Monday, 30 September 2019


On this day in 1969, to commemorate the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the founding of the DDR, the iconic structure also known as the Urania World Clock (for the Uraniasäule that was destroyed in the war which it replaced as a public timepiece) was unveiled to the public in East Berlin’s Alexanderplatz as part of a plan to modernise the square and make it a showcase for the world. Envisioned by Czechoslovakian designer Erich John, the metal rotunda supported by a twenty-four-sided column representing the main time zones of the Earth displays the current time for one hundred forty eight cities, periodically updated to reflect contemporary geopolitics. The turret mechanism is in constant motion but it is imperceptible except in time-lapse.


Much to my abject horror—especially considering how I nag H about recycling and how I aspire to be better—I was zero-days old yesterday once I realised to my shock (being raised around tubs of Shedd’s Spread Country Crock is no excuse as I’ve lived here going on two decades now) that plastic packaging like yogurt cups and containers for butter and other spreads have a printed cardboard hull that must be separated and sorted for proper disposal.
I know that once such things were wholly plastic, something more rigid and not needing the support of a cardboard frame, and many still are—but I shudder at the thought while the onus for reducing and recycling is on us as consumers to think how many good intentions have been spoilt through contamination. It’s a little sneaky and I’ve never seen the surface layer peeled back in the store or cupboard, but the labeling is present and I’ll wager Germany has conducted outreach campaigns. I hope through my disabused ignorance that a bit more trash gets sorted in the end.


The artist behind the avant-garde and pioneering Triadic Ballet Oskar Schlemmer (previously here and here) painted in protest and as a farewell the work pictured of the stairwell (Treppenhaus) of the Bauhaus compound in Dessau in response to the decision of the Nazi-dominated city-council to close the institution on 30 September 1932.  The tableau of the students ascending the staircase and the viewer slipping away symbolises the movement and kindred affiliates being cast into the realm of the ideal rather than being allowed to remain in the practical and engaged—as was part of their stated objectives.
The painting was bought by collectors in New York in 1933 and began part of the original collection of the Museum of Modern Art, spirited away before it was deemed unpatriotic and officially sanctioned as degenerate (Entartete Kunst).

Sunday, 29 September 2019

pardon my french

Due to the candid and colourful language of Chaucer, we learn via The History of English that Middle English unguarded vulgarities was referred to as reverting to the Anglo-Saxon.
Despite how sensibilities change, some words remain too taboo for common parlance and polite company and there’s certainly much history in its waxing and waning. A particular intensifier that’s in certain contexts lightly veiled as fcuk was given its first imprimatur far better disguised though the cognoscenti could decipher the meaning: the mixed English and Latin poem of the sixteen-hundreds titled Fleas, flies and friars lobbies an indictment against the monks as non sunt in cœli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk—by advancing to the next letter, i and j as u, w and v not yet distinguished to impugn their religious community, masking the women of Ely and their trysts that make the religious figures hypocrites. We’re also reminded throughout how bawdy and lewd The Canterbury Tales is to inspire such an expression as the above reversion and how history will probably either judge us for our prudishness, cruelty or crudity of the graffiti will leave behind.


Via Boing Boing, we are introduced to the repertoire of the electronic virtuosi of theremin (previously) performer Konstanin Kovalsky (*1890 – †1976) accompanied by Vyacheslav Mescherin’s (*1923 – †1995) orchestra.  For a span of over thirty years from the late 1950s through 1990 music from this ensemble, their compositions were heard daily as the incidental music and soundscaping of radio and television programming. Most was mood-music/easy-listening (Lawrence Welk sort of stuff) but special commissions also included an electronic version of The Internationale to be beamed into outer space with the launch of Sputnik. Find more of their collaborations here and at the link above.

Saturday, 28 September 2019


In order to curb congestion along the capital’s crowded corridors, Brussels’ municipal authorities are encouraging the return of hitchhiking, albeit with the help of a digital intermediary, to match up drivers with spare seats—most ridership as in most of the developed world is a one occupant per vehicle).
At first it struck me as a gimmicky partnership, but the point of putting the scheme behind a mobile application is not to try to rival other ride-hailing and rider-sharing services but to instil a sense of trust, insofar as the person that one’s who is accepting the ride may be a stranger but is not unknown to the network, registration and vetting required and a digital fingerprint is left in case something untoward were to happen. There’s no payment involved for using the service, leaving any exchange up to the driver and passenger, if any, and the chief motivation is to reduce traffic. The app could also, I suppose, become a gauge of reputation for problem riders or problem drivers. What do you think? Would you sign on? Old, traditional solutions are often not the most sexy or exciting but still the most reliable.

