Sunday, 25 December 2022

away in a manger (10. 361)

On Christmas Day in 1223, inspired himself by a pilgrimage undertaken in somewhat safer times years earlier to Bethlehem and to discourage the faithful from making the arduous trip after the fall of the Crusader Kingdoms in the Holy Land by offering a local alternative, St Francis of Assisi arranged the first Nativity Scene (Presepe) in a grotto—sanctuary—in the village of Greccio in Lazio. Francis arranged for a human baby to be lain in hay and attended by an ox and donkey. Word spread and parishioners came from all over the valley, bearing torches and candles to witness the display. Attending friars celebrated Mass and Francis recited the gospel. The scene, reflected in the village coat of arms, is recreated annually.

Friday, 25 November 2022

7x7 (10. 334)

 the winnowing oar: an itinerant floating city in the Pangeos Terayacht and other mega projects from Saudi Arabia—via Things Magazine  

mรถnitรถr nรธn: previously unheard audio from the first gigs of British rock band The Fall  

imperial isolate: gold coin in a museum cupboard proves existence of Sponsian, an emperor heretofore dismissed as fake—via Digg  

artificial gravity: spinning spacecraft don’t supply a wholly satisfactory solution to the effects of zero-g for human anatomy 

purple tomato: an anthocyanin-rich vegetable is a heuristic for exploring the distinction between genetic modification and selective-breeding—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

feed-back loop: schema for artificial neural networks from the 1940s up to the present—via Web Curios   

anyox: an abandoned copper mining operation in British Columbia is Canada’s largest ghost town

Saturday, 19 November 2022

cairo circle (10. 317)

Via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump, we are introduced to the circle of creatves of the Art et Libertรฉ ( ุฌู…ุงุนุฉ ุงู„ูู† ูˆุงู„ุญุฑูŠุฉ) Surrealist movement that flourished for a decade in pre-World War II Egypt that embraced the appellation “degenerate” (see also here and here) in its stance against emergent forces of fascism, British colonial rule in the region and the conservative art establishment Salon du Caire. Informed by Ancient Egyptian and Coptic influences as well as other surrealism styles, this work entitled Nature Adores a Vacuum by Ramses Younan is typical of the collective. More to explore at the links above.

Friday, 18 November 2022

dictes & sayengis of the phylosophers (10. 313)

 The first printed book in England to bear its date of issue inside the colophon of early publisher William Caxton (see previously), the compendium of words of wisdom and collected quotations was introduced as an incunabulum on this day in 1477 as a Middle English translation by Anthony Woodville, bibliophile and brother-in-law of Edward IV, based off the original work of eleventh-century scholar Al-Mubashshir ibn Fatik—with some attributions and biographies, mostly on Greek and legendary thinkers but later revisions included biblical words of wisdom, slightly dubious but long since established as canonical.

Friday, 11 November 2022

menas of egypt (10. 293)

Early third century wonder-worker and Coptic soldier in the Roman army martyred for refusing to recant his Christian faith, Menas (โฒ€โฒƒโฒƒโฒ โฒ˜โฒโฒ›โฒ—Amen), is commemorated on this day, corresponding to 15 Hathor on the Egyptian calendar. Garnering a posthumous reputation for intercession on any number on ailments, Abu Mina, the site where his body was buried (according to legend, the camels bearing his corpse stopped twice in this exact location and refused to move further) after being dismembered by fellow soldiers became a popular pilgrimage—following Constantine I (previously) sending his ill daughter, Flavia Valeria Constantina—later known as Saint Constance, destination with terracotta flasks with the saint’s iconography taken as souvenirs and found from Heidelberg to Cheshire and all points in between. Protector of the falsely accused, peddlers and travelling salespersons, Menas is the patron of the city of Heraklion, Koblenz and many Swiss villages in the north Alps.

Friday, 4 November 2022

8x8 (10. 271)

make it another, double, old-fashioned please: a definitive, festive guide to whisky cocktails 

born in arizona, moved to babylonia: a new book on the King Tut’s parents, Akhenaten and Nefertiti  

elf-on-the-shelf: the shrine to departed Dobby in a nature reserve can remain but visitors asked to refrain from leaving mementos  

planchette: the intersection between profit and superstition revisited with a look at the story of the Ouija borad—see previously  

toynbee tiles: an enduring urban myth—see previously  

they’ve got it all on uhf: Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliff appearing in musical biopic parody of Weird Al Yankovic (previously)  

palimpsest: peeling back the layers to rediscover ancient manuscripts recycled as early modern incunabula

limoncello: a doubly lemon aperitif in the ‘Amalfi Dream’

kv62 (10. 270)

On this day in 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter and team, sponsored by patron George Herbert, Earl of Carnavon, discovered the first step leading down to the tomb of Tutankhamun, inspired to continue the search after other burial goods were discovered bearing the name of the pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt were found by excavators contracted by Egyptologist Theodore Davis in ancillary chambers before the Great War. Digging proceeded at pace throughout the month, reaching the antechamber and unsealing the vault on 26 November, exceeding all expectations and lending heretofore unknown insight into royal funeral rites. The media frenzy following that gripped the public imagination was known as “Tutmania,” influencing styles and decorative arts as well as informing Egypt’s struggle for independence from Britain by reconnecting it with its past.

