Sunday, 2 October 2022

l'escargophone (10. 189)

Reportedly convincingly demonstrated to a journalist from La Presse on this day in 1851, though business partners remained sceptical and suspected a hoax, the apparatus known as the pasilalinic-sympathetic compass (la boussole pasilalinique sympathique, the snail telegraph, incredibly—see previously) was a heuristic contraption meant to take advantage of the supposed permanent telepathic link (a subtle form of animal magnetism that naturally drew in the public in parallel with the technical achievements of actual telegraphy) that mated pairs of snails form. Inventor and noted occultist Jacques-Toussaint Benoรฎt, called de l’Hรฉrault, constructed two remote scaffoldings each with one gastropod partner labelled with a letter of the alphabet, whereby the operator touched one that was supposed to cause a reaction in its corresponding mate that could be decoded by the receiver. Attempts to repeat the near successes of the first trial for the public failed and Benoรฎt promptly vanished.

Friday, 19 August 2022

picture-perfect (10. 072)

On this day 1839 following assurances of a lifetime’s pension for himself and business partner Nicรฉphore Niรฉpce and a seat on the National Academy of Design, the government of France published the complete technical details of the daguerreotype process—previously withheld over fears of others counterfeiting the process or stealing credit for the research and experimentation of set building, background painter and inventor of the diorama Louis-Jacques-Mandรฉ Daguerre—gifting it “free to the world.”

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

vertrag von verdun (10. 049)

Agreed on this day in 843, the Treaty of Verdun divided the Frankish Empire of Ludwig I, son and successor of Charlemagne, into three kingdoms to be ruled by the emperor’s three sons. The outcome of a succession crisis, civil war and palace intrigues, the negotiations were the first of a series of partition arrangements that to a large extend correspond with the borders of modern Europe. Though the peace was not destined to last long, the brothers agreed to recognise the suzerainty of their father, Lothair (already created king of Italy) was given Francia Media (Middle Franconia—stretching from the northern half of the Italian peninsula and up the corridor of the Rhein river valley to the Low Countries), Louis the German (of Bavaria) received Francia Orientalis—eastern Franconia, comprising the largest, unified constituent realm of the Holy Roman Empire, and Karl II, Francia Occidentalis, Burgundy and Aquitaine, most modern France with the exception of Bretagne. The provisioning—which reflected the custom of partible inheritance (see above) rather than leaving property to the most senior offspring—saw centuries of border swapping especially for the middle kingdom, with few natural defences for territorial integrity and communication was curtailed by the Alps, and a legacy of disunity and division for Italy.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

sacrum romanum imperium (10. 042)

Neither holy, Roman nor an empire in the cohesive sense yet in existence for more than a thousand years, the Heiliges Rรถmisches Reiches was defacto dissolved on this day in 1806 as an outcome of the Napoleonic Wars and the abdication of Francis II (dispatch to the royal ambassadors pictured) the House of Hapsburg who repaired to Austria and released all tenets and subjects from their oath and obligation. Regarded as the successor state to Rome because its emperors were also legitimised through the papacy, the decentralised empire without a coherent monetary system and unusual government of elected monarchs rather than hereditary rulers was on the decline for centuries and experienced its finally death knells after interfering in Revolutionary France, fearful that republicanism might spread, and the success of Napoleon in recruiting more client states into the sphere of influence of the Empire of France. The Peace of Pressburg (Bratislava) geographically cordoned extraterritorial claims and allowed some pocket principalities and city-states to be absorbed, effectively dividing the old Holy Roman Empire into Germany and Austro-Hungary.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

she keeps her moรซt & chandon in a pretty cabinet (10. 035)

