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

Saturday, 17 September 2022

7x7 (10. 141)

jezero: Perseverance explores a Martian crater  

lingthusiasm: an interview with xkcd author Randall Munroe on hypothetical questions about language and orthography—via Language Log  

achievement unlocked: a radical redesign for Girl Scout badges—see also  

3½, 5¼: an interview with the last purveyor of floppy disks—via JWZ  

emoticons: more on the IPA, EPA (English Phonotypic Alphabet), Issac Pitman and other champions of spelling reform from Shady Characters  

jazz and cats: the life and surrealistic art of Gertrude Abercrombie  

earth below us: outstanding images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Contest

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

8x8 (10. 131)

le milieu du monde: influential Swiss director Alain Tanner has passed away at 92  

zodiaco: we liked these astrological sign matchboxes from Josรฉ Marรญa Cruz Novillo—see previously  

circadian rhythm: an infographic comparing sleeping patterns across the animal kingdom  

landscape, portrait: a relatable, cautionary comic from xkcd  

punching down: US Republican governors ask Joe Biden to be less generous with his student debt forgiveness plan  

moxie: Perseverance’s experimental oxygen generation—via Super Punch 

trap set: chimpanzees in Uganda demonstrate their signature drum-beats, can communicate across great distances 

maรฎtre ร  penser: French New Wave film pioneer Jean-Luc Godard has exited the scene, aged 91

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

7x7 (10. 098)

nerva i: scrapped space programme with nuclear rockets aimed at a crewed Mars mission  

der anschlag: Anglophone retitling of foreign films—see previously  

xenobots: reframing how we think of epigenetics and gene maps–see also

superposition: a handwashing guide posted in a physics laboratory lavatory–see previously

extended orthography: facilitating digital communication in First Nations’ syllabics—see also  

yฤntรกi delenda est: more Chinglish roundups  

artemis i: the inaugural mission to return the Moon—previously

Thursday, 2 June 2022

capricorn one

The 1978 conspiracy thriller by Peter Hyams starring Karen Black, Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Sam Waterston, OJ Simpson, Hal Holbrook and Telly Savalas, considered the most successful independent production of that year, premiered in cinemas on this day and tells the story of an aborted crewed mission to Mars whose members are kidnapped from the launchpad—the life-support systems deemed unfit for purpose—and transported to a film studio, under duress with their families under threat—to complete their journey of exploration in front of the cameras. Fearing another blow to public interest and confidence in the space programme and attendant loss of billions in contracts, NASA administrators force the astronauts to act out their Martian adventure. Unfortunately this plot strengthened and perpetuated the theory that the Moon landing was faked and directed by Stanley Kubrick with The Shining being a veiled confession for his involvement in the deception.

Friday, 29 April 2022

otherworldly

Perfectly embodying the above phrase, the Martian helicopter Ingenuity on a recent survey flight found and documented the wreckage of the landing gear, parachute and buffering shell of the rover Perseverance.  Click to enlarge plus more at the link above.  The photographs and telemetry will inform future missions on how to best protect payloads and optimise equipment.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

8x8

song birds: a printed circuit bluejay and other avian friends  

industrials: a leitmotif of edifying vocabulary—see previously—from Futility Closet  

occultation: Perseverance rover captures Mars’ lumpy moon Phobos partially eclipsing the Sun 

infinite tapestry: a generated side-scrolling landscape—via Web Curios  

days of rage: a gallery of activism posters curated by the USC Library system—see previously—via ibฤซdem  

art bits: an archives of HyperCard stacks (see also)—via Waxy  

ghost in the shell: skeletons in video games  

cheeps and peeps: the rich, melodic syntax of birdsong

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, 13 September 2021

5x5


life finds a way
: samples from Perseverance suggest Martian surface was wet for a long time  

yan, tan, tethra: finger counting conventions across various cultures—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links

well-tempered clavier: the mathematical magic of JS Bach  

annals of improbable research: laureates of this year’s Ig Noble prizes announced—see previously  

uchuu: cosmologist create a detailed simulated pocket Universe—downloadable to the public, a hundred terabytes worth of data

Monday, 6 September 2021

6x6

circumhorizon arc: a rare Fire Rainbow photographed—via TYWKIWDBI 

mars & beyond: Walt Disney’s robot pal Garco takes us on a speculative journey in search of extraterrestrial life 

rip: legendary NBC weather man Willard Scott has passed away, aged eighty-seven  

escape artist: immersive exhibits speak to our communal sensory experience  

valley of the dolls: Peerless Playthings pretend pills  

cloudspotting: the World Meteorological Organisation added aspertias as a supplementary feature in 2017 Cloud Atlassee also

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

8x8

what sophistry is this: Mark Liberman discusses the rhetoric of “elevated stupidity” 

truly toastmasters: a virtual toaster museum with fine exhibits from many eras and manufacturers  

water shrews: the BBC Science & Environment desk examines these superb divers of this large group of insectivores called collectively Eulipotyphla, “the truly fat and blind”—via Super Punch 

les citรฉs obscures: revisiting the imaginative utopias of architect Luc Schuiten (previously)  

games for crows: like Where’s Waldo but with emoji—via Waxy red rover: Zhurong Mars explorer sends a selfie  

letragraphia: the sleek, revolutionary graphic design of Felix Beltrรกn

urbane dictionary: a gloss of cancel-culture terminology

Thursday, 22 April 2021

9x9

carbon footprint: mining is a dirty business

kiki.object: a feminist manifesta for block-chain  

bat stuck in hell: recently departed songwriter Jim Steinman’s unproduced Batman musical 

the gates of paradise: William Blake’s (previously) perpetual cycle of birth and re-birth   

the singing, ringing tree: not to be confused with this other etherial perennial, panoptica in the Pennine Hills of Lancashire

the hawking index: an unscientific survey of popular titles’ rate of abandonment by the clustering or spread of their highlighted text 

this is the type of errant pedantry up with which i will not put: a proposal that the past particle of choose should properly be corn  

project ceti: ground-breaking attempt to decode whale language—see also—via Slashdot  

fourth rock from the sun: Martian rover Perseverance extracts breathable oxygen from the planet’s surface soil