Friday, 27 September 2019

im westen nichts neues

Whilst there has been no official response from Berlin regarding the transcribed exchange between Trump and Zelenskiy, the Foreign Ministry was forthcoming with details on aid expenditures it has provided to Ukraine bilaterally and through EU funding streams since the country was invaded and annexed by Russia in 2014.
The newly elected president (whom to his great credit) was not willing to entertain quid pro quo on Trump’s terms—though was unable to resist the delivering a few lines of flattery by mentioning his stay in Trump Tower), walked-back his criticism (it being questionable whether he wasn’t going along with Trump in the first place) and expressed gratitude to all European leaders for what aid and assistance his country has received, though reserving the right to frame the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which bypasses Ukraine, as a threat to energy security—rather than the desperate, cloying, late-stage petro-capitalism it is.

gb 12982-2004

Adopted this day in 1949 and first flown by the People's Liberation Army over Tiananmen Square three days later, the national flag of China charged with five golden stars representing unity among the social classes had its construction details presented the following during the first plenary session of the People's Political Consultative Conference.
The design by economist Zeng Liansong (*1971 - †1999) was selected by Zhou Enlai (though choosing to edit out the hammer and sickle in the large star in the canton, the upper-most hoist quarter of flags) out of some three thousand entrants. The published instructions, then distributed across the country, are filed under a mandatory standard Guobiao (国标, GB), similar to (and conforming with in most cases) ISO or DIN.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

a christening

During a naming ceremony for the eponymous RRS Sir David Attenborough—a polar research vessel (see previously), attended by the esteemed naturalist with thousands of onlookers and hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the shipyard at Cammel Laird, poet laureate Simon Armitage commemorated the occasion with a special commission entitled Ark, with a very powerful and haunting refrain:

They sent out a dove: it wobbled home,
wings slicked in a rainbow of oil,
a sprig of tinsel snagged in its beak,
a yard of fishing-line binding its feet.

Bring back, bring back the leaf.

They sent out an artic fox:
it plodded the bays of the northern fringe
in muddy socks
and a nylon cape.

Bring back, bring back the leaf.
Bring back the reed and the reef,
set the ice sheet back on its frozen plinth,
tuck the restless watercourse into it bed,
sit the glacier down on its highland throne.
put the snow cap back on the mountain peak.

Let the northern lights be northern lights
not the alien glow over Glasgow or Leeds.

A camel capsized in a tropical flood.
Caimans dozing in Antarctic lakes.
Polymers rolled in the sturgeon’s blood.
Hippos wandered the housing estates.

Bring back, bring back the leaf.
Bring back the tusk and the horn
Bring back the fern, the fish, the frond and the fowl,
the golden toad and the pygmy owl,
 revisit the scene
where swallowtails fly
through acres of unexhausted sky.

They sent out a boat.
Go little breaker,
splinter the pack-ice and floes, nose
through the rafts and pads
of wrappers and bottles and nurdles and cans,
the bergs and atolls and islands and states
of plastic bags and micro-beads
and the forests of smoke.

Bring back, bring back the leaf,
bring back the river and bring back the sea.

blok p

Built in the mid-1960s and finally demolished in 2012, this long resident hall in the capital Nuuk was constructed under the direction of the Folketinget’s programme to moderise its autonomous overseas territory by enticing people to move from coastal settlements, once housing one percent of the population of the world’s largest island—recalling this compound in Alaska.
Made to continental standards, however, the apartments began to prove unpopular with their occupants, finding doors and passageways too narrow for residents coming in wearing full winter gear, absent other storage space, fishing gear crowded balconies and fire-escapes and there was often problems with the plumbing, bath tubs being the only practical place to carve up their catch. One face of the building was emblazoned with the Greenlandic flag, made of discarded pieces of apparel stitched together by a local artist and photographer called Julie Edel Hardenberg with the help of school children. The last tenants were rehoused in estates elsewhere in the Qinngorput district by the airport.


