Sunday, 30 June 2019

five, four, three, two, one

The urban redevelopment council of the large Berkshire city adjacent to Heathrow will help sponsor the creation of a Thunderbirds-themed hotel near the eponymous Slough Trading Estate (industrial park) where the Supermarionation series (Thunderbirds are not Slough—it does not rhyme with go) was filmed and produced. The hotel, which will also be part of a permanent residential hub each of whose five storeys are named after a Thunderbird Machine, is slated to open in 2021. More to explore at the links above, including a dedicated Gerry Anderson (*1929 – †2012), the shows’ co-creator, website.


Via the inestimable Nag on the Lake, we learn that an exemplar of the iconic protest poster that captured a symbolic act of defiance of Bill Greenshields (previously) burning his draft card—though it was suspected that Greenshields at the time was an undercover agent trying to incriminate others, designed and distributed by activist Kiyoshi Kuomiya (*1943, in a Japanese-American internment camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming – †2000) is being sold at auction. Using the pseudonym Dirty Linen Corporation, Kuromiya got out copies of through mail order, encouraging people to share with mothers and the White House, but was eventually caught by the FBI and charged with for using the postal service for trafficking in lewd materials. Read more about Kuromiya’s life and career dedicated to social justice at the links above.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

common ära

Doing some research with some historic church texts in German, I kept running across the abbreviation v. u. Z.—unfamiliar but I quickly surmised its meaning from context clues as “before our era,” a way of BC/AD without a specifically Christian reference point. Ironically—while this term is used in contemporary, secular papers as something synonymous with CE/BCE, it was being used here in a hagiographical and historic milieu to avoid the paradox that Jesus’ birth year did not coincide with the beginning of the era, but rather from three to six vor der Zeitrechnung.

ub iwerks

We enjoyed this interview with the heiress of an immense entertainment conglomerate who has been campaigning that the ultra-wealthy be made to pay their fair burden in taxes so that workers can earn a living wage and that the public institutions and infrastructure that we all rely on and benefit from can be fully-funded.
No progress ever happened by people advocating for their own self-interest alone—as is the natural inclination of lobbies that fight to retain every last cent they’ve made off the efforts and sacrifice of the individuals in their employ, but rather, “Things really change when people are traitors to their class, and my class needs some really good traitors these days.” Read or listen to the whole interview with All Things Considered at the link up top.

Friday, 28 June 2019

buckeye state

Recommended by Digg, we really enjoyed reading this nuanced, thoughtful essay that explores the project to restore North America’s blighted chestnut forests (see also) by creating a genetic hybrid whose DNA contains material from wheat that makes it resistant to the fungus that wiped out the trees.
Given how some of our exuberance to adopt GMOs was misplaced—and conversely fears over it, it is especially vital to get the science right before releasing something synthetic into the wild as trees not thrive outside of our laboratories, fields and plantations, they are also a vital part of the landscape and ecosystem, host to their own particular constellations of Nature. What do you think? Testing is extensive and circumspect and well worth considering all the trials conducted and considered but one in particular stands out: tadpoles fed with either natural or transgenic chestnut leaf litter thrived equally well, but grew at nearly twice the rate of their siblings that had to make due with a diet of maple and beech leaves—their only option since the chestnuts disappeared a century ago, suggesting that the ecosystem is missing these magnificent and useful trees far more than we can appreciate.

saturn vi

Though exploration of the Cronian satellite cannot begin before 2034 (distant-seeming but only fifteen years hence), NASA has committed, choosing among twelve contending proposals, to send a fleet of aerial drones to survey Titan, more planet than moon-like with a dense atmosphere, complex terrain, weather and methane driven precipitation similar to the water cycle on Earth, only sustainable at much lower temperatures, to seek out alien life.

Extra special care and precautions are being factored into the Dragonfly mission so as to not disturb the primordial conditions of the surface as the craft take samples of the moon’s chemistry. Under this frozen substrate (see also), which while having the necessary building blocks for life as we conceive it, scientists believe there is a water-ammonia lies a panthalassic ocean where abiogenesis is suspected to have occurred.


