Tuesday, 27 September 2022

8x8 (10. 174)

on pointe: an Australian ballet company recites an alphabet of foot poses  

detour: experts urge adding a Venus-flyby to first crewed mission to Mars  

suaviter in modo, fortiter in re: the Royal Mail’s Investigative Branch is the oldest recognized crime fighting organisation in the world—via Messy Nessy Chic  

puffling: with blรกsa Icelanders help to reset sea bird chicks internal compass  

bisexual lighting: the story of a strange picture and other Wikipedia articles in need of an illustration—via Super Punch  

only you could be so bold: whilst Putin invades Ukraine, a studio in Kyiv is creating the voice of Darth Vader

asteroid! coming in from the void: ripped from the headlines 

tiptoe: performer dazzles with their bottle-walking routine

Monday, 12 September 2022

ccc (10. 126)

Founded on this day in the offices of the West Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeigtung (TAZ) by journalist and information security advocate Wau Holland in 1981, Chaos Computer Club is Europe’s largest association of white-hat hackers was established with the mandate to champion freedom of information worldwide, transparency in government and business practices and universal access to digital information. Through its hacktivism and penetration-testing, it has exposed several weaknesses and structural shortcomings that undermine privacy and user rights and it often deferred to as an expert witness for German and EU legislation and court filings, informing policy and openly criticizing decisions that fail to redress concerns for public-welfare. Their activities rose to prominence first in 1984 when exposing the security flaws of teletext (Bildschirmtext, see also here and here), arranging a large transfer of funds from a bank to the club’s account. More recently, they demonstrated that inherent insecurity of biometrics by obtaining and publishing the fingerprints of the Interior Minister (lifted off of a water glass) in 2008. The group hosts the annual Chaos Communication Congress, originally hosted in Hamburg but since 2017 at the Leipzig Trade Fair Grounds (Leipzigermesse) in addition to retreats, camps and workshops to supplement its media outreach. The pictured flag (Pesthรถrnchen, Datenpirat—a variant on the federal postal service logo, indicting their careless custody of customer data) is from a local chapter.

Friday, 12 August 2022

7x7 (10. 055)

zone improvement plan: the Swinging Six ensemble sing the praises of the ZIP code (1967)—see also  

unsealed warrant: FBI recovered multiple boxes of top secret and classified documents from the Trump residence during Monday’s search  

coo-coo for cookie crisp: recreating vintage breakfast cereal with machine learning—see previously  

mulder & scully: full script of an unmade episode of the X-Files—via Super Punch  

that old black magic that you weave so well: Clavis Inferni (The Key of Hell), an illustrated spell book from 1775 

retrofit: more on the noir aesthetic (more here and here) of vintage automobiles converted in electric vehicles 

 like & subscribe: the long and short history of the newsletter—both print and digital

Thursday, 2 June 2022

7x7

phillumeny: venerable Japanese matchbox manufacturer shuttering after almost a century 

fpoty: Pink Lady’s finalist gallery of superlative food photographs in its annual competition—via Everlasting Blรถrt  

posidonia australis: researchers determine that a giant patch of ribbon weed in Shark Bay Australia a

singular, ancient and expansive plant 

shadow gradient: expanding hole optical illusion is a touch trypophobic—via Boing Boing  

metamorphosis: late fifteenth century ecologist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian who was among the first naturalist to closely observe insects and understand their life cycles 

 casein chipping: more on cheese heists and ways to stop them 

 philately: a travelogue of postage stamps of imaginary places—see also

Thursday, 28 April 2022

7x7

elizabeth tower: a tour inside of Big Ben—see previously  

the nine octave harp of the universe: outside scientist Walter Russell—for whom Nikola Telsa said the world was unprepared  

weblog: a nodal map of some of the blogosphere—via Things Magazine  

quilting bee: everyday signage as fabric mosaics by Jeffrey Sincich  

the panic office: fantasy arcade game casings

๐Ÿฃ: a gallery of of beautiful 1920s Japanese postcards   

dangerous intersection: decades of traffic collisions and other corner happenings captured by a young photographer (see also)

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

ั„ั–ะปะฐั‚ะตะปั–́ั

A couple weeks after members of the public queued to purchase postage stamps commemorating the defenders of Snake Island and Roman Hrybov defiantly telling off “Russian Warship,” the Mockva (originally built in 1979 in a Ukrainian shipyard for the Soviet navy as the Slava—Glory), the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet now sunk, Ukrposhta announces it will be issuing a new stamp, from eleven year-old illustrator Sophia Kravchuk, dedicated to the memory of the largest airplane in the world, the Mriya, destroyed by the Russians during the opening salvos of the invasion.

