Friday, 22 April 2022

earth day

Organisers Denis Hayes and Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson who championed the establishment of the annual observance in support of environmental protection and better stewardship of the planet in congress—plus drumming up the earnest support of the United Auto Workers union which without the backing of the labour movement probably would have had no staying power—chose the date strategically as to time the holiday outside of college exams and Spring Break, student activism being among the important targets to carry the cause forward, and with the happy coincidence that the date range included the anniversary of the 1838 birth of John Muir—an American of Scottish extract regarded as the Father of the National Parks, avid naturalist, ecologist and conservationist who co-founded the Sierra Club and pushed the government to establish a nature reserve in the Yosemite region of California. 

Reportedly unbeknownst to Nelson and Hayes, the first 1970 celebration fell on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin (New Style, 1870), causing some media outlets to speculate at the time that it was not an unfortunately coincidence but rather signaled that the environmental movement was a “Communist trick” to subvert and indoctrinate the youth—apparently into caring for Nature and the world around them and engendered guilt over polluting and over-consumption. The themes for this year include Sustainable Fashion, the Great Global Clean-up, the Canopy Project (reforestation) and Climate and Environmental Literacy.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

dรญa de cรฉsar chรกvez

Commemorated as a holiday in several food producing regions of the United States, the life and legacy of the civil rights reformer and labour activist of Cรฉsar Chรกvez, born this day in 1927 (†1993), whom along wit fellow farm worker Dolores Huerta unionised and rallied for better conditions for all.

Monday, 28 March 2022

sozialer mord

Via Super Punch, we learn about a phrase and its applications coined by Friedrich Engels—one whom one doesn’t hear much about without the more well-known and charismatic Karl Marx—in his 1845 study The Conditions of the Working-Class in England, social murder, to describe the dominance of the aristocracy and consequences for the proletariat whose exploitation and negligence causes premature death for many in the under-class. Whilst originally directed towards Manchester and the regard that the South held for the North in Britain, the term has popular parlance from austerity measures, climate change and its first victims, to inequalities brought to the fore by the pandemic and the most vulnerable among us.  Often over looked and excused, Engels writes, “[S]ince the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.”

Friday, 25 March 2022

lady day

Coinciding with the Solemnity of the Annunciation, until 1752 when Great Britain and its extended imperial holdings adopted the Gregorian calendar, 25 March was New Year’s Day—liturgically, legally and fiscally—under the Julian system of reckoning time. A quarter day falling near the March equinox, it was an ideal date for arranging new contracts between landlords and tenants because it fell at a time that did not interfere with ploughing or harvest and itinerant farmers would move house and home (see also) at this time. With the British Empire lagging behind most of Western Europe in switching to “New Style,” the eleven day difference between the Gregorian and Julian calendars caused the contract-setting period to be advanced to 5 April, hence “Old Lady Day.”

Friday, 4 March 2022

for what it’s worth

Via Kottke we are directed to a highly compelling project from Dillon Marsh that visualises mines in South Africa with a scale model representing the specie, minerals or gemstones extracted from it—like in this composite photograph of the Jubilee Mine in the Namakwa District and the sixty-five-hundred tonnes of copper ore dug from the Earth. Gains seem particularly marginal, inefficient and pathetic in comparison to all the hardships in cost of human toil and exploitation and environmental damage. More at the links above.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

an unfinished revolution

We had scant idea that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had not only contributed hundreds of articles as foreign correspondents for the New York Daily Tribune in the lead up to the US Civil War advocating strongly against slavery and the apartheid of the American South—and North, Marx moreover kept up a correspondence with Abraham Lincoln—one does not readily summon this overlap and epistolary relatisonship, influencing and informing to an extent his interlocutor’s views on labour, suffrage and the estrangement of chattel and capital. Much more from Open Culture at the link above.

Friday, 7 January 2022

7x7

sick sad world: our crypto-bro, cyberpunk dystopia  

brik: aesthetic LEGO typography  

just keep swimming: mobile aquaria allow fish to drive—via the morning news  

molten path: an ancient—though not inaccessible—airburst over the Atacama shed shards of glass across Chile—see also   

thinking of you, i mean me: a Barbara Kruger (previously) retrospective in Chicago on capitalism and its critique

queued-up: Instagram versus reality

a listicle in eight parts: Cory Doctorow expounds on the scam of fintech—via the New Shelton wet/dry

saint distaff’s day

Observed in medieval Europe on the day after the Feast of the Epiphany and also known as Roc or Rock Day (used with a spindle to make fabric) is an unofficial solemnity (see also) to mark going back to the grind with spinners and weavers resuming their work after the holiday break. Regarded traditionally as women’s work, there would be a gathering and some merry-making, recently seeing a revival, and men held their own parallel party, letting the short week run its course, called Plough Monday.

