Wednesday, 31 August 2022

gefahren warten nur auf jene, die nicht auf das leben reagieren (10. 099)

Hailed as a visionary abroad but with a bit more complicated legacy domestically, the former Soviet leader whose political quiver included perestroika and glasnost has passed away, aged 91 after a protracted bout of sickness, effectively ending the Cold War by trying to salvage what was beyond saving. His decisions not to use force to hold power or prevent the toppling of the Berlin Wall or against waves of declarations of independence ushered in a peaceful revolution, though Gorbachev survived long enough to see those reforms undermined and undone by the invasion of Ukraine and attempts to reestablish Russia’s former sphere of influence. Thank you Mister Gorbachev–we hope your outlook for the world ultimately holds and we regain our senses.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

we come not as enemies but as allies

Following the announcement from their respective presidents that Russia will stop targeting the United States and her allies with nuclear weapons and the US responded with the same pledge plus a concerted effort on both sides to reduce the stockpile of warheads down to no more than twenty-five hundred, Boris Yeltsin meets with his American counterpart, George H. W. Bush, on this day in 1992 at the country retreat of Camp David to make the formal declaration that the Cold War was over—expanding on an announcement first made during the Malta Summit in 1989 between Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Monday, 31 January 2022

1958-0001a

As part of the US participation in the International Geophysical Year, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory launched its first successful satellite, Explorer I following the Soviet Union’s Sputnik I and Sputnik II, into orbit and beginning the Space Race with America’s entry-on this day in 1958. Remaining aloft and functional for some one hundred and eleven days, the payload consisted of various sensors and detectors to measure cosmic radiation and micrometeor impact and was instrumentation array was designed and installed under the direction of astrophysics professor James Van Allen of the University of Iowa. Explorer I discovered the zone of energetic particles enveloping the Earth that forms as a result of solar wind caught and shaped by the planet’s magentosphere and Van Allen’s namesake belts which protect the atmosphere from obliteration by solar flares.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

the new normal

On this day in 2003, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fielded questions during a press conference, including Charles Groenhuijsen a Dutch reporter from Nederlandse Publieke Omroep, who spoke to the mood of reservation and doubt in the coalition of the willing: “But now the European allies. If you look at—for example—France, Germany also a lot of people in my own country … [I]t seems that a lot of Europeans rather give the benefit of the doubt to Saddam Hussein than Geroge Bush. These are US allies. What do you make of that?” After some prevarication, Rumsfeld replied, “Now you’re thinking of Europe as German and France. I don’t—I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the centre of gravity is shifting to the East.” Heralded later as the German Worte des Jahres—altes Europa—it was embraced by many politicians as a badge of integrity for their well-founded skepticism and reluctance in contrast to what some regarded as opportunistic realignment for New Europe.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

fait accompli

Having persuaded the Supreme Soviet to vest within the office of president (a different entity altogether from the Presidium whose chair was sometimes conflated by Western governments and press) all executive powers for an amount of time not to exceed two years—like the Roman tradition of appointing a limited-tenure dictator, during this time of transition and upheaval, incumbent just since mid-March of 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev, his position strengthened by withstanding the failed August Coup but unable to reverse the party’s decision for dissolution, announced his resignation as commander-in-chief at the Kremlin before television cameras broadcasting internationally on this day in 1991. Expressing remorse for the breakup of the union, Gorbachev at the same time welcomed the reforms of a market-economy, greater political and religious freedoms as well as the end of the Cold War and its attendant brinksmanship, the Supreme Soviet the next day voted itself out of existence, allowing the Soviet Union to expire at midnight 31 December (Julian Christmas of course falling on the seventh of January on the Gregorian calendar but not reinstated as a holiday until 1992, with New Year’s the big celebration—see also) with the Russian Federation the successor to all Soviet Institutions.

Monday, 15 November 2021

nec temere, nec timide

With the above motto meaning “Neither rather nor timidly,” the Free City of Danzig / Wolne Miasto Gdaล„sk was established on this day in 1920 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles following the peace of World War I. Created as separate from the post-war German republic (populated with the overwhelming number of residence and sandwiched in between Kรถnigsburg, Kaliningrad) and the Republic of Poland as a League of Nations protectorate—with limited self-autonomy and bound with Polish customs, the city council was infiltrated by 1936 with representatives pushing to rejoin Germany, having been granted independence once under Napoleon Bonaparte and recaptured by Prussia after the Battle of Leipzig in 1814—the most recent declaration of self-determination being a compromise between territory was annexed as Reichsgau Danzig-WestpreuรŸen, mirroring status quo ante bellum, to exist as a contested land until the end of conflict.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

