Wednesday, 30 September 2020

burdock and bindweed

Via our Oxford English Dictionary word of the day, we are treated to a bonus pair of botanical epithets of Latinate origins in the infrequent but still in use terms ruderal and campestral.

While the latter is referring prosaically to the countryside and grasses and scrub native to rural expanses, the former from rลซdera meaning rubble and the ruins of buildings applies to plants growing among rubbish or on the margins. Unfairly characterised as weeds, ruderal specimens are also accorded the sense of being forerunners, pioneers in finding a niche and thriving despite the stressful environment. A coordinate term—that is, a hypernym or subordinate word that’s in the same class—is agrestic, for uncultivated land.


Via Kottke, we are directed towards Vox Media correspondent Ezra Klein’s reflection on how the failed, hierarchical response to the coronavirus pandemic lays bare and reframes the cultish sense of individualism and exceptionalism (the essay is written from an American perspective but there’s lessons for us all here) as not the foil of civics and collective action but rather is the source of it—and as with those wanton infants who feel entitled to use the public weal as they own personal racism concierge, and we lose our bearings in neglecting those institutions underpinning civil society.

The natural consequence of such fracturing and the intentional abrogation of responsibility down to ever smaller jurisdictions that can’t afford or enforce their choices—finally to individuals leaves us at liberty to select from a shrinking menu of with no good options. Weighing all these risks and likely bad outcomes is psychologically taxing and cause us to magnify the failings of others in our estimation to take the situation as seriously as we ought to—especially absent coordinated and clear guidance, and to become blind to our own lapses and mental anguish. Reliable governments are not only more resilient, through greater equanimity they facilitate us having more respect and reasonable expectations of one another.

plus codes

Though a fan of this other service for its poetically charming toponymy, it is probably more ultimately practical and cross-platform compatible (I think there’s room for both) to assign physical addresses to all points on the globe based on established degrees of longitude and latitude in a short but perhaps not as mnemonically catchy sequence of numbers and letters. Read more about this open-source initiative from Google at Design Boom at the link above.

the soup that eats like a meal

From the latest panel discussion of the Words Matter podcast (previously) we are acquainted with a grammatical voice—diathesis (from the Greek for disposition), the way to describe the relationship between the state or action that a verb denotes about the subjects and objects of sentences, with active and passive forms being the most familiar examples to English speakers, the use of the latter strangely discouraged possibly with the exception of delivering bad news (Mistakes were made)—which is neither, illustrating: the rather interesting way the language handles the reflexive form: the mediopassive.

Combining, blending the middle and passive voices, it shows a shift in verbal transience to what’s called an unaccusative case, as in the advertising slogan of the title, or in the examples the “sex sells,” “the alarm sounded,” “the car handles well,” or “the wine drinks smoothly.” Incidentally, Campbell’s usage is correct but might be interested in reading about a minor furore that erupted over another jingle, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should,” in one of the podcast’s previous instalments, with the like being an intentionally ungrammatical provocation in the mid-1950s with the construction properly taking as. A simple rule of thumb to guide one is whether a verb or auxiliary comes afterward—then use as, otherwise like is correct for comparison. The marketing gimmick garnered a lot of attention for the brand and generated controversy: for example—Morning Show host Walter Cronkite refusing to say a word from their sponsors as written. Winston memorably also was one of the advertisers that appeared on The Flintstones (premiering on the American Broadcasting Company, ABC, network on this day in 1960) but withdrew once the pregnancy and birth of Peebles became part of the story. 


contrastive analysis

Coinciding with the Feast of Saint Jerome, considered the patron of the profession for his version of the Bible in Latin with commentary from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts, the Vulgate around 382 CE, the United Nations has designated today as International Translation Day to honour interpreters and their role in connecting the world.  Colloquially known as such not for using common (vulgar) Latin as there were few native speakers left as the Empire fell and Romance languages developed, but rather because the gospel was formerly promulgated in Vetus Latina—that is the disglossic (previously here and here) Old Latin texts derived from fourth century Greek sources that were superceded by wide-spread adoption of Jerome’s work over the centuries and becoming the versio vulgata.  Renowned for his scholarship, the priest and confessor—also known as Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, has an extended patronage including archaeologists and librarians.

truth and reconciliation

Held annually in communities around Canada since 2013, Orange Shirt Day/Jour du chandail orange was created to educate and raise awareness of the nation’s policy of the residential school system—sadly inspired by the model employed by its neighbours to the south—to absorb and assimilate the diversity of aboriginal cultures native to North America and form a new indoctrinated identity aligned with the beliefs, language and culture of the settlers.

Primarily run by the church, native children would be separated from their parents and extended families to live in dormitories. The practise was officially discontinued in 1996 but the trauma of course remains and the impact of the cultural undermining impoverishes us all. The event is held in honour of residential school survivor and organiser was stripped of a beautiful orange shirt, symbolic of the systemic dismantling of students’ identity. Our thanks to friend of the blog Nag on the Lake for introducing us to the important multicultural moment and attempt to make amends for the past and do better going forward. Be sure to visit for more information and a selection of short films that recount the history of destroyed heritage.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020


patim, patam, patum: font specimens of Patufet, a typeface inspired by the Catalonian Tom Thumb 

ace of cups: Summer of Love all-female band that played the Avalon Ballroom and appeared with Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead release a new double-album 

leaf-peeping: Swiss fall foliage map 

franking privileges: Finnish studio mints climate change stamps with heat-reactive ink 

backyard safari: highly detailed journal documenting encounters with wildlife—via Nag on the Lake 

space 1999: scenes from the sets of the iconic British scifi series that ran from 1975 to 1977—via Messy Nessy Chic 

pacomobile: a modified VW snail camper—via Things magazine  

sฤƒlaj county: a brilliant assortment of flag redesigns for Romania’s forty-two regions to celebrate the country’s diversity 

 cannonball aderley: jazz record sleeves from Reagan Ray (see previously) feature the typography of the artists’ names—via Kottke

unprocessed cartoons

PRINT magazine contributor Steven Heller has a nice retrospective appearance and remembrance for an underground political cartoonist often overshadowed by his contemporary R. Crumb in R. Cobb. While many might more readily recognise the Cheap Thrills that duly excoriated our modesties of the former, we might not be as familiar with the latter, who recently departed (*1937) after a long bout of dealing with dementia, whose extensively syndicated illustrations laid bare how the governments—most pointedly the US establishment—was eroding civil rights, liberties and the environment.

Cobb turned his talents to raising awareness and championing social justice causes after being dismissed as redundant by Disney studios in 1957 once the animation of Sleeping Beauty was complete—notably the last film to use hand-inked cels. There are an embarrassment of panels from the late-1960s that are very resounding and correspond, appearing in the Freep plus more mainstream outlets, with what we face at present (see a whole gallery at the source up top), but we are choosing to highlight the ecology symbol Cobb created—combining e (environment) and o (organism) into a ฮธ-like glyph that gifted into the public domain and was adopted by the conservation movement. After his career as a cartoonist, Ron Cobb designed conceptual art for science-fiction films such as Star Wars, Alien, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unfinished Dune, The Abyss and Total Recall.