Wednesday, 11 December 2019

article i, section 2, clause 5

It is somewhat ironic—though we leave it to the adults in the room to recognise the separate natures of both pieces of legislation and as much as we’d rather shirk the duty and onus, recognise that we’re adults as well—that essentially in the same breath as the Democrats of the House of Representatives carefully and assiduously proceeded with introducing articles of impeachment against Trump, only happening three times before in US history with Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton acquitted by the Senate trial and Richard Nixon resigning in lieu of being fired, Congress also approved one of the Trump’s campaign promises—overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement. Seen as unfavourable to American industry by some creatures of his court, the newly negotiated NAFTA is couched in language of work standards which will probably prove beneficial to all parties. While the issues are distinct, the passage of the arrangement denies Trump his counter-programming (limited to an impromptu meeting with the Russian foreign secretary and reportedly warning Russia off about election meddling—that and superimposing his head on the body of Thanos, the comic book super-villain who eradicated half of all life in the Cosmos, that half apparently being the sixty-two percent of the electorate who didn’t vote for him) and tethered to the limited scope and scale of the charges, obstruction of Congress and rank hypocrisy in dealing with Ukraine, perhaps will mean he is the first to be removed from office through the process, delicately diffused and with solemn respect for the democratic process, knowing that failure to censure Trump would further erode norms and the checks-and-balances on executive power.

iso-8601 or fifty-two weeks make a year

Kottke once again rings in the season of superlatives with this thoughtful week-by-week catalogue of new things learned in this past year by Tom Whitwell (previously). Aside from being acquainted with the origins of getting one’s steps in, most of these interesting facts and figures were new to us and bare reflection and expanding into posts of their own.
We found especially enlightening and discouraging that the act of finding a clean and safe place to use the restroom for the world’s females takes no less a workforce equivalent equal to the size of Germany’s economy per year and the discovery that some visually impaired individuals can process speech many times faster than sighted people can, suggesting that the visual cortex can be remapped and repurposed. Do give the whole annotated list a look and let us know what you’ve learned that’s really shocking or resonant. What new fact you’ve learned (or remembered) from this past year would you add to the register?

Tuesday, 10 December 2019


Dangerous Minds showcases an authentically rare and obscure sampling of recordings from Cincinnati’s musical—punk, ska, rockabilly—underground, vintage 1975-1982. Like anything on the internet of course it’s a point of departure for further research and exploration and the featured tracks are barely scratching the surface, but we did quite like the references to Debbie Harry throughout.

rip: gun-marie fredriksson

We’re all magic friends.


Though never a serious contended to replace the Cyrillic variant of the Ukrainian alphabet, several times throughout history Latin scripts have enjoyed compelling fashionability and, always politically fraught, prompting studies into ornithological reform (see also) and sometimes the outright Romanization of the language.
A generalized Latin script called Łatynka was proposed and precipitated an intense public debate, the War of the Alphabets, especially along the country’s western frontier regions where there was an abrupt divide between writing traditions in the mid-nineteenth century and again became en vogue during the early years of the Soviet era—at one point some seventy new scripts were adapted for the Uralic, Iranian, Slavonic, Mongolian, Korean and Chinese written languages of the USSR, following the lead of Turkey. Publications, mainly for the benefit of border communities, during that phase—until development was halted and reversed by Joseph Stalin—incorporated letters from Czech and Polish alphabets and was called Abecadło.

resolution 217

The United Nations’ first major legislative achievement came on this day in 1948 with the General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, later each article committed to these stone pillars in Nuremberg, Straße der Menschenrechte.

The annual commemoration coincides with signatory and founding member state Sweden’s Nobeldagen, the date established in 1901 on the fifth anniversary of the death of the benefactor Alfred Nobel and first award ceremony (see previously) took place. All laureates, other than the recipient (including organisations) of the Peace Prize, are banqueted at Stockholm City Hall—with the exception, usually on the same day, presented in Oslo.

apostrophe s, apostrophe s, it shows the things that we possess

An attested grammar vigilante—though not a total pedant as the retired journalist admits there is an element of style when enforcing rules, had conceded defeat but is heartened by an overwhelming surge of interest in his Apostrophe Protection Society, founded in 2001 to champion the much-maligned (the green-grocers’ mark for touting apple’s and pear’s), misused punctuation—as often as not, made a pariah in some municipalities willfully promoting improper syntax, and even transmitting political overtones in its omission or inclusion. What do you think? Language evolves as does our load-bearing diacritics but I think there’s still quite a bit relevance in these tics and their placement.

alphabets heaven

Via Everlasting Blört and the Curious Brain, we are treated to a musical animated short by artist Natalia Ryss called Comte, musically and visually a bit reminiscent of the dream figures and engines set in motion in the music video accompanying Los Lobos’ Kiko and the Lavender Moon.  Much more to explore at the links above.

