Monday, 18 November 2019

rabbit redux

Reminiscent of those murderous bunnies found in the marginalia of medieval manuscripts and ever successive cottontale congress thereafter, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Lewis Carrol’s White Rabbit and the Killer Bunny guarding the Grail, artist YiMiao Shih plumbs UK politics with a tapestry in the tradition of Bayeux reimagining pivotal moments as Rabbrexit.

de scrutarius

Having just had an exchange with my landlady over an email missive reputedly from myself having landed ceremoniously in her spam box (albeit it’s a bit tangential to the topic but I’m noticing that the circle of people that I care about are getting a lot of junk, phishy correspondence from each other disguised as earnest and heartfelt messages from one another—a dialogue that would make the occasional dip into that holding area worthwhile all on its own) and assuring her that I would dispatch a text message if there were an actual emergency, this thoughtful essay on the nature of urgency and authenticity in the lost art of correspondence, appreciating that communications are bi-directional and not just artillery for firing demands from Adam Gopnick struck as especially resounding and true. Not only do we concur with the assessment that there are distinct gradations when it comes to insistence versus aspiration that separates texting from email (or even those soul-shattering seconds of an unexpected telephone call), we moreover found the observation deliciously ironic that the protocols of the algorithms and filters that consign suspect mail (rightly or wrongly but usually erring, on balance, to segregate junk from everything else) are informed by the letter-writing etiquette and structure that we’ve been taught as polite and correct. A sincere form of flattery, the automated guardians of our inboxes target that which follows the structure of salutations, surprising developments (something worth writing home about), a detailed proposal and a proper closing for our epistle whereas less formal spam might find its way through to the recipient.

nagai go manga gaiden

Via Miss Cellania, we are graced with the musical stylings of Italian show-master and performer Stefania Rotolo (*1951 – † 1981) in her fantastically choreographed number of the theme song to the Super Robot manga series known to audiences familiar with the artist as Goldrake—or as its title for English-speaking export markets, Force Five: Grandizer, the inspiration for Voltron, Thunder Cats, etc.

Confusingly and roughly contemporaneously, the title also referred to an adult comics series. Those are fantastic costumes and look like Flash Gordon surplus. Rotolo was best known for hosting a popular television music programme called Piccolo Slam—Little Hits—in the late 1970s and launched her recording career with studio album, Uragano Slam (1978)—referencing the show and her nickname, “Hurricane Girl.” Her rising stardom was cut tragically short by cancer, but she is still fondly remembered and a dance prize has been awarded annually since 2011 in her name.

triadic ballet

In keeping with the theme of all the pieces featured in this year’s Performa in New York City that paid tribute to the Bauhaus movement on its centenary anniversary, Kia LaBeija’s contribution takes the outline of the third act of Oskar Schlemmer’s 1922 experimental choreography (previously here and here) and expands it as a showcase not only for her talent but moreover as a reappropriating of a school which for all its subsequent influence and resonance was rather still a product of its age and the domain of the few—not representative of the reach that the members’ aspired for.  The costumes not only exaggerate the dancers’ figured and invites one to think on the function that belies our conceits but also what sort of prosthetics and inventions we can avail ourselves of, not just in terms of image and health but also as something enhanced beyond human weaknesses.  Much more to explore at the links above.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

courtesy ensign

Recently trending on a well-visited webring focusing on the vexillological arts, we are delighted to discover a number or national and sub-national banners reflagged in the style of that of Kazakhstan, the template designed by Shaken Onlassynovich Niyazbekov (*1938 – †2014) in deference to the flag of the Soviet Socialist Republic. Charged with the emblem of the Sun or some other guiding principle, a bird of prey soars beneath with the hoist decorated with a complex ornament. Variants pictured include the United States of America, Canadian, Prussia, Brazil and South Korea.

