Tuesday, 22 June 2021

sidereus nuncius

For the heretical cosmology espoused in his March 1610 booklet, the above-titled Starry Messenger and later works, that unseated the Earth as the centre of the Universe, on this day in 1633, Galileo Galilei was found guilty by the Roman Inquisition and “vehemently suspect of heresy”—sentenced to indefinite house arrest. Forbidden from publishing any new material, the astronomer was further required to publicly recant, repudiate and denounce his opinions, though according to popular accounts whilst delivering his abjuration, Galileo rebelliously muttered Eppur si muove—and yet it moves, under his breath.

zagato zele

Courtesy of the always interesting Things Magazine, we discover this delightful electric microcar (see also)—sold in US markets as the Elcar with Wagonette models available—from 1974 to 1976. Manufactured in Milan with a run totalling about five hundred, the cubic vehicles came in seven bold, harvest colours.

Monday, 14 June 2021


dit-dot: via Web Curios (a lot more to see at this latest instalment), we’re invited to learn the basics of Morse code (previously) with this well designed, gamifying tutorial 

passeggiando: be a virtual flรขneur in these composite Italian cities 

broadcast energy transmitter: delivering renewable energy from where it is plentiful to where it’s need via submarine transnational supergrids 

flock together: a TED Ed presentation on the evolution of feathers  

pyramid power: Duns Scotus and the esoteric history of the dunce cap—via Boing Boing  

essential reading: The Atlantic’s Ed Yong won a Pulitzer Prize for his COVID reporting  

รครค: a collection of essays from the Times Literary Supplement on defence of endangered, indigenous languages

Sunday, 13 June 2021

antonio di padua

Priest and Franciscan friar and Doctor of the Church, Anthony of Lisbon (*1195 - †1231 in the commune west of Venice) is one of the most popular and quickly canonised among the cult of the saints and was acclaimed in his lifetime for giving powerful and persuasive sermons, even keeping a school of fish in rapt attention once and reputation for care for the poor and sick. Invoked in the name of lost things—credited first with the restoration of his own psalter full of notes when Anthony feared it was gone forever—his extensive patronage (see previously) includes things prone to going missing like mail, mariners, shipwrecks, travellers and lost souls, though not all who wander… Anthony in the extended sense is also the protector of the elderly, fisherfolk, amputees, Native Americans, harvests, watermen, horses, travel hosts and counter-revolutionaries.

Monday, 7 June 2021


glass menagerie: a Murano bestiary on display in Venice  

glow up: beauty tips from Ancient Roman—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump  

coconuรŸritter: a short about Foley artists and creating soundscapes  

happy little clouds: explore a relaxing gallery of Bob Ross paintings (previously), via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links   

culaccino: a database of words that do not readily translate succinctly, like this Italian term from the mark left on a table by a cold glass—via Swiss Miss 

electrobat vi: antique electric forerunners side-by-side with modern EVs  

the perils of everybody: a ‘mistake waltz’ that illustrates the pratfalls all ballet recitals are prone to  

where the buffalo roam: restoring the ecosystem of the North American Great Plains by reintroducing charismatic megafauna  

kitchenette: re-examining Liza Lou’s beaded exhibits

Thursday, 3 June 2021

non-fungible intangibles

As Futility Closet relates, artist Salvatore Garau has auctioned off his invisible sculpture (entitled I Am—Io Sono) for a rather princely sum, recalling the works of Yves Klein and other more contemporary phenomena. According to the sculptor’s instructions, the piece is to be be displayed free from any obstruction in a one and half square metre space. Because the object is immaterial and does not exist, however, there are no special lighting or climate-control requirements.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

