Monday, 21 February 2022

the week that changed the world

Having arrived the night before with an audience of sixty million viewers in the US alone (despite the time difference with the three main broadcast networks pooling resources to cover the eight-thousand dollar per hour cost of satellite usage for the eight day event), Richard M. Nixon (see previously here and here) became the first US president to visit the People’s Republic of China, signalling a thaw in almost a quarter-century of hostile relations with his strategic outreach and overture. Normalising trade with the capitalist West, the summit with Mao Zedong and other senior leadership had the immediate result of straining cooperation between communist China and the Soviet Union.

clearly define “militia” just in case that becomes relevant in a century or two

We thoroughly enjoyed the marginal notes and correction marks for James Madison’s Article II of the United States constitution—which establishes the executive, presidential, branch of the federal government and defines the Treaty Clause, Appointments Clause and the Emoluments Clause, and the process of Impeachment as graded by a high school teacher by McSweeney’s contributor Alice Lahoda. Lose the electors and please define your terms to prevent any confusion down the line. D-

Wednesday, 16 February 2022


Emerging from the disruption and necessary respite, downtime afforded by the Great Blizzard of 1978 that blanketed much of the US Midwest, computer hobbyists Ward Christensen and Randy Suess of Chicago created the programme and platform to host the world’s first Computerised Bulletin Board System (see also) on this day of the same year, inventing much of the accepted protocol and terminology for messages, threads and forums.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

separated by a common language

Brought to our attention by Memo of the Air, we rather enjoyed this impromptu survey of American versus British English terms conducted by longtime UK expatriate living in the US, Tom Coates. Having lived outside of the English Sprachraum for some time but listening to the BBC quite a bit, I had at least a passing notion of what all of the words denoted—it’s another level beyond calling an elevator a lift or a roast a joint—and the only ones that struck me as puzzling presented in the line-up, though no having never encountered them in the wild before, were quango—a devolved crown entity, a quasi-NGO that receives public funding and sometimes subject to criticism for not being held accountable—and pelmet, a valance made of fabric meant to conceal curtain fixtures. It was interesting to note that among the unfamiliar US words, there were more than a couple over-the-counter drugs (that you should ask your GP about), and given the current trans-Atlantic exposure, one has to wonder how many might recall furlough, Brexit, Marmite, purdah or prorogation in a few years.

Monday, 7 February 2022


As Slashdot reports, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, is threatening to pull core services out of Europe altogether if EU privacy laws—including GDPR which has been enforceable for years now—prevent the company from sharing European user data with domestic operations. Good riddance to bad rubbish—I hope that that’s a promise that the anti-social media platform can deliver on.  We hope regulators do not relent and make concessions to the platform.

Sunday, 6 February 2022


platinum geezer: our London correspondent reflects on the Queen’s jubilee by the numbers  

snow-drifting: artist Alexander Deineka’s celebration of winter sports in the USSR  

nunsexmonkrock: Nina Hagen’s (previously) legendary masterpiece extolled as it deserves  

definitely did not used to be a pizza hut: an investigation into the camouflage (see previously) of franchise blight—via the morning news  

biblioclasm: more books, press outlets, educators under fire as potentially subversive, challenging  

king of the mountain: fours goats play on a sheet metal shelter  

celebrity-ntf complex: the race is on to find the remaining marks and rubes before the bottom falls out

cockney cats: vintage feline photos collected by Spitalfields Life  

hrm: Pietro Annigoni’s 1969 portrait of the Queen

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


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, 29 January 2022


In a development as outrageous and unhinged as the so called Pizzagate conspiracy theory—which (take a deep breath) in case you had forgotten that madness posited that the hacked cache of emails of Hilary Clinton and other prominent Democratic Party officers contained coded messages that implicated them in a human trafficking ring run out of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, DC—the National Butterfly Sanctuary on the US-Mexico border is forced to temporarily shut down due to “credible threats” logged in connection with an upcoming Trump-adjacent political rally. Accusing the centre of facilitating illegal border crossings over the Rio Grande/Rรญo Bravo, money-laundering and using butterfly swarms to dispose of bodies, the rumours are being propagated by a fund-raising committee hoping to privately finance the Wall.

coalition of the drilling

In the first State of the Union Address to the American people since the 9/11 terror attacks some five months hence, delivered on this day in 2002, George W Bush minted the coinage “axis of evil”—a portmanteau of Ronald Reagan’s characterisation of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire and the Axis powers of World War II, Germany, Italy and Japan. Originally levied against Iran, the Baath party of Iraq and North Korea as sponsors of terrorism, net exporters and actively seeking weapons of mass destruction to define a common enemy and threat to US and its allies, other politicians and commentators expanded the term to include Syria, Cuba, Libya, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.


Coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day—marking the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, news comes out that a school board in Tennessee voted to ban the acclaimed, Pulitzer prize-winning 1986 graphic novel, Maus, by Art Spiegelman. Aimed to teach children about genocide through allegory, the panel of parents and teachers found some of the language potentially objectionable as well as the depictions of partial cartoon nudity though the subtext is clear and rightfully decried and debates rage across the US in classroom and during school board meetings over Critical Race Theory, its subversion and weaponisation, and how its re-enforced that the discomfort of white bigots counts more than the lived experience of pain and oppression.

