Wednesday, 29 December 2021

mmxxi

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2022, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place in 2021. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

 january: In the US state of Georgia’s run-off election, Democrat candidates prevail and thus switch the Senate’s controlling majority. The joint session of Congress to certify the votes of the Electoral College in favour of the Biden-Harris ticket is interrupted by a violent insurrection on the Capitol incited by Donald

Trump, yet the proceedings are resumed undeterred. For his gross incompetence and treasonous actions, the US House of Representatives impeaches Trump for a second time. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated president and vice-president of the United States of America in a socially-distanced ceremony held on the same portico where the violent coup attempt occured two weeks prior. Across Russia, thousands protest the arrest and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  English filmmaker Michael Apted (*1941), entertainer Siegfried Fischbacher (*1939, see also last May) and baseball players Tommy Lasorda (*1927) and Hank Aaron (*1941), actress Cloris Leachman (*1926) as well as accomplished star of stage and screen Cicely Tyson (*1924) pass away.  

february: A military uprising in Myanmar wrests power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.  Actor Hal Holbrook (*1925) and veteran become fund-raiser who raised millions for the National Health

Service Sir Captain Thomas Moore (*1920) himself succumbed to COVID-19.   French screen-writer and director Jean-Claude Carriรจre (*1931) passed away, and so veteran actor Christopher Plummer (*1929). The US Senate again convenes as jury to vote on whether to acquit or prosecute Donald Trump’s impeachment.  Larry Flynt (*1942), publisher, pornographer and self-styled anti-censorship champion, passed away, as did jazz virtuoso and twenty-three-time Grammy Award winner Chick Corea (*1941).  The US Senate votes not to acquit Donald Trump a second time after his second impeachment.  A polar vortex brings severe winter storms to Texas and Mexico, leaving millions without heat and electricity has the power grid is overwhelmed.  Talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh (*1951)  dies after a year-long struggle with lung cancer.  Poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti passes away, aged 101. Martian probe Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet to begin a search for signs of past life. The US rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement.  

march: Oprah Winfrey interviews the estranged, self-exiled Sussexes about Meghan Markle’s treatment

by the Royal Family, causing consternation and many to question the institution of the monarchyPhantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster (*1929) passed away aged ninety-one.  A container ship gets lodged in the Suez Canal, hindering global trade and could potentially be stuck for weeks.  Legislators in the American state of Georgia pass selectively restrictive laws to disenfranchise Black voters.   Children’s book author Beverly Cleary (*1916) writer of the Ramona Quimby series passed away, aged 104.  The usurping military forces in Myanmar gun down dozens of pro-democracy protesters.  Islamic rebels besiege the city of Palma in Mozambique.  Undercover operative whose missteps brought the Watergate scandal to the press and public, G. Gordon Liddy (*1930) died, aged 90, as did author Larry McMurtry (*1936) who penned Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.

april: Prince Phillip passes away, aged 99.  As tensions escalate between Russia and NATO with a troop

build-up along the border with Ukraine, US President Joe Biden proposes to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to normalise relations and restore diplomatic ties.  The police officer who murdered George Floyd is found guilty on all charges.  Walter Mondale (*1928), former vice president under Jimmy Carter, and presidential candidate with running-mate Geraldine Ferraro passed away, aged ninety-three.  Astronaut Michael Collins (*1930) who orbited the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface passed away, aged ninety.

may: Accomplished actor Olympia Dukakis (*1931) passed away, aged eighty-nine.  Architect Helmut Jahn (*1940) behind the Messeturm in Frankfurt and the Post tower in Bonn died in a bicycle accident.  Dozens of rebel priests across German defy the Catholic church and offer benedictions to same-sex couple.  Israel airstrikes in Gaza escalate.  Actor, author, televangelist and TV’s Captain Merrill Stubing Gavin MacLeod (*1931) after suffering a long bout of ill-health.  

june: G7 leaders meet in Cornwall, in person.  A coalition government in Israel unseats Netanyahu after a

dozen years as prime minister.  The US government establishes Juneteenth as a new federal holiday though new laws to disenfranchise Black voters continues apace in many Republican controlled polities.  The space station Tiangong receives its first crew.  Software and computer security pioneer John McAfee (*1945) found dead in a Spanish jail cell awaiting extradition to the US over charges of tax evasion.  Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was disbarred for peddling the lie that that the election was stolen from his former client.  The US government issues a declassified report to congress regarding unidentified aerial phenomenon.  A twelve storey condominium complex near Miami, Florida collapses with dozens injured and unaccounted for.  