sametová revoluce

Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of what had been inscribed on calendars across the globe as International Students’ Day, when in 1939 Nazi forces stormed the University of Prague and arrested over twelve hundred pupils and professors, the series of demonstrations that precipitated from this gathering, massing to a half a million people, turned against the Communist ruling party of Czechoslovakia.
The first large-scale and enduring rally since the Prague Spring, the peaceful Velvet Revolution, riot police often rebuffed with flowers and the spirit of change being something quite infectious and not limited to the metropolitan areas, the name for the movement being selected by the dissident students’ translator Rita Klímová (*1931 – †1993) and later the country’s last ambassador to the US before splitting into its constituent republics, and continued through the of the year, unseated the ruling Old Guard, opened the borders and brought about the first democratic elections held in the country since 1946 with rebel poet and human rights activist Václav Havel (*1936 – †2011) voted into the office of president on 29 December.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

hold me closer, tony danza

Even before seeing these reality show characters arguing across dimensions with a meme cat became a coordinated ugly Christmas sweater, we were fascinated with the phenomenon and really appreciated the backstory courtesy of Nag on the Lake.
The singularly unimpressed cat is called Smudge by his humans and resides in the suburbs of Ottawa, who despite what’s being served insists on having a seat and a setting at the dinner table. The image of the cat scowling at a salad garnered quite a bit of attention and admiration in its own right but really explored virally, redone with countless different captions when inexplicably juxtaposed it with an angry 2011 screen-grab from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills of Malibu beach party hostess Taylor Armstrong crying and pointing accusatorily. Which sweater would you be wearing to your holiday celebrations? Do remix your own and be sure to share.


Though we can know one event to happen ten years from now with some certainty, A Message from Earth was beamed by a high-powered radio signal towards exoplanet Gliese 581c in 2008 will be in reception range, it bears recalling the adage, via the always engaging Things Magazine, by scifi author William Ford Gibson that “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed”—with nearly a year’s worth of 2019 headlines focusing and informing how 2029’s reporting might look if we continue on this same trajectory.  While perhaps not in the expected milieu and sacred settings of blockbuster movies no epic flooding yet of New York City or London but we are on the cusps of experiencing such cinematic disasters Delhi or Jakarta and instead of delivering us to a life of leisure and a forty-minute workweek, we are instead fretting over mass robotic-redundancy and unemployment, so Gibson’s quote resounds with perspective. What do you think about these predictions? The past is good council but the present may make us all come up short.

årets ord

Collins Dictionary has unveiled, beating out other neologisms, most of which are main-streamed and in common-parlance to the point where they need no definition, that played heavily into our conscious these past months like deepfake, bopo (body-positive), influencer, cancel-culture, rewilding and non-binary, its selection for Word of the Year as Climate Strike, a sustaining and motivating bit of traction and Trost (though we have had quite enough of the solace of hope without action) in a world otherwise pummelled with anxiety and confusion.

Friday, 15 November 2019

a little bit country

Having noticed lately a proliferation of graffiti tags with the city prefix for the state capital where I work having popped up in various spots (the interest seems to have expired but there is always the issue of latency with street art but 0611 represent), we found this Swedish saying, nollåtta, to be particularly interesting and resonant.
Though with the predominance of mobile networks there’s no geographic discrimination or tethering, Swedish people living inside and outside metropolitan Stockholm still recognise the area code attached to the city as a mark of pride and a term of gentle (mostly) derision. Swedish for zero-eight, the dialling code for landlines in the capital region, it has become shorthand for typical Stockholmer (Stockholmsbo) and a way to comment on the real or perceived sense of disdain that city-dwellers (and vice-versâ) have for rural residents.

podium architecture

Though the phenomenon itself is a disheartening trend that well deserves the documentation, we were happy to see our Gentle Author garnering greater notice with an appearance in the BBC and perhaps gain more allies to fight against the ghastly folly of façadism (see also) that’s hollowing out many of the great buildings of central London, leaving just their historic outer shell of the structure.  Though this partial preservation and adaptive use is at least a passing nod to heritage and context, it seems very much like the coulisse, the scenery flats of a theatrical production and having surrendered all their reserve authenticity. 