Friday, 1 April 2022

w1a

We quite enjoyed learning about the somewhat inscrutable (to an outsider) rationale and reason behind the postcodes of London in this special exhibition on the Victorian origins of the assignments, how a WWII-era code-breaking computer facilitated sorting technology and what one’s address means in terms of signifiers internally and externally. To promote the adoption and accurate use of postcodes from the late 1950s onwards, the Royal Mail had a mascot, like Mister Zip across the Pond.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

7x7

1:12: a 1983 architectural magazine’s call for dollhouses  

way-finder: a friendly reminder about the most important app ever made 

i can’t hear you—i’m wearing a towel: dated New Yorker cartoons whose punchline has become a depiction of the everyday—via Waxy  

fisheye lens: a floating exhibit platform showcases Norwegian aquaculture practises 

philately: a brilliant abecedarium (see previously) of vintage postage stamps from around the world  

tensor strength: researchers engineer new material that can absorb and release enormous amounts of energy—like super-charged rubber band, via Slashdot  

the vault of contemporary art: a collection of architectural sketches and schematics from a Things Magazine omnibus post on the subject

Sunday, 16 January 2022

on-looker

Via Web Curios, we quite enjoyed this scenic if not a bit haunting selection of vintage postcards collected by Flickr artist Swellmap in an album of people staring off into the distance. The subject always has their backs to the camera and usual wear red, like some unfortunate Star Trek ensign about to meet their fate and forward the plot.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

a ‘savage stenographic mystery’

Reminiscent of another challenge recently recalled involving shorthand and its devotees, we learn courtesy of Strange Company that not only did author Charles Dickens make an early living as a court-recorder using the brachygraphic system of Thomas Gurney (trained as a clockmaker and developed his shorthand out of a fascination with astrological symbols, realised that there was little financially to be gained from scribbling and sensibly returned to the horological industry) and continued to use it for personal correspondents and manuscript (supplementing the character-set with glyphs of his own invention), there are moreover writings of the studied and celebrated novelist yet to be deciphered. There’s an appeal with an honorarium attached for decoding a passage in a text known as the Tavistock Letter and call for help in general in completing the canon.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

letters from santa

Spotted by Messy Nessy Chic in a very festive link round-up refers us to a collection of letters from Father Christmas first collected and shared in 1976, three years after the author’s death, addressed to the family of J.R.R. Tolkein. Starting out as simple, illustrated greetings, over the course the youngsters’ childhood evolve to include ancillary characters and support staff, unmistakably shaky penmanship, franking and even an arctic dialect of Qenya, as in the salutation from the Polar Bear: Mรกra mesta an ni vรฉla tye ento, ya rao nea—Good-bye until I see you next, and I hope it will be soon!

Friday, 26 November 2021

when harry met santa

Fair warning—I thought it was too early for holiday commercials but this is a tear-jerker worth watching and it’s advisable to have some tissues handy—via World of Wonder, we are directed towards Posten Norge’s annual holiday greeting, which this year ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of Norway’s decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1972, featuring a multi-year courtship, whose brief annual encounters are finally extended a bit with the help of the Norwegian postal service. From all of us to all of you God jul!

Friday, 19 November 2021

gdaล„sk



Arriving in the historic city late at night, we took in a quick view of the iconic row of Hanseatic buildings lit up over the Motล‚awa where the Vistula empties into the Baltic before getting an early start the next morning to take in the sites and learn as much as we complex and storied trade and ship-building port, principal entry point of commerce for Pomerania and greater Poland.