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

7x7

one man’s trash: a preview (plus whole film) of a documentary about spelunking in New York City’s garbage  

dare mighty things: Martian rover Perseverance (previously) conducts first test flight of its airfoil drone

distant drums: the ‘Wilhelm Scream’—the stock effect of a man being eaten by an alligator  

personnage: the almond and pebble that inspired Joan Mirรณ’s sculpture  

palace of culture: a choreographed tour of Lithuania’s Socialist Modernist architecture  

moon unit: Space X awarded NASA contract for lunar lander for the upcoming Artemis mission  

pegged: artist Helga Stentzel (previously) creates a clothes-line polar bear to raise awareness for climate change

Thursday, 8 April 2021

nรผแบ‰a

Framing what was formerly the stuff of science-fiction into fact that’s seeming just within our reach, we are treated to a virtual fly-through tour that one architectural studio envisions for Martian habitation with the cliffside self-sustaining settlement that could eventually accommodate a quarter of a million Earthlings at Tempe Mensa (see also) with construction beginning by 2054. Learn more at the links above.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

dare mighty things

Via Super Punch—and our thanks for letting us revisit a pretty incredible moment when Perseverance touched down—we have this flowing dress (see also) inspired by the Martian rover’s parachute, whose unfurled patterns encoded an inspiring, rewarding message. Mission planners and scientists have been dropping the motto in press-releases for some time, including a feature on Curiosity (the openings in that rover’s wheels spelled out JPL, Jet Propulsion Labs just as the hem of the dress, outer ring of the parachute gives the facility’s coordinates) with the same title back in 2013 but it’s really enjoyable to see it all come together.
In the spirit of a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, the invocation first appeared in an address (“The Stenous Life,” 1899) by Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare might things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much—because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory not defeat.” Find out about more Easter eggs on the manifest, including an emblem of the Rod of Asclepius in deference to the present pandemic on Earth.

Friday, 19 February 2021

6x6

seven minutes of terror: Perseverance lands on Mars, beginning its search for signs of past life  

cyborg tomato: AI Weirdness (previously) generates its own mascot—plus others  

polar flare: examining every map projection and how it distorts our world view at once—see previously  

simon says: a vast archives of electronic handheld and table-top games and consoles from decades past—via Swiss Miss  

fabian society: capitalism coexists with constructivism in Czech city of Zlรญn  

hello world: the newest Martian probe beams back its first images

Sunday, 7 February 2021

happy martian new year

For a host of arbitrary and capricious reasons—the same that plague and beset our own terrestrial time-keeping buoyed by a compelling amount of research, observation and calculation to synchronise our calendars and fix our neighbouring planet to a chronological and epochal marker, today marks Year 36, falling on the Red Planet’s vernal equinox. MY 1 coincided with 11 April 1955 here on Earth when astronomers were first able monitor and to study the seasonal changes to the landscape in depth and could better articulate what was going on. Because a day on Mars (Sol) is a bit longer than our own and because of the planet’s superior orbit, it takes twice as long to circle the sun, hence only at MY 36. The probe Tianwen1 will join a number of other steadfast explorers to celebrate.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

ultima lingula

A far better and far more festive example of pareidolia than found in the knobby highlands of Cydonia and Arabia Terra—the so-called face on Mars has been captured by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter near the planet’s southern pole during a temporary thaw in the ice that normally obscures the geographic features there. The artistic elements of this impact crater that suggest an abstract angelic host with wings, heart and halo are created by a nice collusion of a sublimation pit, a sinkhole left when ice turns directly into gas without the intermediate liquid phase, erosion and ancient volcanic activity.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

all this trouble over a fat little man in a red suit

As our faithful chronicler informs, the sci-fi comedy (self-descriped as “yuletide science fiction fantasy” and hoped to find a niche for a perceived market gap) by Nicholas Webster and Paul L. Jacobson, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians—universally panned though significantly debuting the figure of Mrs Claus a full three weeks before appearing on the Rankin and Bass (previously) television special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, premiered in cinemas on this day in 1964. It was to receive the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 treatment on 21 December 1991—shortly after MST3K was syndicated by the Comedy Central cable network and thus solidifying its enduring popularity aside from making the movie a cult classic. A young Pia Zadora has her film debut as Girmar—the Martian Girl.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

8x8

no wait, that was the prince of tides: researchers identify neural cells responsible for episodic, cinematic memories 

there goes the neighbourhood: a five-storey historic building in Shanghai walks to its new location, avoiding demolition, via Slashdot 

utopia planitia: future Martian settlements will not be colonies beholden to terrestrial governments

anti-pop: Danny Elfman—previously of Oingo Boingo, releases his first surprise single in three-and-a-half decades  

stingy jack: the legend behind the Halloween lantern from Nag on the Lake  

brototype: the baked-goods based photography of Jill Burrow 

haute couture: Ken Tanabe’s annual DIY ideas for stylish Halloween costumes  

brain-in-a-vat: laboratory-cultured neural organoids could be conscious, via Miss Cellania’s Links