8x8

uap: an interview with former US DoD head of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme says that “Tic-Tac” craft have been observed by the navy for decades  

dutch angle: dramatic tilt in cinematography  

comrade kiev: an exquisitely curated collection of posters from Soviet times  

p68/dulcimer: a prototype of the iPod—which celebrated its twentieth birthday last month—via Twisted Sifter  

subjective distance: more on the ordering of adjectives and the unwritten rules of language—see previously 

quesos y besos: a soft goat cheese from Spain beat out many contenders to be awarded the top prize for the annual World Cheese Awards  

shoulder-surfing: a patent to discourage lookie-loos with a screen blur for those without the proper headgear and glasses—via Slashdot 

discopter: Alexander Weygers patented the design for the first UFO flying vehicle decades before the craze in sightings and visitations

Thursday, 11 November 2021

9x9

silent haitch: the voicing of this letter is “still a significant shibboleth”—a look at h based on modern usage and notes on wh by Alfred Leach  

kinship and pedigree: genealogical mapping shows historic spread and retreat of surnames for British Isles and much of Europe 

rural free delivery: a superb, thematic collection of vintage picture postcards—via Things Magazine  

zeta reticulans: a tarot deck from Miguel Romero features the history of UFOlogy  

ั‚ะต ัะฐะผั‹ะต ะบะฐั€ั‚ะธะฝะบะธ: collection of avant-garde children’s book illustrations from the USSR 

retromod: Hyundai brings back its 1986 luxury Grandeur with a fully electric powertrain 

trebuchet: another start-up envisions flinging satellites into space via spinning centrifuge—see previously  

get lost losers: a rock band flotilla entertaining the cargo crews stuck in the seemingly insurmountable backlog waiting to unload containers at the ports of Los Angeles

agent of chaos: agnotology, the study of deliberate spreading of confusion

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

a creature unknown to science

A half a century ago, Soviet television screens were introduced to a stowaway transported in a box of citrus fruits to an Eastern Bloc Anytown and leaves an outsized legacy today. Cheburashka (see previously) in several incarnations, originally created by the author Eduard Uspensky—sort of a Russian Dr Seuss, was not only a vehicle for imparting the universal values of resilience and ostracisation but also a means to criticise the more orthodox and demanding elements in Soviet culture and politics. Much more at the links above.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

8x8

heir apparent: after over a century, Russia hosts a royal wedding for a member of the Romanoff family

9m²:a luxury apartment in Tokyo that makes very efficient use of space—at more than twice the size, my work-week flat feels rather sprawling and and ilunder-utilised 

pandora’s box: a trove of leaked records, following on from the Panama papers shows how the wealthy and connected hide their riches 

faux mcdoo: a fake McDonald’s in Los Angeles for filming purposes, via Messy Nessy Chic 

tx-33: new lows attained in gerrymandering and voter-marginalisation 

full circle: a retrospective exhibit of Judy Chicago  

deuce court: a demonstration of medieval tennis  

ะฒั‹ะทะพะฒ: cast joins crew aboard ISS to film scenes of the first movie shot in microgravity

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

7x7

kรกdรกr cube: a practical, mass-produced boxy house (Magyar ร‰pรญtล‘mลฑvรฉszet) from Communist-era Hungary is staging a comeback 

the new english canaan: revisiting the banned publication that mocked American’s puritanical ways—see also  

you’ve got a habit of leaving: the first single from the unreleased David Bowie album, coming in January

merfolk and melusine: tritons and mermaids entertained by enlightened minds 

facebookland: the social media giant ought to be treated like the autocratic rogue state it is—via Waxy 

roll over beethoven: a team of musicologists using artificial intelligence complete the composer’s unfinished tenth symphony—to premier in Bonn next month, via Kottke  

ะณะพัั‚ะธะฝั‹ะน ะดะฒะพั€: a rotating arch for a shopping arcade in St. Petersburg—via Pasa Bon!

Sunday, 19 September 2021

ะทะพะฝะด 5

Despite being taken previously over a communications test conducted in March 1961 with the mannequin Ivan Ivanovich at the helm and despite gaffes and giveaways included in the tape-recording on board the space craft that featured among other mission protocols a military choir performing and a cosmonaut narrating preparing borscht—activities neither suited for the narrow confines of a capsule nor an environment of microgravity intended to signal to any eavesdropping parties that this wasn’t actually a crewed exercise, the Americans once again on this day in 1968 misinterpreted a practical joke by the USSR’s space programme.

