Tuesday, 5 November 2019

monster mash

While somewhat deflated to learn that the secret ingredients of horror icons Boris Karloff’s and Vincent Price’s respective recipes for guacamole sauce (a redundancy since the spread is Nahuatl for avocado sauce) was not the exotica of a magic potion or witches brew, I was quite happy to encounter another instance of people engaged and enraptured not by what’s on the menu per se but rather by how one does food and how there are given set of norms for behaviour and etiquette.
I can’t say whether or not it’s a phenomenon specific to any one culture or subset but it strikes me that Americans are particularly sensitive to it—with the deportment of presidential candidates scruntised for “authenticity” by the way they wield fairground fare more memorable than any excerpts from debates. I wonder what that says about the state of the polity. Do check out the recipes at the link up top but also know that placing the avocado pit in the bowl of guacamole, contrary to testimony, will not keep it from turning brown.

Sunday, 13 October 2019


directors’ cut: prints of iconic filmmakers informed by elements of their movies plus a lot more poster art

radiohead has 18 webrings: the Avocado reads Yahoo! Internet Life’s February 2001 issue

republicans, democrats, in-betweeners looking for high crimes and misdemeanors: a Schoolhouse Rock style cartoon primer about impeachment  

mister green jeans: Lowering the Bar deconflates kangaroos and courtrooms—see previously

chiclets: during political exile after losing territory to the Republic of Texas brought General Antonio Lรณpez de Santa Anna brought the world chewing gum, via Strange Company

a rhetorical question: Betteridge’s Law of Headline writing

startling stories and thrilling wonders: a gallery of pitch-perfect mashups of musical touchstones and pulp ephemera—via Nag on the Lake

Friday, 16 August 2019

relaciones geogrรกficas

In order to have a better insight into the distant and vast domain that his conquistadors took by force, King Felipe II of Spain, Portugal, Naples and the Two Sicilies commissioned bureaucrats in the 1580s to produce a land survey through a fifty topic questionnaire to solicit descriptions of cities and settlements from the indigenous population.
Their responses came in the form of detailed manuscripts that told the history of their home towns and assigned by one question to visually describe their municipality, those polled answered with these fantastic maps and charts that captured geographical details as well as natural resources. Much more to explore with the intrepid adventurers at Atlas Obscura at the link above.

Friday, 2 August 2019


We enjoyed perusing this gallery of vintage and antique sporting and summer travel posters going under the hammer. We were especially taken with the vibrant and angular design of artist Josep Renau Montoro exhibited in this 1941 commission for the Revolutionary Games held at the behest of Manuel รliva Camacho. The artist was most famous for his murals and political propaganda during the Spanish civil war before being exiled first to Mรฉxico and then to East Berlin. There are other painters of note to be found in the auction preview including Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, Boris Artzybaseff and others.

Sunday, 14 July 2019


From one of our favourite weekly features, Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links, we are invited to ruminate over the fact that while most countries are named after one of four things—often tautologically, especially in translation—that are sometimes not very consequential to present geopolitics, there are some notable mavericks that defy or really lean into categorisation.
With nearly all countries named in deference to either a cardinal direction, a distinguishing geographical feature, a tribe or clan or an important personage, we’d wish that the campaign to make America great again was an effort to improve scholarship on the Latinised name of a fifteenth century Florentine cartographer from the Vespucci family but alas and alack.  There are nonetheless some notable (and notably disputed too) outliers as well. Our favouites being Malta named for bees (ฮœฮตฮปฮฏฯ„ฮท, honey-sweet), Mexico after a simplification of an Aztec city (Mฤ“xihtli) that meant in the navel of the Moon and the Pacific island nation of Nauru, possibly derived from the native conjugation anรกoero, I go to the beach.

Thursday, 27 June 2019


Nag on the Lake directs our attention to an exhibit that features a moving collection of Mexican religious icons known as retablos (previously)—from the Latin retro-tabula for “behind the altar” or votive offerings of gratitude meant for display and inspection by the congregation, that document in painting and some captioning turning-points in the lives of those who’ve been on the recipients of divine intercession, which was for many in this show miraculously safe passage crossing the border into the US. Peruse a whole gallery and find much more to explore at the links above.