man in motion

Venerated on this day on the occasion of martyrdom (†303) after a series of horrendous torture sessions for keeping the faith and recruiting many converts, Erasmus of Formia—also known as Saint Elmo, is presented as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (previously), whom are to be called upon for intercession and deliverance. Going underground during the persecutions of both Diocletian and Western successor Maximian Hercules, an angel persuaded to return his diocese in Campania. En route, Erasmus was captured by soldiers, and professing his Christianity was imprisoned in Illyricum but the angel helped him escape and establish a church there near modern day Zadar. Having attracted the ire of local magistrates due to the success of his congregation, Erasmus was made to bow before the pagan gods, whose statues crumbled by dint of his faith, which prompted his captors in response to stick him in a barrel with a spiked interior and roll him down a hill. The angel healed him as with his subsequent ordeal of being painted in pitch and set alight and another jail-break. Erasmus finally succumbed, recaptured with his belly slit open and his intestines wound around a winch, a windlass that’s now part of his iconography, the crane for loading and unloading cargo signifying his affiliation with mariners as well as patronage for stomach ailments and cramps. A further connection with sailors was the saint’s steadfast homily aboard a ship despite the plasma phenomena of ball lighting or Saint Elmo’s Fire haloing the mast as precursor to a thunder strike, afterwards taken as an omen of protection though it didn’t always pan out that this aural warning was a good sign.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

santa bona

Early eleventh century Augustinian nun venerated on this day, Bona of Pisa, helped conduct pilgrims on their journeys and is considered the patroness of tour guides, couriers, flight attendants as well as her well-touristed home town. Her father a Crusader in the Holy Land, Bona made no fewer than four sojourns there to visit him and see to his well-being and after being taken hostage by pirates and necessitating a ransom and rescue by her compatriots, redirected her focus to the route of Santiago de Compostela, undertaking the arduous trip ten times and leading others along the way.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

we demand a borda count

Jingoism and patriotism by-proxy upstaging message and entertainment value aside in voting (see previously) for the grand prix winner of the Eurovision song contest aside—Italy (see also) made a surprise showing for first place with a fine and enthusiastic homage to glam rock—the juxtaposing shots (and tribute) to the audience assembled for the party in Rotterdam were in keeping with original spirit of the spectacular meant to harmonise broadcast linkages across the continent. The pictured artist is the talented Norwegian performer called by his stage name TIX as an acknow-ledgement that he has overcome Tourette’s syndrome—which I misheard at first as duet syndrome.  Though at first seeming premature and irresponsible to allow such gatherings as we continue to beat back the pandemic, it was revealed that the volunteer revellers were taking part in a hopefully safe and scientifically sound experiment to see if and how large scale events could be held securely with no outbreaks and danger to public health.  Among our  favourites was Iceland’s entry Daรฐi & Gagnamagnid—which was unable to play live in the hall after one band member tested positive for COVID—with Ten Years.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

alfa beta

One foundry has—for the centenary plus one of the graphic designer’s birth—plans a re-issue of the authoritative style guide by Turinese type artist Aldo Novarese (*1920 - †1995, also credited with ITC Symbol, Eurostile and Microgramma) plus a revival of his signature font Stadio from 1974, which was formerly lost to the ages, existing only in dry-transfer, rub-on lettering form. More on this extra bold grotesque and Zetafonts at Print Mag at the link above.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

saint zita

Also known by her unofficial cult following in England as Sitha by domestics there, Zita of Lucca (†1227) whose feast is celebrated today was servant girl to a cruel household that beat and berated her incessantly despite working hard and without stint and her charity and even respect for the family she worked for.

Zita’s perseverance through faith in the face of challenges gradually turned the her family and others in the circle towards charity and piety and ultimately garnered a Cinderella-like reputation with angelic host helping her with the chores. In remembrance of Zita feeding the numerous poor people of the city with her meagre ratio of bread alone, the people of Lucca bake Zita Loaves on this day and she is venerated as the patron of maids, butlers and wait-staff and sought for intercession in recovering lost keys and like household objects.

