Saturday, 1 October 2022

the new people (10. 183)

Produced for a single season and clocking in at forty-five minutes per episode (a rarity for regularly-scheduled programming), the 1969 Aaron Spelling and Larry Gordon collaboration for the ABC network was developed by Rod Serling (under the pseudonym John Phillips—see previously) and centres around the struggle for survival of a group of American college freshman returning from a trip in Southeast Asia (to present as goodwill ambassadors during Vietnam) whose plane crashes on a deserted island in the Pacific, which had been slated and provisioned for a nuclear-test that never took place. Foreshadowing the later ABC series Lost, it explores rather melodramatically the premise of Lord of the Flies, killing off all of the adults and letting the young fend for themselves—plus the counterculture adage of the time not to trust anyone over thirty—and is echoed in Logan’s Run and the Star Trek episode “Miri.” Here is the pilot with the full series available online:

Thursday, 29 September 2022

the mayak disaster (10. 177)

Referred to as the Kyshtym incident in contemporary sources since the above site as part of Chelyabinsk-40 did not appear on maps until 1994 and the closest known village was chosen as the namesake, the catastrophic explosion of a plutonium production facility and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, occurring on this day in 1957, released twice the amount of radiation than Chernobyl but due to the subsequent coverup (the full scale of the disaster was not disclosed until 1982) and isolation of the site—around ten thousand workers and residents of twenty-two surrounding villages had to be evacuated.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

partial-mobilisation (10. 158)

In a wide-ranging first address to the public since the announcement of the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, a desperate and defeated Vladimir Putin declared his intention on Wednesday night to initiate a limited conscription of three-hundred thousand males with military experience (all males from seventeen to twenty-three have a term of compulsory service) to bolster a costly war whose impact on the broader public the Kremlin strove to minimize. Militants in the People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk will be considered as official soldiers of the Russian Federation. Putin additionally repeated his threats to use Russia’s nuclear armaments arsenal against the West—emphasising that it was no bluff. In response to this significant escalation and potential imposition, hundreds of protest rallies broke out in cities across the country, with more than twelve hundred detained. All flights out Russia—to the limited places that have not restricted air-traffic—have been sold out, with the last planes to Istanbul priced at eleven-thousand dollars per seat. Further Putin elaborated on the scheduled referenda for the regions under tenuous Russian-control, the two listed above plus Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to take place this weekend. As happened with Crimea back in 2014, there is expected to be a sham vote in favour of annexation, thus carving out more Ukrainian territory that Russia will try to claim its right to defend as its own. In parallel, a prisoner-exchange was brokered by Tayyip ErdoฤŸan, which saw the release of some two hundred fighters defending the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on the condition that they remain in Turkey until the conclusion of the war, with other foreign mercenaries aiding Ukraine set free as well.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

peace, little girl (10. 113)

Although airing only once--on this day in 1964 (Labour Day and shown at a time when children would not be watching) as part of the US presidential campaign for incumbent Lyndon B Johnson—“Daisy” played an outsized role in his victory over the Republican party’s candidate Barry Goldwater as well as signaling a point of departure in political messaging. Aimed to emphasise Goldwater’s inclination to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam and stance against disarmament and re-enforce Johnson’s pacifist approach, the advertisement depicts child model and actor Monique Corzililus picking flowers in a meadow and counting, out of order, from one to nine, triggering a booming narrator to start a countdown, cutting to footage of a mushroom count and ending “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” Corzililus, who also appeared in commercials for Velveeta, Kool-Aid and Prudential Life Insurance, was recruited in 2016 by Hilary Clinton for an advertisement against Donald Trump. Johnson’s voiceover that precedes the final exhortation “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die” echoes the line of the W H Auden poem “September 1, 1939”—Hunger allows no choice / To the citizen or the police; / We must love one another or die.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

tube alloys (10. 097)

Commencing before the Manhattan Project (which ultimately subsumed their efforts) and with the intentionally misleading codename, the joint United Kingdom and Canadian programme to develop nuclear weapons was approved in secret by Winston Churchill on this day in 1941—the first national leader to do so—the scientific consensus acknowledging the potential explosiveness of nuclear fission and the “atom bomb” was firmly ensconced in the popular imagination thanks to the 1913 novel by H G Wells, The World Set Free. Researchers working on Tube Alloys made the crucial discovery that just a few kilogrammes (rather than a quantity of several tonnes) of uranium isotope was sufficient to sustain the chain-reaction and propelled the race for armaments. The preceding working group, the MAUD committee, formed to study the feasibility of making a nuclear weapon and nuclear-generated power, was named after a strange last line in a telegram from Niels Bohr to Otto Robert Frisch (credited with discovery of fission along with Lise Meitner) then working at the University of Birmingham just after the Nazi invasion of Denmark, “Tell Cockcroft and Maud Ray Kent.” The recipient believed it might have been a coded message regarding the imminent development of atomic weapons—an anagram for “radyum taken.” Although it turned out that the physicist was wanting to get in touch with his housekeeper, Maud Ray from Kent, the enigmatic name stuck. Subsequent transatlantic cooperation and pooling of resources forged the Special Relationship (often tested and contentious) between the UK and the US.