Wednesday, 25 September 2019


On this day in 1789, the US Congress approved twelve articles of amendments to the Constitution addressing guarantees of personal liberties and rights. Articles three through twelve became the Bill of Rights, ratified by member states. The second article was eventually ratified in 1992 as the Twenty-Seventh Amendment.
The Congressional Apportionment Amendment (originally titled Article the First) is still pending and proffers a mathematical formula for setting the number of representatives in the lower house by population, one per every thirty thousand citizens. Congress had generally followed this convention by statue up until 1911 when the number of districts (though not their boundaries) were set at 435, with six additional non-voting members, American Samoa at-large, the District of Columbia at-large, Guam at-large, Puerto Rico at-large, the US Virgin Islands at-large, and the Northern Mariana Islands at-large, who mostly caucus with the Democratic party. A seat for the Cherokee Nation has also been established but has never been filled. The Philippines and Cuba also sent resident commissioners to Congress—also with no voting rights but well before the present scheme was established in the early 1970s, the exclusion based on the fact that these colonies accorded no citizenship rights and therefore retained the right secede from the Union, unlike the incorporated lands


Though one could always question the decision of the UK government to refuse a bailout to the world’s oldest tour company, Thomas Cook collapsing after one hundred and seventy-eight years of operation and a victim of progress plus its own mismanagement—especially when repatriation costs are already approaching half of the requested funds to keep the company solvent, Germany has chosen to intervene in the case of its domestic affiliates with the state stepping in to offer a bridge loan to keep the company—headquartered in Oberursel (previously)—whilst it restructures.

publick occurrences both forreign and domestick

Intended to be a monthly publication or “if any Glut of Occurences happen, offener,” the first multipage newspaper in the Americas (broadsides, single page notices had been printed in Cambridge in the colony of Massachusetts since the previous year), released its inaugural and final edition on this day in 1690 in Boston. Though the paper had consisted of four pages, there was only enough content to fill three (see also). There was no second edition due to the paper being closed by the colonial government four days after the first issue for failing to obtain the proper license for publication—“without the least Privity and Countenace of Authority.”

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

opening titles

Courtesy of the Awesomer, we are treated to the musical stylings of the duo Bei Bei Zheng with piano accompaniment from Vera Yaqi Mackay performing a singular cover of Dick Dale and the Del Tones’ surf rock anthem Misirlou (previously). Bei Bei replaces the guitar with the traditional Chinese instrument called the zheng (箏), an ancient pentatonic zither dated from the Qin dynasty with twenty-one strings to the tune, itself inspired by an Ottoman folksong referring to an Egyptian girl in Turkish that was often used for belly dancing. The up and down harmonic progression is known as hijaz kar.

unlawful, void and to no effect

Having after three days of deliberation, coming to the legal consensus that prorogation was “justiciable” and subject to the court’s purview as a reserved (residual) power and not strictly a political matter—in which case, the court would have thrown out the case—the Supreme Court president Lady Hale returned the unanimous decision, aligning with other senior courts, that the suspension of Parliament was an abuse of executive power and therefore illegal, with implication that Johnson misled the Queen in seeking her permission. As court of last resort with no further possibility of appeal, its badge incorporates the Greek letter Omega (Ω) to signify this final authority. Suspended since the tenth of September, Parliament will reconvene beginning at noon tomorrow.

head and shoulders

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we find ourselves confronted, buffeted by the præternatural canniness of this royalty-free stock photo library of faces (see previously here and here)—one hundred thousand of them but surely these legions are limitless—all generated by machine to use as one sees fit.  Summoning these beings into existence of a sort, undoubtedly we owe some responsibility for these models and this endless gallery, real from synthetic indistinguishable must evoke a sense of empathy. If people really did have the conviction that a camera could steal one’s soul, there are more superstitions to overcome, but maybe there comes a point when the liminal acquire agency and identity. Conveniently, one can download this whole population from the Phantom Zone as a compressed file. What do you think? H teases me because I was set against getting a robotic lawnmower, anticipating that it might not have chosen that life of toil. I was being serious, wondering what careless capricious impulses might be driving us.

