Friday, 7 January 2022

pardon my french

Cynically characterised by some as a political ploy ahead of the election to stoke resentment for those members of the public refusing or hesitant over vaccines the vulgarity that Emmanuel Macron lobbied against the small but vocal minority of the unvaccinated that’s being translated, innocuously, as “be made pissed off”—whereas, perhaps just as inoffensively if not a bit rough (see also), the original word choice was emmerder, a literal calque one can easily imagine but conveys the sense of “to make inopportune” and rather responsibly makes social venues the preserved of those inoculated. Much more at Language Log at the link above.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

the same procedure as every year

Having not watched Dinner for One (Der 90. Geburtstag) sketch for the past couple of years, we appreciated the reminder from Nag on the Lake and can confirm it’s been recently on in the background, this 1962 recording broadcast every year in Germany on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day for reasons no one can quite recall. This year in the midst of restrictions on gatherings, virtual parties and celebrations scaled back, with bands playing to empty venues—it seems especially poignant. “But my friends—they’re waiting in the lobby.” There, there, of course they are, Miss Sophie. Do check it out if you’re not familiar—it is timelessly funny.

Friday, 31 December 2021

pneumonia of unknown etiology

On this day in 2019, the World Health Organisation’s China Country Office received a report of approximately four dozen cases, with a fourth of the patients presenting as severely ill, detected in Wuhan in Hubei province. Original disease vector that introduced the contagion were never identified but the virus SARS-CoV-2 and variants eventually came to be classified as COVID-19. One year later to the day—shortly after the roll-out had already begun in the UK, the WHO’s stringent regulatory authority approved its first eight emergency-use validations for vaccinations undergoing clinical trials, hedging various strategies to stimulate immune responses in the human body to this novel coronavirus we had not been exposed to before, including messenger RNA, fragmented and inactivated virus approaches.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

mmxxi

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2022, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place in 2021. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

 january: In the US state of Georgia’s run-off election, Democrat candidates prevail and thus switch the Senate’s controlling majority. The joint session of Congress to certify the votes of the Electoral College in favour of the Biden-Harris ticket is interrupted by a violent insurrection on the Capitol incited by Donald

Trump, yet the proceedings are resumed undeterred. For his gross incompetence and treasonous actions, the US House of Representatives impeaches Trump for a second time. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated president and vice-president of the United States of America in a socially-distanced ceremony held on the same portico where the violent coup attempt occured two weeks prior. Across Russia, thousands protest the arrest and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  English filmmaker Michael Apted (*1941), entertainer Siegfried Fischbacher (*1939, see also last May) and baseball players Tommy Lasorda (*1927) and Hank Aaron (*1941), actress Cloris Leachman (*1926) as well as accomplished star of stage and screen Cicely Tyson (*1924) pass away.  

february: A military uprising in Myanmar wrests power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.  Actor Hal Holbrook (*1925) and veteran become fund-raiser who raised millions for the National Health

Service Sir Captain Thomas Moore (*1920) himself succumbed to COVID-19.   French screen-writer and director Jean-Claude Carriรจre (*1931) passed away, and so veteran actor Christopher Plummer (*1929). The US Senate again convenes as jury to vote on whether to acquit or prosecute Donald Trump’s impeachment.  Larry Flynt (*1942), publisher, pornographer and self-styled anti-censorship champion, passed away, as did jazz virtuoso and twenty-three-time Grammy Award winner Chick Corea (*1941).  The US Senate votes not to acquit Donald Trump a second time after his second impeachment.  A polar vortex brings severe winter storms to Texas and Mexico, leaving millions without heat and electricity has the power grid is overwhelmed.  Talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh (*1951)  dies after a year-long struggle with lung cancer.  Poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti passes away, aged 101. Martian probe Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet to begin a search for signs of past life. The US rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement.  