Monday, 15 August 2022

6x6 (10. 063)

lawrence livermore labs: scientist achieve ignition, a long-standing and elusive goal for fusion research (see previously)

kiwa tyleri: the Guardian continues its profiles of denizens of the deep with the hirsute ‘Hoff crab’ who thrive at hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean by picking sulfur-fixing microbes off their chests  

one year on: a photographic essay on Afghanistan one the anniversary of the fall of the flight of Aschraf Ghani and the takeover by the Taliban  

obligate predators: German town releases house cat from a special lockdown but questions linger on protecting nature from our feline friends  

rivers run dry: the climate emergency propelling the drought is making the Rhein and Danube unnavigable

o-positive: researchers discover a method for changing blood types (see also) of donated organs—increasing potential for compatibility for beneficiaries

Sunday, 10 July 2022

in 22 hours, the hartford summit meeting will be over—china and the soviet union will go back home

Premiering in US theatres on this day in 1981 and featuring the acting talents of Kurt Russell, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbe au , the John Carpenter film is set in the then near future of 1997 (a quarter of a century ago) wherein Manhattan is converted into America’s singular maximum security prison. When the presidential airplane is highjacked by insurgent elements and crashed-landed in New York City, military veteran and federal inmate Snake Plissken (Russell) is commissioned to rescue president John Harker (Pleasence).

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

dear mister andropov

For what would have been her fiftieth birthday had not her life been tragically cut short by a plane crash at the age of thirteen, Deutsche Welle has a retrospective appreciation on the ten-year old Cold War peace ambassador and avid letter-writer Samantha Reed Smith of Holton, Maine who at a very tense point in Soviet-US relations—the nuclear superpowers having abandoned their recent policy of dรฉtente, a race on to militarise space, widespread peace protests, the Afghan conflict and The Day After all had people whipped into a frenzy—reached out to the new Russian leader late in 1982, the successor to the post of Leonid Brezhnev characterised in the press as the architect of the suppression of the Prague Spring and for suppression of dissidents, congratulating him and expressing her fears about nuclear escalation and asked him to write in return. Failing to get a timely reply (despite its publication in Pravda), Smith also reached out to the embassy in Washington, DC before in April of 1983 the General Secretary responded himself, with a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union. More on Smith’s tour and brief but impactful legacy at the link up top.

Friday, 27 May 2022

memorandum of understanding

Signed in Paris on this day in 1997, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation was a declaration that included confidence-building measures and a framework for cooperation and disarmament that attempted to strike a balance between security and policy interests of both sides. Agreed upon principles included the renunciation of threat or use of force against any other state, respect of territorial integrity and political independence as well as inviolability of borders, the right self-determination and the right to choose the best means of ensuring their own security to be overseen by a joint council. Russia violated the agreement in 2008 with its war in Georgia, in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and with the current war in Ukraine. In response to aforementioned incursions, NATO for its part has violated its pledge not to permanently station troops in new member states.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

minutes to midnight

Via Open Culture, we learn about the history of the Doomsday Clock, first presented as symbolic representation of the likelihood of a human-created global catastrophe to the public nearly seventy-five years ago, starting at a comfortable buffer time of 23:53 but now wound up to a hundred seconds before the eve of destruction and seen its hands adjusted back and forth twenty-four times during the course of world events since 1947. A group of scientist who had contributed to the Szilรกrd petition and subsequent Manhattan Project began circulating a newsletter following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to encourage restraint and never again seek recourse to nuclear weapons with a clock to represent the countdown to the inevitable outcomes should we stay this course and not make a decision to turn back the hands.

i’ll do my exploring in the laboratory, if you don’t mind

First subjected to the MST3K deluxe treatment on this day in 1997, Terror from the Year 5000 is a Samuel Z Arkoff and Robert J Gurney Jr. collaboration from 1958 about a science experiment that first involves an exchange of objects and artefacts from the distant future, sort of like the show’s regular invention exchange segment. Eventually (about an hour into the movie) this trading beckons a disfigured, Greek-speaking envoy to travel to the present and present a warning about the nuclear holocaust in the hope intervention will change the timeline. The Observers’ forcing Bobo and Dr Pearl Forrester to engage in combat is a reference to “The Gamesters of Triskelion” when the disembodied minds called The Providers demanded Uhura, Kirk and Chekov fight to the death.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

black tulip

Premiered in 2019 during the Venice Film Festival and the country’s Oscar entry for 2021, the Ukrainian dystopian, post-apocalyptic Atlantis by Valentyn Vasyanovych is set in 2025 and profiles the trials of a recovery organisation in a desolate wildness rendered arid and nearly uninhabitable after a protracted war with Russia and securing an arguably pyrrhic victory with asymmetrical fighting—with the message ultimately hopeful and optimistic rather than the cynical echoes of the reputed words of Caledonian chieftain Calgacus who fought the Romans in Scotland: they make a desert and call it peace. Categorised at least formerly as science fiction, the movie is available for streaming and to invoke another loose quotation, this time by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.”

