Thursday, 22 August 2019

tro breizh

Though the historic tour, the pilgrimage to the shrines of the region’s seven founder saints, might be too ambitious for a few days’ vacation—a grand undertaking with a circuit covering Quimper, Vannes, Dol-de-Bretagne, Saint-Malo, Saint-Brieuc, Trรฉguier and Saint-Pol-de-Lรฉon—we’ll nonetheless have at least a few of those stops on our itinerary as we at PfRC take a much needed sabbatical in Brittany. Stay tuned for further adventures coming soon. Kenavo ha beaj vat!

Monday, 12 August 2019

tro breizh

Unlikely as we are to encounter any of the Breton language on our upcoming trip to Brittany (Breizh, Bretagne) peninsula, like during past excursions (nearly on our Blogoversary and subject of the first post, no less), it’s no less fun to brush up on it—just in case.
France’s policy on minority languages has been less willing to embrace reform than its neighbours—originally translating regional stereotypes (like the English term barbarian, the French verb baragoiner, to yammer away in a foreign tongue, is souced to brezhoneg bread and wine—bara ha gwin) to suppression with the Revolution with the belief it was a tool of the aristocracy to keep the rural classes uninformed and disengaged, perpetuated by 1994 legislation called Loi Toubon, named for the culture minister who sponsored it. Called the Allgood Law in jest (the literal meaning of the name), it was meant to protect the French language form the encroaching hegemony of English but also restricts state support for Breton and other endangered languages.
Nonetheless the language does have its champions and is slowly coming into view for natives and tourists alike.  The flag, Gwenn-ha-du—the Black and White—referencing the ancient coat-of-arms of ermine with design inspiration from the US Stars and Stripes, was created in 1923 by architect and separatist Morvan Marchal.  Marchal pledged that the symbol would “gather those of our compatriots who do not want to confuse Brittany with the Church; Brittany with reaction; Brittany with puerile anti-French bias; Brittany with capitalism; and even less with racism” to make a stand against other proponents for regional autonomy whom later the Nazis would leverage the most extreme as a recruiting base for agitators and collaborators whose courtship was dropped the moment that they had served their purpose. 

Sunday, 11 August 2019


A finding amongst a huge cache of artefacts uncovered during a construction project and on display more of less in situ at the Mithrรฆum space (see also) of London, as the always brilliant Miss Cellania informs, suggest that proverbial lousy tee-shirt souvenir of today was present two millennia ago. Researchers have translated the inscription on an iron stylus used to make markings in wax-coated tablets as a sentiment to the effect for its recipient, “I went all the way to Rome, and all I got you was this pen.”

Saturday, 10 August 2019

vous รชtes ici

Sometimes schedules and agendas don’t allow us time to factor in getting lost, wandering a bit and then that blue pulsating dot that seems to get might bossy when you stray off the path or you can’t orientate yourself to that “You are Here” marker on an information board and things get pretty aggravating.  Fortunately for those hopeless situations, a major way-finder (one that I’ve come to be rather fond of for foot and auto navigation) has added a augmented reality, live mode to its maps where you can show it your position and the application will use that to determine your exact coordinates and provide landmarks to get you on the right bearings to your destination. Read more at the link above.

Friday, 2 August 2019


We enjoyed perusing this gallery of vintage and antique sporting and summer travel posters going under the hammer. We were especially taken with the vibrant and angular design of artist Josep Renau Montoro exhibited in this 1941 commission for the Revolutionary Games held at the behest of Manuel รliva Camacho. The artist was most famous for his murals and political propaganda during the Spanish civil war before being exiled first to Mรฉxico and then to East Berlin. There are other painters of note to be found in the auction preview including Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, Boris Artzybaseff and others.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

bird’s eye view

Via the always engaging Kottke, we are introduced to the aerial repertoire of the Andrews Brothers who’ve set up a print shop to sell some of their showcase, abstract drone photography. Among their latest compositions is this rather jarring and disorienting work called “Skyline” of shipping containers stacked high on a barge with the forecastle bridge towering above the other silhouettes whose shadows pass over the water. More to discover at the links above.