march: Oprah Winfrey interviews the estranged, self-exiled Sussexes about Meghan Markle’s treatment

by the Royal Family, causing consternation and many to question the institution of the monarchyPhantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster (*1929) passed away aged ninety-one.  A container ship gets lodged in the Suez Canal, hindering global trade and could potentially be stuck for weeks.  Legislators in the American state of Georgia pass selectively restrictive laws to disenfranchise Black voters.   Children’s book author Beverly Cleary (*1916) writer of the Ramona Quimby series passed away, aged 104.  The usurping military forces in Myanmar gun down dozens of pro-democracy protesters.  Islamic rebels besiege the city of Palma in Mozambique.  Undercover operative whose missteps brought the Watergate scandal to the press and public, G. Gordon Liddy (*1930) died, aged 90, as did author Larry McMurtry (*1936) who penned Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.

april: Prince Phillip passes away, aged 99.  As tensions escalate between Russia and NATO with a troop

build-up along the border with Ukraine, US President Joe Biden proposes to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to normalise relations and restore diplomatic ties.  The police officer who murdered George Floyd is found guilty on all charges.  Walter Mondale (*1928), former vice president under Jimmy Carter, and presidential candidate with running-mate Geraldine Ferraro passed away, aged ninety-three.  Astronaut Michael Collins (*1930) who orbited the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface passed away, aged ninety.

may: Accomplished actor Olympia Dukakis (*1931) passed away, aged eighty-nine.  Architect Helmut Jahn (*1940) behind the Messeturm in Frankfurt and the Post tower in Bonn died in a bicycle accident.  Dozens of rebel priests across German defy the Catholic church and offer benedictions to same-sex couple.  Israel airstrikes in Gaza escalate.  Actor, author, televangelist and TV’s Captain Merrill Stubing Gavin MacLeod (*1931) after suffering a long bout of ill-health.  

june: G7 leaders meet in Cornwall, in person.  A coalition government in Israel unseats Netanyahu after a

dozen years as prime minister.  The US government establishes Juneteenth as a new federal holiday though new laws to disenfranchise Black voters continues apace in many Republican controlled polities.  The space station Tiangong receives its first crew.  Software and computer security pioneer John McAfee (*1945) found dead in a Spanish jail cell awaiting extradition to the US over charges of tax evasion.  Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was disbarred for peddling the lie that that the election was stolen from his former client.  The US government issues a declassified report to congress regarding unidentified aerial phenomenon.  A twelve storey condominium complex near Miami, Florida collapses with dozens injured and unaccounted for.  

july: Outrage as more mass-graves of indigenous pupils found at historic Canadian residential schools.  Hundreds perish from record heatwaves and wildfires along the Pacific coast of North America.  Angela Merkel makes her last official visit to the United Kingdom, addressing the Houses of Parliament, the last

foreign leader to do so since Bill Clinton in 1997.   Richard Donner (*1930), film director behind The Goonies, Superman and the Lethal Weapon franchise passed away.  England plans to fully reopen with no COVID-19 restrictions late in the month despite a resurgence in cases and the rapidly spreading Delta variant.  Jovenel Moรฏse, the Haitian president, was assassinated.  Continual and torrential rains exacerbated by the climate emergency caused severe flooding in western Germany and the Henan region in China.  The Special Committee on the January 6th Capitol Insurrection heard opening testimony from law enforcement on the scene of the terror attack.  Inventor and infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil (*1935) passed away.

august: The UN Panel on Climate Change issues a stark, bleak forecast for the planet’s future as a suitable place for life as we know it.  Wildfires rage throughout the Mediterranean, Siberia and the North American west coast.  As coalition forces depart, the resurgent Taliban takes several regional capitals in weeks with Kabul poised to soon collapse as authorities flee and embassies are evacuated.  A massive earthquake strikes Haiti.  Tragically, most Afghani government officials flee the country and the capital falls as the Taliban retakes power and restores the emirate after nearly two decades of warfare.  US army installations in Germany assist with Operation Allied Refuge (OAR) as thousands of Afghans are airlifted from the country.  Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (*1941) passes away. 
Just days ahead of the deadline imposed to complete evacuation missions out of the Hamid Karzai international airport, an Islamic State affiliate and sworn enemy of the Taliban for being too Westernised, lax, undisciplined detonated twin suicide bombs outside the gates, killing dozens.  Veteran actor and advocate Ed Asner (*1929) passed away as did Jamaican musical giant Lee “Scratch” Perry (*1936).  On the sixteenth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, a destructive storm called Ida makes landfall.  The Taliban celebrates with fireworks and firing rifles in the air the departure of the last US flight from the Kabul airport, declaring victory.