the conversation i had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place

After given a pass (albeit temporary) on the question of Russian collusion, a signals officer elevated a matter of grave concern through his chain-of-command and the channels provided to redress such worries.
Not a leak but a whistleblower complaint, though there was a bottleneck met with push-back from Trump appointees refusing to present the worries to Congress—the filing strongly suggests that during multiple telephone calls with the newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump pressed authorities there to launch an investigation into his apparent contender Joe Biden through his son’s chairmanship on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, accusing both, without evidence, of corruption.  Amid calls for the full transcripts to be released, Trump admitted that they took place—even suggesting that the US is withholding a quarter of a billion dollars in military aid to the country (during joint exercises) if they fail to produce some dirty laundry on the Bidens. Aside from intensified calls for the impeachment (a minor update) of Trump over this treacherous and anti-democratic behaviour, White House advisors also fear that giving up this one transcript would set a precedent to publish all such private discussions, checking presidential candor, including dialogue between Trump and Putin or Trump and the Saudi royals.

Monday, 23 September 2019

radiophonic workshop

Via the ever engaging Things Magazine, we are introduced to the filmic repertoire of the artist formerly known as Missus Mad Max through these clever remixes and reducia of the haunting and iconic theme of the long-running franchise Doctor Who (previously) imagined in the style of modern instrumental composers including Vangelis and John Carpenter. Much more to explore at the links above.


Via her excellency Nag on the Lake, we discover that the infamous fatberg of Whitechapel (previously) has been memorialised with a special manhole cover.
The one hundred-thirty tonne blockage discovered beneath the east London district was comprised of an unsavoury amalgamation of wet-wipes, cooking oil and other items that are not meant for the sewer system—sort of like the problem of aspirational recycling whose good intentions can spoil the whole batch which can prove overtaxing for even the best engineered though ageing infrastructure.

Sunday, 22 September 2019


Via the Awesomer, we very much enjoyed this primer and introduction to the very idiosyncratic language that the couple Bill and Tanya have cultivated as most are familiar with, H and I included, with a whole vocabulary not privy to others. Starting as euphemisms and code to be used in front of their children (something very relatable), afterwards during their empty nest years, the Martins developed a more complete grammar, addressing one another almost exclusively in their constructed tongue perfectly inscrutable to anyone else.  What pet phrases are held in common between you and your significant other alone?

grube messel

On my way back to my workweek apartment, I finally took the opportunity to explore the Messel pit, a UNESCO World Heritage site though probably singular among that group for not yielding up its treasures and those that have been unearthed belong in collections spread across the globe. Though the outline of the caldera seems apparent now, the volcanic lake that gives to researchers on average a well preserved fossil specimen once every quarter hour would not exist as it does today, looking back and documenting in great detail a snap-shot of life circa forty-eight million years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, if not for a series of accidents, beginning with quarry operations in 1859, when oil shale was discovered.
I happened to arrive just in time to take the last tour of the day, the only way to venture down into the pit. Miners back at the time were discovering fossils in this Lagerstätte but due the depositional characteristics of the formation (most remains discovered are not petrified or mummified but captured as fleetingly delicate impressions) but after a few hours’ dehydration, the fossils would disintegrate into a big fish tale. Demand and war drove digging which waxed and waned over the years, the quarry being used as a place to store the rubble of Darmstadt after its destruction during WWII, and during the early 1970s, the place was nearly turned into a permanent landfill (the war also created a make-work site to employ locals breaking bricks—and as amateur palæontologists while the economy recovered) until the decision was overturned by strong protests and the land was purchased by the state of Hesse. Hobby fossil-hunters developed a resin-transfer technique to preserve fossils once exposed outside of their containing matrix around this time and has been widely adopted as standard practise. Constant pumping keeps the ground water from welling up and universities continue slow and careful excavation.
We were able to inspect some recent discoveries, the slates kept from dehydrating in a water bath and were privileged to pass around a fish fossil (see also). Though the mascot of the Messel Pit is Ida, the singular Darwinius Masillæ—a transitional lemur-like creature that also had characteristics prefiguring the simians, primates being distinguished in the main by the wetness or dryness of their noses—the site was finally elevated in 1995 with UNESCO status not because of any individual find, including crocodiles, giant squirrels and nine pairs of copulating turtles caught in the act—far predating Pompeii, but rather because of the sheer volume and scientific rigour that it took to share what one uncovered, which underscores the problem of preservation.