During the early hours of this morning fifty years ago, members of the LGBT community in Greenwich Village staged a spontaneous uprising to protest a police raid of the Stonewall Inn.
This stand along Christopher Street, between West 4th Street and Waverly Place, marked the beginning of a long and ongoing struggle for gay rights and equal treatment under the law in the US. Pride parades world wide have occurred around this anniversary. Though the relationship is not causal and to suggest otherwise would dampen rising tensions and dangers faced daily by lesbian and gay people, the night before was the funeral for the iconic Judy Garland who had passed away earlier in the week in London from “an incautious self-overdosage”—held at a chapel on Madison Avenue which remained open through the night so twenty-thousand members of the public could pay their respects. Though no one recalled it being acknowledged during the riots, that sort of turn-out surely helped mobilise at least a few mourners and fans.

Thursday, 27 June 2019


Nag on the Lake directs our attention to an exhibit that features a moving collection of Mexican religious icons known as retablos (previously)—from the Latin retro-tabula for “behind the altar” or votive offerings of gratitude meant for display and inspection by the congregation, that document in painting and some captioning turning-points in the lives of those who’ve been on the recipients of divine intercession, which was for many in this show miraculously safe passage crossing the border into the US. Peruse a whole gallery and find much more to explore at the links above.


Much like Emperor Claudius believed he vastly improved Latin orthography with his contribution of three new letters (namely Ⅎ for the w-sound, Ↄ for the ps and bs plosives and a Ⱶ, a half of an haitch that is of disputed meaning), seventh century Chinese Empress Wu Zetian imposed somewhere between a dozen and thirty new characters as a demonstration of her power and influence.
In both cases, use of the new characters was mandated but quickly were abandoned and reverted to their old style of writing (see also) after their reigns ended, though unlike with the Romans, a few of the so called Zeitan characters have been incorporated into modern usage. For example, the Empress wanted the term xīng, star to be rendered as 〇 instead of 星, with the former ideogram now representing the number zero, and Wu thought the perfectly cromulent way of expessing a person (rén, 人) should be articulated 𤯔, that is the ideogram for life capped with numeral one to convey the aphorism that everyone only lives once, adopted for contemporary parlance

notae tironianae

Absent any comprehensive and systematic stenographical short-cuts except for what could be improvised and some legal jargon that were purposefully opaque to stave off the non-credentialed, the catalogue of glyphs, growing to some five thousand symbols, created by Marcus Tullius Tiro (*94 – †4BC) was a highly useful innovation.
An enslaved clerk who was later freed to continue working as the Roman orator and statesman Cicero’s, his former master, personal secretary, Tiro was able—through his notes—to facilitate the dictation and capture the thoughts of the philosopher and statesman, and the method was quickly disseminated. Taught in medieval monasteries, the extended character set grew to some thirteen thousand shorthand symbols that made for an abbreviated syllabary, which could be further modified and combined to compress whole sentences and still retain the words verbatim. Falling out of favour with the proliferation of the printing press, a few Tironian notes are still in use today—notably the ⁊ (the glyph for et, and) is used extensively on signage in Scotland and Ireland where the sign is called the agusan and agus respectively.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

can you dig it?

Via the always outstanding Nag on the Lake, we are treated to a course in contemporary archaelogy with a fascinating, forensic exploration of the venue of Woodstock five decades on. Though well documented and still very much in the domain of living memory, Nature is taking its course on the dairy farm near Bethel Woods, New York and consequently obscuring some of the history of the festival and the conservationist hope to unobtrusively mark trails for visitors to imagine or re-live the experience. Much more to explore at the links above.


Apparently realising announced intentions to re-occupy the naval station and air base made in 2017 returned to the Icelandic Defence Forces in September of 2006, US military budget allocations indicate that America will begin work on bringing Keflavík (previously here and here) back under its control. The extension of the civilian airport currently operated as a NATO base and host to American trans-Atlantic traffic, the US wants to rebuild and expand neglected infrastructure and establish a modern toehold in the between continents. The revelation is subject to controversy and contention in the Alþingi.

martini & rossi asti spumanti

Along with many other candidates including the mines of the Erzgebirge / Krušnohoří and the Roman Limes, Italy (previously) hopes that after a decade’s long campaign for inclusion to add the Prosecco Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene outside of Venice to the UNESCO register of World Heritage Sites. The grape variety, the glera, is a Slovenian import and until 2009 (when effervescent prosecco was granted its denominazione di origine controllata label, the title beverage has its own protected designation and is made from Moscato grapes) was called Prosek. Proposals will be submitted to the commission in Paris at the end of the month.

