Monday, 15 August 2022

ferragosto (10. 062)

Originating from the Roman holiday Feriae Augusti instigated by Caesar Augustus, Octavian, to reward

agricultural workers (inclusive of beasts of burden) after a long, hot summer of toil at the head of the month and to commemorate his victory over Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium, the Church later shifted the festivity to coincide with the Feast of the Assumption. Observed also by the residents of San Marino, the canton of Ticino and for political reasons the Vatican rather than the day of holy obligation, the holiday became associated with an extended vacation weekend during the fascist era when Mussolini directed the National Afterwork Club (Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro—see also) to arrange hospitality and the “People’s Trains of Ferragosto” (nothing to do with ferrocarril) at heavily discounted prices that allowed working class families to visit the mountains or the seaside. This tradition continues commercially, the date signaling the start of the holiday season in Italy and businesses shutter operations for the next couple of weeks. Chiuso per ferie.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

you gotta to say yes to another success

On this day in 1983 the Zรผrich electronic music duo Yello, a collaboration between Boris Blank and Dieter Meier with contributions from Carlos Perรณn—probably most recognised for their 1985 single “Oh Yeah” whose whump-whump has featured in several film and television soundtracks, notably Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or their 1988 “The Race,” released singles from their titular third studio album as three-dimensional picture discs complete with 3D glasses (see also), leading with the opening track below.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

ancient aliens

Opened to the public on this day in 2003 (bankrupt and shuttered three years later and three years after that rehabilitated as a children’s theme park—named Jungfrau after the alpine mountain it is framed by), Mystery Park in Interlaken was designed by Chariots of the Gods? author Erich von Dรคniken and included several pavilions featuring what the pseudoscience proponent described as the great unsolved mysteries that could only be explained by the theories he espoused on paleo-contact and ancient astronauts, including the Mayan calendar, the pyramids of Egypt and monoliths like Stonehenge explaining how the achievements of the primitive past must be linked to extraterrestrial encounters, his showmanship being chiefly responsible for the popularity of this rather narrow and dim view of a world just beyond record.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

the snake in the tunnel

Following a referendum in France the day before that admitted the UK, Ireland and Denmark into the Common Market, on this day in 1972 at a summit in Basel the members of the European Economic Community agreed to install an exchange system to limit fluctuations in rates in order that the basket of European currencies would be consistent with the US dollar. With the titular nickname (Schlange im Tunnel, le Serpent monรฉtaire europรฉen), the arrangement was the first attempt to peg the Mark, the Franc and the Pound Sterling to one another that ultimately led to the creation of the euro and was precipitated by the Nixon Shock of the previous year with the repeal of the Bretton Woods system. This coordination, cartel was a method to control appreciation and depreciation and retain relative stability until the following year when the dollar began to float freely and member nations diverged in their response.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

summa doctrinรฆ christianรฆ

Venerated on this day on the occasion of his death in 1597, Dutch-born Jesuit priest Saint Pieter Kanis is regarded as a Doctor of the Church and a major figure of the counter-Reformation and successor to Saint Boniface as apostle to the Germans. Falling in with the Society of Jesus during college in Kรถln, Canisius became an influential preacher and writer, touring the university circuit through Austria, Moravia, Bohemia, Poland and Switzerland, at a pivotal time in church politics. Many intellectuals championed Protestantism throughout Europe, reducing the esteem of Catholic doctrines and making it seem to be the faith of the unenlightened and ignorant, but Canisus’ persuasive arguments (widely translated and propagated) reinforced beliefs that Catholicism was reasoned and rational and won back lapsed converts in Bavaria and other enclaves. Adopted in the official catechism during the Council of Trent, among Canisius’ contributions include adding the invocation “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners” to the Ave Maria prayer.

Saturday, 11 December 2021


level 5—the scent represents a fully personal experience with some unrelated property. the experience itself has no aroma or shared understanding: Yankee Candle’s Stages of Abstraction—via Waxy  

pine-eleven: conservative pundits suggest arson attack on network’s Christmas tree a ‘hate crime’ and an assault on religious freedoms  

by-line: Bloomberg’s annual jealousy list of articles they wish they’d written—via Kottke  

a new system of arithmetic and metrology: Johan Nystrรถm’s hexadecimal tonal and temporal notation (1863)  