Saturday, 21 September 2019


In anticipation of a new, life-affirming cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1978 funk classic “September” (see also) from screenwriter Demi Adejuyigbe, let’s take a moment to appreciate his previous annual submissions. In the meantime, we can also appreciate the original song from Maurice White, Al McKay, Allee Willis, et al.   Never was a cloudy day!


Via Art of Darkness’ Shadow Manor Blog, we learn that after sitting dormant for the past twenty years, the online presence of Gary Larson’s The Far Side (previously) was recently subject to a major new announcement, teasing its return. The curious are advised to stay tuned for further updates.

Friday, 20 September 2019

cheeto christ stupid czar

In anticipation of this weekend’s Emmy Awards, NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross has reprised interviews from earlier in the year from some of the nominees, including an enjoyable exchange with performer Randy Rainbow well worth revisiting.
I had intended to post Rainbow’s parody vignette of the show tune “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” lampooning the 2017 Alabama senate campaign in which a sexual predatory with the support of another sexual predator happily lost his bid, the better judgment of the electorate prevailing, thinking there couldn’t possibly be any other number more on point. This interview and medley from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera, however, are surpassingly good and address Trump’s latest loathsome antics.


There’s a really intuitive and simple feature in the mobile version of Wikipedia that I think makes it a quite indispensable feature for its capacity to generate serendipity (a rather scarce commodity these days) that allows one to find articles about features nearby. Without this exploratory function, I would have dismissed the Poor Souls Chapel, a wayside sanctuary that is very abundant in this region along with Bildstock and other roadside monuments, as something fairly unremarkable. I found however that this tiny chapel along the country road that we pass regularly to have a very well maintained and well connected page associated with it, which chronicles the history of the area through one act of remembrance and penance.
During the August 1078 battle between Oberstreu and Mellrichstadt, Count Poppo of House Henneberg was severely wounded and later died, being delivered his fatal blow here, expiring in transit, or according to local lore, imploring his sons to honour his memory with a pilgrimage site in view of his beloved Lichtenberg that watched over Ostheim.  The conflict itself was a direct result of the Road to Canossa, around a year prior, which dashed Henry IV to be restored as to the throne after his excommunication, and strengthened the position of his challenger Prince Rudolf of Swabia and his supporters, precipitating the fight between neighbours, who happened to be opposite factions. The medieval wooden pietà was stolen sometime in 1995 and later replaced, as was the earlier cross taken down and replaced with a sturdy one to better weather the elements. Be sure to check out the Wikipedia app and share what historical connections you find just under foot. 

a fungus among us

Though tasking an artificial intelligence to name any thing can elicit some rather choice and bizarre monikers, it becomes doubly strange when training on classes of things which already have been given a rather off-kilter and proprietary form of nomenclature—especially to be found among cultivated foods (see previously)—with mushrooms, wild and domestic, being no exception—reflecting our own odd descriptors back to us.
Pictured is—found in the woods, I think (do not use this site as a guide to adjudicate anything fit for human consumption)—boletus edulis, otherwise known as a porcino, hog mushroom, Steinpilz, stone mushroom, Herrenpilz, a noble one, cep (French—for its fat stalk) and in English penny bun. While not poisonous, it is easy to mistake for its inedible—by dint of extreme bitterness—cousin, boletus badius. A few of our algorithmically-generated favourites included Sapient Ink, Wizard Flange, Grizzly-Faced Duckytoot and Smiley Facecap. Be sure to visit AI Weirdness at the links above for some more automated taxonomy and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a post.