graphical user interface

Debuting with the Mother of All Demos as did most things that inform the way we interact and communicate today, we enjoyed watching this well-researched look into development of the mouse cursor, via the Awesomer, presented by sound engineer and recording artist Michiel de Boer.
Displayed generally as a jagged angle since that made for better visibility on lower-resolution screens, we’ve become pretty blind to the ubiquitous pointer and how it transforms when dragged across one’s desktop from arrow, to hand to I-beam to hour-glass (more on skeuomorphs here) so it was nice to indulge this bit of computing history and to imagine what might come next.

obergefell v hodges

Having decided two years prior to the day that the Defence of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and a violation of the principle of equal administration of justice enshrined in both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, the US Supreme Court, by dint of the same argument, ruled on this day in 2015 that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples as it would be to heterosexual couples, with all the rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto. Prior to this decision, thirty-six states recognised marriage within their jurisdictions but there was no national consensus. To celebrate the civil rights triumph, the White House was illuminated in rainbow colours on the evening of the ruling.


blood meridian: two animated maps (see also) chart Manifest Destiny from contrasting perspectives 

lobby cards: the iconic film posters and title sequences of Saul Bass (previously here and here)

strong to the finich: because of the leafy green’s steroidal qualities, some are calling for it to be banded like other doping agents

scientific method: brilliant vintage middle school text books via Present /&/ Correct

nineteen eighty-four was not meant to be an instruction manual: workers trialled with beacons and bracelets to monitor performance and productivity

best in show: a curated selection of the winners of the National Geographic travel photography competition

lj: going into production in 2021, the Lightyear One represents the industry’s first long-range and untethered electric vehicle, via Design Boom

pomological catalogue: the 1886 US contract for watercolour depictions of all the world’s fruit

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

ik denk dus ik fiets

We enjoyed pursuing this curated gallery of posters and placards documenting a decades’ long campaign to transform and retain Amsterdam as a world capital for pedestrians and cyclists.
This 1976 call for a demonstration of solidarity against automobile traffic and for more public transit options, in the name of safety and to ease congestion, features one of the first appearances of the Fietst (Dutch for riding a bike and an eponymous lobby and association) mascot, a character comprised of two wheels and a big head (sort of evoking the international symbol for a vision impaired person so that others realise that they’re sharing their space with them) with the triple cross crest of the city as a body. Fietst soon after became a more fully-formed and articulate mascot as a cycling girl called Liesje. Much more to explore at the links above.

rainbow connection

On this day in 1978, the Rainbow Flag, created by artist and seamster Gilbert Baker (*1951 – †2017) was unfurled for the first time at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade, an event that originated around 1972 as an informal “gay-in” and is now a celebration of pride echoed around the world.
Gilbert met Harvey Milk in 1974, who asked him to create a new symbol for the community—wanting to jettison the shorthand of the day, the Pink Triangle, reclaiming a badge of shame that the Nazis used for imprisoned men identified as homosexuals as a means of self-identification but dark and derivative nonetheless—prompting Gilbert to design his flag (previously). The colourful motif was possibly inspired by the PACE flags that first appeared during an Italian peace march in 1961 or the Judy Garland ballad, Over the Rainbow. While the banner certainly represents the diversity of the community and the struggle for recognition and civil rights, the original eight stripes had specific meanings: hot pink stood for sex, red for life, orange was healing, yellow was sunshine, green was Nature, turquoise stood for magic and art, indigo for serenity and violet represented spirit. Hot pink was subsequently dropped due to the lack of fabric and dye, and the six banded version was adopted in 1979, blending indigo and turquoise as royal blue—though often throughout the 1990s, a black stripe was added to represent those whom had died due to complications from AIDS.

Monday, 24 June 2019


Via the Everlasting Blört, we are invited to show our stripes (previously) to illustrate how globally and regionally the average annual temperature has been rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution, with a most disturbing uptick in the last thirty years. Reliable data for most countries span from 1901 to 2018, but a few places covered by the UK Met Office, der Deutscher Wetterdienst and a few other select meteorological monitors reach back to the mid- to late-nineteenth century.