alpine exports: Little Switzerlands abroad—see also here and here  

you buy—i die: Indian handicraft as indictment against thoughtless consumption

Saturday, 4 December 2021

smoke on the water

During a show by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention and immortalised by the titular Deep Purple hit (whom were also present to witness the incident, scheduled to record the album Machine Head) on this day in 1971, the venue for the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Swiss city’s casino went up in flames after a fan fired a flare gun. A bootleg recording of Zappa’s performance captures the outbreak and fire alarm as the band and audience fled.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

schweizer parlamentswahlen 1971

After passing in a national referendum earlier in the year (see also, see previously), women finally secured the right to vote and stand for office in federal elections in Switzerland, exercising their rights for the first time on this day a half a century ago. Lise Girardin (*1921 - †2010) of Geneva was nominated by her party (the Free, Freisinnig Democrats) to be the first female member of the Council of States, der Stรคnderat—the Upper House of the Swiss federal assembly.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

st. gall

Traditionally counted among the twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to win converts in the lands of the Franks—having been ejected from Gaul where they first landed by local chieftains who wanted nothing to do with Christianity—Gallus (*550 - †646) is venerated on this day. Patron of geese, poultry and birds in general (for no particular reason) and St. Gallen, the saint’s rather complicated iconography relates the legendary encounter he had with a fierce bear, who was said to be terrorising the local settlement as well, in the woods. The holy man rebuked the bear for its behaviour and compelled it thereafter to gather firewood and became Gall’s trusted sidekick.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

post and lintel

Via the always engaging Things Magazine, we quite enjoyed this profile and portfolio of architectural photographer Hรฉlรจne Binet—now based in London. One of the most famous in her niche field which can nonetheless evoke the most stirring of abstracted landscapes to inhabit in angles, shadows and negative space, Binet is celebrated for her collaborative work especially with contemporary celebrity architects Daniel Libeskind, John Hejduk (Kreuzberg Tower and Wings, Turm mit Flรผgelbau pictured) Peter Zumthor and Zaha Hadid as well as appreciating past movements through her lens, like this study of the monastery of La Tourette designed by Le Corbusier. More to explore at the links above.

Saturday, 9 October 2021


the boy on the bike: a trip down Golden Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset with a beloved bread advert directed by Ridley Scott with music by Dvoล™รกk  

dedication—devotion, turning all the night time into the day: more on the hypothesis (see previously) that the Dire Straits song can improve any movie ending 

the hauntening: various AIs try their hand at spookifying, exorcising Victorian mansions—previously

outbreak: a timelapse of COVID-19 cases in the United States over the past eighteen months 

just the punctation: what text without words reveals to authors about their style—via Waxy  

abecedarium: a 1968 Alphabet (previously) of the Dada movement hosted by Hans Richter (caution, some rapid, flashing images) 

raลกรญnovo embankment: revitalised Prague riverfront features vaulted arches for cafes and gallery spaces

Saturday, 25 September 2021

the wartburg song contest

Melding two separate folktales, the legendary errant knight, poet and minstrel Tannhรคuser and the above titled tale of the Sรคngerkrieg auf Wartburg, the 1845 opera in three acts whose narrative arc plays out the struggle between sacred and profane love and its redemptive powers by Richard Wagner (previously) was the inaugural performance on this day in 1903 for the newly opened concert hall (Stadttheatre) in Bern.

Thursday, 9 September 2021


Via Super Punch, we learn that not only has the Swiss ambassador to the US made the expansive embassy grounds in Washington, DC, a former farm in the Woodley Park neighbourhood, a biodiverse oasis, replacing the manicured lawn with native shrubs and trees to attract and sustain birds and other wildlife, the ambassor’s actions have set a positive example, leading other diplomatic missions to adopt ecologically sounder landscaping practices including vegetable gardens and beehives. More from the Audubon Society at the links above.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

wadi musa

Familiar to only a few locals and unknown to the West until its rediscovery on this day in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the capital of the Nabataeans called Raqmu by its denizens is commonly referred to Petra (Al-Batrฤสพ) after its designation as a client state of the Empire after Rome annexed their kingdom as Arabia Petaea.