Though unclear if the attribution is entirely accurate as sparking did not become the dominant style of the wine region until the nineteenth century, this day in 1693 is the traditional date ascribed to the invention of Champagne by Benedictine monk and cellarer Dom Pierre Pรฉrignon at the Abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers and our abbot can certainly be credited with innovating the techniques and practises of in bottle fermentation, which beforehand was an acute occupational hazard since if wine was bottled prematurely, they would become literal time-bombs liable to explosion due to an excess of carbon dioxide. Pรฉrignon further championed purity in wine-making and prescribed a set of protocols for harvesting and crushing grapes. The popular quote of Pรฉrignon’s first impression of drinking his Champagne— « Venez mes frรจres, je bois des รฉtoiles » (“Come quickly my brothers, I am tasting the stars!”)—is also unfortunately a fin de siรจcle marketing myth meant to distance the drink’s associations with decadence and tie it to the diligence of a hard working monk.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

7x7 (10. 025)

spectacular vernacular: 99% Invisible celebrates milestone episodes with an exploration of vintage architectural styles, via Pasa Bon!  

conlang: fluency in Esperanto—see previously  

122 CE: a colourful gate house installed at Hadrian’s Wall 

the electric lucifer: the musical stylings of Bruce Haack 

civic duty: a resonant “I Voted” sticker for Ulster County, New York

isochrone: an interactive map illustrates how far one can travel from any European train station in under five hours 

la maison sculptรฉe: Jacques Lucas’ hand-sculpted home in Rennes

Thursday, 14 July 2022

7x7

nag on the lake: a new viewing platform with spectacular views of the Falls  

smart brevity: the prevalence of bulletin-point journalism 

light cycle: the lost TRON (previously) arcade documents—via Things Magazine  

true colours: Metropolitan Museum of Art presents statues from Antiquity with their original paint jobs—see previously 

granite & rainbow: the book jackets of Virginia Woolf

restored to its polynesian/craftsman/medieval-colonial revival/queen anne glory: an architectural doppelgรคnger of the Little House  

bonne fรชte nationale: images from Bastille Day from over a century ago 

sluicehuis: a cantilever housing bloc in Amsterdam’s IJburg district

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

camp du drap d’or

Held at Balinghem between Ardres and English Calais, the summit between Henry VIII and Francis I known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, beginning on this day in 1520 and lasting until 24 June, was an ostentatious display of wealth of both kings and meant to reinforce the bonds of amity forged following the Anglo-France Treaty of 1514. The sumptuous meeting was planned and executed by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to promote a pact of non-aggression among all of Christendom powers and focus their might on rebuffing Ottoman incursions in southern Europe and recalled the encounter of 1396 between Richard II and Charles VI at the truce that concluded the Hundred Years’ War at the same site. The temporary festival featured feasting, jousting and other tournaments and dazzling pavilions and costumes of fabric woven with silk and gold threads as each sovereign tried to outdo the other. Whilst impressive for the numerous participants, political effect was limited and soon took a turn for the worse the following year when Cardinal Wolsey formed an alliance with the Hapsburgs who declared war on France over Italy and attempts to contain the influence of Martin Luther.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

6x6

not to put words in your mouth: Google’s collaborative incubator discreetly withdraws from deepfake research—via Slashdot  

mermay: a month-long (didn’t get the memo but for next year) sketching challenge to draw merfolk with daily prompts    

bubasteion: necropolis sacred to Ancient Egyptian feline goddess yielded a trove of two-hundred and fifty perfectly preserved sarcophagi  

now listen to my heart—it says ukrainia: the Scorpions update their lyrics to Winds of Change to stop romancising Russia 

joueur-animateur en direct: French ministry of culture reforms guidelines on gaming jargon to combat anglicisation—see previously  

monk tone scale: Google adopts a better classification system for skin pigment to combat baked-in biases (see previously) for its algorithms and artificial intelligence