ô canada

Officially made the national anthem by royal assent a century later on Dominion Day, the melody, composed by Calixte Paquet dit Lavallée commissioned by the lieutenant governor of Quebec, of the song was performed in public for the first time on this day in 1880 as accompaniment to a Saint-Jean-Baptiste (the Nativity of John the Baptist, his feast day often associated or conflated with the summer solstice) fête held in the provincial capital.
The original lyrics by barrister and poet Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier were in French and have remained unchanged. An English version, modified three times subsequently to make the language more inclusive, came in 1908—often performed bilingually with code-switching alternating verses to demonstrate the country’s diversity—and First Nations’ versions (ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ) introduced beginning in the 1990s.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

endeløs sommer

Having just passed the solstice in the northern hemisphere with the hours of sunlight each day gradually decreasing until we come to the December solstice and the slow retreat of the night, we found this proposal by the residents of the fishing village north of the Arctic circle, Sommarøy, west of Tromsø, straddling the Norwegian island of Store Sommarøy and Hillesøya—the become the world’s first time-free zone rather intriguing.
Though balanced out with the corollary of the long polar night spanning from November to January, the three hundred permanent residents and numerous visitors enjoy sixty nine days from mid-May to late July when the sun never sets, during which the conventions of normal time-keeping are discarded and people accord themselves according to their own schedules. Local government is in serious talks with the Stortling to discuss the legal and practical raminification of carrying through such a plan. Though the announcements have led to a boost in tourism and the fences of the pedestrian bridge that connects the islands with the mainland are decorated with wrist watches rather than love-locks, proponents insist that the move is far more than a gimmick


Courtesy of Fancy Notions, we are treated to the Soviet animated-puppet short Mitja and the Microbes (1973) by director Mikhail Kamenetsky, a prominent maker of children’s entertainment and educational works in the 70s and 80s in the tradition of Rankin & Bass.

This particular piece depicts a rather epic battle as a result of poor hand and food hygiene practises and though not explicitly referenced in the portrayal, we believe that the germs that poor Mitja invited in are ultimately re-buffed with a contingent of bacteriophages, in keeping with Russian medical science, favoured over the Western recourse to antibiotics. Find more vintage matinee cartoons plus other interesting delectables to enjoy at the link up top.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

watershed moment

On this day in 1969, the Cuyahoga River, downstream from the industrial cities of Akron, Kent and Cleveland Ohio, caught on fire—the latest in a series of at least a dozen major conflagrations of the polluted tributary of Lake Erie—captured the attention of reporters at TIME magazine and the issue made the cover of the June edition. The public outrage that followed helped endorse a tranche of pollution-control measures and eventually led to the creation of a federal and state Environmental Protection Agency by early December of the following year.

Friday, 21 June 2019


Our friendly stationer Present /&/ Correct shares its discovery of a trove of vintage Hungarian pocket calendars, joyfully illustrated. MėH (Miniszterelnöki Hivatal) is the country’s energy authority. Much more to explore at the link above.

små grodorna

the local’s Swedish edition has a fine run-down of the rituals associated with the June solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere with the kingdom enjoying from eighteen to twenty four hours of sunshine—otherwise known as Midsommar, officially observed on the Saturday nearest in the week but the eve is the de facto public holiday.
We’re acquainted with the tradition of att maja (maying—but probably not a German import)—that is, decorating with flowers and greenery and the standard Little Frogs, whose melody is taken from a French marching song from the Napoleonic Wars and a British (compare God Save the Queen and My Country ‘Tis of Thee, though the French original was not meant to be a serious one) mocking version that orders “Au pas, grenouilles.” In step, small frogs. There’s a performative dance that illustrates the lyrics, which you can watch at the link above. No one is sure how the custom got started.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

munker-white illusion

Though these spheres seem to come in three colourful varieties, David Novick created this optical illusion by exploiting a neurobiological factor known as lateral or antagonistic inhibition—the ability of a stimulated neuron to calm its neighbours so as not to overload the sensory system. Objectively, all the spheres are shaded identically and are a uniform brassy colour. The whole trick, impossible to unsee otherwise and probably not advisable to try, is broken down layer-by-layer with some philosophical musings and more examples at Bad Astronomy at the link above.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

i've got two chickens to paralyse

Although the typographical inconsistencies would have personally driven me to distraction before I could manage to encode anything, we admit that were impressed with the counter-measures that a song lyrics repository employed to catch cheats who might copy their stenography work and publish it as their own.  Subtly (or not so subtly to those sensitive to such things) naturally scattered through the verses, the transcript alternated between a typographic, curly style (’) and a typewriter style (') according to a protocol that resulted in, converted to the dots and dashes of Morse Code, the message “Red Handed.” This method of copywriter protection is in keeping with the cleverest trap streets and mountweazels but no party is can really claim legal rights as librettists and brings into question what service that they were providing in the first place.