Alphabets Heaven - Comte from Natalia Ryss on Vimeo.

Monday, 9 December 2019

gumdrops and gatehouses

Carrying on a holiday tradition of crafting and featuring Modernist and Brutalist confectionary miniatures, Present /&/ Correct juries a new selection of gingerbread architectural models. It’s fun to try to identify the individual candy-types that make up the different architectural elements and appreciate the designers’ resourcefulness. According to lore, ginger was to be among the gifts of the magi but this particular wise man had to convalesce in Syria (see also) and did not make it to Bethlehem with the others but propelled his gesture onward with the baking custom.

little berlin

One month to the day after the Berlin Wall fell and the borders opened, a small village north of Hof on the frontier of Bavaria and Thüringen called Mödlareuth am Tannbach, a thirty centimeter wide brook that first demarcated the boundaries of the preceding polities of the Kingdom of Bayern and the Principality (Fürstentum) of Reuß-Gera after the Napoleonic Wars, prized a passageway through the wall dividing their town—absent gates or checkpoints—so neighbours could finally be reunited. A hundred meter span of wall has been retained as part of an open-air museum. Echoing Kennedy’s speech, during a visit in 1983, then vice-president George HW Bush proclaimed, “Ich bin ein Mödlareuther.”

Sunday, 8 December 2019


ideograrch: the iconic works of architecture abstracted in Kanji-like calligraphy by Federico Babina

quasi-modo: a Russian DJ that combines his skill with bell-ringing with techno music

head in the clouds: a look at cities in the sky

dreigroschenoper: a gallery of playbills and references that cover the works of Bertolt Brecht—via Strange Company 

pelagic zone: a deep sea explorer from (previously), via Kottke 

fine html products: a survey of superlative links of the 2010s

apotropaic charms: stunning enamel pins from Lydia Daum, via Swiss Miss 

you have the right to hush-up: Slaw & Order, courtesy the Art of Darkness 

: Aoi Huber Kono’s 1972 picture haiku book Winter

Saturday, 7 December 2019

the voyage beyond apollo

To coincide with the Apollo 17 mission and last time that human would set foot on the lunar surface, Caribbean cruise line Holland America offered a special voyage on its flag ship that cruised past Cape Kennedy to afford paying patrons and a gaggle of celebrity shipmates the chance to observe the rocket launch.
For nearly as long as the final and longest mission of the programme, holiday-makers could mingle with science fiction and fantasy luminaries like Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Robert Heinlein, and Ben Bova as well as astrophysicist and science-communicator Carl Sagan (previously). Organised under the auspices of space propulsion visionary Dr Robert Duncan-Enzmann—who also incidentally tried to push the bounds of prehistory back eons by deciphering cave inscriptions and may have gone a bit mad in the effort, there was a series of on-board lectures and seminars to discuss the future of space exploration. The next port-of-call was Arecibo, Puerto Rico (see also) to visit the radio telescope.

body thetan

Roughly a decade after Keith Richards somnambulistically developed the tune and Mick Jagger writing the lyrics at the poolside created the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” while staying at the Clearwater, Florida resort, the Fort Harrison Hotel had fallen into disrepair and the operators had gone bankrupt, and the property was purchased by the Church of Scientology. 
The building was  converted into a spiritual centre with lodgings for visiting practitioners and in some cases controversially as a rehabilitation and re-programming facility for its more deviant members and for those who would stray from the flock.  This day on the church’s calendar of holidays is celebrated as the opening of the church’s headquarters compound in 1975. Another important holiday falls at the end of the month, 30 December as Freedom Day when in 1974 the US government accorded the organization tax-exempt status as a religious institution.

le projet ozma

Among the first official accolades that the crew of the Apollo 11 Mission were awarded outside of the ticker-tape parades and immediate fame was the astronomical portion of the Prix Guzman—on this day in 1969, an honorarium provided for by the estate of Marc Guzman and established in the will of his widow Anne Emilie Clara Goget in 1891. Arguably the astronauts won by dint of a technicality—the one-thousand-franc prize to be given to a person or group that succeeded in communicating with another celestial body, which the Eagle did with Mission Control in Houston.
Interest accumulated in the meantime and that premium was awarded every five years or so to an individual who had made significant contributions to space exploration, as adjudged by the Académie des sciences of the Institut de France. As many people believed at the time of Madame Guzman’s death that Mars was inhabited by intelligent beings, communications with that planet were specifically exempted as not worthy of the challenge and would be established in the immediate future (see also). The title and related paradox refer to the precursor programme to SETI started by Cornell astronomer Frank Drake, named after Princess Ozma whom L Frank Baum channelled by radio to learn of events in the Land of Oz after his first-hand accounts ended. The problem that arises from such a two-way communication with extra-terrestrials is the lack of a frame of reference and thus no means of conveying basic ideas of orientation, right and left, and parity. The other honorarium, to be awarded for the development of a treatment for the most common forms of heart disease, has yet to be given out. Regardless of Madame Guzman’s intent, the accomplishments of Apollo were certainly no mean feat.