Monday, 30 May 2022

in god’s name—let us go on bravely

Compelled by visions of Saints Michael, Margaret and Catherine to seek audience with the nominal heir to the throne of France, an unlikely ask for a sixteen-year-old girl from a peasant family yet she persisted, our Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) laid out her plan to end English domination over France, a state of affairs dragged out over the Hundred Years’ War, who was then field-promoted and sent as part of a relief battalion for the besieged city of Orlรฉans. Victory there was followed by several other successful campaigns under Joan’s leadership in the Loire Valley and and decisive defeats for the English in Patay and Reims—where Charles VII was re-crowned as king of France. Captured in Compiรจgne by the enemy allies the Burgundians while advancing to Paris, Joan was put on trial not as an enemy combatant nor as traitor but rather in an ecclesiastic court sympathetic to its occupiers for the heresy of presenting herself as a man and not being deemed sufficiently repentant about it. Over and above all other considerations about what a female suit of armour or other soldier’s uniform might have even been, it was surely more practical for Joan to carry herself this way and it was added protective measure against abduction and assault by other soldiers. Suffering these fools and sham proceedings, Joan maintained a brave bearing and was executed, burnt at the stake, on this day in Rouen, Normandy (then part of England) in 1431, aged nineteen—canonised finally in 1920 and venerated as the protector and patroness of martyrs, military personnel and political prisoners.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

salon des refusรฉs

A counter-exhibition with the official sanction of Napoleon III despite his traditional tastes in the arts opened on this day in the Palace of Industry in 1863 with a gallery of the rejected submissions received by the Paris Salon of the Acadรฉmie des Beaux-Arts, relenting to pressure by spurned painters and the public alike, who were finding the acceptance process increasingly fraught and favouring conservatism. Those showing the alternate exposition included many now-famous works by ร‰douard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Johan Jongkind and James McNeill Whistler.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

gรฉodรฉsie

Celebrated astronomer and geologist Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre on this day in 1792 undertook his commission to precisely define the metre, a universal measure defined as one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator, organising an expedition to measure the length of the meridian arc (distance—the two cities being on the same line of longitude) between Dunkirk and Rodez, by Toulouse in the south of France, mathematically extrapolating from that value, and then from Rodez to Barcelona’s Fortress of Montjuรฏc. The survey mission took six years beset by technical set-backs, bouts of yellow fever and the French Revolution, including several unfortunate incarcerations by Royalist elements. Precise measurements were taken with a device called a repeating circle ( cercle rรฉpรฉtiteur ), invented by machinist Etienne Lenoir originally for Jean-Charles de Borda and improved for Delambre and team. Finally in 1799, the metre was formally defined as 0.514074 Parisien toise (from the Latin tender—that is the span of the outstretched arms, six feet) or three feet and eleven lignes—a historical unit that was approximately one twelfth of an inch and still used by watchmakers to size casings and in button-manufacturing.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

el tres de mayo de 1808 en madrid

Considered by many to represent the first modern work of art for its departure from convention stylistically and in its message, the 1814 commission for the provisional government of Spain by Francisco Goya, The Third of May, depicts and commemorates resistance to the forces of Napoleon during the occupation and Peninsular War over access to the Mediterranean—the French garrisons originally invited under the pretence of jointly conquering and dividing Spain and award the Spanish prime minister the principality of the Algarve and not realising the ruse until it was too late. Picturing in media res the suppression of the junta uprising against the soldiers of the First French Empire, the rebels and their ranks facing the firing squad on Prรญncipe Pรญo hill portrays war as bleak and unheroic—in vast contrast to the usual posed compositions of charging victory and unflagging patriotism—and inspired Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and Massacre in Korea among other revolutionary and edifying works of art.

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.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

chunnel

Though later inaugurated by the respective heads of state over a century later, on this day in 1867 Queen Victoria and Napoleon III jointly reject a proposal from surveyors and engineers Aimรฉ Thomรฉ de Gamond and Henry Marc Brunel for a mined railway tunnel from Dover to Calais, an idea that was revisited several times before its eventual completion.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

red baron or what do you want on your tombstone?

