Sunday, 22 May 2022

hail to the bus driver

Our gratitude to Super Punch for not just informing us of the annual European Tramdriver Championships held in host city Leipzig (see previously, which we just missed this time around but there’s always next year) but also is a very serious competition with teams and fans of mass-transit from all over the continent coming together. Check out the links above for more on this extreme motor-sport for everyone, whose trials include best breaking-speed and accuracy, obstacle courses and various other traffic, shared-lane gauntlets.

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, 29 March 2022

vilnius group

Constituted in May 2000, member countries Slovenia, Slovakia (having already undergone its Velvet Divorce in 1993, the date falls on the anniversary of the 1990 compromise that ended the so called Hyphen War, Pomlฤkovรก vojna, started in 1989 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on what to call themselves and how to share a territory with two identities) Romania, North Macedonia, Lithuania (it’s capital the namesake), Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania to lobby as a group for NATO inclusion, all aspirants acceded to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on this day in 2004 with the exception of Albania, Croatia and North Macedonia (under the Adriatic Charter) joining in 2009 and 2020. The former association closely maps with the composition of the Visegrรกd Group, another former pooled campaign for European Union membership and presently a regional economic cooperative.

Monday, 7 February 2022

metadata

As Slashdot reports, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, is threatening to pull core services out of Europe altogether if EU privacy laws—including GDPR which has been enforceable for years now—prevent the company from sharing European user data with domestic operations. Good riddance to bad rubbish—I hope that that’s a promise that the anti-social media platform can deliver on.  We hope regulators do not relent and make concessions to the platform.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

unwort des jahres

Critical of unreflective and dehumanising, casual use in the press, the independent jury have selected Pushback as their “un-word” of the last year for Germany—previously. The often illegal practise of forcing migrants back from the borders of destination or transit countries was illustrated by the tragic stand-off at the EU frontier in Poland on the boundary with Belarus, weaponising asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Syria by granting them (at great personal costs—see previously) visas to Minsk and then pushing them out for West to care in reprisal for sanctions levied.

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.

 



Monday, 13 December 2021

high times and misdemeanors

Although the Netherlands may be the European country most closely associated to legal marijuana, it officially only tolerates commerce and possession that are still regarded as criminal, the small island nation of Malta, with the bill expected to pass through parliament and be signed into law in time for the weekend, will be the first polity within the EU to legalise cannabis.   The move comes ahead of broader drug enforcement harmonisation expected for governments in Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux in 2022.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

ampelkoalition

After over two months of negotiations, the dominant political parties of Germany faring best in the last general election, the so-called Traffic Light Coalition by the colours of their respective factions, have agreed to form a new government with centre-left Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD, Red) appointed as chancellor. Under this power-sharing agreement, the once deputy to Merkel will allot cabinet seats to other affiliates with Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock expected to become foreign minister and the fiscally conservative, neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP, Yellow) under the leadership Christian Lindner positioned to take control of the finance ministery.

Monday, 22 November 2021

merkmal

Already holding the distinction since 2014 of being the senior leader of the G7 and longest term in the European Union of any elected head-of-state, Angela Merkel,  holding a doctorate in quantum physics, was appointed to the chancellorship of Germany on this day in 2005, following federal elections and creation of a coalition government as chair of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU-Partei), in partnership with the Bavarian sister-party and the Social Democrats.  Acting as chancellor still under a caretaker administration until a successor is appointed, Merkel has helped the EU and her own country weather the Great Recession, expansion of the supranational bloc, a green power revolutions—Energiewende, ended military conscription, oversaw healthcare reforms, crafted domestic and international responses to migrant and asylum crises, Brexit, Trump and attendant horrors, COVID-19 and the climate emergency.

