Thursday, 31 October 2019


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

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

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

dy’ halan gwav

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


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

happy halloween!

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

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

who dat?

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

do or die

On what was guaranteed to be Brexit eve on All Hallows Eve (that date pushed back to the end of January 2020), after being rejected three times by the House of Commons, the Prime Minister secured a snap poll for a general election in mid-December, now under debate in the House of Lords.
Members had roundly rejected calls to move beyond gridlock through holding another vote given the way that particular stratagem had backfired for his predecessor and netted a hung parliament until Labour leadership (previously) conceded that they would support this “once-in-a-generation” event. The last election held that late in the year and close to the holiday season was on 6 December 1923, causing the fall of the Conservatives and allowed Labour to form a government for the first time.

der schwarze kanal

With West German terrestrial broadcasts penetrating most of East Germany outside of Dresden and the Baltic coast (signal jamming out of the question as it would affect the sender’s reception as well because of the territories’ geography, the excluded area in the far east bordering Poland was referred affectionately as Tal der Ahnungslosen—Valley of the Uninformed), the DDR from 1960 until 1989 (ceasing broadcasts on this day) aired counter-programming in the form of a weekly clip-show that took extracts from Western television repackaged to include a Communist spin. Originally created as a foil to a West German news segment that fact-checked East German reporting, the agitprop “Soil Pipe” became an outlet for parodying western programming to the point where it was impossible to distinguish between sincerity and satire. Concluding its run just days ahead of the borders opening, the East German television service (Deutscher Fernsehfunk, DFF) declared itself “free from government influence” during the last episode.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

wario is libertarian mario

We thoroughly enjoyed this run-down of the political alignments of every playable character in Super Mario Kart courtesy of Boing Boing. Like the title which the screenwriters from Story Break have proffered for some time, the nuances surpass partisan lines with generalisations that are probably pretty accurate in terms of wonkiness about one’s choice of strengths, weapon, steed or jockey. “Tanooki Mario I think would only care about kink-shaming.” “I think Shy Guy would be a foreign policy kind of person and like really anti-interventionost.” “All the babies are hypernationists, as they’re in their first stage of moral development.” What do you think? Can every choice be tribalised and politicized? This is all canon.

Monday, 28 October 2019


Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we are treated to the versification of McSweeney’s contributor Ross Wolinsky in his piece The Millennial Raven, which is really rather on point and blast on-putting. As inviting and compelling with its galloping metre and rhythm to read to its mundane and inconsequential conclusion as the original (see also) narrative poem, we are made to choose what distresses us. Here’s a select stanza:

And the rumbles growing stronger; until I could wait no longer,
“Hey Siri,” said I, “I’m hungry, and so must gently implore;
But the fact is I was sexting, when so gently came a texting,
Slightly vexing, when it said my sushi’s waiting at my door.”
Put my shoes on, went downstairs—and here I opened wide the door;—
Just a flyer, nothing more.


Our thanks again to Nag on the Lake for turning our attention towards party tradition that’s entering its fifth iteration, the mundane Halloween ball (Jimi Halloween, 地味ハロウィン)—organised and attended by adults wanting to celebrate the occasion (see also) but were not yet ready for the commitment to flamboyant and elaborate costumes. Instead, party-goers would dress for everyday situations and potentially awkward interactions, the outfits begging the question what-are-you-supposed-to-be and soliciting a satisfying answer of acknowledgment and understanding. If I were a judge at the event, I’d certainly award top honours to Man Face-Swapping with his Starbucks Cup. I did a thing. Many more relatable characters at the link up top.