july: Outrage as more mass-graves of indigenous pupils found at historic Canadian residential schools.  Hundreds perish from record heatwaves and wildfires along the Pacific coast of North America.  Angela Merkel makes her last official visit to the United Kingdom, addressing the Houses of Parliament, the last

foreign leader to do so since Bill Clinton in 1997.   Richard Donner (*1930), film director behind The Goonies, Superman and the Lethal Weapon franchise passed away.  England plans to fully reopen with no COVID-19 restrictions late in the month despite a resurgence in cases and the rapidly spreading Delta variant.  Jovenel Moรฏse, the Haitian president, was assassinated.  Continual and torrential rains exacerbated by the climate emergency caused severe flooding in western Germany and the Henan region in China.  The Special Committee on the January 6th Capitol Insurrection heard opening testimony from law enforcement on the scene of the terror attack.  Inventor and infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil (*1935) passed away.

august: The UN Panel on Climate Change issues a stark, bleak forecast for the planet’s future as a suitable place for life as we know it.  Wildfires rage throughout the Mediterranean, Siberia and the North American west coast.  As coalition forces depart, the resurgent Taliban takes several regional capitals in weeks with Kabul poised to soon collapse as authorities flee and embassies are evacuated.  A massive earthquake strikes Haiti.  Tragically, most Afghani government officials flee the country and the capital falls as the Taliban retakes power and restores the emirate after nearly two decades of warfare.  US army installations in Germany assist with Operation Allied Refuge (OAR) as thousands of Afghans are airlifted from the country.  Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (*1941) passes away. 
Just days ahead of the deadline imposed to complete evacuation missions out of the Hamid Karzai international airport, an Islamic State affiliate and sworn enemy of the Taliban for being too Westernised, lax, undisciplined detonated twin suicide bombs outside the gates, killing dozens.  Veteran actor and advocate Ed Asner (*1929) passed away as did Jamaican musical giant Lee “Scratch” Perry (*1936).  On the sixteenth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, a destructive storm called Ida makes landfall.  The Taliban celebrates with fireworks and firing rifles in the air the departure of the last US flight from the Kabul airport, declaring victory.

september: The legislature of the state of Texas passes a tranche of new laws curtailing voting access, restricting teaching of America’s racist past and present, mandating the national anthem at sporting events, permitting universal carry laws for firearms and doing away with licensure or training requirements and

essentially banning abortion by placing a bounty on abettors and deputising neighbours to litigate the ban against neighbours.  New Wave actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (*1933), whose roles defined the genre and called the French counterpart of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, passed away.  El Salvador becomes first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.  “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” singer Marรญa Mendiola (*1952) of Baccara passed away in Madrid.  An effort to recall and replace Democrat governor of California fails and Gavin Newsome retains his place, though the balloting and counter-campaigns cost taxpayers of the state in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.  The first commercial, all-amateur space tourism mission safely splashes down after three days in orbit.  Entrepreneur, inventor and computing pioneer behind the ZX Spectrum, Clive Sinclair passed away, aged 81 (*1940).  Justin Trudeau’s party retains power following national elections.  After three years under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to America on charges of espionage and circumventing sanctions against Iran, business executive Meng Wangzhou, daughter of the head of Chinese communications giant Huawei, is released. 

october:  US president Biden’s agenda is derailed, diminished by moderate voices in his party.  A vaccine for malaria is trialled in Africa.  Amid a growing corruption scandal, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz

tenders his resignation, though choosing to remain leader of his political party and will retain his seat in parliament.  William Shatner, aged ninety, as a space tourist becomes the oldest human to enter the Earth’s orbit.  Attending an open-advice surgery for his constituents from Leigh-on-Sea, long-time MP David Amess was murdered by an attacker with a knife.  Former US Joint-Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell (*1937) dies from complications arising from COVID-19.  President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, under pressure from elements of his own party, is rather austerely pared back, dropping proposed benefits like universal college tuition and paid family-leave.  Garbage social media network rebrands its parent company as Meta as it prepares to build and embrace its concept of the metaverse.  A military coup in Somali plunges the country into chaos with no signs of peaceful resolution.

november: A powerful storm-flood in western Canada cuts off Vancouver from the rest of British Columbia.  Weaponised refugees massed at the EU frontier by a provoking Belarus at enormous personal

cost are slowly being repatriated to the lands they fled.  After exonerated in a gross miscarriage of justice, Republicans acclaim a teenage, white supremacist murderer as their new hero.  Award winning Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim passes away, aged ninety-one in the same week as Schoolhouse Rock! lyricist Dave Frishberg (*1933).  The COVID-19 Omicron-variant, first detected in South Africa, is causing major concerns as convention cases rage resurgent in Europe, poised to be more widespread and deadly than the same time a year ago.  Inflation and supply-chain issues threaten global economic recovery.  On the anniversary of its independence from the UK in 1966, Barbados becomes the world's newest republic, with Sandra Mason as the island’s president. 