Sunday, 25 April 2021


One of a number of Roman celebrated during this time of year to ensure a good growing season and bountiful harvest, the feast of the for the god Robigus was held on this day in the agricultural outskirts of the city.
The god, which was designated as the divine representation of fungal blight or rust needed to be propitiated in order to ensure that the crops wouldn’t spoil in the fields. Understood as a separate, corrupt manifestation of the same infestation that could be harnessed for fermentation, the games held at this time with their attendant feasts (see also) were also marked by rather dark sacrifices that expressed their anxieties over crop failure—especially for one this late in the growing seasons that wouldn’t be easy to recover from. Whereas animal sacrifice generally was reserved for livestock that was part of the Roman diet and was shared in a communal meal, Robigalia rather gruesomely demanded a dog with a red coat—that matched the rust disease—as form of homeopathic magic.
Other observations included a celebration of—for whatever reason—of male sex-workers, professional female prostitution having had their own honours in the previous days, specifically on Vinalia urbana, the grape harvest on 23 April. Though without the cruel bits, thankfully—or the fun bits either, I suppose, the holiday is preserved in Western Christianity with the same day of prayer and fasting known as Rogation (from the Latin to beseech—to ask God for protection from calamity) and was done to cleanse the body and mind in anticipation of the Ascension and farmers often had priests bless their crops, often holding mass and processionals in the fields.

pecunia non olet

Via the always engaging Everlasting Blรถrt, we find ourselves educated in the rather fascinating and sensical history of the Roman taxation scheme on human urine. Left to mellow and oxide, the substance undergoes a chemical transformation into ammonia not only useful for nitrogen-fixing in fertilisers but also as a cleaning-agent and detergent for laundry, oral hygienic and the dyeing of textiles. Levied during the reigns of Nero and Vespasian, the collection garnered the titular phrase that money does not stink, though the onerous and unpopular Vectigal Urinรฆ soon garnered detractors and has the lasting legacy in the public pay-toilets in some Romance-language places—France, Italy and Romania—referring to urinals, pissoirs as vespasiennes. The emperor’s son Titus objected to funding the Empire by such means and presented him with a gold coin, asking does this offend—to which Titus replied in the negative, “Atqui ex lotio est”—Yet it comes from the cesspool.

Friday, 9 April 2021

responsable de style

Via the always interesting Things Magazine, we are directed towards an appreciation and celebration of the life and work of the recently departed French engineer and automobile creator Robert Opron (81932), head of the design department at Citroรซn since 1964 and then working with Renault in 1975—headhunted to develop an ultra-compact city car concept before transferring to Fiat and Piaggio a decade later. Custom coachbuilt Citroรซn Presidentials were commissioned for Queen Elizabeth’s state visit in 1971 as well as this clever CX camera car for the BBC were Opron’s doing and his whole line of models were visionary and iconic whilst working with the major French and Italian manufacturers. Opron’s most innovative and unconstrained design was for the smaller Fiat spin-off Simca with his first foray in 1958 in the bubble-topped, roving UFO called the Fulgur—Latin for lightening. Responding to an industry challenge to create a vehicle for the 1980s, this two-wheeled, gyroscopically-balanced concept (“idea”) car was to be—though not in the demonstration car—was to be guided by radar, voice-controlled and atomically-powered. More from the obituary at the link above.

Friday, 2 April 2021

francesco di paola

Venerated on this day—the occasion of his death at the then very advanced age of ninety-one in 1507 (*1416), the friar from Calabria was later appointed patron of his home region at the toe of Italy, Panama, ferrymen, mariners and naval officers for famously refusing to pay a boatman for passage and using his own cloak and staff as a sail and mast and crossing to Sicily under his own power, Francis of Paola also went on to establish the mendicant order known as the Minims. Membership including the botanist monk Charles Plumier who first encountered the fuchsia plant and a cloister in Mรผnchen who continues to brew Paulaner beer though they were expelled from the order for not following the rule that they should subside on charity and alms alone. Known for their humility, their name referring not only to the last among the faithful but also to the idea of having minimal impact, Francis—himself the namesake of St Francis of Assisi—advocated to keep the diet of Lent year round and ate no animals or animal products, vegan in modern parlance. Another legend recounts resurrecting a favourite trout, Antonella, who was caught and cooked by an unthinking brother who tossed out his dish once he saw how upset Francis was getting over a fish. Antonella, with some divine intervention, became whole again, swimming happily in the pond, and convinced the whole friary to abstain.