Animating vintage paperback book jackets since 2005, the Awesomer brings us the latest iteration of Essner graphic designer Henning Max Lederer (previously). Hamburg publishing house Albatross Press began pioneering the format of the book market for the masses with designs for portability, bold covers and with colour-coding for different genres in the 1930s but distribution was curtailed with World War II.  Penguin Classics in the United Kingdom adopted many of Albatross’ innovation, including the marine avian mascot.  See more in the series of clever jacket geometric and colourful transformations at the link above and at the artist’s webpage to survey his other projects.

Thursday, 14 November 2019


avoir un jour de courage: the immortals at l’Académie Française suggest a replacement for the English phrase “coming out”

notorious rbg: a leopard print camouflage homage to the Supreme Court Justice

vennbahn: a scenic bike trail following a former train track crisscrosses the border between Belgium and Germany multiple times, via Super Punch

acqua alta: tragic images of Venice drowning

mechanisms of affection: artist Maria Antelman explores how the tools of technology reflect the user

i’ve been called ruby giuliani: a drag queen entertained spectators during opening public testimony for the impeachment hearings

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

pavlovian response

Though sadly his predictions about being up to our necks in bugs did not come to pass and by losing the insects we are losing the song birds as well and we’d prefer this method of conditioning feline instincts, I think that it was a pretty noble notion on the part of inventor and erstwhile actor Desmond Slattery to save our avian friends from our domestic ambush by associating a poaching with a violent and memorable explosion through a treacherous decoy that did exactly that. Debuting his prototype in 1968, Slattery hoped that cats and birds would going forward coexist in harmony.

rat race

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we arrive at a nifty bit of programming code that can be modified to accommodate any data set and energise one’s presentations and data-visualisations with a bar chart race (like the one we encountered recently). The comprehensive and patient tutorial from Mike Bostock is a study in the power of clear conveyance (very much diametrically opposed to this overly-enthusiastic and persuasive slide deck, via the New Shelton Wet/Dry) and allows one, with some work and investment of time, to harness this sort of bracing animation that has one rooting for the underdog.

saint brice’s day

Though the feast day is darkened with the 1002 massacre of Danes in England ordered by Æthelred the Unready—probably in part responding to a populace weary of the piracy and appeasement, the commemoration of Saint Brice of Tours has a direct link to a recent celebration. Adopted by the sainted bishop Martin when discovered as an orphaned infant, Brice (Brictius, *370 – †444) was raised within the church under Martin’s tutelage, becoming a monk and eventually an archdeacon and succeeding his mentor Martin as the fourth head of the archdiocese upon Martin’s death in 397. This iconic, generic manuscript miniature illustrates Martin lecturing his pupil and ward Brice comes from the fourteenth century workshop of hagiographer Jacobus de Varagine and his anthology The Golden Legend (Legenda aurea).
Brice’s temperament and focus, however, according to the community was very much in opposition to his teacher’s and fellow clerics dismissed him as worldly and overly-ambitious and certainly did not like the idea of him becoming their spiritual leader. Scandalously, a nun became pregnant and there were persistent rumours that Brice was the father. In order to prove that he was the baby daddy, Brice submitted to a ritual ordeal of carrying hot embers in his cloak to the tomb of Saint Martin and coming out unscathed with his garment none the worse for wear either. This test did not impress and his parishioners banished him—saying that he could not return unless the pope in Rome himself exonerated him. Seven years later, absolved by Innocent I, Brice returned and discharged his duties as a bishop and confessor with such dedication and humility he was not only accepted back into the fold but was, upon his death, venerated as a saint. Brice is depicted with the iconography of glowing coals in his robe and/or a baby in his arms, the paternity issue never really resolved. No particular patronage is attached to Saint Brice (so you’re invited to come up with your own) but he does share this day with Saint Homobonus (Sant’Omobono, Sankt Gutmann, literally “a good man,” †1197) who was a celebrated tailor and cloth-monger of Cremona. A wealthy merchant, Homobonus expressed gratitude for his good fortune and privilege to work at a job he enjoyed by donating to and dressing the poor. Usually represented with a money bag, Homobonus is the patron of business casual and corporate executives.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

technicolor refreshment trailer № 1

Our gratitude once again to friend of the blog Everlasting Blört for directing our attention to this 1970s Pepsi Cola sponsored appeal to head out to the concession stands. This psychedelic ad (see also) was meant for audiences of drive-in venues and even has a brief reference to the original “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” cast of anthropomorphic treats.