The settlement in southern Jordan between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqada is only accessible via a narrow gorge and was a major regional trading hub in antiquity, controlling routes from Gaza to Damascus and onto the Persian Gulf. Accustomed to privation and periods of drought and deluge, the Nabatean city includes advanced methods of gathering and storing rainwater and flood control, allowing the population to thrive and supporting numbers approaching twenty-thousand residents at its height. A marvel of engineering and with many cameos in popular culture, in most years, Petra greets over a million international tourists annually.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

the life of ฯ€

Whereas astrophysics suggest that extending out the significant digits to thirty-nine decimal places would be at the level of precision to measure the circumference of the known Universe to within the breadth of a hydrogen atom, we quite enjoyed the overkill and ambition, as reported by the Guardian, of a team of Swiss mathematicians that have calculated out the transcendental, irrational number, also known as Archimedes’ Constant and whose use of the Greek letter to symbolise it first attributed to Welsh professor William Jones in 1706, to sixty-two trillion places for the accomplishment in itself plus the bonus facts and anecdotes. Not only is it fiendishly useful to understand and is embedded in all sort of applications, there’s quite a bit of lore attached to pi. There’s its elegance in comprehending a bit of the Cosmos, cameo appearances and an infamously misguided attempt in 1897 by the Indiana state legislature to round it up to 3.2 and be done with it.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

a bird, a young lark—lifting the sky as it took flight

Via It’s Nice That, we discover a retrospective exhibit at the Tate aims to correct a curatorial and conversational miscarriage in art history that left the contributions and influence of Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp (previously) to the Dada and Modernism movements by showing her due recognition. Much more on the artist’s media, works and career at the links above.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

villa la grange


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

stultifera navis

A Latin, international edition translated by his pupil Jakob Locher in Strasbourg and published by printer Hans Grรผninger of Sebastian Brant’s 1494 German-language Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools) on this day in 1497 made the late medieval moral allegory a success all over the continent, prompting several more translations, sanctioned and otherwise. The humanist and theologian compiled an anthology of one hundred and twelve brief satires, illustrated with woodcuts (originally issued in Basel), as commentary and condemnation of the human condition, developing the character of Saint Grobian, a patron for the crude, clumsy and gluttonous and is singled out as the best treatment of the trope taken from Plato’s Republic about a dysfunctional crew unable to pilot the ship of state. Locher (*1471 – †1528), the student who translated the work, went by the Latin name Philomusus and became a professor of Humanism and a dramatist himself and published a multivolume study on comparative religion. Though an artefact of medieval sensibilities sharpened with the focus of scholasticism, the conceit, tempered with allegory, gave the authors’ license to, writing in the voice of the fool, to legitimately criticise church and court.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021


caption this: a celebration of strange, out-of-context vintage photography—via Boing Boing scroll + click: an elegant paintbrush diversion via Kottke’s Quick Links  

mudlarking: more trash and treasures dredged from Amsterdam’s canals—see previously here and here—via Messy Nessy Chic  

stille orte: a travelogue of scenic rest stops in the Swiss Alps   

laundry day: a clever stop-motion dirty clothes brawl 

this is a stub: a list of lists on Wikipedia—via Swiss Miss  

down in bedrock: antique snapshots of people posing with dinosaurs

Sunday, 25 April 2021

mappi mundi

On this day in 1507, humanist and cartographer Martin Waldseemรผller—whom also went by the Latinised form of his name Hylacomylus (forest-lake miller)—together with his collaborator Matthias Ringmann, published their map featuring the new world, significantly portraying South America as a continent separate from Asia and naming portions of the New World America after explorer Amerigo Vespucci. The academy that Waldseemรผller and Ringmann founded in Saint-Diรฉ with the patronage of the Duke of Lorraine came in possession of a booklet that gave a rather heroic and sensational account of the voyages of Vespucci in the western Atlantic and the two scholars carried forward that credit in a short treatise with atlases and a world map as a primer on cosmography (Cosmographiรฆ Introductio) that spanned from the familiar to the antipodes that were predicted in Antiquity. Ringmann actually, persuasively championed the toponym America, arguing: “I see no reason why anyone could disaaprove of a name derived of that Amerigo, the discoverer and a man of sagacity—with suitable forms being Amerige, meaning land of Amerigo, or America, especially since both Europe and Asia have women’s names.” Europa was raped by Zeus in the form of a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur. Hesione was a Trojan princess and distressed damsel for Hercules to save from a sea monster and blamed indirectly for the Trojan War—Hercules helping himself to the fine horses that Zeus sent in compensation for the abduction of Ganymede and causing strife among the gods. Classically referred to as Libya, Africa was considered to have a feminine ethnonym as well. The original world map was believed lost until a copy was found in Schloss Wolfegg in Austria in 1901 and purchased by the US Library of Congress (pictured)—though other uncut gores to be assembled into globes survive.