Friday, 6 December 2019


Founded by reporter and newspaperman (having previously established a publication in St Louis) Stilton Hutchins in 1877 to advance the views of the Democratic Party, the venerable institution the Washington Post (previously here and here) had issued its first edition on this day. After a series of mergers with competing area gazettes a decade into reporting, Hutchins sold the press to former US Postmaster General, Frank Hatton, and Ohio congressional representative Beriah Wilkins, whom together commissioned US Marine Band Leader John Philips Sousa to compose a march to celebrate the occasion. The eponymous tune (you’ll know it the second you hear it) was also the subject of a dance craze at the end of the nineteenth century.

mambo № 2

Starting out somewhat innocuously but worth staying with it, a trust-worthy music historian called Archie Henderson—by way of Waxy—in collaboration with comedian Adrian Gray enlightens us with short clips of the best-selling singles of each decade, spanning all the way back to fourteen thousand years BC.
I haven’t listened to every representative, superlative song in this thread and am still working through the considerably back catalogue but we really liked the 1950’s Chunky Finchman and his Interrupting Choir performance of “She’s my Baby” overtaking the 1940’s top hit Jöhn Smith’s Britain (is where I’m from) and from the aughts the Wright Brothers and their Ten Feet High Club. Medieval times seem especially lit.  Check out yesteryear’s chart toppers and let us know your favourites.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

suncave parry arc

Via Kottke, we are given a nice lesson on the atmospheric phenomenon of ice crystal halos and the exacting collusion of conditions that must take place in order to be a privileged witness.  I am very much an enthusiast as well for the dazzling Alpine displays of reflection and refraction that are not only confined to colder and am consoled by the seeming penchant of weather formations (and have my camera ready in anticipation) to partake in the Baader-Meinhof syndrome (see also)—the frequency illusion and actually seem to manifest more often once one can name them, which feels very much the case with usual clouds, sundogs and double-rainbows.


Pivoting from a palette inspired by living coral selected for last year, Pantone has dug into its classic catalogue to craft a shade for 2020’s Colour of the Year.
Maybe it’s not such a subtle endorsement for Democrats but we’ll take any signaling we can get. The dependable and serviceable hue was chosen for a range of positive attributes including “calm, confidence and connection.” Though a seemingly standard harmonious cobalt, this formulation is fresh for the coming year, knowing that formerly the designation was different from the lyric of the Magnetic Fields’ “Reno, Dakota”—there’s not an iota of kindness in you / You know you enthrall me and yet you don’t call me / It’s making me blue, Pantone 292. A slightly lighter colour but still solidly on the same wavelength.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019


Though not wholly representative of the reception on the part of peers and the public, the 1913 show at New York City’s Armory which exposed American audiences to the staples of European Modernism for the first time engendered mixed reactions, including the cumulative accession that progresses alphabetically through this new exposure.
The confusion and anger of some was distilled in a regressive-progressive volume, acrostic from Mary Mills and Earl Harvey Lyall that aired its discontent for Cubism and Futurism by the letter.

Q’s for the Queerness we Stand-patters feel
When progressive young Cubies start Art reformation.
They’re strong on Initiative, praise the Square Deal:
“Though the Cubic is best” they aggressively squeal:
“Painting things as you see them is rank deformation!”

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

turkey lurkey

Catching up on some post-Thanksgiving podcast listening, we were delighted to learn of the existence of priceless collaboration between Susan J Vitucci and Henry Krieger in their silly and engaging operetta Love’s Fowl that recounts the continuing adventures of Henny Penny, also known as Chicken Little or by her stage diva name, La Pulcina Piccola—but through the filter of opera buffa, with an impressive, classically informed score and libretto sung in Italian, featured in a poultry-themed left-overs episode of This American Life.
Our hero has graduated from her initial hysterical though determined mission (despite leaping to the wrong conclusion, her perseverance is what saved her life whereas her companions all dawdled and became Foxy Loxy’s meal—those without scruples always ready and willing to take advantage of panic and confusion) to warn the King that the sky is falling to face some of the more vexing but equally universal challenges of fairy stories and folklore (the familiar, initial trope is classified as Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 20c but together, we run the entire gamut), a cumulative story like the original premise it begins with, repetitious in some way but always advancing, including swashing-buckling on the high seas, statecraft and romantic liaisons.