Monday, 22 July 2019


bird of prey: Airbus reveals concept hybrid-powered aircraft design that relies on biomimicry to boost efficiency

malpratise: Johnson’s and Trump’s assault on the NHS through relaxing UK price-controls on medication

we liked the sequel, also sprach zarathustra: re-mapping syllabi from institutions of higher learning

southern exposure: the rotating solaria of Doctor Jean Saidman

groundcrew: support staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force (est’d 1954) celebrated its sixtieth anniversary with precision scooter manoeuvres

dysfluency: virtual assistants have an array of human touches to build trust and rapport

re-freezer: ingenious plan to combat rising oceans by replenishing the ice-sheet artificially

engage: the trailer for Star Trek: Picard (previously)

Sunday, 30 June 2019

five, four, three, two, one

The urban redevelopment council of the large Berkshire city adjacent to Heathrow will help sponsor the creation of a Thunderbirds-themed hotel near the eponymous Slough Trading Estate (industrial park) where the Supermarionation series (Thunderbirds are not Slough—it does not rhyme with go) was filmed and produced. The hotel, which will also be part of a permanent residential hub each of whose five storeys are named after a Thunderbird Machine, is slated to open in 2021. More to explore at the links above, including a dedicated Gerry Anderson (*1929 – †2012), the shows’ co-creator, website.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

burg stolpen or under the rainbow

H and I decided we would let our vacation be at the mercy of the weather and it started raining without pause from midnight Monday onward, so after decamping, soggy, we started on our way back, making a detour to see Burg Stolpen, the town and a thirteenth century castle at the foot of a mountain of the same name and hewn out of basalt columns.
The mineral was first classified and described at this particularly rich quarry by local natural philosopher Georgius Agricola in a 1556 treatise.
The pictures are of the residence and prison of lady-in-waiting and mistress of Augustus II the Strong (der Starke) Anna Constantian von Brockdorff—eventually styled Countess of Cosel (Reichsgräfin von Cosel, *1680 - †1765)—who eventually earned the displeasure of her lover, imperial elector and king of Poland by her advocacy for the rights of Polish subjects.
Anna was banished from court and placed under house arrest in the tower for just under fifty years.
Adaptations of her biography in the 1980s rehabilitated her image and revived interest in the life and times of this defiant and inconvenient woman.
We couldn’t find any historic marker in the town but Stolpen was also the birthplace, we learned, of an arguably more famous—at least in contemporary terms in the West—quartet of siblings: the Doll family.
Born with the surname Schneider at the turn of the century up to the outbreak of World War I and first adopting and performing under the name Earle—after their manager and agent that brought them to America, Gracie, Harry, Daisy and Tiny were a formidable force as a sideshow and then as a screen act—always working together and insisting that they all have roles.
Terrors of Tiny Town and Tod Browning’s Freaks, all four were also Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz, with Harry (*1902 – †1985) performing as a representative of the Lollipop Guild.
Commercial fortunate allowed them to retire comfortably and purchase an estate in Sarasota, Florida—including a compound called the Doll House were all lived together, complete with custom furniture build to their scale.  Something strikes me in common about their stories—one a very vocal inmate of the town and others sent away without regard because of their difference.  What do you think?

Monday, 27 May 2019


Among our favourite things to discover on holiday are examples of vernacular, sometimes super-antiquated public transportation and in the Sächsische Schweiz, H and I got to sample plenty on our way to Bad Schandau through the Kirnitzsch (Kล™inice, a tributary of the Elbe) Valley.
A train, a ferry and steamboat were ultimately involved to bring us to an electric street car established in 1898 to transport guests of the sanitaria. The terminal ended with a guesthouse under the รฆgis of an artificial waterfall but there was the chance to hike up to the summit.
The peak with its natural sandstone archway and system of caves and hollows to explore became known as the Kuhstall, as this had to reach shelter became a favourite spot for residents to hide their livestock for safekeeping during the Thirty Years’ War and hidden from Swedish interlopers. The funicular is no longer the only option for traversing these nine kilometres but certainly the recommended mode of travel.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