argos navis

By way of a rather glum article on an extinct species of bird related to but far lesser known than the dodo, we are introduced to the concept of superannuated constellations (see previously)—the most veteran being the asterism of the Southern Hemisphere named after Jason and the Argonauts’ ship, itself developed from the Egyptian identification as the Boat of Osiris and named by the classical astronomer Ptolemy as one of the chief forty-eight described in his Almagest.  Due to the large patch of sky it occupied, it Argos Navis was broken up in mid-eighteenth century charts to its constituents parts Puppis (the poop deck or stern), Vela (the sails) and Carina (the hull).
Like a syllabary of obscure and unused emoji characters, there’s quite a listing of obsolete groupings from the century prior, many named by botanist, amateur astrologer and quack John Hill (*1714 – †1775) whose name sadly isn’t inscribed among the stars, much like our dead dodo’s cousin Turdus Solitarius (Rodrigues solitaire). Others that are now dissolved, merged or incorporated into presently accredited constellations, speaking to their age, include Globis Ærostatiscus (the hot air balloon), Dentalium (tooth enamel), Sciurus Volans (flying squirrel), Phœnicopterus (pink flamingo) and Officina Typographica (the printshop). Sadly too none of these fall within the tropics of the Zodiac.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

spring forward, fall back

About a week ago I recall expressing my feeling of gratitude for not having to seasonally adjust the clocks (though mostly this is accomplished automatically and effortlessly with only our dumb and disconnected timepieces needful of our attention) not remembering properly how the change takes place so late in October, which I suppose only speaks to the disruptive and disorientating nature of the practise in the first place.

Though pleased with the outcome of the European Union referendum regarding the end of daylight savings time and leaving the seasons to the tilt and shift of the planet (albeit it was one of those non-partisan issues that everyone can support—reportage I think one might find on that new news channel spin-off that pledges to be Brexit-free), I was a bit disappointed to first be disabused and then to wake up to the confusion of the clocks, although for the last time.  For those who’ve known nothing else (despite complaints), we wonder how baked-in it is in terms of both programming and posture.

Saturday, 26 October 2019


best in breed: national banks in Turkmenistan under presidential decree to fund efforts to enhance the pedigree of the country’s Alabay dog

call of the wild: scientist record the mating sounds of the Amazonian bellbird, which can exceed the noise-level of a chainsaw at very close-range

zodiac killer: a treasury of Persian demons

not the doral: Number One Daughter celebrates her tenth wedding anniversary at Camp David

yip yip: a couple’s admirably coordinated costumes

major arcana: Salvador Dalí’s tarot deck re-issued

augmented roman: a truly phonetic-spelling reform measure for the English language, bringing the alphabet up to forty-three distinct letters

roaming costs: researchers tracking migrating Russian eagles are hit with hefty data tariffs once the birds cross borders, via Slashdot

Friday, 25 October 2019

fachgeschäft für ehehygiene

Born on this day in 1919, Beate Uhse (née Köstin, †2001) aviatrix and entrepreneur Beate Uhse began her career with civil aircraft becoming Germany’s first woman stunt pilot and post-war went into business for herself, opening the world’s first erotic entertainment boutique (see also) when most people strong though the topic to be taboo to the extent one thought about it at all.
Beginning in 1946 as a reference library on family-planning and then graduating to a sex shop in Flensburg in the north on the Baltic in 1962, establishing a reputation, a market and a brand fully fourteen years before pornography was decriminalised in West Germany, her eponymous shops are to be found all over Europe, and our current healthier and more informed attitude to sexuality owes a debt to these storefronts that were never pushed from public view and debate.

it’s dangerous to go alone—take this!

Via one of the latest thematic installments of Things Magazine we are directed to this wonderful fantasy atlas, a gazetteer in the proper sense, of video game levels charted

The collection contains hundreds of maps categorised by gaming system, platform or genre. The world-building that is behind some of our favourite titles and franchises is really astoundin.  Much more to explore at the links above.

