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.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

prove to me that you’re divine, change my water into wine—that’s all you need do, then i’ll know it’s all true

Formerly only previewed as a cast recording in limited release over a year prior, the rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber Jesus Christ Superstar was for the first time staged and performed before a live audience in the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway—the famous venue for My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Man of La Mancha which would eventually be consecrated in 1989 as the interdenominational Times Square Church—on this day in 1971. The anachronistic version of the Holy Week narrative, loosely following the books of the gospel and giving an accounting of Jesus and his disciples leading up to his arrest and crucifixion was the longest-running West End musical before being displaced by Cats in 1989. Below is “Superstar,” the penultimate number, with Judas, Soul Sisters and Angels from the 1973 adaptation, filmed on location.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

cyrus charter

Though in possession of the British Museum, the ancient clay cylinder bearing the declaration of king Cyrus the Great, outlining his genealogy and conquest of Babylonia as favourite of the god Marduk and documentation of the end of exile of the Jewish people and allowing them to resettle within the empire was loaned to Tehran on this day in 1971 for a period of sixteen days for the gala celebration of the two-thousand-five-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Persia—see previously, beginning mid-month ten days later. The artefact recovered in 1829 (in Mesopotamia, in modern day Iraq) is considered by many historians as the pioneering attempt to administer and multicultural state with universal human rights and was made the official symbol of Iran in absentia.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

house of saud

Concluding a military and political campaign to dominate and unite the fractious Arabian Peninsula composed of splintered emirates, kingdoms and city states much like the Holy and Roman Empire of the Germans begun in 1902 with the takeover of Riyadh by Ibn Saud, emerging from exile in the British protectorate of Kuwait, the unification of Saudi Arabia took place on this day in 1932 with the violent suppression of the Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz, one of the last bulwarks of resistance, followed by a proclamation of the union of his dominions.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

second triumvirate

Of course while the lurch towards despotism by the government and the governed did not go unnoticed, Rome never acknowledged that it shifted from being a republic to an imperial power and maintained the trappings of democracy amid tyranny and some aspects of the transformation were gradual and inuring but one pivot point is the Battle of Actium, which took place on this day in 31 BCE, with the fleets of Octavian, ambitious politicians and grand-nephew of Julius Caesar and adopted ‘son,’ and Cleopatra VII Philopator and Mark Anthony fighting in the Ionian sea. First allied (read more), Octavian had a falling out with Mark Antony after he abandoned his wife Octavia Minor, Octavian’s sister, to go to Egypt and foster a long-term liaison with Cleopatra, raising the son of Julius Caesar, Caesarion by the Pharaoh, as his own. Octavian convinced the Senate that the couple were a threat to Rome and were forming a separatist faction that would undermine Roman unity, installing a child king and moving the capital to Alexandria, and with this propaganda campaign and was able to gather his forces. With superior numbers, Octavian was able to claim victory, pursuing Antony and Cleopatra and their defeated ships for nearly a year back to the Egyptian capital where trapped they both dispatched themselves, and consolidated power ubi et orbi, adopting the title Princeps, Number One Citizen, and awarded the title of Revered One—Augustus—by the Senate for saving Rome.

Friday, 27 August 2021

baล‚agan

Though this other Persia etonym that reveals the origin of antidote was a bit too stomach-churning to expand upon, we were reminded with this encounter of another ultimately Persia term that in Yiddish, Polish and Arabic has come to mean chaos. An excellent example of a round trip word, balagan (ุจุงู„ุงุฌุงู†, ื‘ืœื’ืืŸ) originally meant an upper chamber, passing via Tartar to Russian where it came to signify a temporary platform constructed for a circus performance, exporting the sense of disorder and associations with buffoonery, applied to everything from the state of one’s car interior to geopolitics. More from Language Hat at the link above.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

wadi musa

Familiar to only a few locals and unknown to the West until its rediscovery on this day in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the capital of the Nabataeans called Raqmu by its denizens is commonly referred to Petra (Al-Batrฤสพ) after its designation as a client state of the Empire after Rome annexed their kingdom as Arabia Petaea.

The settlement in southern Jordan between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqada is only accessible via a narrow gorge and was a major regional trading hub in antiquity, controlling routes from Gaza to Damascus and onto the Persian Gulf. Accustomed to privation and periods of drought and deluge, the Nabatean city includes advanced methods of gathering and storing rainwater and flood control, allowing the population to thrive and supporting numbers approaching twenty-thousand residents at its height. A marvel of engineering and with many cameos in popular culture, in most years, Petra greets over a million international tourists annually.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

it belongs in a museum

Highest grossing box office film of the year, the collaboration between Steven Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan, Philip Kaufman and George Lucas, Raiders of the Lost Ark, was released in cinemas on this day in 1981. Though there are problematic elements including the push for acquisition, appropriation and the noblesse oblige that precludes repatriation of artefacts and treasure, the film and the ensemble franchise launched has had enduring cultural impact and outsized influence. Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood join forces to stop a rival archaeologist from helping the Nazi German forces from obtaining the Ark of the Covenant and harnessing its supernatural powers. Tom Selleck was originally cast in the lead instead of Harrison Ford but was unable to commit to the shoot due to prior contractual obligations with the television programme Magnum P.I.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

santa bona

Early eleventh century Augustinian nun venerated on this day, Bona of Pisa, helped conduct pilgrims on their journeys and is considered the patroness of tour guides, couriers, flight attendants as well as her well-touristed home town. Her father a Crusader in the Holy Land, Bona made no fewer than four sojourns there to visit him and see to his well-being and after being taken hostage by pirates and necessitating a ransom and rescue by her compatriots, redirected her focus to the route of Santiago de Compostela, undertaking the arduous trip ten times and leading others along the way.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

o’zapft is!

Proposed by an events planner who helped organise German Weihnachtsmรคrkte and former Mรผnchener restauranteur surely also hit hard by the pandemic and whom now resides in Dubai, the announcement that the emirate plans to host a version of Oktoberfest has drawn ire and confusion from the annual party’s venue city. Mirroring its namesake to an extent with beer tents, food concessions and carnival rides, the proposal calls for it being a pavilion of the World Expo and to last for six months rather than the customary two weeks in September. Last year’s festivities were cancelled due to corona, and though uncertainly it seems as if the coming autumn celebrations may also have to be postponed.

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.