fire and brimstone

Though the fallen angels of the Bible are incarcerated and consigned to the same fate as the Titans, there’s no mention of Tartarus in the New Testament, with either the Greek abode of the dead, Hades, or the small valley in Jerusalem where child-sacrifice occurred, Gehenna (Hinnom), invoked for the concept, though the former is more neutral and would be better represented as the underworld.
There is however one instance that it sort of slips in—this homage to Antiquity—in verbal form: in the Second Epistle of Peter, condemning false prophets, the apostle uses the word (making an ensample of wickedness) tartaroo (ταρταρόω) for “to cast into Hell.” The original Greek rendering of the Apostles’ Creed that provides for and establishes among other things the harrowing of Hell, Jesus’ descent into the underworld to rescue all the righteous who had perished and were condemned prior to salvation, took the more pedestrian verb κατελθόντα είς τά κατώτατα (descendit ad inferos—to those below) but was far from unproblematic—prompting the need for a third estate, that of Limbo, a liminal place.

possibly in michigan

Vacillating between the cute and the grotesque and nicely framing the spirit of the contradictory and the absurd that America leans strongly into, we appreciate the referral to the filmmaker and educator Cecelia Condit through her 1983 eponymous and most viral piece.
Recently rediscovered and championed by a video clip platform that’s usually the reserve of brief lessons or lip-syncing, this musical short about a deranged cannibal who pursues a pair of women through an otherwise empty shopping mall has enjoyed cult-following for the past four decades and no stranger to the experience of memetic infection, having previously been drawn in as a poster child in the moral and Satanic Panic of mid-1980s America and the on-going culture wars—by dent mostly of the closing credits that prominently features the support and patronage of the National Endowment for the Arts. New audiences are sometimes the best audiences.

when the stars allign or flights of fancy

This day of all days back in 1981 would have been an especially auspicious one for space exploration, had public and political captivation been sustained and transformed into something enduring, because the alignment of both Mars and Venus relative to Earth and Moon was optimal for a crewed mission to each planet launching simultaneously.
I can imagine this sling-shot trajectory of the tandem space-flights returned to Earth with gravity-assists, which was presented by NASA administrator Thomas Otten Paine expansively and in exacting detail to a crowd gathered in San Francisco in August of 1969.  With continued advances on nuclear-propelled rockets and fiscal commitments (estimated to be around twenty four billion dollars), Paine promised the audience that such an achievement would indeed be possible by the early eighties.  Though it was after the blast-off deadline had passed, Paine designed a flag for Mars in 1983.

Monday, 11 November 2019


Via Gizmodo, we discover that given enough vigorous backing and cheerleading technologists and futurists have had their ethical concerns assuaged and have reserved their stance (at least some have) on keeping OpenAI corralled and not available for public inspection, fearing that its unchecked capacity for generating plausible sounding disinformation would spell the end of human civilisation.
While I certainly don’t think we were unwise to practise restraint and our fears might not be too premature already, Talk to Transformer (try it live) is profoundly off-putting and it’s hard to gird oneself for an onslaught of generative and adverse narratives if one does not know what one is up against.
These first blocks of copy gleaned from scouring the internet in response to a given prompt (in bold text) were strange yet somehow resonant and current in a strangely pandering sort of way. First, upon hearing that New Zealand’s parliamentary transcription service rendered the wilting retort of a member to out-of-touch pushback as “OK Burma,” I wanted to see if the neural network understood accents—and it seemed to deliver. The artificial intelligence also seemed to understand the euphemistic political response to being made redundant, which Norman Fowler, Baron Fowler the Secretary of State for Employment first cited in January of 1990 as his reason to resign was to “spend more time with my [his] family,” noting that public service can come at private costs. A few further iterations got pretty dark but it was nonetheless fun to experiment with. Give it a turn and share the stories you get.