a lerner and loewe production

With a strong cast including Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet, Richard Burton and Roddy McDowall though opening-night critical reception was mixed, Camelot premiered on Broadway at the Majestic on this day in 1960—running ultimately for over eight hundred performances in the course of three years before going on tour, netting several awards and a cinematic adaptation (also boosting a strong suite of actors).  It’s a little strange to think in hindsight that the Kennedy White House was accorded those airs and refinement of chivalry and idealism because the stage play and cast recording were so well inculcated in popular culture and not the other way around. I wonder where else this phenomena, this transference takes hold. At the end of the second and final act, with infidelity leading to betrayal and bloodshed and the Round Table broken, King Arthur encounters a young stowaway called Tom of Warwick (Robin Stewart, Mike Abbott on ITV’s Bless this House) whom he knights, hoping that this field promotion will ensure that his legend and the Matter of Britain are carried forward for future generations.

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

Monday, 2 December 2019


Whilst it is an indisputably good rule of thumb to adhere by that what provokes the most outrage also is deserving of most research before propagating, it also behooves one to know what’s in the quiver of political canvassers so one might better recognize the disguised subterfuge for what it is. Though certain campaigns may be more effective than others and particular groups may be targeted more relentless than others by dint of susceptibility and reception (real, perceived or attributed), the biggest danger lies in fancying ourselves immune to such influence peddling.

aus tradition grenzen überschreiten

With illustrious alumni including H, Angela Merkel, Robert Schumann, Friedrich Nietzsche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Tycho Brahe, the University of Leipzig is one of the world’s most storied and preeminent institutions of higher learning and second longest in existence only to that of Heidelberg (1386) in Germany and was officially founded on this day in 1409 to provide a new alma mater to German-speaking academics that had fled the reformation movement agitated by Jan Hus in Prague with the endorsement of the papacy.

To ensure the university’s independence and scholastic freedom from state influence, the founders gifted the institution first three then a total of eight nearby villages as sources of revenue, an arrangement that continued through the nineteenth century. Pictured here is the Paulinerkirche, which served as the university’s anchor since the beginning, until its demolition by the government of East Germany in 1968 but rebuild in modernist style in 2012 as the Paulinum (das Aula und Universitätskirche Sankt Pauli) with the former dormitory high rise—meant to suggest an open book, now City-Hochhaus beside. The above motto translates, (from) a tradition of crossing borders and was one of the first institutions to allow female guests to audit classes, eventually awarding its first doctor of jurisprudence degree to a Russian graduate student called Anna Yevreinova in 1873 and during the transition period of the decline and eventual dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, many from the newly independent republics turned to Leipzig as an administrative and educational model.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

пицца хат

Nearly as strange and forgotten as the time when Pepsi Cola had the second largest naval fleet in the world, Miss Cellania reminds us of the time in 1997 when Mikhail Gorbachev was promoting an international pizza franchise (see also).
It can be a bit treacherous for leaders to outlive their countries or for celebrities or politicians to otherwise survive beyond their careers when there’s little prospect for a next chapter and every time a moment like this appears in a collection of clips of embarrassing star endorsements, it does leave a bit of a breadcrumb of clickbait behind, yet there’s a truly complex narrative and history encapsulated in this sixty-second spot that’s more respectful than most advertising to geopolitics and recent history and one worth exploring in detail.


The panel jury of the Society for the Germany Language (GfdS, Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache) in Wiesbaden has submitted its selection for Wort des Jahres (previously) with the above portmanteau that highlights the problem that many retirees face in old age of despite having contributed to a full pension all their careers, are not seeing the returns to fund their accustomed lifestyle. Rather than a universal basic income, legislators propose broadly means to supplement seniors at the end of one chapter of their working lives. Respektrente beat out Rollerchaos, another neologism, to describe the regrettable opening up the sidewalks to electric-scooters.

herrnhuter stern

We’re getting ready to hang up our Moravian stars as the first festoonery of the season and the process of constructing the lantern and piecing together the paper cones is always an engaging ritual.
The decoration and design originated in the 1830s in a Moravian church (see also) boarding school for boys near the town of Görlitz to impart students with a lesson in geometry—the twenty-six-sided star being called a rhombicuboctahedron. Around 1880, an alumnus of the Pædagogium made the stars and their instruction manuals for sale in his bookstore and his son went on to open a factory in 1897 in the village of Herrnhut under the auspices of the church that makes and distributes the stars to this day.

thumpety, thump, thump

Via Boing Boing, we are treated to a musical duet of Leon Redbone and Dr John performing “Frosty the Snowman” from the former’s 1988 holiday album Christmas Island. Both musicians passed away earlier this year within weeks of each other.  Redbone also voiced the Narrator Snowman (inspired by the Rankin and Bass characters) in the 2003 Christmas comedy Elf.