Friday, 24 December 2021

shouting fire in a crowded theatre

Though sadly not the only nor the most deadly historically antecedent for ruling speech or expression (and by extension press and assembly) not subject to protections for free speech, the most recent occurrence prompting the argument in favour of curtailing the right to protest the draft during World War I and supported by the US Espionage Act of 1917 as a “clear and present danger,” the Italian Hall disaster in Calumet, Michigan is one source of the analogy when someone falsely yelled “fire” during a crowded party on Christmas Eve on this day in 1913, causing a panicked stampede to the exits that crushed some seventy-three attendees. The ladies auxiliary of the Western Federated Miners’ Union had organised a holiday party for striking members and their families, already six months into their standoff with management, copper-bosses which would not end until April 1914. It is believed a member of a group called the Citizens’ Alliance—opposed to the union and their demands for better working conditions—crashed the party and caused the panic—according to several sources including a song wrote by Woody Guthrie about the tragedy, though there is no definitive proof. The 1919 case that the above doctrine upheld was ultimately overturned on appeal and reversed to rule that voicing opposition to the draft did not rise to the the level of sedition and was protected speech in 1969, limiting the scope to what would incite an imminent riot.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

7x7

the hallmark channel: a treasury of classic festive films from Eastern Europe  

savage garden: the ruins of Rome’s Colosseum was once a wild green oasis full of exotic plants—via Messy Nessy Chic 

touching the sun: the Parker Solar Probe enters and safely exits the corona  

barcode architects: a new triangular high-rise for Rotterdam’s maritime district  

smart tweed: artificial intelligence predicts the next holiday, must-have gifts  

็‚ฌ็‡ต: Japanese in-situ heating solutions called kotatsu (see previously) have been around for a long time  

what day is it boy: the labour shortage hits Scrooge & Marley

Saturday, 4 December 2021

8x8

fauxliage: a superlative roundup of architectural photography projects

the ntf of dorian gray: a new, short take on Oscar Wilde’s cautionary tale 

emoji for scale: objects represented by their glyphs from smallest to largest—via Waxy

life plus 50: a Public Domain Advent Calendar in anticipation of the expiring copyrights that the New Year ushers in with a new class of works free to enjoy however one sees fit  

verrillon: revisiting the fragile glass armonica of Benjamin Franklin  

thank you for your patronage: hackers are instructing receipt printers to spout off anti-work manifestos to draw attention to poverty wages  

history is calling: a mobile phone museum—via Pasa Bon!

unbuilt architecture: mock-ups of ten modern monumental structures that were never completed—via Things Magazine

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

forget-the-year

Though in practise perhaps a bit premature and ill-advised given the milieu of a resurgence in COVID cases, we did nonetheless enjoy augmenting our vocabulary with the Japanese tradition of bลnenkai (ๅฟ˜ๅนดไผš) office parties that take place usually during December sponsored by companies for their employees that involves banqueting and a lot of drinking. As respite from the pandemic and the lengthening past or otherwise, not everyone is ready to embrace mandated festivities and bureikล—็„ก็คผ่ฌ›, nomunication—that is, loosened tongues facilitated through drink, nomu ๆ„ๅ‘ณ, which allows one to albeit temporarily, perhaps regrettably disregard hierarchy and distinctions in rank and seniority.

Friday, 12 November 2021

santa claus isn’t coming to town

With an extreme shortage of Santa’s Helpers available and unwilling to work and risk life and limb with a resurgent pandemic expected to get worse before it gets better (many of the usual candidates in character being older and larger individuals considered more vulnerable), many malls—worldwide—are turning towards a new Yuletide tradition and installing the red-light, green-light killer robot from Squid Games (previously). Adults queuing up at a shopping centre in Manchester even were served dalgona—the fragile sugar cookie-cutter candy from one of the challenges—whilst they waited patiently to have their picture taken with the giant doll.  Not to fret, however, since unlike one’s typical Mall Santas, the actual Father Christmas is immune and designated as an essential worker.

Thursday, 28 October 2021

in the groove

Via Boing Boing, we are referred to the obituary of Csรญkszent-mihรกlyi Mihรกly (*1934, see previously), the psychologist credited for first recognising and describing the concept of flow, a focused and engaged mental state of disciplined equilibrium that pares down distraction without overwhelming that lends itself well to increased productivity. Lying precariously between boredom and anxiety, leaning into this seeming contraction increases the potential for creativity and happiness.