This day is held in celebration of the funeral of Martin of Tours, recreating the procession originally held in 397 AD. The holiday coinciding with the end of harvest time, the festival celebrates the life of a former Roman centurion stationed in Gaul who converted to Christianity and was reluctantly ordained bishop after encountering a freezing beggar during a blizzard at the gates of Amiens (Samarobriva—bridge of the Somme) clad in rags only and charitably—without hesitation, rent his cloak in two and shared it with him.
That evening Martin had a vision that the beggar revealed Himself to be Jesus Christ and on awaking found his cloak miraculously made whole. The word chapel (Kapelle) and derived terms like chaplain come from the short cape (capella) that Martin had draped over his shoulder after the bit of tailoring. Like other celebrations that occur during winter’s bleak months (see also here and here), there’s an element of an abiding glimmer of light in the darkness to give the motivation to go on. A time of slaughter and feasting—it being untenable to feed some livestock and keep them through to spring—geese, the same that gave away Martin’s whereabouts to the conclave that nominated him for bishop, were killed at this time and like with Thanksgiving, it became traditional fare for this day. The timing of the holiday moreover saw a syncretism with Martin inheriting the attributes and patronage formerly held by the minor deity Aristaeus—son of Cyrene and Apollo, credited with discovering and then sharing some of the useful and agrarian arts like beekeeping, viniculture, shearing, cheesemaking, pickling, curing and herding. All of these professions fall under the guardianship of Martin—with a few more thrown in for good measure, like reformed alcoholics. Though today Saint Martin’s Day marks the beginning of the Karneval season in Germany, it was formerly one last feast before a fasting that was to be observed through the Feast of the Epiphany, like the fast of Lent. In some places, the parade and singing takes place a day early to also mark the birthday of reformer and namesake Martin Luther (*1483 — †1546).  Over time this period was shortened and rebranded as Advent.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

children's television workshop

On this day half a century ago, Sesame Street (see previously) made its debut on the US public television network to a rather high viewership (considering less than seventy percent of households at the time owned a television) and generally positive reception.
It represented the first educational programming aimed for young audiences based on laboratory trials and with a curriculum informed by the input and feedback of teachers and social-workers.  By its second year, it had been nominated for over twenty accolades and has earned more awards than any other programme for children and by the tenth anniversary, over nine million under-six year olds were watching it daily, generations growing up with the characters of this cultural touchstone now having gone international.  The pilot episode as it was originally broadcast can be viewed below.

weekly top forty

Via Miss Cellania, we really enjoyed seeing the meteoric rise of Elton John, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Queen (plus their retreat and eventual resurgence) and the tenacity of The Beatles, ABBA, etc. in this presentation charting the best-selling artists (from aggregated certified sales world-wide, adjusted by a twelve-month trailing average) of the past fifty years, and admittedly we’re a bit out of touch with the music scene today, we found ourselves, after the turn of the century a bit bewildered and baffled by the bands vying for the pole position and the not so much of a photo-finish. Were there surprises for you? See previously.  Probably not spoilers and bombshells for anyone else, but we were pleased to learn that the career of a Canadian child star of Degrassi: TNG carried its own nearly as well as some of the confirmed legends in the running.

secret agent man

While better known for his role as the music director for the Godfather franchise of film and for his award-winning score for Pizza Connection (1985, originally called The Sicilian Connection until realising that that title had already been taken, composer Carlo Savina (*1919 – †2002) was incredibly prolific, behind the soundtracks of dozens and dozens of movies, including for numerous Spaghetti Westerns, Sword-and-Sandal dramas (previously, known as pepla in Italian, after the Greek full body gown, ὁ πέπλος, a period costume from those movies) and the later profusion of Eurospy features of the mid 1960s. This 1966 Goldsnake ‘Anonima Killers’ (with plenty of alternate titles for foreign markets) is a good number to start with. More to explore at the link above.