september: The legislature of the state of Texas passes a tranche of new laws curtailing voting access, restricting teaching of America’s racist past and present, mandating the national anthem at sporting events, permitting universal carry laws for firearms and doing away with licensure or training requirements and

essentially banning abortion by placing a bounty on abettors and deputising neighbours to litigate the ban against neighbours.  New Wave actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (*1933), whose roles defined the genre and called the French counterpart of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, passed away.  El Salvador becomes first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.  “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” singer Marรญa Mendiola (*1952) of Baccara passed away in Madrid.  An effort to recall and replace Democrat governor of California fails and Gavin Newsome retains his place, though the balloting and counter-campaigns cost taxpayers of the state in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.  The first commercial, all-amateur space tourism mission safely splashes down after three days in orbit.  Entrepreneur, inventor and computing pioneer behind the ZX Spectrum, Clive Sinclair passed away, aged 81 (*1940).  Justin Trudeau’s party retains power following national elections.  After three years under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to America on charges of espionage and circumventing sanctions against Iran, business executive Meng Wangzhou, daughter of the head of Chinese communications giant Huawei, is released. 

october:  US president Biden’s agenda is derailed, diminished by moderate voices in his party.  A vaccine for malaria is trialled in Africa.  Amid a growing corruption scandal, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz

tenders his resignation, though choosing to remain leader of his political party and will retain his seat in parliament.  William Shatner, aged ninety, as a space tourist becomes the oldest human to enter the Earth’s orbit.  Attending an open-advice surgery for his constituents from Leigh-on-Sea, long-time MP David Amess was murdered by an attacker with a knife.  Former US Joint-Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell (*1937) dies from complications arising from COVID-19.  President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, under pressure from elements of his own party, is rather austerely pared back, dropping proposed benefits like universal college tuition and paid family-leave.  Garbage social media network rebrands its parent company as Meta as it prepares to build and embrace its concept of the metaverse.  A military coup in Somali plunges the country into chaos with no signs of peaceful resolution.

november: A powerful storm-flood in western Canada cuts off Vancouver from the rest of British Columbia.  Weaponised refugees massed at the EU frontier by a provoking Belarus at enormous personal

cost are slowly being repatriated to the lands they fled.  After exonerated in a gross miscarriage of justice, Republicans acclaim a teenage, white supremacist murderer as their new hero.  Award winning Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim passes away, aged ninety-one in the same week as Schoolhouse Rock! lyricist Dave Frishberg (*1933).  The COVID-19 Omicron-variant, first detected in South Africa, is causing major concerns as convention cases rage resurgent in Europe, poised to be more widespread and deadly than the same time a year ago.  Inflation and supply-chain issues threaten global economic recovery.  On the anniversary of its independence from the UK in 1966, Barbados becomes the world's newest republic, with Sandra Mason as the island’s president. 

december: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows releases Power Point slide-deck that outlined options for Trump to hold on to the presidency in the chaos of the 6. January insurrection to the commission investigating the attempted coup.  Monkees singer Mike Nesmith (*1942) passes away.  An unseasonal tornado rips through western Kentucky, leaving over a hundred dead.   Gothic novelist Anne Rice (*1941 as Howard Allen Francis O’Brien) passed away.  Tensions continue to mount at the Russo-Ukraine border with Russia putting forward a litany of demands for NATO to avoid invasion.   Journalist and author Joan Didion (*1934) passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.   Borders close and travel-restrictions re-imposed over truly exponential spread of the the Omicron variant; preliminary findings suggest although less lethal, hospitals and other essential services could be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and vulnerable populations still need protection.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu (*1931), anti-apartheid hero and moral-centre, passes away aged ninety.  Sadly veteran blogger Jonco, behind Bits & Pieces, passed away quite suddenly, leaving the blogosverse a dimmer place.  On the last day of the year and just weeks short of planned celebrations for her one-hundredth birthday, beloved talent and treasure with a career spanning over eight decades, Betty White (*1922) passed away.