Monday, 27 September 2021

distinguishing signs of vehicles for international traffic

From tomorrow on (28 September, 2021) and with no official reason cited though one suspects it is in show of support for Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom is switching its national identifier decal for cars and lorries from GB (Great Britain, the nations nominally to the exclusion of NI) to UK. License plates which also currently bear the GB identifier and the circle of stars on a blue field representing the European Union will also require a change, to UK above a Union Flag. The new stickers, needed for travel outside the UK but not applicable to Gibraltar or other overseas territories, will be available for £1.50.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

avoirdupois

Via Slashdot, as the Independent reports because of Brexit—as if EU standards were the sole compelling reason that the UK was harmonised with the standard that (nearly) the rest of the world uses—that should legislation pass, markets and shops will be able to opt out of metric units and regress to customary measures. Albeit as valuable as the colour of one’s passport, in reality the matter is more complicated and bound in other treaties including with the International Organisation of Legal Metrology, agreeing that only one official system of measurement be used.

Friday, 17 September 2021

6x6

pontifices maximi: the denatured bridges of euro notes 

top banana: the fruit label collecting community—via Weird Universe  

toccata and fugue: Bach’s compositions—see previously—from eight perspectives  

trolley problem: pedestrians recruited involuntarily in self-driving car trials—see also 

trivia killed the video star: a look back on how quiz games replaced arcade fascination  

soli cui fas vidisse minervam: polymath Lauri Maria Caterina Bassi Veratti, nacknamed after the goddess of wisdom, first salaried female professor

Monday, 16 August 2021

spin boldak

Although prior commitments and pledges had already set withdrawal from Afghanistan in motion and the US is made to face the parallels and comparisons to the fall of Saigon that it tried to dismiss or downplay, it was a grave failure of the imagination to be shocked at the thinnest veneer of stability and superficial democratic values that the West brought—standards imposed—and expect it to be robust or enduring and not swept away in the power vacuum filled by the resurgent Taliban government. Like regime change in American itself that vacillates between extremes that does not bode reliability or ongoing responsibility, the abrupt abandonment set off a military offensive in May that saw one regional capital after another be subsumed by Taliban forces. As belligerents approached the capital city of Kabul, president Ashraf Ghani relinquished control and fled to Tajikistan, disestablishing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, replaced with the re-established Emirate, and the movement’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (released from a Pakistani jail in 2018 at the request of the US) assumed control, announcing from the busy airport where thousands are seeking to evacuate, that the “War is over!”

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

plastikbesteck

Informed by the announcement of the EU parliament that from next month on, single-use plastic eating utensils, swizzle sticks, drinking straws, etc. will be banned, a design duo from Germany has exhibited as part of the London Design Biennale an installation called “Spoon Archaeology” of two decades of collected, curated strata—all part of a theme for a pavilion on ecological awareness and sustainability by putting problematic disposables on display as artefacts of the past that they should be consigned to. More from Dezeen at the link above.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

vitae bonifatius

Feted on this day on the occasion of his martyrdom (*675) on this day in 754 near Dokkum in Friesland, Boniface, from the Devon village of Crediton, was a leading figure of the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Frankish Empire and whose influence, reforms and alliances-including the union of the papacy with the Carolingian dynasty and the successor transnational organisations, like the Holy and Roman Empire of the Germans and the EU, and is celebrated as a missionary and uniter and peace-maker, the Apostle to the Germans acclaimed almost immediately after his death as patron of the country and Fulda, his major shrine. The basilica minor is not far away from the modern day town of Fritzlar where Boniface reportedly, dramatically chopped down the Donar Oak (considered sacred to Jupiter through interpretatio romana) to illustrate that no punishment would be meted out for this perceived desecration and went on to build a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter from the lumber. Winning converts, Boniface encouraged widespread destruction of pagan sites, especially sacred groves. Though probably only an inventive story, the saint is sometimes credited with the invention of the Christmas tree as a way to coopt and supplant native customs. Boniface and his retinue were killed by highway robbers en route to Frisia, hoping to find more followers in the north, their attackers sorely disappointed to find only books and manuscripts instead of treasure.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

europawoche

Celebrated today on the anniversary of the 1950 Schuman Declaration which proposed the pooling of French and Wester German coal and steel industries and the first European Community, Europe Day was introduced in 1985 by the EU predecessor organisation the European Communities. The Council of Europe marked its own Europe Day earlier in the week with the anniversary on the fifth marking the council’s founding in 1949, both observances commemorating pan-European identity and integration.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