Friday, 31 May 2019

los tributos o el traje nuevo del emperador

Against the advice of his handlers who, despite how much that they might like focus to be deflected away from the Mueller press conference and Michael Flynn’s turning of states’ evidence, Trump announced a new raft of punitive tariffs against Mexico if it did not quell illegal immigration.
Already betraying his profound, stultifying ignorance of economic principles—tariffs are a kind of tax but a regressive one that US consumers pay, not the Chinese, Europeans or Mexicans—to pander to those who might vote for him a second time by appealing to the lowest common denominator of bigotry and insecurity—a sacrifice owed his base, there’s of course no indication how progress towards satisfying the requirement might be gauged nor who is to impose these sanctions on cross-border trade, nor whether this brash announcement is in violation of the trade deal Trump negotiated to replace the NAFTA accords he withdrew from.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

alta california

Seeking the counsel and perspective of history and equipped with the patient and veteran lens of an antique camera that dates back to a time before the current US/Mรฉxico frontier was established and cemented
in a cultish mythology that drapes greed and racism with the civilising sheen of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion, photographer Tomas van Houtryve traced the border as it was before the Mexican-American War, telling the stories of the descendants who instead of crossing the border were rather crossed by it. The collective amnesia and avoidance of a past shameful to recall and confront allows intolerance and the powers of regression not just to keep its pathetic toehold but experience a revival. Learn more about the portraits and landscapes—lines and lineage—at the links above.

Friday, 15 March 2019


: the Keaton typewriter of musical notation

cryogenics: a covertly filmed movie on the urban legend of Walt Disney’s preserved head shot on location

klimatfรถrรคndring: environmental activist Greta Thunberg nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

jungbauern: a deep dive into the socio-economics and ethnography captured in this 1914 August Sander’s photograph

hecho en mรฉxico: Candida Hรถfer turns her lens towards the faรงades and interiors of the country

clapping music: a performance by Steve Reich that challenges you to keep in sync 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

hurdling the language-barrier

Via Nag on the Lake, we are privileged with a preview of the pictogram set from graphic desiger Masaaki Hiromura for the 2020 Tokyo Games. The artist, back in 2004, famously exhibited his Kitasenju—rebus symbols (below) to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain and focus one’s attention. These Gestalt sports symbols conveying athletes in action have a long tradition, first created in response to the growing international character of participants and spectators and each Olympiad gets their own bespoke signage.
This current offering is nearly as visually compelling, captivating and reflective of a certain vernacular of place and venue as Lance Wyman’s iconography (the transport connection is worth considering) for the 1968 Mexico City Games. Much more to explore at the links above.

the creeping devil

A native of Baja California, we find ourselves acquainted with another succulent uniquely sessile in its motility. Colonies of the species Stenocereis Eruca grow recumbently and live up to their common nomenclature as they advance across the desert floor, growing from one terminus, up to a metre and a half per year, as the tail end dies, disintegrates and re-fertilises the sandy soil as it deposits a trail behind. Learn more about the cactus’ distinctive lifecycle at the link above.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

rose of jericho

Via the always wonderful and inspiring Nag on the Lake we are introduced to a shrub called Selaginella lepidophylla—a type of resurrection plant—that can cope with the arid and punishing conditions of its native habitat, the deserts of Chihuahua, and survive unscathed near complete desiccation.
During periods of drought—and researchers are looking into how they might reactivate the same dormant genes in food crops to make them sturdier under dry conditions—the plant, also known as the (False) Rose of Jericho, curls up into a ball when dry and unfurls its fronds upon re-hydration and has evolved another clever trick as has its North African cousin—Anastatica hierochuntica, the (True) Rose of Jericho—and can form tumbleweeds to be whisked away to a more favourable location. Since ancient times, farmers (and hucksters) have recognised resurrection plants as vegetable hygrometer to predict oncoming rain. See a time-lapse of the thirsty plant getting a drink at the link above.

Monday, 11 March 2019


pizzo: the Trump Crime Syndicate is expecting host nation partners to pay a big premium for US troops stationed there—via Miss Cellania’s Links

big and heavy: industrial pamphlets, 1932-1941

reef of silence: an underwater necropolis is proposed as a funerary venue that will rehabilitate coral habitats

chichรฉn itzรก: researchers uncover a trove of ancient Mayan artefacts in the Cave of the Jaguar God

shลซnyatฤ: a few moments of guided meditation from Alan Watts

do you know the way to san jose: Silicon Valley plans a monument to Silicon Valley—via Digg

tit-for-tat: though short of needing special entry- and tourist-visas US travellers to Europe will need to pre-register, like with the American ESTA programme 

Friday, 15 February 2019

10 us code § 2808

Despite some probably ill-advised concessions to Trump’s monument to white supremacy that secured continuation of government operations—sparing hundreds of thousands the indignities of being played as political pawns, Trump has decided to make up for the funding short-fall by declaring the lack of a border wall (see also here and here) a national emergency, siphoning funds away from other military construction projects. The onus of proof, enumerating how this crusade constitutes an emergency and what other priorities and obligations are to be cut, lies with the administration and legal challenges could yet throw the whole enterprise into limbo and spell further delays and brinkmanship.