Wednesday, 19 October 2022

7x7 (10. 239)

actually: summoning the Candymansplainer 

doktor semmelweis i presume: how it took three decades to convince surgeons to wash their hands in the context of contemporary inconvenience  

kessler syndrome: more on orbital space junk—see previously  

one-dimensional: construction starts on the linear megacity in the desert—see previously  

woodpeckers in space: an 80s Danish hit 

not alone: most kanji readers cannot read it in cursive—see also  

based on a true story: horror classics inspired by actual events

Tuesday, 18 October 2022

il capo in pidei col suo bastone (10. 235)

Our thanks to TYWKIWDBI for directing our attention to this Farsi language version of Bella Ciao (see previously), the protest folk song that has become an anthem of freedom and resistance internationally, created to protest the oppressive, theocratic dictatorship of Iran as part of the Mahsa Amini rallies against the regime. The opening lyric—The dust of this wheat/is in the street—is in reference to the custom of growing sprouts of grain in the two week run up to the New Year (Nowruz, ู†ูˆุฑูˆุฒ) that falls on the Spring Equinox and symbolically casting them away to toss out old habits. O mamma mia o che tormento. Much more at the links above.

Friday, 7 October 2022

sergius & bacchus (10. 202)

Among the most popular paired saints with a cult going back to the fifth century, the Syrian Roman soldiers were, according to their hagiography, favoured officers in the army of Galerius (successor to Emperor Diocletian, toning down his persecutions but still strongly opposed to Christianity) until their secret adherence was exposed, they are venerated on this day in the Western Church to mark their martyrdom and the hands of their superiors, tortured (Bacchus went first and his ghost returned to encourage his compatriot to be steadfast and not disavow his faith) and beheaded. Tradition emphasises their closeness and inseparability, which has caused the couple to be embraced by the Catholic gay community—most accepting that their relationship had a romantic element to it and points to the rite, suggestive of a form of same-sex union, called แผ€ฮดฮตฮปฯ†ฮฟฯ€ฮฟฮฏฮทฯƒฮนฯ‚ (adelphopoiesis, fraternisation or brother-making). Their patronage includes Arabs, Syria and army soldiers and their home church built in Constantinople—now known as the Little Hagia Sophia Mosque—is the among the city’s most splendid examples of Byzantine architecture, second only to its namesake.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

sip (10. 167)

Via tmn, our attention is again directed towards bespoke, luxury fallout shelters, bunkers, panic rooms flogged (also a punishment for criminal offences for the not so well-appointed) to the rich and powerful—only this time, the glamorous, underground residences, replete with fake skies over courtyards with swimming pools, private theatres, wine cellars, conference centres and showcase galleries and garages, or anything else the client can imagine, are being pushed on the influx of multi-millionaires resettling in the United Arab Emirates. What do you thinK? The firm offering such fantastical and secure retreats is a Swiss company called Oppidum—the Latin term for a fortified city. I thought only pharaoh in his pyramid could only be so entombed.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

emc/2012 (10. 156)

On this day a decade ago, public health authorities in the United Kingdom alerted the WHO about a novel coronavirus discovered in Saudi Arabia. Known either by its Erasmus Medical Centre designation above or more broadly as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), it was a strain of virus infecting bats, camels and humans, it first presented as isolated outbreaks of flu-like illnesses before being recorded in Europe, North America and Asia by 2015, despite low person-to-person transmission rates. The virus is still endemic and is a potential source for a future pandemic, should it mutate into a variant more compatible with human anatomy and social-structures, and diagnostic and preventative strategies continue to be explored for this species.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

the disposition of christ (10. 033)