of bastions and batteries

Constituted in part from some of the last remains of a medieval fortification (a bastion, the defensive ring around Felsenburg Neurahen) but mostly a series of naturally occurring but artfully linked observation platforms, the bridge located high in the sandstone mountains (die Elbsandsteingeberger) of Saxony represents one of the first purpose-built tourist attractions, having existed in this form for some two hundred years.
H and I recently had the chance to hike around and explore some of the trails in this area, known as the Saxon Switzerland, der Sächsische Schweiz, and take advantage of the accommodations that developed over the decades and informed what we have come to expect—for better or worse, from a destination, its renown presaged by romanticised depictions in travel guides and paintings—though nature conservancy also went hand in hand with promoting tourism and now is the centrepiece of an expansive national park and preserve.  Click on the images to enlarge.

Also not failing to deliver, next we toured the Fortress Kรถnigstein, located on the towering promontory that dominated our campsite, as we’d appreciate later. A centuries’ old enclosed ensemble asserts its control over the Elbe, forming the one of the largest fort in Europe, located on a tabletop hill (Tafelberg).

Casements and batteries aside, the Königstein owes its long existence and many iterations to a reliable water supply won through an incredibly deep well (one hundred and fifty two metres, excavated by hand with two horse power and the second deepest in Europe) that allowed the occupants of the fortress to survive and outlast what would otherwise be a crippling siege and a matter of waiting the defenders out.

Friday, 24 May 2019


location scout: travel destinations that embrace the Wes Anderson (previously) aesthetic

digit-1: Ford prototypes a foldable robot that might be delivering your packages soon

homer’s phobia: a look back at the 1997 John Waters’ cameo on the Simpsons that helped shift attitudes

enhanced pat-down: the US Transportation Security Administration keeps the loose change it collects and is factored into its operating budget

wheel estate: already priced out of the housing market, Silicon Valley communities are moving to ban people living out of their cars who work supporting the industry

bodennutzung: a trove of historic photographs from WWII bombing runs over Switzerland show how the landscape has changed over the decades 

Thursday, 23 May 2019


Though the story is still evolving and it is uncertain whether the scandal will precipitate the collapse of the coalition conservation government of Sebastian Kurz, an Austrian tabloid has secured a two-nights’ stay at the luxury villa on the Spanish holiday island where the 2017 meeting took place between woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch reportedly was able to secure public contracts in exchange for the promise of election help (in the form of buying a newspaper and turning it into a propaganda machine) from the now ousted vice-chancellor that will be awarded to a lucky reader. We can understand the concept of disaster tourism and the lure of a free get-away, regardless of the destination, and the importance of combating creeping corruption and influence peddling is crucial but I think maybe it is a touch shameless to be occurring in real-time.


bit part: a preview of a biopic about Claude Shannon (previously)—the unsung Father of Information Theory

the revolution will not be biennialised: Banksy (previously) makes an appearance at a Venice expo, selling paintings of giant cruise ships moored in the canals

en pointe: the Hong Kong Ballet celebrates its fortieth birthday

๐Ÿ˜พ ๐Ÿ˜พ ๐Ÿ˜พ: Thangrycat is exploiting vulnerabilities in the underpinning architecture of the internet

urban spelunking: when the Jehovah’s Witnesses relocated from Brooklyn Heights to upstate, their vacated properties included a series of underground passageways, via Super Punch

conducive to learning: a collection of striking maps and charts that inspired pupils in the late nineteenth century

walking trot: phones can now determine who is carrying them by knowing their users’ gait and other kinematic factors, via Slashdot