foreverspin: a lovely film exploring the cross-cultural phenomenon of tops by the design duo Ray and Charles Eames (previously) with a playful, cinematic score by Elmer Bernstein

empire state of mind: re-examining the legacy of the Russian Revolution for Central Asia

bereitschaftspotential: an abiding experiment refuting free will seems to have been overturned, via The New Shelton Wet/Dry

east enders: Spitalfields Life celebrates its tenth anniversary revisiting some of the Gentle Author’s favourite posts

long play: a major drinks conglomerate pledges to spin plastic straws into vinyl records in the transition away from single use items

rendered environments: ambient animations from Georgian artist Sandro Tatinashvili

axis of rotation: a master-class in the art of the yo-yo

Thursday, 19 September 2019

cracker jack

In response to a petition levied against the fast food industry championed by two young people from Hampshire in southern England, one chain has committed to stop handing out promotional plastic toys with children’s meals, foregoing the chance for market tie-ins, out of respect for the environment.
Restaurants will also have an amnesty bin to return old, unwanted toys, whose plastic cannot be recycled in the collection schemes used by most municipalities for packaging, where they can be melted down and reincarnated as something else. The franchise’s chief rival countered that while it will not eliminate toys giveaways altogether, it will offer customers alternatives and look into manufacturing them from less polluting materials.


Though only producing four albums and disbanding after ten concerts together, we appreciated the introduction to the short-lived musical collaboration courtesy of Dangerous Minds to the Swiss Neue Welle group Grauzone (grey area) with their standout 1981 single Eisbär, their biggest hit charting at number twelve in Germany and number six in Austria.
Drummer and bassist Macro Repetto joined up with vocalist and led guitar Martin Eicher backed up by Eicher’s guitarist brother, Stephen (whom later went on to forge an accomplished solo career as a chanteur), and saxophonist Claudine Chirac and had their first gig at a club in Bern in the spring of 1980, their musical stylings were instantly recognised as something resonant that spoke to the mood of the times. Their songs were remastered in 2010, the accompanying video produced for that release. Much more to explore at the link above.

the art of knolling

Coined in 1987 by a janitor named Andrew Kromelow who was working at Frank Gehry’s furniture workshop and at the end of the day, neatly arrange the tools whilst the studio was designing chairs for the artist Florence Knoll, one can find such precision presentations recreated everywhere, including emergency services around the world challenge one another to put their kit on display, like these first responders from Switzerland. The initialism and mantra ABK, “Always be Knolling” is in deference to Glengarry Glen Ross’ “Always be Closing.” Much more to explore at Things magazine at the link above.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019


Previously we’ve encountered the Swedish term for flight shaming, and in an article on work-life balance and how some companies are beginning to accommodate staff willing to forego air travel for public and ground-based transportation options by offering extra annual leave to accomplish the legs of the journey we’re introduced to its corollary concept: train bragging.
Not immodesty like a humble-brag or outright boasting since negotiating the network of trains and trams takes some skill and planning and people are right to take pride in lessening their environmental impact but rather that some places are better serviced by rail and mass-transit infrastructure than others. Long-distance trips in under-serviced, remote areas are pretty untenable by means other than flying—though those passengers also have the leverage to make the airlines innovate and be better stewards of the skies.

germany calling

On this day in 1939, at the behest of the Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Nazi Germany first broadcast its English language programme, signing on with “Germany calling! Here are the Reichssender Hamburg, station Bremen.”
The usual format for the show included news segments and jazz music performed by an in studio ensemble—which was otherwise banned domestically—presented by a host of announcers known collectively as Lord Haw-Haw, all speaking with an affected aristocratic accent (the BBC dubbed the US pro-Nazi broadcaster, see also, Fred W. Kaltenbach—known for his homey, hayseed “Letters to Iowa”—Lord Hee-Haw). As noxious as the message was, rife with exaggeration, the show had a dedicated listenership in the UK, Canada, America and Australia owing to that it was the only news source from behind the front and occasionally read notices from prisoners-of-war to relatives back home. The programme ended on 30 April 1945 when British troops took Hamburg, Horst Pinschewer, a German refugee who took the name Geoffrey Perry when he enlisted in the army, making the next regularly scheduled broadcast to announce the British takeover.


The always excellent podcast Hidden Brain boldly tackles a subject that is usually avoided or talked around in polite company if not suppressed to the point of being a social taboo: death.
Approaching the topic via the broad and non-empirical idea that fear of death drives every decision we make and informs and limits our agency with some evidence-based psychological experiments, we see that although we think we are avoiding the matter of our own mortality and legacy in not articulating it, we’re always practising terror management in one form or another, and couched as we all are in the comforts of convention, we remain unaware of these instigations until confronted with its unforgiving finality. Necessary and human as the anxiety is, we cede more power to a nebulous and unnamed fear that serves to reinforce the judgments and opinions it covertly influences. Ibidem the same source as above, we are treated to another podcast—from Vox magazine—that correlates well with the theme of memento mori but this time musically. Four close and dark notes from a Gregorian mass intoned at funerals—Dies Iræ, Reckoning, the Day of Wrath—still resounds and is hiding everywhere in popular culture. The same tones cue us (perhaps steel us) to something grim approaching and is sampled in scores of film and television soundscapes. Cultural hegemony being what it is, I wonder how universal these impulses and signifiers are.