december: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows releases Power Point slide-deck that outlined options for Trump to hold on to the presidency in the chaos of the 6. January insurrection to the commission investigating the attempted coup.  Monkees singer Mike Nesmith (*1942) passes away.  An unseasonal tornado rips through western Kentucky, leaving over a hundred dead.   Gothic novelist Anne Rice (*1941 as Howard Allen Francis O’Brien) passed away.  Tensions continue to mount at the Russo-Ukraine border with Russia putting forward a litany of demands for NATO to avoid invasion.   Journalist and author Joan Didion (*1934) passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.   Borders close and travel-restrictions re-imposed over truly exponential spread of the the Omicron variant; preliminary findings suggest although less lethal, hospitals and other essential services could be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and vulnerable populations still need protection.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu (*1931), anti-apartheid hero and moral-centre, passes away aged ninety.  Sadly veteran blogger Jonco, behind Bits & Pieces, passed away quite suddenly, leaving the blogosverse a dimmer place.  On the last day of the year and just weeks short of planned celebrations for her one-hundredth birthday, beloved talent and treasure with a career spanning over eight decades, Betty White (*1922) passed away.

 



Monday, 23 August 2021

vucanalia

Held annually to propitiate the deity with bonfires and sacrifice at a time when crops and granaries were most prone to burning, the Roman fastus to Vulcan falls on this day in what was originally Sextilis and was part of a larger cycle of agrarian holidays of the summer and the beginning of the harvest season, a human commission as opposed to placating untamed Nature observed in July. Games were held with the additional rituals of hanging clothes on a line out-of-doors and beginning to work after sundown by candle-light darkness already coming noticeably sooner and harnessing the potentially destructive nature of fire for something productive. The tubilustria ceremonies were also held at this time—the ritual purification of trumpets and similar instruments which were considered sacred to Vulcan.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

8x8

united states of wildfire: as the climate emergency escalates, more North American residents are moving into the path of destruction unwittingly 

fitting in: Ze Frank (previously) reveals that even the coolest, calmest and most collected of us are all trying, coping  

d’oyly carte: an islet in the Thames with a derelict mansion built for an opera impresario will be restored to its former glory—via Things Magazine 

caped crusaders: Batman’s sidekick Robin finally comes out 

constrained systems: a tool-kit of alternative image editing effects—via Waxy  

matchi bล:a mesmerising stop-motion study of a magic match stick from Tomohiro Okazaki—via ibฤซdem

 bubblegum pop: the Osmonds 1968 song “Groove with what You Got”  

ฮฑฯ€ฮฟฮบฮฌฮปฯ…ฯˆฮท: Greek capital, archipelago beset by flames

Thursday, 10 September 2020

morgenrot schlecht wetter droht

Kottke curates a growing selection of arresting photographs of American western skies tinged an unreal red by uncontrolled wildfires fuelled and made more intense by climate change and global warming that is a direct consequence of human activity and mismanagement. These images were captured during the day, not at dawn or dusk though the smoke blocking out the sun might suggest otherwise. Abendrot, schlecht Wetterbot.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

flora, fauna, fire

Via Maps Mania, we are directed to an engaging and impactful look at the devastation that Australia’s wildfires brought at the beginning of 2020 in the form of this interactive scrollytelling presentation that shares stories of recovery, prevention and links to the toll it has taken on 119 representative plants and animal species, whom may face extinction without human intervention. Though 119 is the number for firefighters and emergency services in many other jurisdictions, it’s triple zero you want to dial on the continent.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

firebug

Whilst most denizens of the forest would run the other direction at the hint of an encroaching conflagration, Slashdot introduces us to a tiny beetle called Melanophila acuminata—commonly known as the black fire chaser, found in large swaths of Eurasia and Northern and Central America.
While the beetle brigade will charge headlong into danger, the insect able to detect the heat of a distant fire upwards of a hundred kilometers away through “eyes” highly sensitive to stochastic resonance—differentiating the gradient and threshold of ambient thermal noise, their heroism is for the preservation of their species, the larvรฆ eating only burnt wood. Not only have the fire chasers been known to swarm and bite human firefighters (one wonders if this super power could be harnessed as an early alarm), there are many documented cases of the beetles being attracted to other heat decoys. Poignantly, given the outbreak of wildfires in this environment, this species will probably thrive whilst others in its cadre go extinct.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

tmz

Sadly, as Paleofuture reports, the Paramount Ranch, the location of a number of large scale-sets that was a major actor in a number of film and television productions since its 1927 acquisition as a film ranch—falling within the traditional bounds of the studio zone, a thirty-mile zone (TMZ) that radiates out from West Beverly in Los Angeles and an easy drive from Hollywood—has been engulfed by the Woolsey wildfire, sustaining significant damage. The allure of this spot, backdrop for 1981’s Reds and 1968’s Herbie the Love Bug plus many others and numerous television shows like Westworld, The Bachelor and Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman was that it was also open for public inspection, provided that nothing was filming at the time. Wildfires devastating the region are burning California from both ends, with at least twenty-five fatalities and thousands of homes and businesses burned.