kandinsky park

The always inspired Keir Clarke, as part of an on-going challenge that follows in the tradition, spirit of Inktober, showcases her next cartographical creation that rather beautifully overlays Manhattan’s Central Park and environs with a symphonic palette of colours informed by the style of painter Wassily Kandinsky (*1866 – †1944), who executed some of the first European purely abstract compositions and taught at the Bauhaus until the institute was closed. Learn more about the methodology of generated charts and graphs and the Thirty Day Map Challenge (with previous entries) at the link up top.


Born this day in 1859 (†1923) in Lausanne, Art Nouveau printmaker Théophile Alexandre Steinlen first apprenticed as designer in a textile mill in Mulhouse before joining an artist colony in the Montmarte quarter, where he was introduced to the cabaret owner and entertainer Aristide Bruant (the dashing man in the bold red scarf who was the subject of many Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec paintings), helping to secure Steinlen commissions for poster art in Paris and beyond.
Le Chat Noir (Bruant performed there as well and his most well-known ballad was eponymously titled) itself was the pioneering enterprise, established in 1881, of fellow impresario Louis Rodlphe Salis and is considered the first modern night club, with food, drinks and live entertainment and which soon outgrow its original venue, and the revue was taken on the road and held in music halls across the city.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

das tritt nach meiner kenntnis …ist das sofort… unverzüglich

On this night in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down through the cumulative actions of countless brave individuals and a shift towards political reform and market liberalisation but the flash point occurred due to a press-conference held earlier in the day with a spokesperson who hadn’t bothered to attend the full internal party briefing.
Having just forced out long-term party leader Erich Honecker in favour of Egon Krenz, Günter Schabowski (*1929 – †2015), chief of the Politbüro and trained journalist, was installed as the care-taker government’s public affairs officer. Schabowski took a cigarette break during discussions that outlined proposals for a temporary relaxing of travel restriction and was given notes by Krenz to prepare him for reporters’ questions. Schabowski, however, improvised under pressure and built up expectations that the East German government had not intended. One reporter asked when would these new travel policies go into effect—to which Schabowski replied, “Right away, as far as I know—effective immediately without delay.” Upon on hearing this, thousands massed at border access points in Berlin, demanding that they be let through.

Friday, 8 November 2019


a gender-neutral zombie: representation is important, via Kottke’s Quick Links

flotsam and jetsam: an ingenious barrier of air bubbles traps plastic waste in Amsterdam’s canals

ok boomer: a powerful and withering epithet

rurikids and romanovs: traditional Russian female garb, via Everlasting Blört

book of dreams: Argos back-catalogues from 1974 on, via Things Magazine  

merijää: a combination of rare weather conditions converged to cover a beach on Bothnia bay with ice eggs 

equine anatomy: rating every horse emoji across different platforms (see also), via Waxy

Thursday, 7 November 2019

minor arcana

For the eighteenth iteration of James Bond in the film Live and Let Die (1973), producer Albert Romolo Broccoli (not to be confused with an Alan Smithee credit, a pseudonym adopted by individuals wanting to disown the movie) commissioned from Salvador Dalí a deck of tarot cards to be used as a prop for a pivotal scene featuring a psychic played by Jane Seymour. Over budget, the studio went with another artist in the end but Dalí nonetheless completed his assignment, limning all the seventy-eight trump and numbered suites.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

geometria et perspectiva

From Public Domain Review, we are introduced to the strikingly modern and abstract art work of illustrator and scholar in the traditions established by Albrecht Dürer in his only known, extant publication, Lorentz Stöer (*1530 - †1621).
The 1567 volume is thin on words, the full title being Hier Jnn Etliche Zerbrochnen Gebeẅ, den Schreiner in eingelegter Arbait dienstlich, auch vil andern Liebhabern zu sonder gefallen geordnet vnd gestalt, Durch Lorentz Stöer Maller Burger Jnn Augspurg—that is, Geometry and Perspective: containing various ruined buildings useful for parquetry as well as for the enjoyment of other aficionados, so arranged and presented by the painter and Augsburger himself, and the colophon that labels the polygons and with the oddly challenging motto “Who would do right by everyone? No one would dare try!” and no other text, just a series of brilliantly coloured architectural studies, the geometric solids ideal subjects to demonstrate multi-point perspective, shadowing and foreshortening. Explore the entire book at the link above and learn how to order these images as prints.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019