The German speakers have penchant to create vocalised acronyms rather than the tendency in English to use initialism (apronym) and turn those into something pronounceable—like scuba, radar, NATO or the USA PATRIOT Act —as in GroKo (Große Koalition, Grand Coalition) or Abi for Abitur, school graduation or more familiarly Flak for Fliegerabwehrkannone, anti-aircraft guns and Gestapo for die Geheime Staatspolizei.
Once the practise becomes too pervasive and trivialising and needs to be dialled back a bit, one might call another out for carrying on with the title term, the strange mania, habit of shortening words, itself abbreviated Aküfi. One mostly encounters Abkürzungsfimmel in technical or industry jargon—as in AküFiBw (Abkürzungsfimmel Bundeswehr, soldier talk).


Via the always excellent Kottke, we are delighted to be introduced to the Allusionist podcast with their milestone one hundredth podcast and the hosts taking a moment to reflect on a hundred fun facts about the (mostly) English language they’ve acquired whilst doing the show.
We’ve run into mountweazels, mondegreenspolari and nominative determinism beforehand and we were equally gobsmacked to learn that the CARE in care package was an acronym like scuba or radar but there are plenty of gems to discover, like the analgesic properties of swears, the French society of constrained writers or the origin of bankruptcy, from the Italian banca rotta, “broken bench.” Check out all hundred of them—the short hundred, that is—five score as opposed to the long or Norse hundred of six score, which was called twelfty, at the links up top and consider subscribing.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019


t-minus: the Apollo 11 mission in real time using historical mission footage, via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals

scrip: garbage cryptocurrency from a garbage social media company isn’t crypto at all

that yorkshire sound: hand-drawn animated short illustrates an every day, vibrant soundscape

carissimi auditores: after a thirty year run, Finnish broadcasters are ceasing their news in Latin segment, but no fear as the report gives other resources

deaccessioned: a large auction house will no longer be publicly traded as it goes into private hands

:“For Want of a Hyphen Venus Rocket is Lost” – programming is unforgiving 

keep britain tidy

As much of a focus-steeling, attention-grabbing sideshow Brexit and Theresa May’s leadership were her desired legacy and commitment—bringing the UK’s carbon contribution down to net-zero by 2050—is pretty admirable and make up for what she made everyone endure, notwithstanding a predecessor even more repugnant who’ll try to change course, though enshrined in law, it will be tougher to rescind.
Before leaving office nearly thirty years ago, Margaret Thatcher made a similar pledge, urging a global treaty on climate change and enacted policies to protect the ozone layer and curb acid rain. Would that all rubbish politicians had such redeeming potential. Although there’s quite some rough terrain yet to cover to attain that goal and admittedly we all ought to be in a better place by now, courtesy Maps Mania, we should pause and consider this interactive essay, chart and timeline from Carbon Brief illustrating the progress that the UK has already made in overhauling how it gets and uses its energy, an achievement encapsulated in the record-setting span of time that the country has gone without having to resort to coal. Records are made to be broken. Much more to explore at the links above.

absolut nymodig

Unlike some monopolies or state-run agencies that aren’t given much incentive to improve or adapt to keep their mission relevant (see also), Sweden’s Systembolaget—after a trail period in a few test markets—will offer home delivery of alcohol across the country.
From the onset of World War I until 1955, wine, beer and spirits were strictly rationed, households issued a book called a “motbok,” with allowances determined by gender and social status, but these limitations were abolished once the chain of outlets were opened, charged with ensuring that the age restrictions be enforced and that no item is privileged above another—meaning no product placement, no promotional sales, no beers in coolers and no multi-packs, which otherwise might be an inducement to drink more. Home deliveries will be available starting 1 July.