i read the news today—oh boy—four thousand holes in blackburn-lancashire

Four days ahead of the General Election on this day in 1924, the conservatively-aligned tabloid, The Daily Mail (previously plus see also), published a letter, purportedly a directive from Grigory Zinoviev, revolutionary and head of the Cominterm, to the Communist Party of Great Britain urging revolution and subversion of parliamentary politics.
The reaction in the ballots prompted the collapse of the Liberty Party, significantly forstalled the development of the then fledgling Labour Party and precipitated a Tory landslide. Zinoviev vehemently denied having anything to do with the supposed correspondence and pointed out how the forger had not done his homework when constructing the letterhead and committees by naming them incorrectly and that the Communist International would not meddle in the elections of foreign states. Historians and current scholarship agree with this stance, not penning the fabrication of the missive to the newspaper directly (while blaming them for citing dodgy and incendiary sources, we’ve another name for it, in their page nine story) and rather source the idea of encouraging sedition abroad to the messenging of the White Russian (czarist) intelligence to try to discredit the Bolsheviks internationally.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

do ut des

Continuing to charaterise the impeachment proceedings as a coup d’etát and in the wake of particularly compelling testimony by a seasoned career diplomat whose work was undercut by Trump’s backchannel, a group of thirty of Trump’s staunchest supporters stormed closed-door meeting being held in secure chambers to disrupt the testimony of another witness with Ukraine connections, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence.
By bringing cell phones into a classified environment, members—with a distinct lack of collegiality—compromised security and caused the witness’ accounting to be delayed for several hours. Grown weary of playing the apologist though too cowardly to cross him, Republicans refused to give anything but the thinnest, tacit support for Trump’s call to hold the next G7 summit at his tacky resort which prompted Trump more than the self-dealing Ukraine (or Kurdish concessions inter alia) and how that affair is unwinding to accuse his party of not fighting for him. Loyalist responded to this lament by barging in to the hearing room, again characterised as a star chamber despite how the scandal under investigation makes Nixon’s subversion of the democratic process seem rather adorable, and ordering pizza. After five hours, the witness was allowed to give her statement in private.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


Living ourselves in area designated as a stellar sanctuary (though often in the city with only a few planets and stars visible), we very much appreciated this nearer-term corollary to the premise that later generations and iterations might experience the Cosmos as some place empty and pre-ordained, the possibility of life elsewhere having receded far away from our perspective and oversight. Billions of years into the future but yet eons to go until that lonely end-state occurs, the Earth’s night sky will be ablaze as the Milky Way merges with its neighbouring galaxy Andromeda. Due to the vastness of interstellar space, there will be few if any collisions as this process unfolds.


trick-or-treat: communities in race to best each other with increasing draconian ordinances regulating Halloween

huzzah: the utopian ideals behind Renaissance Fairs

dog whistle/bull horn: critiquing Facebook for the low quality propaganda platform it is, via Marginal Revolution

starchitecture: pairing Zodiac houses with their representative designers

your trial period has expired: how free storage drove every thing out if the archives and mandated everything be always available, via Duck Soup

world unique promotional product identity & emotion: the strange world of Vater Abraham, author of the Smurfs’ theme song among a few others

noir: Bruce McCorkindale’s Art House Muppets for Inktober

Monday, 21 October 2019

ten of dowels

Via the always excellent Nag on the Lake, we are introduced to the handiwork of a creative called Hundred-Armed Sweater (that would be for the Hecatonkherires on your gift-list) through her IKEA-inspired tarot deck, recognising that the store and experience represents “a place of transition, a journey, a source of light and comfort but also strife.” The deck includes the major and four full suites of minor arcana.

Sunday, 20 October 2019


H and I had the chance to observe an interesting agricultural event when the shepherds bring the sheep and goats down from hilltop pastures to the valley in a village not far away. It was quite well attended with human spectators perhaps outnumbering the livestock being herded and driven to their winter quarters. 

Though cattle were also present, the stars of the day were the distinctive Rhön sheep (Rhönschaf) whose single flock numbered over one thousand, the breed nearly having gone extinct in the 1960s and now their numbers, with the help of a nature conservancy and the green belt across Europe that marks the former border between NATO and the Warsaw Pact have safely returned, led through a rather narrow channel thronged by a human audience—not unlike the scene in Pamplona with the Running of the Bulls.