sofagate

Though wanting to focus on substantive issues, rehabilitating diplomatic and economic ties and address a host of social issues including gender equality rather than standing on ceremony or protocol, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen found herself sidelined and snubbed during a high-level meeting in Ankara (previously), forced to sit on an adjacent couch, whilst her interlocutors had a more domineering position. Ahead of the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoฤŸan attracted criticism over his announcement to withdraw the country from the International ฤฐstanbul Convention of 2011 to prevent and combat domestic violence because, as ErdoฤŸan characterised it, was an attempt by the LGBTQ+ community to normalise homosexuality and impose their views on society as a whole. The awkward meeting was not wholly unproductive von der Leyen owns as the slight only sharpens her focus on upholding the highest standards of human rights.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

secure socket

Via Slashdot, we discover that the freshly-inked Brexit Deal references decades old and defunct software and platforms described as modern services, including Netscape Browser and Communicator, the last version released in 1997. The cut-and-paste job does not just imply laziness or a rushed job but moreover belies a lack of understanding verging on contempt and disdain for technology and the issues that underlie secure communication while upholding these examples as tools to ensure compliance and cooperation going forward. What do you think? More details at the links above.

mmxx

As a long-standing tradition here at PfRC, here is our annual recap of this most extraordinairy year. We‘ve come all this way together and here‘s to us ploughing on. Thanks for visiting and be good to yourselves and one another.

january: Bushfires rage across Australia, taking the lives of an estimated billion animals.  We had to bid farewell to historian and Monty Python member Terry Jones and veteran reporter and newscaster Jim Lehrer.  Tragically basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna with seven others died during a helicopter accident.  Trump signs a trade deal with Canada and Mรฉxico to replace NAFTA.  The United Kingdom and Gibraltar formally announce their intention to leave the European Union, initiating an eleven-month transition period.

february: Veteran actor Kirk Douglas passed away, aged one hundred and three as well as fellow actors Orson Bean and Robert Conrad.  A detailed study of the most distant planetary body explored by a space probe, now called Arrokoth, is released.  World stock markets respond early to unease surrounding the spread of the novel SARS virus.  Luxembourg makes all public transportation free to the public. 

march: Actor and singer-song writer Kenny Rogers passed away and we said farewell to Max von Sydow. Playwright Terrence McNally (*1938), actor Mark Blum (*1950), architect Michael Sorkin (*1948), influential Indian chef Floyd Cardoz (*1960), Romanian dissident author Paul Goma (*1935) and saxophonist Manu Dibango (*1933) passed away due to complications of COVID-19.  Composer Krzysztof Penderecki (*1933) whose music scored The Exorcist and The Shining also succumbed after a long bout of illness as did musician Bill Withers (*1938, Lean on Me, .Lovely Day, Just the Two of Us) from heart complications. Breonna Taylor (*1993) was murdered in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky by police conducting a groundless, no-knock search of the premises. 

april: We had to say goodbye to award-winning musician Adam Schlesinger (*1967) of Fountains of Wayne fame, Alexander George Thynn, Marquess of Bath (*1932), veteran rhythm guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (*1926), jazz pianist and educator Ellis Louis Marsalis, Jr (*1934), folk musician and storyteller John Prine (*1946) and polymath John Horton Conway (*1937), inventor of among other things of The Game of Life, and comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor (*1940) succumbing to COVID-19.  We say farewell to veteran actress Honor Blackman (*1925), known for her roles in The Avengers and in Goldfinger as Bond Girl Pussy Galore.  We also say farewell to teacher Harriet Mae Glickman (*1925), whom persuaded Charles M. Schultz to include a black character in his comic strip Peanuts, cartoonist and long-time contributor to Mad magazine Mort Drucker (*1929), veteran actor Brian Dennehy and lesbian and civil rights advocate Phyllis Lyon (*1924).