senate joint resolution 1

After it was revealed that less than a one percent margin in the popular ballot in the US 1968 presidential election had netted Richard Nixon a domineering fifty-six percent of the electors in the Electoral College (populists George Wallace and retired General Curtis LeMay of the American Independence Party also ran), Congress came for the first and closest time in history to abolishing the institution during debates held in the chamber on this day in 1969, bi-partisan support three hundred thirty-nine in favour with seventy against.
The bill to rescind the institution through constitutional amendment, sponsored in response to public concern by Brooklyn representative Emanuel Celler (*1888 – †1981, serving in Congress just two months shy of fifty years), received endorsement by Nixon and was championed in the Senate by Birch Bayh (*1928 – †2019, whose successful bid for senator in 1962 was larger attributed to the catchy campaign jingle ‘Hey, look him over,/He’s your kind of guy./His first name is Birch,/His last name is Bayh.’).
The motion, debated in the senatorial chamber the next September, on the eighth, however encountered opposition from smaller states, fearful that they would face political marginalisation without the outsized power of their electors (see also) and progress was stymied with filibustering. Though Nixon did not publicly withdraw his support, he also refused to try to persuade any fellow Republican to alter their stance, causing the attempt to fall short of the required threshold.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

for the nonce

Though not usually in the business of documenting isolated uses, we discover nonetheless via the Oxford English Dictionary word of the day subscription service a rather delightful example in Ogden Nash’s one-off murdermongeress, appearing in a 1957 poetic reflection on Agatha Christie, whom was fairly singular in her field but nowadays the crime writer genre is more equitable.  Presumably non-gendered, a murdermonger was a term used in the late 1700s for a professional killer. A flock of crows is called a murder purely for arbitrary reasons compiled in a rather fanciful book on venery that sought to ennoble or debase animals based on the characteristics we assume them to have (see also)—that and their presence at the gallows. Relatedly, in the company of ravens we encounter three different names depending on the group’s activity: a constabulary (keeping watch, as over the Tower of London), an unkindness (see above) or a conspiracy (hunting in packs rather than scavenging alone).

find your hidden talent

H some times judges me for posting such things—which I assuredly deserve, but we enjoyed unapologetically indulging in this circumspective article from Pasa Bon! on the art and science (owing to friction and the Van der Waals force, discovered by a fellow Hollander—crucial for developing nanotechnology and for geckos walking on ceilings) of spoon hanging and subjects adjacent. Don’t let a perceived language barrier intimidate exploring the site further, since you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much is universal and intuitive.

i took a trip on a gemini spaceship

Via the resplendent Everlasting Blört, we are treated to a series of never before released photographs of David Bowie (*1947 – †2016) captured by Markus Klinko for his 2002 studio album Heathen, images inspired by the neoclassic, come-backs tracks. Klinko whom has since worked with a number of recording artists was engaged by Bowie after the photographer took the book jacket picture for the cover of Bowie’s wife’s autobiography, I am Iman. Learn more and discover a whole gallery of galley proofs at the links above.

prayvaganza and purely scientific post-script

There’s a certain hegemony to the present that privileges the living and those living though it to declare work of fiction—allegory or otherwise—to be especially resounding and addressing them directly, granted, but there’s something particularly prescient to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (previously) which describes the world’s trajectory, which doubtless also spoke to the author and her readership at the time of writing, publication back in 1985, that’s really hard to shake. Such is the mark of good writing, and I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t read Atwood’s brisk, engaging story of dystopian transition from democracy to theocracy that cozened up to the fragility of the male ego and fears of displacement of the status quo. Atwood, nor none of the other storytellers with accounts caution, visionary or otherwise, aspires to be a prophet and hopeful with warnings as dark and dire and banally begun the sort of future set forth here could be avoided. Sorry for being Johnny-come-Lately to this novel and highly recommend anyone re-read it in anticipation of the recently published sequel.

