Tuesday, 15 June 2021

durgan script

The always engrossing Language Log of the University of Pennsylvania acquaints us with a endangered and diffuse language—spread across Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Mongolia—in the Sinitic (Chinese) family but written with Cyrillic and uniquely not Sinographic characters (see also). The continuum of Gansu, Mandarin and Dungan (Kansu) is mutually intelligible to a large extent. Tones are marked with the glyphs front yer and back yer (ะฌ / ะช) from the Old Church Slavonic (see above and here too) and the current orthography is a compromise dating back to the 1920s when the Soviet Union banned Arabic and Persian-based writing systems, looked on disfavourably from the beginning as merchants along the Silk Road could conduct trade deals in a language that was secret to their neighbours.

Saturday, 12 June 2021


Called the Day of the Adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR, a transitional state during the dissolution of the USSR) or Russia Day for short, this national holiday of the Russian Federation commemorates the passage of structural reform by the First Congress of People’s Deputies on this day in 1990, establishing primacy of the constitution, equal rights for all citizens and political parties and the separation of powers among three co-equal branches of government: the executive, legislative and judicial. The acclaim is not universal with quite a lot of ambivalence towards celebrating this declaration but the holiday is generally marked with awards assemblies, firework displays, parades and concerts.

Friday, 21 May 2021

to russia with elton

Starting with a venue in Leningrad on this day in 1979, Elton John gave the first of a series of eight concerts in the Soviet Union, marking the largest-scale tour thus far of a Western artist (see also), preceded by smaller shows by Boney M and Keith Richards. A subsequent live broadcast from the Rossiya Concert Hall in Moscow (the evening of 28 May) that was also carried by BBC1 marked the first satellite link-up between the USSR and the West and helped diffuse geopolitical tensions at he height of the Cold War.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

ะฟะต́ั‚ั ะธ ะฒะพะปะบ

The symphonic fairy tale by Sergei Prokofiev that introduces young people to the instrumental sections of the orchestra while extolling the virtues of Soviet bravery and boldness and daring to question the dictums of the past generation (embodied in the scolding character of Grandfather) had it premier on this day at the Moscow Philharmonic in 1936. Later in the month, a much better attended performance took place at the Pioneers’ Palace, Peter being a member of this youth scouting organisation. Peter protects his animal friends (except for the duck—that is) as well as tames a fierce wolf with their help and working as a team. A 2003 recording with narration from Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren won a Grammy for best spoken-word album.

Monday, 26 April 2021


and the oscar goes to: highlights and surprises from the 2021 Academy Awards  

zauberwald: Robert Mertl’s forest photographer captures the aesthetic I aim for during my woodland walks  

canzone russa italianizzata: the Russian Italo-Pop musical stylings of Alla Pugacheva  

cards against humanity: the brilliantly sullen poetry of John Giorno  

yahoo the destroyer: maligning the cannibalised early internet for contributing to the Digital Dark Ages via Waxy—plus a different approach to archiving going forward  

the trouble with tribbles: marketing Flatcat as one’s next robotic feline companion  

art of the title: film lettering over the decades

Monday, 19 April 2021


Also known by the technical designation in the acronym for long-duration orbital station, to the public and press the first launch of the Salyut (ะกะฐะปัŽั‚, salute or a hail of fireworks) programme occurred on this day in 1971, becoming the first space station (see also) from the Soviet Union and was aloft, crews conducting experiments, astronomical observations and docking manuevers until October when deorbited and replaced by the new generation module, The final vessel of the programme (DOS-8), called Zvezda, became the core of the Russian section of the International Space Station.

Monday, 12 April 2021

off we go!