Monday, 29 March 2021

casa sperimentale

Though ostensibly informed by the Brutalist movement, this experimental vacation home, a concrete treehouse in the seaside town of Fregene outside of Rome, was meant as a statement about organic architecture and a statement of co-existence. Also known as Casa Albero, it was built by a family of architects, Uga de Plaisant and her husband Giuseppe Perugini with the assistance of their son over the course of seven years in the late 1960s, the structure has been abandoned and fallen into ruin, tragically. Explored by a group of urban spelunkers, here’s a short drone fly-through of the property. Hopefully this extra attention will inspire someone to save it. Much more at Things Magazine.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

marcus didius julianus

Reigning for a scant nine weeks, Didius Julianus was the second to hold imperial office during the Year of the Five Emperors (see previously), submitting the winning bid and acclaimed by the Prรฆtorian Guard on this day in the year 193 as the elite troops auctioned off the throne, having just assassinated the previous incumbent Pertinax. A promising government and military career sidelined by Emperor Commodus—ostensibly afraid that the prรฆtor in charge of Mogontiacum (see link above)—Didius Julianus was recalled from Dalmatia and Germania Inferior and put on tax-collecting and charitable duties and never quite recovered from this impolitic slight but for the bargain of promising each soldier twenty-five thousand sesterii (๐†˜, the silver coin having the purchasing power of a sextarius, roughly half a litre of good wine or a little more than double a year’s pay) he was able to restore his honour. Rivalry amongst generals angry to see high office sold ensured civil war and competing claims and Didus Julianus did not help his popularity by immediately reversing monetary policy which significantly devalued the currency, and was executed in the palace on 1 June by a soldier. His successor Severus disbanded the Prรฆtorian Guard and the Senate passed a damnatio memoriรฆ motion to erase his legacy and strike his rule from history.

stringozzi o prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale

Privileged to have recently witnessed the birth of an innovative new noodle to add to the vocabulary of pasta shapes, we enjoyed being introduced to a series preserving the heritage of artisanal pasta-making traditions of Sardinia and Italia through watching and learning from venerable nonne—and possibly a few nonni too—the patient art of making some of the world’s rarest varieties. From the delicate spiralling andarinos, only produced in the village of Usini to the fabric like su filindeu—the yarn of God—whose warp and weave has been mastered by few, passed down over the generations. Much more from Messy Nessy Chic correspondent Valentina Peana, including videos and recipes, at the link above.

Friday, 26 March 2021

la pista automobilistica

Completed in 1923, this historical aerial photograph of the Lingotto building in Turin once housed the automotive factory of Fiat, with raw materials uniquely loaded on the ground floor and the assembly line moving up a helix of five storeys for completion with finished models emerging on a rooftop test track. Production of cars was eventually mothballed in 1982 but Renzo Piano redesigned the complex, preserving its character and race track—seen in the original 1969 heist movie The Italian Job—as a corporate headquarters and multipurpose centre with a hotel and convention space.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

the thracian

Acclaimed by the Praetorian Guard as emperor in the West on this day in 238—a year later labelled by history as the Year of the Six Emperors (see also)—and reluctantly confirmed by the Roman senate who did not find the prospect of putting an oafishly large barbarian bandit in charge, Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus “Thrax” would rule for three years, the first to attain such the pinnacle of government without coming from the elite classes of the Senฤtus or knights eques. Thrax’ tumultuous reign is considered to have set in motion the Crisis of the Third Century which eventually led to its downfall and dissolution in the West and ruled mainly from Mogontiacum, capital of Germania Superior along the Rhein and from the province of Israel, where there is archaeological evidence of starting on some infrastructure work with an unfinished roadway, never able to come to Rome herself. Paranoid and focused on consolidating power inciting accusations and cultivating a court of informers, Thrax doubled soldiers’ pay and waged continuous warfare—financing these policies through raising taxes and appropriation of church property and violent confiscations, earning almost universal distrust from those outside of the army and his inner circle. Marching on Rome in May of 238, Thrax was assassinated by his own troops at a camp outside the city walls at Aquileia, the gates closed to the advancing siege of the unpopular emperor by order of the senate, the soldiers disaffected and suffering from privation with taking the fortified city not as simple of a matter that they had been led to believe.