Monday, 3 December 2018

operation faithful patriot

Everlasting Blört introduces us to the extensive portfolio of Barcelonan artist Riki Blanco via his unappologetic (accomodations for inexcusable behaviour should always be called out) portrayal of Trump’s unending campaign stunt, which even the Pentagon can’t abide by calling a mission for its political overtones that not only represents a patently xenophobic Navidad whose goal of disinvitation during the holiday season means that many soldiers deployed to the southern frontier are spending it away from their families and friends, ordered to lob tear gas canisters at massing migrants—for some, fulfilling an errand sought after.


In 1975, in order to honour a Rosetta Stone level breakthrough in ethno-linguistics by epigrapher Yuiry Valentinovich Knorozov (*1922 - †1999), the state-run printworks of the USSR issued a special edition of playing cards decorated with Mayan priestesses and chieftains and hieroglyphs.
Knorozov, who as part of the vanguard advancing into Berlin at the closing stages of World War II happened to rescue a rare manuscript from a burning university library—the Dresden Codex—one of the then-known three extant codices of Mayan script and named for its permanent home (having been spirited away with other treasures from the fire-bombed city)—a discovery that would go on to inform and inspire his career as an ethnographer specialising in Mesoamerican studies, realised in 1952 that the symbols were representational and phonetic and could consult modern, spoken Maya as a guide. Learn more and see more of the deck at Atlas Obscura at the link up top.

Thursday, 29 November 2018


snow globes: a new holiday tradition to us—sending Street View Christmas cards

ammartaggio: a for the nonce Italian Word of the Day in tribute to the InSight touchdown

appellation d’origine contrรดlรฉe: a detail world atlas to explore gustatory landscapes in detail—via Pasa Bon!

condominium: a library straddling the US-Canadian border has become a venue for emotional family reunions for those (we all are) affected by the Trump administration’s immigration policies—via Super Punch 

orden mexicana del รกguila azteca: the Mexican government presents Trump’s son-in-law with its highest honour reserved for foreign dignitaries

jantar mantar: an incredible eighteenth century Indian astronomical observatory whose architecture previsions Brutalism 

Saturday, 17 November 2018


auto-stitch: winners and honourable-mentions in the Epson panoramic photography competition

members elect: a set of emojis illustrates the stark contrast in diversity between the newly elected Democrat and Republican representatives matriculating in the 116th US Congress in January

peak curtains: IKEA updates its 2002 lamp advertisement with the same principal prop

introducing the hemimastix: researchers in Nova Scotia uncover a microbe radically out of place in defined biological kingdoms, via Marginal Revolution

drei haselnüsse für aschenbrödel: legendary German actor Rolf Hoppe, who played iconic and memorable roles as fairy tale kings, cowboys and frightful villains, has passed away

coal in your stocking: classy company (previously—not really I think but just as tasteless) is producing a knock LEGO set of Trump’s border wall

fully-interlocking: jigsaw puzzle manufacturers tend to use the same patterns for multiple puzzles—resulting in surreal compositions, via Nag on the Lake 

Sunday, 4 November 2018


gooey, crunchy, cheesy, yummy: Pizza: the Musical by Anthony Clune, Sarah Fiete and Eric Tait, via Everlasting Blört

craft master: paint by numbers with Dan Robbins, an appreciation from Nag on the Lake plus lots more to discover

bauhaus 100: Dezeen continues its special series on the upcoming centenary of the art movement with a profile of Walter Gropius

corporate identity: a retrospective look at the design studio of Massimo Vignelli (previously) and cohorts

rock, paper, scissors: agitating militia groups expected to surge at the border present a more dangerous challenge than the refugees

ghastlygun tinies: MAD magazine remixes Edward Gorey’s macabrely doomed children for the era of school shootings, via Boing Boing

the shape of water: vintage illustration of the alien beauty of the nudibranchia (previously here and here)

Thursday, 1 November 2018

rubicon, rio bravo

Despite the refutation on the part of the US Secretary of Defence that “this department doesn’t do stunts,” Trump’s fearmongering is playing to the crowds thronging his Nuremberger rallies with his announcement that he will deploy up to fifteen thousand active duty soldiers to the southern border to act in a support capacity for the army of deputised goons already there, and could hardly be characterised as anything else. Fully thirty-nine military units have been put on notice. Barred by federal law (posse comitatus) from acting in an enforcement capacity within the United States, their role during this mission will be limited to intimidation and building temporary barriers.