Celebrated in different traditions collectively either as the Feast of the Myrrhbearers, traditionally referring to the three Marys who came to the tomb and found it empty, or singularly for the Pharisee Nicodemus who discussed Jesus’ teachings with him and took down the crucified body of Christ (แผˆฯ€ฮฟฮบฮฑฮธฮฎฮปฯ‰ฯƒฮนฯ‚, the deposition scene) to prepare for burial—with the embalming ingredient myrrh and aloe—together with Joseph of Arimathea, the former was latter attributed with an non-canonical gospel (likely a medieval invention) that recounts Jesus’ trail, the salvation of Dismas plus the Harrowing of Hell from the point of view of two souls returned from the dead. The derived term Nicodemite is applied to a person publicly misrepresenting their religious convictions to conceal their true beliefs—generally confined to Christian internecine communities—like Catholics living in predominately Protestant areas and later to the unorthodox and suspected crypto-deists or atheists.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

8x8 (10. 027)

รฒgรณgรณrรณ: decolonising a West African palm sap spirit that unfairly unearned the reputation of a cheap gin substitute  

new delay for dover-calais tunnel likely: fleshing out the NYT headlines Stanley Kubrick had mocked up for 2001—via Waxy  

smaller footprint: updates on NEOM—the planned vertical skyscaper of Saudi Arabia  

hysterical urbanism: a counterpoint to the above—with several historical antecedents  

brominated vegetable oil: EU and Japan bans Mountain Dew and Fresca for ingredients that contribute to memory loss  

we intend to cause havoc: Andrew McGranahan’s psychedelic posters for Paul McCartney’s 2022 gigs and tours  

odonymy: an ongoing project revealing the origin of street names in Los Angeles—via Web Curios

mensascran: comparative studies of university and business cafeterias and canteens around the world—see also—via ibฤซdem

Friday, 29 July 2022

arbeia (10. 024)

Though we did not get the chance to survey Hadrian’s Wall this go around, on our way back to the port of Newcastle on Tyne we got to see among other things such as successive traffic roundabouts the ancient Roman garrison which guarded the main sea route to the fortified border near the South Shields docks in Tyne & Wear, so named because originally skilled boatmen from Mesopotamia were stationed there following the conquest of Persia by Septimus Severus (see previously).

Command-and-control for attempted incursions on Scotland, Fort Arbeia ultimately became a logistics base to supply activities along the frontier and preventing Pictish infiltration and once hosted over six hundred troops. The western gate is a modern reconstruction (see also) and contains a museum of artefacts found here and an education centre.



Tuesday, 12 July 2022

and her name was veronica

Also known as Berenike (Greek for the Bearer of Victory) the non-canonical saint is feted on this day according to pious traditions. Patroness of launderers and photographers, Veronica (from the Latin and Greek portmanteau of true plus ฮตฮนฮบฯŒฮฝ, icon—image) was in the crowd witnessing a condemned Jesus bearing his cross to Calvary and moved with sympathy offered her veil for Jesus to wipe his brow. Accepting the small kindness, Jesus returned the piece of fabric which now bore a miraculous image of his face—a story celebrated in the Sixth Station of the Cross and revered as a relic, the Vernicle or Sudarium (Latin for Sweat-Cloth). Following the extra-biblical story, Veronica is said to have gone to Rome afterwards and presented the veil to Emperor Tiberius. Reputed to quench thirst, cure blindness and raise the dead, the image became part and parcel of the Arma Christi (the traditional instruments of the Passion) in the eleventh century, there are four contenders for the Veil, one in Saint Peter’s, one in the Hofburg and two held at separate monasteries in Spain.

Monday, 25 April 2022

san marco

Variously identified as the cousin of Barnabas and textually as the anonymous water-bearer of the Last Supper and the Naked Fugitive during Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (see also), the Mark the Evangelist, fรชted on this day, would go on to author one of the gospels—by traditional accounts—and to found the episcopal See of Alexandria, among the most important of early Christianity. Sharing the iconography of the winged lion with the saint, he is venerated in Venice as the city’s and thalassocracy’s patron and in Lithuania, where he is regarded as the guardian of the harvest and there is a general fast prescribed as a well as a prohibition on disturbing the earth as to give the land a rest before the planting season begins. 25 April is a national holiday throughout Italy, but not as Saint Mark’s Day and rather as marking the 1945 anniversary of the liberation of the country by the resistance movement against the Nazi occupation and the puppet government of the fascists.

Friday, 15 April 2022

7x7

who’s in your wallet: personalities and personages on banknotes—via Waxy (who is turning twenty)

simoom: a decade of dust storms 

hurrian hymn: paean to Mesopotamian goddess Nikkal is the oldest know surviving work of notated music

found photos: saved from oblivion and shared—via Things Magazine (plus a lot more to check out)  

alphabet truck: the whole ABCs on the backside of lorries captured by Eric Tabuchi—via Pasa Bon!  

meme-maker: Dutch national library offers a tool to scour medieval illustrations and marginalia—see also here and here  

the colour of money: a survey of banknote hues from the archives

Saturday, 29 January 2022

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.

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.