On this day in 1961, a Vostok I spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome under the call sign ะšะตะดั€ (Siberian Cedar, see also) piloted by Yuri Gagarin (ะ“ะฐะณะฐั€ะธะฝ, ะฎั€ะธะน *1934 - †1968), the first human to journey into outer space (previously), holding a short dialogue with flight operations during take-off. Mission control over the radio announced: “Preliminary stage… intermediate… main… Lift-Off! We wish you a good flight. Everything’s all right.” To which Gagarin replied, “ะŸะพะตั…ะฐะปะธ! Goodbye, until soon, dear friends.” The enthusiastic interjection becoming a popular expression for Soviet progress and the start of the Space Age. Once the final stage of the rocket finished firing, the craft and cosmonaut orbited the Earth for one hundred-eight minutes, ejecting from the vessel during re-entry over Kazakhstan and descending to the ground safely harnessed to a parachute.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021


silvagunner: an appreciation of the remixing collective from Kicks Condor 

film festival: curate one’s own streaming series from a vast, public domain archive  

re-branding: artist FAEL redesigns corporate logos with a perfect balance of retro and progress 

prompts and cues: remedies to exhausting monologues and fostering better conversations  

metronome: a fascinating look at synchronicity  

ะฑั€ะฐั‚ัั‚ะฒะพ ะบะพะปัŒั†ะฐ: a 1991 Russian television version of The Fellowship of the Rings (see also) resurfaces on the internet—including an appearance by Tom Bombadil whose otherwise left out of the adaptations  

the only post-punk supergroup: the musical stylings of the New Age Steppers

Tuesday, 23 March 2021


After fifteen years of service, funding running out its orbit degrading and the International Space Station crewed for the first time, on this day in 2001 over the course of five hours, Mir (previously) was decommissioned by a series of manoeuvres that caused the craft to graze the upper atmosphere and break up over the southern Pacific Ocean. Though no significant debris hit land or populated areas, residents in New Zealand and Japan were told to stay indoors as no object of this size had been subject to re-entry prior.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

typhoon class

Though the working-outcome of the navy going into receivership with Pepsi was more improbable than the suggestion to retrofit a fleet of Soviet nuclear submarines as tanker ships to transport oil and natural gas was probably the less technical tenable, advisable alternative to generate capital after the nation’s dissolution. Back in 1995, at the suggestion of the governor of Arkhangelsk oblast, the location of the Russian submarine yards, one experiment was with underwater cargo shipping was undertaken—albeit with a non-strategic vessel and a manifest of foodstuffs—but not explored further due to cost-overruns and lack of funding. The logistics pitch, however, to fill-up directly from off-shore rigs and to travel the globe swiftly and virtually unimpeded (also without burning said fuel) was worth considering. Learn more at Weird Universe at the link above.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

mir eo-18

Becoming one of the founding mission specialists that would establish the space shuttle programme in 1979 and subsequently flying four missions on board Challenger, Atlantis and Discovery, NASA astronaut Norman Earl Thagard became on this day in 1995 the first US citizen to reach Earth orbit in a Russian craft (see also), traveling with the crew of the Soyuz TM-21 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, effectively the first American cosmonaut for his fifth and last spaceflight. As researcher, Thagard spent six months aboard the space station Mir conducting a battery of experiments and presently teaches engineering and acts as a technical advisor for filmmakers producing space-based movies.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

vostok-3ka no. 1

Also known by the designation Sputnik 9 (see previously), the Soviet spacecraft launched on this day in 1961 carried a complement and crew of mice, guinea pig, a dog called Chemushka (“Blackie”) and a realistic human dummy, mannequin called Ivan Ivanovich (the equivalent of Joe Doe or Max Mustermann) that was so distressing uncanny thus prompting technicians to affix a label to his visor lest someone finding Ivan after a mission might not mistake him for an incapacitated cosmonaut or extra-terrestrial. Ivan was auctioned off after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and purchased by Ross Perot, who subsequently donated him to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The mission only consisting of a single trip around the world, it was deorbited shortly

ัะฐะฝะธั‚ะฐั€ะฝั‹ะน ะฟะพะตะทะด

Via Messy Nessy Chic, we are exposed to the impressive portfolio of photographer Emile Ducke through his series on medical trains that service the vast reaches of Siberia with annual whistle-stops at each station to perform diagnostic exams and prescribe medicine to remote communities who otherwise go without regular health car. The locomotive Saint Lukas (Luke of Antioch, patron of surgeons and physicians) has for its caboose a chapel wagon. More to explore at the links above.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

drahtfunk im amerikanischen sector

From the first broadcast on this day in 1946 from the switchboard exchange of the Reichspost on WinterfeldtstraรŸe in West Berlin for the next several months until a medium wave transmitter could be procured and installed, news and political reporting from the US occupational authorities for the German people, counterprogramming to what was regarded as a propaganda put out by the Soviets, could only be distributed over telephone lines, hence the original DIAS call-sign before becoming RIAS—Rundfunk in the American Sector. Following the Berlin Blockade (previously), the terrestrial sender broadcasted each Sunday at noon the chimes of the Freiheitsglocke installed in the Schรถneberg Rathaus, modelled off the Liberty Bell, followed by a short recitation from the “Declaration of Freedom.” Expanding into entertainment with the station’s own orchestra and choir, RIAS and related stations came to cover almost all of West and East Germany (see link up top), on the air until 1993, when facilities and frequency slots were handed over to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