Friday, 22 October 2021

komplementรคrwรคhrungen

Introduced in Erfurt in October 1929, nearly coinciding with the US stock market crash Black Friday that set off the Great Depression world-wide, the alternative currency known as Wรคra, invented by Hans Time and Helmut Rรถdiger its name derived from the words Wรคhrung (money) and wรคhren (lasting, stable), was freely exchangeable with the Reichsmark at parity.

As legal tender and a store of wealth, however, each banknote carried a monthly penalty (demurrage, the carrying cost) of one percent its face value which could be offset with stamps and had a expiry date so people and businesses were motivated to spend and not hoard their liquid assets, thereby countering inflation. Gradually other businesses and workers began to accept Wรคra and there was even a coal mining operation fully financed with loans, salaries and discounted consumer sales in the alternative currency. Marked improvement in the region’s economy attracted the attention of the finance ministry, which after deliberation ordered the experiment to be suspended, fearing this parallel form of payment would ultimately undermine rebuilding Germany’s industrial sector, which by that time in 1931 had spread to a network of fourteen cities and were accepted in several national banks and stores.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

dor nischl

The colossal stylised bust of philosopher and historian Karl Marx (previously) sculpted by Soviet realist Lev Efimovich Kerbel for the city formerly and presently known as Chemnitz (redesignated as Karl-Max-Stadt for the year of the revolutionary in 1953) was dedicated on this day in 1971 before an assembly of a quarter of a million attendees. The wall directly behind the visage and plinth is inscribed with the famous phrase from the Communist Manifesto “Workers of the World, unite!” in German, Russian, French and English by graphic artist Helmut Humann.  Locally referred to as the above Mitteldeutsch colloquialism for head or skull and used as a backdrop for much propaganda and pageantry under the East German government, the symbol was not without controversy, but was preserved while many other monuments to Soviet heroes and ideals were dismantled. After reunification, the city of Kรถln even offered to buy the head in order that it be saved from destruction, while residents were wrestling with the recent past and deciding to restore their city’s former name. Ultimately, it was decided to keep this and select vestiges of times past, which can still be a focus of the here and now.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

bundestagswahl 2021

Germany is holding a national ballot to elect the members of the twentieth Bundestag, the federal parliament. With Angela Merkel having chose not to run after sixteen years as chancellor, this vote marks the first time in modern Germany history that the incumbent is not seeking reelection.  Seven top candidates from Germany’s forty-seven listed political parties are vying for top position and the mandate to form a coalition government and reach a power-sharing agreement with the opposition.  

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

pantry and pageantry

Via Things Magazine, we are directed towards a thoroughgoing article about the social engineering behind of the relatively new field of kitchen design and how a whole—though not necessarily comprehensive and to the exclusion of many—spectrum of political and philosophical alignments, communists, feminists, capitalists, have tried, with various degrees of success and endurance, have essayed this part of the home that only garnered attention in the twentieth century once domestics started to be less common. We especially appreciated the chance to revisit the Frankfurt Kitchen and its designer, whom was also an early advocate for planned-obsolesce in order to encourage continued manufacture and innovation and the Cold War battleground of model home-making. Much more at By Design at the link above including the consequences of home economics, reinforcement of gendered roles and expectations, how labour is valued and the under representation of minorities of kitchen-utilisers that together makes up the majority.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

vacancy announcement

Via Curious Brain, set for a fresh challenge with an exciting new career opportunity? Check out Cygnus Jobs 4 U today and see if you’re ready to join our team.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

i have directed secretary connolly to suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold or other reserve assets, except in amounts and conditions determined to be in the interest of monetary stability and in the best interest of the united states

Effectively ending the economic arrangement among Canadian, Western Europe, Australia and Japan since 1944, the Bretton Woods system (see previously), the first fully negotiated monetary order recognised across independent polities that regulated exchange rates by pinning national currencies to the price of gold under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund, American president Richard Nixon announced, unilaterally, that on this day in 1971 the dollars could no longer be freely converted to their worth in gold. Rendered a fiat currency instead of a representation of intrinsic value, only upheld by the consent of the parties engaged in trade for goods or services, many other signatories soon followed suit and untethered their money. This jarring economic policy change was the culmination of several intervention strategies undertaken by the Nixon administration to curb inflation incurred as the world reserve currency (privilรจge exorbitant as the US could print money at virtually no cost, but subsidised by the rest of the world, each bank note expatriated cost face value in actual goods), preceded by wage and price freezes and raising tariffs. Loosing the ability to service indebtedness over the war in Vietnam, Nixon accused other nations of gaming the system and using established conventions to devalue their currency to maintain a competitive advantage. The US dollar dropped precipitously in value shortly thereafter and led to the the stagflation that typifies the decade and general failure of wages to rise proportionally with the increasing prices of vital things like healthcare, education, rents and food.