Walking the length and breadth of the main city and old town behind the riverfront promenade of granaries, ancient cranes and accounting bureaus and toured among other places the fifteenth century Saint Mary’s Basilica, the one of the largest brick churches in the world and containing priceless works of art (The Last Judgment by Hans Memling) as well as an astrological clock from the early fourteen hundreds by Hans Dรผringer along the Royal Route (Ulica Dล‚uga) between the Golden and Green Gates—the latter originally housing the Gdaล„sk residence of the kings, then presidential office suite of Poland outside the capital.



With mazes of canals and waterways criss-crossing the port and a preponderance of warehouses and retrofitted store fronts, the place reminded us to an extent a combination of Hamburg and Amsterdam. The mannerist Green Gate was designed in the style of Antwerp City Hall.  The chief meeting house for the merchants of the Hanseatic League was in Arthur’s Court (Dwรณr Artusa)  positioned directly behind Neptune’s Fountain, a mastepiece by sculptor Abraham van den Blocke. 

The final image speaks again to the city’s complex history, strategically located on the Polish Baltic Corridor, it was controlled over the centuries by Polish, Prussian and German powers, lately mandated under the League of Nations as the autonomous Free City of Danzig (incorporating Gdynia and Sopot) according to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Poland was to retain access to the sea but as ethnic Germans comprised the majority of the populace at the time, they were able to lobby for this state of quasi-neutrality though largely aligned to Poland for trade and external affairs, reserving the right to maintain a garrison in Westerplattle, use of the seaport and establishing a postal union, the Polish Post Office in the background with the monument to its defenders in front. Through the 1920s and 1930s, efforts were made to keep the city as German as possible, with refusing to teach Polish language in schools and making employment by Poles difficult and by late summer 1939 (see above) had finalised a false-flag operation to legitimise invasion and annexation. The outnumbered garrison holding out against a battleship entering the harbour, the post office (considered extraterritorial and sovereign under Poland) staff resisted for fifteen hours and refused to surrender.

  In August of 1980, the Gdaล„sk shipyard became the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement, whose opposition to the Communist regime under leader (and future president) Lech Waล‚ศฉsa sparked and sustained a series of protest movements that eventually destablised the Warsaw Bloc.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

6x6

fought and sold: the evolution of military recruitment advertising campaigns 

modern classics: in the vein of abstract vintage paperback cover art, eighty-four works of literature as postage stamps 

sleight of hand: objects from the Ricky Jay collection—more here, via Things Magazine 

20/20/20: revisiting a retrospective of the work of Afrofuturist Bodys Isek Kingelez 

every time they hear der bingle croon: episode two of Radiolab’s Mixtape miniseries explains why early entertainment was live and not Memorex  

america’s moveable fighting man: new G.I. Joe action figures available for pre-order

Saturday, 18 September 2021

amerithrax

Beginning a week after the 9/11 attacks and continuing over the next month, a bioterrorist—likely a scientist at the US government’s biodefense and research labs in Fort Detrick, Maryland—posted letters laced with anthrax spores to several media outlets and the offices of two US senators, killing five individuals, mostly mailroom staff and infecting a further dozen with the bacteria. Compared to the hunt for the Unabomber for its range and time to identify a culprit and motive, the FBI operation named with the above portmanteau pursued a number of false leads, the attacks spawning, several copycat hoaxes. The notes in the envelops which purported to come from a non-existent grade school contained variations on the message:

09-11-01
YOU CANNOT STOP US.
WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX.
YOU DIE NOW.
ARE YOU AFRAID?
DEATH TO AMERICA.
&c.

Al Qaeda and Iraq initially blamed, focus not turning to the possibility that it was a domestic actor within the government until 2006, forensic geneotyping just reaching the sophistication needed to trace the particular bacterial strain back to its source, though the ordered destruction of all anthrax stockpiles limited the chance for future research into the crime. The US mail service is still hyper-vigilant over suspicious packages and prone to false-alarms.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

astrophilately

From the start of the Space Age and ensuing Space Race, adjacent stamp collecting became a serious pursuit with commemorative cover depicting every mission and milestone (see previously) with the bubble inflated to bursting with the scandal surrounding Apollo 15, returned to Earth on this day in 1971 with a payload of four hundred postage stamps sent to the Moon and back.