While originally slated to carry human members, the Zond 5 mission, authorities fearful of the bad publicity over another accident, carried aloft various biological samples for a lunar flyby, including wildflowers, fruit fly eggs and a pair of tortoises to see if they could survive circling the Moon. As a consolation for the cosmonauts that weren’t able to accompany this living payload, a simple relay was rigged up by the radio engineers to make it appear that they were transmitting from the probe, reading off telemetry and even proposing landing. US intelligence of course intercepted these shenanigans, which caused considerable international consternation and geopolitical turmoil with the Americans afraid that the Soviets would beat them to this final, arbitrary end-goal of the Space Race, to the discount of Russia’s other technical achievements and important firsts—all except the last Apollo missions. Whether meant for a wider audience or not, cosmonauts throwing their voices was characterised as a hoax and may have informed America’s own conspiracy regarding the authenticity of the Moon landing. Concluding after a single orbit, none of the biological specimens were worse off for the trip.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

spoiler candidate

Via Super Punch, we are directed to reporting from the Guardian on opposition candidate standing for the Duma from St. Petersburg, Boris Vishnevsky, is facing two other contenders running with not only nearly identical names (they’ve preserved their patronymics), his challengers having changed their names for the ballot, but who have altered their appearance physically and digitally to look like the candidate. It is hoped that these political doppelgรคngers (the real Boris bothered to wear a necktie) will split the vote and allow the incumbent to retain his seat. It’s the next level of misnegation, obfuscation to “Vote No on Yes to the Proposition Rescinding the Ban on Anti-Mask Mandates” and would hate to give America’s GOP this tactic for their arsenal.

Monday, 6 September 2021

second city

Known as Leningrad since 1924 (following the death of its namesake), the sixteenth century Russian port town on the Neva and erstwhile capital had its original name, St. Petersburg, restored on this day in 1991 by the result of a citywide referendum held that June. Through the changes, locals referred to their home simply as ะŸะธั‚ะตั€ for short and the oblast colocated there still bears the former designation of ะ›ะตะฝะธะฝะณั€ะฐ́ะดัะบะฐั.

Friday, 3 September 2021

#30ua

Via Web Curios, we thoroughly enjoyed this scrolly-telling celebration of Ukrainian independence, having just recently observed its thirtieth anniversary, adopted by parliament on 24 August 1991 in the aftermath of the failed coup when party hardliners tried to reassert control and reverse the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, which not only presents the country’s history but moreover lauds its accomplishments, culture, attractions and other highlights with splashy call-outs and a touch of Doge-level mawkishness that compels one to read through to the end.

viermรคchteabkommen รผber berlin

On this day in 1971, the four wartime Allied powers concluded the negotiation through their ambassadors for the Quadripartite Agreement (see also) which reaffirmed the rights and responsibilities of the occupying forces and compelled the Soviets to respect the western sectors and generally improved ties between both parts of the divided cityDrafted and drawn up in French, Russian and English, there was no authentic, authoritative German version and translations be each state had subtle but marked differences. The agreement came into force the following summer and is considered among the first in a series of thawing of chilled relations and a move towards reconciliation.

6x6

mmorpg: a thought experiment that ponders whether dark energy might be the by-product of alien quantum computers  

abbatars: after four decades, ABBA is getting back together, first performing as holograms  

role models: China bans men not deemed masculine enough from television 

fonarnye bani: a renovated spa in St. Petersburg  

push pins: an exhibition of the iconic poster art almanac 

wise 1543: unique old, cold orphaned brown dwarves may be ubiquitous in the galaxy

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

pipe-dreams

This fully equipped residential building by architect Sergey Kuznetsov is a steel-clad installation that reflects the building’s surroundings and is perched on a hill in Kaluga, an aesthetic but inorganic intervention for the park on the bank of the Oka river. Read more about the model home, perhaps future glamping experience called Russian Quintessential from Design Boom at the link above.

the thing

While best known for inventing the electronic musical instrument the theremin, Lรฉon Theremin also designed one of the first bugging devices to passively transmit audio signals. A forerunner to RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips used in inventory control and as anti-shoplifting technology, the so called Thing (the first of its kind) or the Endovibrator (ะญะฝะดะพะฒะธะฑั€ะฐ́ั‚ะพั€) was embedded in a carved wooden seal presented to the ambassador of the US diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union by the Young Pioneer organisation (see also) as a gesture of friendship on this day in 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. Ingeniously, a small length of antenna requiring no external power source would vibrate, picking up voices in the embassy office and could be demodulated—without risk of detection by a receiver tuned to the right station.

Unnoticed for nearly seven years until under the tenure of George F. Kennan, the Thing was only discovered by accident with a radio operator at the neighbouring British compound picking up feedback. The existence of such bugging capabilities was not disclosed to the public until 1960, during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council convened after a US spy plane had been shot down over Soviet territory.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

8x8

autobus park № 7: explore Kyiv’s derelict modernist transportation hippodrome—via Things Magazine  

blue: listen to rediscovered demos and outtakes from Joni Mitchell’s album on its fiftieth anniversary 

i’m chasing martian: excellent auditory illusion illustrated—see previously—from chanting fans  

dark matter, dark fish: the overwhelming biomass of Earth’s ecosystem is essentially undetectable for us (see also) yet we claim the right to rubbish it  

warriors of the zenith, warriors of the nadir: a 1904 ethnograph of Zuni ritual masks  

work-life balance: Japanese government proposes four-day work-week  

shareware: a look at the App Store’s predecessor, Software Labs  

private viewing: the collectors who saved modernist Soviet masterpieces