From 1942 to 1990, Arnold Odermatt was employed as a forensics photographer for the Swiss canton of Nidwalden whose extensive portfolio documents encroaching modernity into this once isolated area, especially in traffic accidents, taking a second photograph for his own personal collection once the injured had been taken away.
Though his fascination is morbid and inscrutable as his motivation was never stated and the existence of the images were only disclosed by accident (his filmmaker son discovering the trove in a box in the attic one day and published them in a book that garnered attention in the late 1990s at the Frankfurter Buchmesse), there is, one might conjecture, a restorative property in seeing these husks of vehicles in an austere light, unmoving without drivers and passengers. Much more to explore at the link above including several galleries of Odermatt’s compositions, which includes many candid, happy scenes artfully captured as well.

anakin starkiller

In the duo’s reinterpretation of John Williams’ Imperial March as synthwave, a retrofuture emulation of and tribute to 1980s film and arcade soundtracks that’s sort of the electronic music version of the cyberpunk aesthetic, the Awesomer introduces us to the musical stylings of Litiowave, who have made quite a few covers as well as original works. As the leitmotif (see also) associated with Dark Vader—and its use to denote rivalry outside of the franchise, the symphonic theme is one of the best known among all movies.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

upward mobility

Via Weird Universe we are introduced to this rather intriguing and ingenuous business architectural feature in the June 1948 issue of Popular Science and left wanting to know more. Only a few column inches are dedicated to this structure with a corner office that moves up and down the building’s fourteen storeys (the rest of the staff used paternosters) located in Zlín but we were able to find out a bit more.
The town itself urban utopia (see also) and a manufacturing anchor of the Moravian region in large part due to the shoemaking factory founded by siblings Tomáš, Anna and Antonín Baťa in 1894, the skyscraper was build as the administrative headquarters for their successful footwear brand. The third tallest pre-war building in Europe executed in Constructivist style, it is now known as Building № 21 (Číslo 21) and cherished as a cultural monument, houses offices of the regional government. Going abroad during the World War II, the boss never had a chance to use his mobile office and there’s unconscionably no indication whether this seeming unique idea was ever tried anywhere else or why such an idea was abandoned.

super saturday

Convening on a weekend, which is not usually done as business and the markets cannot react to changes in government policy and not the Commons had not sat since the Falklands conflict, Parliament met to hopefully hash out Brexit once and for all—or not, after the prime minister secured a slap-dash deal to leaving the European Union that for some was less palatable than the terms his predecessor set forth that failed to pass on multiple occasions. Whether this arrangement will be ratified is far from clear as are the next steps, setting up a scenario for perpetual and Sisyphean debate.


Via our peripatetic friends at Strange Company, we are reacquainted with the figure of polymath and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (previously here, here and here, *1769 - †1859) through his educationally enhanced maps and charts (see also).
The naturalist’s perhaps greatest legacy as a science communicator was his ability to unleash information formerly discrete and disperse (relatedly) and compile figures and synthesise them visually, like this cross section that imparted vegetation topographically and appealed to curiosity through presentation. More to explore at the links above.

the shadow kingdom

A not-insignificant minority of Americans (and certainly some abroad as well) subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the ruling political elite and our social betters of human civilisation are undercover reptoid aliens from the Constellation Draco.
Though the basic idea of snake cults has been attendant to human narratives since we began telling stories, its present polity was to a large part informed by the short stories of Robert E Howard and his protagonist Kull the Conquerer, the Atlantean (see also)—whom was a touch more introspective than Howard’s later character Conan the Barbarian, whose diplomatic mission to the Land of the Picts, the traditional enemy of Atlantis though there was then presently a thaw in relations, led to humanity’s premature encounter with the Serpent Men, a much diminished but ancient and still powerful race. Though not further developed in Howard’s own canon of works, the race appears in the Cthulu mythos (see previously here and here) before being touted as clear and present danger with wild and loaded accusations that leaders and celebrities were lizard people plotting for total subjection of their human chattel.