 



Sunday, 26 December 2021

the year in photos

2021 beginning a continuation of the previous year in many ways and not the grand departure we were counting on, changes and improvements are incremental rather than escapingly exponential and so appreciated, these collections of superlative images that chronicle the course of the past twelve months. There were of course too many arresting and consequential photographs to include them all, but this one picture framed by Don Seabrook of after school band practice addresses that stepwise nature of best-practices trialled and abandoned, sometimes without explanation, like those directional arrows in supermarket aisles that aren’t apparently needed any more or the rules of masking at restaurants and how safety bumps and personal mitigation-measures up on the limits of science. Much more to explore from Kottke at the link up top aggregating the lists from various news outlets.

Monday, 13 December 2021

pearls before swine

An investigation into sudden-onset meat allergies comes full-circle with the recognition of a particular sugar called Alpha GAL that can cause intolerance for some and results in in an expansion of organ-donor base for others raises some thorny philosophical questions for us, cheerleaders, the lonely survivor and commodifying dissenters alike airing our objections over the brashest of enthusiasm for progress.

Saturday, 11 December 2021

most efficacious in every case

Reaching number one on the UK single charts on this day in 1968and made that year’s signature Christmas novelty song, the Liverpudlian folk ensemble The Scaffold, led by Mike McGear—the stage name of Peter McCartney, Paul’s younger brother—along with comedian John Gorman and poet Roger

McGough, their rendition of “Lily the Pink” was based on a traditional ballad about American Lydia Estes Pinkham who marketed a patent medicine, a tonic which most dismissed as quackery (though this lending her name to a product should not detract from her contributions in the abolitionist and civil rights) for women to treat hysteria and other feminine maladies. Memorialised in a rather bawdy series of drinking songs (see also)—as Pinkham’s forty-proof elixir was still available with prescription during Prohibition—during Canadian soldiers in World War I with a version made the unsanctioned regiment tune of the Royal Tank Corps during World War II, the Scaffold’s version was sanitised, also on the top playlists in Austria, West Germany and Ireland. Later McGear would work with the McCartneys on Wings.

Friday, 10 December 2021

nobelfesten

Cancelled for a second year due to the pandemic, normally the Nobel Banquet (previously here and here) is held annually on this day (the anniversary of the death in 1896 of its benefactor, inspired to become a philanthropist after reading a premature obituary of himself that described him as a war profiteer, indeed having amassed his fortune from dynamite), the fรชte hosted in the Blue Hall of the rathaus of Stockholm for 1971 would have included amongst its guests Willy Brandt, chancellor of West Germany, Pavlo Neruda, Chilean poet and diplomat, Simon Kuznets, responsible for turning economics into an empirical, cyclical science, and Gรกbor Dรฉnes, inventory of among other things holography.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

sex-postive

Perennially indebted to our faithful chronicler, we are reminded that on this day in 1994, that US Surgeon General under Bill Clinton, VADM Dr. Minnie Joycelyn Elders, was forced to resign for expressing her views frankly on what at the time was considered taboo topics of discussion including drug legalisation, distributing contraception in public schools and most controversially introducing masturbation (on World AIDS Day) to sex-education curricula. Championing control of reproductive rights and decriminalisation of drug offences during her sixteen month tenure, Elders’ ideas for visionary for a stage in American cultural that pivoted particularly in the prudish direction, though rather than being about what’s discussed in polite company was never the issue but instead the societal norms and strictures put in place to uphold and perpetuate the patriarchy and class-structure.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