Monday, 17 June 2019

corso forzoso

Though the idea of bringing back the lira has been in circulation by members of both factions of the governing coalition since at least 2005 and at earlier times of economic crisis and scarcity of specie, a sort of Notgeld, called miniasegni, were used to make change—anything from postage stamps to bus passes, Italy is now responding in a unique and novel way to European Union demands that it pass budget reforms and bring its deficit in line with members’ tolerances in suggesting that a parallel currency be introduced.
Provisionally naming the government backed bonds, IOUs to be traded as legal tender mini-BOTs, miniature bills of treasury, the government wants to issue internal financial vehicles that can be used to pay tax bills and distribute pension payments—with businesses having the option whether or not to accept payments in these terms. While in the short term, the introduction of mini-BOTs may rally public confidence in a partnership government that in part was elected on a platform of universal basic income (disappointingly winnowed down to a job-seekers’ allowance) and avoids austerity measures, such a move would result in inflation and more odious debt.

alþing considered

A possession of the Kingdom of Norway since the dissolution of the Kalmar Union in the early sixteenth century and then of the Kingdom of Denmark owing to the Napoleonic Wars (1803 – 1815, see also), the Republic of Iceland came into existence on this day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn) in 1944.
A near unanimous referendum held that May came into effect 17 June, independence day marked on the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson (*1811 – †1879), a prominent leader in the movement for Iceland’s autonomy, voting to end the island’s personal union with the monarchy. Effectively devolved and with home rule—except in defence and diplomatic matters, since the end of World War I, the Act of Union negotiated had a quarter of a century expiry date unless renewed, a trial period to allow Icelanders the chance to demonstrate that they could govern themselves.  Due to Nazi occupation, however, Denmark was not able to honour the 1943 deadline and Iceland, hosting Allied forces, held the plebiscite and voted to sever ties. Though many Danes were upset with Iceland declaring independence with their country under invasion, King Christian X nonetheless congratulated (with some urging on the part of his cousin, the King of Sweden) the people for forming a republic.

Sunday, 16 June 2019


While perhaps best known for his influential Münchener Olympic pictograms and creating the modern corporate identity for Lufthansa, Ulmer resistance fighter of the White Rose movement, graphic designer and typographer Otto “Otl” Aicher (*1922 – †1991), was also a prolific poster designer, glad recipient of all sorts of commissions—though we think some of these are works of his students. After the war, Aicher married the resistance movement’s leaders’ elder sister, Inge Scholl, and together with Swiss architect Max Bill founded the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, HFG) as a philosophical spin-off of Bauhaus in 1953. Much more to explore at the links above.

a good year for the poppies

I know that superblooms are a highly specific coming together of exceptional growing conditions that lets Nature revel in all her immodesty pertaining to wildflowers growing in arid places but after the droughts of last summer and the dry spring, it was very nice to see the pastures and the verges along the road and between fields bursting with colour.

downstream effects

Never mind the fact that you might be ingesting multiple tiny spiders per night—or conversely that if the spiders of the world teamed up, they could consume all the humans on the face of the Earth (or cocaine prawns or antidepressants in the groundwater), the World Wildlife Foundation launches a new campaign to illustrate the awful non-food pyramid that we’ve created. Via the Drum, we learn that on average a person consumes one hundred thousand micro-plastic particles annually, meaning about five grams (a lot of different factors come into play and you can get a more personalised estimate of your dietary intake here), a credit card’s worth of the stuff each week.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

arterial road

Fusing anatomical studies with paper-sculpting, Berlin-based artist Katrin Rodegast has created several organs fashioned out of maps with roadways and watercourses meant to highlight the similarities of civil engineering (Ein – und Ausfallstraße) with the network of capillaries and arteries in our bodies as a series of commissions for Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich. The Swiss polytechnic’s 2017 chief research thrust was a big collaboration among twenty institutions to make a viable artificial heart—for which Rodegast’s cartographic anatomy was an important part of the outreach programme and partnership cohesion.


Among the items and lots going under the hammer this summer, auction-watcher Messy Nessy Chic reports is this pristine 1964 Peel Trident, a British microcar and a product of Manx engineering, the estimated forty-five to fifty-five models made mostly going to the mainland.
Originally priced at £190 and with fuel efficiencies of just under three litres per one hundred kilometres and touted as nearly cheaper than walking, the smallest car in the world was perhaps a little ahead of its time and interest waned among the driving and dashing public (the car had a detachable shopping basket and was primarily meant for quick city errands). Manufacturing operations resumed in 2011 in Nottingham, creating custom electric and petrol models for individual clients. Learn more and inspect other lots and properties up for auction at the link above.

Friday, 14 June 2019

cloud farming or ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny

Via the New Shelton Wet/Dry, we learn of a fledging company that hopes to stave off the incidental but increasingly significant problem of cloud storage and energy-intensive data-management by enabling clients to keep their past and prognostications waiting in the wings in the form of crops whose DNA has been encoded (at density with integrity reaching two hundred petapixels per gram) within the plants themselves, and instead of consuming resources to maintain the information at one’s fingertips—we ought to mediate on the meaning of archives, curation and libraries before we decided to make everything at all times ready to summon forward whilst on the go—though the details seem rather sparse, to generate clean air and useful biomass as a by-product of perpetuating these hitchhiker genes.