Founded on this day in 1969 in a lodge on a popular hiking trail through the Swabian Jura (Schwäbische Alb), the Europäishce Wandervereinigung, the European Ramblers’ Association, la Fédération européenne de la randonnée pédestre was formed by founding members representing walkers’ clubs from West Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Belgian.  Now headquartered in Kassel and with offices in Prague, more than fifty-eight area- and regional-organisations from thirty European states sponsor regular outings and maintain, marking and signposting a vast network of long distance hiking trails (some seventy thousand kilometres worth across an active membership of some three million individuals, see previously). The so called E-Paths are not for virtual exploration, but rather are trails that cross a minimum of three countries.

lion’s tooth

To discourage the agricultural practises that hold our environment in disdain the most—production of those staples for consumption in the West whose distribution network is so well established and seemingly seamless, that we as consumers can easily be blind to the human and ecological toll it exacts, a UK designer is developing a coffee substitute brewed from the roots of dandelions (previously here and here).
I’m a little skeptical and prepared for disappointment, inulin, the researcher’s target compound for extraction, we’re already familiar with in the form of chicory and camp coffee but the chemistry bears out and the roots do contain what’s metabolised as caffeine (my target compound) as well and would be willing to give it a try. It makes me wonder too how estranged in the first place might my beverage and its taste and aroma be already, encapsulated and shuttled through an inscrutable supply-chain estranged from the bean I associate with. The designer has additional, circular aspirations for composting the spent grains into a medium for home mushroom cultivation.

check digit

Whereas the title refers to a form of error detection, quality control through redundancy—the integrity of a numbering convention validated by a formulaic self-consistency, we were pleased to be elucidated in the origin of typeface E-13B, whose repertoire of characters, developed by Stanford Laboratories and General Electric in the late 1950s as a way to automate cheque-clearing, was the expression of a system developed for magnetic ink character recognition (MICR, a precursor to optical character recognition though in theory predating this earlier iteration that the technology was already acclimatized for).
E being the fifth font considered, B for the Beta-version, thirteen represented the size of the grid (see also, CMC-7 is the name for the parallel system utilised in parts of Europe and South America) for numerals and control characters: ⑆ transit, ⑈ on-us, ⑇ amount and ⑉ as a dash to break up long strings of numbers for human legibility. By measuring the resistance or conductivity at predetermined positions across the footer of the cheque, accuracy improved over other scanning techniques and human transcription. Little human intervention is needed, accounting for a fraction of a percent given the volume, though redundancies are still built in that requires a double-check and self-assessment.

Friday, 18 October 2019


The Holy See, as Dezeen informs, is distributing a smart psalter as a wearable accessory that tracks the user’s worship and allow one to monitor the progress of each prayer—the act of reciting it, we presume rather than the missive’s to God’s ears, and synchronises with other mobile gadgets to post one’s devotion to social media.

The haptic interface is activated by making the sign of the cross or genuflexing and the price of the string of beads is the suggested donation of ninety-nine euro. What do you think about this? Uggh—I always felt that the nicest thing about praying was that one’s intercession wasn’t for public inspection, though the Pope has a very healthy and enthusiastic attitude towards technology and the internet so what do I know?  As a bonus feature, the eRosary which charges contactlessly and comes neatly packaged in a Bible, also tracks the wearer’s physical activity and counts one’s steps.

anapestic meter

Scholar Emily Nekyia Wilson’s modern translation The Odyssey has not only introduced the Homeric epics to a wider-audience, she is now, as Kottke informs, rather delightfully engaging readers to recount characters and episodes in limerick form in a lively and long thread.
One passage nicely summarises the short, tragic story of Odysseus’ youngest comrade, who managed to survive the Trojan War and accompanied the crew on the journey home to Ithaca as far as Aeaea, the Island of Circe (see previously), only to get quite intoxicated and fancied it a good idea to sleep it off on the palace’s roof.

Elpenor, poor idiot, got drunk,
and was sleeping up high in a bunk;
he fell out of bed,
went smack on his head,
and his hopes to get home went kerplunk.