Sunday, 20 February 2022

a boring project

Granted a patent in the US in September of 1972—with the strong intimation that the Soviets built and tested a prototype well before that, the proposal from a team of scientists at Los Alamos Laboratories that a controlled occurrence of the China Syndrome could be used for drilling tunnels under the Earth’s surface, displacing the molten materials through adjacent cracks and forming a vitreous lining in the process, like an insulating glass coating that would also support structural integrity, with a bit powered by a mobile nuclear reactor. Still on the drawing board, the subterrene, as its sci-fi models were called, was a contender for the Chunnel linking Dover and Calais as well as touted as a more efficient mining scout. For colonisation of the lunar surface, a subselene was suggested. More at Weird Universe at the link above.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

we come not as enemies but as allies

Following the announcement from their respective presidents that Russia will stop targeting the United States and her allies with nuclear weapons and the US responded with the same pledge plus a concerted effort on both sides to reduce the stockpile of warheads down to no more than twenty-five hundred, Boris Yeltsin meets with his American counterpart, George H. W. Bush, on this day in 1992 at the country retreat of Camp David to make the formal declaration that the Cold War was over—expanding on an announcement first made during the Malta Summit in 1989 between Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

7x7

tomm¥ €a$h: rapper presents a sofa in the shape of bread  

banana republic: an exhibit that takes a critical look at the fruit trade—see also  

field manual: the predecessor agency to the US CIA issued a guide to simple sabotage which speaks to America’s present state 

bio-rovers: Marimo moss balls (previously) could become ambulatory—see also here and here  

spinthatiscope: an actual 1940s toy harnessing radioactive decay fragments of life: a suite of animated emoji from Andreas Samuelsson 

 middle c: a space-saving piano designed to fit in a corner—see also

Monday, 17 January 2022

iron triangle

In a farewell address to the people of the United States of America, on this day in 1961, outgoing US president Dwight D Eisenhower (see previously) issued a stark warning about the detriment that vested interest between military contractors, corporations and their lobbyists and the Legislative and the Executive could have for public policy. Admonishing the people that that they must not fail to comprehend the “grave implications” of recursive network and rotating-door politics, Eisenhower went on: “Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved—so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military-Industrial Complex… Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

a carol for another christmas

Commissioned by the United Nations and intended to be the first of a planned series of television specials to educate the public about the its mission and foster global cooperation, the modern retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by Rod Serling (previously) aired on this day in 1964, the Joseph L. Mankiewicz not shown again until December 2012. The score is by Henry Mancini and stars Sterling Hayden and Eva Marie Saint.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

fait accompli

Having persuaded the Supreme Soviet to vest within the office of president (a different entity altogether from the Presidium whose chair was sometimes conflated by Western governments and press) all executive powers for an amount of time not to exceed two years—like the Roman tradition of appointing a limited-tenure dictator, during this time of transition and upheaval, incumbent just since mid-March of 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev, his position strengthened by withstanding the failed August Coup but unable to reverse the party’s decision for dissolution, announced his resignation as commander-in-chief at the Kremlin before television cameras broadcasting internationally on this day in 1991. Expressing remorse for the breakup of the union, Gorbachev at the same time welcomed the reforms of a market-economy, greater political and religious freedoms as well as the end of the Cold War and its attendant brinksmanship, the Supreme Soviet the next day voted itself out of existence, allowing the Soviet Union to expire at midnight 31 December (Julian Christmas of course falling on the seventh of January on the Gregorian calendar but not reinstated as a holiday until 1992, with New Year’s the big celebration—see also) with the Russian Federation the successor to all Soviet Institutions.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

teenage caveman

Airing for the first time on this day in 1991, MST3K’s lampooning of the 1958 Roger Corman film revived its status as a contender for the worst movie ever made. Summarily, the plot follows a tribe of primitive humans eking out a survival in a barren wilderness, prohibited from crossing in to lusher lands within sight over ancient superstitions, until one old teenager dares to defy societal norms. Beyond the barrier, the protagonist and his followers encounter the enforcing spirit of this taboo and kill the demiurge—only to discover that it is merely a much older man with mysterious dress and markings. The expository voice-over for the denouement reveals that the apparent supernatural being was a survivor of a long ago nuclear holocaust forced to live inside his radiation suit and wander his side of the river for decades. The triple-feature includes two shorts before the main film. You're wasted!

Saturday, 23 October 2021

7x7

floh u. trรถdel: couple’s costume ideas—via the ever excellence Everlasting Blรถrt 

boutonniere: Harriet Parry’s flower arrangements reproduce iconic fine art and classic tarot card designs—via ibฤซdem

microface: a quick quiz to identify whether the subject is a font or a Marvel character (see previously)—via Kottke’s Quick Links  

์˜ค์ง•์–ด ๊ฒŒ์ž„: Squid Games Funko-Pop characters—see also 

pyrrhic victory: the rules of play for a variant called Atomic Chess allows a pawn crossing the breadth of the game board promotion to a scale that would instantaneously annihilate all pieces—of both sides

rollercoaster tycoon: Saudi Arabia transforms a decommissioned drilling platform into an extreme amusement park  

hell no: a sensible horror film