Monday, 16 September 2019

you wouldn’t like me when i’m angry

Whilst former Prime Minister David Cameron characterises Johnson’s faith in leaving the EU only qualified and continues on this trajectory to preserve his political career, just ahead of a Monday lunchtime meeting with European Commission president regarding the Irish border for which all and sundry have pretty lower expectations and the British Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality (prompted by accusations by the Scottish court) of proroguing Parliament, the Prime Minister, digging in, compares himself to the Incredible Hulk during an interview with the widely-circulated tabloid The Daily Mail.
“[Bruce] Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them,” he said, channeling the immense though chaotic and destructive strength of the comic book character. “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.” EU officials counter that the comparison belies a lack of maturity, even by Trumpian standards, more pitiable than intimidating. The UK will reject further Brexit delays. Hulk smash!

rip ric osasek (*1944 - †2019)


Despite far less consensus and surety regarding the exact culprit among the scientific community compared to the unity that we have for anthropogenic climate change today, the world’s nations unilaterally came together to draft and enforce a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the outcome of a convention held in Montreal which became an international and universal priority on this day in 1987.
Depletion of atmospheric ozone first discovered and researched, with its grave implications limned and communicated during the intervening years, within just a little more than fourteen years public and political will aligned and overcame deniers and those in impacted industries—aerosol and cooling, with a managed phase-out of the most harmful compounds that fostered willing partnerships and commitments for reform. Among the few environmental success stories to hold up as examples of what we can achieve (though we should also be vigilant to avoid losing those gains and there’s unfinished business yet), human change has allowed the ozone layer to repair and replenish itself.


In the early hours of this morning in 1979, eight members of two families, realising the fruition of a plot hatched over a year and a half beforehand with careful planning and patience so as not to arouse suspicion, one attempt that ended in resounding failure that almost led to their capture and detention and brought heavier surveillance plus three hand-stitched balloon membranes, crossed from Pößneck in East Germany to Naila just over the border in Bavaria in a hand-engineered hot air balloon with navigation improvised. Read (or listen to) the full story about the harrowing heroics of the families Strelzyk and Wetzel and their determination to secure a future in the West at the link above.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

offset und verlag

Via Present /&/ Correct, we are acquainted with yet another publishing trade magazine this time in the form of the bimonthly then annual anthology editions of Graphis Press, originally founded in Zürich in 1944 and moving to New York headquarters in 1986. Featuring innovations in typography, formatting, layout, presentation, branding, logos and letterhead, past contributors include Milton Glaser, Saul Bass, Victor Vasarely and Herb Lubalin. Much more to explore at the links above.

yes r’lyeh

Via Shadow Manor’s Art of Darkness blog, we are reintroduced to the illustrations and rhyming couplets of deviant artist DrFaustusAU and his complete body of works that survey the genres of science fiction and horror in the style of Doctor Seuss. We especially liked some of the panels from The Shining and HP Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulu. Check out the links above for more.


A unique form of monumental public crucifix that displays scenes from the Passion, the oldest surviving examples date back to the mid thirteenth century and reflect a megalithic tradition anchored in Bretagne and spreading eastwards.
One of the first examples we encountered on a recent trip was this modern, Art Nouveau interpretation of a calvary (from Golgotha, Γολγοθᾶς, Syriac for the “Place of Skulls,” transliterated as Κρανίου Τόπος or in Latin Calvariæ Locus) in the town of Tréguier (the town of Saint Tudwal) erected by local clergy in 1904 in protest over municipal authorities choosing to honour a controversial native son, the anticlerical theological and ethnology scholar Ernest Renan with a statue provocatively in the square of the cathedral during the previous year, reserved formerly for the temporary installation of displays and processions.
Church steeples also had an interesting and individualised architectural vernacular, with flying elements and each village topped with something unique and articulated. An ancient calvary more in context we found in the churchyard of Locronan (Lokorn, the name meaning the hermitage of Rónán, a sixth century Irish missionary), and is the focal point for some of the major pardons, a Breton form of ceremonial pilgrimage—held on saint days and for which an indulgence, excuse to celebrity—like Saint Patrick’s Day in the middle of Lent, is granted.