Much more to explore at the links above.

a particularly american epidemic

From Nag on the Lake, in this short, filmmaker Patrick Smith assiduously cycles (see also) through two-thousand three hundred twenty-eight exemplars of firearms as representatives of the some three-hundred ninety-three million presently in the United States of America, equaling a gun and a bit more per everyone living in that country, including children and nearly half of the guns owned by civilians in the world.

greta grotesk regular

Inspired by her now iconic signature hand-lettered protest placards, an up and coming foundry, we learn via Kottke, has issued a free typeface based on the script of climate champion Greta Thunberg (previously), suitable for making one’s own posters. In typography, a grotesque refers to the family of serif fonts with irregular qualities that were particularly favoured by sign-painters for their ability to stand out.

friedliche revolution

Beginning with securing the right to hold regional open elections—with opposition candidates competing against the state party in May of 1989 and the later assemblies referred to as Montagsdemos ahead of celebrations of the country’s fortieth anniversary jubilee amid heavy crackdowns on people attempting to flee the regime, the Peaceful Revolution of East Germany showed itself as unstoppable force on 18 October 1989 when deputy and chairman of the State Council Egon Krenz, heeding the people’s will, conspired with other like-minded members of the Politbüro (with the blessings of the Soviet Union) to oppose and overthrow the long-running leadership of Erich Honecker.
It is always difficult to discern decisive moments but it seems that before this coup, the revolt could have failed.  Staunchly opposed to any reforms and the talk of glasnost and in power since 1971 (his wife Margot being the Minister of National Education all that time as well), the Chairman believed that the only way for Communism to survive the scourges of the West was to take a hard line approach, like Cuba and North Korea and was granted sanctuary in Moscow—at least until protector Mikhail Gorbachev ceded powers to Boris Yeltsin on Christmas Day in 1991. Wanting to be rid of this political liability and stateless person, Yeltsin remitted Honecker to a now united Germany—Krenz helping to oversee the transition—to stand trial. Terminally ill, the court threw the case out (not without massive protests) and eventually allowed Honecker to resettle and join his family in Santiago, Chile.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu

First exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum as a temporary installation on this day in 1980 before its 2007 return as a permanent acquisition, The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago is esteemed as the first modern, epic feminist artwork, depicting a symbolic history through elaborate and personalised placesettings around a triangular table for thirty-nine legendary and historical female figures.
Each wing accommodates thirteen banquette guests with different epochs of civilization dining together, including Boadicea, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hildegarde of Bingen and Mary Wollstonecraft. The table itself rests on a dais called the Heritage Floor composed of floor tiling inscribed with nine-hundred ninety-nine names of woman whom contributed towards the advancement of equal rights with one man made an honourary member, misgendered by oversight, the classical Greek sculptor Kresilas. The fact that that footnote outshines all the other names shows that there’s quite some distance left to cover to earn a place at the table.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

really simple syndication

A contributing author, Jamie Zawinski, refers us to a collection of nominations from scientists, historians, programmers and journalists for the most consequential pieces of code, which affects and informs society as much as any custom, convention or creation, though more aloof by design with few able to incant such spells.  
Though not exhaustive, the list and associated stories are pretty comprehensive and cover the classic milestones (often taken for granted) starting with the invention of the programmable loom in the early eighteenth century to JPEGs, GeoCities, RSS feeds, wikis and a whole host of viruses. One rather elegant vector we’re introduced to is the recursive single line of code (pictured) that is called a fork bomb or a wabbit for its prolific nature. This string of instruction (these are not the magic words, please don’t type them) launches a denial-of-service attack by repeating itself until all system resources have been taken up.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