Friday, 27 July 2018

heat map

The European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency maintains its Copernicus Emergency Management Service to track and model disasters world wide—both natural and manmade to include global flood awareness systems, displaced populations, a drought observatory and a global wildfire information system which monitors for threats in near-real time and provides an on-demand charting provision to aid in risk assessment, response and recovery operations. Above is a snapshot of the present situation, mapping fire risk. With conditions exacerbated by climate change and parts of the world becoming increasingly uninhabitable for life of all sorts, we are all stakeholders.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

sopwith camel

The municipal airport serving Sonoma county was renamed in 2000 in honour of cartoonist and long-time Santa Rosa resident Charles M Schultz (Sebastopol to be specific whom Schultz created a contemporary of Charlie Brown and Linus van Pelt called Five for short but whose full name was 555 plus the postal code of the town, 95472, which is one of the few restrictions, numbers, on naming children in American) we discover thanks to Just a Car Guy, adorned with the logo of Snoopy outfitted in flying ace attire and piloting his dog house.
The former army airfield is not only a tribute to the creator of Peanuts and his cast of characters but also the chief staging area for California’s forestry protection against and where the firefighting aircraft battling the wildfires ravaging the state deploy from.  Sadly, we learn the Schultz’ homestead was also consumed by the fires along with untold thousands of others.




Tuesday, 6 September 2016

pudding lane

Rather incongruously, Londoners commemorated the anniversary of the Great Fire of 1666 (the three hundred-fiftieth anniversary of this fire that engulfed eighty percent of the city fell over the weekend) by setting alight a wooden model of the seventeenth century skyline—designed by one of the merry arsonists of Burning Man fame.
After the devastation, the mostly timber urban core was rebuilt with the signature grey Portland limestone, but the social and economic disruption must have endured for generations and surely many who lost family and fortune never recovered. The event included a street fair with food and burn treatments from the time.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

wildfire

The spreading discoveries of horse and donkey meat in samples of processed foods in discount supermarkets does not only represent a revolting betrayal and a call for consumers who either seek out the greatest apparent bargains out of thrift or out of necessity to re-evaluate trust and priorities. Shoppers who are not patronizing their local butchers and farmers’ markets, though left with some reliable alternatives at grocery stores, have to wonder what sort of institutionalization in Europe make cheap food no good deals.

It turns out uncovering some substitute, some mystery meat is not very surprising, but represents a definite departure and a dissonance for Europe’s regular reputation for food integrity and insisting on provenance and chain-of-custody. All produce, fruits and vegetables, are clearly marked with their country and farm of origin; eggs are individually numbered and sometimes bear a bar-code; regional specialties are according special rights and no counterfeit could claim the same designation, despite allowable gimmicks and self-promotion. Once food is processed, however, all such labeling becomes voluntary. If not fresh or raw, frozen “beef” or a pre-washed mixed salad in a bag, there was formerly no requirement to disclose the origin of the ingredients, though misrepresentation was something not tolerated, as well. It seems a little bit inconceivable, considering the prominent labeling that one can choice from on cartons of store-bought pizza and other Fertiggeriche, which usually come at a premium, and sometimes one cannot avoid taking a certain risk, when dining out or at a cafeteria (Mensa), but legislation is underway to close this disturbing loop-hole.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

confabulation, conflagration

The unprecedented scope of the wild-fires ravaging central Texas is a frightening thing, already in superlative year for natural and man-assisted disasters, though recent record-holders are quickly outdone and not allowed to bask in their glory or infamy for very long. The latest in the series of governors from that state have invited scorn and courted wrath and maybe there is a parallel, close relationship--the ability to peer into his soul, between the current sitting governor and presidential aspirant and the Russian leadership.

About a year ago, unquenchable wildfires were also threatening the Russian countryside, and the administration was criticized for its crisis-management and possibly handicapping the whole process of response and prevention by cutting back on support for firefighters. To what degree that criticism was warranted remains unclear, though the Russians who suffered lost because of the fires were cared for and the fire crews are fully-funded. It is however less of a question and more substantiated fact that the Texan leadership has shut down firehouses and curtailed support for voluntary (Freiwillig) firefighters, and so many Americans resist evacuation in the States because they have very little faith that their losses will be restored. It is a bit ironic that the aspirations of the Texas governor are built on the shaky principles that federalism is the cause of all woes and is loath to ask for its aid during the crisis. To some extent, this purging by fire sweeping through the forests and grasslands is a natural cycle, unavoidable and necessary, but poor stewardship and response fuels its destructive power. I hope that those affected survive this disaster and re-emerge with refreshed strength to guide policy and priorities in a sensible and not superficial direction.