arguing that the institution is just catching up with a movement that ought to have been universally practised long ago, but such events are not just laudable but also a gateway to explore and inspect a happily crowded field. Take this image—for example, of Nathaniel Olds by local resident Jeptha Homer Wade, an itinerate portrait painter whose interest and salesmanship grew out of experiments with early daguerreotypy and synthesised into an interest in the burgeoning technology of the telegraph. The industrialist and eventual philanthropist, benefactor of many educational and cultural institutions as was the exhibiting museum itself, was one of the foundered of Western Union. We’ve yet to uncover anything about the subject—however. Much more to explore at the links above.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

the day the music died

On this evening in 1959, a chartered 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza (the six-seater light aircraft still in production, making it the longest continuously distributed model in history), took off in blizzard conditions from the Mason City Municipal Airport, piloted by Roger Peterson. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed into cornfield outside of neighbouring Clear Lake, Iowa, killing the pilot and compliment of passengers, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper—J P Richardson.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

la fête de la chandeleur

While parts of the world are obsessing with weather prognosis as determined by a groundhog, in France (and other Francophone parts, I’m sure) Candlemas (the presentation of Jesus at the Temple,
inducting the infant into the Jewish faith and community) is attended with the Festival des Chandelles. In addition to a rainy day (quand ii pleut) signalling further forty more days of stormy weather (depending on who you ask), the days is also marked by making crêpes and galettes, which symbolise the waxing Sun, harking back to pre-Christian syncretism, and the coming spring after a long winter.

social capital or the dunwich horror

As social media behemoth Facebook is proving that bad behaviour does indeed pay, profits up and still the darling of uninventive advertisers, grifters and undermining elements despite the disdain it has for its critics and its users’ privacy and well-being, more and more studies are demonstrating the positive benefits of cutting the platform out of your routine.
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” It has not been quite a year yet since I was persuaded to deactivate my account—rebuffing the cloying pleas to come back—and there was a time early on that I thought that the platform could have if not reformed and redeemed itself could merely demonstrate that it wasn’t something sinister and merely a wanton utility, an agnostic force majeure like other technological giants, but it’s since squandered that hope and I’ve not regretted the decision. “An isolated person requires correspondence as a means of seeing his ideas as others see them, and thus guarding against the dogmatisms and extravagances of solitary and uncorrected speculation.”

your feedback matters

Tedium treats us into another deep-dive—this time on the ostensibly quaint suggestion box, which for all its simplicity and peril of not heeding what it advice it solicits or fails to manages just to inform and propel the whole reputation-based service economy. The origins of inviting feedback are murky but one of the earliest examples can be sourced to a Shogunate of Edo-Era Japan.
In August 1721, public petition boxes called meyasubako (目安箱) were installed, and the government acted on one popular recommendation and opened up a free hospital the following year for those without means. Development is traced through modern times but one kind of has to balk at what companies demand presently with circumspection since a large part of the utility of the device lie in its honest appeal with the perception of safety and anonymity and with no fear of recrimination—which is largely stripped away with most interactions, either overtly or covertly. What do you think about that? Though our opinions and customer satisfaction is very much sought after and we’re seemingly encouraged to speak up, the voice we’re given is open to act and is an immodest request on the part of the facilitators to push research and marketing off on employees or paying customers.

Friday, 1 February 2019

frauenstimmrecht in der schweiz

Though the national referendum failed to pass with around sixty percent of the eligible voting population siding against it, on this day in 1959, the women of Vaud (Waadt) were enfranchised and could stand for public office. Other cantons over the ensuing decades eventually conferred suffrage to all residents, with the supreme court of the confederation ruling that the smallest, Appenzell Innerhoden (Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieures), must extend women the right to weigh in on local affairs in 1991.

lozenge moquette

Thanks to City Lab, we are invited to revisit the plush and pile of mass-transit upholstery through the industrial textile designs of Enid Marx and other samples archived by the London Transportation Museum. By turns both extravagant and practical, both overlooked and omnipresent, the exhibit offers a retrospective look at the power of the intentionality in design, underscored perfectly by something that often retreats into the background yet (if not itself the subject of passing derision) so much part of a shared ridership experience.

i, robot

Hearing of this experiment—really a thought-experiment put through the paces of reality and practise thanks to advanced computing, via Slashdot, of a robot booted-up without prior knowledge of itself or its programming was able after a period of adjustment was able to imagine itself and deduce its identity reminded us of Avicenna’s concept of the floating man.
Buoyed aloft, blindfolded and deprived of sensation, the philosopher, whose ideas informed the thinking of later luminaries like René Descartes, reasoned that even in this state of sensory deprivation, that the figure would still differentiate himself from the surrounding environment and have a sense of self. What do you think? To my mind, it seems like we are lurching towards self-awareness but there’s always the counter-argument that the machines are not quite pandering to their programmers but we do tend to prefer revelling in outcomes that confirm our own pet-theories—absent any counter-factuals.

minn tími mun koma!

On this day a decade hence, reeling from the economic meltdown of that crescendoed in 2008 and revelation of graft and corruption within the sitting government, the Althing appointed member Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (previously) as prime minster of Iceland.  The first openly lesbian head of government plus the country’s first woman leader.
Having served in parliament since 1978, she made a bid to head the Social Democratic party (Alþýðuflokkurinn, later merged into the Social Democratic Alliance) in 1994 but was defeated. Never one to concede, Sigurðardóttir’s rallying cry became the above, My time will come!, a popular saying outside of the political sphere as well.  Though this degree of political normalisation has been restricted to European governments thus far and progress is a fragile thing that never ought to be taken for granted, it does seem rather remarkable and even rather old hat that ten years on there are three currently serving gay or lesbian national leaders, the Taoiseach of Ireland and the prime ministers of Serbia and Luxembourg.