Monday, 1 February 2021


japandi: a lookbook overview of interiors that combine Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetic elements  

six arms strong and true: more machinalia from Boris Artzybasheff—see previously  

pharmaduke: re-captioning the Brad Anderson comic strip with psychedelic trip narratives, via Things Magazine  

high stakes: revisiting a quarter-century old public wager that technology would destroy society—via Slashdot  

vaccination venues: the architecture of public health promotion  

house of style: supermodel Cindy Crawford guides us through Paris Fashion Week in 1992 on her MTV show  

gradation: moving from binary to blended, a study of the spectrum of everyday objects commissioned for Japan’s award-winning children’s education programme Design Ah

Friday, 29 January 2021


testi stampati: the riotous typographical illustratrations of Lorenzo Petrantoni  

painterly realism: Nathan Shipley trained a neural network to turn portraiture into convincingly true-to-life photographs 

civilian climate corps: a vision of how putting people to work on conservation projects can help save both the environment and the economy  

narratology: a purportedly exhaustive list of dramatic situations—see also here and here  

stonx: a long thread explaining the GameStop short-squeeze—via Miss Cellania  

paradoxical undressing: National Geographic forwards a new theory to account for the Dyatlov Pass Incident (previously) of 1959  

butler in a box: before digital assistants there was domestic aid in the late 1980s 

will success spoil rock hunter: Art of the Title looks at the opening montage of the 1957 CinemaScope classic

Tuesday, 26 January 2021


paradiplomacy: an intricate Tajik teahouse in Boulder, Colorado  

nivotone: brilliant restoration of a 1930s Soviet optical-analogue, electronic music synthesis—via Things  

❄️: a snowflake generator—see previously 

soon may the wellerman come: more sea shanties—see previously  

twitchable: discovering a drive for birding under lockdown  

topographic prominence: an interactive version of Switzerland’s 1845 Dufour Survey Map from Maps Mania, see also 

putin’s palace: a gallery of photographs and digital renderings from blueprints of luxury property that is allegedly the Russian president’s personal retreat

Saturday, 16 January 2021


First articulated out the Cyrillic script (see previously) in the Bulgarian Empire in the tenth century following a long established Greek, Ionian convention to differentiate numerals from letters when context was not exactly clear with spacers, dots and a diacritic over the glyphs called a titlo ҃ or as a prefix signalling a long string of numbers to follow ҂, like a tilde or macron. Still sometimes seen in Slavonic Church publications and in old monuments and coinage, the system was in use until the civil reforms (see also) of Peter the Great in the early seventeen hundreds when Hindu-Arabic representations were introduced and because of this centuries-long custom continued well into the early modern era, elaborate signs were developed to express powers of magnitude and in terms of both a long and short scale (lesser and greater count multiplier) for accounting and scientific purposes. Align with the Greek (rather than alphabetically), one through ten, correspond with the Cyrillic letters: ะ, ะ’, ะ“, ะ”, ะ•, ะ…, ะ—, ะ˜, ัฒ and ะ†. The pictured powers of ten using the older alpha form, with the Myriad (ะขัŒะผะฐ) encircled    ⃝   either ten-thousand or a million and Many Myriad   ꙲   either one billion or 10⁵⁰.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

to moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear

In a strange twist of fate, Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin (previously) was killed on this day (New Style, 1916) coinciding with the passing with the Aruban performer Bobby Farrell (2010), whom with the disco ensemble Boney M. produced possibly the finest musical homage in the 1978 hit single (see link above) from their album Nightflight to Venus, often dressed as the charismatic for concerts. Farrell died of heart failure whist on tour in Saint Petersburg. Here is a video from the variety show TopPop.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020


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.