Perhaps this passive form of storage could also be a substitute for the energy-hungry prospect of prospecting for crypto-currencies as well.  Compare to how restrictions on memory and storage of software was supplemented on the Apollo missions by weaving the programming into a mesh by hand.  Knowledge should be freely accessible but the omnipresence of it might seem to have diminishing value, considering the caprices of capacity and arbitrary limits. I wonder what it means for abstract, errant data to become part of Nature and whether that same information isn’t also party to the rules of evolution and inheritance and what we perceive as degradation, decoding errors that outside our dataset we would call mutations which in fact be taking that triangulation of statistics to the next level.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

x marks the spot

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we are treated to a rather endearing review of how educational literature, abecedaries broached the subject of that little-used as a leading letter X before the discovery of x-rays or the introduction of xylophones, mostly ingratiating readers in the personages of the Persian King Xerxes the Great (𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠, Ξέρξης) or Xanthippe (Ξανθίππη, meaning Yellow Horse)—Socrates’ supposed scold of a wife—or Xanthus (Ξάνθος, a blond stallion), one of Achilles pair of immortal horses whom Hera temporarily granted the power of speech in order to defend himself when Achilles accused him causing Patroclus’ death on the battlefield, retorting that it was a god that had killed Patroclus and that Achilles would soon follow. There’s numerous examples—some lazier than others—and nonetheless an interesting look at the antepenultimate letter and nineteenth century print.

‘cause for twenty-four years i’ve been living next door to alice

Via Miss Cellania’s links, we’re reacquainted with the elusive American middle class re-classified as “asset limited, income constrained, employed,” an acronym that applies to nearly half of US residents, those who cannot afford life’s basics without falling further and further in debt and arrears.
This precarious class, with very little prospect of upward mobility and a viable escape plan, has earned the US the depressing, dystopian honour of being the world’s first poor rich country, chasing after ungainful work for sake of being occupied.  Signs of this impoverishment are not brand new but until recently the more pernicious manifestations of a population were kept in abeyance through civics and civility, expressions of panic and insecurity that props up ideologues and theocracy.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

now that’s a horse of a different colour

Though the title idiom is much older than what Dorothy exclaimed upon entering the Emerald City and pertains to horse-trading and how the coat can change colour as the animal matures and what’s listed in a registry may not match what’s before one’s eyes and is first cited as “a horse of that colour” by the duplicity maid Maria in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1601), we nonetheless enjoyed reading about the 1926 caper that a horseman of Scottish extraction nearly got away with at a race-track in Chicago.
Referred to as ringing in gamblers’ circles, the horseman, possessed of a special and nonpareil talent (sadly squandered on grift and crime) for a quick and convincing dye and rise, bleached and painted the thoroughbreds so that the track stewards and jockeys failed to notice when their horses were switched, handicapping the odds and virtually guaranteeing a big win. Targeting small, remote racing operations at first, the horse painter was able to skip town and evade repercussions once the truth was realised but luck eventually ran out with Pinkertons in hot pursuit.  Discover more hidden histories at Narratively at the link above.

fresh from battle creek

We enjoyed indulging this vintage advertising campaign from the Leo Burnett Agency for Kellogg’s Variety Pack of cereals—promising to “settle all differences” with “…the choose-it-yourself breakfast”—with a cast of characters defined by their opposition. The six print ads, executed in a style evocative of other fabulist artists, include a little rhyming parable, though there’s no proper attribution to be found from the ad agency that created the Pillsbury Doughboy, Charlie the Tuna, the lonely Maytag repairman, the Jolly Green Giant—and recently the subject of controversy for product placement on Wikipedia, using the forum as a vehicle to sell outdoor apparel. Much more to explore at Box Vox at the link up top.