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

heritage tourism

In what smacks very much as an unholy alliance that turns over a rock to reveal that there’s already a booming genealogical travel industry, one problematic force of the gig-economy that’s turned gentrification into overdrive and percolated a housing crisis in the popular destination of the moment that’s proving very hard to recover from and another DNA analysis service that’s demonstrated some serious problems with confirmation bias and sampling-size form a partnership to make holiday-suggestions based on one’s ancestry—for those wanting to rediscover their roots.
Family histories can of course be fascinating, enlightening and humbling—to help us all realise that each of us has been uprooted and transplanted in one way or another, but this method and the package it promises does not strike me as the advisable way to dig around in the past. It’s a huge dissonance that we’ve cushioned ourselves to such a great extent to maintain our distance from others and avoid interaction or betraying intent, and yet we will invite strangers into our homes and automobiles and hope they’ll judge us well. What do you think? The two companies pledge that data about one’s DNA and travelogue won’t cross but I can’t see how that can be prevented. We’d all like to be able to extemporaneously share our narratives and autobiographies (especially when they reaffirm our uniqueness) and perhaps have a dramatic reunion with long-lost cousins, but I don’t think that journey is one that ought to be short-circuited though marketing gimmicks and cynical ploys for horizontal monopolies on one’s aspirations.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

bolstering bridges

The twenty-six hundred residents of Giethoorn are seeing their relationship with the tens of thousands of tourists descending on the “Dutch Venice” (previously) every year growing a bit strained—appreciating the revenue the visitors bring but not necessarily the added traffic to this car-free town that is only navigable by foot and boat. Minor though frequent collisions with the residents’ private bridges that span the canals and connect the islands are sustaining enough damage that passage along these waterways criss-crossed by some forty-five of the traditional bridges is needing to be restricted so repairs can proceed and make conditions safer for villagers and punters alike.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

vienna convention

In a move that seems particularly American and symptomatic of its McWorld mentality, US citizens travelling in Austria who’ve lost their passport or are otherwise distressed may seek out consular services and relief at any one of the country’s nearly two hundred McDonald’s franchises.
Fast food staff, thanks to a deal reached between the company and the US State Department, will have a special hotline to reach the Embassy to relay emergencies and seek resolution. A spokesperson for the US Mission says that this partnership is not in lieu of a fully staffed and trained diplomatic corps and is in fact increasing access to the embassy by distributing services throughout the country, choosing McDonald’s for this pilot programme because of its geographic spread, after-hours staffing and familiarity to Americans.

Friday, 3 May 2019


shuudan koudou: the Japanese art of synchronised, precision walking

how happy we could be if we’d only listen to our kitschy teacups: cheerfulness is not a virtue and rather an equal opportunity vice

shortlisted: a curated selection of submissions to National Geographic’s travel photography competition

the wookie roars: RIP Peter Mayhew (*1944 – †2019)

tiger on tour: during the height of the Space Race, Esso gave away maps of the Moon

deplatformed: garbage social media ejected a bunch of garbage provocateurs, though the stunt is more publicity for the banned

klimaanlage: researchers in Karlsruhe study enlisting air conditioning units to pull carbon dioxide out of the air

yijin jing: watching Shaolin Kung Fu training from above (previously)

Thursday, 2 May 2019

dead reckoning

On this day in 1969, the luxury ocean liner the Queen Elizabeth 2, in service until 2008 and since last year, a floating hotel in Dubai, began her maiden voyage from the shipyards in Southhampton to New York, and was the first private, commercial vessel to avail itself of the US Navy’s Global Positioning System constellation of artificial satellites, heralding the end of navigation by compass and sextant. Coincidentally, also on this day in 2000, Bill Clinton made accurate and detailed GPS telemetry available to the public for any venture. 

Saturday, 23 March 2019

elf uhr

Via Strange Company, we find ourselves transported to the cantonal capital of Solothurn at the foot of the Jura Mountains to explore its long held affinity with the number eleven (รถufi in the local Swiss-German dialect)—though no one quite has the definitive answer for the association that can be found everywhere—the 11th canton to join the confederation, home to 11 guilds, plus 11 churches and chapels, 11 towers of the former town wall, and a cathedral with 11 altars, bells and steps. According to one source it was adopted in deference to a team of work coach elves (Elf in German is both an Elf and the number) who came down from the Weissenstein, the promontory that dominates the city, and helped make the long-toiling inhabitants more prosperous.