A bit late to the party for International Caps Lock Day, a social engineering media giant has announced its new preferred form of address, a shouty, all majuscule style, the preferred copy of over-amplified right-leaning demagogues and their supporters, who assuredly need more accommodation.
And a platform—representation is important. Though brand-redesigns (see also here and here) are not always the bellwether of imminent collapse, one can pray for the sweet release of oblivion and hope that FACEBOOK will go the way of once-pioneering, ubiquitous America Online, that brought in mixed case plus punctuation, stylised as Aol., a decade ago shortly before its downfall.

monster mash

While somewhat deflated to learn that the secret ingredients of horror icons Boris Karloff’s and Vincent Price’s respective recipes for guacamole sauce (a redundancy since the spread is Nahuatl for avocado sauce) was not the exotica of a magic potion or witches brew, I was quite happy to encounter another instance of people engaged and enraptured not by what’s on the menu per se but rather by how one does food and how there are given set of norms for behaviour and etiquette.
I can’t say whether or not it’s a phenomenon specific to any one culture or subset but it strikes me that Americans are particularly sensitive to it—with the deportment of presidential candidates scruntised for “authenticity” by the way they wield fairground fare more memorable than any excerpts from debates. I wonder what that says about the state of the polity. Do check out the recipes at the link up top but also know that placing the avocado pit in the bowl of guacamole, contrary to testimony, will not keep it from turning brown.


Some six years after its companion probe (a lot of erata and embarrassment here but worth remembering for the government shutdown) crossed the threshold into interstellar space, Voyager 2 (having taken the scenic route) some nineteen billion kilometres (sixteen light hours) from Earth exited the heliosphere, the protective envelop of charged particles emanating from the Sun that demarcates our star’s sphere of influence, one year ago. Transmitting valuable telemetry on the shape and nature of this bubble that in one sense defines the Solar System, researchers have been pouring over the data from Voyager 2 during the ensuing months and have gained some insights what little eddies and gyres that our Sun produces in the vastness of space.

don’t you remember the fifth of november

Enshrined the following year as a commemoration of thanksgiving for the failure of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords and reinstate a Catholic monarchy and exported to America as Election Day, the once rabidly puritanical celebration and partisan scapegoating (previously) has evolved into a festival recognising the role of the subversive underdog and donning the mask of Guy Fawkes, the chief co-conspirator has become a symbol of protest and rebellion for any number of causes.
The preamble for the parliamentary act set forth that “many malignant and devilish Papists, Jesuits and Seminary Priests, much envying and fear, conspired most horribly, when the King’s most excellent Majesty, the Queen, the Prince, and he Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, should have been assembled in the Upper House of Parliament upon the Fifth Day of November in the Year of our Lord One thousand six hundred and five, suddenly to have blown up the said whole House with Gunpowder: An Invention so inhuman, barbarous and cruel, as the like was never before heard of.” Though no penalties were prescribed or meted out for failure to participate, the associated legislation directs church ministers to hold a special service on this anniversary and read the text to the parishioners. This requirement was annulled with the repealing of the Act in 1859, a decade after the Universalis Ecclesiæ was issued by the Vatican, restoring episcopal hierarchy in the country and recognising the legitimacy of the royal family. Though like Guy Fawkes Day the parade and associated events (Operation Vendetta) has transcended its founders’ and organisers’ original mission: at first meant to protest the secrecy and censorship of the Church of Scientology, marchers now rally for social justice.