week-by-week

In what’s become an annual treat, Tom Whitwell again shares fifty-two items he has gleaned from the past year. In the compilation, drawn from experiencing editing projects for Fluxx / Medium, Whitwell’s shared new facts learned include that daily over a million images of coffee grinds are uploaded to a fortune reading app (the process of divination called tasseomancy), advice on how to solicit better answers, the MSG hoax, the truth behind the mystery seeds from China hysteria, and a few we’ve previously covered like how cowpox vaccine was transported around the world, traditional Japanese microseasons, how film was formulated to privilege lighter complexions, and how the threshhold effect applies even to a doorway on screen. Many more astonishing correlations at the links above—do let us know your favourites.

wรถrter des jahres

The panel jury of the Society for the Germany Language (GfdS, Gesellschaft fรผr deutsche Sprache) in Wiesbaden has submitted its selection for Word of the Year (see previously) chosing Wellenbrecher (Breakwater, in the sense of disrupting successive waves of viral outbreaks) as the overall top neologism of 2021. Runners-up included Pflexit for the mass-exodus of nursing staff (Pflegekraft) from the profession from burnout, stress and even threats of physical violence, Impfpflicht (mandatory vaccination), Ampelparteien, the English borrowing Booster over the German word Auffrischungsimpfung—which was the preferred term for second-dose, and the new formulation Funf nach Zwรถlf instead of Five Minutes to Midnight in addressing the climate crisis.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

7x7

dress rehearsal: for a quarter of a century, an individual attended his own funeral  

dominical letters: how the artificial unit of the week came to govern our lives—see also  

carceral publications: a collection of US prison newspapers  

yes or no questions: celebrate the conclusion of Futility Closet’s eight plus year run with a final episode of lateral thinking puzzles  

hvorugkynsnafnorรฐ: despite progress in the choices for human naming conventions, the Icelandic governing body for horses is still highly gendered  

regenerative medicine: researchers develop “xenobots” capable of biological self-replication—via Waxy  

amigone: aptly named mortuary services—via Super Punch

๐ŸŽ—️

Observed annually since being designated as an international day of awareness and mourning of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes the life threatening and in most cases fatal acquired immunodeficiency syndrome by compromising resistance to other diseases, World AIDS Day in 2019 marked the first recorded case of another pandemic, far more contagious and readily transmitted with the World Health Organisation picking up on a report published in the medical journal The Lancet documenting the onset of symptoms in Patient Zero for COVID-19 on this day of that year. The WHO verified this diagnosis with their own official reports on the novel corona virus within the week. There is no vaccine for AIDS, which has claimed over forty million lives and untold collateral damage and forty thousand people contract the disease annually, though improved access to antiretroviral therapies as well as broad acceptance of interventions and preventative measures has significantly slowed the spread and meant that many can live with the illness.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

balmis expedition

The operation officially named Real Expediciรณn Filantrรณpica de la Vacuna, the Spanish healthcare mission under the leadership of Doctor Francisco Javier de Balmis set sail on the Marรญa Pita from a port in Galicia on this day in 1803 and would vaccinate, using the technique developed by Edward Jenner, untold millions against smallpox, calling in the Canary Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, China and the Philippines, even offering surplus to the colony at Saint Helena on the return route, despite animosities between Spain and Britain at the time. Undertaken to make amends for the Old World diseases that ravaged North and South America and to attempt to wipe out the contagion that proved fatal for nearly half a million individuals annually in Europe only, the complement and crew included twenty-two orphaned boys designated as successive carriers of the cowpox virus (there being no refrigeration or other means to isolate and transport the vaccine), which would help recipients acquire immunity to the deadlier version.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

what who called the ฮฝ variant? yes!

With WHO’s on First—JWZ brings us some comic-relief over the latest viral strain of concern, though to apparently avoid such hilarious confusion, went out of Greek alphabetical order, jumping ahead to Omicron (little o, as opposed to Omega, that’s big o) skipping nu and xi (ฮพ).


