Tuesday, 16 July 2019

sad foot, happy foot

Via Super Punch, we learn about a sign for a podiatry practise that’s become a landmark on a corner of Sunset Boulevard over the past four decades and a daily portend for residents on how their day will transpire—depending on what side of the revolving sign greets you first, which will be dismantled shortly as the doctor prepares to retire. An interview with the Echo Park practitioner is a segue to consider all of Los Angeles’ endearing and ritualised kitsch and the prompt to notice one’s own local architectural mascots.  Eye-sore is such a cruel phrase but do you have one you wish upon?

space race

Via Mysterious Universe, on this fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 from Cape Canaveral we learn that according to one imminent historian, John F Kennedy, who famously charged his nation with committing “itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” did not intend for the Space Race to become the bi-polar, ideological struggle and ongoing rivalry that it since morphed into but rather entertained it might be an international collaborative effort that might help foster peace and cooperation.
In an interview granted to the Telegraph (possible paywall) ahead of his book release, John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute and former member of the NASA advisory council. Delivering that speech before Congress in May of 1961 with the Bay of Pigs standoff only recently diffused, US-Soviet tensions were heightened and the private meeting between Nikita Khrushchev and JFK in Vienna a few weeks later was probably dominated by negotiation on nuclear proliferation and spheres of influence, but there is evidence to suggest that Kennedy might have broached the idea of a joint mission to the lunar surface. Later even entertained before a United Nations assembly, it’s a matter of some speculation why this did not occur but is nonetheless satisfying to indulge what the common effort might have looked like for geopolitics. Though crewed landing on the Moon was not itself a shared endeavour, the détente and cooperation was ushered in with the last mission of the programme itself, with the Apollo-Soyuz test project conducted in July of 1975.


Polish graphic designer Jacek Walesiak invites us to celebrate some of the modern, more off-kilter holidays and observances through a special, commemorative run of postage stamps that also fête the country’s rich op art heritage.  The collection includes sheets that mark International Day of Vegetarianism (1 October), International Sock Day (4 December), Towel Day (25 May), Trolley Drivers’ Day (see also) and International Day of Caps Lock (observed semi-annually on 28 June and 22 October).  

Monday, 15 July 2019

happy little clouds

Painted in triplicate for each episode of The Joy of Painting’s eleven year run, over a thousand originals of Bob Ross’ landscapes exist.
Lovingly curated, however, the paintings are not part of the behemoth art market, turning masterpieces into stores of wealth without patronage but are rather stored in a central repository in Virginia with plans to put some on display at a national gallery. Not tempted to break-up the collection by present pressures, the caretakers of Ross’ legacy are confident that he’d much rather inspire emulation and imitation to create something by one’s own hand over being a sought-after acquisition.

series g

Replacing industrialist partners Matthew Bouton and James Watt of steam-engine fame, the Bank of England’s next batch of £ fifty notes will feature on the reverse mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, whose pioneering work not only helped defeat Nazi Germany by decrypting transmissions between command and control and the front but was also indispensably formative in how we regard electronic cognition and artificial intelligence.
Speaking of his work programming the British Bombe, one of his code-breaking electro-mechanical machines, the bill has the quotation, “This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be.” Although this statement does not amend past missteps—Turing’s contributions only much later acknowledged and rehabilitated and the country’s marked ingratitude, such decisions are consequential and meaningful, standing in marked contrast to the United States, whose money mostly only features dead presidents and the planned roll-out of a black, female abolitionist on the $ twenty note was delayed and deferred over the current pretender’s affection for the observe as it stands, featuring a president infamous as a slavery apologist and for his genocidal treatment of Native Americans.

team democracy

Provocatively the US Sh*t-Poster-in-Chief launched an attack on a group of progressive congress members, unbidden but not quite of the blue, that rounded the gauntlet for racism, xenophobia and misogyny. Tweeting throughout the day Sunday, Trump criticised the four freshmen representatives, known as the Squad for disrespecting America and America's allies and spoiling morale and cohesion within the rival Democratic Party.
While it is unclear what is the best strategy to pursue to dislodge the Trump syndicate from government, the infighting is far from sectarian and disagreement is healthy for democracy and certainly does not merit the ugly arson of language unacceptable in any context—Trump telling the duly elected representatives and their constituents (and Trump’s supporters since all this transpired very publicly) that they should not presume to dictate to a great power such as the United States of America how it ought to operate and instead invited them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” All four members of the Squad are America citizens and all but one were born in the US. Though not the first time Trump has used such hateful vitriol to pander to his political and ideology base—his political career such as it is premised on amplifying a narrative that called into question the legitimacy of his predecessor based on lies about his citizenship, this schoolyard bully may have finally picked the wrong fight.  Trump was not wrong in his own assessment that their government is a catastrophe and in urgent need of reform and made unequivocally clear that his regime is only focused on retaining power to keep him unaccountable and out of court. 

Sunday, 14 July 2019


From one of our favourite weekly features, Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links, we are invited to ruminate over the fact that while most countries are named after one of four things—often tautologically, especially in translation—that are sometimes not very consequential to present geopolitics, there are some notable mavericks that defy or really lean into categorisation.
With nearly all countries named in deference to either a cardinal direction, a distinguishing geographical feature, a tribe or clan or an important personage, we’d wish that the campaign to make America great again was an effort to improve scholarship on the Latinised name of a fifteenth century Florentine cartographer from the Vespucci family but alas and alack.  There are nonetheless some notable (and notably disputed too) outliers as well. Our favouites being Malta named for bees (Μελίτη, honey-sweet), Mexico after a simplification of an Aztec city (Mēxihtli) that meant in the navel of the Moon and the Pacific island nation of Nauru, possibly derived from the native conjugation anáoero, I go to the beach.