Vaunted as the ace-of-aces of the Great War, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was shot down and killed on this day in 1918 after scoring his seventy-ninth and eightieth air combat victories the day prior. Previously we had poked about Wiesbaden’s Sรผdfriedhof in search of the Red Baron’s resting place and thought it appropriate to visit today. Already elevated to legendary stature in life and subject to hero-worship that Richthofen was wont to indulge as well as respected by his enemies, the circumstances surrounding his death are a matter of controversy and speculation, coming to the aid of his cousin, another member of the elite Flying Circus (see above), Lieutenant Wolfram von Richthofen, who was taking enemy fire. The source of the fatal bullet is uncertain with several vectors entertained. As was
customary, the commanding officer of the Royal Airforce combatant squandron accorded the Baron a military funeral with full-honours, near the spot where the fighter pilot fell in Bertangles in the Somme—and had a more active than usual career in death, disinterred and reburied in the German Military Cemetery at Fricourt in Picardie, brought to Berlin by his brother Lothar (a site that was later relegated to a no man’s land on the boundary of the Soviet zone of occupation and often pelted with stray bullets in attempts to stop people from fleeing for the West—his brother’s gravesite in their hometown of ลšwidnica too was levelled once Silesia was restored to Poland after World War II) and finally in 1975 transferred to the family plot in Wiesbaden.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

saponification

Accomplished French chemist and professional skeptic whose research and work had a immense influence in several disciplines of science, mathematics and the arts as well as helping to establish the field of gerontology with himself a subject of study, Michel Eugรจne Chevreul (*1786) passed away on this day in 1889 in Paris, aged 102. Revolutionary work with vegetable oils and animal fats fundamentally changed the manufacture and availability of soap and candles—incidentally leading to an understanding of the pathology and treatment of diabetes. Having first honed his acumen as chemist in a dye and pigment manufacturing plant, Chevreul expounded several volumes regarding the theory of colours and their compliments which particularly informed Impressionist and Pointillist styles, after his career with oleic experimentation, he set his focus on disenchanting, disabusing the public of popular charlatanism and mysticism and raging against seances and table-turning, giving one of the first explanations of the ideomotor effect for mediums and dowsers. Having lived through the French Revolution, Chevreul was one of the seventy-two scientists and engineers commemorated on the first balcony of the Eiffel Tower and was only one of two honorees alive to see the Tricolour raised at the top of the structure.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

7x7

a fistful of manicules: Shady Characters explores several font specimens of the typographers’ mark—see previously  

la conquรชte du pain: an anarcho-communist bakery going strong in Montreuil  

peeping tom: Facebook’s demise following that of mySpace  

storyliving: Disneyland pre-retirement communities—via Web Curios 

erste jahrzehnten: German Design Awards marks its first decade with a special exhibit  

sold for sol 1800: it appears that Melania Trump purchased her own NTF—via New Shelton wet/dry 

i shot the serif: foundry Neubau Berlin pays homage to Mid-Century international fonts

Monday, 14 February 2022

billet-doux

Via Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, we are introduced to the French for literally a “sweet note” that has been adopted in the common-parlance since the seventeenth century as an alternative for a romantic missive.  Pronounced Billy-DOO, the plural form is billets-doux. 

Thursday, 27 January 2022

8x8

i just think they’re neat: an orchestral ballad extolling the qualities of the tuber—via Pasa Bon! 

pulsar: a mysterious, suspected white dwarf star called GLEAML-X is far more energetic than physically possible  

eurhythmics: the greatest music teacher of the twentieth century, Nadia Boulanger whose pupils included Igor Stravinsky and Quincy Jones  

nu descendant un escalier № 2: the Marcel Duchamp research portal  

great green wall: an ongoing project to grow a corridor of trees across Africa 

meta-maps: gazetteers that interpret atlases from the collection of David Rumsey 

 bande dessinรฉe: Belgium’s new passport design pays homage to the country’s comic artists  

fire sale: a curious inventory of lots for sale with the closure of the Drury Lane theatre  

his father’s eyes: a giant New Zealand potato, Dug, is subjected to genetic-testing for proof that it is a tuber