hello light

Attempting to reform and reclaim its reputation after the misleading missteps that influenced the purchasing decisions of many drivers, going for diesel-fuelled models believing that they were far cleaner and more efficient than they were in reality, Volkswagen is acknowledging its past transgressions and lack of candour with an advertising campaign that references its older reputationmaking lemonade out of lemons.
The new series of commercials debut the long-awaited production of the microbus (see also), reborn as a fully electric vehicle. I hope that the company has learned a valuable lesson in transparency and can again lead the industry towards better transparency and accountability and that they are earnest in their new direction. What do you think? Just the other day, however, I caught the tail end of a comment from company executives reportedly pressing governments to reverse the mothballing of nuclear plants (a fraught decision in itself but also a pledge) so they’ll be sufficient energy to power its electric fleet, which was a bit discouraging to hear and might be yet another wedge that big business can hold up as an excuse not to reform or take responsibility.

bill c-195

Whilst American engineers were busy shutting off their part of the Niagara Falls by means of a cofferdam apron to staunch the flow of water and allow for repairs of the eroded riverbed and cliffs, the Canadian senate was legislating and passed on this day in 1969 amendments to the law to decriminalise abortion and homosexual relations.
Introduced originally by then Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau, the passage allowed for the sale of contraceptive medicines and devices, consensual gay relations for persons of majority in private dwellings, as well as tightening laws regarding gun sales and ownership, drink driving, telephonic harassment and cruelty to animals. Trudeau famously defended his stance to the press by declaiming an often repeated phrase, «l’ État n’a rien à faire dans les chambres à coucher de la nation.» “There’s no place for the State in the bedrooms of Canada.”

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

beyond the pale

The turn of phrase above which means outside of one’s legal jurisdiction, sphere of influence or more figuratively out of bounds of accepted, civilised behaviour is etymologically sourced to the Pale of Calais (le Calaisis, voir également).
The idiomatic use probably comes from the former rather than the more famous case of County Dublin that came later, this territory around the port city was under English control between the Battle of Crécy (1346, competing French and Burgundians rather had the valuable real estate go to a third party instead of each other’s rival) until its siege and re-conquest in 1558. Pale is an archaic English term for a stake, used to denote a boundary or limit (limes) and derived from the Latin term pālus, which is also the source for pole and retained in the word impale—describing one’s state if dropped on said pole. Represented in Parliament for those two centuries, the exclave adopted the curious motto Vertias Temporis filia—Truth, the Daughter of Time.


burr and bramble: hitchhiking African seed pods put under a photographer’s lens

shibuya crossing: Greg Girard’s Tokyo of the late 1970s

bene gesserit sisterhood: ahead of Denis Villeneuve’s remake, there will be a screaming-television prequel 

the mouse-earred one that flees from the light: Washington DC adopts the Little Brown Bat as its official state mammal

we will control the horizontal: an omnibus post on vintage tv test patterns—see also 

itunes: an 1876 suggestion to use Alexander Graham Bell’s recently patented telephone machine to listen to music remotely

elephant & castle: a finely curated collection of maps and posters for the London Underground 

Monday, 10 June 2019


Though I am not sure why the commemoration didn’t take place last June when the Western powers tried to shore up Germany currency and head off inflation and continued economic recession precipitating a blockade on West Berlin, well behind Soviet lines of control, or when the blockade ended on after midnight 12 May 1949 or when deliveries officially stopped at the end of the fiscal year, the Wiesbaden Army Airfield, named in honour of General Lucius Clay, who thought up and commanded the operation, is celebrating the Berlin Airlift’s seventieth anniversary and remembering the lives of one hundred and one individuals who lost their lives in the breakneck execution of such a logistical feat.
Calculating out the ration of food and fuel (nearly two-thirds of the total cargo of some two million tonnes was coal) that each citizen and soldier required, thousands of missions—at their highest tempo, some fifteen hundred sorties per day, brought food, materiel and rotations of soldiers in and out of Tempelhof from a dozen sending aerodromes. It is estimated that the US heavy bombers repurposed as the largest capacity carriers travelled one Astronomical Unit in all during the course of the year—that is, the distance from the Earth to Sun, one hundred fifty million kilometres.

 The event included an air-show with formation flights of vintage aircraft and other military vehicles and equipment, reenactors, numerous exhibits on the history and context of post-war geopolitics and aid to rebuild Europe, including the Marshall Plan and the CARE programme.
 There was also a USO revue that in part recreated the 1948 troop show that Bob Hope hosted held in the same hangars for the pilots and crew in Wiesbaden, a Big Band performance plus special guests, including witnesses to history along with Colonel Gail “Hal” Halvorsen (*1920)—known as the Berlin Candy Bomber (der Rosinenbomber) for his Operation Little Vittles that parachuted chocolate parcels to the children of the divided city.