Sunday, 23 January 2022

i am in sympathy with the people on both sides

In a prepared testimony to the US Congress delivered on this day in 1941, celebrity and noted anti-Semite Charles A Lindbergh leveraged his fame from a 1927 transatlantic crossing to present the case to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that there was no possibility for an American air invasion to have any meaningful impact on the war in Europe and it would be better for the world to let the war draw to its natural conclusion as a pyrrhic victory.  Laying the blame for fighting as much with Britain as Nazi Germany, the aviator argued, speaking to popular sentiment, that negotiated peace and a non-aggression pact was the best path for America to pursue. The media frenzy from a decade before of the kidnap and subsequent death of the Lindbergh’s infant son and driven him and his wife to Europe to escape the press and became fascinated with German engineering prowess and as an personality of international stature was courted and lavished with accolades by fighting ace and Nazi Air Minister Hermann Gรถring. By the time the Lindberghs returned in 1939, many recognised his openly pro-Nazi sympathies. The appearance before Congress occurred five months before Germany invaded the Soviet Union and came on the heels of Churchill’s grim assessment that sixty-thousand individuals, nearly half civilians, in the first year and a half of hostilities.

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.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

an unfinished revolution

We had scant idea that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had not only contributed hundreds of articles as foreign correspondents for the New York Daily Tribune in the lead up to the US Civil War advocating strongly against slavery and the apartheid of the American South—and North, Marx moreover kept up a correspondence with Abraham Lincoln—one does not readily summon this overlap and epistolary relatisonship, influencing and informing to an extent his interlocutor’s views on labour, suffrage and the estrangement of chattel and capital. Much more from Open Culture at the link above.

Monday, 17 January 2022

iron triangle

In a farewell address to the people of the United States of America, on this day in 1961, outgoing US president Dwight D Eisenhower (see previously) issued a stark warning about the detriment that vested interest between military contractors, corporations and their lobbyists and the Legislative and the Executive could have for public policy. Admonishing the people that that they must not fail to comprehend the “grave implications” of recursive network and rotating-door politics, Eisenhower went on: “Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved—so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military-Industrial Complex… Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Wednesday, 12 January 2022


In 1995 during a convocation delivered at Howard University, author Toni Morrison, as a preamble to a future when our fears have been serialised, our rights sold and sloganised and our ideas ‘market-placed,’ addressed the creeping, gradual nature of fascism and the inuringness of America’s particular brand of racism and apartheid Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion.

Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy.

Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power and because it works.

Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilise processes of demonisation and deification.

Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathisers with this constructed enemy.

Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process.

Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology.

Criminalise the enemy. Then prepare, budget for and rationalise the building of holding arenas for the enemy — especially its males and absolutely its children.

Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions, a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press, a little pseudo-success, the illusion of power and influence, a little fun, a little style, a little consequence.

Maintain, at all costs, silence.

Much more to explore at the links above, including the speech in its entireity archived by C-SPAN.


Via the always excellent Everlasting Blรถrt, we are directed towards Sarah Ross’ fashions to adapt to hostile architecture and the trend in Los Angeles (and other places—see previously) to install building elements to block people from sitting or lying down, not to discourage loitering or lingering but rather present as incommodious to the unhoused.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

hello che si dice you getta happy in the feetsas

Despite a lack of airplay domestically as the American Broadcasting Company deemed it below their standards of “good taste,” the Bob Merrill number written for Rosemary Clooney, accompanied by the The Mellomen, a pop string quartet founded by Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice talent behind the Grinch, Tony the Tiger, the Ghost Host from the Haunted Mansion attraction) became an enduring standard and reached the top of the UK singles charts on this day in 1955. It was since covered by Dean Martin, Carla Boni (making it popular in Italy the following year) and British electronica duo Shaft in 2000 and has appeared in numerous film soundtracks.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

baby bells

Though not coming into force until the first of the year in 1984, the consent decree mandating the breakup and divestiture of the Bell System’s monopoly, vertical integration of telephone services in the US and Canada was finalised on this day in 1982. American Telephone & Telegraph could still provide long-distance services but was subject to competition and could no longer require subscribers—locally use telephonic equipment produced by its subsidiaries. The regional companies were independent and control of the Yellow Pages—the telephone directory—and the research and development branch, Bell Labs, were decentralised and given to the successor holding companies.

true love and apple pie

Originally the titular jingle, the lyrics were rewritten by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway for a 1971 television commercial campaign performed by the Hillside Singers as “Buy the World a Coke,” with a message of hope, inclusivity and love—the closing tagline being “On a hilltop in Italy [Trident studios in London], we assembled young people from all over the world…” The British pop group the New Seekers (“Circles”with Harry Chapin, “Pinball Wizard” from Tommy, “Sing Hallelujah!”) recorded a full-length version of the song, dropping references to the soft-drink, which climbed to the top of UK singles charts on this day in 1972, ultimately going Gold and selling over a million copies. The Coca-Cola Company and advertising agency waived the rights to the song and instead made a substantial donation to UNICEF.