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

nifty

As the Guardian reports, Collins Dictionary has selected the abbreviation of Non-Fungible Token as its word of the year (see previously here and here), tracking the stratospheric rise of the blockchain of registry of digital assets that lexically rose above the general din of the COVID crisis, pingdemic and hybrid-working as pandemic-related forerunners, and—regardless of what one thinks of the evaluation--defines a new market and speaks to a broad craze and means for artists to profit online. Other contenders included cheugy and regencycore—referring to cosplay in 1810s style garb.

 

 

Saturday, 20 November 2021

sopรฒt

Once the weather seemed to stabilise, H and I took a short train journey to the seaside resort city on the Bay of Gdaล„sk to take in the sights and learn about the history of the place, first meeting the home army mascot Wojtek the Bear (more here) memorialised in the churchyard visited by John Paul II in 1999. Among the first spots in the modern era to cultivate thermal cures and health-tourism, Sopot / Zoppot recovered quickly from the war with enduring institutions on balneotherapy and reoccurring music festivals—from Wagner to jazz. The main, pedestrianised thoroughfare is dedicated to the memory of the Battle of Monte Cassino, the costly and destructive stand-off to break the Winter Line with the regrouped Polish II Corps joining Allied forces against Nazi Germany to advance into Rome—the tumult and violence later inspiring American bomber who participated in the razing of the ancient monastery to pen A Canticle for Leibowitz, and whose heroes counted among their ranks our above ursine friend. The main street includes several shopping arcades and Krzywy Domek (the Crooked House), a fairy tale-inspired mall and terminates with the lighthouse and similarly constructed Church of the Holy Saviour and Grand Hotel on the beach, yet extends over half a kilometre further out over the sea with the longest wooden pier in Europe and among the longest in the world.

 


Thursday, 18 November 2021

colour reference card

Effectively calibrated to recognise and register lighter complexions as standard, 99% Invisible—through

the artefacts called “Shirley Cards” that were distributed to film developers (see previously) to adjust their laboratories and perpetuate the built-in bias—explores how technology, deliberately, natively, naively or not, privileges whiteness by making it de facto more photogenic. The defaults of cameras, film and flash—and still the case to an extent with digital photography but we’re slowly growing wiser to our own shortcomings and their consequences (though the problem is a big one that goes far beyond pictures and is reflected in body of medical literature that is derived from too few female or minority subjects) makes it more challenging to capture compelling images of darker complected individuals and effects how people are seen and limits expression. Much more at the links above.

Friday, 12 November 2021

santa claus isn’t coming to town

With an extreme shortage of Santa’s Helpers available and unwilling to work and risk life and limb with a resurgent pandemic expected to get worse before it gets better (many of the usual candidates in character being older and larger individuals considered more vulnerable), many malls—worldwide—are turning towards a new Yuletide tradition and installing the red-light, green-light killer robot from Squid Games (previously). Adults queuing up at a shopping centre in Manchester even were served dalgona—the fragile sugar cookie-cutter candy from one of the challenges—whilst they waited patiently to have their picture taken with the giant doll.  Not to fret, however, since unlike one’s typical Mall Santas, the actual Father Christmas is immune and designated as an essential worker.

Monday, 1 November 2021

woty: vaxx

Though very much a carry-over from the past year’s extraordinary multiplicity of choices to limn an extraordinary year, from fully-vaxxed, anti-vaxxers, to vax cards and vax apps vax passes demonstrates that lexically, our common-parlance still places us firmly in the midst of the moment. The Oxford English Dictionary’s choice by September as the jury was finalising its list of nominees was cited in print fully seventy-two times more frequently than the year prior. Aside from addressing our social and cultural moment, I wonder about the stylistic consensus to double the x in this clipping and can’t decide if it’s apothecary’s shorthand or just slang, the root coined by physician and scientist Edward Jenner to describe cowpox and his method to immunise people from the more severe smallpox through exposure and variolation.