may: founding member of Kraftwerk and electronic music pioneer Florian Schneider (*1947) passed away after a prolonged struggle with cancer.  Entertainer and illusionist Roy Horn (Uwe Ludwig, *1944) of Siegfried & Roy, and Ken Nightingall (*1928), audio engineer and famously known as the Pink Shorts Boom Operator from Star Wars passed away after succumbing to complications of COVID-19.  Pioneering singer and performer Little Richard (*1932) died after a long struggle with cancer as did techno DJ and producer Pascal FEOS (*1968) and rhythm and blues singer Betty Wright (*1953), known for her ability to sing in the whistle register, above falsetto. Veteran actor and comedian Jerry Stiller (*1927) passed away, aged 92.  Monumental artist Christo (*1935 on the same day as his partner in life and professionally Jeanne-Claude, †2009, previously here and here) passed away of natural causes.  Costa Rica legalises gay marriage, the first Latin American country to do so.

june: Rallies and marches rage across the US in response to the brutal murder of Floyd George while being detained by police. Actor Ian Holm (*1931), known for his roles as Napoleon in Time Bandits, Ash in Alien and Bilbo Baggins in the Tolkien adaptations, died from complications of Parkinson’s disease.  Influential graphic designer Milton Glaser (*1929, previously) passed away on his ninety-first birthday.  Iconic comedian and fixture of Japanese television for decades, Ken Shimura (*1950) died of COVID-19.

july: Veteran civil rights activist and politician John Lewis (*1940) passed away after an extended bout with  cancer.  Founder of Fleetwood Mac Peter Green (*1946) has died. Actress Olivia de Haviland (*1916) died of natural causes in her home in Paris, aged 104. The US gross domestic product plummets by a third, prompting Trump to suggest that the November elections be delayed until such time as people can vote safely in person.  Long time Trump and Tea Party supporter and once-time presidential candidate Herman Cain (*1945) died of complications of COVID-19 after contracting the virus during Trump’s rally in Tulsa.

august:  Veteran actor and musician Wilford Brimley (*1934) passed away, dying in hospital suffering from multiple health issues.  John Hume (*1937),  architect of the peace accords in Northern Ireland and instrumental in passing the Good Friday Agreement, has departed.  A giantic explosion occurred in the port of Beirut when chemicals stored in a warehouse there detonated.  Actor and singer behind such standards as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree” Trinidad “Trini” Lรณpez (*1937) died due to complications from COVID-19.  Media mogul Sumner Redstone who created the production company Viacom, recognising that content was king, passed away, aged 97.  Linguist and long-time contributor to Public Radio Geoffrey Nunberg (*1945) died after coping with a long illness.  The Joe Biden campaign selects Kamala Harris as its running-mate, and both parties hold their conventions virtually.  Kremlin-critic and chief opposition candidate to Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, is presumably poisoned on a flight back to Siberia and is subsequently medically evacuated to Germany.  Black Panther actor and humanitarian Chadwick Boseman (*1976) dies after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Long-time Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announces his retirement from elected office over health reasons.

september: Economist and anarchist David Graeber (*1961) passed away at a hospital in Venice, dying from undisclosed causes.  After a short struggle with cancer and last months spent with family and contented reflection, accomplished actor Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg (*1938) has died.   Interviewed for a new expose by Bob Woodward, Trump admitted on tape months ago that he downplayed the danger of COVID-19, though this revelation seemed to barely rise above the general din of the news cycle and receded quickly in voters’ conscience.  The Polish-government allows twelve municipalities to declare themselves LGBT-ideology free-zones.  Protests continue in Belarus over the disputed reelection of long-serving, Russian-aligned leader Alexander Lukashenko.  Jurist and US Supreme Court associate justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (*1933) died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving a court vacancy just before the presidential election.  A grand jury in Kentucky declined to file homicide charges against the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor.  Australian singer and actor Helen Reddy (*1941) passed away after succumbing to complications from dementia.  During the first US presidential debate, devolving into a messy, nasty political food-fight, Trump refused to denounce white supremacist groups. 