The astronauts had been compensated, bribed for sneaking the unauthorised souvenirs on board by West Germany dealer Hermann Sieger. The story broke the following year and though the money was returned and most of the remaining covers (the postal term for decorated, signed pre-stamped and cancelled envelops) were retained by the agency, museums or given as gifts, the astronauts were reprimanded for ethics violations and never flew on a mission again, reassigned to other departments within NASA. Such mementos were considered contraband for future missions.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

the velocity of money

In the unfolding of the worst case of hyperinflation (previously here, here and here) and devaluation in history, the Hungarian pengล‘ (an onomatopoetic word for the ringing of silver struck, the clinking of coins), itself a replacement currency for the Austro-Hungarian korona, liquidated under the terms of the Peace of Saint-Germain that dissolved the joint bank of the monarchy, battered and bashed by the ensuing Great Depression and a second world war, was pegged to the reintroduced forint (in use prior to the imperial union in 1892 and named for city of Florence) at an exchange rate on this day in 1946 of one Ft for four hundred octillion pengล‘k, shedding twenty-nine zeros and starting over, notes in the millions and billions reused and reissued marked with exponentially higher values.

A last ditch effort to rescue the collapsing economy in January brought in a parallel currency that would hold its value called the adรณpengล‘ for tax and postal payments—sort of like those forever stamps that aren’t subject to rate hikes or the specie of old pennies with high copper content, starting at parity with what was then in circulation but eight months later each was worth two sextillion. The largest denominated bank note issued was the one hundred quintillion (ten to the twentieth power, one million billion and worth about two US dimes) featuring an anonymous Hungarian woman wearing scarf on her head who back in March appeared one the one hundred million pengล‘ bill.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

franking privilege

Via the always engaging Present /&/ Correct (check out their sundries and notions), we learn that the postal authority in the Kingdom of Bhutan in 1973 issued commemorative stamps that were tiny vinyl records that could be played on a full-sized turn-table with a stylus, most featuring traditional folk music and acoustic samples of the country. More at the links above including a rendition of the Bhutanese national anthem replayed from phonographic postage.

Friday, 2 April 2021

the yellow fleet

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we are given a bit of historical perspective on the six-day plight of the Ever Given (previously) which has antecedents with a much longer, large-scale stranding resulting from the Six-Day War that broke out in June of 1967 between Israel and Egypt, trapping fifteen international ships and their crews in the Suez Canal that were passing through when the conflict broke out and remained impounded until 1975. Blockaded by Egypt to prevent its use by Israel, debris put in place continued to prevent transport and traffic for eight years during a time when the waterway was not the major artery of trade it is today. Named the above for the colour of the desert sand that accumulated on the decks of the vessels moored in Great Bitter Lake, a turning around point off the main canal, the ships’ crews from West Germany, the UK, the US, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Bulgaria quickly forged a community, sharing resources and even holding a mini-Olympic Games—the Swedish ship had a pool, and issuing their own Cinderella postage stamps with the recognition of host nation postal authorities. Within the first few months, countries flagged with these vessels were able to reduce crews to a bare minimum and repatriate their members, rotating in and out skeleton crews for the basic upkeep of the ships and though the population turn-over was regular and complete, the sense of comradery and community endured with each generation. The Suez was reopened with the Yom Kippur War in October of 1975, restoring this trade route but with the spectre of supplies being cut off again, businesses were pressured into making ever larger cargo ships to reduce one’s exposure, like the colossal Ever Given.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

7x7

penn station’s half century: vignettes of the original New York Beaux Arts transportation hub painstaking brought to life to experience the station prior to its 1957 demolition and renovation 

delightful creatures: drone captures manatees and dolphins frolicking in Florida Everglades 

raven story: Alaska Tlingit artist features on new US postage stamp with a depiction of the trickster spirit

poisonous green: the paint that might have been the death of Napoleon and other toxic tinctures—see previously  

de-programming: interviews with children of parents radicalised by QAnon trying to get their moms and dads back 

morph and mindbuffer: a mesmerising hypersurface of a globe composed of expanding isohedrons 

preservation watch: conservationists fear that the iconic, Art Deco lobby of the McGraw-Hill Building might be under threat