roughly the kinetic energy of a well-pitched baseball

In operation from 1986 to 1993, the Fly’s Eye ultra-high-energy cosmic ray observatory in the desert of western Utah detected on this day in 1991 a particle whose excited state was off-the-charts with nothing remotely close ever seen again (see also), though similar subsequent events suggest that it is not a malfunction. This anomaly was dubbed the “Oh-My-God particle” (not to be confused with the God Particle) due to the wallop it packed. Though this probably does not sound like an astronomical amount, to take it in context, the importance of this reading begins to take shape.
The signal represented the energy carried by a single photon—as if a beam of light could nudge something aside, concentrated on one particle and represents something magnitudes stronger than any radiation measured from the gamma bursts of distant exploding galaxies (by some twenty million fold) and twice again as much as the CERN is able to create. The cosmic ray, to have attained the title heft, was propelled along at near the speed of light (one-sextillioneth shy—that is, nine-nine percent followed by twenty-one significant digits, short scale). Were it possible to boost the particle through the infinitesimal fraction, it would have the kinetic equivalent to the potential (chemical energy) of a small automobile on a full-tank of gasoline. The Oh-My-God particle and others approaching this class originate from the direction of the asterism Ursa Major though there is no consensus on the source.

Monday, 14 October 2019


Via the always engaging Everlasting Blört, we are treated to the AI-aided renderings of a digital artist called Matchue and his repertoire of experimental generative compositions with this lovely vignette of New York City expressed, stylised after the Cubist movement, evoking especially the Simultaneous Windows series of painter Robert Delaunay (*1885 – †1941).

gemeine stinkmorchel

Just honoured by the German Mycological Association (Deutsche Gesllschaft für Mykologie, DGfM) as mushroom of the upcoming year, we were a bit excited to share a few prime specimens in the middle stages of development of the common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus—that is, immodest and at least a relative thereof), widely recognised by dent of its signature carrion-like odour that attracts insects to spread the spores and its distinctive shape. Not pictured is its first egg-like stage (the immature ones are prized for their culinary value and supposed aphrodisiac qualities), but later growth with the stalk forming and an olive-coloured fruiting body known as the gleba. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to work out the sort of folktales sprouted up around these toadstools.

also in extended use

From the Guardian’s Language Desk, we are treated to a preview of all the superlative contenders vying, no holds barred of course for what the surplus of the year could still deliver, to be the term that carries 2019.
From prorogue to cancel-culture to the extremely well sourced phenomenon of sadfishing, the latest behavioural term to employ the suffix and referring to an appeal through trauma to build and uphold a following, which word would you champion or have brought into the running? Judging by the most queried dictionary definitions—including retrologisms like ruthful for having contrition and compassion over the more common absence of it—exonerate and furlough might also make the list.


Twisted Sifter directs our attention to the award-winning submission for the World Wildlife Fund’s Japan branch for its 2008 awareness campaign from the Tokyo-based agency Hakuhodo C&D and the creative talents of Nami Hoshino and Yoshiyuki Mikami. In the series, endangered species are depicted by the as a highly pixelated image in proportion to their declining wild populations, the granularity and therefore the dwindling, unsustainable numbers captioned in the bottom left corner. More friends to save from extinction portrayed at the link above.

Sunday, 13 October 2019


H and I went foraging for mushrooms recently and though we’re not averaging a good return on edible specimens from the field, we are getting exposed to quite the menagerie of woodland types of fungi during our scavenging.

Among the diverse exemplars that we find along the trail just metres from one another we encountered the poisonous and hallucinogenic fly agaric toadstool (Fliegenpilz, Amanita muscaria) quite often, others yet unidentified and works of art in their mystery, and another quavering discovery called a wood ear or a jelly ear (Judasohr, Auricularia auricular-judæ, so called from the traditional narrative that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder, the sambucus, Holunder tree and these mushrooms often appear at the base of such trees to remind the faithful of this act of betrayal).
For all of its rather Lynchian baggage, the wood ear is very much edible—if not a bit bland unseasoned, and is a staple for umami flavourant in Asian cuisine. Please click on the images for more detail.  The pharmacological merit of the fungus is currently being studied, research suggesting that its palliative use in folk medicine was not far off.