Monday, 4 November 2019


From the Greek for the study of peebles (used for ballots in ancient Athens—the English word itself having Italic origins, ballotta, a little ball and hence the phrase “blackballing”), psephology is a sub-branch of political science that tries to account for election outcomes in language of socio-historic studies through research and reporting on voting registries, franchisement, polling and the influence of lobbies and special interest groups in politics.
Coined for the nonce in the late 1940s, the word term was introduced by Scottish classicist WFR Hardie when fellow academic and member of JRR Tolkein’s roundtable (the Inklings) Ronald Buchanan McCallum called on him for a word to denote the study of referenda. Poltical correspondents, analysts, demographers, policy wonks and pundits could all be called psephologtist—that is, pebble-counters.

positive externalities

Though we are familiar with the concept of sin-taxes and the notion of factoring in social cost into the price regime of consumption by means of a carbon-tax which has a diverse cast of proponents (and conversely incentives to make the more expensive choices for the sake of greater society), we had never heard of a Pigovian subsidy broadly applied as the name of this corrective measure.
Conceived nearly a century ago by Cambridge economics professor Arthur Cecil Pigou (*1877 – †1959), its first incarnation was a proposal to reveal and offset the hidden costs of alcohol on civil societies by levying taxes that would help fund law enforcement, first responders and insurance underwriters who have had to foot the extra bill of accident and absenteeism from intoxication. People then and now are reluctant to find correlation outside of their immediate horizons, and Pigou tried couching the argument in more concrete terms, social benefits and ills being notoriously hard to measure in a field that lobbies in numbers, citing unregulated industry for creating the deadly smog that beset London with direct costs built-in for inaction in terms of health and sustainability. Do give the entire podcast a listen and learn more about a real-world experiment whose time has finally come around.

wende ohne wenn und aber

On this day in East Berlin’s Alexanderplatz (previously) in 1989, up to a million demonstrators peaceably assembled for the largest rally registered and tolerated by the authorities.
Riding on the momentum of the Montagsdemos and shocked by the police violence committed against those who had demonstrated during the celebrations of the DDR’s fortieth anniversary a month beforehand, members of East Berlin’s theatre industry sought and were surprisingly granted permission to organise the event—hoping that official sanction would refuse the potential for injury.
The party was also invited to send speakers to address the crowd and deliver a defence for the status quo, the aims were to bring about democratic reforms in East Germany and enforce those provisions in the constitution that enshrined freedom of speech and assembly in theory but were lacking in practise and nothing so grand as opening the border or reuniting the divided nation. Party officers withered before the jeering masses. Parade marshals were dispatched to work the throngs with bright yellow sashes calling for “Keine Gewalt”—No Violence—and attendees were encouraged to bring signs, whose slogans included Bürgerrechte nicht nur auf Papier (Civil rights not only on paper) and Change – No Ifs, Ands or Buts.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

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Coder Neal Agarwal, whose mission is to help restore the web to its bold weirdness of days gone by, invites us to socialise, commune and channel with the greater world around us by exploring those lesser known platforms below the fold of the top-tier social media buttons. Check out more of Agarwal’s other projects—including taking in perspective the size of space and a call for submissions on drawing corporate logos (see also) from memory.

card catalogue

Via another peripatetic friend, Things Magazine, we are introduced to the cautionary stacks of Awful Library Books and reminded of the importance of culling for the sake of circulation and that “hoarding is not collection development.”
Among recent submissions that have thus far eluded the curatorial eyes of professional bibliothecopgraphers we really enjoyed discovering that God loves Mimes through Susie Kelly Toomey’s 1986 instruction book on silent but potentially equally obnoxious evangelism, The Psychotherapy Maze (1991): A Consumers’ Guide to Getting In and Out of Therapy, the volumes on crafting for niche audiences, obsolete technology, fad diets and beauty treatments are to be uncovered in the site’s extensive archives maintained by a consortium of librarians.  A lot of the jackets and covers could be from today’s self-published marketplace. I think I’ll be returning for more exploration and to check for regular updates real soon.