october: After White House aid Hick Hopes tested positive for coronavirus, Donald and Melania Trump were also screened and found to both be carriers.   The nomination ceremony for the US Supreme Court justice to replace the vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the White House rose garden turned into a superspreader event.  Iconic fashion designer Kenzล Takada (้ซ˜็”ฐ ่ณขไธ‰, *1939) died from complications of COVID-19.  Singer Eddie Van Halen (*1955) passed away after a long battle with cancer.  The FBI in conjunction with other domestic law enforcement authorities foil a plot by a white supremacists to kidnap the governor of Michigan.  Jacinda Arden remains Prime Minister of New Zealand after her party wins the election in a land-slide victory.  Space probe OSIRIS-REx (previously) arrives at asteroid Bennu and collects mineral samples to bring back to Earth.  Magician and scientific sceptic James Randi (*1928) passes away, aged 92. Despite the US presidential election only being a little more than a week away, the Republican-controlled Senate rush through the confirmation of a young, conservative justice with questionable qualification and adjourn until after the ballots close, leaving those negatively impacted by the continuing pandemic no fiscal relief package.  Actor Sean Connery passed away, aged ninety.  

november: Terror incidents occur in Paris and Vienna.  With most of Europe entering a second quarantine as a firebreak to slow the spread of COVID-19, Germany goes into lockdown-light for the month.  Election Day comes for the United States with nearly one hundred million voters casting their ballots early.  The election is called in favour of Biden and Harris.  Team Trump refuses to concede.  Long time television game show host Alex Trebek (*1940) dies after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer.  Veteran Middle East negotiator Saeb Erekat dies, aged sixty-five, from complications of COVID-19.  The purge of the Trump administration continues with the dismissal of the Defence Secretary for not authorising the mobilisation of the army against protesters and the chief of cyber-security for countering Trump’s false narrative and rightly proclaiming the election the best safeguarded vote in modern US history, and halving troop levels in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan by executive decree.  A historic Hurricane Iota ravages Central America, having barely recovered from the last, Hurricane Epsilon.  Not conceding defeat Trump allows the Biden transition team to begin its work.  Argentine footballer, one of the greatest of all time Diego Maradona (*1960) dies of a heart attack.  

december: Courts, including the US Supreme Court, rebuff Trump’s efforts to overturn election results in a nacent coup attempt.  Massive protests in reaction to legislation that liberalises farming practises leave India paralysed.  The first vaccinations against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are administered.  With last-ditch Brexit negotiations poised for failure and the UK to crash out of the EU with no deal, Britain moves to deploy naval warships to protect fishing stocks in its national waters.  Pioneering Country and Western singer Charlie Pride (*1934) passes away due to complications from COVID-19.  Intelligence officer and master of the spy novel, John le Carrรฉ (*1931) has died.  French president Emmanuel Macron contracts COVID-19 and goes into quarantine.  The archbishop of Canterbury tells parishioners, especially the vulnerable, that it is not necessary to attend church services on Christmas day, echoed by the Pope and other religious leaders.  Compounding Brexit uncertainty, the final week of the year sees the UK cut off from much of the rest of the world over concerns about a new coronavirus strain that is significantly more transmissable.  A final deal was arranged for the UK leaving the EU at the last minute which spares Britain the worse fate of crashing-out with no deal but is significantly not as good of a trade pact had the UK remained in.  A powerful earthquake shakes Croatia.  French fashion designer Pierre Cardin passes away, aged ninety-eight.

Friday, 11 December 2020

7x7

repetition: an exploration of built-environments as an audio-visual landscape of infinite regression  

a pigment of our imagination: the illusory nature of colour  

nationally determined contributions: European Union agrees to more than halve its carbon emissions by 2030—via Slashdot 

awesome sauce: a safari-pak of canned-meats from 1967 

road gritters: track Scotland’s fleet of snow-plows in real time by name  

training a generation of future karens: this scholastic kids books series are clearly coding adults as happy and confident with their life choices as monsters and misfits—via Super Punch 

a universe of imagination: revisiting a classic and inspiring documentary (previously) on cosmology on its sixtieth anniversary